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?)