What Are You Thankful For?

Every year at Thanksgiving I ask the question “what are you thankful for” at the table. I get a lot of sighs and “oh no not again” but reluctantly everyone finds an answer and whether it is real or not, they comply.

It is tough to answer honestly with such a broad question. Most everyone was giving general answers to this general question and I realized we were not getting to anyone’s true self. In order to change it up, I had to think of a better question.

There had to be a better way to make this fun and make it memorable. I remembered a list I saw on a bulletin board while teaching one day that intrigued me — It was from an article printed in HuffPost

25 Ways to Ask Your Kids ‘So How was School Today?’ ‘Without Asking Them ‘So How Was School Today?’

By liZ Evans
Blogger, Simple Simon and Company

Here are a few:

  • What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)
  • Tell me something that made you laugh today.
  • How did you help somebody today?
  • How did somebody help you today?
  • Where do you play the most at recess?
  • Who is the funniest person in your class?
  • If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?

I thought the questions were brilliant and after trying them out, I realized I learned a lot more about a day at school. It takes some effort to dig deeper to ask questions that will give you insight into another person. I am inquisitive. I like to know the deepest parts of a person. It takes the right questions to get there. The most interesting people don’t give up their thoughts easily.

Is everyone as bored as I am watching those 4-5 minute question/answer segments on the morning shows? You come away with nothing new about them and realize they were only there to sell a book, a movie or an album and that everything is scripted. I can’t imagine being asked the same question over and over again and trying to look interested. Guess what? That is what I was doing at Thanksgiving every year!

At the last second I changed it up — “What is one thing you did this year that you did not feel you were capable of?” Okay, I got the same looks but after a minute of hearing the answers of the kids, the adults took notice. The kids answers were heartfelt and genuine. They knew right away that a 100% on a math test was a huge accomplishment. Semester grades that had more A’s than C’s were worthy of a huge smile on their face. Getting through the first months of a new grade and feeling good about it was huge to them. It was their world and they were tackling it. It’s funny how math became the pinnacle of success. It told me that math was a tough subject to master. It is ever changing and you must keep up. It has exact answers. I know in my substitute teaching that I can see a lightbulb flash over the head of someone who understands a concept for the first time.

I was thrilled with the answers of the adults at the table who may have thought their revelations were simple — BUT — they displayed real amazement at their accomplishments. Painting a wall to painting people for the first time; moving to a brand new area and adjusting better than expected; finding a new way to visit Las Vegas and it being more fun; to my own revelation that working five days a week at jobs I loved proved to be more satisfying than I ever thought it would be.

I learned something new. Change up the questions. Find ways for people to talk about themselves in a different way. Be interested in learning what others are trying to accomplish. Most of all get them off guard and give them a reason to dig deep and reveal something no one has ever asked them before.

I saw lightbulbs over everyone that day. In the end, they may still roll their eyes at my questions but I think next year they will look forward to letting us in on their secret.

Lightbulb Moment

What Really Matters

Will today’s emergency even be remembered? Will that thing you’re particularly anxious about have been hardly worth the time you put into it?

Better Question: What could you do today that would matter a year from now? Seth Godin


Anxiety became a part of my life at about age 20. I can’t say that before then I didn’t worry but it never caused me to lose sleep or suffer panic attacks. I was young and had no life experience. I was making decisions for myself with no thought about my goals. As a matter of fact, I had no goals.

My world was changing drastically and I guess you could say I was free falling, hanging onto my childhood and life at home for dear life. There was no push for me to go to college and even though I got good grades in high school, I had never thought about a career. In 1973 girls were still given a pass if they chose not to go to college. I had no money saved and going against type, I just left junior college without even withdrawing. I was bored and lost.

While I realize that my parent’s going through a heartbreaking divorce at the time had moved the needle toward anxiety, I cannot blame them or their choices for my own. High School was such a haven for me that I truly thought it would go on forever. How could I be so responsible yet so immature? I was definitely on a path to learn the hard way.

After reading the above quote from Seth Godin, I thought about what it meant. It seems obvious, the daily worries will subside and it’s better to plan for your future. I reread it many times to understand that anxiousness and worry are a dead end waste of energy. Then I realized that it took ENERGY (Definition: the capacity for vigorous activity; available power) to create my anxiety and more ENERGY to work through a panic attack. The lightbulb came on this morning to a solution — treat energy as a tangible thing, not just a feeling.

I’ve started taking a minute to test my energy level for every task of the day. Starting with just one day is less overwhelming. I’m trying to make my daily structure fulfilling and productive. Even cleaning a bathroom can be satisfying when you see the end result. Once the bathroom is clean, it leads to rearranging and moving things. A picture straightened and appreciated, a glass vase looking better on the other side of the sink with the dust being wiped off, the reflection in the mirror is better when there are no water marks on it. I began a process of being slow, steady and paying attention to what is front of me. While I am organizing and cleaning, my brain starts to sort itself out too. I faced each day calmer. My focus was better — instead of anxious I started to feel motivated.

My Energy Source

I was not ready for the world at 20 because I did not look at it as a great and wonderful source of choices. I was closed off to adventure. I stayed safe within the confines of pleasing. I followed the expected path. It doesn’t really please anyone to do what you think they want from you. The energy is directed away from your soul and dissipates out in the air with nothing to show for it. I now visualize my energy floating away — a great vision to check on myself.

So I thought about what and where I get energy from and how it has replaced worry and anxiety:

  • Writing this Blog
  • Organizing a Mess (throwing it all in the middle and sorting before it goes back)
  • Knowing what I have — financial and material
  • Reading Biographies (I am fascinated to see how people get where they are)
  • Bodhi Leaf Coffee and it’s fireplace
  • Listening to kids and learning from them
  • Binge watching a TV show
  • Hallmark Christmas Movies
  • Family Time (grown kids are amazing friends who are honest and true)
I Need More Adventures

One thing missing on my list is “Planning Adventures” — I need to start small with day adventures and learn to leave the chores behind once in a while. Sometimes doing nothing accomplishes exactly what you need for the day.

The Eye Of Your Camera

I was thinking the other day about the history of family photos. I remembered my grandmother sitting down with me as an adult and opening a shoe box full of photos. That is all she had of her past. They were special and she could remember everything they said about her life. I got one day to soak it in with her. She is gone now and so are her thoughts about her life. If I could have one more day with her. . . .

Grams Had A Story

My parents took more pictures and my mom got creative with scrapbooks. She bought books with black paper and used a white ink pen to label them. She took so much love and care with each photo, carefully placing them in order and I’m sure smiling as she pasted them in. I treasure the pictures of my parents as newlyweds—they were just starting out with hopes and dreams. Kids rarely let their parents be people. It is too hard to see their reality next to the person you need them to be. Those pictures became all that was left when they divorced 23 years later. Both never let us sit together just one more time — the five of us — to hear their stories of life together. The chasm between them grew so big that they both erased their marriage and created new lives with new spouses. Kids deserve to have the family pictures preserved and not hidden away in boxes never to be looked at again.

Happy Marriage Stories — My Grandparents and My Parents

I am the generation that started with paper photos and transitioned to digital memories sitting on a computer. I kept the scrapbook tradition and have many books that I made sure stayed current. I also have three baskets in a closet of paper photos that never made it into a scrapbook. I did have our VCR videos transferred to a USB device. Our videos are treasures but lopsided in having much more footage of our youngest child than our older ones. I have digital pictures on the cloud and wonder who will ever really see them when I’m gone. I’m determined to not let my stories go when I do.

I met my friends, Amanda and Kristi, at a conference in Texas by chance. I volunteered at the welcome desk and there they were in front of me checking in. Amanda was not on the list (we later found her) and we laughed all weekend about her crashing The Photo Organizers Conference. Their lives are in Canada (each on separate coasts) but their friendship with each other is real. I dared to work my way into becoming the third wheel — I am happy to be in that role!

Together they formed Memory Momentum and are always finding solutions for their clients to keep their memories alive and safe. They have experience and a sense of humor. They care about stories. They care that you will organize your pictures in a way that will be easy to understand and keep up. Here are a few of their thoughts in beginning to change how we think about organization and it’s meaning in our lives:

  • Organization does not mean perfection;
  • Organization optimizes the quality of life;
  • Having a system means less time overwhelmed and frazzled;
  • Keeping the system up means more time for fun and less time recreating the wheel;
  • Starting is the hardest part — let someone teach you how to begin and how to keep only what you love!

Here are their tips on valuing the photos we save:

  • DELETE — schedule it daily, weekly or monthly. Keep only the ones that have meaning for that month and year.
  • TELL YOUR STORY — your photos are your story. More does not mean clarity. It is too overwhelming to see 1000 pictures in our digital photo album. They lose their meaning. Pick the right ones and lose your guilt over deleting the ones that are not meaningful to you.
  • BE MORE INTENTIONAL WITH YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY — If you end up with 12 for the year (one a month) that tell your story, there is no need for 1000 that you will have trouble remembering in 10 years.

Do yourself a favor and immerse yourself in Amanda and Kristi’s witty photo-organizing wisdom! You can find them at www.memorymomentum.ca — Don’t worry you do not need your passport or a one-way ticket to Canada — they are experts at remotely working with you. A video meeting is just as much fun as meeting them at a welcome desk!

Simplify and Be Intentional — such a great way to live if you just let go of stuff. You don’t need to be perfect, just know what you treasure and Delete the things that weigh you down. Make sure that your memories are safe and available for future generations. Nothing tells a story better than what your eye sees while capturing a photo.

Your Story In The Eye of Your Camera

Walking Into Your Future

I was asked to participate in a new mentor program for freshmen in Social Science Majors at my Alma Mater. I decided quickly to fill out the questionnaire and even though I missed the deadline, they asked me to join. I am learning to try new things without a complete outline of what to expect and this was a last minute thought.

I was a bit nervous driving back to college because it had been a while and the campus has grown quite a bit. Luckily, they set up a free parking area which as everyone knows is a huge gift that eases stress to start the day. I only made one wrong turn but recovered enough to walk into the building on time. I figured being a mentor meant being prompt was a big deal. I was met with this emblem which caused me to stop and pause —

Walking Back In Time

I went back to college late in life. I was losing myself in adult choices and responsibilities and a very wise counselor helped me find a goal — one goal, something I could work toward that overruled my emotions. It gave me a chance to test my tenacity and work toward something difficult to achieve. My success or failure depended on no one but me.

College Life

I found my way to the building that housed my classes for 3 years. It’s funny the nostalgia that happens in an instant. I appreciated everything about my quest for a degree because it was such a dark choice in my past to not finish what I had started at 18. I veered off my path but second chances are the best part of life.

A Goal Fulfilled

I was met by the nicest people who welcomed me with enthusiasm. This was the start of a test program and I have always known that to be on the ground floor of anything at the beginning is always the best place to be. They matched me with my student. Funny how things work out. His mentor did not show up nor did my student. We were meant to meet. He was equipped with an audio recorder and off we went to figure out who might be helping who.

He was well organized with questions. I was happy to answer. . . .

  • Who did I admire growing up? (my maternal grandmother)
  • What was my childhood like?(outside all day)
  • Did my parents talk to me about college? (no, nor did guidance counselors)
  • What made me decide to attend this college? (location because I had a family at home)
  • Why Psychology? (my experience in family law exposed me to many broken people, I wanted to understand how to help)
  • How had the campus changed since I was there? (more buildings, parking and dorms)
  • What was the same about the campus . . . .

I had to think about what was the same. I watched the students walking the same way with backpacks and direction. I thought for a minute and realized they were Walking Into Their Future. They were showing up. They were making choices. They kept going even when it got difficult. No one kept track of them, they were independent and free. The tree in the quad was a constant and a symbol of growth.

Tree of Growth

And last but the most important questions of the day. . . What have you learned since you first started your career? What did graduation lead you to?

I had to think about that. When I was younger I would have answered quickly without a lot of thought. I wanted to help him understand what life experience can teach as you look back and have some clarity.

I learned that listening and allowing people to be who they are was not who I was when I started. I thought that my way was the best way to a successful life. I talked a lot. I was nervous and filled the silence with words that meant very little. I wanted everyone to be happy with me. I spent little time in thought about being centered and most of all, I was a shell of a person who had limited risk taking experience.

I am not completely whole yet, there is still more to do. But there was a moment when I realized that observing was an achievement that helped me feel peace. The word advice is gone from my mind and replaced with “what do you think?” People deserve to be heard, to have new ideas and be on their own journey to joy. I can watch from afar without stepping in unless asked to.

I laughed when I saw two signs of things I missed out on by going back to college late in life. I have traveled and been an enthusiastic member of the audience but I could never go back and do these things. . . .

What Fun This Would Have Been
The Actress in Me Untested

My last thoughts to the amazing student I had the pleasure of getting to know and who is just beginning to think about his career. . . Try everything, don’t say you can’t do something — you never know where it will lead. Be you! Keep going even when you think life is too hard.

Oh and don’t get into debt so that you are forced to stay in a job you don’t love!

My question to him before we ended “if you could wake up tomorrow and be in any career what would it be?” He smiled and thought. I could tell he had not thought about it that way — being practical could be off the table for a moment. He had a spark in his eye when he said maybe a fashion designer. I told him that one day he could design something for me.

I’m not sure who got more out of our hour together. I know this for sure that being around young people keeps me energized. If he walked away with a few ideas, it was a huge success. I walked away feeling grateful that I had a second chance at college. I had fulfilled my goal and watching him Walk Into His Future was a moment I will treasure.

My Discoveries. . .

I decided that once in a while I will give you a glimpse into my world and introduce some of my favorite discoveries:

(Disclaimer I am not affiliated in any way with these choices and have no monetary compensation paid to me through any of the following links)

  • My Podcast Find — The Moth — I love storytelling and I love honesty and this is a pure mixture of both. . .
  • My Book Find — On Gold Mountain by Lisa See — I saw Lisa in person at a seminar with her mother Carolyn See (1934-2016). They were so interesting and so funny! Lisa studies and writes about her Chinese heritage and Carolyn wrote and taught about writing (Carolyn’s book Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers is something I have read many times — she suggested writing 1000 words a day and to send handwritten notes to writers as often as possible). . .
  • Bodhi Leaf Coffee — everyone knows that this discovery has changed my world. I have found the place that welcomes me and helps me focus to get things read and written. I even started drafting a fictional essay about what this coffee stop might have been like in the 1800’s. . .
  • The television series Yellowstone — I wondered if I could stick with this series because it is a bit disturbing to watch. But as I’ve gotten into the story, it unfolds as a tale of a family and what leads to their dysfunction. Kevin Costner never disappoints. I like sitting down every night with a new episode and watching it with Chris.

Share What You Do

Is it okay to feel special because you know how to do certain things that others don’t? Is it right to hold that knowledge close so that no one can replace you? I was thinking about passwords the other day and realized that no one knows how to get to the treasure map of complicated paths that lead to the world I have created on my computer and IPad.

Then I read this article from the New York Times “Get Your Digital Accounts Ready in Case of Death” and I thought about sharing! (I use Last Pass as my password manager and I need to get going on the family plan!)

There are many layers to how I keep my financial records and the skill with which I handle bill paying. It is truly all in my head and I can wake up any day of the month and know what needs to be paid and when a deposit is coming. It is a fun game and it keeps me on top of things that I really want to control (my family gets me). I set up automatic payments with the skill of a surgeon. I can print a financial statement with the fastest fingers in town. I can handle the books of a small company and within a month get a glimpse of its past, present and future. This is from a girl who was failing in math in high school!

I’m not sure I want to share what I do with others. I have written down a simple “how to” guide on basic information but I shudder to think that someone might actually have to take this over for me. It would seem that my life was unfinished. I want to end this strategy with everything at a zero balance — no debits and no credits. Everything balanced and spent. Is that a life well lived?

Those who hire me to organize their worlds say that they want me to teach them what I do but when we actually sit down to start ~~ their minds wander to other things and eventually they leave a tutorial session feeling comfortable that I am doing it for them. I am happy to explain and leave them “how to guides.” They are showered with notebooks that hold profit and loss reports and projections but I think that they just feel comforted knowing the notebooks are there. I believe, though, that anyone will learn what they need to when faced with the challenge.

Is this a good thing? I think the answer is that everyone has a talent and gravitates toward creating what they do best. Our lives are valuable and each day should be geared toward what you set out to accomplish. I am a terrible cook and actually do not enjoy doing any of it. I would rather be setting up files or cleaning. Luckily, my husband is terrific at it and has become the best bargain shopper since he took over. I never price checked or cared what I brought home. I would rather go out to eat which of course is a terrible way to budget. He makes our meals stretch and they are such a treat for me at the end of the day.

Then the question pops in my mind — do we trade for a few months so that the other knows what to do if necessary at some point. I think I will just update my “how to notebook” more regularly and he has kept his recipes in a family cookbook!

There should be a checklist for everyone contemplating living with someone. Oh I just found another favorite word — checklist. A checklist of chores/duties/careers/goals all the things that come with a life. Brainstorm who takes care of what — Re-visit it every year to make sure no one wants to switch. I am on it —

Next week I will get into family photos and what to do now that home movies and scrapbooks are a thing of the past. I have two amazing friends who organize photos as their business and can help set up a system and make it fun while doing it– check them out “Memory Momentum.” This is a project I don’t want to take on either. Sadly, memories and family pictures are on phones that may not last a lifetime. The sheer volume of everyone having over 1,000 pictures at one time lessens the value they hold for us. BUT how sad if I could never find this picture —

My sweet kids

My Favorite Four Words

I substitute teach in my local school district. I created a bucket list of professions I wanted to try (teacher was one of them). They are mostly a culmination of undoing regrets or dreams that passed me by. I never give up hope:

  • Broadway Dancer (I go to Broadway shows)
  • Flight Attendant (I applied — was rejected)
  • NFL Sideline Reporter (I play fantasy football)
  • Beach Volleyball Player (I watch Kerri Walsh Jennings)
  • CBS This Morning Co-Host (this might be my long shot)

From my last blog post you know that I am none of those people above BUT — I always believe that if the opportunity came along, I would be ready.

“Luck is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity”

Roman Philosopher Seneca

So, my more realistic list is exactly what I am doing now:

  • Law Office Administrator ( I love learning law)
  • Substitute Teacher (the kids are amazing)
  • Organizer (my passion)
  • Realtor (my experience in family law is a good base for what NOT to do when deciding to buy or sell a home)

From as early as second grade I was fascinated by my teachers. I decided to substitute teach to get a sense of what I had missed out on. The students think that they will have a free day when I walk in but I have spent a few sleepless nights planning how I will tackle the day. They are met with the following on the board:

Brave, Curious, Kind and Organized

These are my four favorite words. I have found they encompass everything one needs to create a career as well as becoming a good citizen. The Carver Rule is simple—Respect When Someone is Talking. Starting this discussion in the first five minutes of the school day works for me and sets the tone for the day — I also set criteria for a “Kind Award” for the student nominated by the other students after recess for an act of kindness.

KIND

BRAVE — Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is hard to be a student. No question is too silly and never be embarrassed if you don’t understand something. I tell them that I spent my entire high school life not understanding math. I never asked for help. That was just sad. I give extra points for those that ask questions. I make them the hero by keeping embarrassment out of the picture.

CURIOUS — Never stop learning. Be excited every day about what you get to uncover. Why be miserable and dreading the classroom. Look at it as a special place that gives you knowledge. Share what you know. Bring up subjects that are fascinating to learn about. My two “go to” questions at the end of the day are “if you could wake up tomorrow and be in any career what would it be?” and “if you could travel anywhere where would you go?” I crack up because the most common answer is Las Vegas. Las Vegas is marketing to a group they didn’t even know about! The most common career for boys is a professional athlete and to my delight the girls common ground is becoming some type of doctor. Saying “I don’t know” doesn’t fly — Everyone deserves to have a dream. To those wanna be professional athletes I urge them to know their financial picture every day and plan for the future with a second career.

Kind — To me kindness makes life happier. I watch the students interact with each other and out on the playground. I want them to notice when someone is going out of their way to be kind. It can be as simple as letting someone borrow their eraser to my ultimate goal of including someone who is alone every day at recess. The Giving Keys Organization focuses on ending homelessness through employment. It’s funny how quickly kids adapt to an atmosphere of positive feedback. I tell them that names on the board are a good thing. It is my responsibility to model kind behavior.

Organized — No one does well in chaos. I realize that everyone is not going to be at the same level of organization. I find that it needs to be taught and repetitive every day. It is a learned habit and most of the time not on top of mind for kids. As a substitute teacher I cannot effect much change but I look at it as planting seeds for ideas that could grow eventually. Clutter is a common theme in most desks. There just isn’t time to address the neatness of a desk by the end of the day. One way that I introduce this concept is taking 15 minutes for desk check and encouraging help from each other. I love watching a group effort and they have fun doing it. Oh and it’s a great way to find lost homework —

Now don’t you wish I had been your substitute teacher? Ha – not a free day!

Teaching has helped me in my life beyond what I could have imagined. I have to be ready after about 20 minutes of preparation and keep a group of students interested when it is not exactly where they want to be. Not easy skills to learn but so rewarding for me.

It has taken me a lifetime to be comfortable in my chosen professions — BUT I never lose the dreams of my first list.

Choosing a Career — Find Your Passion!

The linchpin faces a fork in the road:

You can try to make your job have more. More impact, more responsibility, more leverage.

Or you can be industrial about it and try to have your job involve less. Less risk, less effort, less to fear.

Is your ideal job one where you get paid but no one even knows you work there . . . Or is it to bring your hopes and dreams and talents to a position where you can change things for the better?

Seth Godin

I have had many jobs in my search for myself and my passion. I started working when I was 16 and am forever grateful to my parents for making this a condition for participating in extracurricular activities in high school. They required me to pay for gas when I drove their car and my song leader camp and outfits. It was a turning point in my growth and feeling of independence. I started as a school secretary for the night school at my high school and then landed a retail position as the “Youth Council” representative for my high school. I attended monthly meetings and my input was taken into account for the store buyers of the teen clothing department. I was also able to pick up shifts at the store on weeknights and weekends. I was busy. I learned to show up on time. I loved getting a paycheck. I knew that if I didn’t show up that I was letting them down. My parent’s rule gave me a great start.

After high school graduation I got a job at a bank. I learned about checking and savings accounts and as an employee I was given a credit account with a $300 limit. I never realized it until the other day that I learned every job that bank had to offer. I watched everyone and decided that I wanted to be the utility person. I could fill in for anyone who was sick or on vacation. It took about a year to learn what I needed to. I honestly do not know how I came up with that thought but it planted a seed that has stayed with me in every job I have taken. Be the one to raise your hand to help.

Okay, it sounds like my work life has been seamless — not so fast! There would always come a point in any job when I felt I could do more, be more — make more money. I started a family and went back to college. I was always searching for what my perfect fit was. It led to a lot of starting and stopping. I’ve had a lot of “I wish I knew then what I know now.” Be curious and never stop learning but focus on a goal.

Every career journey is personal. No one can help or get too involved in your choices. It is about asking questions, learning from mistakes and finding people who do the job that you would like to do. It’s about finding companies that motivate your best ideas and concepts. It’s about realizing that starting at the bottom is always the best step.

Thoughts on Goals

My husband and I owned a restaurant for about 4 years. It required me to quit my law office job and become the manager. I was terrible at the day to day operations. I lived for getting out in the community and marketing what we could make happen for group activities. We were stressed every day. We drove far to get there. We had 4 kids who were not getting the best from us. The day we sold was the happiest day of my life. I re-enrolled in college and spent more time at home. It became my LINCHPIN — my fork in the road. I started to set priorities.

College gave me courage. Part time work gave me flexibility. I took part time jobs that taught me something I didn’t know and then I would move on. I began to think like an entrepreneur— I liked making decisions that felt like me. I was able to keep this going for quite a while. I graduated from college. I focused on law offices. My kids went out on their own. I traveled to seminars in other states. I learned how others made their way. I loved my journey but had one problem — I wasn’t making much money. That became a problem when my husband (the best breadwinner I could ask for) retired. It was time to put all my talk and education into action. Once the pressure of income came into my head, I lost my confidence. I had grown comfortable with the flexibility of part time, of going to seminars and thinking that was doing something, of learning how to set up my website and of listening to podcasts. Time for less talk, less strategy and more action.

I had one more challenge — getting my real estate license. My idea was to work with families/individuals to avoid the pitfalls I saw of home buying and the stress it caused. I had a plan — it revolved around what I had finally found as my passion — Organizing — I have found my center. I have variety. I have flexibility. Organization helps everyone I work with feel settled. My dream career mix (finally) —

  • Law Office Administrator
  • Substitute Teacher
  • Realtor
  • Organizer of Homes, Home Offices and Small Business Books

These tools have served me well —

  • My parent’s rule — get a job to pay for high school activities;
  • Be the one to raise your hand to help others;
  • Be curious and never stop learning but focus on a goal;
  • Starting at the bottom is always the best step;
  • Set priorities once you have some experience;
  • Know when thinking about strategy needs to end — less talk and more action —
  • Know your passion — find jobs that need it!

Tell Me More

It is impossible to not love Hoda Kotb. Watching her on the Today Show is inspiring. She loves what she does and she loves her family life. She brings a sense of accomplishment and wonder to the table. She might be the best role model for blending career and family. But all of this took her a while to set in motion and understand.

I was particularly moved on her first day back to work after a five month maternity leave having unexpectedly adopted her second daughter. She was paying attention to life during those five months and made sure we knew how magical it had been for her. She has a very high profile on morning television and it is refreshing to see her personality show through. She is real. She has waited a long time for her family life. She appreciates everyone and everything around her. She elevates anyone who sits next to her.

A great segment with guests Esther Wojcicki who wrote “How to Raise Successful People” and Kelly Corrigan who wrote the essay “Advice to My College Freshman” in The New York Times as well as the book “Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say” — gave great tips on not only raising successful people but how to navigate and accept the empty nest when your kids leave home. Esther was so calm in her approach to letting her kids discover the world around them and how they fit into it and Kelly was hilarious in her nervousness in trying to tell her daughter everything in an hour that she wanted her to know before leaving her at college.

Hoda brought up that we parents try so hard to teach our kids all the life lessons we want them to know that we push them too hard. Kelly’s book offers that listening is key by simply saying “tell me more” instead of giving solutions. I took note of these simple three words — tell me more — what a great way to not only listen but extend a conversation.

Life experience whether in career or family life does give clarity. We are meant to learn from mistakes and situations that don’t feel right. The panic and anxiousness felt in our 20’s and 30’s fades as our confidence builds. We shed friends and family that drain us to the core. We find ourselves having more moments of joy than sadness. We center our days so as to not exhaust ourselves. Seeing life through someone else’s eyes is a better way to understand and bond with them.

It is not lost on me that the way to know a person’s heart and mind is to listen to what they say and what they are fascinated by. Let them know you hear them instead of trying to help them. I am learning that all of us young and old have a creative outlet. Acknowledging that creativity is amazing. I scrolled through Chris’s pictures on his phone the other day and got an insight into what he takes note of when outside.

Dragonfly in Flight
Spider Creativity

When my kids call me — which is surprisingly more often than I would have thought — I want them to “tell me more.” Their ideas are more valuable than any solution I could conjure up. They’ve got it together. They have creative outlets. I want to know them more as adults than try and keep them young. They deserve that from me. They can now teach me.

One thing I have always had my whole life is a love for people. The journey someone’s mind takes fascinates me. I love reading biographies and following along on what it took to get where they wanted to go. It takes a while to understand what is worth paying attention to every day. As time goes by I see that learning to shed rather than accumulate is a path to feeling happy.

Retirement Through My Eyes

This week Chris and I went for our annual eye exam together. We have been seeing our optometrist for the entire 36 years we have lived in our home. All of our kids have seen him. He has witnessed all of our life changes and it’s nice that at least once a year we can catch up. He is patient and kind and relieves our worries of aging eyes.

Today he proclaimed that Chris is the perfect man. His eyes are so different in vision that they balance each other and he no longer needs contacts just a minimal prescription for reading glasses. Now, this is a big deal. I, on the other hand, am trying to find the CAPITAL E on the chart. His test of my left eye was just a big blur and I am always taking the peripheral test (the one with the Jeopardy buzzer) with sweaty palms — please let me see the green dot!

I went first. I gave as many details in my allotted time of our last year as I could. Even though I started first, Chris finished before me which tells you our relationship story without words. Our doctor made the fatal mistake of asking me what was happening with retirement and I proceeded to fill him in on how the last four years have been going — luckily I have spent a small fortune with him so he is not losing money when I come in.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • I was not happy for the first year as I was used to being home alone in my own world;
  • I am not fond of whistling — Chris is happy when he’s whistling;
  • After raising four kids, I was not in the mood to answer questions about my productivity and goal setting capabilities;
  • Chris being the amazing landscaper that he is, stepped up his weed-eater and blower duties — all which make noise and create dust;
  • I am the tech person in our home — my name was being called a bit more often to come to the rescue of wayward laptops and streaming devices;
  • I am an everything has a place girl and I am not good when things are dropped with no container underneath.

After four years, here is what I’ve learned:

  • Chris was allowed to be home — suggesting different activities or software for him to learn only put those things at the bottom of his “to do” list;
  • Whistling meant he was home and happy — unless we are in the car, I don’t hear it anymore;
  • He could in one sentence call me out on my bright shiny object syndrome; it turns out goals and objectives are a good thing in my world and have led me to the best career I have ever had;
  • Our yards are so beautiful — they have always been his place to be calm and creative — I just close the windows when I hear noise;
  • I strongly encourage reading manuals or watching a tutorial video — the technical side of life is either loved or hated and unless you love the challenge like me, just get to know what you deal with daily.
  • I had to let up a bit on my “everything in it’s place” but he takes his shoes off at the back door now. Don’t get me wrong there is never a wayward glass or a bed unmade but you will find the laundry overflowing a bit more and there are water marks on the bathroom mirrors now.
Life Is Better At The Beach

At the end of the visit, our doctor proclaimed that he will probably never retire. I told him just stay part time and ease into it.

Compromise is the key. The alternative is being consumed with loneliness. While the beds are made, the dust is barely there and the kitchen floor is clean ~~ the whistling is gone.

Celebrating Together