I Need some Weekend in my Week!

Several weeks ago I was very excited to see the 50th anniversary Dr. Who movie, The Day of the Doctor, in 3D. The drawback was that the movie only had one showing; 7:30 p.m. on a Tuesday, night. That’s right; I would have to stay up late on a school night if I wanted to see the Doctor!

I am a little embarrassed to admit that on week nights, while school is in session, I am a creature of habit. Like most people, I can be busy until well into the evening but these activities have a goal or purpose attached to them along with a schedule. Doing something as frivolous as going to a movie just seems out of the question when I know I need to be up no later than 5:30 a.m. the next morning and it isn’t even anybody’s birthday.

The evening of the movie I paid extra attention to the events going on around me. The theater was packed with other people who most likely had jobs to report to the next day. Nearby restaurants were filled with families enjoying leisurely dinners. I was amazed to realize that people out after 6:00 p.m. aren’t all just running errands for the next day or picking up kids from sports practice. Some people actually enjoy coffee, ice cream, movies, and restaurants during the week. What a concept.  It dawned on me that I needed to put a little weekend into my week nights, at least every once in a while.

I know myself well enough to know that while a concert or movie is great every now and then, anything I try to add to my week nights on a regular basis needs to be relaxing and not take up too much extra time. I do have responsibilities and a schedule.  So after some reflection on my situation, here are some things I decided to try in order to add some enjoyment to my midweek routines and put a little weekend into my week.

  • Light a candle and pick some inspiring music to listen when I get home.
  • Actually set the table and relax while I eat. (If you are single you will especially understand how easy it is to skip the whole dinner at the table thing.)
  • Indulge in something I usually enjoy only on the weekends like a latte (decaf of course).
  • Take a short walk or drive and explore different neighborhoods. Stop and enjoy any parks or shops I may come across.
  • Mix things up and eat breakfast for dinner.
  • Pick or buy some flowers to enjoy throughout the week.
  • Take the time to talk and really enjoy conversations with my neighbors or anyone else I may come in contact with during the course of my evening.
  • Engage in an activity I enjoy, such as working on a craft, before I go to bed.
  • Keep in mind that if I wait for the weekend to relax and enjoy a few simple pleasures a whole lot of life is going to pass me by. Friday is a state of mind!

What do you do to put some weekend in your week? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!


Minimalist Monday : The Journey Begins!

As I prepare to make the most of the Next 50 Years of my life, I really have to ask myself what do I want to include on my journey to make the most of each day and what is holding me back. Minimalism is quite a popular topic right now. It strikes a chord in so many of us who want more freedom, a more meaningful life, and less attachment to things. Some people may think that being a Minimalist or choosing a more Minimalist lifestyle means living with 100 things or less, giving up computers and TV, or basically living like a monastic. Some people do take Minimalism to this extreme but the heart of Minimalism is keeping what adds value to life and letting go of what does not add value.

Ironically, most of my life I have lived a fairly simple and minimalist life and never realized there was a name for it. At the beginning of the New Year 2013 I was surfing the net when I happened to stumble upon several sites singing the praises of Minimalism as well as a similar topic- the Tiny House Movement. Now, if you have known me for a while you will know that up until 2003 I had never lived in more than 450 square feet and never really put much value in stuff. I had found kindred spirits on the internet, Hooray! Now, if I had just thought to be the first to market this lifestyle (wink and smile). That’s Ok, for now I am happy to work on my ideas of what being a Minimalist means to me and share my thoughts, ideas, and lessons with you via my Minimalist Monday posts.

As I discovered more sites and blogs on the subject of Minimalism I realized that I had a lot of work to do to regain the life I had in y 20’s and 30’s.  The loss of my mom in 2003 left me holding a lot of stuff that wasn’t originally mine and not really knowing what to do with it all. I have been saving and holding on to a lot of things from 2003 along with other things I have picked up along the way for way too long now and I am ready to clean house both mentally and physically. It is my hope that through my journey you will find inspiration to look at what is working for you in your life and what you need to toss out or donate.

As we wrap up 2013 and count down to 2014, here are some questions I am asking myself in preparation to make positive decisions about letting of certain items:

  • Do I like this item?
  • Do I use this item?
  • Does this item hold the same value or worth to me as when I first acquired it?
  • What does this item really represent to me?
  • Can I take a picture of this item to recall the memory? (Thanks for the idea Erin!)
  • If I find I need to replace this item can I easily replace it?
  • If I were to set this item in the garage for 3 months would I even remember that I have it?
  • Are there people who could benefit from or enjoy this item more than I?
  • Is there a sense of obligation that keeps me holding on to this item?
  • Does this item keep me clinging to the past instead of encouraging me to move forward?
  • If someone hadn’t given me this item or if I hadn’t inherited this item would I still want to own it?
  • Did I buy this item just because it seemed like a good idea at the time or because I just wanted something decorative to hang on a wall or put on a shelf?
  • If I had to move on a short notice would I really want to pack up this item and take it with me?
  • If I was called to leave this world tomorrow, how much of my stuff would become someone else’s burden to sift though?

I hope that many of you will join me in this journey of Minimalism as a way of helping to cultivate a more loving, joyous, life.  Whether you want to label yourself as a Minimalist or not, looking at your possessions with a critical eye can be an adventure of self discovery and give you more freedom and time to seek adventures in the world as well.

Until next time have a great start to your week and happy first week of Minimalist Mondays!


Preparing for the Season

With Thanksgiving behind us and the holiday season before us, we are in a period of preparation.

Everyone loves a good party and this is a season to be celebrated. However, as every host and hostess knows, preparing for a grand event can be an exhausting experience both physically and emotionally. Seemingly endless hours of shopping, choosing inspiring decorations to create the right mood, deciding who to invite; the list goes on and on.  It is so easy to get caught up in the details of creating the perfect get together that the host or hostess can lose sight of why they are throwing the party to begin with. For many of us this is exactly what happens to us as we try to prepare for this season. Our desire to give from our hearts and cultivate love and peace in our lives gets lost in the frenzy of card writing and cookie baking.

What if instead of focusing on preparing outwardly for the holidays with cards and decorations to try to create the feelings of love and peace we desire during this season, we prepare inwardly  for the season with self reflection  and let what develops inside us guide our actions of preparation?   Whether you are a practitioner of an organized religion that encourages self refection during this time of year or not, choosing intents of transformation in alignment with the season is a very powerful practice.

Here is a list of possible intents to think about over the coming weeks:

  • What do I bring into my life that nourishes my mind, body and spirit?
  • Are there things in my life that I need to let go or get rid of?
  • Have I learned to forgive those who have offended or hurt me?
  • Have I learned to forgive myself?
  • How do I learn to use my sufferings, past or present, to ease the sufferings in others?
  • How can I best cultivate love in myself, in others, in the world?
  • What changes do I need to make to my life, thoughts, and behaviors to be the change I want to see in the world?

I hope this list gives you some ideas to think about as you hang your lights, wrap your presents, or whatever you do in preparation for the celebrations of the season.

I wish all of you lots of love, laughter, and joy as we get ready for the holidays.


A Miracle of the Season

I don’t know about you, but I usually do not find much joy in stopping by the grocery store after a long day at work. I especially dread it in bitter cold weather, -2 and dropping to be exact. It is this type of scenario that I usually try to avoid. Tonight I failed to avoid such potential misery. Luckily for me there was a little miracle of the season just waiting for me inside the store.

There I was trying not to look too miserable as I slowly walked down the aisles trying to make it to the checkout lanes without slipping on the floor wet from snow and shivering from the arctic air blowing in from the entrance doors when an unusually cheerful young man standing near the cash registers offered to ring up my groceries for me. He had an infectious smile that made me feel a little less grumpy right away.  As he chatted away with the usual cashier small talk, I couldn’t help but notice when he bent down that he was wearing a Yamaka. Since I had spent the past several hours at school teaching several grade levels Chanukah songs, I was very aware that it was the 7th night of Chanukah.  I wanted to say something, but in this age of political correctness I did not want to offend him or say anything out of place.  I was debating in my mind whether or not to say anything when I was called back to the moment by the young man’s voice wishing me a good evening. Without another thought about etiquette I blurted back “Thank you and happy Chanukah to you!”  His eyes got big for a moment and he replied “Thanks, and happy Chanukah to you as well!”  That moment made my day. Maybe even my week. No one had ever wished me a happy Chanukah before and it felt really good. I was instantly filled with joy. All the sudden it didn’t matter that I wasn’t Jewish or that I didn’t know if there was proper Chanukah etiquette I should follow. The only thing that mattered is that there was a sincere exchange of good will between two people of different backgrounds and traditions. It amazed me that it could feel so good to get well wishes for a holiday I did not personally observe celebrated in a religion I do not practice. I wondered how many times this young man had been wished a merry Christmas as he was growing up and if it made him feel good to receive the well wishes even though he is not a Christian.

What are your experiences in giving and receiving holiday greetings? Have you ever felt awkward or unsure if the greeting was appropriate?  Is “happy holidays” to generic or do you prefer to keep it safe? I would like to know your thoughts.

I do not have a dreidel or menorah and I definitely have no idea how to make latkes; but I do intend to have the best 7th night of Chanukah ever.  After all, a very nice young man wished me one. Who would have thought stopping in a grocery store on a bitter cold night would change my misery to joy? Now that is a miracle worth celebrating.Image

Enjoying The Process

So my latest artistic endeavor gave me a little bit of a lesson in patience and remembering it is the process of creating that brings us joy. I am a great example of how teachers can be the most difficult students.

My friends Sue and Dale have a very wonderful tradition of doing crafts after Thanksgiving dinner. Gingerbread houses have become popular over the years as have painting Christmas ornaments. I usually struggle with both projects but have immense amount of fun during the process. This year a very popular new craft was introduced; painting coffee mugs or shot glasses. I opted for the coffee mug knowing that it would get plenty of use.

Things started out well enough. I discovered that I loved a bluish/purple mix of color. Swirly designs were working well for me. I was feeling confident with this paint the mug thing.  Then, I tried to add stars by scraping off some paint. It was a total disaster. I reapplied my blue/purple mix and tried again. The result was even worse than the first time. Sigh.  The third time I tried adding dots to look like snowflakes. My mug looked like it had the measles. In a total fit of frustration I scrapped off all my paint just as my family announced they were ready to leave for the evening. It would appear that I would leave the party empty handed and defeated by a coffee mug. I was trying my best not to show signs of sulking.

Then, an angel of mercy, in the form of my art teacher niece, Andrea, calmly encouraged me to start again with the blues and purples I had chosen in the beginning. She helped mix some lavender to give the colors I had chosen more dimension.  She helped me brush on the color quickly so that I could finish before everyone left. She was not going to let me give up. Andrea knew I wanted a coffee mug and she knew I had it in me to put some paint on the thing.  I was very humbled to realize that the very things I try to install in my students everyday as they struggle to learn and master new things, I was struggling with myself. I needed to let go of the perfectionism and enjoy the moment and process of creating. Andrea helped me to relax and enjoy swirling blue and purple paint together. That was the original intent I had lost when I started wanting my mug to look too perfect.

I love my mug. It is a memento of Thanksgiving 2013; a reminder of the joy of mixing blue and purple paint; and the wonder of how at any moment those around us can bring to remembrance what is truly important if we are open to their influence.  I encourage you to try creating something outside of your comfort zone this holiday season; cards, wreaths, or even a new recipe. Whatever you decide to try, enjoy the process and celebrate your finished product.


That Pesky Attitude of Gratitude

One of the Buzz phrases I have heard the last few years among certain groups of people is “We need to develop an attitude of gratitude!” Buzz phrases tend to get on my nerves.  This one particularly has rubbed my wrong way because underneath the annoying frequency in which I heard this phrase used in the past year was a kernel of truth poking at my own life.

The challenge with an “attitude of gratitude” is while it sounds like something easily attainable with the right outlook on life and correct state of mind; the truth is gratitude is not measurable, nor is it always easily obtainable.  Like love, we can look up the definition of gratitude; give examples of gratitude that we observe in life; make lists and post on Facebook everything and everyone we are grateful for; and yet something is often missing in our attempts to live a life of gratitude, and that something is difficult to put into words.  We often sense deep down that while we are grateful for all that is given to us we haven’t quite cultivated gratitude as a way of life.

To have an attitude of gratitude means to be in a constant state of thanksgiving, even when life is hard. To be at peace when things don’t go our way; when there is loss, betrayal, and setbacks; when hard work doesn’t seem to pay off; and when bad things happen to good people.  It involves a maturity that few of us completely master in this life. Yes, it is possible to be grieving, heartbroken, scared, frustrated, angry, and grateful at the same time. To live in gratitude is to work through our emotions and still give thanks for this life. It is to realize that every experience has meaning and value and ultimately our experiences forge us into the people we are meant to be and help us to be of service to others.

One of the great things about being an American is that we set aside a day each year to collectively entertain the idea of an attitude of gratitude.  It may be followed by pure, unbridled gluttony and out of control consumerism by some, but for a brief moment in time as a nation we understand the need for gratitude in our lives. Gratitude is necessary in order to live life to the fullest. To understand this fact is a monumental step in the development of human potential.  Our founding fathers envisioned this country to be a beacon of light in a world enslaved by darkness and ignorance. Gratitude is one of the keys which helps to free us from the things that hold our minds and emotions in bondage and aids us in cultivating the enlightened civilization so many have dreamed of through the ages.

May your Thanksgiving be truly blessed and I wish you the best of luck as you work towards the state of developing perpetual gratitude in your life!

Seize The Day

Several years ago there was a movie called “The Bucket List”. I never saw the movie but the title resonated something deep inside me. The idea of a bucket list inspired me to find an adventurous activity to experience each summer. First, there was indoor skydiving; the following summer it was whitewater rafting; followed by a balloon ride, and this year it was zip lining in the Rockies.

While trying to experience the traditional bucket list activities, I noticed a very pleasant change in how I was spending my free time. Big adventures were great but I was starting to venture outside my regular activities and find adventure in smaller ways as well. I became a hiker. It wasn’t planned, it was a natural evolution. My love of nature and physical activity, combined with the desire to see new things, began to call me to get up into the hills as often as possible. I started fining all kinds of wonderful things in my area that I used to drive or walk by without giving much thought or notice. This past summer, a walk through the town of Eaton  lead me to discover a little French shop, The French Corner , and an unexpected  stop in Windsor lead me to experience Nana Bea’s, a great little coffee and ice cream shop where I was fortunate to be held up during a tornado warning for over an hour.

Adventure is an essential ingredient to living a meaningful life.  Adventure forces us to step out of our comfort zone face our fears, and challenge our perceptions of the world around us.  Adventure is above all a state of mind; it is openness to ideas and experiences and a desire to learn and grow.  What are some of your adventures? Have you tried a new activity or attempted a new sport or hobby recently?

Until next time everyone, carpe diem. Seize the day!



To Paint Or Not To Paint

I am a frustrated artist. In my fantasy world I am a fabulous painter, sculptor and photographer. In reality I do best with stick figures. Still, I dream of molding clay into something that is worth displaying or finding a beautiful landscape to spend the afternoon painting a work that might sell in a local gallery or at least need no explanation if hung in my home.

I may, or may not, be able to take art classes in the future to help me satisfy my need to create. In the meantime what can I do to help scratch my creative itch?

Well, to start my 50th year off right I came up with the ultimate no fail art plan. I signed my family and good friend Tracey up for a night of Picasso and Wine in Windsor Colorado. This is a full proof method that several businesses have tried over the past few years. Artists give step by step instructions to the artistically challenged on how to produce a painting with lots of assistance and a little bit of wine.  It was a total blast.  My painting hangs proudly in my kitchen as a permanent reminder of my 50th birthday, important people in my life, and the need to create. It may even give Dogs Playing Poker or the famous clown face paintings a run for the money. Yep, I am a high achiever!

There is a ceramic class I am hoping to take after the holidays, schedule permitting. I would like to know what some of your creative undertakings have been, or what you would like to try. One thing is clear to me: we need to create for the sake of creating and not worry about the end result. It is the creative process that makes us human and helps us grow to our fullest potential.