Inspiration

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Be Inspired…Read To Good Health! – Published May 8, 2018

I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten, even so, they have made me. Ralph Waldo Emerson

When was the last time you enjoyed a great read? It had been a while since I was absorbed in a fictional novel and not for a lack of incredible books. Last week a friend of mine finished The Immigrants By Howard Fast. She LOVED the book and lent it to me. WOW! Following each time set aside for reading, I felt different, as in that “great” way of getting lost in someone else’s story!! It’s refreshing to step out of one’s own life and to be “imagination” present in another world of characters, drama, history, victory/defeat…fully immersed and desperately wanting the story to continue as the last few pages signify the end. At some point during this past year my daily reading habit (novels) slipped out of my life and so did the relaxing benefits that can be refreshing to the mind, body and soul. After conducting a quick Internet search I came across some interesting and thoughtful Sweeny Reading Quotescomments describing the soothing lingering benefits of a good read… “serenely reposed in mellowing afterthoughts, a deep emotional state of nostalgic, the sensation of having a friend whose memory will remain, awe and inspiration, rewarding to be part of someone’s journey, a literary afterglowhope, assurance, promise, warm pleasure, compassion and empathy. Quora And, it some cases there is a feeling of grief that the story is over; profound melancholicand the feeling of profound loss that deep down in your heart you know you couldn’t have related better with anyone!” Quora

When I finished reading The Immigrants, I felt an overwhelming sense of achievement as if I time-traveled through the years 1888 -1933! Reading can add layers of life experiences, all through an adventure in literature.

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man [person] who never reads lives only one. George R. R. Martin

The following shares health benefits of reading books, affecting adults and children physically, mentally, and emotionally. After reading this post you will want to start searching for your next novel!

General Health Benefits of Reading

What you choose to read is important. Focus on “feel good” inspirational stories, even though the novel may include hardships and tragedies. A good novel releases our attachment to daily stressful triggers. After a time of reading, there is a feeling of being refreshed “resting” in someone else’s story.

“Reading can be a wonderful (and healthy) escape from the stress of everyday life. Simply by opening a book, you allow yourself to be invited into a literary world that distracts you from your daily stressors. Reading can even relax your body by lowering your heart rate and easing the tension in your muscles. A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%. It works better and faster than other relaxation methods, such as listening to music or drinking a hot cup of tea. This is because your mind is invited into a literary world that is free from the stressors that plague your daily lifeTaking Charge of Your Health and Well Being, University of Minnesota  – Reading for Stress Relief

According to a new study, reading books could extend lifespan by up to 2 years, and the more often you read, the better. Reading Books Can Increase Your Lifespan, Huffington Post, August 2017

Rowling dfa878cd9f3bc3220f4956ad8fa4fcf8Reading that inspires imagination is good food for the brain. As we age, mental agility and the ability to recall short-term and long-term memories can be more challenging, the result of our brains getting older. Novels require a deeper concentration, which activates brain cells protecting mental agility as opposed to skimming magazines and newspapers. Reading also works on emotional health, working and stimulating cognitive processes which impacts empathy, emotional intelligence, and social perceptions.

Unlike, say, skimming a page of headlines, reading a book (of any genre) forces your brain to think critically and make connections from one chapter to another, and to the outside world. When you make connections, so does your brain, literally forging new pathways between regions in all four lobes and both hemispheres. Over time, these neural networks can promote quicker thinking and may provide a greater defense against the worst effects of cognitive decay. Reader’s Digest Here’s Why Your Brain Needs You to Read Every Single Day, by Brandon Spector

First, it [reading novels] promotes “deep reading,” which is a slow, immersive process; this cognitive engagement occurs as the reader draws connections to other parts of the material, finds applications to the outside world, and asks questions about the content presented. Cognitive engagement may explain why vocabulary, reasoning, concentration, and critical thinking skills are improved by exposure to books. Second, books can promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that can lead to greater survival. Better health behaviors and reduced stress may explain this process NCBI Study – Soc Sci Med. – A Chapter a Day: Association of Book Reading with Longevity. 2016 Sep;164:44-48. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.07.014. Epub 2016 Jul 18.

Audio Books vs Traditional Books?

Whether reading or listening to novels, both require focus and imagination. Audio books are just as effective on our physical, mental and emotional well being as reading traditional books, for adults. Multitasking when the hands are free is the only audio book caveat, making it easier to become distracted when listening rather than reading a book. Listening to poetry through audio books, however, has been found to be more profound for comprehension and understanding…”because an audio book pre-determines an aspect of language called prosody, or the musicality of words. “Someone who knows the meaning can convey a lot through prosody,” Willingham said. “If you’re listening to a poem, the prosody might help you.” Is Listening To Audio Books Really The Same As Reading, Forbes, Olga Khazan

As science writer Olga Khazan noted in 2011, a “1985 study found listening comprehension correlated strongly with reading comprehension — suggesting that those who read books well would listen to them well. In a 1977 study, college students who listened to a short story were able to summarize it with equal accuracy as those who read it.” Listeners and readers retain about equal understanding of the passages they’ve consumed, in other words. Is Listening to Audio Books Really the Same as Reading? Forbes Olga Khazan

Is it best for children to read books instead of audio books? Until children reach middle school, the brain’s decoding process through reading requires development that comes through visual practice. There are exceptions for those students whose learning abilities thrive only through auditory means. Decoding, by contrast, is specific to reading, Willingham said; this is indeed one more step your mind has to take when reading a print book as compared to listening to the audiobook version. But by about late elementary school, decoding becomes so second-nature that it isn’t any additional “work” for your brain. It happens automatically.” To Your Brain Listening to a Books is Pretty Much Like Reading It. The Cut, By Melissa Dahl

Impact Reading has on Children

I began reading aloud to my son while he was in the womb and continued until he was independently reading books on his own. Stimulating the brain through story telling encourages the development of brain cells in infants and toddlers. As children progress through school, daily and consistent reading for pleasure has multiple long lasting benefits in these 5 areas as noted in Benefits of Early Reading by Teach Reading Early“Neurological, Educational, Psychological, Social, Linguistic.”

And, if novels can de-stress adults, they can de-stress children as well. This is especially true in a world where kids have become overcommitted and expectations to achieve perfection have become more prevalent than ever before, affecting students in younger age groups with each passing year.

Born with about 100 billion neurons (the cells that receive, process and transmit information in our brains), babies are actively working to make sense of the world around them. These neurons have the ability to connect with each other and form neural pathways – the foundation for learning. Reading aloud to babies, and using language promotes the development of these pathways, and the more pathways a child develops, the more they will be able to learn as time passes by. Three Ways Early Reading Benefits Infants Development by FirstBook.org, Gavin McGuire January 2018

Five Physical Benefits of Reading covers the following benefits of reading: They Help Kids See, Books Sharpen The Senses, They Get Kids Moving, Books Grow Brain Cells, and They Make The Heart Bigger. 

Books grow brain cells Struggling readers have fewer cells in some regions. But a study found that after six months of daily reading, the weak spots beefed up so much that the kids’ brains looked the same as those of kids with stronger reading skills. Five Physical Benefits of Reading, Parent & Child Magazine by By Jennifer Abasi

Discover Your Genre and Select Your Next Read 

The New York Times best-seller list is a great place for book recommendations, however, many fantastic reads never make this list. I’ve read incredible stories through KINDLE FREE books as well as recommendations from Goodreads.com, book clubs, and through friends. Most all online resources filter by genre for selections and updates on books that interest you, making the journey of finding your next novel far easier to navigate! Below are resources to finding your next novel. In addition, get acquainted with your local library and open an online account to access e-books and audiobooks for the whole family.

Busy living, social media, and technological advances compete for our attention today. These modern day temptations can become a wedge to settling-in to an adventurous novel…book or an audio book. You can change this! Make time! There are health advantages that come from reading novels (inspirational biographies, too) when we are able to escape the routine of our own lives and enter into someone else’s story! Romain Rokand, eloquently describes this get-a-way… “No one ever reads a book. He reads himself through books.” You, too, can experience afterglows, awe, adventure, and inspiration, when immersed in a good story. If it’s been a while since you read a book, consider finding or reconnecting to a favorite genre. Highlight time in your calendar to de-stress!! Studies support that reading triggers brain cell development in infants, aids in the learning abilities of children and adults, and increases longevity among the elderly protecting against cognitive decay. Who would have known reading books could rank as one of the best “supplements” for good and healthy living, whatever your age! Be inspired! Read to good health!

Resources 

 

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Keep Walking…positive choices in challenging times – Published April 24, 2018

A year ago, an unexpected job loss led to a stressful time. It’s that season in life when you sit back and wonder, “what just happened??” And, proclaim, “Oh my gosh! We simply can’t make this stuff up!” There is a saying…”we can’t control the actions of others but we can control how we respond.” It takes quite a while for this statement to make sense when a sudden string of storms blow through and all you want to do is hide for cover. It was at this time my husband said, “Deb, go write. You have been talking about starting a blog. This is the time. You need a positive distraction and a channel to share experiences.” At that very moment I went to my computer, researched best blogs, signed up with WordPress and began designing Modify…make life simple. I wrote from my heart and included categories representing different experiences, which brought inspiration and balance to my own life and hopefully…to others as well.  It has been one year since I began blogging. I’m grateful to WordPress and to all who have been and continue to be readers of Modify! You helped me heal. Thank you!!

To celebrate Modify’s first anniversary, feel it timely to write about positive choices in difficult times. Life is not meant to be problem free. My Christian faith is based on the belief that we live in a fallen world, which does not exempt some people from life challenges while others suffer inflictions. Everyone, at different seasons of life, will struggle. Trials might look different, but they are still trials; unexpected unemployment, serious health issues, martial uncertainty, relationship(s) strife, financial hardships, and loss of loved ones. This post shares what I found to be most helpful identifying positive choices in difficult times through spiritual faith, acceptance and truth, forgiveness and hope.

Spiritual FAITH

When life suddenly shifts as a result of unforeseen negative events…do not sit idle in stagnant waters. No one will join you there and eventually, feeling isolated in toxic waters will sicken you. When feeling overwhelmed, for me personally, praying and having others pray encouraged a desire to cling to my Christian faith and to move on.

“God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength but with your testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

  • Divine intervention empowers future hope and letting go of the past. God only gives us what He knows we can handle is a common response to the above noted scripture verse. Most twists in life, however, cannot be handled alone. My experience, therefore, reflects a different interpretation. The Lord only takes us where He knows He can meet us. It’s at this “meeting” (God dependence) where peace is found, feeling worthy is renewed, and confidence claimed…trusting His Will, care and direction.
  • Spiritual faith inspires moving forward, even when the weight of anxiety makes it difficult to do so. The Land Between…finding God in difficult transitions by Jeff Manion, notes…“We learn that the Land Between is about a journey of trust and that something flourishes there that could not be produced in any other soil.”

One of the messages from the book is about sharing experiences, which led to many of the blog articles written this past year, especially the series on Cultural Fit, referenced under Additional Resources at the conclusion of this article.

  • Embrace your spiritual faith. If you don’t practice a spiritual discipline, consider it. Divine inspiration from the inside out is steadfast and surefooted, a blessed gift and lift to rise above circumstances that might otherwise be impossible to achieve. Christian faith encourages forgiving the past and moving forward in hope of new life.

Acceptance and Truth

Serenity Prayer – Reinhold Niebuhr, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Being able to move forward leads to the healing steps of acceptance and truth and the courage required to progress here. Accept the truth of what happened and what you cannot change. Then deal with your feelings about it.

  • Articulate your interpretation of what happened. Before you can accurately express your narrative, peel away any emotional layers concealing truth. Work through and let go of self-blame when the situation is beyond your influence. Release the compelling temptation to grip on to guilt. Process those feelings of inadequacy or self-condemnation that can take root in your heart.

“Brown tells Oprah during an interview for “SuperSoul Sunday.” Things that are beyond your control are just that: beyond your control. Don’t let yourself make up a story that suggests otherwise. Pay very close attention to your internal narrative, Brené Brown says.” Huffington Post – The Best Way To Deal With Things That Are Beyond Your Control and Rising Strong by Brené Brown

“Grief, fear, and our deepest feelings of failure can make us blame ourselves for causing what happened or, at least, failing to cope with it.” There Is No Good Card For This: What To Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful, and Unfair To People You Love.

  • Accept the reality of what happened. Confront your feelings about it. Stuffing eventually bursts under built-up emotional pressure, emotionally and physically harmful. Guard against the interpretation and insights of others that could define your narrative, including comparisons that rob you of properly processing because… your circumstances by far don’t compare to their own. Choose carefully with whom you share your struggles and if needed, seek professional counseling to help process in a healthy manner. The input of others should help refine your narrative and feelings, not replace it.

“All our difficult ties involve some degree of shame, fear and loneliness. At times like that, we don’t need anyone to impress us or skillfully talk us out of our pain. We mostly just need the kindness that compels anyone to try.” There Is No Good Card For This: What To Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful, and Unfair To People You Love

“It can feel quite isolating or even invalidating when someone is trying that ‘Cheer up’ approach, or comparisons like, ‘It’s not so bad, look at the people who have it so much worse’,” explains Tal Schlosser, Clinical Psychologist at My Life Psychologists. 7 Ways to Support a Friend Through Sad Times Without Trying to Cheer Them  

  • Face truth and let go by writing out your narrative. This is a productive exercise to summarize what happened, releasing the overwhelming stress that accompanies unexpected trials.

“Writing things down on paper can be an amazing way to gain clarity and keep the facts straight. It’s as if the process of moving thought to hand makes it harder for us to lie to ourselves.” How to Cope When Life Does Things You Can’t Control 

Forgiveness and Hope

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19

  • Forgiveness releases accumulating anger towards people and circumstances involved in that “twist of fate”.  In some cases legal action may be necessary. Even through this avenue of seeking justice, forgiveness is needed to rise above deeply rooted negative feelings that impact emotional and physical well-being. Forgiveness is a gift for you and not for others and it does not imply denying what has happened. Forgiveness is a powerful means for moving on.

“Although you can’t change what has happened, none of us are powerless. We all have the power to choose our next step in life even if we can’t change the one that came before.” How to Cope When Life Does Things You Can’t Control

“Forgiveness comes when we’re able to recognize that the other person’s actions were more about them-their own motivations and context-than about us.”  There Is No Good Card For This: What To Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful, and Unfair To People You Love

  • Forgiveness is freedom to hope again. It brings relief from those we mistakenly granted permission to shape our suffering. I find it difficult for bitterness and hope to share the same space. Process-out toxic feelings with forgiveness as your goal and HOPE as your destination.

“During tough times, our emotions run the gamut: denial, anger, fury, despair, numbness, isolation, desperation,” according to Laura Fenamore’s Tiny Buddha post. “In order to heal, we must feel. But we have a say in what we do with our feelings.” When Circumstances Are Beyond Your Control

  • Choose HOPE. When we “keep walking”, the heaviness of despair is lifted. Small steps are perfect steps. We heal and HOPE is realized. Know the power we all have to choose hope and embrace our convictions. This past year I came to understand…

# Rejection/failure tests our convictions.

# Dwelling on rejection and/or negative judgments from others only releases the trajectory of our future in the hands of the wrong people. Resist this temptation!

  • Be in control. Practice attention management. The quote below says it all!

“Attention management is the practice of controlling distractions, being present in the moment, finding flow, and maximizing focus, so that you can unleash your genius. It’s about being intentional instead of reactive. It is the ability to recognize when your attention is being stolen (or has the potential to be stolen) and to instead keep it focused on the activities you choose. Rather than allowing distractions to derail you, you choose where you direct your attention at any given moment, based on an understanding of your priorities and goals.” To Control Your Life Control What You Pay Attention to...HBR Maura Thomas, March 18, 2018

Reclaim your life by recognizing positive choices in difficult times, which begins by processing feelings of denial, anger, bitterness, and despair. Release the unrealistic expectation that life is flawless and free of problems because this is a myth. Unexpected trials are a part of life for everyone…you are not alone. Grip firmly to spiritual faith as the cornerstone to overcoming hopelessness. Accept what you cannot change. Seek truth in those circumstances beyond your influence. Find freedom through forgiveness and relish in newfound hope. Celebrate small steps moving forward. Life has four seasons. Be inspired to keep walking and you will find that spring does come, again. Modify…keep life simple began a year ago, last spring!

Resources

Additional Resources

Cultural Fit Series

 

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It’s Time For A Check-up…Target Change – Published March 27, 2018

On January 9th I posted a blog titled Target Change offering suggestions to modify how to effectively articulate New Year’s resolutions, written and verbal. Instead of declaring what we want to give up, goals are best identified by the change we want to experience. It’s been three months since many of you may have identified target change in 2018. This is the perfect time of year to acknowledge progress and implement modifications, if needed. Yes! It’s time for a check-up! This article will guide you on ways you can celebrate your achievements and how to identify where you may have struggled, with suggested modifications to get you back on track!

Successful start to 2018!

Way to go! Congratulations!! It’s time to recognize your success, big and small.

  • Acknowledge progress. Often we immediately move on to the next goal and step over the achievement. Eventually, this can lead to burnout. Pat your own self on the back and be proud of the goal you attained or progress made these past few months. Depending solely on others to acknowledge your success (small steps or big change) may not happen and this can be (unnecessarily) discouraging. If you see a another person’s positive change, say something! People like to know, others are taking notice.
  • Journal your successes. This can be done through an iPhone app (Day One Journal is the app I use), a mason jar or a notebook that stores a collection of success notes. On those days when you are not feeling so positive, read the notes and you’ll have a great opportunity to reset how you feel about yourself and the direction you wish to go.
  • Do what you love. Whether spending time alone with a great novel, watching an inspirational movie, enjoying a quiet soothing bath with your favorite music in the background, planning time with your spouse, special friend(s) or a fun outing with family, celebrate positive change. All steps that move us forward are milestones, even the smallest ones! Yes, wherever you are on the achievement map, you deserve to pamper yourself.
  • Play it forward. Share your testimony and don’t wait until the goal is fully realized. People learn from people. People are motivated by the success of others. Hoarding experiences can appear selfish. Encouraging others through personal success stories is an incredible and generous way to inspire others. Be this person, especially as a role model to our youth and elderly who often struggle with dwindling hope.
  • Pride? Be Aware! Feeling invincible after achieving goals can be a slippery slope. Guard yourself and set healthy boundaries that will keep you focused. Goals are a lifetime work in progress and not a one-time sprint.

Get back on path!

Achieving goals, whether physical, emotional, family related, personal, spiritual or career focused (perhaps a few if not all of the above) require some form of suffering because change is needed for change to happen. The desire for change was most likely triggered by a feeling of discomfort. And, therefore, identifying and working through weak habits in order to target change will most likely feel uncomfortable. When discomfort brings a level of “suffering” that we didn’t anticipate, it’s easy to become disillusioned and quit. I have come face to face with discouragement just when I’m about to reach the summit of attaining a goal or finishing a project, sometimes fighting the urge to give-up in order to keep moving forward. Funny how this always happens!! Being at the precipice of significant change/reaching a milestone can sometimes damper our spirits instead of feeling empowered by victory so close to becoming a reality. Hang in there! No pain no gain as the saying goes. Imagine that your level of discomfort or discouragement is really saying…job well done, you are almost there!!

Identifying Challenges For Steps Towards Success.

  • What led to setbacks? What could you do differently? Do you need to better prioritize your commitment? Being honest is a critical step to moving forward.
  • Is this goal or change what you want or what others want? Motivation can only persevere if YOU own and are passionate about the experience you are looking to attain.
  • Are you setting a realistic amount of time to achieve your goal? Or if your goal is to overcome an emotional weakness, are you getting enough sleep? Fatigue weakens the motivation and strength to be emotionally healthy? Fatigue has always been my worse enemy and it could be yours. Identify a good cushion to prevent fatigue from becoming a wedge between you and success.
  • Overcommitment a distraction? If you are finding lack of time because over other commitments then assess your day-to-day activity. If the passion and goals of others have become your focus and work, you might need to reflect on ways you can reprioritize and graciously learn how to decline such requests. You alone are responsible for prioritizing your ambitions as worthy. If you don’t, no one else will.
  • Quit?? If you slipped down the slippery slope and quit, it’s OK. Get back up! Be patient and kind to yourself. Realize that some of the greatest world inventors and leaders changed the trajectory of how we live simply because…they got back up!!! You can, too!
  • Personalize your approach. Methods that have worked for others may not work for you. Do something about it. Great article published April 2014 in Harvard Business Review, The Key to Lasting Behavioral Change, Think Goal Not Tactic by Elizabeth Grace Saunders. The author elaborates on four points to encourage perseverance through challenges; determine where you’re stuck, brainstorm other tactics, test your hypothesis, get accountability.

Yes, habit change takes discipline, patience, and practice. But no, it shouldn’t feel like you’re constantly trying to force yourself to do something you really don’t want to do. That’s unsustainable. To make new habits stick, they must work with the reality of who you are and what’s best for you.

Christians around the world are about to celebrate a significant religious holiday, Easter, symbolic of forgiveness, grace, and new life demonstrated by Christ’s death on the cross. In order to successfully attain target change often forgiveness and grace is a required qualification, to others and ourselves to bring us to “new life”. A very special young woman in Africa, my sponsor daughter, recently shared wise words beyond her years. “Faith makes all things possible. Hope makes all things work. Love makes all things work. I am optimistic about the future.” You, too, can be optimistic about your future as you seek positive life change. Embrace faith, hope and love. Be kind and patient with others and yourself. Pamper yourself to celebrate small steps and big change. Honestly assess setbacks and recalibrate to get back on path. And as my sponsor daughter also shares in her writing…”be like the eagle that is strong, has focused vision, and can fly through storms when other birds hide.”

Resources

Target Change, Modify…make life simple

The Key to Lasting Behavioral Change, Think Goal Not Tactic by Elizabeth Grace Saunders, APRIL 07, 2014

Day One Journal 

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Target Change – Published January 9, 2018

Making New Year’s resolutions offers a great opportunity for setting self-improvement goals. Some of us look forward to making resolutions each New Year but often struggle to stay on track. Many of us don’t make resolutions either because of a lack of interest to do so or previous failed attempts. It’s not uncommon for enthusiasm to wane within weeks of the New Year, however slight modifications in how we practice goal setting can make a difference between success or failure. The purpose of this post is to inspire readers to engage in annual resolutions. Let’s look at the history of resolutions, the statistics that indicate a different approach is definitely needed, and how to target change simply through positive modifications.

History

New Year’s Resolutions have been the cultural norm dating back 4000 years ago, when Babylonians made promises to follow through on financial commitments to their king. A similar practice is recorded in 46 BC when Romans committed to good behavior in the coming year. They honored their god, Janus, (month of January is named after), who symbolized looking back at the year just passed and looking forward to the coming year. Self-improvement resolutions we practice today resemble that of which originated in the Protestant faith – Methodism in 1740 AD, however such goals were spiritually focused at that time. Today only about 45% of Americans participate in making New Year’s resolutions.

Statistics

Research conducted January 2017 and data shared by Statistic Brain notes that 37.8% of people in their twenties achieve resolutions each year while 16.3% of people over 50 achieve their goals. US News reported in December 2015 that 80% of New Year resolutions fail. These facts are not to discourage you but to encourage you to modify how you practice setting goals for the 2018 New Year, taking a different approach for a greater chance of success. Adjusting the practice is especially important if historically you include yourself in these disappointing statistics. If a plan isn’t working, modify the practice instead of getting frustrated or giving up. It’s amazing the impact slight modifications can make. If resolutions have failed you in the past, start by calling them something else to remove the negative stigma. How about calling your New Year goals, Target Accomplishments? Target Change? Or, choose a title that works uniquely for you! Just using the word TARGET keeps me focused!

Modifications – A Positive Approach

Regardless of goals that may change year-to-year, ingrained thinking and habits will determine whether you succeed or fail. Often, just feeling restricted can lead to failure. The mind will also embrace the last instruction you give it. For this reason it’s important to articulate your goals, written and verbally, in a positive way. Instead of declaring what you want to give up, let your goals speak to what change you want to experience. Here are some examples that illustrate how to modify target changes for a positive planned and effective approach.

TIME

A good friend of mine recently shared her New Year’s resolution, blog image Clock_lede1300NOT BE LATE. Just a week into 2018 and being on time has been a struggle. After speaking about the goal and the challenges she faces, here is a modified approach.

  • Positive Affirmation Be On Time replaces Not Be Late.
  • Challenge – “I take on last minute distractions that eventually make me late.”
  • Solution – Be fully ready to leave 15 minutes BEFORE you need to leave.
  • Another Challenge – Then I get antsy and find something to fill the 15 minutes.
  • Another Solution – Have your mail, favorite magazines or a book set aside JUST for this 15-minute fill. Set your smart phone to remind you a few minutes before you need to get up and get out.
  • Response – “I think this might work!”
Blog exercise Target Change bbd6dc606e4787cb9d072eb21dd7ade5
SMOKING

Here is an example about smoking from my own personal experience, many years ago. Saying I’m going to “quit smoking” made me feel as if my goal was about restriction and not choice. My attempts to “quit smoking” therefore always failed. At that time I decided to change what wasn’t working and modified the approach to achieve being smoke free.

  • Positive Affirmation Be Smoke Free replaces Quit Smoking.
  • Challenge – Fear…I don’t want comfort food to replace smoking!
  • Solution – Determine in advance what will replace cigarette time. Coffee became my replacement with health and exercise, my focus. I did drink a lot of coffee which eventually tapered off. Today, catching up on email, walking around the office, stretch and breathing exercises, herbal tea, etc could fill this space. Just know, it’s important to have a new healthy habit replace the cigarette habit to avoid the void!
  • Another Challenge – I’m restricting myself and this makes me crave cigarettes even more!!
  • Another Solution – Embrace this truth…it’s about choice and not restriction. I kept a pack of cigarettes in a drawer with a lighter. I was no longer restricting myself because I knew I had access at any time BUT was choosing daily to be smoke free.
  • Response – 1989 marks the year I successfully became smoke free without succumbing to temptation and cravings.
 ALCOHOL

I have not been feeling as energized as I would like. Drinking a ½ glass of wine each night soon became a full pour and eventually on some nights, 2 glasses, through the month of December with all the holiday social gatherings. Alcohol is the trickiest and easiest slippery slope, pulling you down without warning! Here is my 2018 New Year’s Target For Change.

  • Positive AffirmationDaily 4PM Tea Time replaces Quit Weekday Wine Time
  • Challenge – Finishing the day with a glass of wine gives me permission to conclude the day and relax!
  • Solution – Exploring and investing in premium herbal teas that I can serve in a fancy IMG_1102cup, special just for me, is a great substitute. Some teas provide that soothing and relaxing feel, too!
  • Another Challenge – I’m restricting myself when out with friends who are having wine.
  • Another Solution – I can order wine too, but instead, choose herbal teas when out with friends Monday through Friday.
  • Response – First week has been a success! I feel great choosing weekday herbal teas and weekend wine. I am already sleeping better and far more productive and energized during the week!

Below are simple steps to summarize how to target change. Accomplishing any goal is most often about changing behavior, habits, and thought patterns.

  1. Identify the change you want to see in 2018. This might include exercise, better eating habits, being smoke or alcohol free, improve finances, expand socially, thriving in relationships, increasing quality personal downtime, planning a needed vacation, furthering education, pursuing spiritual growth and perhaps offering or accepting forgiveness and seeking emotional and/or physical healing, etc.
  2. Articulate your target change based on the simple practice the examples above illustrate.
  3. Anticipate temptations and plan your responses, in advance, so surprises don’t become a distraction.

2018 can be the year we change the trend on New Year’s resolutions! Focus on the target change you want to achieve stated in a positive affirmation. Anticipate challenges and temptations that could get in the way and prepare responses in advance. By following these simple modifications you have a good chance of celebrating achieved resolutions at the end of 2018! Inspire others and share your experiences. I welcome you to share your success in the blog comments. Best wishes!!

Additional Resources

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Happy New Year!! 

The start of every New Year feels like the best time to set new goals and refresh resolutions, which is really a misnomer since this is possible throughout the year. After many New Year’s resolutions my success rate is less than impressive and I’m not alone. “By the second week of February, some 80 percent of those resolution-ers are back home with a new kind of remorse staring back at them in the mirror – the remorse of disappointment.” (US News 12.2015) Recently, I realized, resolutions should be about targeting change than simply declaring idealistic goals. Just this simple change of wording from resolutions to targeting change already makes me feel as if I have an excellent chance for positive accomplishments in 2018 because of how I might be led to approach the practice differently. You might feel the same.

Stay tuned for this year’s first published blog, which will be posted next Tuesday, January 9th titled Target Change!!  

Best wishes to all in 2018! 

Debra

 

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Pruning The Holidays – Published December 5, 2017

The holiday season is here and it’s OK to alter plans and refine your calendar if the days ahead look overcommitted and you’re feeling under-joyed!! Give yourself permission to modify or delete some of the tasks you might already have on your growing list. There are articles online about how to best manage the holiday season. Below are my top suggestions to make the next few weeks easier on you and your family.

Ideas to consider

  • Purchase holiday cookies (or at least to cover half your planned baking) for school, church, or other organizations including your own parties.
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Candy Melts to decorate the cookies.

Note: Want to keep the holiday tradition of decorated cut-out cookies? Consider using Candy Melts available in many colors. Tried this yesterday and cookies came out great. Candy Melts are available at stores such as Walmart and Michael’s. Amazon offers a great assortment of colors. Very easy! Used microwave for melting. No food color gel mess with powdered sugar and corn syrup. Only difference is there is no glossy finish. Benefit is the candy melt colors dry quickly. Suggest melting in small batches and one color at a time. Example: melt the green and do all the Christmas trees first. Fast, easy, and cookies came out great.

  • Send eCards instead of mailing greeting cards and only mail to those who don’t use email. You can include eGift cards with those of whom you exchange gifts, especially kids who like choosing their own. I use Punchbowl. Other eCards are Hallmark, Blue Mountain, and American Greetings. Internet search eCards for a number of other options.
  • Entertaining at home or potluck to a party – purchase a deboned honey baked ham and quarter it as shown in the photo or buy already prepared appetizer platters and dips.

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    Boneless Honey Baked Ham
  • Gift giving among large families or friends – consider Kris Kringle/Secret Santa instead of purchasing gifts for everyone in the group. The Elfster website will organize it for you!
  • Replace gift-wrapping with holiday bags.
  • Simplify gift giving that shape fond memories…movie tickets, a play, concert, zoo, museum or a January lunch or dinner out.
  • Prioritize and consider only one holiday party per week/weekend and kindly decline those you are not able to attend.
  • Schedule downtime for yourself or with family and friends. Snuggle on the sofa with a good book, enjoy holiday music, hot cocoa, tea or your favorite strong coffee brew. Watch a good holiday movie with friends or family. Play board games or cards. Drive through the neighborhood (with popcorn!) looking at festive landscapes!! If downtime is not scheduled, it probably won’t happen.

Consider pruning this holiday month! Making life simple this festive time of year will inspire you to prioritize your calendar, simplify greeting cards as well as gift giving and schedule downtime to experience! May the next few weeks be special and memorable! And, be safe! May the joys of the holiday season be with you!!

I’ll be taking a break for the remainder of December to celebrate the Christmas season and will catch up with you in 2018!!

Happy New Year!!

 

Thanksgiving – Past, Present, and Future – Published November 21, 2017

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.”       Henry Van Dyke  (1852 – 1933)

Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season and family customs! It is, however, a day that stands alone in its own rich meaning and tradition. My hope is that the significance of this special holiday does not become extinct over time…each year the enthusiasm and holiday rush comes too close to leap-frogging in front of our country’s celebration of thankfulness. Below is a brief refresher list of Thanksgiving historical facts. Following, is the Thanksgiving I enjoyed growing up along with a unique idea; Thanksgiving Gift Boxes we shared with our son from the time he was 8 years old until he went to college. Although he is now 25 years old, we are bringing these ornamental gift boxes back and sharing the idea with you.

Historical Facts Source wikipedia.org

Thanksgiving Day, American public holiday, fourth Thursday of November that began as a harvest festival. “First Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims after the first harvest in the New World, October 1621, lasting three days attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims.

Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789 and became a federal holiday in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln stated…”Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwellers in the Heavens.”

The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings”—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.

Tradition

I live a few states away from the location where Thanksgiving was always celebrated at the home of my Uncle, Aunt and cousins. Each year, however, when I awake to the excitement of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, cooking and baking, it’s those family get-togethers growing up that tug at my heart and fill me with awesome memories; the amazing aroma of turkey in the oven with many courses being prepared including pasta and, yet to ever experience again, my Aunt’s incredible 3 meat stuffing! Traditional desserts covered the entire dining room table, too. It’s especially the conversations, old stories and laughter shared, which embellish those sweet memories. As families grow we become a generation spread out across many miles. But, time and space is graciously fluid when we can bridge holiday past with holiday present through such love filled reminiscences.

Time is “Too slow for those who Wait, Too swift for those who Fear, Too long for those who Grieve, Too short for those who Rejoice, But for those who Love, Time is not.” Henry Van Dyke (1852 – 1933) American author, educator, and clergyman 

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Christmas 2000

Our own unique tradition began in 2000, when my husband, son, and I created Thanksgiving Gift Boxes. As shared in the blog post, Thriving Relationships, 1999 was a difficult year. To celebrate our renewed marriage and promising future in 2000, we identified heart-felt gifts from God, life transforming, which blessed us. The questions that led to “gifts”…In what way do we feel especially blessed this year? OR What gift (God’s grace and mercy) carried me through this past year? Here are some examples…forgiveness, emotional healing, physical healing, unconditional love, patience, perseverance, humility, faith, trust, joy, answered prayers, family, spouse, parents, good grades, genuine friendships, sports, extended family, church family, etc. The goal…choose one significant gift that was a blessing throughout the year. In 2000, though, our tree was FULL of boxes feeling generously blessed through a challenging year.  I’m excited that I found the photo to share with you! The ornament boxes hanging on the Christmas tree inspire the sentiment of thankfulness from Thanksgiving to Christmas and New Years.  fullsizeoutput_4101This year my gift box reads trust. May you enjoy these gift boxes with your family as much as we have throughout the years. How to make the boxes? Plain paper with colorful ribbon can be used or festive wrapping works, too. Labeling standard size gift boxes to place under the tree is another option instead of hanging as ornaments. Small size (jewelry) gift boxes can be found at Michael’s, Walmart and Amazon.

Thanksgiving Thanksgiving 2017.jpegis a holiday connecting the tradition of our country’s past to what we are presently grateful. Often these blessings are not tangible. Helen Keller perfectly states, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” What has touched your heart this year? What challenges have you overcome or generous blessings received and enjoyed? Wishing you a Thanksgiving reflecting heart-felt memories of yesteryear, gratitude of present and being filled with hope for a future paying forward tradition and blessings, being a gift to others.

And, with deepest gratitude to our military who have served and are serving our country today, especially those not able to be with their families this holiday, deployed or lives lost. We are grateful for YOU and your families, the gift of freedom of which comes through such selfless service. Thank you!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

 

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Life Balance – Published November 7, 2017

There are times I feel as if I am walking on a tight rope ready to fall off! Feeling this way, I’m probably not alone. We have become a culture where multi-tasking, task or goal switching and over committing is applauded; a modern measurement gauge for being efficient and well rounded for abundant living. There’s even a misconception that being exceptionally BUSY is admired and respected, be it in the workplace, school campus, neighborhoods, church, family, friends, etc. Those reading who have already traveled this road, you know, it doesn’t end well. Even when we think our priorities and focus are balanced, we slip now and then and balance becomes shaky at best. This post shares the consequences of multi-tasking, benefits of blocking time including self-care, and the necessity for calendaring health checks as a safety net.

Multi-Tasking Consequences

Recent studies have proven multi-tasking (a more accurate term is switch tasking) doesn’t work. Our brains can only thought process well through one task at a time. Quotes below summarize the effects of task switching. Recommend reading the hyperlinked articles for the reports on studies conducted. A blurry focus and divided brainpower does not produce quality work, a quality life or quality relationships.

“Recent estimates are that you can lose up to 40% of your productivity if you multi-task.”  The True Cost of Multi-Tasking, Psychology Today, 9/18/2012

“The neuroscience is clear: We are wired to be mono-taskers. One study found that just 2.5% of people are able to multitask effectively. And when the rest of us attempt to do two complex activities simultaneously, it is simply an illusion.” Why Multi-tasking Doesn’t Work Time.com, 4/20/17

…switching back and forth from project to project, like a hummingbird darting from flower to flower and then back to the original flower, can impair our ability to function at our finest. Why Multi-Tasking Is Bad For You. Time.com April 20, 2017

Time Blocking

Time blocking on a calendar is an effective and efficient means of staying on track, managing tasks and activities to function at our best. Have you heard or read the analogy of Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand in a jar? It was written to help people understand how best to prioritize life. This example never quite worked well for me because my rocks need wiggle room. A jar so tightly packed gives me anxiety just thinking about it!!! When you block time, consider what YOU need to function at your finest. What works for others may not work for you nor was it ever meant to. Self-care is identifying how you best function and allocating down time that nourishes YOUR mind and body. Here are some ideas to ponder.

  1.  Self-Care – What do you need to feel your best? Self-care is so important it should be the first you calendar at workable times. If you don’t feel your best, you will not do well in other areas of your life. It’s like the example of the oxygen mask on an airplane…put it on yourself first BEFORE you can function well for anything or anyone.

Sleep – at least 7 hours per night

Exercise – regularly to take care of your body which benefits the mind

Downtime – that brings you joy and builds confidence; hobby, reading, prayer/meditation, other? AND, guilt is not welcome to downtime.

Body rest is great for the mind. Love this quote a friend shared by bodyholiday, Saint Lucia, “Give us your body for a week and we’ll give you back your mind.” So true!!

Prioritize Relationships – What time is committed to your spouse, your children, and those closest to you, in this order. If you are a person of faith, God first.

Work – Realistically block time on your calendar, be it a flexible schedule or structured workday. This is focused time in order to be productive. And, when able, breathe and take mental breaks necessary to clear the mind, especially in between tasks.

 2.   Distractions – Although you may have successfully blocked time on your calendar, distractions can FAIL best-intended plans. Identify temptations and have your response planned in advance.

Bite size distractions that are disruptive, with jumbo size consequences, for you. Everyone is different.

Emailtake it off your menu bar and check it twice per day Identify important emails by flagging, star, or smart phone VIP (instructions by Techlicious)

News and Text NotificationsMUTE

Phone callscustom ring tone those calls you must take and voicemail all others (Instructions by Whistleout)

Social Media (not work related) – take off the menu bar and check after work hours

To Do List (work & personal) – trust what is on your calendar and focus only on today

An important note or situation to remember – use smart phone journal app, such as Day One, and voice dictate to instantly record thoughts 

Deep rooted distractions that dominate concentration and focus?

Commitments that are not a priority – consider revisiting to delegate or eliminate when a commitment has run its course

Influenced by the goals of others instead of maintaining passion for your own work, commitments and ambitions– only you have authority over what is important to you

Life struggles – financial, relational, health causing worry and angst – create a plan for progress to solve life struggles, because worry only robs what you are able to control

Other?

Health Checks

It’s easy to slip and not even realize it’s happening until stress and despair is felt again. We slip when feeling so well balanced we become vulnerable to the illusion of “I can take on more” fed by overconfidence and pridefulness. Once a quarter review self-care, family and job responsibilities, goals and ambitions, along with all commitments on your calendar. Make adjustments where needed. Typically, I have found self-care always needs refocus, which led me to writing about this topic. Health checks ensure we remained balanced and catch ourselves before we are so far off the mark…we fall!

Living life well is like walking on a balance beam. Multitasking day-to-day tasks, task/goal switching and overwhelmed by commitments only leads to racing against the clock, taxing the body and mind. It doesn’t end well. To live a joy-filled life know and accept the authority you have over your priorities, ambitions and time including managing self-care. If you don’t assume this role, others will. What can you do differently today to balance on the beam of life?

Resources 

The True Cost Of Multi-Tasking, Psychology Today, September 18, 2012, Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D

Why Multi-Tasking Is Bad For You, Time, April 20, 2017, Cynthia Kubu and Andre Machado

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A Climb With A View – Published July 20, 2017

Last week I received an inspirational email from a dear 15-year-old very close to my heart. She lives in Africa. We became her USA family when she was 9 years old and I had just turned 50. Every time we receive a precious letter from her, we are inspired. In a recent email she shares a quote from Nelson Mandela, writing ,“once you climb one mountain there are also other mountains to climb”. Here is Mandela’s quote in its entirety.

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

We are to always be moving forward, to be the difference for change, not hoarding experiences because with freedom comes responsibility. What caught my attention reading this quote is that Mandela chooses to use the word “climb”. He could have chosen words such as  “walk” or “hike” a hill but he chose not. Climbs are challenging and require perseverance to give of our best, applying giftedness, skills and talents, as well as patience in all circumstances, especially challenging ones. Sometimes our climb brings us through tragedies and difficult times that we simply cannot avoid, appearing without warning, independent of any action on our part. It’s like a thief in the night who comes and suddenly turns our world upside down. This year I have heard too many unfortunate events take place in the lives of those we know, like that thief in the night, turning almost perfect worlds into sheer chaos. This is when the hill becomes a steep mountain and the scariest is fearing the length of this climb and wondering where you will land. When you are able to rest, will the view be that same glorious vista that surrounded Nelson Mandela?

Recently I read a book titled, Embrace the Moment by Bonnie Lee Mahler. The author knows about climbing personal hills. And, like Mandela, she too has climbed many but a mountain came with a steepness of terrain that could have been paralyzing. And, with only a brief reprieve, another similar climb followed. The author shares her journey traveling through a dark time experiencing tragedies, losing both young teenage sons within a 2-year period from unexpected accidents. Ultimately, she finds peace and joy and she reveals the secret in her book. We are each responsible for choosing whether to have dark times shape us in a positive light or pull us into darkness, a pit of bitterness. In this tar pit, bitterness flourishes and there is no freedom. The author’s struggle included doubt, insecurities and fear, but she eventually discovered how to break free from the heaviness of her loss. The help of positive and loving people to encourage her also contributed to that forward movement in life, when it could have been so easy to slip into the abyss. “I honor the past in every way. I’ve loved, I’ve Lost, I’ve trusted, I’ve hurt, I’ve missed, I’ve made mistakes, but above all, I’ve learned!” WOW! Sharing her story to inspire others is continuing the climb. As Mandela so well articulates, “I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” It takes great strength and courage to revisit horrific loss in order to write so others can benefit. She is using her life experiences and giftedness to continue, share, inspire, make a difference as the Mandela quote models for all of us to do, and of which our dear 15-year-old young lady in Africa is so inspired to do, too!!

The past 5 years have been challenging for me, dealing with circumstances beyond my control, facing fear, discouragement and hurt. Often I’ve said to my husband, “When can I dance again?” Well, I realize now I never had to stop dancing unless I choose to allow difficult circumstances and the negative actions of others control the measure of my joy. The same applies to you.

Mahler quotes in her book, “Looking back, I realize more than ever how everything has purpose; life flows with people and experiences.” We all deserve glorious vistas and it’s already ours on this long journey, living our life purpose to make a difference! All we have to do…choose to feel deserving of this awesome rest and give ourselves permission to experience the surrounding beauty!!

Resources

  • Children of Grace  Sponsor a child and be the difference for that child’s future!
  • Embrace the Moment by Bonnie Lee Mahler, Live life fully..”Honor the Past, Release It, Live the Present, Embrace It, Create the Future, Ignite It.”
  • The Land Between, Finding God in Difficult Transitions by Jeff Manion, “The Land Between provides fresh biblical insight for people traveling through undesired and difficult transitions such as foreclosure, unemployment, uncertainty, and failure.”

 

Breaking Free

Breaking Free – Published July 5, 2017

Celebrating independence these past few days, I have reflected on the word “freedom”. Realized, perhaps we all might be cheating ourselves from the FULL benefit of what it means to be free. What are we doing with our “personal” freedom? And, what should personal freedom look like? It should begin, from within.

This week I thought of Eleanor Roosevelt, one of my favorite historical figures. She is a true role model reflecting the “freedom” I am referring to in this writing. Not knowing her past one would think she lived a perfect, flawless, challenge free life. This is not the case. Both her parents and one of her brothers passed away when she was still a child. Her marriage to Franklin Roosevelt, serving two Presidential terms, was difficult including common knowledge of his infidelity. She also had to contend relationally with his controlling family. Her success, however, is the result of living personal freedom. She did not allow herself to be defined by early life circumstances, past failures, or judgments and opinions of others. If Eleanor accepted the tragedies and challenges in her life to define her, she never would have been the confident and influential voice for equality (women, race, refugees, youth) during her tenor as First Lady, 1933-1945. One of my favorite Eleanor quotes, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”, is spoken from the harsh realities she had to endure, rising above negative interferences. She didn’t allow others to influence the trajectory of her life. When she passed away in 1962, she was renown as one of the most powerful and admired women of her time. Acknowledged again in 1999, she ranked 9th in Gallup’s List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.

The message from Eleanor’s life is about accepting and embracing personal freedoms. When we choose to be defined by circumstances and the condeming judgment of others, we actually forfeit our freedom while residing in a country that’s all about “let freedom reign.” Ironic, isn’t it! It’s like living in a country that is founded on freedom but we say, “no thanks!” and voluntarily we give it up.

How do we make this change, from within?

  • Know and act on what is important to you. Guard your beliefs and respect the beliefs of others. If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” Alexander Hamilton, First Us Secretary Of The Treasury, 1780–1804
  • Determine your own dreams and the plan to get you there. Don’t be swayed by the passions and dreams of others in exchange of your own. Frances Chan in his book Crazy Love notes; “Oswald Chambers writes, ‘Never make a principle out of your experience; let God be as original with other people as He is with you.’ To that I would add, ‘Be careful not to turn others’ lives into the mold for your own.’ Allow God to be as creative with you as he is with each of us.”
  • Don’t judge or label others and don’t accept judgement and labels on yourself. Be the change! “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962
  • Personal freedom is for everyone. Be this champion to yourself and others. Freedom is tolerance, which means being able to co-exist peacefully and with respect when beliefs and opinions differ NOT when they are the same. “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962
  • Use past tragedies, failures, and tough circumstances (beyond our control) as a bend, not end, in life. With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts. Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962

Personal freedom is not up for vote. It is our God given right. Faith gives me the confidence to know that my life, my beliefs, my choices are truly between me and God, the only one of whom I choose to give reverence. Breaking free is enjoying the benefits of personal freedom, which takes practice. Don’t cheat yourself from experiencing the full spectrum of YOU and don’t cheat others, either! Live personal freedom, and, let others live this freedom, too.

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Father’s Day Tribute – Published June 17, 2017

Celebrating Father’s Day is remembering all those who commit to selflessly and positively parent and influence children with unconditional love and patience. It’s having the best interest of the child, always. It’s being an encourager, equipper, protector and provider. It’s leading with strong morals and values in a way that is contagious to everyone in the family. It’s also extending that hand of strength to offer support in times of weakness and inspiring courage when needed. Being a father covers all those who fill these mighty shoes, caring for children who are also not their own, double duty dads and moms, too. The leadership of a “father” guides the young to be the best possible person, to be successful in tangible and intangible ways, through honest living, loving and caring hearts, which someday will lead and inspire others. Being a father is not about being perfect but it is about doing one’s best to, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

The picture on this blog shows two incredible men in my life who are this kind of father; my husband and my own dad. The little boy, our son who is now almost 25 years old, already reflects attributes that someday will make him an awesome father. In our home we celebrate the amazing father my husband is and has been raising our son, parenting and being a role model of how to live life well; in faith by word and action, committed, loving, always available, forgiving, charitable when no one is watching and with a dose (and sometimes BIG dose) of humor. We have good memories! I’ve been doubly blessed because my dad was this kind of father to me, too. When I reflect back on my life, it was filled with faith and love.  As the years have passed, I see so much of my dad in my own mannerisms and habits, even some compulsive responses like being sure to pick that smallest strand of thread off the floor, turn in that $1 found at the store and helping someone who needs it. These habitual responses keep my dad’s spirit close to my heart always, since he passed away 11 ½ years ago. He was a social guy knowing many people in his community, a man of faith, determination, hardworking, honest and strong. He, along with my mom, made every Grandparents Day at my son’s school, even though it was a 1 hour commute each way and at times he was not feeling well. One of my favorite childhood memories is when he took my twin sister, cousin and me downtown San Francisco to the kids rides on the roof of the old Emporium. He then had us pick out stuffed animals at a local store. Three little girls for a day in San Francisco…this is a man of strength, patience and tenderness!

Life is not perfect nor is there a PERFECT father. But, a father who strives to do the best for his family and others, who leads with humility and lives with integrity…Happy Father’s Day!! And, a special Father’s Day acknowledgement to all those who serve our country, who most likely are not with their families this coming weekend, and who have chosen a life of sacrifice – the cost for our freedom. Thank you!!

 

 

 

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Who Am I Really? – Published June 8, 2017

In 2005 and 2006 I was invited by National Charity League (NCL) to speak to junior high and high school girls. The presentation I gave is titled, Self-Portrait – Caricature or Masterpiece, to inspire pre-teens and teenagers to think about the person they want to be. Kids are out for summer and this is a good opportunity for girls and boys to be proactive in shaping their moral character as well as identifying tangible, realistic short and long term goals, with a plan (map) for achievement. A discussion with your child will hopefully prevent being easily influenced by negative peer pressure, morphing into ideals, beliefs, and actions that are not true to them. By the way, this is also a great adult exercise, too!!

Caricature or masterpiece is an accurate illustration of where we find ourselves in life. It’s so easy to be swayed, yet, everyone can take proactive steps to be a leader of one’s own life, with a design that takes considerable thought and careful planning. Seeking to live this out, I find this scripture verse articulates well…“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 NLT

In the context of shaping moral character and identifying goals, below are definitions to reflect on.

Caricature –A quick sketch created and shaped by current popular consensus that lacks depth and detail. We easily become like those with whom we associate, becoming a mere reflection that takes little effort and we can easily disappear among the masses with no lasting impact. It’s comical in nature with a head that dominates the body like ego controls the soul.

Masterpiece – This is a well-planned and thoughtful work of art that has complexity and strength. It’s a unique illustration with imperfections, which contributes to its place in this world. A masterpiece is all about the “difference”, which makes it unique among other works of art. Our perfection is impossible but progress, especially using our mistakes as opportunities for positive change, contributes to the best masterpiece!!

Some questions to get started…

What character traits are important to me?  Internet search character traits to review  lists that can help identify those traits you can own. Here are a few to consider: honesty, positive outlook, generous, kind, helpful, patient, self-control, loving, considerate, compassionate, forgiving, courageous, calm, coachable, wise, etc.

What make me unique?  List hobbies, sports, academic skills, leadership qualities, service to others, artistic abilities, humorous, serious thinker or social personality as well as likes and dislikes, etc.

Who do I want to be? Describe, ideally, the person you desire to be. What character traits do you already have that reflects this person and which traits do you need to work on?

My realistic goals for this year? Achievable goals. What help will be needed and identify those who can. What habits support this goal and what habits do not support this goal?

My long term goals and requirements/plan (map) to achieve these goals?  Create a timeline map and also identify people to assist, if needed, to achieve these goals.

Who is my center of influence? This is a wise person in your life who guides and encourages along the way, enabling connections that support your goals and in knowing your plan, holds you accountable to it.

If you don’t know where you are going, it’s so easy to be on the path to someone else’s dreams or swept away from your own by the negative influence of others. In life you have to choose who you want to be, and then work towards being this person, surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals. Below are some inspirational quotes. Mother Teresa’s motivating poem, Do Good Anyway, is excellent as well. Whether a summer plan for teenagers or a refresher for adults…be prepared, plan your next steps and take charge of the change you want to see in yourself and in the life you are living!!

“Change your thoughts, and you change your world.” Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993)

“I didn’t work hard to compete and to be better than the other kids as much as I wanted to be the very best I could-for me.” Dr. Ben Carson

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)

Do Good Anyway, Mother Teresa

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Dogs On My Mind!! – Published June 6, 2017

Dogs are on my mind after watching the movie, A Dog’s Purpose, last night!

Love animals! My husband and I have had 3 dogs throughout our marriage. Our family loved and enjoyed each one; their distinct personalities, loving hearts, and eagerness to please. Dogs need love and interaction just like people. In our home, they are part of the family and our number one priority as pet owners is to always make decisions that are in the best interest of the dog.

There is so much that can be shared about pet care. This blog will discuss just two ideas; litter box training and summer socializing.

The first winter in Colorado, we were hit with a polar vortex, which for 3 weeks brought temps with wind-chill below 0 and on some days as low as -25. Moving from California, our bodies were not quite prepared for extreme frigid temps. Taking Marlee, our Coton de Tulear (small breed), outside for potty at 7 AM and late PM, wasn’t ideal for her, my husband or me. Bundling up in thick layers was also a hassle for all of us! This inconvenience led to thoughts about litter box training. Marlee was already 1½ years old and we realized our best efforts to teach an old dog a new trick (retraining) may not work. One morning, watching Marlee tip over to her side from cold elements and layers of clothing was motivation to give litter box training a try. SUCCESS!

This is how it worked for us. First, we purchased faux grass at Lowe’s (LINK), the realistic looking type so Marlee would take to it. We also purchased 2 each large plastic washing machine trays (LINK) . Each tray was filled with Scoop Away Multi-Cat Litter (recommended by a friend who has a cat) 42 lb bag available at Costco. The trays were placed in our storage room. In the afternoon when Marlee did her potty outside, we immediately swiped the soiled area with a cloth to then wipe the faux grass with her scent. We also took her poop and placed it on the faux grass. Creating her scent on the trays is important. That night we brought Marlee to the storage room instead of outside. She walked around for a while and eventually did potty on the faux grass. PRAISE!! Treats!! We repeated this process the next morning and, like potty training all over again, timed potty visits throughout the day. After a month, we removed the faux grass because the plastic grass retains odor, even with frequent cleaning! The cat litter was absorbing her scent and Marlee, during the month, was getting used to the cat litter scent. Win/Win!! At first, she ran out the door when she saw the grass replaced with sand. Brought her back, closed the door and said, “potty”! She eventually did. Throughout that cold winter, what a relief to be protected from low temps as Marlee took care of business in a warm home. We have thoroughly enjoyed 2½ years of success along with peace of mind that as long as the door to the storage room is open, she uses her potty, on her own. This means we can be away from home throughout the day and Marlee is self-sufficient. Doggy litter is available in stores (although we still use cat litter) and dog litter containers are available as well. This is a great idea for dogs who live in high rise condos and apartments. Internet search and you can view all available options, read reviews, watch videos and tips for male dogs so they don’t spray outside the box! We have a small stainless steel garbage container for disposal that keeps the room sanitary and odor free. Speaking from experience, a doggy litter box is the BEST decision for Marlee and me!! Two of my neighbors have tried litter box training. The Chihuahua, seen in the photo, was not successful. The mini golden doodle puppy, not shown, loves her potty box!

A dog-walking group is another great idea. When we first moved to Colorado, we didn’t know anyone and many people were walking their dogs, alone. In California we had a dog-walking group, a great way to socialize with neighbors and for our pets to walk with other dogs without having to visit a dog park. Within a few weeks of our move, I created this flyer (Dog Walkers Group Flyer) emailed to CO neighbors who live within a 2-block radius of our home. The neighborhood has an excellent directory with a section titled, Meet Your Neighbors, organized by street name including an email address listing. Printed flyers were placed in mailboxes for homes where emails were not listed. About a handful+ of neighbors responded. Marlee was able to meet other dogs and this turned out to be an awesome way to meet new friends for both of us. We continue to enjoy walking together and it’s been 3 years! Dogs need socialization. It’s healthy for them. This idea works very well for new puppies, too, learning social skills and how to be leashed. The Dog Walkers Group Flyer is in a WORD format so you can easily edit and use for your own neighborhood! Age appropriate, kids home for the summer can walk family dog(s) with other neighborhood kids and their dogs, connecting and socializing as well. Happy walking!!

The movie my husband and I watched last night is a reminder that our furry friends need loving care, protection, and social interaction. If you don’t have a pet, share this blog with those you know, who do. Be it litter box training and/or starting a dog-walking group, the lives of both dog and human can be positively transformed!

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BE The Difference For Change – Published May, 25, 2017

On Sunday, May 28th, I’ll be celebrating my 56th birthday, which is a special time to also reflect on the year that passed and enthusiastically look forward to the year ahead.

Birthdays, for me, are like rushing streams of water. Every year my goal is to change, seek transformation and be different than I was the previous year. It’s time for honest introspection to answer the question, “What can I do differently to be a better person, building confidence to be comfortable in my own skin, beliefs and views while allowing others the same?” There is great movement in this question, like rushing streams of water!!

Reflecting on this past year I am able to assess what I loved, what I didn’t like, and how I might have responded differently. A good place to start…”Change your thoughts, and you change your world.” by Norman Vincent Peale. This assessment includes how to modify attitude, build faith, and strengthen patience to experience spiritual and personal growth including a 20/20 view of healthy boundaries that might have been missing. Living faith is my lifeline of peace and hope regardless of circumstances but it is so easy to get distracted and fall away from being Christ centered. In fact, it’s a slippery slope. The Prayer of Examen, a St. Ignatius Jesuit daily discipline, is a great tool for self-evaluation. Attached is a copy that has been edited to include “year”. This discipline helps me evaluate when I have included Christ and when I might have left Him out. It’s a discipline that keeps me focused and inspires gratefulness and forgiveness, both, which are forward motion attributes for a joy-filled life.

Well…what did I learn this past year? This has been a challenging 12 months and the following are my takeaways to lead me in to my 57th year.

  • Sometimes not even the best decisions made through wise consideration and best judgment, at the time, turn out well. Give priority to first impressions and gut instincts (that still small voice), which often prove after the fact to be God’s shield of protection.
  • Living in the present is like a layer of insulation from past regrets and future angst, allowing for a fully lived life. Be proactive and loosen the grip on what cannot be changed as well as those future expectations, often from others that are impossible to control. This is what faith is all about and what trust is made of!
  • Keep moving even when unexpected curve balls in life appear and have us running for cover! BE the rushing river where living thrives! Standing still leads to stagnant toxic waters, which can breed resentment, bitterness, and disease.
  • Be the difference for change. Lead by example – word and actions.
  • Healthy boundaries are a must! It’s the gift-wrapping for self-respect and thriving relationships!

I’m not perfect and will never be. But, pursuing growth is a worthy goal for change. Just as a river changes course gradually, life transformation is a process. All circumstances this past year helped shape me to be more compassionate, forgiving, patient, confident and far more certain of who I am. For this, I am most grateful! Looking ahead to an ambitious journey that takes unexpected twists and turns and runs over many rocks at a speed that might sometimes feel out of control is far better than stagnant standing waters. Be the difference, embrace change and enjoy the ride!

The Daily Word November 2005

“Letting go and letting God, I soar to new heights of discovery. I am delighted when a butterfly rests on my shoulder for a few seconds. Yet I feel exhilarated when the butterfly takes flight and goes about being the beautiful creature that God created it to be. Like the butterfly, I was created by God to experience life and to bring my own beauty and purpose to life. Knowing this, I let go of the thought that any seeming limitation could hold me back from being the magnificent person God created me to be. I let the truth of who I am inspire me so that I soar to new heights of discovery. Is it a new career, friendship, or home that awaits me? Whatever it is, I am drawn to those experiences that bring out the best in me and prove to be the best choices I can make. I let go and let God. Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

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Mom’s Day – Through the Rearview Mirror – Published May 16th, 2017

This past Sunday, Mother’s Day was celebrated with great appreciation! It’s that time of year moms are recognized for their selflessness and unconditional love. It’s also a time when I celebrate the gift of life – the birth of my son – making me a mom.

On Mother’s Day I posted this message on Facebook.

“Happy Mother’s Day to first time, longtime and single moms and those who are moms to nieces, nephews and children of dear friends as it often takes a village to raise a child well!! Happy Mom’s Day to grand and great-grandmothers whose wisdom inspires future generations! Happy Mom’s Day to foster moms and those who advocate for children in need of love and provision. Happy Mom’s day to dads who also cover the role of “mom” to raise their kids in the best way possible. Celebrating Mother’s Day is recognizing unconditional love, ongoing encouragement and commitment along with steadfast faith for children to be the best that they can be throughout their lives. We celebrate you today!! May your day be blessed!”

Mother’s Day covers a grouping of “moms”. You know your place in this esteemed class.

I am grateful to have been raised in a community where many of my mom’s friends and relatives watched over, disciplined and guided with wisdom, when needed, all kids. It was back in the day when a friend’s home was an extension of our own. It was not uncommon to have an extra seat at the dinner table for a friend, at our house or theirs. Relatives often lived on the same block, extended-family-parenting as if nieces, nephews and cousins were their very own. The teachers and nuns at the Catholic school we attended cared deeply for each student, “moms” to all of us. Neighborhood streets filled with kids playing outside. Playground resourcefulness led to disputes successfully settled (great problem solving exercise!) and only when necessary did adults get involved, not always the parents of the kids in conflict. The city block resembled one “big” family! It does take a village to raise children well!

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” NLT, Proverbs 22:6 Reading this verse, my amazing mom comes to mind. To this day she inspires me, feeling her love and witnessing her unwavering faith and perseverance. I also fondly recall my grandmothers, each who role model different attributes that shape the mother I am today. A group of other moms come to mind whose care and involvement in that old San Francisco neighborhood have left positive and heartfelt lasting impressions.

How was my Mother’s Day? The day was blessed, love-filled, quiet and comfortable. Phone calls and text messages completed the early morning hours, well wishes with out-of-state family, including the first call with my mom. Fragrant roses from my husband as well as a beautiful bouquet and humorous card from my son made me feel loved and appreciated. My husband prepared the dinner side dish and set the table. Our son planned the entree, a delightful broiled parmesan-coated halibut. I was able to relax with our dog, Marlee, while enjoying a buttery Chardonnay. Pampered and joy-filled!! The precious bond we share today is a result of both perfect and imperfect years, bringing us to this wonderful season in our life!

This past Sunday was a beautiful celebration of my role as mother and the many faces of motherly love throughout life; my mom, grandmothers, extended family and longtime friends. Mother’s Day especially triggers the incredible memory of giving birth to my precious baby boy, holding him for the first time…excited about our future together. Each year this national holiday offers the occasion to look through the rearview mirror at our own “mom” role and at all “moms” who shape young lives. It is a day to acknowledge with gratefulness the gift of commitment, self-sacrifice, discipline through the lens of unconditional love and the most compassionate of hearts needed to successfully raise the next generation of children.

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Processed with MOLDIV

 Grocery Shopping Made Simple – Published May 9, 2017

Whenever I have a paper grocery list I lose it somewhere between shopping isles. Then, my only option is going up and down every isle, which, leads to buying what I don’t need and forgetting those urgent items that brought me to the store in the first place!! I tried using mobile phone NOTES. FAIL. While holding the phone and shopping, the listed items often disappeared, inadvertently deleted from NOTES, presenting the same problem as losing a paper list.

Desperately searching for a solution, I went to the cell phone App Store. A number of grocery options, to my surprise! Selected List Ease. Such a simple modification has made a huge difference in my shopping experience; time saved and in purchases needed. Unwanted duplicate items in my pantry – NO MORE.

There are many grocery apps to select from and you can do an online search of the top 10.  List Ease is the one I use and this is what I love about the app:

  • Free app! 4 ½ star rated by 634 users.
  • Includes Grocery List, Pantry Inventory and Coupons.
  • Efficiency at its best when I can view Pantry Inventory and easily move items to the Grocery List. Or, as I run out of items through the week, add to the app grocery list, if not already pantry listed.
  • Organizing the grocery list by standard or customized category (grocery section) makes shopping so easy. Time saver!!
  • Awesome realtime feature to check off items as I shop, either deleting one time buys or moving items back to Pantry Inventory. Eliminates the clutter of grocery list items that are already in the cart.
  • LOVE that I can create custom categories such as Costco or Sam’s for bulk purchases or holiday event planning, i.e. Christmas Dinner and save the list for the following year.  Stores carry different family favorites so good idea to create categories by store name.
  • Add your holiday shopping or birthday GIFT list as a category. Big benefit as a point of reference listing previous gift purchases for family and friends.
  • The grocery list can be shared with others by email and printed out. My husband called on his way home and asked, “I’m heading to the store, need anything?” Emailed the list through List Ease and he knew exactly what to buy! You can also do a screen shot of the app list for a text.
  • The $ symbol reveals current coupons that you can view in advance of shopping.

Some mobile apps include meal planning, recipe generated lists, To Do lists, best weekly deals, and other unique options. Know what you need and choose the best app for you.

Having an app to organize shopping is definitely Life Made Simple! Soon, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!

 

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Neighborhood Summer Socials – Published April 25, 2017

May is around the corner and this is a great time to plan summer neighborhood socials!

Last year one of my neighbors shared an awesome impromptu “Come If You Can” idea. TGIF Summer Nites was born! A coordinator is ideal to remind neighbors of scheduled gatherings.

  • In May, invite neighbors by flyer or email/phone (if you have contact info) to RSVP their desire to be on the guest list and a date they are willing to be a host home if a central meeting place isn’t available.
  • Create your invitation template & guest list through email, Punchbowl or similar site.
  • Enjoy TGIF Friday Nites throughout the summer!

In 2016 we met every other Friday at 6 PM to 8:30 PM, outdoors, except for the few times it rained. Host homes are responsible for setting up chairs, providing paper plates, napkins and disposable cups. Best to begin the week after Memorial Day and conclude the week before Labor Day as neighbors could be out-of-town around national holidays.

Simple and informal, neighbors show up if they can, bringing their own wine/beverage and an appetizer to share. We averaged 20 neighbors at each gathering, usually a different neighbor mix. It was a blast getting better acquainted and building relationships that would otherwise not have been possible. We are predominately an empty nester group. This is, however, a great idea for family neighborhoods to include children.

There are many great reasons to invest time in your neighborhood; social outlet, support, safety and creating a sense of community, just to name a few.

Make life simple and explore this summer idea to modify how you can become a well-acquainted neighborhood.