Don’t should on yourself.

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I really should have done my laundry yesterday, but I didn’t. I also should have gotten my MBA, eaten healthier in the last few weeks, and put the kiddie pool away before it left a big, brown circle on my lawn.

I should have done a lot of things in the past 20+ years, but I didn’t. I also have a lot of regrets and guilt, the results of a lifetime of “should haves”.

What is it with this word “should” that makes us all so miserable?

If the word “should” did not exist, I would have a lifetime of things that I did and did not do. And things I wouldn’t and couldn’t have done. What’s the difference? The word “should” implies that I have all the wisdom of today when I made the decision. It also implies that an alternate decision was better.

Let’s take the fact that I did not get my MBA. I did not get my MBA directly after my undergraduate degree, when I feel I “should” have done it. Instead, I got a job where I met most of the friends I still have today. I met my future husband, who has given me two unbelievable, if not high-spirited, children. I also had some incredible experiences that are now my favorite memories. So, really, it’s not that I should have gotten my MBA. I didn’t. Why would I wish for something different now? If I want my MBA, I can still get it.

What about the bigger “should haves”?  I should have spent more time with my dad before he got sick. The fact is, I didn’t spend more time with my dad because I was an adolescent that wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the stories and wisdom that I might have gained had I spent the time. I wasn’t ready, and that’s OK.

We are a product of the people, opportunities and decisions of our past.  They leave small imprints of expectation, and we call on them to help guide us through today and into tomorrow. From an outside, unbiased perspective, this would seem like a good thing. But we humans, unfortunately, are wired to internalize, rate, and shame ourselves into believing that we should have done things better.

Don’t wait for a life-altering event to make peace with your past.

Don’t should on yourself.

Note: The phrase “Don’t should on yourself” was told to me by a very wise woman, who attributed it to another. I only wish I could be so smart to think of it myself.

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The universe is at it again.

Photo: Bresson Thomas

After getting Slapped by the Universe recently, I thought she was done with me.  But here she is again.

Like many people, I have friends on Facebook that I haven’t spoken to since high school. I am naturally curious, and pretty open, so if I get a friend request and I remember you,  I will accept. I don’t mind that we may not have been close back in the day, or may never see each other again, I genuinely like most people I have met in my life and happy to see them again if only in photos.  In most cases, I know them better now than I ever did.  In some cases, I am drawn to their updates and stories and find them fascinating individuals.

A year ago, a series of posts caught my attention and it has been captured ever since.  The poster, someone I went to high school with and haven’t seen or talked to since, has been telling the story of his 6-month-old daughter’s diagnosis and battle with SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy).  Typically babies with SMA Type I will not live past the age of two.  It’s a beautiful story of love, advocacy, and struggle, told bravely. It’s not the first time I have born witness to a person’s open struggles through social media, but there is something about this little girl, Braylin.  I feel compelled to help in any way I can to further SMA awareness, and help her family with the financial strain.

Like most people in this Great Recession, we have limited funds and a strict budget.  I wish I could support every cause, every walk, and every girl scout cookie seller I come across, but it’s just not possible.  Instead, I have selected a small number of causes that are close to my heart to support, giving what I can.  One organization I support is the Alzheimer’s Association, since the disease took my father just 2.5 years ago.  Sadly, SMA is not on my list.  And strangely, it has really been bothering me.

It’s as if the universe felt my struggle.

“SMA research offers a ‘collateral benefit’, meaning that scientific discoveries in the field of SMA will be strongly translational towards a host of other serious conditions; this also means that progress towards treating and curing spinal muscular atrophy will directly strengthen that same progress within numerous other medical categories. Advancements in the field of SMA research might therefore offer hope to not only members of the the SMA community, but also to the wide range of patients, families, and friends who have been affected by many other serious illnesses. Among the diseases and disorders that benefit from SMA research: Alzheimer’s…”

via An Important and Beneficial Aspect of SMA Research | Spinal Muscular Atrophy Blog.

The NIH has determined that SMA is closest to a cure out of 600 other disorders, and well known researchers have determined that a viable treatment for SMA is possible IF the research is funded. There is a lot of hope among the SMA community, and all the communities collaterally benefiting from their success, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s  and ALS/Lou Gherig’s Disease.

Once again, universe, well played. And thank you for not slapping me this time.

I’m not sure how this message from the universe will manifest yet, but I have added SMA to my list of causes as a subset of Alzheimer’s. Consider this your introduction.  You may not have any knowledge or been directly affected by this disease, but clearly the research is important to many of us.

Beyond the diseases, this experience has reminded me that we can find inspiration from anyone at any time.  It’s important to stay open the amazing stories happening around us and continue learning from the people that inhabit our world.  What began as a story that tugged at my mother’s heart, is ending as a larger message about listening to the universe and what she is telling us.  My gut was telling me that Braylin’s story was important to me, I just had no idea how our stories would intertwine into a shared goal of a cure for neurological diseases.

To meet the little girl that inspired this post, you can find her at StrongHeartWeakMuscles.com. Braylin’s parents are fighters, and they do everything they can to give her what she needs. Please consider contributing to their fund to help offset the astronomical cost of care. Just the initial set up for in-home equipment is over $20,000 with future costs over $100,000.

You can learn more about SMA at Families of SMA.

The REAL Hunger Games Review

It was a big weekend for the Hunger Games.  Many of you wondering, how was it??

The story opens with me gorging on pizza Friday night, washed down with a glass of wine. OK – it was two glasses. (Why did I have to post that witty comment on Facebook about the second glass? Grr.)  It fell just short of the drama and excitement I had anticipated, but I recognize now that it was just setting the stage.

I awoke Saturday morning to the blissful silence of an empty house. The two characters, Crazy Pants and Diabolical had successfully outwitted the generous and kind Pops, and were happily traveling the aisles of Target.  They had promised him all sorts of laughter and delight, but Pops soon realized he was entering the Chamber of Doom strapped to a shopping cart.

Delighted with the turn of events that morning, I resolved to make good on my promise to Master Thigh that I would no longer lavish her with gifts of decadence.  Unfortunately, her trusted advisor and resident evil conniver, Sir Stomach, had his plans for me.

Innocently stirring my coffee – with low-fat milk and Splenda – Sir Stomach slowly sidled up inside me and casually mentions that we have breakfast burritos in the freezer. “There’s only one left,” he pleaded. Of course there is only one left, I ate the other one not two days ago. It was then I had the sudden and shocking realization.

The Hunger Games had already started.

How had I missed the signs? The pizza gorging Opening Ceremony, the quiet of the morning…

I quickly jumped into strategy mode, wolfing down the last burrito. (I wouldn’t want that temptation around now that the games have started!). I looked ahead at the coming afternoon and made the snap decision to get as far away from the Baiting Ice Box, and bringing Crazy Pants and Diabolical along for safety.

Once I secured my wards and arrived at the zoo, I breathed a sigh of relief. This would be a safe haven for a short while, allowing me to continue my training (stroller pushing and chasing) that would help later in the round.  My security was short lived as I heard the small, whining voice erupt in my left ear.

“Mom, I am hungry.”

Ach! Sir Stomach had turned Crazy Pants, and she was now working against me. I took a deep breath, kept my cool. I didn’t want to let on that I was on to her. We strolled to the nearest “Café” and I stoically ordered a kids meal. Just one. Crazy Pants and Diabolical could share. They would not defeat me!

As we left the café, I congratulated myself on only eating half the quesadilla, all the fries, and SKIPPING the soda.  In hindsight, I can see the games were wearing on me.

The biggest challenge was yet to come, and I was ready.  The Street Food Fair loomed in the darkness that evening.  In preparation, I had foregone all food and drink, and was readying my responses to vendor cat calls.

I found my fellow competitors turned revelers; Skinny Pants, Gorger, and Just One, and we began the challenge.  First stop, single glass of wine. Second stop, pass on the cupcake (yes! Thankfully it had coconut on it, gross). Third stop, free wine? Just One said it was OK.  With only one more stop to go, I thought I had this competition in the bag.

Two bottles of wine, 4 appetizers, 1 entrée, and a promise to join a sky-diving trip later, I went home. I felt defeated, but optimistic. (I did have a lot wine, everything looked good.)

I was abruptly awoken on Sunday morning by Diabolical’s screams. Sir Stomach had gotten to him too. I knew the screams would awake Crazy Pants and I had little time. I was losing my allies faster than I was gaining weight.  But what they didn’t know was that I had a secret defense this time, the Hungover Medallion.

The Medallion protected me for some time, but it was not to last.  It wore off during the vulnerable time of the rains, and I found myself stuck. I was in the home zone, with limited supplies.  I panicked, looking for help, and turned to Pops for support. Previously, Pops had proven to be a very good cook with limited supplies and a strong contender for Healthiest Player in the Games.  He was my best defense.

“Let’s order pizza and wings, delivery,” he offered. The dreadful Sir Stomach had taken another.  My defenses severely weakened, I let go. The Games had won. I was done.

As if sensing a disturbance in the Universe, Princess Pilates sent a text message out:

“Would you like to come in early tomorrow?”

Yes. Yes I would.

Foolproof New Year’s Resolution?

It’s the end of another year.

Did you stay true to your promises of 2011?  Did you lose steam in January, March or May?

I find New Year’s Resolutions to be daunting and difficult to dream up, and infinitely harder to follow through on.  What is at the root of all these resolutions? The common denominator of the inspiration that compels millions of people to post sticky notes on their mirrors, announce commitments on Facebook, and develop internal mantras to begin on January 1?

I think I have my answer:

We want to feel better next year than we did the last.

Whether it’s a commitment to ourselves, our families, or our communities around us, we want to make a meaningful change in our lives or lifestyles that will make us feel better about what we do each and every day.

Personally, without a reminder, I lose sight of my goals by February 1.  Worse, by this time next year, I will be chastising myself for not having the tenacity or will power to make even the slightest gain on the goal so hopefully set 12 months ago.

This year I am going to lock in my commitment, and put it on auto-deduct.

My New Year’s Resolution: Get inspired creatively and professionally, and make a meaningful change in my work.

My Reminder: A monthly $10.00 donation to Art & Creativity for Healing, Inc. An organization that uses creativity as a way to open up new lines of communication that leads to incredible healing for thousands of people every year.

The Payoffs:

  • I get a monthly reminder of $10.00 on my statement to keep me thinking about my larger goal.
  • I am supporting an organization I believe in.
  • Regardless of my personal progress, I know I am supporting a cause that uses creativity to make the lives of others better.

How you can incorporate this into your own resolution:

Once you have your resolution – find a cause.

  • Weight Loss Goal? Support a food bank.
  • Professional Improvement? Support an organization like Dress for Success that helps people find gainful employment.
  • Debt Reduction? Support a homeless shelter or an organization providing the basic life necessities for those without.
  • Already supporting an organization? It doesn’t matter as long you make a monthly payment.
  • Already making a monthly donation? Increase it by $5, make the increase your reminder.

Set up an automatic donation either through the organization themselves, or through your online bill pay service as an auto pay.

Most importantly, commit for the year.

At the end of the year, reflect on how your $10.00 monthly donation made an impact on someone’s life.  I can’t imagine you will be disappointed in yourself this time next year. 

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” ­­ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Will you put your New Year’s Resolution on auto pay? Let me know!

Happy New Year!

Please feel free to share this post with friends, family, Facebook & Twitter.  Imagine the impact we could make? 

Our (small) house. In the middle of the street.

We live in a small house. Our main house, where the four of us spend 85% of our time is 635 square feet.  We have a converted garage that adds 300 sq/ft, and the ability for us to have a family member, or two at most, stay from time to time.

We had a big house, with big rooms, high ceilings, integrated sound system, hardwood floors.  We had a guest suite on a separate floor with a private bath. We had a double car garage, and a finished attic.

We also had big energy bills, big property taxes, big mortgage payments, very few guests, and a massive list of wants:

  • New furniture to fill the big rooms
  • New music to play on our big sound system
  • New cars to fill our garage
  • Even a new kitchen at one point!

Now. In this house. I want a new rug for the living room.   My husband, however, is fine with our current rug.

I’m surprised that downsizing our living space has downsized the “need” for stuff.  There is the obvious: less space = less space for stuff.  But it’s more than that.  When you live in a small house the stuff you DO have is more visible.  There is no hiding, losing, storing, closeting, etc.  The things that you have and hold onto invade your daily living as constant reminders of all the things you ALREADY have. When your life FEELS full, you lose your appetite for more.

While many of us aspire to lead happier lives and reduce our impact on this planet, I wonder how much we consider our living space as our inspiration?

This brings me to my current fascination: The Tiny House Movement

“The rhetoric of modern tiny-house living begins with the assertion that big houses, aside from being wasteful and environmentally noxious, are debtors’ prisons.”

via The Rise of the Tiny-House Movement : The New Yorker.

Our house is enormous compared to Tiny House standards (100-130 sq/ft), but the effect on my life has mirrored the ideals of the movement.  Tiny houses are the outcome of ideals: less debt and less impact on this planet.  My small house is not the outcome, but the inspiration of those ideals.

I have planted vegetables for the first time since elementary school science.  My kids wear hand-me-downs.  We do not have car payments, nor plan to in the near future.  We are more thoughtful about where we spend our money.  Most importantly, we talk less and worry less about money and “stuff”.

Consider these numbers:

From 1950 to 2000 in the U.S., average residential living trends
have been towards bigger homes with fewer occupants:

  • the number of occupants per house decreased by 22%. 
  • living space per person increased by 183%. 
  • home size increased by 120%
Additionally:
  • 26% of available edible food is wasted at the consumer level.
  • In 2000, the per capita consumption of all materials in the United States was 23.7 metric tons, 52% more than the European average.
  • In 2008, the average American generated 4.5 lbs of municipal solid waste (MSW) each day, with only 1.1 lbs recovered for recycling.  For comparison, MSW generation rates (in lbs/person/day) are 2.42 in Canada, 3.5 in Germany, and 3.44 in the UK.

–  Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan. 2010. “U.S. Environmental Footprint Factsheet.” Pub. No. CSS08-08

We did not buy our small house for altruistic reasons, but living in a smaller space has had the unintended benefit of curbing my desire for “stuff”.

The Tiny House Movement is most likely not in our future, but hopefully what we learn from this small house, we will take with us to our next (admittedly, probably bigger, but not as big as it might have been).

For more information about the Tiny House Movement and other small house endeavors, check out the Tiny House Blog, This Tiny House, and The Small House Society.

Might be late, but it’s a fabulous party!

Apparently 4,000,000+ people are already in attendance, but it’s like I’ve discovered Ibiza for the first time.

I give you: designboom

The best source of design inspiration on the web.

It’s like you’ve just entered the cool kid party and you’re not sure where the keg is. Don’t be afraid. You have on your Cloak of Invisibility  and no one cares how you stumble about, just go and have fun. Get inspired!

Why am I so obsessed?

If you think this is just “cool, new-age, artsy stuff on a website” then you have not partied at designboom yet. It doesn’t matter if you are an engineer, housewife, sales manager or psychologist, I promise you will find something on this site that speaks to you. One of my favorite discoveries is “design in science”. Art + Science = WAY COOL.

- image from designboom.com

They also have a small store, perfect for finding that perfect gift.  See my last post, Give a Little Love,  to understand why I love this section.

Where else can you find that perfect stocking stuffer for your reader/student/cookbook enthusiast? For $19, you can get some of that holiday shopping done TODAY!

- image from designboom.com

If you aren’t into reform of any kind, or shopping in August for Channukah presents, fear not, there is a chill room at designboom just for you.  Look around for a bit and I promise you will find something that makes you go hmmm…

- image from designboom.com

Go get inspired people.  Nobody is watching where you click.

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