Sunday, June 30, 2019

End of the Week Planner

I didn't wake up today until after the sun was shining well (how I wish my eastern wall had a window), and lay luxuriously in bed until almost seven a.m. Then I got up with the realization that such luxuries mean less time for all this stuff I like to do in the name of doing something more with my life. Tradeoffs.

So I used my planner nearly every day. Mostly I used it to mark my weight and calories and push the planned chores on to the next day. Honestly, I started to wonder why I was even using a planner. First of all, my weight calories are safely recorded in My Fitness Pal. Do I need to put them in writing as well? Secondly, I always just pushed the house cleaning off. After doing regular maintenance work of laundry, clothes, sweeping, vacuuming, and so on, I just don't feel like doing extra house cleaning on top of everything. So I won't win Susie-homemaker of the year.

Additionally, I wanted to use my planner as a sort of bullet journal of all the things we had done. And this week-we did nothing. The first half of the week was dominated by my nine-year-old's severe sunburn. He missed three days of summer school. Then Thursday rolled around and we did not get ourselves out the door to hike as planned. My husband works until seven Friday and Saturday, and my two-year-old is usually in bed by 7:30, so those days were a bust. Today we planned to do a local amusement park or hike, but my son-in-law and daughter are laying laminate planks in our upstairs hall (yesterday they ripped up the carpeting), and will need help watching their little boys.  Maybe we will pull in an evening hike.

Yesterday, my husband and I both stopped with guilty looks and the feeling that summer was passing us by and we weren't living it. Granted the boys both have neighbor kids near their age and play long into the evening hours. That is a good thing. But we want to do more. See more. And fatigue, bad work schedules, and timing have been working against us. It isn't too late to start. We still have July and half of August.

This week, I plan to talk with Karl and write in what we want to do. I think with him on board, it will be easier to get things accomplished. Sometimes it takes two adults encouraging each other when the body is fatigued. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

This week's planner

I am trying to use my planner more each week. This is my beginning of the week look (note the illustrations my six-year-old added!) and after the week has ended, I will fill in with my progress. One thing I noted is that using pencil doesn't really pop. I need to use pens or fine-tipped sharpie in order to see the writing more.

The idea behind my planner is to have a concrete place to put my calories for the day and weight for encouragement (although I am using My Fitness Pal throughout the day to keep track. My name is blueberryjill if you want to add me. If you CAN add through the name. I haven't ever tried! I also wanted to have a rough housekeeping outline and a place to put my workouts.

At the end of the week, I can repost what I actually accomplished, since I am marking off and adding notes as I go.

Usually I don't use a lot of stickers, mainly due to cost, however Runwith Craftscissors, aka Lesley, happens to be my coworker and gave away a bunch of stickers, so I can really play with them a bit. Although I am not as skilled as many at decorating my pages, they do add some nice color!

I am curious what other people put in their planners and what their style is.

Personally I like a lot of clean white space, and I often lament my messy handwriting. I am not the type to feel bad if my to-do lists aren't done, I just move 'em to the next day. This is obviously a personal planner. At work my to-do lists tend to consists of post-it notes with the steps and dates my paperwork is due (with the name of the accompanying person). I don't know why, but it works for me! I may step it up to a legal pad this year, we will see.

Check back in Sunday to see how this week went down or if you just want a sneak peek at my weight and calories!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Most Influential Books in My Life

Most people who know me, know I love to read. In high school, as soon as I had a free moment, I would pick up whatever novel (usually a young adult historical romance) and get lost in another world. Lately, my to-do lists are so long (and they are mostly theoretical, I don't usually have a to-do physical list at home-I do at work, of course), I have trouble focusing on a lot of fiction, but I still do  indulge when I can.

Below are the top 10 influential books I have read.

This post contain affliate links in order to help with the costs of running this blog.

The Little House Series

The Little House series. Although these have fallen out of favor in the past few years, due to certain racist elements, the books themselves have had a tremendous influence on my life and the choices I have made. As a child, I smarted with the jealousy and unfairness over Mary's golden hair and good choices. As a short-tempered, brown-haired gal myself, I got it. Darn that smug Mary and her ability to behave. I see this with my own two boys. Gabe can give a little, while Liam will never give. As a parent, I appreciate Gabe's willingness to sacrifice and delay gratification. As a child, I would have been pretty annoyed with him.
The Little House books probably led to my strong desire to be a stay-at-home mom, after teaching in a one-room school house, of course. Special education is probably as close to the one-room school house experience one could have. Theoretically (although this hasn't happened of late) I would have smaller classes and more autonomy over what I are teaching (guided by IEPs and state standards naturally). I didn't know anything about this coteaching thing when I went into special education. It would have changed my mind. Note: I am a Liam, not a Gabe. But more importantly, I remember Ma with her routines: Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, etc. and I desired to create that cozy, rhythmic home life. Then there was On the Banks of Plum Creek and during times of hardship, the girls learned at home, with Ma overseeing their lessons, and I had the desire to homeschool implanted in me. And later, These Happy Golden Years, where Laura first teaches school, with terrible living arrangements, and is courted by Almanzo Wilder, added the romance my teen self craved. I doubt you could bring up anything in these books which I couldn't remember.

Little Women

I first read an abridged version of Little Women on a snow day in fourth grade. I enjoyed it so much I had to check out the full version from the library and was hooked since then. I loved this book! As a girl there were aspects of each of the March girls I could relate to and it was easy to see myself living out the life of each one (well, maybe except sweet Beth). Being a struggling young homemaker like Meg, an ambitious, spirited writer like Jo, or a lovely, spoiled artist like Amy- who couldn't relate to these girls? Of course, like Wilder, reading this book only led to a greater interest in the author herself and reading biographies about her real life.

Sunfire Romances

The Sunfire romances were MY books in high school. The best, by far, were Amanda and Susannah. In Amanda, a spoiled Boston girl travels the Oregon trail and falls in love. In the second, a Southern girl faces the challenges of the Civil War and falls in love with a Union soldier. Good stuff, people. As the series continued, the books got much shorter, and less interesting, but overall, I learned a lot of history from these novels while fulfilling my feminine desire for romance. These weren't Literature, and I caught some flack for reading them, but truly, they greatly influenced me.

The Tightwad Gazette Books

The Tightwad Gazette books were created from a series of newletters which the author produced from her home. These started before the Internet Age, and were chock-full of practical information on how to save a penny, and how that could add up. I believe they did so well, she ended up retiring early. Although I have a love of luxury, which is always in conflict with my tightwadding ways, these books helped through those very lean years of living as a air force wife and later a divorced college student with three kids.

Ahab's Wife
Oh! This book! I loved this book. It is the tale of the wife of Captain Ahab, from her point of view. It is a romance, but also an ambitious book where the protaganist herself survived a challenging Kentucky log cabin childhood with an unbalanced religious zealot for a father, and eventually found intellectual and social stimulation on Nantucket. It was a bit too long, dragging in parts, but truly inspired my interest in Astronomy and the idea of being a Renaissance woman.

Color Me Beautiful

Listen. I am all girl. And I love this color theory stuff. I don't always abide by it, but I read it, I study it, I absorb it. This is the original book with its awesome 80's photos and glaring colors, but truly, if you don't know whether you are a Winter, Spring, Summer, or Autumn, where have you been all your life? Now, there are numerous other books out there that build on this idea, and many website, and pins!

Please Understand Me

I adore personality theories. There are so many out there, and they may all be unscientific and silly, but I will tell there are hundreds of thousands of us, many very intelligient, who just eat this stuff up. This is based on the Myer's Brigg's temperament test and gives you a four-letter code with insight into your personality. I liked this book because I finally felt like someone understood what it was like to be me, and make decisions the way I do. These books and ideas are a HUGE part of me.

The Well-Trained Mind

My educational theories in a nutshell. I believe in a nature-based, Waldorf without the religious stuff, preschool, and then a structured classical education. While I think project-based learning has its place in education, I do not believe in child-led learning at an early age. Children do not know what is best for them, and well-educated minds are not encouraged by following the whims of childhood. And this is why, I so often lament not being able to homeschool. I simply cannot live the life I believe in due to our insane societal structure and cost of living a normal life.

The Anne of Green Gables Series

These should have been first. My Gosh, nothing has probably influenced me greater than the Anne books. I will never be Anne. She is more clever, kinder, and lovelier than I can be. I will forever be destined to be a Katherine Brook, bitter, thwarted and jealous-but oh how I can love Anne and desire to be more like her. These books are great. They are laugh out loud funny, can move you to tears, and how many times have I stopped to wonder, What would Anne do in this situation? Every aspect of my life, which in childhood was filtered through the Little House books, is now filtered through the Anne series. They are my rock.

Women Who Run with the Wolves

Such a great book! This book brought to mind a deep richness and romance which had nothing to do with men. It promised an existence so deep and primal through the idea of archetypes imprinted in our brain-I couldn't help loving it. I haven't read it in several years, and maybe it doesn't quite belong on this list, but I am out of time.

Now, I have probably overlooked crucial books, and I am sure some of you are disappointed I didn't include the Bible or the Harry Potter series. However, I tried to be as honest as I could be in the moment, with kids fussing in the background.

I cannot fathom what my life would be like, or who I would be, without books to influence and guide me. We all have to build structures in our brain, ways to process and respond to the world around us. I believe reading, both fiction and nonfiction, helps us scaffold our thinking and responding in a way that differs from what Disney or YouTube shows young people. I believe our best thinkers and deepest feelers are those who can dig into books and think critically about them (not in the way literature majors do, I could never be one of those people-trust me, I have tried), but who let the words sink in, and throw out what doesn't work, and bring that book into the fabric of their flesh. I believe reading and thinking and feeling what it might be like to walk in another person's shoes makes us more human than we could be without.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Loving Saturday!

I can avoid housework with the greatest of them.

Here is some Saturday fun pictures of my youngest baby.

The Well-Lived Life

Related image 

Someone I follow on Facebook had used this quote to describe why she no longer uses a daily planner, but instead has a simple book which she uses to sketch and jot down ideas.

I love this quote because it reminds me to stop and smell the roses. Which I do already, I can sit and savor the moment like noone's business, but I do find myself drawn to the other extreme as well.

I love problem solving. I get a thrill out of finding the problem in an otherwise okay situation and thinking about how it can be improved. Some people call that negativity. I believe there could be some good in having that skill. I just haven't found it  yet. Or perhaps I am in the wrong field. I love it when everything is almost right, and then! I find the crack. I get off on that a little. Anyway, I thought about this quote and what it means to me.

There is a reality out there. There are sweet, pink roses to smell and there is dark, musky coffee to savor. I imagine the exquisite rush of a blustering breeze at the top of a mountain. The glint of sunlight on crashing foam waves as my feet sink ever so slightly into the damp sand. There are laughs to share and cozy beds to snuggle into on cold wintry nights (well, not so much in this part of the country--oh North, I belong with you). And all these delicious sensual delights indeed add up to a life well-lived.

But what is this about problem-solving? As someone on a constant quest for self-improvement, this made me wonder-am I missing the point? Can we work for more and for better and still savor what we have?

I think we can. I think we can find the crack in the armor, while still appreciating the fine workmanship of that armor. We can see what needs more work, without disparaging what has already been accomplished. I believe in counting our blessings, and I believe in progress. Life merely lived doesn't progress. Constant striving for progress doesn't appreciate.

I think that is what this blog should be about: Finding that balance.

Goal For It Challenge

As some one who is always looking for ways to improve, when I received the email for the Goal For It challenge from Mother Like a Boss, I thought, "Why not?"

I signed up for several home and personal life improvements sites a few weeks ago as part of my "getting my act together" act. I mean, Hey, I'm 45. It is time. But I do not hardly EVER listen to podcasts. I can't stand them. Videos are hard to watch, too. The information is just presented way too slow for my tastes. Plus I hate excess noise. Yep. I am that woman. So fun at parties, right? I want to READ and soak up as much as I can as fast as I can (unless it is fiction, of course). So I have to dance along the edges of a website and dig deep into the files to find the golden nuggets I can access visually.

So I signed up and received an email with a link to my three goal-setting pages. The emails and videos (let's hope there is a transcript! because nothing is worse than a stranger's bantery chit-chat) start next week. At this point, I am not even sure what my goals will be. Aside from the obvious ever-popular weight loss goal, which I am currently squishing nicely (eight pounds lost, so I can't QUITE say I am crushing it. Yet), I am not sure exactly what to focus on. Hence the challenge.

I can't wait! If you want to sign up and do this, too, go to Mother Like a Boss. Currently there is a light blue banner across the front for the challenge which starts soon. 

Friday, June 21, 2019

Get more "Reading" Done Fast!

As someone who loves books and reading, I am always trying to find new ways to get as much information in my head as possible. Therefore I was super-excited to find this article:

The Way You Read Books Says a Lot About Your Intelligence, Here's Why, by Michael Simmons.

I was stumbling around looking for research to support my idea that early academics isn't best (although, likely you can find information to support either side).
Now I will admit looking for research that confirms my biases is not great methodology, and I can do better. I'll work on that later this year!

Anyway, I was so excited to find this article because it gives a clear formula for extracting the best out of a nonfiction book, quick. They should teach this in college. Let's be honest, we can't always read everything that his out there. But we can read reviews, interviews, and first and last chapters within 30 minutes or so. Imagine how much you can absorb by using this method. I love it!

Happy Planner June Snapshot

I am not a huge planner girl, but I do like to have one. I like the way this particular planner invites you to slow down and take a look at your life in the moment. Here is mine:

I am loving this month, but struggling with wanting to take a family vacation next year, and paying down debt that is getting out of control. I know what the responsible thing to do is, but I hate to let people down, too.
On the one hand, I think "Yolo, Dude!" On the other, there are 360 other days in a year to live well.

How do you make decisions like this?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Too Slick for My Own Good-My embarrassing problem and how I fixed it

Most of my life I have dealt with an embarrassing body problem.
I started having problems with sweaty palms around fourth or fifth grade. I remember someone taking my hand and saying, "Eww," and letting go. I remember my dad throwing my sneakers in the back of the truck when we were going on a trip to Ohio because they smelled that bad when I was in junior high. By the time I was in high school, I wondered if I would only be able to date during the winter and outside and safely bundled in thick gloves.

I remember loving accounting class in high school, but also I remembered all the tv shows of business people who SHOOK HANDS with strangers every day. How could I ever hope to lead a normal life when my hands could literally leave wet paw prints on papers and desktops?

Eventually I was able to use my girlish charms to convince someone to fall for me despite not being able to hold hands (I also found that guys who really like you, don't really complain about it). I did choose childcare and homemaking as my initial careers (after those teenage restaurant years). Kids don't complain about yucky hands.

Over the years, I tried everything available over the counter.  I ordered special online products. Powder and antiperspirants did nothing. Even giving up coffee didn't help.

Finally, after my first year of teaching (minimal handshaking required), ( and after giving up the idea of careers in other areas when a lady working for a nonprofit organization I was doing a service learning project for while temporarily working towards a technical writing degree literally grimaced and wiped her hand off after shaking hands with me),  I found the cure!

But let's back up a minute. What is hyperhidrosis?

According to WebMD, hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating (particularly of underarms, hands, and feet) which affects 2 to 3% of Americans for reasons unrelated to exertion or heat. It is a socially and professionally damaging condition to struggle with. For me, it often meant profuse hand and foot sweating starting as soon as I woke up in the morning or a few minutes after. It wasn't constant. There were a few times, on the jobs I got, when my hands were inexplicably dry. I savored those moments. I truly felt I was kissed by God when my body behaved during important situation. These moments were rare, unfortunately. People all over this city have probably wiped my sweat on their pants when I turned away. While for me there is definitely an anxiety link, apparently up to 32% of people with a social anxiety disorder suffer from the condition, (see and even thinking about sweating could cause me to sweat, it also occurred while driving, typing, or sitting around watching television.

For more information on the condition itself,  see the link below.

Web MD information on Hyperhidrosis

I was lucky enough the summer after my first year of teaching to discover an ebook which had the "cure." It only cost about $20 plus about $10 for the initial supplies. And within a week. My hand and foot sweating stopped. Now when I have been pregnant or neglectful of the one week maintenaince treatment, my symptoms have returned, but as long as I do it once a week. My hands and feet are blessedly dry! It has truly taken a huge amount of painful stigma and embarrassment out of my daily life. There has been some compensatory sweating, like my upper lip, during stressful time, but I'd much rather swipe my lip off with my own sleeve than inflict the sweat on someone else.

If you know someone with this problem, check out this link below (or the many others which have since appeared)

This treatment takes some time. I have found using three 6v batteries works best, and it is helpful to have a show or podcast ready to go, because it gets boring. For me, I start with an initial treatment of 10 minutes before switching the current for another 10 minutes on my hands, and then my feet for a total of another 20 minutes. Usually after about 3 to 4 days it begins to work. Once it works fully, I only need to do the treatment every 7-10 days to maintain dryness. Side effects include itching. When the treatment is starting to work it starts to itch during and after treatment. It isn't constant, just sometimes.

Even though, I would rather not deal with this issue, I thank God every day I found this treatment!

Big Potential ~ a book review

Image result for big potential shawn achor

Big Potential, written by Shawn Achor, is not what I thought it would be. The cover states Big Potenial, How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being. Of course, I was expecting a self-help  book which would help me improve my own life bit by bit.

This book, however, focuses on the interconnectedness of each person and how we reach greater heights by working together and helping one another out. This book is about leadership and taking an approach to leadership which is not self-serving, but one in which, each person works to help others grow, and in doing so increases their own achievement.

This is not the kind of book that tickles a self-proclaimed introverted loner's toes very much. But it was well-written and I kept reading and discovered some of the insights the writer discovered.

Achor writes many of us are still holding to a "survival of the fittest mentality" in which we focus on an individual's personal achievements: test scores, IQ, languages, and grades, but he argues by focusing on an individual's achievement, we are limited to small potential. He argues instead that true success, the correct variables to measure success (as backed up by his work at Harvard and some little study at Google), and greatest achievement actually occurs from the idea of "survival of the best fit," (p. 36). This is the idea that social connections and an awareness of their importance,  and the freedom of the team to speak equally and safely as the true key to big potential. 

Now my first thought was, "Oh God. Another leadership book." I am so sick of hearing this buzzword, which has been adopted my own workplace. I could have cried. I lean toward the "who", the individual. I don't want to think collectively. The idea of helping others rise while I feel invisible, is rather unappealing to me. It makes me feel rebellious and pouty and like stomping my feet in protest. But ... I do enjoy a nice small to medium size party, and I do think having a helpful, caring community within an organization is important. So I patted my pouty inner child and reminded her that she knew she needed some lessons on how the world works, hence all the reading, and continued.Now, none of this is brand spanking new to anyone who has been around awhile. We have all been hearing how much higher a goal can be met when everyone is working together, rather than every woman looking out for herself. I begrudgingly admitted there may be something to this, and continued.

The myth of the lone genius is discussed. Einstein and Shakespeare used and built on the ideas of others and what they put into place. Edision had the collaboration of a team that worked with him. According to the book "historians struggle to determine if he ever invented anything himself (42)." While he may have at one time been an inquisitive boy working in his parent's  shed (or something), The Wizard of Menlo Park didn't patent 1000 new inventions by his sole genius. It was in connection and collaboration with other great thinkers and experimenters.

This book requires a shift in mindset, from the me to the we. It isn't about how many points you individually scored, but the idea of how did you help your team win (p.67)? Again, as someone who never played organized team sports, that sounds a little yucky to me. But as someone who led my team to classroom jeopardy victory in tenth grade World History, I get it. They chose me for their team (who happens to love history and have a good memory for facts), and they were part of the winning team! Okay, I am sort of poking fun, but it is true. One of the ideas which has been floating around recently is you are the average of the five people you spend the most the time with. 

This idea that we inspire, challenge, and help each other achieve a greater potential through our social connections is not novel-it makes a lot of sense- but it can be used to help us achieve more. As we help those around us rise and succeed, we should naturally increase our own abilities and knowledge and find ourselves reaching higer potential.

It isn't the best news for a lone wolf, but it is a nice thought to mull over. 

I didn't sell any books, so Amazon cut off my affiliate status, so no link for now!

Achor, S. (2018). Big potential. 1st ed. New York: Currency, pp.42, 67.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Out of My Hands

One of the things I struggle with in this new blog, is how to show my faith in God without alienating those with different beliefs. I don't want to be a "believer and you can suck it" kind of person. Nor do I want to hide the role faith plays in my life because how can I say my truth authentically and hide such a large part?

I was thinking on this and I realized that although I do pray and bring God into my life every day, I tend to try to use Him as a tool, rather than the other way. I sift through challenges and plans and then call on God when I get confused.

And I realized, once again (because let's face it, I am a slow learner!) that God is more than my back pocket friend, if there is a God he is the guiding force of the Universe.

He is not the handy dandy notebook I pull out when I get confused. He is the one deciding the plans from the start.

This is hard to remember. It is hard to remember to ask God to guide your steps so you can fulfill his plan for you, rather than calling on him when you are struggling to implement your plans.

I struggle greatly. I find it hard to accept my place in this world. I want to be known. I want to be right in there making decisions and making plans for the organizations I am involved with. At the same time, I want to be left alone, to leave others alone, and free to express any and all emotions at whichever time I feel them. Those really aren't compatible goals. So when I make a mistake or reach a standpoint, that is when I call on God to help me out.

This isn't a new idea. There are numerous songs out there, the horrific "Jesus Take the Wheel" song (sorry, I just can't Carrie Underwood today), numerous Christian pop songs, all which serve as a reminder that it isn't ME in control of this life, but a stronger power, a Universal intelligence and strength.

This is where the struggle lies, I think. Reconciling the plans a higher power has for you with the plans you have made. Your voice matters. My voice matters. My desires and dreams are a big part of who I am, but they aren't the only part. There is a physical daily me that is who others see as the real me. The trick is remembering to ask for guidance first, rather than as an emergency plan when things aren't working out. Doing so lessons the likelihood I come across as a crazed, unfocused reactor, but a dedicated, focused person of worth and purpose.

This week, in addition to my earlier smiling goal, I am going to focus on asking for God's guidance first thing, rather than begging God to please make my plans happen.

Do you struggle with letting go of control? Sometimes it is scary to look at how much in this world is out of our hands. Think about what steps you can take today to bring you closer to your truest purpose without compromising who you are. How will you get there? Do you believe there is an overarching theme or purpose to your life? How will you reach it?