Friday, July 31, 2015

Sanity Saver : Make a List

When I'm overwhelmed and super busy, rather than figure out what I really should be doing, sometimes it's easier to:

a)  identify an interpersonal emergency requiring my urgent attention
b)  conduct in depth research to decide which book to read next
c)  sort the Tupperware 
d)  all of the above  

When there's so much to do, sometimes it's hard to know where to even start.  What I really need is direction, pre-sorted options, and a sequence to follow.  It never fails to amaze me how much I get done when I  just. make. a list.  

Here's an overview of what works well for me.

Weekly Standards List

Weekly Standards are the things I do every week:  make a menu plan and grocery list, grocery shop, prepare meals, oversee bill payments and bank accounts, lesson plans, grading, teaching and tutoring, laundry, housekeeping, etc.  Although more than 75% of my time is spent doing these things, I tend to minimize how much time they take, but ironically, it's completing the other things on my to-do list that makes me feel productive.  When I finally acknowledged that the Weekly Standards take up more than three-quarters of my days and are absolutely essential to running a family and homeschool, two things happened:  I stopped feeling like I wasn't ever getting anything done, and I had a more grace-filled attitude about how long it took me to knock things off my to-do list.  Even though Weekly Standards are repeated tasks, these things are important!

Weekly Task List

The Weekly Task list includes everything I need to get done in the coming week.  Ideally this list is made on Sunday evening, but sometimes it's Monday morning or even Wednesday afternoon when I finally come up for air and grab and pen and paper to organize myself.  This master list helps give me a bird's eye view of what I'm trying to accomplish before the end of the week in addition to the Weekly Standards.

Daily Task List

I make the Daily Task List each morning, and it includes both Weekly Standard and Weekly Task list items.  Generally, Weekly Standard tasks are done on the same day of the week each week (like  Tuesdays are lesson plan days) and they go on the daily task list first, so I can project how much time I'll have left to allot toward tasks and projects from the Weekly Task List.

Daily Schedule

We have a daily schedule, but sometimes we use it as a sequence of events if we get started later than normal (if earlier than normal happens, the world has pretty much stopped spinning).  Having a schedule helps everyone know what they (and everyone else) are supposed to be doing. and it lends a sense of general control to the atmosphere along with some accountability.

I have to admit, there are times - usually after several days of extreme lists and heroic measures to get everything done - when I rebel against it all, and I focus on the tasks that appeal to me most at the moment and just let the day flow.  Allowing myself to do this with some regularity is as much a sanity strategy for me as my lists are.

But when I feel extremely overwhelmed, my best sanity saver is to plot out exactly what I will do all day long in 30 minute increments.  I set my priorities, pick my tasks and plug them into my schedule.  That way, when my head starts to swirl with the enormity of it all, I can tell myself to calm down, because I know if I'm following my list, this is what I'm supposed to be doing.  This keeps me focused and stops me from freaking myself out.  After all, there's not time to think about how much there is to do if you're busy doing things!

How about you?  Are you a list maker, or do lists make you feel constrained?  How do you maintain your sanity when there's too much to do?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Mercy Hunting: Post the Good Stuff

Oh, July, July!  You are so full of good, but you move so fast!!  

We kicked off high summer with Aaron's 15th birthday.  Aaron is my BABY.  Oh, my.  If it weren't such a pleasure seeing him grow up, I would ask him to stop.  He asked to go out to eat with his buddies for his birthday, and we obliged with a surprise trip to The Magic Time Machine.  This is a crazy restaurant full of whimsical decor where each staff member is a character.  The restaurant is so dark, I didn't take many pictures, but you can see Maleficent at the hostess stand below.  We sat in The Library, and Sinbad was our waiter - he was hilarious!  We always have a party on July 4th as well, so Aaron had a second chance to blow out more candles, and of course there were pyrotechnics of all kinds after dark in every direction.

LtDan's birthday is mid-July, along with one of our dear friend's, and she and her husband came from North Carolina so we could celebrate together.  Eight of us converged on the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine for a birthday party extravaganza.  The Gaylord is a huge hotel and resort on Lake Grapevine and it is a world within itself.  I didn't take pictures because I just wanted to enjoy it all, but some day I'm going back just to take photos.  It's amazing - if you're looking for an incredible place to spend a weekend and a Gaylord property is an option, go!  You won't be sorry!  We had a gorgeous view of Lake Grapevine from our room.  We spent the evening at the Glass Cactus, and there was music and dancing and much laughing.  It was a stellar way to spend a birthday!

We love local live music and this week went to an Andy Timmons Band concert at The Sanctuary.  They covered the entire Sgt. Pepper's album, some classic Who, and some favorites from their original stuff (my personal favorite).  I'm not savvy enough to say all the cool things about how good Andy Timmons is, so I will attempt to suffice with WOW, what a great concert!  We sat right in front of Red Beard, and if you're familiar with big name radio DJ's, you know he's a music industry legend.  We hadn't been to The Sanctuary since Nathan, our resident musician, played }this{ benefit concert there, and it was fun to revisit this superb venue - it's big enough to be spacious, but small enough to be intimate.  

The present is loaded but feels barely big enough to cram in all that needs to be crammed in before summer is over, and I have to remind myself to notice the moments and hunt for God's mercies, even on my morning walks.

Last July, I walked 12.71 miles.  This July I've walked 31.35 miles and the month isn't even over yet!  Pardon my completely geeking out on the Map My Walk analytics.  I've learned that getting some protein in before the walk is critical to having energy in the afternoon (I eat a low carb/high protein bar just before I head out), and that drinking water during the trek is critical, especially in the nearly triple digit temps.  

I started my walking venture last year with a paralyzing fear of snakes but determined to get over it.  This week I was thinking about how when Moses was in front of Pharaoh, God changed his staff into a snake, and I wondered if maybe God has worked the miracle in reverse for me - maybe He has changed all the snakes into sticks?  But then that made me really uncomfortable, because there are A LOT of sticks out there.  And anyway, I saw two snakes this week.  But the miracle is that the fear has turned into tacit fascination.  This is a great mercy!

Lately we've had some pretty involved family conversations.  It's challenging when your little ones turn into real live people with their own opinions, experiences and ideas.  They're no longer little guys who listen and then do as you say because you said so.  You have to allow them their time on the floor.  Of course.  Of course you do.  But you forget.  You forget that they are not five years old anymore.  But when you remember to let them have their say?  They keep their cool.  They cover all the points.  They present better solutions.  It's pretty awesome.  I keep reminding myself to talk in smaller sound bites so the conversation can go back and forth.  I'm not very good at this with my kids.  I hope they're patient with me.  

I ran across a great quote in }this{ book today:
The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's "own" or "real" life.  The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life -- the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one's "real life" is a phantom of one's imagination.  - C.S. Lewis
If you're like me and you trip over all those "one's" and they distract you from the meaning, here's my paraphrase:  the great thing to do, if you can, is to stop thinking of all the unpleasant things as interruptions of your "own" or "real" life.  The truth is that what you call interruptions are your real life - the very life that God is sending to you day by day.  What you call your "real life" is a phantom of your imagination.

I'm guilty of that - begrudging the interruptions because they derail "real" life.  But C.S. Lewis has it straight ... the interruptions are real life.  "Normal" days are anomalies.

Many years ago, when I realized it was having an impact on how I felt about the world, I stopped watching the nightly news, since it's so full of specifically bad news.  Even though the vast majority of the terrible things that happen are far removed from most of us personally, when you hear about them 24 hours a day, it begins to feel like it's all happening next door, and that the world is a hateful, fearful place.  I love keeping up with friends on social media, but there, too, the bad news of the world seems to be increasingly prevalent.  You know what?  I think it's a battle, not of flesh and blood, and we need to post the good stuff, too, even if it's small.  When you post that you just got ice cream and you're driving home with all the kids in the back with the windows down and the radio blaring, that's good stuff.  When you post the picture of the dog that greets you at the door every single night with wagging tail, that's good stuff.  When you talk about how great your garden is growing this summer, that's good stuff.  When you post the obligatory photo of your feet from the beach or the pool, that's good stuff.   

I'm not suggesting that we ignore the news of the day - I believe we each have a responsibility to do all we can to right the wrongs of this world.  I just mean we should add our positive, sunshiney corners to the newsfeed.  If we all let some sunshine out of our private worlds, maybe we can help balance out the media-hyped negative perspective.  This is still God's world, and His mercies are new every morning.  Let's post the good stuff! 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Listen to This! Podcast Recommendations, #1

When I was in fourth grade, I discovered audio books in the school library.  The first one I listened to was Rikki Tikki Tavi.  I popped the tape into my Dad's black cassette player and listened to it over and over.  I'm not sure why a girl from the Texas High Plains was completely transfixed by the story of a mongoose's battle with a cobra, but it was the beginning of a lifetime love of audio books.

I progressed from checking out cassettes to CD's then to MP3's from the library, next graduated to, which offers monthly membership plans to purchase audiobooks, and then ... I discovered Podcasts, and it's Rikki Tikki Tavi all over again. There is so much great stuff out there, and it's FREE!  Listening to something informational or entertaining makes housekeeping and yardwork and driving and exercise go by so much quicker, and I love listening to thought leaders, productivity gurus, life coaches, entrepreneurs, and people who are just all around way funnier and smarter than me.  In no particular order, here are six podcasts I enjoy and a link to an episode of each that I found to be particularly great.  Check them out to see if you might like them, too! 

This is Your Life, with Michael Hyatt

(image source)  Michael Hyatt is a highly successful businessman and author who has years of experience and is most generous in sharing life lessons.  Listening to his podcast is like having a well-respected mentor give you personal insights on living life well, fast tracking personal growth, and succeeding in business.

Click }here{ to listen to "How to Lead From the Heart." Michael discusses the importance knowing your heart's condition and how to address it when your heart has shut down.     

Inspired to Action, with Kat Lee

(image source) Kat Lee is warm, enthusiastic, and encouraging.  She talks about faith, doing motherhood and parenting well, and offers lots of interviews with people you'd love to get to know.  If you're a mom and do nothing else but listen to Kat's podcast introduction, you'll be encouraged (and hooked).

Click }here{ to listen to Kat's interview with Sally Clarkson : "Own Your Life"

In the Loop, with Andy Andrews

(image source)  Andy Andrews is like the good neighbor you hope to run into when you have time to sit and visit over a large glass of tea on the front porch.  He's funny, witty and oh-so-very wise.  I especially like that he's a father of two teenagers, and frequently gives practical and reasoned advice about parenting.  I also like the casual nature of In the Loop - these podcasts are unscripted, and I don't think the questions are even discussed in advance, so it runs like a real live conversation between Andy and his host.  Episodes are generally 15 to 20 minutes long.
Click  }here{ to listen to "Respect:  The Often Ignored Gateway to Influence, Happiness and Success"  

The Art of Charm

(image source)  The demographic audience for The Art of Charm podcast is probably 20-30 year old males - the tagline is "where ordinary guys become extraordinary men" ... I'm long past my 20-30's and am not a guy, yet this is one of my favorite podcasts.  Episodes are generally an hour or so long and offer a wide variety of topics revolving around the human condition and how to be better in every area of life.  The interviews are in depth, interesting, extremely comprehensive, and big name guests are typical.  The Art of Charm offers 400 podcasts, and I haven't listened to one yet that didn't offer significant insights.

Click }here{ to listen to an interview with Harville Hendrix : "Getting the Love You Want."  Or click }here{ to listen to an interview with Jonathan Bailor : "The SANE War on Obesity."  Both of these episodes are intriguing - I listened to them both twice and will probably relisten to them regularly.

(image source)  Amy Porterfield's podcast is about making online marketing easy.  She offers fascinating social media insights, and although most of the concepts are still somewhat over my head, her enthusiasm is inspiring and empowering.   

Click }here{ to listen to "Putting More 'You' in Your Business - A Guide to Building Brand Personality"

Happier, with Gretchen Rubin

(image source)  Gretchen Rubin is the author of  The Happiness ProjectHappier at Home, and Better Than Before (I mentioned this book }here{ a few months ago).  Her podcast is a happy weekly conversation with her sister, Elizabeth, wherein they talk about things we can all do to make us - you've probably guessed it - happier.  This podcast is funny, light-hearted, honest and just plain fun.  I love the connection between these two sisters.  Gretchen often sounds like she's just one comment away from being consumed with uncontrollable laughter.  If you have a sister, you'll enjoy the rapport between these two and it will make you appreciate how laughing with a sibling is a pleasure like none other.

Click }here{ to listen to "Buy an Experience, Strengthen the Foundation, and the Challenge of Table Manners"

I'm fast on the way to being a Podcast Junkie, because did I mention it?  There is so much great stuff out there!  Got any recommendations for me?  Because I can assure you, I'll have more for you!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Take Your Vitamins

When I was a kid, if I was inordinately grumpy, my Mom would ask if I had missed my Happy Pill that day.  I distinctly remember the first time she asked this, and I went from grumpy to intrigued by the possibility that there was a pill you could take to make you happy.  Mom was only teasing and meant it in the most light-hearted way, of course.  However ...

Let's suppose we're chatting about life and what we've figured out makes it go more smoothly.  At the top of my list is my morning quiet time (coffee + prayer + Bible study + day planning = my powerhouse).  Secondary to that for me is a collection of vitamins and supplements that I've taken for a couple years, with the exception of two miserable days when I forgot to take them, and my energy flagged while my mental outlook took a noticeable dip.  I swore it would never.  ever.  happen.  again.

I'm not a doctor, and in no way can I be construed to be a medical professional.  I do know what has a positive impact on my body though, and after years of basically ignoring it, I'm finally paying attention.  Here's a list of the vitamins and supplements I take, and why I take them.

Aspirin : anti-clotting agent
The anti-clogging affect can potentially reduce the risk of heart attack.

Alive Women's Energy Multi-Vitamins
These vitamins are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  You've probably seen the commercials - they make you feel good :o)

B12 : for increased energy

Vitamin C : for immune health

Garlic : for circulation and anti-inflammatory support
You can opt for garlic pills in odorless form (yay!).  I started taking garlic years ago to help with complexion problems, and have since read that they help with heart health and blood circulation.  Also:  I'm convinced that regularly taking garlic pills keeps mosquitoes and chiggers away.  I don't think I've heard anyone else make this claim, but the fact is that mosquitoes rarely bite me, and I walk through tall grass every single day with nary a chigger bite, while non-garlic takers aren't quite as fortunate.   Since I've been taking it so long, it might be a cumulative effect, I'm not sure.  All I know is I'm in chigger territory almost every day and never have a problem with them.  I think it's the garlic.

St. John's Wort  : counteractive to depression, anxiety and mood swings
I think St John's Wort helps even out your moods, and makes the ups and downs not quite so drastic.

Ashwagandha : acts against anxiety and agitation, provides general mood elevation and a calming effect
Ashwagandha gives your outlook an ever so subtle lift.  Somehow it brings what's good and happy to the forefront, and produces an overall feeling of well-being.

Gingko Biloba : for memory enhancement, clear thinking and circulation
The clear thinking affect is the biggest deal for me.  For memory enhancement, well ... there's lots of room for improvement.  Although who knows what I'd be forgetting if I weren't taking Gingko?

Korean Gingseng : anti-fatigue, anti-stress, stamina and energy support
The anti-fatigue factor works for me.

Rhodiola Rosea : anti-fatigue, anti-stress, mood and memory enhancer
All that, and Rhodiola helps me feel more energetic, too.

Holy Basil : for stress relief and relaxation
Dr. Andrew Weil says in his book Spontaneous Happiness that Holy Basil "lengthens the emotional fuse, makes you less reactive, gives you greater patience and more opportunity to be mindful."  Yes, please, to all of that.  Just one caveat: I found that Holy Basil makes me a little mouthy - I guess it relaxes you and your filter.  The second time I found myself wishing I could chase down what I'd just said and obliterate it from all eternity, I decided it would be better for me to take this one before I go to bed instead of in the morning.

Melatonin : sleep aid
Melatonin doesn't make me sleepy, it makes me sleep more deeply, and I think it also helps me stay asleep.  I don't normally remember my dreams, but when I take  Melatonin I'm more likely to remember a few.  It does make some people have strange or bad dreams, but that's not the case for me.  The greater the dosage, the more significant the effect.  I take a very low dose just before bed.

Water : hydrates all body systems and organs
I've written about how I finally figured out how to get myself to drink more than 96 ounces of water every day }here{.  Drinking water gives me significantly more energy and I can tell the difference in my digestive process when I don't drink enough (if I don't drink enough, my stomach hurts).  I can't recommend it enough!

Dr. Weil's book, Spontaneous Happiness, is a wealth of great information and is why I take St. Johns Wort, Ashwaghanda, Rhodiola and Holy Basil.  I strongly recommend this book if you're interested in exploring alternative options for supporting your emotional health.

With everything involving your body, you need to do your own research on anything you consider including in your daily regimen.  I added each of these items into my daily vitamin lineup one at a time and took them a couple weeks before adding anything else so I could see what kind of affect they would have and decide if I wanted to keep taking it or change the dosage.

There's my list ... I have a fuzzy memory of  my mom touting M&Ms as "Happy Pills", which I can totally agree with.  But truly if I have to choose between my daily vitamins and supplements and M&Ms, I'll go for the vitamin box every single time. How about you ... what's on your list of Never Going to Miss It list?  I'd love to know!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Paint it Black: Defining an Entryway Door With Paint

Sometimes I wonder how many Pinterest projects I am away from my perfect house ... it's probably somewhere around infinity plus one.   As you get to know a house, you begin to see how it's really going to be used, as opposed to how you think it's going to be used, and it's fun to see that evolve.  Then there are projects that so fully insinuate themselves on your psyche that you don't see the undone reality anymore.  One of those projects for me has been our entry way, and after finally opening and actually using the can of paint I bought months ago, the dream of a defined entry way is now - well, real :o)

Our front door opens right into our TV room, which I'm not really crazy about.  If I had it to do over again, I would build a house with a formal foyer.  Long on my list of home decor improvements has been to define our entry way more dramatically.  We started that definition with the Hemnes sofa table from Ikea (click }here{ to see it on the Ikea website), and that helps separate the entry area from the TV room.  It also gives everyone a place to put all their stuff as they come in the door.  The bottom cubbies are perfect for shoes, which wasn't my House Beautiful plan, but I had to concede to functionality on that one.  Four kids, four cubbies - this was a losing battle.  It isn't lovely, but it works better than a jumble of shoes on the floor by the front door.  
We upgraded the entry light fixture two years ago.  Initially, it was a standard flush to the ceiling light, and the change to an Allen & Roth chandelier adds just the right amount of sparkle.  It adds more than just illumination - the shadows that it casts in the room are lovely, too.

Last Friday, with the weekend stretching luxuriantly empty before me, I knew must paint.  I had an itch to paint so badly that I disregarded my research, blew off the possible mistakes, bothered not to change clothes, and refused to acknowledge I didn't have all the supplies I needed, because I absolutely, positively had to paint.  Anything would do, but with the paint and (most of) the supplies to transform the front door sitting right there, the mission was clear.

I used Sherwin Williams Black Magic (click }here{ to see it on their website) in semi-gloss enamel.  I had most of the supplies I needed, except for painter's tape, but that didn't stop me.  I don't necessarily recommend going in on a paint project without painter's tape, unless you find yourself  facing an undeniable urge to paint, and paint this very minute,  r i g h t   n o w.  If that's where you are, you have no choice but to give in to it, I understand completely!

Here is our entry before, with white doors and few accessories:

And ta-da!  Here is the after:

I began with painting the front door, and that was really all I planned to do.  But, as always when I get a paintbrush in my hand, as soon as the first item has a fresh coat of paint, all I can think is, "I must paint ALL the things!!!"  It was inevitable that the office doors were next - they were irresistible.  The front door covered nicely with two coats of paint, but the office doors required a third coat since after the second coat it was still a little patchy.  

LtDan was instantly on board (he gets me - one of the many reasons why I love him), but the kids ... oh, the kids.  First, they were speechless, and then came the questions.

"Oh.  You're painting it ... black?"
"Are you going to leave it like that?"
"MOM!  What are you doing?"
"Have you ever ... you know ... seen anything like this before?"

Obviously, they are not acquainted with Pinterest.

Next to go under the brush was the stair rail.  

And what the heck, the spindles and base, too.

With the front door, the office doors, and the stairway rail and banister transformed, I wasn't done, I was inspired.  Who wants to stop now?  Not me, that's for sure.

The back door was next.

The black pops out, it blends in with the room as a whole far better than the white did, and the door seems more substantial in black.  Also:  bonus!  a door painted black won't show the grime as much as a door painted white!


While I was at it (this is why projects are never quick for me, I always find side projects) I opted to paint the lightswitch plates as well.  If your switch plates are cheap plastic ones like mine, you'll need to paint them with a coat or two of stain blocker (Kilz) before you apply the paint.  I painted several switch plates since I had the project going, but I still missed a few.  To paint the screws, I grabbed a box that was headed for the trash, punched holes in it, set the screws into the holes and painted them right on top of the box.  Much to the relief of my children (seriously - they were concerned), I didn't paint the switch plates black, but just the same color as the walls, so they blend in.

Before I embarked on this project, I found lots of inspiration on the internet, chief among them being Jennifer's painted doors at Dimples and Tangles.  She painted all her interior doors and they are show stopping gorgeous.  Seeing her front door beside the office door was the vision I needed to get myself going.  Click }here{ to see Jennifer's beautiful home.

 image source:  Dimples and Tangles

I also researched how to's, and followed Sarah's suggestion for how to paint doors }here{ at Thrifty Decor Chick - she has beautiful black doors, too!  Painting beveled doors is pretty basic, and yet there are nuances.  This post is really helpful for the order in which you'll want to paint the surfaces.

image source:  Thrify Decor Chick

Finally, I reviewed Allison's saga of her "Most Epically Horrendous DIY Disaster to Date" at House of Hepworth's.  Click }here{ - you've got to see it to believe it. It's a heartbreaker, but she shares her experience about using the wrong kind of paint with a great sense of humor.

image source:  House of Hepworths

If you're thinking about painting your interior doors, my advice is do it - you'll love the (possible domino) effect!  It'll never be 'just this one thing' for me when it comes to painting.  I can always find one a few more things to paint while I have the paint and brushes out, which is great, because after this weekend my perfect house is a about five projects closer to me, and a little further from infinity :o)

I'm sharing this post at the Thrifty Decor Chick July Before and After Party ... 
click below to see some fantastic before and afters!

TDC Before and After