Category Archives: Habits

Because I Love You: Tech Rules in This House

“Dear Children: It’s time to have the talk.

Not that talk. The other one: The Great Tech Talk.

With school in earnest this week, so begins begins conversation about technology use in our home.

As a preamble, I’d like to say this: I love the internet.

As a follow-up: I despise the internet.

It’s complicated, this love-hate relationship.

The love is THIS BLOG. I get to write and publish, and meet other bloggers and writers and commenters from all over the world – Amazing! Wonderful. The love is connecting on Facebook and Instagram and sharing pictures immediately. It’s Google calendar, email, and Lindsey Stirling Youtube videos. It’s recipes and Shutterfly and Airbnb and GPS directions (because otherwise I’m not getting there.) It’s newsletters and research and googling Donald Trump’s hair. Yes, the World Wide Web is simply awesome.

I’m inspired daily and believe there is no greater and faster tool to spread goodness and light than the internet.

I also believe there’s no greater or faster tool to spread evil and destruction than the internet.

Like the despicable Ashley Madison Website whose tag line is: “Life is Short. Have an Affair.” Which boasts 40 MILLION users. I mean, what the heck is going on?

News like this makes me want to crawl in a bunker with my children.

Alas, we cannot hide. There is a battle going on, and we, my friends are the resilient foot soldiers.

Did you know? 11.7 is the average age a child encounters pornography on the web. Some researchers say it’s now closer to age 8. It’s one of the reasons I’m very wary of sleepovers. It’s not that I don’t trust my kids. I just don’t trust your kids – kidding!

There’s a slew of research on the effects of technology on the teenage brain. It’s not their fault they’re more impulsive, easily swayed by their peers, and feel more invincible  – it’s the physiology of their brain!

It’s not just pornography. Frequent Facebook use makes many kids and adults unhappy. Tech addiction thwarts time well spent, relationships, an explored earth. I don’t want my children’s lives waylaid by virtual interaction. I want them to live in the real world, man!

Technology addiction is a thing. Google it. You’ll get 15,300,000 hits.

The LDS church has just rolled out a “12 Steps to Change” video series, hoping to provide understanding and hope for addiction recovery.

The videos are wonderful. They’re brutally honest. But I’d really love to avoid the “recovery” part and start with prevention. I want to protect myself and my children from the great pain of needing a 12-step program.

Just this week I’ve had two older gentlemen shake their heads at me and say, “I’m glad we’re not raising our kids today. I’m glad it’s you and not me.”

Well, we are raising our kids in this generation, and far from being pessimistic about all the crap they navigate on a daily basis, I’m confident about their future. Because our children possess great light. They know the difference between right and wrong. But it’s hard to stand alone. They need to see their parents modeling good and intentional online habits.

So this is where we try.

As an adult, I have to be careful. I adore my iPhone. Its my precious. I’m too often drawn in, checking email too often, feeling a writer’s “high” when one of my posts receives a “like,” as if my worth is measured by comments and likes. I’m not always a great example.

The Professor is my accountability partner. I tell him my goals: No phone checking upon wake up. Early morning is for quiet meditation, scripture reading, and running on real roads. With school starting, I resist the urge to reach for the phone until the kids have left for school. And every single day I fight that urge. The brain likes what it likes.

Seen on Instagram: “Technoference.” New research out of BYU’s College of Family Life and Social Sciences shows that technoference is statistically linked to lower relationship quality AND life satisfaction.

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Brilliant Sue, science teacher has written much about How Kids Learn. She’s helped me see the wisdom in kids “buying in” instead of adults being too militant and having all the control. We can’t stem the tech tide – nor should we! Kids will find a way to Google. Paraphrasing Joseph Smith, “we teach correct principles and let them govern themselves.” (and monitor and pray a whole heck of a lot!)

In 2012, Janell Burley Hoffman wrote the iPhone contract heard round the world for her 13-year-old son. I loved it. Not everyone did. Based on some of the comments, you’d think she was the world’s worst home dictator. In my opinion, Janell is a resilient foot soldier. She’s fighting a good fight.

My take is this: we cannot be too careful. The dangers are real. Our family has not been immune. And it breaks my heart that there are images and words that can never be erased.

As our children grow older, there are more tech users in the home. We now iPads, iPods, and phones (but not iPhones. I refuse.) It’s becoming more common to have all homework assignments, textbooks, and reference materials on-line. As such, our kids are on-line a lot. We’ve all become foot soldiers, trying to find the balance between good, better, and best.

As school — and therefore technology use — begins for real this coming week, we will revisit “the great tech talk” as a family. As part of the talk, we sign a contract. Is a contract really necessary? I believe it’s essential.

Do our children have input? Absolutely! To avoid power struggles, I highly suggest it. Tech power struggles have been hard on my relationship with my children. I become the nag. They can’t stand me. So. We continue to discuss and (mostly) agree. We all know the rules. They help shape the consequences.

It’s working.

Our Tech Contract goes something like this (adapted from Hurley):

Dear Children,

Congratulations! You are in possession of a powerful piece of technology.  Aren’t you the luckiest? With this great privilege comes great responsibility. Your devices have the potential to do great good. They also have the power to cause great harm, not only to yourself but to others.

As a tech user in the Makechnie house, you agree to the following:

1. Technology is used under the supervision of your parent. Before using your device, you must  ask permission.

2. Technology must be used in a public place, like the living room or kitchen. Devices are not to be used in bedrooms, behind closed doors. If you need a quiet place for homework, we will discuss.

3. All apps must be approved.

4. We will always know your passwords and follow you on all social media sites. Learn to love it.

5. We will be able to read  your texts and KIK conversations at any time.

6. Technology is put away at all meal times.

7. When you begin driving you will never ever text or talk while driving. (See A Deadly Wandering!)

8. Never post anything online that could be hurtful or harmful to another human being.

9. Never search for or post anything that you would be embarrassed for your parents or bishop or Heavenly Father to see. While on-line, imagine us standing next to you! No pornography. If someone shows you pornography, FLEE. Come talk to us. It’s destructive. It ruins lives.

10. When you enter the home, put your technology on the black shelf by the front door.

11. At night, after homework is done, turn in your technology to the black shelf or hutch.

12. On Sunday, we have a technology Sabbath. This is so we remember what one another looks like and that the scriptures are actual books. Even God, who was incredibly busy creating the  world and animals and people, rested on the seventh day!

13. When riding in a car with us, ask permission before using your device. When riding in the car with friends or other adults, use devices appropriately. Have conversations. It’s polite. It’s important to learn how to communicate — even when it’s awkward.

14. When using technology, and another person enters the room, close your device and acknowledge the person (it is also polite to stand up in certain situations).

15. When we call or text, answer immediately.

16. Download and listen to music that is uplifting. With any website or song, ask yourself: How does this make me feel?

17. If you break your device  (it will happen) you are responsible for the replacement.

18. If you break one of these rules, your devices will be taken away for a period of time.  They will be returned to you when your parents deem it appropriate.

Remember that these rules have been put in place because we love you. You will make mistakes. We will still love you. We are a forever family. We want you to be happy.

Love, Mom and Dad

 

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To Kim, the Young Mom Who Inspired Me

It’s been a great summer. We’ve traveled to foreign lands, gathered for sweet reunions, and swum and swam the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans blue.

We’ve soaked up summer, swimming at the local lake every day, and eating too much ice-cream. It’s been glorious.

Among all the great and grand adventures, something very ordinary occurred in my home that had a tremendous impact on me. Kim, this one’s for you.

In July my dear sister-in-law, Kim, and her husband, Glenn, (my husband’s brother, and my awesome marathon buddy!) traveled all the way from Saudi Arabia with their four young children: Tate and Finn ages 6 and 4, and Kenna and Taryn, 6-month-old twin girls.

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Ah, I’m obsessed with the twins.

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Let me eat your foot.

What it’s like to live in Saudi Arabia deserves it’s own post. It’s been hard, especially for Kim who is not allowed to drive and has to dress as according to local custom, every time she leaves the Aramco compound. Fresh fruit and vegetables, flour, mascara – what’s that?

Coming back to the U.S. required all sorts of documentation, planning, and luggage (the baby formula alone could feed a small zoo). It was quite dizzying what they accomplished.

Kim, super mother to four delightful children, arrived at our front door very very sick with strep throat.

A few days later, (after rudely sleeping in whilst my guests had been up with babies throughout the night and had fixed their own breakfast,) I stumbled downstairs to say good morning. I found my kitchen entirely too clean, with warm, fluffy pancakes awaiting me (their marital teamwork is impressive!). Glenn was even sweeping the floor.

Kim was at the kitchen table with 6-year-old, Tate. He had a pencil and a workbook. He was writing his letters, carefully focusing on each swirl and twirl of the alphabet, while his mother balanced twins on her lap, patiently pointing at the paper, redirecting when Tate became distracted by a fly, and encouraging when necessary (often.)

I was so struck by this scene.

I could see myself, years earlier, at the kitchen table with my oldest child, Cope: when summer was long and hot, when we had endless hours stretched out before us, when we had a schedule that required no driving to activities. Back then I was stricter about things like bedtime and television (only Saturday mornings)!

Every morning in the summer we read, we wrote, we learned all the notes on the piano. And every day, desperate for entertainment, we took a very slow walk and had a very long bath.

After writing, Kim followed Tate, and I followed Kim, to the piano. I witnessed this mother, a younger (and idealized) version of myself, patiently teaching her child how to play. When he complained, she paused and said she would wait until he was ready. She didn’t yell or take away all his stuffed animals (ala Tiger Mother!) She just waited until he was ready.

I could practically see Tate’s brain and all his synapses connecting as he concentrated. He was so earnest. His little hands splayed out, connecting each finger to a note on the piano. He played his scales and then moved on to Old McDonald Had a Farm. When he nailed the song, his pleasure filled the whole house.

“Watch this, Auntie,” he said to me, grinning.

I felt a pang of…guilt…mixed with inspiration and resolve. I thought of my Paige, the youngest child. Was she was getting the same kind of mothering her older siblings received? Or have I gotten too busy?

It wasn’t that the early days of mothering were simpler or easier. In many ways it was harder, with younger children to look after, a house that always needed cleaning, 12 dorm boys to “mother,” and constant fatigue from not enough sleep. But the difference is we were less busy outside the home. And I admit it, I was more diligent about some things – like printing up all the American Red Cross swim guidelines so I could teach Cope and Nelson how to swim all the strokes and float with their clothes on for two minutes. Now? Ah geez, who can I hire???

Like most families, the youngest child has a very different life then her older siblings. This week, for instance, Paige happily came to preseason soccer practice everyday while I coached. She swung on swings, wandered the playground.

The life of younger siblings life most often means being dragged to this and that. It’s life in the car and waiting. I’m not saying it’s all bad. Life is good for her, but it’s just different. Maybe this is how youngest children get spoiled; parents feel guilty about not teaching them how to clean a bathroom so they reward them with iPads. Am I totally off base here?

As far as summer goes, I’m very anti-commitment. I resent camps, clubs, lessons, and anything that requires driving. We don’t participate in much. Summer is for us, because just wait. School will start and we will go, go, go.

And sometimes I worry that the little one is not getting the best of me.

Oh, we still have charts, a “zone” chore wheel, one on one time, but mustering up the discipline to sit down and be still and teach letters has waned. My older children  have moved on, and in many ways I’ve gone with them. It’s so exciting, to be busy with freshman orientation, ocean classroom, and gasp – dating! In addition, a mother has dreams of her own…writing, running, pursuing…it’s hard to know what to forego and for how long.

I’ve already done the Arthur puzzles a thousand times. I can’t get excited about High-Ho Cheerio. There’s also the  “been there, done that.” I’ve outgrown play dates and learning circles.

And yet, the littles need it. Does it really matter that I’m bored?

How easy it is not do that hard, mundane “stuff” of teaching the younger ones, as if they’ll just magically pick up “how to fold the laundry” on their own.  I now understand how “the baby” of the family often has a vastly different parent than the older ones had. Why the baby doesn’t have his or her own scrapbook. Was mom and dad just too tired to take the pictures?

Like, l totally get why my younger brothers got everything they wanted (they’ll recall it differently, ha! :))

I remember someone telling me that we had to be careful as our children became older, that we didn’t neglect the younger ones. At the time I thought it a ridiculous statement. If anything, it was the babies that took my attention. The older ones became independent while I was nursing and changing diapers. But now I understand. It’s too easy to get lazy, to feel tired, to stop parenting.

Young, new mothers might not understand that their example is every bit important as more “veteran” mothers.  As new moms, we often think we have no idea what we’re doing. But we do know! It’s instinct. It’s maternal. It comes. We know what we need to do. How great it is, this two-way street of learning between mothers at all stages.

I called my other sister-in-law, Jill, to tell her about this revelation, of watching Kim work with Tate and how I needed to buckle down with Paige, to read and write and do more math. Jill, the mother of four girls said, “I KNOW! I THOUGHT THE SAME THING!”

Kim, we all want to be like you 🙂

So, as I look towards fall, I know that life isn’t going to stop. We still have to drive, deliver and pick up children from here and there. We’re not giving up soccer practice or going to school or parent-teacher conferences or the grocery store. But I’ve also concluded that there also has to be more “No” for the better “Yes.” There has to be those Nine Minutes. After that we can go back to benevolent neglect (kidding!).

And gee, wasn’t my “baby” Paige thrilled when I told her we were going to read and write everyday just like we talked about at the beginning of the summer and then didn’t do so well because we went to Europe (see, life is HARD :). We were going to make music together and she wasn’t going to love it every second, but like my mother always said, “like that has anything to do with it.” (Thanks, mom!) Also, we were going to do MATH!

Paige only THINKS she detests math. She whined and complained, but this newly inspired mother wasn’t giving in. And just this morning, after weeks of working hard together, Paige showed me her math score: 100%. She was beaming. That my friends, is called self-esteem: doing the hard things and the right things because they have to get done. It makes you feel mighty good about yourself.

This whole scenario reminded me of the expression, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. That might be true. But you certainly can remind the old dog of the tricks she already knows. And I’m happy to report, it comes back pretty easily.

To all you tired, new mothers who don’t sleep much, who are a little wide-eyed from this great adventure called motherhood, who don’t think you know what you’re doing: you do know. keep inspiring us older dogs. We need you more than you know.

And dear Kimmy, thank you <3

I'm sorry, Tate, for burning your hot dog. I'm trying to pay better attention :)

I’m sorry, Tate, for burning your hot dog. I’m trying to pay better attention 🙂

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Can Changing Your Vocabulary Make You Happier?

My friend Eric has ALS.  Just about everything about it is awful. But sometimes we talk about the upsides. For instance, he knows what his family means to him. Life is about experiences together, rather than things. It’s heartbreaking to watch Eric’s physical body slowly stop working, and yet he’s still able to be positive. How does he do it? It has everything to do with his mind.

I’m also a podcast geek.

You may see me out running, pulling weeds, or driving in the car talking to an invisible person, nodding vehemently, or shouting “YES!” I’m likely listening to a podcast; there are just so many people to learn from out there in the world.

A recent favorite was Michael Hyatt’s, Watch Your Mouth. Ka-zaam! It was right in line with everything I’m interested in: being proactive, making better habits, becoming happier. This episode was about changing our vocabulary…which of course comes right from the brain.

As a man thinketh, so is he.

Our words have power. We know they affect others, but do we also realize they affect us? Do we realize our words affect our behavior? Even if we don’t say them out loud?

The mind is a powerful thing. We see the things we want to see and the more we use certain words, the more they become engrained in our brain and actions.

Think Eeyore versus Tigger.

Imagine if we made the mindset shift from “I have to” to “I get to.” I’m convinced our marriages would soar. Our children would smile more. Our families would flourish. Change the family? Change the world.

Using Eric and Hyatt’s list as a guide, here are my personal pitfalls; can you relate?

1. Driving: Eric can’t drive anymore. And he really liked driving his truck. I, on the other hand, view driving back and forth to school, church activities, parties, soccer, etc. as a huge waste of time. However, a mother recently told me she didn’t mind driving her child to school 35-minutes one-way every single day. “I have her undivided attention and she has mine. We don’t have to even look at each other. We just talk – it’s the most quality time we have.” Hmmm. Mindset shift. Instead of, “I have to drive the kids to school,” we could say, “I get to be the last person who says I love you just before he plunges into the middle school wing.” We go from burden to opportunity. (Besides, no driving = no Target! and what kind of life would that be?)

2. Work and School: I recently heard on Gretchen Rubin’s fabulous podcast Happier that people see a huge dip in their happiness on Sunday morning around noon. That’s when we begin to think about the work week ahead. Oh man, I get it. But what if we said, “I get to go to work on Monday and impact kids?” or “I am so lucky I get to go to school. I’m so lucky to get an education.” Ask anyone who’s job hunting or unemployed. They’ll tell you: “You are so lucky to have a job!!!” As a mom working at home, I can say, “I get to get up early and start breakfast, pack lunches, and spend time with grumpy-pants.” I get to! And some moms don’t.

3. Exercise/Running: You might be surprised (or glad!) to hear that I too constantly struggle with motivation to run and/or workout. Even though it’s a habit, I still catch myself saying, “I have to go run.” My goodness, how lucky are we, that we have legs! Sometimes I practice being grateful while running. “I’m so lucky for these strong legs that can run miles and miles.” Because I run early, I’ve witnessed the sun rise. I’ve interacted with moose, snakes, chipmunks, snow falling, raindrops, a mother goose and her goslings, too many barking dogs 🙂 Change your vocabulary from “I have to” to “I get to run today!” and you’ve got a game-changer.

4. The To-Do List: How many times a day do we say, “I have so many things to do.” Well listen, that’s just never going to change. And To-Do’s are a matter of choice. We get to choose what we want to do and when we do it. We are in charge of our calendar. “I get to vacuum the floor at 8 a.m. today.” “I am choosing to bring dinner to my friend because I love her.” “I am choosing to drive to Lowe’s and buy lightbulbs.” Changing our vocabulary might not make us LOVE buying lightbulbs, but the vocabulary tweak is important. Life doesn’t just happen to us. We choose our what, where, and when. Any hey, no lightbulbs? No light.

5. Making Dinner: “I have to make dinner. AGAIN” could be changed to, “I get to go to the grocery store where there are literally tons of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and Goldfish crackers to choose from. I get to peruse cookbooks and blogs or cook my mother’s tuna fish casserole! Tweak “I have to” to “I get to have dinner tonight. I’m so lucky to that every time I open my cupboard there is FOOD, glorious food!”

6. Travel: Recently I found myself dreading, “I have to plan this trip” while picking up a European guide book. Yes, it’s embarrassing. But I realized I was dreading the planning because I don’t know how to plan a trip to Europe. I’ve never been there. No one is picking us up at the airport, holding my hand, walking me through customs. I believe fear and indecision is the crux of much of our “I have to” vocabulary. But once we make a decision, we can make the mind shift. Not everyone gets to go on vacation. We get to.

7. Medical/Dental Appointments: “I have to pay how much for braces??? Did you say $6000 per kid?” And then everytime the bill comes or everytime I hand over the HSA card I’m thinking, “I have to pay $1000 for that?” Guess what? No one makes us go to the doctor. No one makes us get braces for the kids. Change the vocabulary to “I’m so lucky to have access to healthcare while people around the world have no doctors, no access, no dentists, no nothing.” “I’m so lucky we have enough money to make monthly installments for my daughter’s very expensive mouth. Her smile is going to be so beautiful. I’m so glad I can help her.” (cut the sarcasm!)

8. Parenting in General: We’re tired. I know we are, but it’s too easy to get snarky, snappy, and annoyed. It’s too easy to eye-roll, to make habits that last the lifetime of a relationship. We do it with infants: “I have to change another diaper.” We do it with our toddlers: “I have to take him outside and walk really slowly and look down every single drain.” We do it with our teens: “I have to have another conversation about texting.” Imagine the change in our relationships if we said, “I’m so lucky I get to spend time with my baby today. (even if she’s a little stinky :)” “I’m so lucky I get to be here when he learns to walk and says ‘Dada’ for the first time.” “I’m so lucky that God entrusted me with such a powerful personality!” “I’m so lucky to be a mother!” Woah. Mind shift.

I’ve found that this small tweak in my vocabulary, from “I have to…” to “I get to…” leads to this magical word called Gratitude. It’s no wonder that happiness is directly tied to being grateful.

I remember the day my friend Eric could no longer lift my son’s bike out of his truck. I remember the day he could no longer take cereal down from the fridge to give to his daughters. He can no longer lift his arms to scratch his nose, swat a mosquito, or wipe away tears. I get to do all of those things.

We went for a walk the other day because he can still make very small movements with his hands to move the joystick of his wheelchair. We were going down the road, me walking, him rolling. I didn’t say it, but I sure thought it: “I’m get to walk. I’m so lucky.”

On the way back, Eric slowed to a stop. I looked down to see a snake slithering across the road and eeked out a small shriek. But Eric appreciated. His eyes zeroed in on the snake. Instead of screaming and running down the road I managed to stay still and watch, as the snake used it’s body to slither across the road, making a seamless “S.” Eric said, “It’s so cool how it can do that. So effortlessly.”

Every day, we get to see little miracles like this. But only if we recognize them.

Lucky me. Lucky you.

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The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up

Perhaps your first reaction is like Brynne’s: “A New York Times Best Seller? It’s a book about cleaning!”

Ah yes, my young padawans, we are not yet Jedis. There is much to learn…

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Marie Kondo is a tidy-Jedi. I love this book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” Now quite famous in Japan, this method is called the “Kon-Mari method.” Very Jedi-like.

The word “tidying” does not refer to organizing. Rather, this book is about ridding our life of everything unnecessary. In the process, we find joy.

It’s not really about organizing and cleaning. It does not speak of The Container Store, buying more bins, or storage units. In fact, Kondo has something to say about that:

Storage Experts Are Hoarders.

Woah! Hold on to your boot straps, missy, we are going for a ride!

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Kon-Mari is both funny and serious about her quest to organize. She was born wanting to organize. Even in kindergarten, she didn’t like to play. She liked to put things away. In middle school she rushed home so she could organize the house. This girl is now using her innate organizing super powers to change the world!

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What prompted me to pick up this book? I am on a serious quest to feel less crazy, less busy, less frazzled. I’m craving simplicity. So often, I just feel like I’m moving stuff around the house. This book was quite a serendipitous find.unnamed-4

Section One. I ask you, WHY CANT I KEEP MY HOUSE IN ORDER?

I have kids! I swear that’s the reason. I’m pretty sure our Jedi master, Kon-Mari, doesn’t have kids. Just saying. That’s my only criticism. I could be wrong. Maybe she has 12. But she lives in Japan, so probably not.

Excuses. Once I got past “it’s all the kid’s fault,” I dug deep, read, and examined my habits and flaws.

There are five basic sections of the book:

1. Why Can’t I Keep My House in Order?

2. Finish Discarding First

3. Tidying by Category Works Like Magic

4. Storing Your Things to Make  Your Life Shine

5. The Magic of Tidying Dramatically Transforms Your Life

Kondo takes you by the hand and gently says, “Its not your fault you’re a slob. You just haven’t been taught how.” For instance, her clients are most often women in their 50s.

Some Highlights: Did you know you’ve been insulting your socks?unnamed-3

“Never ball up socks…look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. They’ve worked hard for you. Do you really think they can get any rest like that?”

Ha! This is for real! I love it.

Did you know your real life begins when home gets put in order?

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“Tidy a little everyday and you’ll be tidying forever.”unnamed-5

“If you’re mad at your family, your room may be the cause.” unnamed-8

Outer order contributes to inner calm!unnamed-9

As you can see, I did  A LOT of folding down of pages:unnamed-10

If books have voices, this one spoke to me.

Kondo states that storing stuff just hides the problems, conceals things we don’t need under a lid. Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved.

This is why tidying must start with discarding.

In the last month I have gotten rid of at least ten bags of stuff. It feels so good.

Kondo says to work in categories, not by room: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous (CDs, skincare products, makeup, household equipment….), sentimental.

For clothes, hold it up each item and ask, “Does this spark joy?” If not, give it away.

It’s all about feeling. It’s our rational brain that gets in the way. I might use it. I might need it. It was expensive. It was a gift.

How do you get rid of something that doesn’t spark joy? “Express your appreciation for their contribution to your life. Tell them, ‘Thank you for the boost you gave me when I bought you,’ or ‘Thank you for getting me a little more fit.'” and then say good-bye.”

I laughed out loud several times, but then I actually tried it. It really works!

“Say good-bye joyfully with words, like ‘Thank your for finding me’ or ‘Have a good journey. See you again soon!'”

I tried this out on The Professor.

Me: “Okay, honey, does this bring you joy?” (old t-shirt)

“I guess not.”

Me: “Okay, thank it for its service in your life and then say good-bye.”

“No, I’m not doing that.”

Obviously, some of us have a hard time getting in touch with our feelings.

What about the rebound effect? “Rebound occurs because people mistakenly believe they have tidied thoroughly, which in fact they have only sorted and stored things halfway. If you put your house in order properly, you’ll be able to keep your room tidy, even if you are lazy or sloppy by nature” (which she says she is).

People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking.

There’s so much wisdom in this book I want to reread it all over again.

I highly recommend it!

You want the space you live in to be graced only with those things that speak to your heart and bring joy. 

“Tidying is our opportunity to express our appreciation to our home for all it does for us.”

Amen to that. And now, back to tidying.

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Getting Organized: How to Get to Inbox Zero Every Day

Did you know we spend an average of 55 minutes a day looking for stuff we can’t find? On average, that’s about a year of our lifetime. What a waste.

Even though I get a lot of stuff done, I am seeking greater peace of mind. Meaning: getting my life organized. I’ve finally realized that the best way for me to do that is to ASK FOR HELP, to learn from a coach or a mentor.

I took the plunge and signed up for this FREE on-line course called “Mind Organization for Moms,” written by my organizational hero, April Perry. And no, you don’t have to be a mom to benefit from this course! The first lesson is getting your email to zero.

Who cares about email, you say? Well, who knew that having an “Inbox Zero” at the end of the day would take away so much stress – but it has. Boy howdy, it just makes me giddy.

This is how it happens: every email gets filed into an email folder.

This is based on using Gmail, which I highly recommend.

First, you’re going to make five folders by scrolling down to the very bottom on the left hand side of your Google email to where it says, “Create Label.” (you may need to click “more” and it will scroll further down.)

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After you click “Create new label,” this box pops up:Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 3.34.56 PM

Create five emails folders in the left hand column of your inbox (they will not “nest” under anything). Label them as follows:

@Action, @Immediate Action, @Someday, @Incubation, @Waiting.

@Action is for emails that require you to do something, but it’s not urgent.

@Immediate Action is what you work with all day. Everything in this folders means you need to take care of it within 1-3 days. You check it at the end of every day.

@Incubation is for things you are thinking about but don’t want to get rid of, like a coupon.

@Someday are emails that have ideas you really want to get to…someday. An example is an amazing bread recipe or a photography class.

@Waiting is for emails that require a response from another person. An example is emailing a query to a magazine and you’re waiting for a response. You’ve also emailed yourself so you have a copy of the email.

The reason you put the @ in front is because Google organizes the labels alphabetically and you want those to be the first options you see on the left hand side of your email.

It will look like this on the left hand side of your email now:

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Now, all the emails you get won’t fit exactly into those folders which is why you can create all the folders you want after these five! By the time you’re done with this you’ll feel like one snazzy organizational guru!

Now, every time you get an email, you PUT that email into the folder. Caveat: if you can take care of the email within two minutes, just take care of it quickly. Everything else? File!

How to move an email into a folder? Click on the email you want to read or have read, and then click on that little envelope at the top of your inbox. It looks like this (to the right of the trash can:

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.35.33 PMOh, goody! Another manuscript rejection! I’m going to move that OUT of my inbox and into my “rejected manuscripts” folder. Or maybe I’ll just delete it 🙂

Here’s some examples of other folders I’ve created:

I get a lot of family emails so one of my folders is “Family.”

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I have a “School” label and put all of my children’s “Kid’s Activities” under that Parent “School” Label.

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Here is what the side of my email looks like with some of my folders (I make a lot!) I try to make general “big” labels and then add subcategories to those labels.

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The Password label sure is handy – I’ve saved a TON of time quickly looking up a password instead of guessing wrong ten times.

I like to make other labels to “nest” under big labels. For instance, “Schools” has sub-labels based on the schools we attend. School emails “nest” under “Better Teaching,” and “Employment” for contracts.

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Other labels include Church, Journal (which nests under “Family”), Great Quotes, and Receipts (very helpful.) I’m always tweaking.

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My “Writing” label has the most sub-labels as I try to keep helpful articles, contracts, manuscripts, and writing opportunities very organized. This fall I was in a huge panic as I could NOT find an important contract buried somewhere in the 3000 emails piled up. I had to write to the editor (embarrassing and unprofessional) for info. It shall never happen again!

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What I love most about this system is that it FORCES me to take action. I ended up unsubscribing to a lot of websites and newsletters  (like Rugs, USA – how did I get on that subscriber list???) because I had to deal with it instead of just ignoring it.

Filing everything somewhere forces me to make a decision about what I want to do with an email – will I really read it or will it just hang out in my inbox forever?

It makes me feel more in control of my whole life – which may sound a little dramatic – but it’s really how I feel.

Clearing your whole inbox takes time. When I started I had over 3000 emails! It’s taken many hours, but I’ve actually enjoyed the process. You can file in batches or make another label called @Sort and file in half hour batches. I bet you’ll end up deleting almost ALL of them.

Now, this system scared me at first because what if I put things in @Immediate Action and then didn’t look in that folder? Guess what? You have to look at the folder and look at it often! I try to do this every morning and every night. If I’m procrastinating doing something with the email, then it doesn’t belong in that folder.

I’m not a perfectionist and I’m not OCD, but I want to get better at managing my life so that I’m not so stressed out and overwhelmed. I believe it will help me be a better mother, writer, and give me more energy for the really important stuff.

I tell you, when I see this a couple times a day:

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I feel really, really good. It’s like a shot of adrenaline.

Questions? Let me know! And good luck!

As I go on this organizational journey (sorry for using that word), I’d like to take you along, filing each post under the tab that says “Habits” on the top of this website. (wait, am I getting organized?)

Next time: Using a digital calendar (love it!) and how to keep track of all those birthdays! Isn’t this fun?

P.S. Here’s the link again in case you’re interested in checking a free e-course Mind Organization course. It’s based on David Allen’s #1 best-selling book GETTING THINGS DONE. The Mind Organization course is a simplified, hand-holding course with eight lessons. I need hand-holding. Managing email is just the first step. Imagine what I’ll feel like after eight lessons…

Giddyap!

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How to Meditate Like a Zen Monk

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I’ve been intrigued by the concept of meditation ever since reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderful memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. I laughed at her description of trying to sit very quietly and letting go of all angst, worry, and to-do lists…because she couldn’t do it for a long time.

I can’t do it either. Fidget, fidget, and a million random thoughts.

I don’t know how to mediate. What am I supposed to think about? I pray all the time, but admittedly, I have a feeling I’m a tad more rushed, anxious, and distracted than a Zen monk.

This past summer I committed to getting up extra early and sitting on the floor in front of my bedroom window where the sun rises. For months it was glorious. Sun on my face. Sitting quietly, saying a prayer, and reading a spiritual passage.

It did make a big difference with how I felt both physically and emotionally. I felt calmer, more “centered” (that’s such a zen word, isn’t it?), and patient. Was this meditation?

However, in New Hampshire it becomes dark so quickly, that by October there was no sun streaming through my window at 6. Since sitting on a cold dark floor was too hard; I struggled to keep reading and feeling “centered.”

But the goal remained. Over the last few months I have read a bit about meditation and the great brain benefits. In addition, my Anatomy & Physiology class is finishing up a unit of the great brain; I needed to try meditation!

The resolve was clinched after listening to Lewis Howes’ podcast with Bill Harris, “How to Meditate Like a Zen Monk in the Fraction of the Time.” Ohhh! This one was for me! I could learn how to meditate in mere minutes and be well on my way to ZEN!

Meditation Benefits: Clarity, increased creativity, increased productivity, greater peace of mind

Being the Christmas season and all I’m feeling a bit stressed out. To say the least. If there was ever a time when I really wanted peace of mind, to really enjoy a wonderful time of year, it was right now. One of the biggest excuses I use not to meditate is I don’t want to take the time, but if meditation could help me be more productive AND peaceful at Christmas time, it was worth the extra minutes of effort.

So, after an early morning run this morning, in which it rained freezing ice pellets on me the entire time (Holiday Streakers! – another commitment!), I sat down on my living room floor with my wet clothes still on. I sat in front of the fire and the dog and the Christmas tree, plugged in my ear buds, and attempted to meditate like a zen monk. No excuses!

The free Holosync demo was 20 minutes. 20 minutes! Who has 20 minutes?

Be quiet. Listen.

It began with sounds of falling rain.

Oh, I like that…it’s raining outside. Wouldn’t it be faster to just listen to real rain? Sh!

Then a voice came on to tell me how wonderful meditation was and I too could buy a year’s subscription!

This sounds like internet marketing. Well, I’m not buying! We are saving money this year! Man I sound just like Luther Crank from Grisham’s SKIPPING CHRISTMAS. I’m as grouchy as he is too.

While the sales pitch goes on, it also says I’m hearing sound technology that will help my neural connections. Yeah, I could use more neural connections. It’s like African drum beats with rain. It’s nice. I try to block out the sales pitch and breathe all zen.

Is he going to stop talking soon? Can I really sit here for 20 minutes?

Remember that last time you tried to meditate sitting next to Gregor? That didn’t last more than five minutes before we burst out laughing. We’re so immature.

I’m cold.

Focus. THIS is your problem. You need to focus. Breathe in 1-2-3-4-5 Hold for 1-2. Exhale for 1-2-3-4-5 and Hold for 1-2.

My mind wanders to the open computer where I’m plugged in.

Don’t you dare check your email! But there’s like a million messages. Dang it, there’s a new lesson from Power of Moms about organizing your life. You still haven’t cleared your inbox. You’ve got to do that today. Today! It has to be TODAY! Breathe 1-2-3-4-5 and Hold 1-2. Close your eyes.

I swear, along with the drum beats and falling rain, this pitch goes almost fifteen minutes.

I’m cold. I should have showered first. But then I’d never start meditating. Scoot closer to the fire. There. Oh, Tenny boy, you’re a good dog. Pet doggy. I should give him a shower. Is that a tick?

I really should vacuum all those Christmas tree needles up. Paige fell into the tree this morning, knocking off ornaments and needles. She also landed on Brynne’s Christmas present – a box that is now dented.

There’s hardly anything under the tree. It looks a little…sparse. Yeah, our Christmas idea was a great one…but…do we have enough gifts? Maybe I should go to the store right now and buy some more presents, more STUFF for under there! No, no, no, you cannot do that. It will completely ruin everything we’re trying to do. Buy experiences, not things. Happy, happy, happy family.

More stuff, stuff, stuff. No. Be quiet.

Five more minutes of meditating.

I’m not doing this right. Maybe I should just quit. No, there are five more minutes of neural-engaging drum beats and a rain storm. Breathe. Feel the breath. Productivity! Clarity! Creativity!

I shouldn’t have been so snappy today with husband. Maybe I should call him, offer to go to the grocery store and buy his ingredients for the holiday brunch tomorrow. The holiday brunch. Oh my gosh, the holiday brunch is tomorrow! Okay, I’m going to get the dough ready tonight and let it rise in the fridge. Then tomorrow I’ll get up super early – really – I have to do it – no sleeping in. 5:30 I’ll get up and roll out the dough. I’ll make the frosting tonight. And then I’ll read my scriptures and meditate and write. I’m so behind. It’s fine, breathe. I’ll get ready, be really patient and nice with the kids, bring the rolls in the car and meet with Karl to talk about my teaching performance…what is my teaching performance? Am I a good teacher? Those brain packets are so long…what was I thinking? Maybe I should have just given a test. Breathe in 1-2-3-4-5- and Hold 1-2. Class is from 9:10-10. All set there, right? Then I’ll stay on campus and put the rolls in Becky’s oven – don’t forget to grab the frosting tonight! Put it out so you don’t forget. Nelson’s basketball game. Sell raffle tickets, then off to the Danbury church to see Santa and see Sam and Max play.

Don’t panic. It’s okay. You’ll get it done. Oh my gosh I have so much to do. Why didn’t you just make the stupid Christmas calendars a month ago? Enter grades, write comments for all students, work ahead for January syllabus. This house needs to be cleaned so badly. Clean, clean, clean. Send gifts in the mail this weekend! or they’re not going to get there in time. Did I get Nelson that last present? Make the granola – today! It has to be today! Carpe Diem. Send the Christmas card through Mail Chimp. Fast, easy, nice. 

Oh look, the neural drum beats have stopped. Meditation is done for the day.

Exhale. I feel so much better.

Not.

Obviously, I have some work to do.

 

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everything starts messy

Spring was so slow to get here that when it finally came, we clapped and did cartwheels.

Oh, we were happy for days with sunshine and warmer temperatures.

And then my nemesis – the black fly – came out in full force. Tried to wreck spring.

Swatting flies, I caught sight of the yard. Spirits plunged. There was just So Much Work.

I suddenly felt depressed. I couldn’t do it all. I just wanted to hibernate another winter.DSC_0637Every garden bed was covered with winter yuck, dead leaves and sticks. Weeds were threatening to take over the home land.

DSC_0715And though I knew the blueberry bushes wouldn’t always look like sticks, all I could see were weeds and…sticks.

garden And the garden. Why are we supposed to grow food when it’s so hard?

seedsWeeks earlier I was ecstatic about the seed packets received in the mail!

DSC_0720And now weeds dare to grow.

Instantly, I felt guilty. Me, who just weeks earlier was wishing for spring.

plantsInside, plants are bursting, so excited to go outside and put down roots in soil.

DSC_0134I have to take deep breaths often. Everything starts messy.

DSC_0140Actually, it’s messy for awhile.

DSC_0709Everything starts small. Even though, inside, things are happening. Changing.

Babies, families, habits, novels, dreams, exercise goals, eating regimes, household management…everything starts messy. And is really hard.

DSC_0703It just so happens, I started reading a book called, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Pressfield talks Resistance. Resistance is your adversary. It’s all the doubts, fears, you can’t do it, it’s too hard moments.

Resistance is not your friend. It keeps you from doing what God put you on the earth to do.

I may or may not have been put on earth to be a farmer, but it was the next right thing. Because I want vegetables this summer.

So I made myself go outside with a bucket full of seeds. And I planted something.

And it’s still messy.

chickensAnd if you’ve ever had chickens, you know how full of poop life can be.

But did you also know, that chicken poo is such a fantastic fertilizer that they sell it in 25 lb. bags? Mmm hmmm.

Perhaps a little mess is how the best things grow.

DSC_0699When the seeds were finally in, I fainted from exhaustion. Or maybe it was all the black flies sucking my blood. Either way, I was down for the count. Down on the grass. And I saw these small, white flowers. Hundreds and hundreds of beautiful white petals. They only bloom for about a week. And then they are gone. Easy to miss unless you’re knocked over on a field of weeds.

DSC_0647And years ago, I couldn’t get asparagus to grow. Mad, I gave up. But something must have been done right because Gregor told me to go look on the other side of the hill. There, on a neglected patch of grass was hundreds and hundreds of asparagus.

Take that, Resistance! (Want to come over for lunch?)

DSC_0773The darlings don’t know this thing called resistance yet…they think the dandelion weeds are gorgeous flowers. Gifts for their mother.

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I’m going to call them my beautiful bouquet of resistance.

And isn’t it the truth that these children I get the great privilege of raising are also my biggest messers…which makes me ponder why we think that everything in life has to be so perfect, orderly, and tied up with a bow?

I’m going to stop making my bed!

DSC_0398These eggs from the most messy creature on the planet lays a perfect food every single day! Believe me, they don’t come out looking so pristine. I won’t tell you what analogy my son likened that too this morning, but you know…ow. wow.

Everything starts messy.

Especially the things worth anything.

The time is now. Get your hands dirty. Get messy. Make mistakes. Start again. Grow 🙂

 

 

 

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A Month Without Email Before Noon: A Worthy Habit

October was the fourth month of a year of living without, originally inspired by Leo of Zenhabits.

My goal was to not check email before noon. 

The iphone makes it more difficult; it’s always there like Frodo’s irresistible ring every time you use your phone.

26 unread emails at 8 a.m., 43 unread at 10, 56 unread at 11:56. 

It was easier if I kept my phone out of sight.

I got caught cheating once:

Hence, this once again tells us that having accountability is a very good thing! Thanks, Becky 🙂 for keeping me honest.

I found it was hardest to keep this goal when I had to get an email to a teacher quickly, when I had to email the nurse, when I was in the middle of soccer season and had to email a thought or request…so I began to make a note of the emails to write and then write them as soon as noon came.

It sometimes took me an hour to answer my emails at noon, but I bet it made me more efficient too, and more likely to delete emails that weren’t as important.

I like this habit.

It was good for me not to start the day with email. It helped me focus on kids in the morning, projects I had to get done, and writing that didn’t need constant email interruptions.

Not checking email made me twitchy some days, like I was going through withdrawal. I obviously need boundaries. 

This is a habit I won’t strictly keep, but I hope it will make me better. It was a good month-long exercise on self-control. Of not being so impulsive, of making myself wait when I didn’t want to wait.

November’s Habit: Going to be before 10. I can read, but I have to stay in bed!

“You know what’s hard about this habit?” I asked Gregor. “You!”

“Why would you do something that makes you abandon your husband?” he asked.

See?  There’s just no help around here!

My husband is a night owl and we like to watch a show before bed. But busy schedules often means we start at 9:30 or sometimes even 10. And by the time it’s all said and done it’s 11 or 12. And I’m a half-thinking zombie the next day. (I finally saw World War Z this weekend – zombies are scary!)

“I’m tired to being strong,” I said. “My resistance is down. I don’t want to try anymore.”

“Then why are you doing it?” Gregor asked.

“Because it’s good for me.”

I found it ironic that on Friday night, we took our two oldest to see Ender’s Game but we could only go to the 9:30 p.m. show. “I wonder what November’s habit is?” I asked at 11:30p.m., after the movie, realizing it was November 1st. 

Oh dear. An auspicious beginning.

This is when it’s hard for me: Going to bed when other people in my house are having fun. And a holiday with family is coming soon…

How did I do last night? 9:30 p.m., baby! 

Daylight savings is going to work in my favor for awhile.

And so. It begins. Early to bed, early to rise…

We must do the things we think we cannot do. 

What are you going to do this month?



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A Month Without Television

The first month of The Year of Living Without, I gave up biting my nails.  I’m happy to say, that I rarely bite my nails anymore; that habit is almost gone.  Almost. 

August was the second month of Living Without. I gave up television.

How hard was it?

Actually, I got in the groove and never looked back.

It was rather easy because August was a very very busy month.

I kept a daily log for awhile, then noticed I could go two to three days without feeling at all tempted.
A Month Without Television

But What About All Those Kardashian Reality Re-runs?
·   I didn’t watch any Kardashian television.  I didn’t watch The Bachelor finale. I didn’t miss it.  At all.  I even deleted all the episodes I hadn’t watched, including the finale. 


·   I wrote more.  I tried to crawl into bed at 9 and write down my Living Without thoughts, keeping a daily journal.  This was fun. Do you know how much writing you can get done with an hour?  It ADDS UP.  I have an article due tomorrow and it’s done because I wrote it at night instead of watching any television.


·   I read more books.  YEAH!!!


·   Because I was in bed earlier, I fell asleep earlier.  Big benefits! I was less tired during the day, and was able to run without injury all month.  I truly believe extra sleep strengthens the immune system.


·   I ate less junk because I wasn’t watching T.V.  I am now having a serious Friendly’s Forbidden Chocolate withdrawal; there are some things I will never give up. 

Kicking the Habits We Want to Kick

·      The habit of not watching T.V. became easier over time; not because the it wasn’t tempting but because will power was strengthened.


·   Tip:  Have a replacement habit you enjoy.  Mine are reading, writing, blogging, loading photos, talking to husband, and sleeping.


·   Eliminate temptation:  My husband is my temptation.  We like to sit on the couch after a long day and talk between T.V. scenes.  He was a bit perturbed the first time I reminded him of my goal.  But over the next few weeks he stopped tempting me and our “quality” time didn’t suffer.


·   The one time I felt left out was when he watched a sports event on T.V.
    and I was banished to the study.  I got work done.


·   Start Small.  We often think we can’t do something before we’ve even tried.  Small is easy.  Break it up into little chunks.


·   More Trust in Self.  Keeping promises to ourselves gives us confidence.  We know we will do what we say we’ll do.


·   Be Accountable to something or someone.  This blog is mighty handy for that.

When I Messed Up:

·      I messed up on the very last day.  It was an accident.  My 9-year-old wanted me to find her a movie we taped.  I scrolled through the movies while a cooking show was on.  My mind fixated.  My eyes glazed over.  I watched dough being rolled.  I forgot.  We watched for five minutes before I remembered my goal.  “Ah!” I yelled, “I can’t watch T.V. this month!” 

Will I Continue Going Without Television?

I will do better.  But I won’t give it up completely. Every once in awhile it’s great, but I’m more aware of what I’m watching. I’m more committed to only watching something that is worth my time.  Does The Big Bang Theory count as quality television?  Uh, yeah!  I like watching movies with my husband and kids on the weekends. Balance.

Next Month:  Not Raising My Voice
·    I shall speak kindly and sweetly to all who cross my path


·    I will not yell up or down the stairs to any of my children.  What should I use?   A bell?  A whistle?  This might just kill me.


·    I will not raise my voice in anger while speaking to family members.  I will pause and consider how to respond in a calm manner.  I may grind my teeth down into sawdust or clench my hands into mush.


·    I will be a better example and keep a good feeling in our home by not yelling.


·    Soccer Coaching?  This one will be interesting.

I already have one vote of confidence from my son.  He says, “Don’t worry, mom, you’ll never be able to do it.”

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A Year of Living Without

I’ve been mulling this idea for over a month now, debating whether or not I really wanted to do it.

It’s called A Year of Living Without, or:  How I Made Room for Life.  I got the idea from Leo of Zen Habits who is also having a year of living without.  

This is where I give up one thing I enjoy each month and replace it with something else.

You can see why I wouldn’t want to do this, right?  Who really wants to give up Nashville?

But I’ve always been intrigued with the concept of self-mastery.  Can we truly master ourselves and our “natural” and human impulses?  Of course we can.

I also long to simplify life, to banish the clutter in my head, and truly live with what is most important.  I am convinced that living without something I want for a whole month will give me greater self-discipline in areas I want to “master”: parenting, spirituality, running, and writing.

Leo has different things he’s giving up, but I tweaked the list for my benefit.

12 Things I Will Live Without:

1.  July:  Nail Biting.  July was last month, I know, but I was still deciding whether or not to accept the challenge.  I did it. I went a whole month without biting my nails.  To do this, I had to know what the triggers are.  The trigger is the small jagged edge of a nail.  When I start feeling it, I bring my finger to my mouth.  STOP.  Replacement Habit:  Instead of biting I cut my nails, used a file my mother always keeps in her car, or just refrained from biting.  Is this a habit I want to break permanently?  YES.

2.  August:  Television.  I don’t watch any t.v. during the day.  The vice is at night when all the kids are finally in bed, and I sit down and watch a show with my husband.  It’s a lovely time, a mindless activity we both enjoy doing.  Gregor thinks this is stupid to give up 🙂 but I want to see how easy or hard it is. Note I’m not giving up movies.  Replacement Habit:  Read a book.

3.  September: Raising My Voice.  I purposely chose this one for September for two reasons:  School is starting.  Coaching begins.  I don’t yell a lot, but I raise my voice a lot…Calling for a kid upstairs, outside, downstairs, hurry up, we’re late, dribble, shoot.  Can I really not raise my voice while parenting and coaching soccer?  A soccer field is a huge space.  Can I be so effective with my body language and whistle that I won’t need to raise my voice?  Replacement Habit: Lower my voice, be commanding in action.  This one will be hard.

4.  October:  Email before Noon.  I admit, the first thing I like to do when I get up, before anyone else is awake, is check my email.  And since I have it on my phone, it’s even easier.  Instead of praying or meditating or writing or reading, or thinking about the day, I check my in-box.  I feel slightly addicted to email and want to be free of the pull for awhile, see if it helps me accomplish more.  I think I’ll be twitchy for days.  Replacement Habit:  Write a novel.

5.  November:  Late Nights.  My goal is to be in bed before 10 p.m.  I can function pretty well on 7 hours, but 8 is even better.  I have a feeling that being in bed before 10 p.m. will do wonders for my happiness and energy factor, but this one will also be hard, especially as it’s close to the holidays.  Replacement Habit: Sleep and reading in bed (dreamy!)

6.  December:  Gossip.  I don’t feel I’m a huge gossip, but I admit I like a juicy tidbit here and there. Especially where my husband and I work at a school, there is always so much good gossip!  I’d like my name and my house though, to be a place where other people feel their name is safe.  If you want to gossip with me this month, be advised I may listen and smile politely, but you will have to wait for January for me to contribute. Kidding.  Maybe I can break the habit all together. Replacement Habit:  Change the subject, read a book, comment on the weather 🙂

7.  January:  Candy.  Oh dear, this was hard for me to put on the list.  When I’m writing in the afternoon, I love to snack on Junior Mints.  I love a good chocolate bar.  Sometimes those Starbursts just really hit the spot.  I’m giving it up this month, right after the Christmas holiday.  There could be serious withdrawal, be advised.  Replacement Habit:  Fruit?

8.  February:  Fast Food.  I live far from civilization; there are no fast food places in my town except a pizza place.  I’m defining fast food as take-out.  Fast food is a vice when I am coming home from the orthodontist with a child, or am tired and hungry after hitting Target.  Too bad for Mama.  No greasy french fries this month.  Replacement Habit:  Keep driving!  Grocery store.

9.  March:  Soda.  I rarely drink soda, but again, it’s the afternoon witching hour when I’m tired and a Diet Coke over ice just reaaaalllly hits the spot.  The caffeine and the taste are such a pick-me-up.  I indulge only 1-2 times per week, but it’s a treat I enjoy.  Replacement Habit:  water over ice, juice

10.  April:  Sitting for Longer than 30 minutes.  I do tons of sitting while writing and reading.  I hunch over.  My posture is worsening.  Every 30 minutes I will get up and move.  This should energize and help me not be so stiff. Replacement Habit:  Stand while writing, stretch, push-ups, walking

11.  May:  Red Meat.  I purposely put “red meat” and not just meat because I still want to eat chicken and even though I know that dairy, eggs, beans and dark, leafy greens will give me sufficient protein, I like a little chicken, fish, or pork at dinner time.  A little meat is also a healthy habit, not something I need to make many changes with.  Perhaps someday I’ll be able to try being a vegetarian, but this is not yet that time.  Replacement Habit:  More beans at dinnertime

12. June:  Buying New Things.  Is there really anything I need to buy?  I’ll buy food and shop for the family, but I won’t buy anything new like clothes, shoes, or hair products 🙂 for the entire month.  We shall live by the law of frugality. Replacement Habit:  Purge more, have a yard sale, enjoy what I already have

13.  July:  The Internet.  My husband says there’s no way this is possible, but it will be easier to give up the internet in July rather than during the school year because it’s summer time.  I will write posts (I think?) but no blog reading, people.com (yikes!), or CNN articles.  I think this will be a hard one, especially if I’m doing any sort of research for an article I’m assigned.  Replacement Habit: Write a book, read more, talk to my kids and family

I purposely chose Actions rather than Feelings.  For instance, making the goal to quit feeling badly after a writing rejection really isn’t something I can control.  I chose things that I can control and are within my power.  I cannot control someone else’s action, only my reaction.

Things I’m Already Living Without:
Coffee
Alcohol
Tea
Smoking
Debt.  Except for our home.
Brussel Sprouts

I’ve never had any of these things, so this isn’t hard to live without.


Things I Wanted to Put on the List But Didn’t Want to Give Up:
Processed Food.  I don’t eat a ton of it, but almost every morning I make a smoothie and have a peanut butter sandwich on high quality, multi-grain bread.  I like it, it makes me feel good, and I don’t want to have to make bread so often.  I wimped out.  
White Sugar
White Rice
Goldfish crackers and boxed brownie mixes?  Not so willing to give up!
Social Media.  This would be the easiest on the list to give up since I’m not all that active, but it would be hard to completely disconnect
iPhone.  Especially now that I have a teenager with a phone who texts me all the time with schedules and rides, it would be hard to live without

Things I Wanted to Put on the List and Want to Give Up:
I seriously considered cooking and cleaning, but worried my home would be condemned within hours.  Still, “refusing to clean up after others” may be an eye-opening experience for everyone.

Why Am I Doing This?
To Master myself. I think it’s false that we can’t live without.  I also believe that too much of this good, but extra “stuff” keeps us from some of the best stuff, like our families.

So, here’s to a year without.  If you care to join me, I would sure love your company!  I would also love to hear your comments on what would be hard for you to give up, or what you would give up instead of what I have listed.  Good luck!

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier – not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson 

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