What do you do when the laundry, dishes, carpool and work all threaten to kill that little dream that's in your heart? I'm over at the Declare Conference blog today, sharing my thoughts.
Hop on over and visit me there!
Have a great day, Rachel
What do you do when the laundry, dishes, carpool and work all threaten to kill that little dream that's in your heart? I'm over at the Declare Conference blog today, sharing my thoughts.
Hop on over and visit me there!
Have a great day, Rachel
Back when I was posting Small Things, (daily tips and challenges to help you get your house in order, which I desperately miss because they mostly helped ME get my house in order), I had one about "What Lurks Beneath" the kitchen cabinets. I thought of it this week, because I had forced myself to *start* cleaning under there again. A cherry, if you will, atop the recent deep-cleaning and purging Assault on Spiders and Various Vermin.
Here is what I wrote back in 2009. It all came flooding back so vividly.
The plumbers were here yesterday to fix the showers. I was ecstatic! Finally, a shower that doesn't shoot boiling hot water out the lower spigot while ice cold water dribbles out of the showerhead! Oh, heavenly delight.
We have a long list of plumbing issues, and I thought we were going to be chipping away at the fixes, with the showers being the only things on the list for the day. I'd scrubbed the tiles and cleaned up the tubs beforehand. You know, so the plumbers would know what a great housekeeper I am.
Suddenly, I heard one plumber say to the other, "Go ahead and pull the stuff out from under the kitchen sink, and follow the line to the refrigerator through all the lower cabinets."
Everything became blurry and I felt the blood rush out of my head.
"NOOOOOOOO!" The scene went to slow motion as I sprinted to the kitchen, leaped over the counter and shoved the poor man out of the way. He didn't realize, as he opened that cabinet door, that his life was in danger!
You can't just spring, "Let's have a look-see under the kitchen sink," on a woman! You gotta give advance warning! There is no telling what perils lurk in the depths of the deep, dark space that houses the very trash of our existence. A person might dive in and never come out alive.
I saved. that man's life.
And you should have seen how fast I worked! As the plumber nursed his whiplash from being tackled, I filled an entire garbage bag of stuff that was toxic, and another with appliances (like an old coffee maker that didn't work) and miscellaneous things that took me 2 seconds to decide I would never use again.
The terror of having a perfect stranger digging through my lower cabinets was greater than my terror of dealing with the menacing spaces that I'd long ignored.
And then I issued this challenge in my post:
Today's Small Thing is to summon your courage and plumb the depths of the cabinet under your kitchen sink.
You will need to set a timer for yourself and work quickly, because any longer than, say, 10 minutes, will cause your flesh to disintegrate into chum and you will be eaten alive by horrible creatures that have been morphing off the cleaning products under there.
You might consider tying a rope around your waist and having someone ready to yank you out when the timer goes off, just for your own safety.
This is not a big, heavy duty cleaning session. Simply pull out what shouldn't be under there, maybe straighten up the containers and cleaners, if you have them, and tidy it up. It feels great to know that the jaws of death have been defeated with a small amount of courage!I
You can do it. Oh, yes you can!
I even gave 75 points toward the monthly total, which gave you, my dear readers, a chance to compete for an awesome prize.
But we aren't doing "points" anymore. Boo. And even bigger Boo is that most of us need some tangible motivation to do such a dreaded task.
So how about THIS instead? Play along with me today!
Leave me a comment, letting me know you spent several dangerous, but productive, minutes cleaning under your sink. I will randomly choose a winner to give this print to:
Last week, Tom and I were settling into bed - he, with a scholarly book, and me, with Facebook on my phone. (No comments, please, about which of us is the brains of this operation.)
As Tom flipped the covers back, I yelped, "There's a SPIDER!"
On the bed.
A brown recluse spider.
On. The bed, y'all.
If you don't know what a brown recluse is, don't do yourself a favor by googling it. I'll just tell you . . . they are extremely reclusive, but will bite if brushed against. And the bites can cause horrid, horrid damage, and not just psychological damage.
We did not sleep well that night.
And the massive cleaning/vacuuming/spraying effort that ensued this following week has been unequaled. Every bed, piece of furniture, closet, pile of clothes, drawer and miscellaneous item in this house has been turned over, inspected and cleaned.
And while we've been at it, we've purged closets and dressers of an amazing amount of stuff.
I ask you: WHERE does stuff come from???
I dropped a Suburban-load of stuff off at a local charity, and another load will be set out for the trash pick up tomorrow.
All of this, because of one spider.
(Well, also his ten friends, two of which were behind our headboard. But let's not think about that.)
It's made me realize how small things can have huge impact for lasting change.
An encounter with a spider made us do something that should have been done long ago. "Purging and Cleaning" is perenially on my list of big goals, but somehow I never seemed to get around to it.
Apparently, I needed the proper motivation to get it accomplished.
Maybe you have a Big Goal that never gets off the "To Do" column and into the "Done" column, too? Losing weight, getting in shape, writing a book, learning a new software program, sailing around the world . . . if you're like me, you've struggled to get to the finish line.
Here are five secrets to accomplishing a big goal.
1. Be specific
In my case, I specifically wanted my house to be completely safe for my kids and grandbaby. A fuzzy goal like, "Get Organized" is too easy to put off, and too broad to make any lasting change. I needed a defined task to get me going.
Instead of "Lose Weight," try "Lose Four Pounds." Instead of "Eat Healthy," try "Make One Healthy Meal Each Week." Being specific makes you zero in on what you want to accomplish.
2. Cast a Vision
I pictured what I wanted my house to look and feel like. I imagined the joy of setting up the baby bed in the guest room, knowing it was clean and beautiful and spider-free. I let myself feel the freedom of being clutter-free . . . and when I was up to my neck in piles of stuff to sort, it helped me power through.
What will you feel like when you can run up stairs without gasping for breath? What will a size 8 dress look like on you when you lose the weight? How will it feel to get that diploma? Take some time to envision your success! Close your eyes and savor the moment.
This is the part where you take "bites of the elephant." Break your big goal into small, manageable pieces. "Today I will accomplish _______________." Focus on today's task and don't get bogged down in thinking about tomorrow's job. I find that my goals often stall because I've failed to set up a system to reach them.
Also, invest in the proper tools you need for your daily goals, and keep them handy. Nothing halts your progress like having to look for things you need to do your job.
No one can do this for you. No one can make you reach a goal unless you decide to do it. Make a decision today. Write it down or tell someone, so that you are accountable for your actions. Then you must do it.
And you CAN do it. You WILL do it. Because you are tough and strong, and made for more than mediocre living. There is an amazing YOU in there, able to take on the world.
5. Have a sense of urgency
Every goal needs a deadline. When things are left open-ended and vague, you'll never reach your destination. Notice how quickly you can clean your house just before a party? Remember cramming for a test, when you had all semester to learn the material?
Put something on your calendar: a 5k run, an event, a party, a meeting, a conference call. Then work toward being ready for it. You will be amazed at what you can finish when a deadline looms!
Our Spider Emergency reminded me that big things can truly be accomplished when we put our minds to it. So often, we let day-to-day circumstances dictate our decisions, rather than putting ourselves in control of our goals. We wish away our time, rather than simply getting up and getting after it. These five secrets will jump-start your goals and get them into the "Done" column!
Tell me: what is one specific goal you are working toward?
P.S. If one of your goals is to create a housekeeping system, here is a great post to help you do it!
Last week, I talked about cultivating peace in your home as the first step to creating a sense of sanctuary. If peacefulness is the foundation for your structure, then Order is the pillars that holds it up. This is great news for both of you out there who are naturally neat.
Not so great news for the rest of us who struggle to get organized.
But there is hope!
I like to use the term "Order" because it feels a little bit friendlier than "Organized." Order gives me a sense that there is some wiggle room in there for my easy-going ways.
I can live with that.
Having order in your home simply means that there is enough structure, organization and cleanliness to allow family members the freedom to function and grow freely as human beings.
It means that you aren't constantly frustrated by the lack of clean socks, you are able to find a clutter-free place to sit down, you can find things when they need them, and you are proud to have guests over. It means that you are free from the chains of disorganization so that you can pursue personal goals.
Let's face it: life is always going to be messy. There is a certain amount of haphazardness that comes with the busy lives we lead. But wouldn't it be nice to at least have a sense of order in the middle of all that busyness?
I believe that is possible. In fact, I KNOW it is possible.
For the next few blog posts, I'm going to talk about ways to create some order in your home and personal life. I've discovered some simple ways to radically change the way you approach cleaning and organizing that will help you carve out some sanctuary at home.
If you are frustrated with your mess and angry at yourself for not being able to pull it together, this little series is for you. Stop beating yourself up, take a deep breath, and relax. We are going to do this together...and by the end you'll have the tools you need to get you on your way.
Let's create some order around here.
Do you struggle with disorder? Is clutter keeping you down? What is your biggest obstacle to cleaning and organizing?
I've been looking at my (ahem) routine and wondering:
1. Why I need one in the first place, and
2. How I could get more out of it, if let's say, I had one.
First off, my excuse: my days are anything but routine. Some days I'm on a jobsite painting, other days I'm in my office on Facebook Twitter Pinterest writing, some days I'm cleaning like June Cleaver. You just never know. Hence, no "real" schedule.
And that may be true on the surface, but the reality is, I DO have a routine, and whether I admit it or not, it could be improved upon. I took a birds-eye view of a typical day and found that there are a few simple things I could do to make my day run more smoothly. Maybe you'd like to try these with me.
1. Start the day by going to bed the night before - at a regular time.
I typically crawl into bed around 10:30 and catch up on Facebook. An hour later I say, "Oh, crud! I just wasted an hour!" And then I try to fall asleep without thinking about all the funny cat videos I watched, or the distractify posts I laughed about, or everyone's dinner pictures. Julie, your Chicken Alfredo looked divine.
Discipline yourself to turn off the light at a set time.
2. Get up and get going.
Build in a little extra time for morning devotions and/or exercise. BHAHAHAHAHAHA.
No, really. These are both things that I tend to push to the end of the day, and by then I feel much more haphazard and less likely to follow through.
Set your alarm fifteen minutes earlier.
3. Do hard things first.
You know, that thing you've been putting off? That task that's tough to do? Balancing the checkbook, making that appointment, paying that bill, writing that article. It's usually not the task itself that causes stress, it's the procrastination of it that wears you down. Tackle it early.
Write down your top three things to accomplish and do those first.
4. Look for pockets.
Did you know that most household tasks can be done in 15 minutes or less? True. It's just that we say to ourselves, "I must clean the house and that will take four hours." And who, really, has four whole hours?
It would be better to say, "I need to fold this load of laundry and put it away." Fifteen minutes, BOOM.
Make a cheat sheet of quick tasks you can do, and bite off small chunks until it becomes a habit.
5. Ask yourself: What good can I do today? Ala Ben Franklin.
I love how Mr. Franklin asked himself this in the morning, and then again at night. It gave purpose and meaning to the rest of his routine...and I think we can all use that. It's the intentionality that makes all the difference.
Look for ways to add value to others.
6. Stop the leaks. Or the hemorrhages. Whichever.
I think I'm leaking time with my phone. I wrote about that recently. I'm working on checking it less so I can focus more. Maybe you're leaking time on TV or Netflix. Perhaps waiting in lines. Maybe making too many trips to the store because you're flying without a menu plan.
Simply taking a look, numbering our days and making small adjustments can shore up those leaks and make us more effective women.
And I'm all for being effective - an effective mama, an effective employee, an effective creator-lady, an effective Jesus-follower.
Do you struggle with a routine? Does the word "routine" sound nicer than "schedule?" It does to me. Let's make friends with Routine and see if she doesn't become THAT THING that takes us to the next level!
How will you use today's challenge?
Last week, I started a simple Productivity Schedule, which I found over at Donald Miller's Storyline blog.
I love how Donald frames his system with a life theme, and makes use of your mental energies when they are the strongest. It is geared to help you structure your day so that you can get the most out of it, and also to remind you of your over-arching goals so that you can not only focus, but reward yourself as you go along. I need both.
My favorite part:
There is a small, revolutionary section to fill out each day: "If I could live today over again I'd:"
Mr. Miller says:
Most people wake up worried about all the stuff they have to get done, but if you think about what you’d do differently if you pretend you’re living today over again, you’ll find yourself realizing most of the stuff you worry about isn’t worth it and instead add more relational elements into your life.
Asking yourself what you’d do differently if you were living today over again is one of the keys to living a more meaningful life and assessing priorities.
I'd never thought about asking myself this question at the beginning of the day. It was much more likely that I'd ask it at the end of a defeated day...then promptly forget about the answers the next day as I struggled with the same distractions over and over.
I'm absolutely astounded at what a difference it makes to my mental focus. It's helped me to spend less time on the unimportant (checking emails and Facebook) and more time on the important (staying focused on writing, adding exercise to my day). What a great habit to incorporate into my daily life.
No matter what type of career you have - from stay at home mama to corporate business tycoon - this is something you can use right away.
Today's Small Thing
Answer this question: If you could live today over again, what would you do?
You can find Storyline's productivity schedule here. It's just one piece of a larger program, but clearly an effective one!
I'd love to hear how you'll answer the question!
Last weekend, we did a bit of filming. I wanted to introduce Flash, my incorrigible donkey, to the people I've been speaking with about publishing my book.
Why am I not surprised that Flash stole the show? You've GOT to watch his antics in the first 2 minutes. And if you listen carefully, you can hear my husband snickering in the background.
Here is the youtube link.
Since I THOUGHT we were doing a practice run for my speaking part, I didn't rehearse or try to get it perfect....but he was being so silly that we just went with it "as is." What a goof ball.
Let's have a little fun with a Small Thing today, using Flash as our inspiration. You can see he has a bunch of great qualities....aaaaand some he's still working on. He's obviously a work in progress, just like we are.
Today's Small Thing is easy and requires no heavy lifting:
1. Pick one of YOUR great qualities...and celebrate it today. Take joy in how much you've grown, what you've learned, or what you're naturally good at. Is it empathy? Sense of humor? Ability to cook? Don't belittle, undervalue or underappreciate the good stuff that's inside you.
You are filled with treasure. You ARE a treasure. Believe that.
2. Pick one quality you'd like to improve on today. And then, make an intentional choice to be the kind of person you want to be. Choose to have patience with the kids, choose to respond lovingly to your husband's request for....well, whatever he's requesting, pray for someone rather than gossipping. You know what you're working on.
See, change never happens until we decide to make it happen. Make today the day you do it.
These are two solid ways you can improve your life today. We all want to be better women, moms, wives, workers and all the things we need to be - and it takes both self-affirmation and self-motivation to get there.
Give yourself a carrot AND a stick today....just like Flash.
40 Extra points for sharing your two qualities in the comments today!
What are you celebrating about yourself, and what are you working on? I'm celebrating my ability to laugh at myself, and working on my lack of exercise discipline.
Enjoy your weekend!
I returned home from the Allume conference on Sunday, stuffed full of thoughts. And one thought in particular, which I'll get to in just a minute.
It was quite a weekend for me, getting to meet with publishers to talk about my book, "The Donkey Principles." I met writers and bloggers from all over the country and heard terrific speakers. Wow, it was an amazing experience!
First off, (because I know you want to know!) I thought my publisher meetings went great. The acquisition editors were kind, enthusiastic and very receptive to my incorrigible donkey and this story about how God is so unexpected in His ways. I think Flash charmed them....I mean, really. How could they not be charmed by his silly ol' self?
And I love, love my agent Ruth Samsel. We had coffee on Saturday night and then wandered through the local Anthropologie store and had a ball. I felt very, very blessed. And so lucky to be sitting at a table talking about a book with people who are actually interested in publishing it. How many people would like to be here?
But what I kept thinking all weekend started with this: that we are all on a journey of some sort. We're all following a dream. And maybe that dream is to be a mama and to have babies on your hip, or finish a college degree, or read the Bible all the way through for real this time. Maybe your dream is to hand-make all your Christmas gifts or live off the grid or be an artist or write a book. And this weekend I was with hundreds of women who are listening to their hearts and their soul whispers that propel them toward their dreams. Maybe dreams that they haven't even dared to say out loud. I know because that's me.
And here, finally is my thought:
While we are following our dream, we can't forget to live the dream. That we are living the dream.
Mostly, it doesn't look like a dream. It mostly looks like messy living and dirty dishes and marching little people toward their baths. It looks like day jobs that suck all the living life out of you, and then the carpool and the bills and the dog that sheds all over your black sweater. It looks like nothing amazing or interesting or worthy.
It looks like you're not making one tiny speck of progress toward that thing that you wish for.
You are living and loving and breathing. You are preparing. You are growing and working it out. You are listening and observing, and creating a resevoir of experiences which your dream will draw from. Even when it doesn't look like anything is happening.
My thought was, don't give up. No matter where you are in your journey. You've got to just keep on going. Seven years ago when I started to write this blog, I just sat down to write posts that I thought might encourage people. And I wrote day after day because I loved it. I still do.
This weekend, I sat at a table and talked about my book, and I thought how far I have yet to go. I thought about all those ladies in the conference hall, and all of you at home who have so far to go, too, and I wanted to cheer us all on. I wanted to just say, let's keep living. Keep doing. Keep picking up socks.
And let's keep dreaming.
How about you? Are your dreams drowning in laundry? What is God whispering to your heart in the midst of it all?
This post is part of my month long series, "Be More Creative" in 31 Days. I am really enjoying thinking about what keeps me inspired and how I can continually be more creative - not just as a writer and artist, but as a wife and mom and business owner. I hope you'll take each day's post and find ways to apply it to your everyday life as well.
H is for Heart.
It's very simple:
The best art comes from the heart.
And if you see art as "communication," you can see why the heart is so important. In fact, if you take Heart out of any kind of communication, you usually end up with something trite, uninteresting and forgettable.
Think of the last time a person's words from a stage or a book moved you. Or a time when a piece of music put a lump in your throat. Or when your child looked at you and said, "I love you." Each person communicated something about themselves - and about yourself - in a transparent, vulnerable way, because it came from their heart. They exposed a part of themselves to you that pulled an involuntary response from you.
I've sat through many business meetings where the lecturers plowed through mind-numbing power-point presentations and I wished to God I was somewhere else. "Oh dear LORD, how much longer?"
And I've been riveted to my seat by speakers whose message is so transparent, vulnerable and compelling that I can hardly breathe. "YES!" my soul responded.
The difference is...Heart.
To be more creative - in any endeaver - you must be willing to be vulnerable and express the "real you." Show us your heart and we will, in turn, show you ours.
Art, after all, is communication.
Here are a few tips to help you create from the heart:
1. Be honest. Skip trying to sound/look/create/like other people, and simply be yourself. Use YOUR words, YOUR colors, YOUR notes...not what you think is popular.
2. Be brave. Take a deep breath and think and feel and speak and create from deep inside you. When YOU are brave, others can be, too.
3. Be humble. Not everyone will love what you do, what you say or how you express yourself. But when you are humble in your approach, no one can really fault you. You don't have it all together and your work tomorrow may look very different than is does today. "I'm still learning," is a great phrase to say when showing your work or revealing yourself.
4. Find support. There is nothing like finding others who share your passions and interests. The internet has opened up whole new worlds for people who thought they were alone in their (painting, drawing, music, motherhood, marriage, fill in the blank). You can learn a lot from them, and you will find it easier to express yourself, knowing there is a common bond of friendship.
5. Be patient. Sometimes your message doesn't come out the way you want it to. Your heart is not translating onto the canvas or into the words you want to write. Take your time. Learn your craft. Let your "voice" develop until what you create sounds and looks "like you."
Today's Be More Creative Assignment is to communicate from the heart.
In marriage, parenting, working and creating, when your words and actions come from your heart there is a chance that something extraordinary will happen. Yes, it's a risk, but it just may liberate you! You will find a richness of relationships and deeper expression of art....because it is the REAL YOU.
What do you REALLY want to say? What do you truly want to express? Who is your authentic self?
Now, think of how you can put those feelings into your art and words and actions. I'd love to know how you can apply today's assignment!