Jul 122016

the word endure embossed on a gray background

I didn’t manage to choose a theme word for 2016 but the word “endure” keeps coming to me of late. 2016 is an odd year! I don’t feel that I am making much progress toward accomplishing anything and that for every step forward I take, I am set back by some small emergency or another. Fortunately, I manage to recover from my emergencies and get back to where I started but for me 2016 so far has been a lot of running in place. It is no small coincidence that I am also living with a 15-month old who manages to wreak this type of havoc everywhere he goes.

I feel very fortunate that my emergencies are just small, frequent and irritating. I have heard from many people for whom 2016 has dealt some heavy blows to them personally. And in the news we also see a lot of this type of backsliding pattern:

*economic data that seems to suggest that it gets harder and harder just to maintain whatever standard of living we want to achieve

*presidential candidates from both parties who manage to slog through exhausting state-by-state primaries only to find significant parts of their own parties who don’t want to support them

*Muslim and gay Americans who found their worlds torn apart and safety threatened by the shooting in Orlando

*Black Lives Matter protesters who, just as they are gaining traction for their cause, are blindsided by a vigilante shooting police officers

When all of this chaos is going on, it is easy to get down and feel frustrated. But so far, the lesson of 2016 also seems to be that if you can just be patient, and thoughtfully evaluate and react to what has happened, life will reset to a manageable level.

It has been very inspiring to me of late to see the reactions to the police shootings in Dallas. So many people of differing backgrounds reaching out to confirm that no one in America wants a full on race war that threatens everyone’s safety.

So if 2016 is tough for you, hang in there! Endure.

P.S. Due to a recent inundation of spam comments (one of my 2016 irritations), I needed to improve the CAPTCHA to blog article comments requiring you to do a math problem to make a comment. If you cannot comment, please feel free to drop me a line by email.

 Posted by on July 12, 2016 General Tagged with: , , ,
Sep 212014
One of our many challenges upon arriving home: tackling the mountain of laundry!

One of our many challenges upon arriving home: tackling the mountain of laundry!

Hi Anne: We’ve missed your updates now for a couple of months…. “Sup?

I was actually thrilled to receive several recent inquiries about what is going on with my blog. It is nice to know that people miss you when you don’t post!

Fortunately, there is nothing catastrophic behind my lack of posts. It was a full summer with entertaining and cross-country travel. By the time we returned to Virginia, we were all a little wiped out but had to dive right in to the new homeschool year. Blogging was unfortunately moved to the bottom of the priority list.

I have felt completely behind this entire September. All of the activities that most families accomplish before the school year, like shopping for fall clothes and school supplies, visiting doctors for school physicals and eye exams, we had to push to September. In addition, we had a backlog of things to reset to normal from our trip, like doing laundry, writing a pile of thank you notes and washing and repairing the car. We are also in the middle of planning a large home improvement project and researching investments for our personal finances. So, gradually, we are catching up but it is taking us some time. We are going through the motions of our new homeschool and extracurricular routines but it all still feels a bit foreign and unnatural.

While I hope that all of you are having an awesome September and that your school or work routines are running just like clockwork, I am finding numerous examples of people who are closer to my experience where September is kind of a whirlwind of change and we are just trying to survive the storm. A few people in my life experienced major medical concerns during September and there is nothing that throws your life off balance like a medical crisis. Another friend wrote recently that she just feels a bit overwhelmed by her new fall scheduling and is waiting for things to settle into a routine.

In the blogging world, I was shocked to discover that very successful bloggers John and Sheri Petersik are taking a break from posting to reassess their life priorities in light of the birth of their second child this year. (Good for them! A second child is a huge adjustment for most people.)

Also in the blogging world, the local Fredericksburg couple who cashed out their 401k, sold their home and traveled the world for over 2 years, wrote a fascinating post about their struggle to transition back to regular life in the United States.

If you are in the whirlwind with me, I found it helpful to take some advice from Bob Harper, the famous fitness trainer from The Biggest Loser. This season’s show is all about former athletes. The stories are so human and humbling. These are people who have demonstrated great dedication and commitment and hard work during their careers yet still have fallen victim to their own personal demons. It takes a brave person to admit that on national television and it is inspiring to see these contestants have that courage and have the audacity to make a very difficult change.

On the first episode of the show, Bob is counseling a woman who is suffering from injuries. He tells her:

2014-09-17-harper-mindquote-white*I have no affiliation with The Biggest Loser or any other company mentioned in this post.

 Posted by on September 21, 2014 General Tagged with: , , ,
Feb 232012

When you get stuck trying to achieve your goals, it is a wonderful thing to reach out to a community of friends for help.

In the Internet age, sometimes those friends are real people whom you have met in person and know well and sometimes they are people that you have never met but you feel like you know because you read their blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, etc. I hope for some of my readers I am that “friend” to you.

Surrounding yourself with people who inspire you is a terrific way to stay motivated. If you can’t find the people you are looking for in your “real” life, there is such an abundance of personalities on the Internet that there is absolutely no excuse for not having your own virtual salon of artists and visionaries in whatever field you are interested in. Honestly, if you haven’t found at least one personality on the Internet who continually inspires you, you haven’t looked hard enough.

This past weekend, I helped one of my older neighbors set up her very first computer and email account. Waves of nostalgia overtook me as I went over basic things like explaining that the Internet is full of spam and that you should never pay attention to anything about a person in trouble or a credit card transaction that comes to you by email; that using all caps is shouting, etc. I received a terrific e-mailed thank you from her . . . written all on the Re: line. I was so proud of her effort and so excited for all the things she was about to discover and all the people she would surely connect with. The Internet has truly changed the world.

Recently, the Internet came to my rescue with a baking project for my daughter’s preschool. I signed up to bring the sugar cookies for the Valentine’s party, perhaps forgetting my previous baking failures in this area. I remembered a great baking blog that I had run across and looked up sugar cookies. Sure enough, the author promised “I am a sugar cookie snob.” and then gave very detailed instructions about exactly how to make good sugar cookies.

Even with this expert guide at my side, coaching me through measuring the flour and refrigerating the dough, there were a few mistakes, like this first batch of overly-browned cookies.

The burned sugar cookie heart has to be up there with black roses as the ultimate Valentine’s revenge gift.

It took 3 batches to finally get the oven timing right but it really was a good sugar cookie in the end!

Sometimes we need a reminder that there are people out there right now achieving the dreams we want to achieve. Sometimes we need to see their struggle and failures and sacrifices as we admire their example.

Sometimes we just need a pat on the back from a real friend who has no intention of achieving the dreams we want but likes us anyway. Sometimes we need a reminder that people are rooting for us in the struggle, whether we achieve our goals or not.

My wish for everyone is that they have a strong support network to turn to, real, virtual or a blend of the two. It is probably the motivational tool that makes the most difference.

Who do you include in your inspirational network? Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on February 23, 2012 General Tagged with: , , ,
Feb 022012

More signs of change in our garden. Peony buds.

It’s a new month and a new organizing theme here at Ruly. My random Internet searchings last month brought me to a Wikipedia article on the history of the development of the modern day calendar. With great interest, I learned that the month of February is named after the festival of Februa (later named Lupercalia) which was all about purification and purging. Wikipedia describes the purpose of these festivals as “to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility.” Now it would have been Ruly if the festivals were all about storage systems and cleaning house but the real festival was about animal sacrifice and naked men running through the city in animal skins striking people with thongs for good luck. More interesting certainly but how all of that related to purifying the city and releasing health and fertility is not exactly clear to me!  With that historical tangent aside, we press on in our organizing efforts.

Last month, we discussed goals and if you have been reading along, you should have your list of 2012 goals. You may have even started in on these goals. You may have even started and then neglected these goals. How do we transform these vague goals into measurable actions? In short, as Toby Keith put it, we need “a little less talk and a lot more action.” This month’s theme will address various ideas to help you execute your goals.

How are my own goals coming along? As you may recall, my theme word for the year is energy. I have had some success with my individual goals but one noticeable failure. For the past several days, I have complained to my husband:

“I’m so tired.”

Now, while it may be true and even expected of a busy mother of three/blogger/homeschooling teacher, what kind of “energetic” person goes around saying, “I’m so tired.” No one. What good is this phrase doing? Not much.

There are only three possible responses to this statement:

  1. “You poor thing.” (or its cousins “Sorry to hear that.” and “I’ll bet.”)
  2. “Join the club.”
  3. “Why don’t you lie down and take a nap?” (my husband’s practical suggestion)

I realized that none of these responses is what I want. With regard to the first response, I am not seeking pity from anyone. I don’t think my life is harder than anyone else’s and in many respects, I have an easy and enjoyable life. With regard to the second response, I am doing nothing to energize people around me by saying this. All I am doing is reminding everyone of the obvious and the negative and who looks forward to hanging out with a “tired” person? What parent isn’t tired? With regard to the third response, I am not primarily physically tired but mentally tired.

So why I am going around saying “I’m so tired.” if it is doing nothing for me and is likely putting me in an un-energized state of mind? After some thinking and observation about when I am saying this and what circumstances make me say this, I realized it tends to happen the most when what I really mean to say is, “I am dreading doing ______ that I need to do right now.” Now if I said what I really meant, perhaps the people around me could respond with helpful suggestions about how they overcome that situation, which is far more beneficial than just dragging everyone down with “I’m so tired.”

So, while I can’t promise I will never say, “I’m so tired.” again, I am going to start saying instead:

“I am trying to summon the energy to _______________.”

There are many simple language and behavior changes like this that would make a huge difference in our lives but we don’t realize that we need to do them unless we are focusing some attention inwardly. Today’s execution tip is about those small changes.

Ruly Challenge: Is your choice of words or behavior sabotaging progress toward your goals? Pay attention to the moments when you have the opportunity to make progress toward your goals and you choose not to. What are you saying to yourself or those around you at those moments? How are you behaving? Could you make a small change that might encourage others around you to offer help and support?

Have you had any success turning a negative behavior into a positive one? Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on February 2, 2012 General Tagged with: , , ,
Jan 272012

The gorgeous, inspirational 2012 Metropolitan Museum of Art calendar.

Calendars are essential organizing tools for all goal-oriented people. There are a surprising variety of calendar formats to choose from. In addition to a dizzying number of digital and online calendars, there is the classic month-at-a-time wall calendar, planners with monthly, weekly or daily formats and even large wall calendars showing the whole year at a time.

Most people are looking to plan ahead for events to come. In this mindset there is not much demand for a page-a-day calendar. After all, what use would such a calendar be? If you wrote all of your appointments on a page-a-day calendar, you would wake up each day and be shocked to find out that you are running late for a meeting, due at the dentist or heading out of town that evening.

Metropolitan Museum of Art 2012 Page-A-Day Calendar

Yet, I found myself strangely drawn to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2012 Page-A-Day art calendar. My children had fun counting down the days to Christmas so I thought they might like counting up as the year went on as well. As a bonus, it was on sale for 50% off since 2012 had already begun.

When the calendar arrived, I unboxed it and was simply amazed. The design of this calendar is an artistic feat. The simple clear acrylic holder sits prettily on the desk and each page is printed in high quality inks to maximize the impact of the artwork in question. The day and date are printed inconspicuously at the top and the details about the artist and artwork are in a tiny font. Each page is printed double-sided so that when you get half-way through the year, you turn the pages over and flip back through the reverse side of the stack. Eco-friendly and streamlined! My children have so enjoyed turning the page each day to see what we will find and it literally feels like we are touring the museum every day. This would be a fantastic calendar for any office environment as well.

Alas, this beautiful calendar appears to be all sold out through the Met online store, which is great news considering all sales benefit the museum, but you can still get it at amazon.com. If art is not your cup of tea, consider a page-a-day calendar in your area of interest to give you a boost of motivation toward your 2012 goals.

P.S. I have no affiliation with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 Posted by on January 27, 2012 General Tagged with: , ,