Sunday, December 28, 2014

What's on your mind?

What are you thinking?
Photo by Thurburn Barker

It can be hard for two people in any kind of relationship, where one is more voluble and the other is more cerebral. The voluble person wants more conversation so he/she can understand what’s going on. The cerebral person doesn't understand why the other person can’t read his/her mind. Often the more voluble person is the woman (a lot of comedy routines play on this), but not always. Some people—male or female—just naturally live in their heads. I’m one of those.

Speak up, let others know

I’m beginning to learn the value of speaking more to let others know what’s going on with me, and my hubby seems to appreciate that.

For many decades, DH has been asking, “What’s wrong?” “What are you mad about?” etc., and I would say “Nothing’s wrong, I’m just thinking.” Apparently, that’s not very reassuring. So lately, I've learned how to communicate that I’m working on a problem—maybe a design problem or a story idea—as soon as I see DH coming. This serves two functions. First, DH is reassured that I’m not angry or upset (my face apparently looks angry when I’m just concentrating), and second, when he knows what I’m mulling over, he often has some really good suggestions to solve the problem (he’s very creative). 

Ask for what you need

Then there’s the question of directly asking for what you need, instead of just hinting or nudging—“I need solitary time to write first thing in the morning, I can concentrate better first thing.” “I need to eat dinner earlier rather than later, my body functions better if I eat earlier.” “I can’t stay up that late watching movies and still be able to function the next day.” You’re saying directly: “I need these things.” By saying plainly what you want/need (and why) there should be no question of ulterior motives or being manipulative. And the other person(s) in your life may begin to understand why you get cranky when these conditions are not met. And the hope is that the other person will be as open and honest with his/her communications, as well. With family and friends, it’s good to know each other’s needs and boundaries and be able to honor them.

You must be a lot of fun!
Tell someone how you value them

Likewise, we don’t tell people often enough how we value them, what they mean to us. Not only people close to us, but also acquaintances and strangers could be told. Many times I will think, “That woman looks really pretty today.” Or, “That was a really thoughtful thing for him to do.” Or, “Every time I see you, you just brighten up my day!” But then I let the thought go and don’t say anything.

One lovely example of someone communicating to a stranger happened on our recent trip, a river cruise in Europe. On the last day of the cruise, a woman, one of the other passengers, came up to me and said that she had noticed me on the first day, and that she thought I was a beautiful woman. I was speechless. I had noticed her, too, and thought that she looked like a really fun person to get to know. Though I had thought about it a few times, I never went up to her to say anything. What a missed opportunity! Since we returned from our trip, the woman’s comment comes to mind at the oddest moments, and I feel beautiful!

Throughout my life I remember smiling at certain strangers on the street, and feeling such a connection. Maybe a smile is enough. And maybe actually telling someone that they look beautiful or interesting or fun would open up doors to a richer life. If nothing else, I could brighten someone’s day and give them a memory to cheer them when they need cheering.  

Thank you dear readers, I appreciate your sticking with me on my journey. Knowing you’re out there keeps me working toward becoming…

What about you, do you have ways of communicating that makes life just a bit easier?

“Have the courage to be sincere, clear and honest. This opens the door to deeper communication all around.”  - Sara Paddison

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Making peace with Christmas

Image courtesy of 
jscreationzs at
Every year Christmas comes around in December, and takes me by surprise. Every year I struggle with the same issues—not wanting to give or receive more “stuff” that needs dusting. Every year I feel like I’m bringing my friends down with my attitude. I’m not a minimalist, nor have I simplified my life or possessions (yet. I’m working on it), but as the child of a hoarder, I am terrified of “stuff” that is accumulating. I have begun to let my life be ruled by fear of too many things.

Christmas takes me by surprise every year because I don’t want to think about it. By not thinking about it, not only do I avoid the issue of too much stuff in the world and in my life, but I also miss out on the love and joy that Christmas represents. By vilifying gifts, I have made my focus at this time of year very narrow. With such a narrow focus, it’s easy to miss the joy of sharing. (Didn't Dickens write a story about this?)

Gifts are not the enemy, but a powerful statement of love and joy. 

On her blog, Revive: Rethink Simplicity, Cheryl Moreau posted a lovely article about the meanings of Peace, Joy, and Love at Christmas, . She reminded me that gifts are not the enemy, but a powerful statement of love and joy. She reminded me that I can Choose to accept that people are saying "I value you as a friend" when they give gifts. She reminded me that I can Choose to see the whole season in a more positive light. 

It’s time I returned to my personal mission statement: “I resonate joy!” It’s time, once again, to make a joyful noise.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.I wish you Peace, Love, and Joy in your lives!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

I choose to make it EASY

Approaching Passau, Germany from the river Danube.
Photo by Thurburn Barker

Don’t we all want life to be easy? We can actually choose to make it easy and consciously make it happen. Here’s what I mean by “making it EASY”:

For some reason, most of my life I've always found the hard way to do everything. Probably that has to do with jumping in without thinking something through first, without at least thinking of a good approach to try. I struggle through. One friend called what I am seeking, “Work smarter, not harder.” I had heard of that, but didn't understand what it meant.

In The Path of Least Resistance, Robert Fritz says, “Don’t ask ‘What am I good at?’ ask ‘What do I want in my life?’” At the moment I read that, it came to me clear as a bell that, “I want it to be EASY.”

How do you make it easy?

  • Find a mentor to show you the ropes, the tricks and best practices.
  • Practice, practice, practice until it becomes so easy you don’t have to think about it—like walking is easy.
  • Make it a habit, so you don’t have to think about it—like brushing your teeth is a habit.
  • Block out specific time for it—a no-brainer schedule (habit). (Think like a pro.)
  • Set up a system for certain things so they’re easier to remember.
  • Make it physically comfortable—set up your space so you’re not in pain, e.g. cushion on the chair, correct desk height, temperature not too hot or cold.
  • Make it physically easy—tools and supplies available and easy to reach and put away. Have a home for everything.
  • Create pleasant surroundings—neat and tidy workspace, color on the walls, inspirational pictures, lively music.
  • Make it fun—dance while you dust, sing while you slap paint on the canvas!

So, as you can see, making it easy doesn't mean that there is no work involved, or that one can be lazy. Far from it. Making it easy is about thoughtful (mindful) practice. Making it easy is about getting out of my own way, about not always doing things the hard way.

The other part of making it easy is the definition of “it”. “It” includes everything you can think of. Daily life. These days, I’m noticing ways to make things easy in all aspects of life, and noticing when I’m doing things the hard way.

One example is getting up early to meet my muse. At night, if I go to bed mindlessly without setting out my warm fleecy and slippers so I can dress easily in the dark, it's harder to get up early to work. Make it easy by setting out clothes for the morning.

Another example is making home-made soup. A pot of soup starts with a chopped onion. I hate chopping onions, it's hard, it makes my eyes burn. Guess what? You can buy onions already chopped in the produce section of the grocery store. Make it easy by buying onions already chopped.

A final example is the way I think about and remember time and money. For some reason I always want to “round” up or down. I wake up in the wee hours and look at the clock. It’s 3:40 a.m., so round it up to “twenty-to-four”. Now I've introduced the 4 o’clock hour into the mix. Later, when I try to remember what time I woke in the middle of the night, I can’t remember whether it was 3:40 or 4:40. I do the same thing with money. When making a mental note of the price of something—say $7.98—I automatically round it up to $8.00. As I continue shopping and want to compare prices, I can’t remember whether the price of that item I saw earlier was $7.98 or $8.98.

So, now I've created a system: to always remember the numbers for time or money as being within an hour or dollar frame. For example, any time that is within the six o’clock hour stays in that hour, no rounding up: 6:12, 6:25, 6:58 all belong in the six o’clock hour (not “two-to-seven”, or “almost-seven”). Same with money, if it’s $7.98, it’s $7.98, no rounding up. Now I can easily remember important and wonderful things:

At 6:40 a.m. on Saturday, November 22, we docked at Passau, Germany aboard the Viking Longboat Baldur. A lovely memory. No confusing the time; it’s easy to remember.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Breaking Limitations

Budapest - A view of Pest from Buda

This year I have been especially blessed, lucky, thrilled to be able to fulfill a life-long dream of going to Europe, twice! And in December I will be going to New York City for only the second time in my life. All in one year! I had finally given up on ever traveling, but it seems that it is true that, “Good things come to she who waits.”

Iron gate at the castle

My elder daughter is not one who waits. She has tramped through many cities around the world. She’s adventurous, curious, and unafraid; she loves exploring; she loves meeting new people; she picks up languages as easily as picking up loose change dropped on the ground. I envy her ability to be at home anywhere. She just dives right in.

Budapest - Mathias Cathedral

On the other hand, I am more cautious, timid, a toe-in-the-water kind of person. Like Kerry Keyes from Lickety-Split, over on, I have a map in my pocket so I can find my way around my neighborhood. I longed to be able to travel to distant and wonderful places, but found it too intimidating to do on my own. So when opportunities came up this year (two of them through my daughter), I was thrilled to finally be able to get into the pool (as in “come on in, the water’s fine!”).

Now that I've done it, such travel seems less intimidating, more possible for me. This year really has provided opportunities for me to break out of my limitations, and opportunities for becoming the person I’d like to be. 

Invitations to travel are like dancing lessons from God. 
(I think this is a quote from Kurt Vonnegut, but can't find it anywhere. Does anyone know?)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

One little habit, big rewards

The tasks (projects) shown above have no end, the result of bad habits, unconscious choices. 
Time for a change.

Marla Cilley, AKA FlyLady, started with a shiny sink. Keeping her sink shiny led her into more habits that help her (and thousands of people who read her blog) easily maintain a house she is proud to invite people into.

I subscribed to a couple of years ago and started some of the habits she proposes. My sink is shiny (most of the time), my bed is (usually) made first thing in the morning, and I’m “dressed to shoes” first thing. These are good habits to maintain. I feel good about my kitchen, bedroom, and person. These habits help me maintain a certain level of tidiness; I’m “company ready” (well, almost). However, the rest of Marla’s daily habits and routines are still not habitual for me. What’s missing?

It turns out that there are levels of habit, or Choice as Robert Fritz (The Path of Least Resistance) calls it. According to Fritz, there are three types of Choice: Fundamental Choice, Primary Choice, and Secondary Choice. If you haven’t made your Fundamental or Primary Choices, how can you stick to the Secondary (or daily) Choices?

A fundamental Choice is something like “I choose to be the creative force in my own life,” or “I choose to live” (as opposed to choosing to die), or “I choose to make it EASY” (that’s my big one). Fundamental Choices cover the way you want to live—your core values. Everything you do flows from your Fundamental Choices, whether you've made these choices consciously or not. To get the life you want, it’s best to choose consciously.

Notice that we’re making Choices here—not just wishing or wanting something, but choosing to make it happen.

A Primary Choice is a certain aspect of how you want to live, such as “I choose to get in shape and be really healthy,” or “I choose to write a blog on becoming the person I want to be,” or “I choose to maintain a tidy house.” Primary Choices cover large aspects of your life and require daily action (Secondary Choices or habits).

A Secondary Choice is a daily choice. “Right now, I choose to get up and go to the gym, instead of turning over to go back to sleep.” “Today, I choose to go to my office and write for X hours, instead of watching TV or playing Solitaire or whatever.” “I choose to wipe down the kitchen counters after breakfast, instead of leaving things out for ‘later’.”  The Secondary Choice is where daily routines come in. Once these Choices become habit, you no longer have to think about making choices every day, you just do the actions.

Right now, for me, a Primary Choice is to get my house (and life) organized (and de-cluttered). “I choose to live in a clutter-free, organized, and pleasing environment.”

Aside from getting the house de-cluttered, I have to build habits for keeping the house de-cluttered. Enter an important Secondary Choice: “I choose to put all my tools and supplies away when I’m finished with a task.” This one is HUGE for me. I’ve spent a rather long life flitting from one project to another without putting away anything from the previous project. Utter chaos. Even after binges of de-cluttering and organizing, I revert to my old habits. No more.

I've started doing what I call “End of Task” (idea from Andrew Mellen in Unstuff your Life), or “Clear to Neutral” (Thanh Pham of Asian or “Reset to Zero.” Whenever I finish doing anything, I put away everything that was used in the doing. This seems like such a little habit, but it's hard to do. However, I'm working at it and it’s already reaping rewards. Even though I haven’t de-cluttered yet, I am no longer adding to the clutter lying around on all surfaces of my home; even though I haven’t found a home for every item yet, I am putting things away in logical places where I can find them. When this one little habit becomes second nature to me, it will help with one of my Fundamental Choices: “I choose for it to be EASY!”

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” – John C Maxwell

Sunday, November 23, 2014

If it's important, you'll schedule time for it

Photo by Thurburn Barker

The things I schedule on my calendar are classes with teachers, meetings with others, and appointments with doctors, dentists, etc. What I don’t schedule on my calendar are the things I really want to do that don’t include other people. Why do I assign more importance to my commitments to other people than commitments to myself?

When I promise myself that I will work on a project or learn some technique, most of the time I let myself get distracted by the routine of doing things with other people. My schedule is so crowded that there’s no time for the stuff that’s best done alone. My muse is feeling so neglected that she is waking me up in the wee hours with wonderful ideas to work on. If I can’t or won’t schedule regular time for her during the “regular” day, she’s going to prod me to my computer when no one else is available.

So, how can I schedule time with my muse? How can I persuade myself to honor my commitment to her (and myself)?

I have thought of setting up regular sessions for experimental work, design time, class time (teaching myself) in the same way that a university class is set up, e.g., MWF 8:30 – 10:30. One problem is that all those appointments and meetings with others take up considerable time every week and finding a regular time-frame for scheduling private work doesn't seem to happen. Another problem is that scheduling private work is a commitment “only” to myself; I won’t be graded on it; I won’t disappoint anyone else if I don’t show up. When others are involved, I feel that I must respect their time; when it’s just me, well, I can just do it another time. Of course, “another time” doesn't exist.

What if I begin to see my muse as a separate person? What if my muse has a name of her own? What if she is someone “else” I can make an appointment with? And, what if I realize that she is very disappointed when I fail to show up? OK, I’ll try to find a good time for the private work that won’t always be prey to the vicissitudes of an already too-full life. So, when is the best time?

My muse seems to really like early mornings. If I don’t get up (at a “reasonably” early hour and start working with the ideas crowding my mind, she starts waking me in the middle of the night. The good part of middle-of-the-night work is that the world is quiet, and I can concentrate. No distractions. I get a lot done. The bad part is that I really need a good night’s rest; I feel like a zombie when I've under slept. And, I don’t like the possibility of waking DH; he needs a good night’s rest, as well. So, for now, I’ll start getting up an hour earlier than my usual time. I know it’s only one hour, but it’s one hour more than I’m doing now.

As for the question, “Does she have a name?” I’ll have to wait to see what she reveals to me.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

First things first: What do you want? (What do you want to create?)

SAM contemplating the pristine snowy landscape. New-fallen snow is so clean uncluttered and serene!
Photo by Janet Bickle

Why do so many of us have trouble knowing what we want?  As children we are taught not to ask. If we’re never allowed to ask for what we want, we don’t learn how to create what we want in our lives. In his book, The Path of Least Resistance, Robert Fritz discusses how we’re taught to react or respond to situations in our lives rather than knowing and creating what we want. Simply put, you have to figure out what you want before you can set about creating it. 

In my first post, I figured out that I want to become an organized, productive person. The first clue about what I want was that I've spent so much time over the decades writing about getting organized and productive, and complaining to my friends about how disorganized and unproductive I am. Getting organized always seemed like an impossible goal, though it continued to be a goal. But, did I take it seriously enough to learn how or to do anything about it? It always seemed impossible because I grew up in a terminally disorganized household. Now, though, I’m learning that there are skills and mind-sets that will help me get there.

1.       Decide what you want (to create)
What’s important to you; what are your fundamental choices, or core values?
The Path of Least Resistance – Robert Fritz; Unstuff Your Life – Andrew Mellen; Improv Wisdom – Patricia Ryan;
2.       Turn Pro (a mind-set)
“It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.” – Telamon of Arcadia, mercenary of the fifth century B.C.
The War of Art – Steven Pressfield;
3.       Build habits, even (especially) small habits
Think of dripping water that carves holes in granite!; Mini Habits – Stephen Guise;
4.       Recognize RESISTANCE
Those small words in the back of your mind that stop you from doing what you really want.
The War of Art – Steven Pressfield;
5.       Make quick decisions
Decide what to do and get on with it.
The Path of Least Resistance – Robert Fritz; One Year to an Organized Life – Regina Leeds;

So, what do I want to create? I want to create an organized and productive life. What do I mean by “an organized life?” To be organized means that I have only the number of things that actually serve me, no more, no less; it means to be able to find things when I want them; it means to have a clear work surface and area so I can actually work there; it means to schedule the time I need to do my work, not just mull it over in my mind; it means to schedule time for the important things in my life other than work (creating a tidy, company-ready house would be good, too!).

And, I want to create a productive life. As they define it over at Asian, Productivity is "consistently taking action on your goals."A productive life means actually spending the time I need to produce the work (fiber/mixed media arts, writing); it also means spending the time on nurturing relationships that are important to me.

Now that I've defined what I want, it’s time to figure out how to create this wonderful organized, productive life. Oh, and…

Finally, I've decided that I WANT IT TO BE EASY (and EASY may not be what you think)!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

How long does it take to become the person you want to be?

How long does it take to become the person you want to be? (How long is a piece of string?) How much attention do you pay to the process? How do you know what kind of person you want to become? How do you find out what you really want?


Photo by Thurburn Barker

Recently, I found some old notebooks of mine, not only journals, but also lists of goals, etc. The thing I noticed about the entries over the years (decades!) is that the same stuff comes up again and again and again—especially on my lists of goals. Prominent on every list and in every notebook is my desire and struggle to get organized. So, apparently the person I want to be is an organized (and productive) person. That is the desire. That is what I want to be, or so it seems. So what has been blocking me for so long? Time for a bit of research to see how others do what I long to do, how to become that organized, productive person.

Recently, I've found some excellent books and blogs on the subject of being organized and productive. And some of these books and blogs have gone a long way to help me understand how I’m sabotaging myself and how to change my thinking (and acting) to help me enter into to sisterhood/brotherhood of organized, productive people.

For the next little while—perhaps a year? (longer? shorter?)—I plan to explore ways to become the organized, productive person I want to be. One of the tenets I've already learned is that one must build habits, so the habit of posting a blog entry on a regular basis will be one of my first steps to becoming more organized and productive. The plan for this blog is to post once a week to start. That timing may change as I build the writing habit.

So the journey begins. It’s about time.

Happy Birthday to me; happy birthday to me…

What better way to celebrate 7 decades than to launch a blog on becoming?