February Fever

 

Welcome to GROOM YOUR ROOM and the top 5 organizing projects for February. As of the 1st of the month there are only 48 days until Spring!!! I’ve got spring fever already. Did you know that a 2013 survey showed that over 72% of households in the U.S. engage in some kind of spring cleaning? The trend seems to increase incrementally each year. See, you are not alone.

If you are like me you are getting antsy to get your hands in the dirt and start growing those precious seedlings of flowers, fruits and/or veggies or maybe your dirt looks like getting a jump on cleaning the garage or attic or perhaps you are ready to make your to-do list for all the exciting possibilities Spring has in store. Let’s jump in here and get to our next top 5 organizing projects:

Our 1st item on the top 5 list is to focus on the rest of our closets from January and add cabinets.                        Shirts and jackets on hangers over a chest                                                         

“Originally, the cellar served primarily as a coal store. Today it holds the boiler, idle suitcases, out-of-season sporting equipment, and many sealed cardboard boxes that are almost never opened but are always carefully transferred from house to house with every move in the belief that one day someone might want some baby clothes that have been kept in a box for twenty-five years.” 
― 
Bill BrysonAt Home: A Short History of Private Life

I read the above quote one day and had to share because OMG I actually do have those baby clothes boxes in my attic. Honestly, I saved them for when my children had children so they could share their baby clothes but now I just visit those boxes simply because I need to reminisce. Psst, I think it’s time they go to a better home.

Now, I do understand that cleaning out all of those closets and cabinets might be a daunting task however, imagine how surprised and free you will feel each time you open any closet/cabinet and see all the space available and how neat everything is stacked, hung, boxed and/or stored. I try to just work on at least one cabinet and closet per day. That way I don’t feel overwhelmed. See if that idea will work for you. Click on this link https://www.pinterest.com/explore/small-closet-organization/?lp=true to help with unique and fun ideas for storage.

Three knit blankets stacked on top of one another

This seamlessly leads to the 2nd item on the organizing list: Pots, pans, brooms, sheets, towels, or boxed items found in the back of the closet that you have absolutely no idea as to what is in them. And let’s not forget the kids’ closets. Here is where the fun really begins because now we can separate it all into boxes marked keep, discard, and donate. Keep a blank pad of paper near you at all times so that you can make your own list of what needs replacing or mending. Last year I found that there were a few mechanical items that needed to be donated like the Roomba we never used and the fish cage for the BBQ and I was able to re-purpose old kids’ t-shirts by collecting enough to have a comforter made from them. My kids love it because it helps preserve their childhood memories, keeps them warm and is a great conversation starter with their friends.

“Everybody wants to save the Earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes.” 
― P.J. O’RourkeAll the Trouble in the World

The 3rd item is to specifically organize your shoes. I’m talking ALL shoes. Girls, it’s important to make room for the new sandals and flip flops so let’s get excited!! I store my summer shoes in a large, rectangle wicker basket during the winter and I use an adjustable shoe rack on the floor of my closet for the current season of shoes. Rotating my seasons keeps me focused on the present and allows me to pay close attention to what shoes will need repair and what will need to go once that season is over. I have to admit that it is a very thrilling time for me when I rotate my shoes because it means I am always looking forward to the outfit possibilities. Lately I have been enjoying a song by Old Dominion called “Shoe Shopping”. Check it out while you go through your shoes. It’s quirky and fun.

“Above all, believe in true love and know that men are like shoes. A couple is like a left and a right foot, and out there is your perfect fit. Sometimes you need to change styles and shop around to find it. Sometimes you have to break styles in, sometimes you feel like something that is unstylish but comfortable, and sometimes a style – as much as you like – just doesn’t suit you and will never fit.” 
― 
Camilla MortonHow to Walk in High Heels: The Girl’s Guide to Everything

A one dollar bill leaning against the wall on a glossy surface

The 4th item might not apply to everyone, especially if you filed your taxes in January but around my house most of the tax documents finish their trek to my mailbox by the end of January so my husband is ready to begin the process of sorting it all out and getting the information ready to be filed. If this is you then maybe this is the year to begin creating filing folders or bins specifically for tax prep. Creating a filing system, clearly labeling files for collecting receipts throughout the year, scanning specific documents like pay stubs so that you won’t have to save each and every one of them. Staying on top of this mound of paperwork from the beginning of the year will be a blessing come tax time next year. Print this document to help you know what to keep and for how long.

The invention of the teenager was a mistake. Once you identify a period of life in which people get to stay out late but don’t have to pay taxes – naturally, no one wants to live any other way.” 
― 
Judith Martin

A person holding a wooden board with three small plants taken out of their pots

And just like that here we are at the 5th item on our organizing list for February. Item 5 is kind of a fun item and ties back to my own antsy disposition regarding gardening. Sometime around the 15th of February, and in some locations even earlier, certain seedlings can be planted in a starter garden. If you have southern facing windows where sunlight comes in all day that is the ideal spot for your starter garden. If you are like me and go crazy with seedlings then you know that the indoor starter garden area runs out of usable space. In cases like these where you just don’t have enough room for all the seedlings you will be starting you can use special light kits that set up neatly and effectively to help those seedlings get the best possible care. The fun part of this project other than planting is going to the store or ordering from a favorite catalog all the precious flower seeds and food seeds you would like to have growing in your garden this year. This is a great project for the kids to help out. My kids used to love watching their seedlings grow. It’s the next best thing to a pet.

I hope you enjoy the discoveries and space you will find this month.

See you in March!!

“It was such a pleasure to sink one’s hands into the warm earth, to feel at one’s fingertips the possibilities of the new season.” 
― Kate MortonThe Forgotten Garden

 

Call to Action

What did you discover while organizing your closets and cabinets?

How did organizing this month’s items bring you closer to feeling lighter in spirit?

When did you find the best time of day to get organizing this month?

Statistics provided by Statista.com

Photo by Lisa Zaccagnini, Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash, Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash, Photo by William on Unsplash, Photo by Daniel Hjalmarsson on Unsplash, Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Do you Make a Difference?

“We’re given a choice in our lives, to make things better, or worse, or merely endure like sheep. I choose to make things better, as much as I can.” 
― Mercedes LackeyFortune’s Fool

How Can You be a Difference Maker?

It has been a hell of a ride these past 384 days, as of this writing, and it feels like the world is spinning out of any familiar kind of control, be it perceived control or real control. Ideas like illogic, hate, disillusionment, the absence of kindness, lack of compassion, the ill treatment of fellow human beings, etc. I could go on and on. The stuff nightmare movies are made of and we are living it out in all its ugly colors.

I have always been the kind of person who seeks fairness. It was a tough pill to swallow the first time my father said, “Life isn’t fair. You have to live by the values that matter most to you and not worry about what other people are doing.” In this world today, it is very hard to not worry about what other people are doing or saying but, ok, I’ll play. So, I ask myself every single day, how can I maintain my core values knowing that I am probably, right now, the minority in the sea of people and not the norm in the crowd? How can I not worry about what other people are doing when I feel so lost and like I don’t matter? What could I possibly do to make my world around me, from my personal perspective feel more like the world I need to feel safe in, to feel whole in, to feel in control?

I try not to watch the news on TV, I would much rather read, but I can’t avoid the news completely. I compromise by listening to Pete Dominick on NPR, I compromise by reading snippets of news feeds from my phone as it is interspersed with fun news, I compromise by paying attention to what my children bring up about their view about the world and educate myself on the issues that personally affect them. A good citizen doesn’t bury his/her head in the sand, but breaks up the bad into more digestible pieces. I can’t help but entwine my knowledge with my desire for fairness (still) and hope that my children’s hearts will stay open despite the ugly that surrounds them out in the world. So again, I ask myself, what can I really do to right my world so that I can function and not fall apart?

After long, long endless days of thinking and searching, I heard a trusted friend speak recently about getting some peace back into our lives by being a difference maker. What does that really mean though? I hate politics so I won’t become a policy maker or run for office, I don’t believe our vote really counts on election day so I waver from one year to the next whether to cast my vote for anything, I am not a surgeon, I am not a lawyer, I am not an engineer or a builder. These professions are difference making professions in my mind.

But then as I listened deeper, I began to realize that every day in small bite size ways, like the way I approach the news, I can make a difference. I can gain a sense of control and I can try today, to matter.

A glossy red apple on a wooden surface

“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.” 
― Robert F. Kennedy

Here are ways that I realized just how I am already righting my wrong world and making a positive difference:

**When I make dinner and there are leftovers for my family to take for lunch the next day. It means they don’t have to spend money on lunch food and can now choose to spend that money on something else or save it. The happiness and satisfaction they hopefully feel in that one act of not worrying about lunch means that they feel freer to relax and spread their joy to others simply by behaving more relaxed and satisfied, whether they realize this feeling or not.

**I can make a difference in my every day in small ways when I bake treats for co-workers and share my joy of baking.

**I can be a positive difference maker when I volunteer anywhere I might be of help. Or when I donate to a charity or when I wear the hat of teacher, mentor or emotional support.

** I can make a difference in my every day in small ways when I take the time to write to you and include you in my epiphanies and discoveries and silly thoughts.

** I can make a difference in my every day in small ways when I run errands for my neighbor.

**I can make a positive difference in my every day in small ways when I choose compassion over frustration.

**I can be a difference maker when I take the time to ask everyone I interact with, “What can I do for you today?”

**I can be a difference maker when I honor someone’s birthday or achievement in my own special way by making them feel special.

** I can make a difference in my every day in small ways when I eliminate personal frustration by cleaning, whether it be through my professional organizing and helping clients or cleaning a room that needs attention. The instant gratification from cleaning helps me take a deep cleansing breath and everyone around me will be happier and calmer for it.

** I can be a positive difference maker by sitting at a 4 way stop sign and letting others go ahead of me. Maybe that one gesture made it so that that person got to the hospital on time to see a loved one.

**I can be a difference maker today simply by being decisive and not wishy-washy about an issue.

 “I believe in work. If somebody doesn’t create something, however small it may be, he gets sick. An awful lot of people feel that they’re treading water — that if they vanished in smoke, it wouldn’t mean anything at all in this world. And that’s a despairing and destructive feeling. It’ll kill you.” 
― Arthur Miller

Woman pushing a stroller passes mural that reads "The best gift is you"

“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person.” 
― R. Buckminster Fuller

There have been many, many times in my life where I have felt like I don’t matter and that has led to feeling so out of control. Our world today makes it so easy for any of us to feel like we don’t matter but we do, we really do. By greeting every new day believing that today you can be a difference maker in some small way, that you can affect positively the life of someone,  helps to create a ripple of kindness and goodness and hope; it is empowering and uplifting and you can control that moment and for that one moment you matter. I wonder how many difference making moments we can each create?

Call to Action

Tell me about a time, past or present, when you felt like you made a difference.

In what ways does the idea of being a difference maker hold you back from making a difference?

What adjectives would you use to describe how you feel when you go from feeling like you don’t matter to then realizing oh yes you do matter?

Photos by: Unsplash: Ron Smith, Dakota Corbin, Michal Grosicki

January Juggle

January Juggle

 

“JANUARY, The first month of the year, A perfect time to start all over again, Changing energies and deserting old moods, New beginnings, new attitudes”Charmaine J Forde

It is officially a brand-new year and for me that means staring at the long road ahead of me and wondering how in the world will I get organized and more purposeful this year? The best way for me to get into that scary but exciting head space is to remember that there is nothing better than taking stock of my have’s and giving to those that have not. On the surface I took care of some of those things during the holiday season and quite frankly I do it throughout the year but there is just something so refreshing and rejuvenating and renewing about a clean sweep that begins at the start of a new year.

This year I came up with my “top 5” list for each month of the year. I’m not a fan of tackling too much in a short amount of time. My reason is simple, everything I will get my hands on needs the dedication, time and care to be handled and thought about thoughtfully and lovingly and, I’ll be honest, everything has a memory attached to it and I want to allow for that impromptu trip down memory lane. I know myself well enough that the trip down memory lane will eat up time and a small top 5 list will very likely take at least a week or two to get through depending where my trip takes me. I give myself the whole month to get completely through my list because the other thing I know for sure is that one action, one thought, one intention will absolutely lead to another and before I know it I have a second top five list and maybe even a third. It all depends on what comes up along the way and how my creativity blossoms.

This year my focus for January is all about organizing, sorting and storing my holiday decorations, gifts, cards and winter gear. Here is how my thought process formed….

My daughter has adopted the task of being the household decorator of all things holiday throughout the year but especially the end of year holidays when things get very crazy busy and we go from one celebration to the next. Boxes are stacked neatly in a corner for easy access and the decorations change almost daily if she happened to go to the store to buy something new (ugh).

Once the holiday is over I am ready to clean up but she isn’t so I start thinking about how I will tackle the clean-up once I get the all clear permission from her. It’s just too sad of a chore for her to participate in the clean-up so I gladly do my share and take that task on by myself. During the clean-up I make lists of what we will need for the following year in the event that something broke or got squished beyond recognition or if I saw something that was too beautiful to pass up for next time. I then create new ways to pack all the decorations so that I don’t have too many boxes going back into the attic. It’s challenging and fun to put that puzzle together.

So, when I thought about putting away the decorations this year I also realized that some of the holiday gifts were still piled up in a corner and so I considered that once the decorations were all set and in their place until next year what will I do with all the gifts that need to be gone through and put away? I am an absolute supporter of donating whether it be food, time, clothing, or services so I knew right away that opening the donation station at home was going to take more than a few hours of my time. I would need everyone’s help with making those decisions.

Are you ready for the list? Here we go:

  1. Set up a recycling and donation station that is accessible for all hands to contribute to at any time either for this specific project or set up for deposits throughout the year.
  2. Organize, label and put away holiday decorations and wrap those decorations safely and carefully for easy access next year. You might find some creative ideas here http://www.homemadehomeideas.com/27-creative-storage-ideas/
  3. Break up empty gift boxes and card board boxes and wrap them tightly together for recycling. I have a few rolls of colored vinyl tape in the garage so I use that as my wrapping material. The recycling company in my area picks up with the garbage each week so it makes life easier for me and the guys appreciate the single bundle so it’s a win/win.
  4. Recycle Christmas trees and wreaths. I would check to see if your town has specific pick up dates and times for recycling of these items or perhaps your landscaper will haul it away for you for a small fee or you can find a local recycling company in your area that takes debris like trees, shrubs, etc. One town near me has the entire month of January available for residents to drop off their tree with a few guidelines to follow and set times. Knowing the tree will get a second chance to be of good use to the land is a great way to give back to the earth.
  5. Save the front of your greeting cards and use for projects throughout the year stored in a labeled box for things such as pictures sent that can be framed, or cherished words that can be embellished into a collage or gift tags for next year. Another idea is to donate the front part of the cards you are not looking to keep. One place I know for sure that uses those card faces is: https://stjudesranch.org/recycled-card-program/ .The children make the old cards into new cards for the following year. AWESOME!!
  6. Sort through your gift cards, returnable items, broken or damaged items or gifts that you might think to re-gift and see if you can repair those that are broken or donate the gift cards or returnable items to a shelter or places like Ronald McDonald house.
  7. It is at this point where going through those gift items led me to go through my own closets of “stuff” to see what needs keeping and what could gain new life for someone else. So, I decided to keep to winter clothing this month. Please consider donating gently used or new winter gear such as blankets, sports equipment, boots, gloves, scarves, hats, coats, shovels, scrapers, sweaters, flannels, electric heating blankets, pads or rubs and creams, hand warmers, socks, knee hi stockings, shawls, jeans, etc.

Last thought: If you find that every month this year you want to declutter your pantry and give to food banks throughout the year instead of only at Thanksgiving time then this month would be a great time to check for the items you might have purchased a bit too much of like soup, canned goods, pasta, cereals, anything boxed or canned that can be made into a warm meal.

And just like that my top 5 list became my top 8 list and I didn’t lift a finger yet to get to the clean-up. Sheesh!!

I hope this has been helpful for you and most of all I hope you have fun with it. Allow your imagination and creativity to bloom and grow while going through this list. If it is easier for you, save your new list for February when I will post a whole new set of top 5 ideas. If you are really ambitious just remember how January feels like the longest month of the year so go ahead and tackle your emerging ideas as they happen. Good Luck and I’ll see you back here in February.

Call to Action

What stops you from getting organized?

What would be helpful to you in order to win at organizing?

Happy Organizing!!

24 Values in 24 Hours

 

     Here is an early holiday gift from my heart to yours. Please go to http://changingminds.org/explanations/values/via.htm where you will find a list of the 24 core values that have been documented by Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth but why, you may ask, would I want you to go there to receive this gift? Simply because ’tis the season of giving and what the world needs now more than anything is a reminder of the values and characteristics that live inside of each of us and can be accessed anytime, anywhere. To be able to pay those values forward to everyone you meet. May we all be blessed with a very happy, healthy, honest, prosperous, authentic, truthful, judgment free, spiritually uplifting New Year.

     The year of 2017 will not go down in my life journal as the happiest one of all but I did manage to extract quite a few great memories that I’m very proud to have experienced. Is anyone’s year on point 24/7? I would say this year has been memorable, head shaking, woeful, twilight zone-ish for sure. I’ve learned that happiness is subjective so please search your hearts for the happiness you are seeking to extract from all that this year has brought to your consciousness. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s my soulful evolution, maybe it’s the pounding into my gut and brain that takes place day after day of the stupidity, valueless behaviors and moral corruption that seems to swirl like a tornado around me more now than ever before. I’m not sure what exactly it is that has left me so confused and truthfully so scared. What I do know is that my happy life moments are curtesy of that which I keep coming back to time and again, that which grounds me and helps me choose to restart and not give up;

VALUES

What are values? Simply put, if each of us were a house, values are the foundation on which we build our house. From the time our personalities start to develop at a young age, we are creating and forming our individual values; those pillars of core characteristics that declare what we live for, strive for and believe; a guiding light, what makes us authentic and real.

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’ ‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit. ‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ ‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ ‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit

     Author Dean Koontz, who wrote, False Memory, showcases one of his fictional characters that says, “Reality is subjective. Values and truths are subjective. Life itself is an illusion.” I agree and disagree with this character, fiction based or not, because in my humble subjective opinion core values, the pillars of magic that we have been blessed to carry inside of us and summon up throughout our whole lifetime, are the building blocks of our legacy. In the Velveteen Rabbit, author Margery Williams describes through her character, Skin Horse, what it means to be REAL. To love and be loved, that is a real value and a legacy. When we allow reality to be subjective without objectivity we risk damaging truth and love and quite a few other core values. Once those values are damaged our legacy is damaged as well.

Our legacy is our “why” and while our “why” is personal and subjective the pillars of the core value system stand firm and true; the value system is real. How we put those values into action, build those values, leave behind the truths of those values as examples is subjective. Please remember that we live in a country where we are given the freedom of choice and the more choices we have to make the more our values matter most. Imagine a world where we all respected the fact that each one of us governs ourselves based on the same 24 positive core value/characteristics? What a great world indeed.

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”Theodore Roosevelt

I Value You, You Value Me

“Values aren’t buses… They’re not supposed to get you anywhere. They’re supposed to define who you are.”Jennifer Crusie

The understanding of values has seen a huge uprising since the introduction of positive psychology by Dr. Martin Seligman. Dr. Seligman looks at values as core character strengths that consciously and unconsciously carry us throughout our life and help us to conduct ourselves with regard and worthiness. Sadly, we have seen way too many times this year alone how values have been discarded, disrespected, destroyed or never used at all.

Dr. Seligman discovered 24 core values that exist all the time. In one 24-hour day we make choices as to which core characteristics, values, we use to influence our decision making processes and the world around us. The values list is a positive list of every characteristic known to the human species. A warning however, for every positive that is extracted from these core values there is negative and it is those negative interpretations that have humans so muddled and backwards.

CHOOSE FIVE

Here is my next gift for you: Go to www.authentichappiness.com and follow the prompts for adults. It is free and only requires you to sign in to take this insightful survey. If you answer honestly, your top five (5) values in action will tell you where your values hang out right now. The beautiful advantage of taking this survey is that there are no wrong answers, there are no negative answers, only insight into what makes each of us unique. Here you will find the gateway to the foundation of your house, your most important “why” and your legacy.

“The goal of a life purpose is not what you will create, but what it will make you into for creating it.” Shannon L. Alder

If you find that you want a value listed to be listed in your top 5 but isn’t quite there yet then you have the freedom and hopefully the time to devote to raising your chosen value (s)to a higher level. Just know that whatever your initial top five values come out to be, YOU ARE AWESOME!!

So, in 24 hours, how does someone go about purposefully putting their 24, or at least their top 5 values into action?

  1. Keep the top 5 list with you at all times so that you can check in at least once per week. If it helps, expand the list you carry to 10 top core values.
  2. Take notes throughout the week to see how you are using the values that are listed. Do you notice that you are using some more than others most of the time? Do you notice that you are using a value that you initially answered as a less prominent value?
  3. Throughout each day make time to remind yourself of your core values especially when confronted with a challenge that requires putting your values to the test.
  4. Find a colleague or friend or mentor or coach or spouse that you absolutely trust and discuss your observations. Ask for help from these trusted people in your life to keep you on track toward your evolution.
  5. Create an avatar, a song, a design, a rotating screensaver or a static picture/drawing for your home screen or on your phone or on a large post-it note, one that represents your top 5 or top 10 values so you can get in the zone of becoming in consciousness what you know in your heart.

What an incredible opportunity you have to start the new year with hopeful purpose and deeper understanding of being your best self not only for you but for everyone around you. Just knowing that the values you choose to concentrate on are always right for you is a very freeing, wondrous journey. Remember that each of the 24 values exist in each of us all the time. We decide which ones we use most. If you need a go to person to help sort it all out just give me shout. I will be happy to help.

CALL TO ACTION

Where do your core values fall?

What characteristic (s) do you use most of the time?

How can your values list become your “why”?

In what ways are your values your legacy?

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda…

“All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas Layin’ In The Sun, Talkin’ ‘Bout The Things They Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Done… But All Those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas All Ran Away And Hid From One Little Did.”

Shel Silverstein

Have you ever given much thought to your life moments when someone tries to help you think about options to an issue you are facing and they say, “Hey, maybe you should…”? Or how about when you make a hasty decision and then realize in hindsight you “should” have chosen differently?

How about when you play the game of if I were you I would, those times in our lives we imagine trading places with someone else’s chances to make better decisions, like “Oh, if only I were rich I would….”.

What about when the “I can’t” takes control where the little voice inside of you comes up with all kinds of reasons why you just can’t get something done, or volunteer, or find the time. “Well you know I would help if only I could get out of this other thing I’m doing” or “I could go with you if….”.

I think it is safe to say that we have all been through these scenarios at least once.

What if I told you there is a way, a real way, to feel more confident about how to approach these situations when they arise?

Let’s break it down:

For the most part, these 3 words, would, could, should, have top implications even though they each have a variety of definitions. For example,

SHOULD usually implies a personal obligation. “I should have been more careful.”

WOULD implies consequence. “I would lose too much time taking that other route.”

COULD indicates possibility. “I could go out with him tonight if I get my homework done now.”

When thinking about a “should” situation I have found that people are very eager and willing to help others by telling them what to do or giving them ideas about how they should go about solving their dilemma or how they should address a specific situation that crops up. I myself have used the word should a thousand times with my husband. “Hun, you should take the older chairs to Goodwill before we bring in anything new.” Or, “Well, I think you should spend time with the kids today because it’s important.”

When “should” comes along it leaves a very dictatorial presence and takes away a piece of autonomy from the person trying to figure things out. What might be obvious to you is not usually so obvious to the person with the problem. I have found that turning the should into a question gives power back to the person trying to solve the problem. The reframe sounds like this: “Hey hun, what are your thoughts about taking the chairs to Goodwill first?” or “Hey babe, what are you doing with the kids today?” Rephrasing the should implication into a question of choice leaves the person you are speaking to in charge of their own issue and more importantly their own decisions. What if the person with the problem asks you for your opinion? Should you offer up your own should? In cases like these I like to simply ask, “Well, what do you think you should do?” Sometimes it helps to be the sounding board for all the options they might offer up. Power to the people.

In the instance of “would” there is pressure to decide and be right because being wrong not only feels awful but creates doubt in oneself and doubt toward your decision-making process from others. When facing a “would” situation I have seen many times where clients choose to just not decide rather than make a wrong decision and so there is no forward movement. Again, I have used this line of thinking in my own relationships and on myself more times than I care to count. It sounds something like this: “I would consider going to that meeting but I hate driving in the dark” or “If I were you I would….”; that’s a tried and true one right there especially with my children. It almost crosses the line into “should”.

We can’t possibly ever be that other person so let’s find another way down this rabbit hole, shall we? There is an awesome technique that works just about every time I use it with my clients assuming I get their permission to try it. It is called the “if, then” game. Here is how to play:

My client presents a situation where she perceives her reputation is on the line with the decision she ultimately needs to make or she just doesn’t want to decide because she is having a hard time finding solutions. She is honestly looking for me to consult her rather than coach her and this means that I am being looked upon to give her A, B, and C options to choose from. No way says I. You, my dear decision-making client, will be creating your own best fitting option. The situation goes something like this: “I promised I would bring dessert to the meeting tomorrow night but I realize now that I really do not want to go to the meeting and I hate driving home in the dark and I do not have time to make a nice dessert and well, I just don’t want to go to the meeting.”

Let’s create an if, then option plan. “If I go to the meeting then I could…., If I don’t go to the meeting then…?”. In this creative decision-making game, the client gets to think up many options that run the gamut from crazy out there to more down to earth and realistic possibilities. The idea is that at some point the client, you, will have created an option that fits, an option he/she can live with and feel empowered by because the final decision feels right. The crazy out there options always get a laugh or two and truly relieve some pressure.

Finally, the “could” situation. This word is positive in its implication. “Could” creates possibility, is hopeful and has an air of lightness and freedom to it. The situation that creates the “could” might not be great but the outcome might turn a negative into a positive. Let’s give it a try: “I could be sitting on this highway all night if the news report is right.” Not a great situation. At this point ask yourself, what are my options? It seems obvious to me that this would be the question to ask, thinking of ways to not have to sit in traffic but I have found that when I or my clients ask the question out loud then in that moment their bodies are starting to de-stress because the brain is going into problem solving mode. Sure, you could scream and shout and curse and stay annoyed and wallow in self-pity for your rotten luck or you can get creative and think about ways to get moving. Even if there are no other roads to take at least you tried and can live with the trying.

Throughout our lifetime we are all faced with uncomfortable situations that we must get through. These situations cause us to, in hindsight, create wishful thinking feelings, things we wish we had done or said in that critical moment. By course correcting, taking a bit of time to ask ourselves some simple but key questions and/or doing a mental comparison of pros and cons we all can get a bit closer to an outcome of resolution we feel proud of.

Call to Action

Share some of your woulda, coulda, shoulda situations with me. How did you get through it?

What were the consequences of your decisions? Remember, consequences can be good and/or bad?

In what ways have you learned from each incident that has made you more aware and self-confident the next time a woulda, coulda, shoulda situation presented itself?

Where are you From

“The closer you come to knowing that you alone create the world of your experience, the more vital it becomes for you to discover just who is doing the creating.”Eric Micha’el Leventhal

Yup, I admit it proudly. It’s been somewhere between 15-30 days and I have restarted my New Year resolutions at least that many times so far. How about you? My restarts come by way of sitting down to write to you and by way of tackling a new recipe and by way of getting my ass to the gym on cold days that beg me to stay in bed cuddled up under my comfy king size blanket that wraps around me twice and just do absolutely. Nothing. but luxuriate in its warmth.

One of my favorite winter activities is to go through closets. I love going through last year’s clothes and shoes and papers and clutter and get to the end just to feel the unbelievable relief in taking a deep breath knowing I have new space to clutter up again this year. It’s cathartic, it’s rejuvenating, it’s therapy. What can I say, I like the routine of cleaning and purging the old stuff?

So, in my maniacal purging frenzy, I found myself in my daughter’s closet and came across a writing project she did when she was in the 5th grade. It was the start of the new school year and the teacher wanted the students to write about where they come from as a way of getting to know each other. In a prose kind of format my daughter talked about where she comes from in a self-defining kind of way such as her family and how and what we eat, her music, her books, her play time with her neighborhood friends. Of course, I started to cry because she is so far from 10 years old now and man, do I miss her at that age.

As a writer stuck for inspiration, how could I not take a good long look at this project and think to myself where the heck am I from? I have invented and reinvented myself so many times and each time is as authentic and real as the last time and as authentic as the next time I phase away from one persona and bring on the next one. What has changed and what has stayed true about me? What do I continuously go back to and what do I consciously stop myself from doing and remember, oh yeah, that’s something I want to get better at or that’s something I want to put way behind me. And isn’t that all part and parcel of new year’s resolutions? We want to make changes to go from old to new, to go from bad to good or at the very least better? We want to be a shiny new version of an old self. So, in keeping with the theme of the project my daughter had to do, here is the short”ish” version of who I am….(so far):

I am from childhood memories of staying out late during endless summer nights and waiting for mom to call us in for the night knowing full well that “5 more minutes” was the rebuttal.

I am from a family I helped to create and struggle to keep together during this self- discovery phase we are in as individuals now.

I am from outdoor activities that thrill me because it means getting in exercise without feeling like I’m exercising, gardening, volleyball on the beach, biking, hiking and walking trails that allow me dual time to bring my camera and get lost in nature.

I am from baking and cooking that excite my family and friends who wish I would make a career out of it, home sweet home making, celebrating for any reason, and curling up on the couch with a good romance novel and deep mug of green tea or hot apple cider on a cold day.

I am from “mom, where’s my favorite shirt”, “hun, do I have underwear for work tomorrow”, “what’s for dinner”, and no one at the table tonight except me because everyone is working.

I am from a barrage of photo memories mounted on the walls of my home that remind me of the life I had and wondering what lies ahead and my overflowing hope chest still filled with hope for a person I’ve yet to become.

“The bulk of life is discovering who you are—and then reconciling that with who you wish you were.” Richelle E. Goodrich, Making Wishes: Quotes, Thoughts, & a Little Poetry for Every Day of the Year

So, if like me, you are struggling to keep those resolutions afloat, to keep trying to find who you want to be, to keep pushing forward and make those changes that so very much meant so very much only 46 days ago, then try to take some time to think or perhaps write about where you are from in every sense of the idea.

Are you from a collection you started when you were 5, are you from a tree you loved to climb when you were young, are you from a food you absolutely will enjoy until your last breath, are you from an entire generation of people that influenced who you are at this very moment and that is why you are pushing for some. Kind. of change. or leveling up or distance?

Get as real as you can and see what you can see from inside yourself, outside yourself, and the 360 view. If you need a nudge or a sounding board, write to me. I live for this kind of thing.

Call to Action

Here are some questions to help you get started:

  1. So, you want to change the whole but what’s going on with all the parts? What do you want to change on the outside that first needs changing on the inside?
  2. Where is fear showing up? How is fear causing you to do nothing or go backwards?
  3. If you could choose an adjective as your theme word for this year what would it be? How have you started living that word? Does the word need to be adjusted?
  4. There are reasons for everything we do. List 3 top reasons for wanting to make a change in your life and 3 top strategies for making each one happen.

Ways to Communicate without Anger

In 2014 I wrote this post based around a client of mine going through a holiday get-together that most of us are all too familiar with experiencing.

I was recently was asked to re-publish this post and as I went through it I thought about how relevant this particular issue is today more so due to the presidential election coming up and the emotional state of  our country as a whole. So now I wonder…

If there was truly a way to work through  this post issue, anger, how would you want to learn to manage it and use what you learn in your small corner of the world? Maybe this will spark some ideas…..

Key West

There are times when the ocean is not the ocean – not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon. It hurls itself at the island, sending spray right over the top of the lighthouse, biting pieces off the cliff. And the sound is a roaring of a beast whose anger knows no limits. Those are the nights the light is needed most.” M. L. Stedman – The Light Between Oceans

What I’m learning is that the light is in the asking of the questions and the heart of every human being. The answering is the communication where peace can begin. But I think it matters to go back a little step and start by asking:

Why do people get angry?

Why does anger live so long within us?

Are anger and communication based only on defending, judging, criticizing and/or withdrawing?

Are there rules to communication so that anger can be lessened?

“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” Aristotle

On a coaching call this week my client talked about wanting to better understand and get control of her anger toward her in-laws each and every time they all get together. She started out our session absolutely dreading the upcoming holiday. Her dilemma revolved around the criticism and judgments thrown at her by her in-laws and her own sensitivity to it all. She did not grow up with this kind of self-centeredness and judgment. Logically she knows that people bring their own pasts and life experiences to the table (no pun intended) but she just felt helpless to look at their way of communicating in a non-judgmental way. The overall feeling of anger toward her in-laws was coupled with the knowledge that this was driving a wedge between her and her husband and creating more problems than they both knew what to do with.

So why do people get angry?

Ryan Martin, Ph.D. wrote an article for Psychology Today about the scientific study of anger. In his article he references Dr. Jerry Deffenbacher’s 1996 model of anger by defining what Dr. Deffenbacher calls the trigger event; the event that happens right before someone gets angry for example, perceiving an insult or being cut off in traffic.

“The implication is that those kinds of events caused the person to get angry directly. If that were true then we would all react the same way to such situations.”

There are more than trigger events at play when anger sets in. Individual characteristics such as personality traits and the individual’s pre-anger state are 2 things that matter.

“Competitiveness and low-frustration tolerance are some ways in which a person’s personality characteristics play into anger. As for the pre-anger state of a person just before the trigger event, physiological and psychological situations play heavily into this arena. Feelings of being tired, anxious, stressed out, nervous are considered to be pre-anger triggers. A nervous person already has an elevated heart rate so he/she doesn’t have far to go to become angry.”

Ryan goes on to explain:

“Dr. Deffenbacher’s model of anger is mainly based on the appraisal of the situation by the person on the receiving end. When a person appraises a situation as blameworthy, unjustified, punishable, etc. it pushes buttons with in that person to react with anger. If the person interpreted the situation a little differently he/she wouldn’t have become so angry. The important thing to remember about appraisal isn’t necessarily that the person’s reaction is inaccurate but there are always 2 sides to every story.”

The next question then is how do we communicate effectively so that anger doesn’t show up or take over?

In his outstanding and amazingly insightful book, Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life, Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph. D and author tells of his preoccupation with 2 questions and his attempt to find the answers:

“What happens to disconnect us from our compassionate nature, leading us to behave violently and exploitatively and what allows some people to stay connected to their compassionate nature under even the most trying circumstances?”

“When we give from the heart, we do so out of the joy that springs forth whenever we willingly enrich another person’s life. This kind of giving benefits both the giver and the receiver.”

While getting deeper into the coaching session my client started to become aware of her own compassionate nature and how she deeply desired to live on that plane and not engage in anger and despair. She is by nature a giving, loving, and curious person and realized that she always wanted her marriage to be one of love out loud and as an example to others of what real love looks like. That realization turned the whole session around. But how to get through the inevitable anger she will feel at some point during the holiday visit?

Dr. Rosenberg says:

“There are 4 steps to express anger: (1) Stop and breathe, (2) identify our judgmental thoughts, (3) connect with our needs, and (4) express our feelings and unmet needs. The key to all of the anger is empathy. Empathize with the other person so that he/she will be better able to hear us when we express ourselves.”

The coaching session concluded with awareness that although my client can’t change how other people behave and communicate she can change how she behaves and communicates. By showing up fully for her husband and not giving in to her personal feelings she will be able to create an ally in her husband. More than anything she wants him to know how much he means to her and how much she understands that the holiday get together is equally difficult for him. “Living out loud the loving, caring and supportive marriage I always imagined having is so much more powerful than giving in to the anger and judgments of others.” She now has a plan of action and tools to help her achieve her ultimate goal of making this family holiday one in which she will cherish and not regret. My client says:

“I can’t believe how I am feeling at this moment realizing that it is so much easier to love not only myself but my husband and our child. It feels freeing to know that I can choose love rather than defensiveness and anger toward difficult people. I don’t know for sure if love will bring about a more positive atmosphere all around us but it will bring about more connectedness and compassion in my marriage and therefore to my child.”

Whether we are face to face or in communication through email or text messages or any other social media venue we are always in a position to respond with empathy and heart.

I often find myself wondering when I read the comments section of other blog posts or I read text messages or I witness a negative conversation what was going on in the responder’s mind at the time of a negative comment. What life circumstances pushed that person over the edge?

All of this leads me to take a stronger, more open-minded approach to reader responses whether it be to a blog post, a comment to someone else’s writing or a face to face exchange.

Here is what I’ve learned so far:

Communicating needs and feelings without creating defensiveness and anger can be successfully accomplished by using “I” messages. For example: “I feel taken for granted when the laundry isn’t put away” or “I am having trouble managing my worry around our finances and as a result I am not sleeping very well.” These messages are to the point and simple; they are not blaming or accusing.

“Reflect your thoughts and watch others mirror them back to you.” Stephen Richards

Don’t respond immediately to the comment or letter. Take a deep breath, re-read the response or think through the exchange and think about how it truly applies to what was originally said. Time can be your ally. Take your time to respond. Be thoughtful.

“In quiet places, reason abounds.” Adlai E. Stevenson II

People are not bad inherently. Sometimes their life circumstances have caused them to form habits that are difficult to deal with. It’s not personal.

“The sound of the words as they’re said is always different from the sound they make when they’re heard, because the speaker hears some of the sound from the inside”David Levithan, Every Day

A really great coaching tool that has worked for many of my clients is when I have them do an exercise called purging. In the case of an email or text or letter, sit in a quiet space and hand write every single feeling you are experiencing and use every single word that will make you feel justified if you were going to be utterly, no-holds-barred honest. DO NOT SEND THE WRITTEN RESPONSE. Save it. Wait a few days and re-read your own response. Be aware of how you are feeling as you re-read. Are you still so enraged? Has your own anger or shock lessened? How would you like to communicate now? The point is to not meet on the impulse level of the reader. Rise above by getting out of your system all that you are feeling and let those feelings go. As a final step, rip your letter to pieces or stomp on it or just throw it away.

“Transferring my anger and pain onto paper turns it into something tangible, something that can be shredded or burned, or at the very least, sealed shut in a box. ~Call Me Tuesday”Leigh Byrne

If you were seeing the anger from face to face interaction how would you respond in that moment? Would you want to also be seen as someone losing his cool? Think about your own tone of voice and how you would like to sound or how you would like someone to talk to you about their concerns.

“We do not have control over what happens to us in life, but we do have control over how we chose to respond.”
Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life    

If it is important that the other person hear from you right away simply send a follow-up email or text or comment right in that face to face moment by stating that you will respond more fully when you are in a better frame of mind.

Your life mainly consists of 3 things! What you think,  What you say and  What you do! So always be very conscious of what you are co-creating!”
Allan Rufus, The Master’s Sacred Knowledge    

If your response is only in the form of writing then before your response goes out to anyone have someone you trust, someone who knows your heart and intentions, read your response before you send it out. The objective person will be able to stay out of the emotional end of this negative situation.

Merely because you have got something to say that may be of interest to others does not free you from making all due effort to express that something in the best possible medium and form.” [Letter to Max E. Feckler, Oct. 26, 1914]” ― Jack London

Here is where curiosity comes into play: If you sense that your colleague is angry or accusatory ask that person if you are interpreting their response correctly. Don’t assume to know for sure what you are reading or hearing.

“Every man, it seems, interprets the world in the light of his habits and desires.” Richard Wright, The Outsider

Whenever possible don’t write but talk, face to face, person to person. Effective communication is most achievable when we are in the present moment. Stay clear of bringing up the past. Stick to what is happening right now.

“When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.” Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

There is no substitute for real, live interaction. Your body uses every emoticon there is. Effective communication keeps anger at bay when we remain as calm as possible. Body language can have the same anger inducing affects as something we write. Create breathing space between the parties speaking, reframe when possible for better understanding, keeping advice and opinions to ourselves unless asked to offer that input. These steps all aid in a successful communication process.

We never can completely know what is going on in someone’s life to help us fully understand why they react the way they do. Everyone has something going on that feels overwhelming. Whenever possible put yourself in their shoes and summon a more compassionate you.

Call to Action

How can you begin to speak with your heart so that anger is kept at bay?

Words Are Windows

(or They’re Walls)

I feel so sentenced by your words,

I feel so judged and sent away,

Before I go I’ve got to know,

Is that what you mean to say?

 

Before I rise to my defense,

Before I speak in hurt or fear,

Before I build that wall of words,

Tell me, did I really hear?

 

Words are windows, or they’re walls,

They sentence us, or set us free.

When I speak and when I hear,

Let the love light shine through me.

 

There are things I need to say,

Things that mean so much to me,

If my words don’t make me clear,

Will you help me to be free?

 

If I seemed to put you down,

If you felt I didn’t care,

Try to listen through my words,

To the feelings that we share.

–Ruth Bebermeyer