Monday, October 2, 2017

5 Things: My Mind is on Food

After watching What the Health, my girls decided to go vegetarian. Of course, I had to follow suit as not to be tasked with making two meals per day.
 I have been experimenting with new vegetarian recipes, especially the recipes that can be frozen as I love to be able to make food ahead and save myself time and energy on week days.

Two recipes are absolutely fantastic:

1. White Bean Buffalo Soup. This soup has such a great flavor and froze/reheated very well. It was a hot with the man and I could not get enough of it in my lunches at work. Two thumbs up!

2. Cheesy Broccoli Soup. When replacing the chicken stock with vegetable stock, this is a great vegetarian soup. The smoked gouda added such a great flavor, I could not recommend this any more. This also froze and reheated well.

3. Since it is time to switch my closet to my fall wardrobe, I am started the Project 333 challenge this weekend. I am reducing my wardrobe to 33 items and outing the rest away for 3 months. I am excited to have less in my closet and to see how I do with less options. I do believe my mornings will be much more simple.

4. I am somehow now obsessed with desserts in a jar... although I have never made one. But I will be trying to make some this week!

5. Time to start planning our annual pumpkin carving party!

Let the weekend begin!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Mom-Shaming: You Can Help Stop the Obesity Epidemic

Beware: what I am about to post may trigger you. Those of you who are sensitive to mom (or dad) shaming... it is coming.

I have seen a post on social media recently. The first time I thought was a fluke and I moved on. But now it seems to be gaining momentum and I am a bit taken aback.

Have you seen the school lunch hack that looks like this:

Do you see what is in there? The hack includes advice to pre-make 30 or so lunches (minus the main coarse of a sandwich or something of that nature) using an over-the-door shoe rack. While I love the ingenuity of pre-making all those lunches, I am just surprised at the content. I live in my own bubble I guess, but in my bubble, people know the health risks of giving your children soda on a daily basis. Not to mention pairing that soda with other sugar-laden snacks. 

Before we get too far down this rabbit hole, please let me clarify that I have lived every Momma life you want to throw out there. I have been married and working full time. I have been married and stayed at home. I have been a single mother who worked part time. I have been a single mother who worked full time (and then some!). 

I know the challenges of working 60 hours a week and trying to prepare healthy food for my 3 children. I know the challenges of surviving in a household with one income and trying to prepare healthy food for my three children. I have done it all. But, in the end, I have always found a way to make it work.

I am not really out to shame other parents. I truly think there must still be a lack of education. I don't think any parent wants to cause their children heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, sleep apnea... and the list goes on... by provided them poor nutrition. I am just not sure how the big processed food corporations are winning and our nation is become more and more obese by the day.

I do want to address the cost issue since that is one huge fallacy that really scares people. I do not know how or why people are kept under the assumption that eating better is so much more costly. Much of my youth was spent on government assistance and the vast majority of my food was home cooked because that was all my mother could afford. I distinctly remember that buying Oreos was such a fancy treat because my mother could bake 4 dozen cookies for the price of a small package of Oreos. We often had oatmeal for breakfast because the processed cold cereals were too expensive.

I decided to do a comparison of what the lunches above cost as compared to what I provide my children. I went online and got prices from Walmart as I think that is one of the least expensive places to buy your groceries and is available to a large portion of the US population.  I am only comparing the snacks and drinks with the presumption we both give our kids a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. 

Almost exactly the same cost but wayyy less added sugar and way more nutrients provided. A child should have no more than 25 grams of added sugar PER DAY. This lunch on the left more than doubles that in ONE MEAL. It also provided barely any nutrients that a child needs to sustain themselves throughout their school day.

Again, same price but this lunch on the left would provide THREE TIMES the recommended added sugar for one day!

It is not about shaming, it is about education. How can we educate these parents? I was recently watching a show where a woman was trying to lose weight. It was so sad to hear her say that her life would have been so different if only her parents had taught her to have a healthy relationship with food from the beginning. She had 20 years of poor eating to try to reverse the effects of as well as retrain her brain to combat the addiction to processed foods. She had such an uphill battle ahead of her that would most likely last the rest of her life.

Here are a few tips to help make some changes. All may not be feasible for every family, but I think any change is a step in the right direction:

• Eat together, eat at home
• Eat healthy meals and snacks
• Model healthy eating choices
• Increase activity, decrease inactivity
• Get active with your kids
• Participate in community activities
• Only 8 ounces of sugary drinks per week
• Avoid diet trends for children
• Know when to consult your doctor about your child’s weight

Your child's life is worth it.

Friday, September 22, 2017

5 Things Friday: A Motley Mix

1. Speaking of authenticity, I need to start by loving myself. All parts of myself. I so struggle with being comfortable in my own skin. I found a great course I think I am going to take: 10 Days of Body Neutrality Discoveries. I am hoping this e-course will help me let go of body shame and move me towards more acceptance.

2. I sense a trend here. I have decided to let my grey hair show! I started graying when I was 22. With black hair, that is a very noticeable change. I have never accepted that gracefully, so I have spent 20 years dying my hair. It is time to let it go... but not in a subtle way. I want to make fun of it. I have found a ton of ideas and I would LOVE input. What style and color do you love?

3. My family has been eating vegetarian for about 6 weeks now. I am officially sick of looking for new recipes that 3 children will all eat. I found a new one this week, though, that was delicious. I actually bought ingredients the next day to make another batch to freeze. If you like buffalo wings, you will love this soup.

4. Halloween is coming... I hope my friends and neighbors get on this bandwagon.

5. I can not really put a list together without a living simply bullet: 25 Things to Get Rid of This Fall... some great tips here.

Happy Friday Bitches!!!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

15 Habits of Authentic People

Authenticity is a word that has caught my attention more than once recently. I have spent the last few years becoming acutely aware of who I am and what things need to change so that I can live my best life.

While I am on this path, something in the universe keep throwing "authenticity" my way.

And so I decided to research authenticity. Authenticity as it pertains to people... more specifically as it pertains to me. Am I authentic? If not, is it a quality I should be aspiring to develop?

What are some of the key characteristics that define authentic people? I have come up with 15 major indicators that really strike a chord with me:

  1. They figure out what they're tolerating and tolerate less. You tolerate things because you're just not quite ready to deal with something. Can be anything from - home repairs, clutter, paying attention to your body, or even unsupportive relationships. 
  2. They don’t complain as they take full responsibility of their lives. They take personal responsibility for how their actions created a certain outcome. They are willing to look at how they influenced each and every situation and act accordingly.
  3. They find genuine connections: They seek to truly understand the people around them. They ask thoughtful questions, and listen intently. By developing a genuine understanding of and connection to the people they are with, they are more likely to feel genuine and authentic themselves. 
  4. And, to make genuine connections, you must be present: They are more present in their conversations and relationships. They are active listeners, and give people their full attention. Mastering the art of presence perhaps is the single most effective way to ensure authenticity in any situation. They truly listen to others. They don’t listen in order to respond. Nor do they listen to others while being distracted by their phone, the TV or whatever else may be a distraction. They’re able to be fully present with another person. They’re able to listen to others with a genuine interest and care for the other person. 
  5. They see value in giving love to others. They see value in giving love and kindness indiscriminately. They understand that we are all connected and are willing to give others a helping hand. They know that by helping others, they are helping themselves. They allow and encourage others to express their own truth with love and acceptance as well. 
  6. They’re perfectly happy in their own company and they’re great friends with their own selves. 
  7. They put some time into personal growth. This can be through classes, volunteering or hobbies. Regularly doing hobbies that inspire people to improve skills is a great way to define what makes them happiest. 
  8. They accept their flaws. Being comfortable with yourself requires you to accept that you are not perfect. If you know your flaws and make efforts to avoid hurting others or yourself with them, then you are much more in touch with reality. 
  9. They keep all of their agreements. They don't take agreements lightly. They really consider: Do you want to say yes to this or not? They write all of their agreements down, because most people forget the things they agree to. It is too easy to forget. They schedule time to do the actions or the activities that are required to keep that agreement. They inform someone if they are going to have to break an agreement as soon as they know it is going to be broken, rather than wait until the last minute, because then they don't have time to reconsider or reschedule themselves. 
  10. They recognize the emptiness in material things.  They also don’t rate other people based on the material items that they have or don’t have because they know it doesn’t hold much meaning. 
  11. Instead of investing in material things, they recognize that experiences make their lives richer. They’re aware of how life experiences create more meaning in our lives. They are open to explore and learn, both externally and internally. 
  12. They make the most out of the situations they find themselves in, good or bad. 
  13. They let go of critical and toxic people, although they don’t hold any bad feelings towards them. 
  14. They express their true thoughts, feelings and views unapologetically They don’t say things that they don’t truly mean. They don’t do things that they don’t really want to do. They are able to share their own unique thoughts, feelings and views without fear of other’s opinions. 
  15. They’re not out to please people. They know that by living their lives to please others all the time disconnects them from their own inner experience. They know the importance of being aware, acknowledging, and expressing their own unique thoughts, feelings and views to the world. They know that by expressing their true internal experience, they are able to share their gifts with the world. 

And now that I have defined some of the traits, I need to assess my values and find my way to my true self. Are you authentic? Do you believe in authenticity?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

5 Ways To Create A Positive Change Today

Change happens when we come together. And right now, more than ever in my lifetime, we need to come together.

"I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."   
-Nelson Mandela

We each are responsible for our own actions and have the opportunity to change ourselves, our family and our community. Imagine if everyone could make that commitment? Only then can we start to change the entire world, one beautiful home at a time.

Here are five small changes to get you started:

  1. Educate Yourself. Let your ego go and stop right fighting. It is hard to fight ignorance with ignorance, so be the person who is actually educated on the cause you are fighting for. I actually spent a lot of time researching neo-Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalists, alt-right, etc. yesterday. (Lord help me if somebody looks into my search history!) But, to me, I want to have an educated opinion if I ever have the opportunity to have a discussion with one of these groups of people. And that goes for anything I am rallying for. If I am trying to fight climate change or help fight the drug epidemic, I need to be knowledgeable to make sure my voice is most effectively heard.
  2. Spread Peace in Small Ways Within Yourself. Set the example. Refrain from gossiping at work and judging people. Don't lose your cool at the guy who cuts you off in traffic. Your children are always watching and absorbing your attitude. Start with the small things and lead by example to be tolerant and forgiving whenever possible. 
  3. Volunteer. Join the school board. Volunteer at a shelter. Help feed meals to the homeless. And if you are driven by a societal problem as well as its symptoms, you might not just help out at a shelter; but you also might advocate for new housing policy. Stand up and do something, anything. So much of contributing politically and civically is local in its nature that is the perfect place to make a change.
  4. Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is. Make sure you are not supporting a business that is run by someone who holds views you are vehemently opposed to. That is downright hypocritical. This goes back to educating yourself: know who you are dealing with. This applies to donating to charities as well. Make sure you know where your money is going by first checking a non-biased site like Charity Navigator, which will spell out exactly where your money is going within the charity. Next, simply make sure their values line up with yours. Are they opposed to gays? Are they a board made up of 100% men? Just be aware that where you spend the mighty dollar sends a message.
  5. Be Kind. That's a given, right? But are you doing it? A lot? Speak with a kind voice (literally and figuratively), let someone in line in front of you, take your new neighbors a bottle of wine, tell a policeman how much you appreciate them... just be kind. This is the first and foremost way we can change the world... let the next generation see that, "Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive." -Dalai Lama
My new mantra is, "When they go low, we go high," and I am determined the hatred can be killed with kindness.

Friday, July 28, 2017

7 Clues That You May Be A Highly Sensitive Person

As I mentioned in my last post, my research regarding my own introversion is an ongoing endeavor. I am constantly discovering new and different things about myself. I guess my advanced age is making me more self-aware and also more interested in adapted myself so that I can lead the most fulfilling life possible.

My new discovery is that audio and visual distractions hurt me to my core. I mean, it's not new to me abundance of noise and clutter disturb me, but it is a new revelation that it is definitely connected to my introversion.

I have a long history with a calling to live simply. I just can not deal with "stuff" in my space. I absolutely abide by "A place for everything and everything in it's place." This philosophy sticks in my office and my home as well. I can feel my anxiety rising when things pile up around me. I simply can not relax if my eyes are wandering to all the "things" that are out of place. I loved this article:

"Clutter distracts and confuses us. It drains our energy, keeps us from doing what’s most important and gets in the way of our goals and our dreams. While extroverts seem to thrive on juggling lots of balls, introverts who are more sensitive to the world around them may find that clutter is truly an obstacle to their ability to function."

I also abhor audio distractions/ clutter. Slamming cupboards drive me mad, loud talkers are my nemesis, televisions turned up to 50 want to make me stick a knife in my ear... you get the point.

I have been researching ways to cut back my anxiety during these overwhelming times, and in my research, I have introduced myself to a new personality trait: the Highly Sensitive Person. So now I have a new rabbit hole. I actually took a test, and I am clearly a highly sensitive person and, as we all know, internet quizzes are never wrong.

One thing (aside from the aversion to noise) that struck me about the Highly Sensitive person habits was that they have above-average manners. I find this hilarious. I am such a stickler for manners. I always thought I was just uptight, but now I have a much better excuse.

Here are 7 more qualities of highly sensitive people:

1. They get hangry. Hunger can trigger crankiness and an inability to function coherently.

2. They need adequate sleep. Everyone needs sleep, but, for a highly sensitive person, a sleepless night can put you on an emotional roller coaster the next day.

3. They need a healthy way to manage conflict. Nobody likes to fight, but sensitive people tend to feel extra anxious when conflict arises, and an internal battle takes place. They feel torn between speaking up for what they believe is right and sitting back so they don’t provoke an angry reaction from the other person. Often they subjugate their own needs because they’d rather “go along to get along.”

4. They exercise alone. The majority of highly sensitive people prefer individual sports, like bicycling, running and hiking, to group sports.

5. They do not like when they're under observation. It can make them feel rushed and they get flustered because there isn’t enough time to process what they’re doing.

6. They find noisy environments chaotic. Highly sensitive people don't work well in open offices because their senses are put into overdrive by the sights, sounds, smells, and activity buzzing around them.

7. They truly enjoy beauty and nature. Sensitive people are affected by surroundings, especially the way they look. Cluttered, chaotic, or just plain ugly environments are overwhelming. They feel calm spending time in nature enjoying it's simplicity.

Being a highly sensitive person doesn't mean you have a disorder that needs to be fixed. It simply means that you process sensory data more deeply. Recognizing that you're a highly sensitive person could help you develop a better awareness of yourself and your needs.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Every Single Day it Gets Done

I am having one of those weeks. This week I counted approximately 16 kids events on our calendar. This week I was also asked to work more hours to cover for a vacation. So I have been going in to work 2 hours early every day yet leaving multiple times per day to take kids to the doctors, pick kids up from school, go to open houses, etc., etc., etc.

I am getting home at 9:30pm from our last soccer game, only to realize I have 86 loads of laundry, no bread for school lunch the next day, we have not yet eaten dinner and I have not watered my vegetable garden.

I awoke to a fire alarm with a dying battery at 5am, went downstairs to retrieve a chair to reach said fire alarm, unplugged freaking fire alarm, removed dying battery... only to have it inexplicably keep beeping. Sadly, that fire alarm was somehow thrown out the front door and I was now charged with staying awake to be a human fire alarm because what type of mother could leave her kids asleep upstairs with no fire alarm?

I might as well go downstairs and change the litterbox since I can not remember the last time I changed it. Oh look, my cats were nice enough to bring a dead mouse in and leave me a gift. They are so thoughtful.

Damn, it's only Tuesday.

And my chore app looks like this:

Red? Red is bad. Really bad. Like my entire house needs a deep clean.

And I have not exercised in over a week.

Shit, I meant to go to that PTA meeting... the one 6th down on the list of events today.

I need a breather. So I took one. I had 15 minutes to spare after work so I went and sat by my pool. I can feel the anxiety creeping in. Every mother has it. You can not escape it. There are times when it's all just too much and I have a million things on my plate. How will I get my three kids three different places? How can I be at work all day when there are fifty things sitting undone at my house? If I miss one girls soccer game to attend the others softball game, will she hate me forever?

I take my life day by day. I make lists, lots of lists. I remake lists. I send reminders of these lists to the entire family. I check and double check that we are all on the same page. I utilize my village and ask for help when I can. I can't let the anxiety consume me. I know each day will pass, I will end up snuggled in my bed, my children sleeping soundly in theirs... and I will know we made it another day.

Somehow, it gets done. Every single day it gets done.

Friday, June 9, 2017

5 Things Friday: Summer is Coming!!!

Summer is almost here!!! Here are five of my favorite summer posts to celebrate:

1. How to shop for safe sunblock.
2. How to build a square foot garden.
3. Tips to eating healthy while traveling.
4. Making your own (THE BEST) popsicles.
5. A round up of great summer ideas: everything from composting tips to summer salad recipes.

Bring on the sun!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Golden Rule in Co-Parenting

{Proud parents (and bonus parents) in our matching basketball jerseys}

I was open and wrote about my divorce years ago. Nobody who has children ever wants to put them through a divorce. I think it is likely that a lot of people stay in an unhappy marriage as to avoid divorce for children. I did not make that choice.

But, in choosing divorce, I had to also choose to co-parent. This scared me. It scared me only from what I knew of divorce and parenting from media and social media. The theory of divorce/co-parenting/single parenting has become a sort of universal tragic story. Divorces are portrayed as cantankerous, single mothers as helpless underdogs, divorced dads as absent, selfish jerks.

My life is none of this. None. We decided day one that the kids come first. This was how it was in marriage and how it was when we decided to be parents. Why would us divorcing change that method of operating? Why does it change anyone's thought process?

We split time with the kids nearly 50/50. Some weeks he may have some fun plans to take them to see their grandparents. Some weeks I may have a plan to take them to a special concert. We keep a general custody calendar and it changes if it needs to.

Nobody pays the other person child support. Where we each have them similar time, there is no need for money to switch hands. There are some needs we have to split or one person might have to foot the bill (he carries health insurance as I have none through my work). If they are at my house and they need new basketball sneakers before practice, I buy them. If they are at his house and realize they need a new bathing suit as they are going swimming, he buys it. It is not rocket science. It is not worth the anxiety of telling your kid, "Ask your father for that, it is his responsibility." I absolutely can not imagine even saying something like that out loud to my child.

Not to say we do not discuss finances. There are some big expenditures with kids. Thousands for braces, hundreds every year for various sports. These things need to be discussed... by him and I... not involving our children or even with them within a hundred mile earshot. Never.

I am not a fan of being called a single mother. I guess, by most standards, I am. But that term elicits such a negative connotation in my mind. Single mothers are seen as money-grubbing for constantly complaining how the father never pays his share. They are seen as highly over-worked, either by parenting children alone or by working multiple jobs to care for children. They are pitied. They are on welfare. They hate the fathers of their children... the stereotypes are endless.

I fall into none of the stereotypes. I make my own money and provide for my own children... half the time. I am no more overworked or overtired than any other parent living with their co-parent. I go to a sports practice or chorus concert or soccer game or field trip nearly 7 days per week... but so does their father. We both give the girls 100% (ok maybe 95%) whether it is "my day" or not. And it is crazy busy, overwhelming, insanely draining... for both parents.

There is no reason for anyone to pity me. I have an amazing life. I have brilliant talented daughters. I have a boyfriend who supports my children 100% and is also at their activities nearly 7 days per week. I also have a the support of a woman who loves my children unconditionally. My ex-husband's fiancee is an amazing woman who is kind and understanding and wonderful.

My ex and I had to use foresight to bring these amazing people into our lives and our children's lives. You can not form relationships with self-centered, self absorbed, jealous people when you know full well they will have to assimilate into an new family structure. The people you chose to bring into your life when you are a single parent have to be of the highest caliber. You owe that to your children. You owe that to yourself to not bring new drama into your life.

It is all a choice. You choose to provide for your children. You choose to spend time with your children. You choose to be kind and follow the golden rule with your co-parent. You choose to set a life example for your children. They lessons they are learning will be carried through their entire life. And when someone else goes low, you go high. There is never a time when degrading the other parent or making underhanded comments or using your children as a pawn is ok. It is never ok. Why do people think it is ok??? You go high. Your children will look back later in life and thank you for it.

Not to say it is all rainbows and butterflies. There is a reason we are divorced. Clearly we have issues and disagreements. But we discuss. We work through them. We do not involve the children. We (myself, their father, his fiancee, my boyfriend) try very hard to show a united front. If a decision is to be made, we get on a group text and figure it out.

Honestly, my life is easy. And, by what I see from others' drama, it is way easier my way than the alternative. It does not take super-human powers. It takes kindness, empathy and patience.

Do unto others....

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Five Favorite Things

I am loving a lot of things right now. Generally February is lackluster and the month where you start counting the moments until spring. But somehow this February has flown by for me and I have not been nearly as miserable as I typically am at the end of a long, cold, snowy winter. I have actually found a few things that I am quite fond of:

1. The view from my front window.
I loved the spring view from my new home. I adored the summer view as well. The fall? It was gorgeous. And now I have also fallen in love with the winter sun streaming through my windows.

2. My Nikon DLSR camera.
I have recently taken my Nikon out of the closet after years of hibernation. I fell into a rut of relying on my phone for my photos. It's so easy. It's accessible.

But I wanted some better photos of my girls' sports, so I want back to my old faithful... and I am loving it. I am quite excited to have a spare few moments to sneak off on a photo expedition and reignite my creativity.

3. Applying my foundation with a brush.
This is brand new to me. I just went to a Mary Kay party and we applied our foundation with this brush. It has changed me life. It makes the foundation go on so smooth. It is crazy amazing... seriously. You're welcome.

4. Spindrift Sparkling Water
I do not like drinking plain old water. So I rely on sparkling water or seltzer for my water intake. And Spindrift is the bees knees. It has actual fruit in it so it just has a more fulfilling flavor than regular seltzer. Hi, my name is Michele and I am a Spindrift addict. I now buy it 4 or 5 cases at a time.

5. My new kitten.
She is so stinking cute. I just wish she would sleep at night and not all day.

That's it. Those are my five favorite things right now. Check out Mama Kat for other peoples favorite things today.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Karma: Life Lessons at the Dunkin Donuts Drive-Through

In this post, I had wondered, "Do you ever interact with people that, seemingly, everything that could go wrong in their lives... does. All the time. It's the people that frequently start social media posts with "FML...."."

I often contemplate karma. Is it real? Is it the cause of all the wonderful things in my life? Is luck more of a part in my destiny than karma?

I had a revelation of sorts last Saturday morning.

Following my typical soccer mom morning, I was running through the local Dunkin Donuts drive-through for my morning fix. My particular Dunkin Donuts routes the drive-through around the parking lot so that you are not driving straight through and impeding cars trying to get in or out or parking spots. The 10 feet you have to drive around probably causes you and extra 10 seconds, but I am a rule follower so I always drive the proper route even if the parking lot is completely empty.

This particular morning I went the proper route and someone cut right through the parking lot, which caused them to cut me off in the drive-through lane.

At that moment, I had options. I could have gotten road rage and lost my cool. I could have made a scene. I could have caused myself undue stress to start my morning.

But I didn't.

I sighed, annoyed, and thought, "Guess he's in a hurry."

Two minutes later I pull up to grab my order and was told, "You're all set, the gentleman in front of you paid for you."

Now, if I had honked my horn or flipped him the bird, I do not think I would have had my coffee and English muffin paid for.

So, is it karma?

Even if you do not believe in karma as a Buddhist law of moral causation... how about plain old cause and effect?

We have to believe that every single action throughout the day causes a reaction of some sort. And, with that theory, we are still the masters of our own destiny in many small ways.

So the next time you get cut off in traffic, perhaps think of how much different your day might be if you just breathe and let karma work it's wonder. And maybe, just maybe, the theory that we are the result of what we were and we will be the result of what we are will be a positive one in your life.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Hearts for Kindness

I am a bit late on this post as Random Acts of Kindness week was last week... but, eh, who needs to put a date on kindness.

I am on the Board of a non-profit called Hearts for Kindness. I am so very proud to be part of this endeavor. Our purpose is to promote community and hope. First through acts of kindness that bring people together within the community. Secondly through limited financial assistance to help with emergency expenses.

We are a board of 9 amazing ladies from all walks of life. Almost 100% of funds raised go back to acts of kindness in our community.

But the monetary acts are almost secondary to me. Most important to me is keeping the kindness first and foremost in peoples minds. It seems trivial but, truly, if you just stop and open the door for someone or smile at a passerby, it just may be the best part of their day.

Also, offer your time. Time costs you nothing, but is invaluable to a new parent or a person suffering through a tragedy. I have come up with a few simple ideas so that you can spread the love... for free.

Please celebrate your day with an act of kindness.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Making Me a Better Mother and Person (Via 10 Tips)

I am truly happy and fulfilled most days. But you can always improve on your life, right? I have been contemplating the things in my life that gratify me and those things that I would like to improve for my own sense of well-being.

Do you ever interact with people that, seemingly, everything that could go wrong in their lives... does. All the time. It's the people that frequently start social media posts with "FML....".

And I wonder about the chicken/egg theory. Has the universe really piled onto this person for the majority of their life causing a constant gloomy effusion. Or does their perpetual negative outlook cause the end result?

I prefer to think that I am the creator of my own destiny and I need to make positive choice every day to design the life I want: filled with love, laughs, adventures, health and well being.

The following is a list of 10 actionable items that I can use to inspire even further change for myself:

1. Get better sleep.
I don't need more, per se, but I need to sleep well. This means shutting the kitten out of my room, keeping temperature not too hot or cold, not drinking a gallon of water before bed so that I have to get up in the middle of the night.

There are so many benefits to better sleep:
  • Improved memory
  • Longer life
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Better creativity
  • Healthier weight
  • Lower stress
  • ... and so much more.
2. Exercise.
Yes, I know. We all know this is key to a healthier, happier life. But how can we keep this a habit? I have done pretty well for about 2 years now. For me, it is finding things that interest me (most likely something outside such as hiking or snowshoeing) and having accountability. Accountability can come in the form of a workout partner, a fitness challenge, or any plethora of things. My best accountability over the past few years has been my Fitbit. I feel motivated to keep up with the steps of my friends. I find it hard to say, "I don't have time today because..." when I see my mother-of-four friends getting her steps in or my 80-hour-workweek friend beating my steps. This small motivation cuts wayyy back on my excuses.

3. Get sunshine.
This is harder in the winter, but it does fit in with number 2 for me. But, even if I don't go outside for a hike, I can still sit on my sunporch and drink my coffee and take a minute or two to soak up some rays. There are so many benefits:
  • Boosts mood
  • Boosts immunity
  • Provides vitamin D

4. Simplify my wardrobe.
I go through and do this periodically, but nothing stresses my out more than starting my day with the dreaded indecisive closet standoff. I have recently discovered what a capsule wardrobe is and am seriously considering that option. But, right now, I will just narrow my choices by removing ill-fitting, uncomfortable or out of season clothes. The benefits include:
  • Creating more time.
  • Remove decision fatigue and gain more energy in the morning.
  • Create more space and reduce visual clutter that overwhelms me.

5. Travel somewhere. Anywhere.
It can even be an adventure in your own state. Staying in your own bubble can make you stagnant, irritable. There are also many health benefits to travel as well:
  • Reduced stress
  • Decreased heart disease risk
  • Improved brain health

6. Keep my home organized and clean.
Even watching the TV show Hoarders stresses me out. There is nothing better than walking in your front door to a clean home smelling like your favorite candle. And there is also nothing worse than walking in after a long day to a sink full of dishes and smelly trash.

I have 3 simple tools:
  • Enlist the kids to do chores, clean their own rooms, take care of their own laundry.
  • Use an app. Tody is my favorite and it helps me to keep track of which chores need to be done.
  • Work in small doses. Bring a load of laundry when you come downstairs in the morning. Wipe the mirror clean after you brush your teeth. Vacuum a room during a commercial break. Empty the dishwasher while pasta water boils. If I do chores in small increments, I don't feel overwhelmed or get stuck dedicating an entire Saturday to cleaning.
7. Leave early.
For everything. One of the most stressful things for a person or family (and all those surrounding them) is a person always running late. You can see stress level rise when I see parents running in the door to sports practice 5 minutes after it started or a room full of people waiting for that last attendee to a meeting. And it is the same people that are always late. So leave earlier. Take the time you think you need to leave and leave 15 minutes earlier. A recent study named being late  as NUMBER ONE cause of stress. It causes your heart to beat faster, you to go into fight or flight mode and your stomach to get upset. Who wants all that unnecessary stress... fix it! Leave early!

8. Date Nights
We need date nights.  There are always other things to do, other excuses why we can't, but it is absolutely necessary to make quality time for those important to us. You can set your own time frame. Can you commit to once a week, once a month, whatever. Do what you can, but set aside that time to spend with your significant other with no distractions. It does not even have to be a night out. Ask friends to take your kids for a sleepover and have a nice dinner in.

You often hear of people rekindling relationships with date nights. How about we just keep the love flame burning so that there is no need to rekindle. There are a plethora of reasons quality one-on-one time really keeps the relationship strong:

  • The ability to relax. Even though you may be with your partner 5 or 6 hours a night, are you truly enjoying that person as you each run in 15 different directions? I doubt it.
  • Communication. You need that alone time to actual make a real connection and find out what is going on in that other persons mind other than who's turn it is to empty the dishwasher or who has to drop off a soccer tomorrow.
  • Commitment. You commit to getting yourself to work every day. You commit to feeding your children every day. You commit to getting your child to piano practice every week. Why doesn't your partner/relationship deserve that same level of commitment?
  • Romance. You need romance, passion, flirting... and it's just not happening at your kids basketball game or teacher conference.

9. Family Meals
I have to do it. It may not be all of us, it may not be dinner, it may not be a fancy home cooked meal, but we need to get together, sit around a table (or realistically the kitchen island) and connect for at least a few minutes. Sometimes this means a later dinner for us, sometimes it means one kid is missing, sometimes it means we quickly throw leftovers together and call it dinner. Whatever it may be, it is our time to connect as a family.

Many studies over the years have cited family dinner as one of the most important things you can provide your children. Some of the reasons:

  • Better academic performance.
  • Higher self-esteem.
  • Greater sense of resilience.
  • Lower risk of substance abuse.
  • Lower risk of teen pregnancy.
  • Lower risk of depression.
  • Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders.
  • Lower rates of obesity.
10. Be Thankful and Grateful.
It almost seems cliché to say as it is said so very often. But I think it is so very true. I feel as though the more I am grateful for and out that out in the universe, the more I have to be grateful for. I also need to instill this in my girls. I feel like children (mine included) are slowly becoming more entitled and that is a downward spiral I do not want to embark on.

And the benefits are bountiful:
  • Gratitude improves mental and physical health.
  • It reduces aggression.
  • It improves sleep.
  • It improves self esteem.
I know, this seems like a lot to work on. But, like I started out with, I am creating my own destiny and I can slowly improve on so many things and make this life amazing... or I can keep at my status quo and get to the end with, "What the hell did I do with my life?"

It is my choice.

Friday, January 20, 2017

5 Things Friday

1. I am obsessed with this podcast.

2. Indoor kid-fun for dreary winter weather.

3. Things that annoy me.

4. Didn't we just get through Christmas??? And now I have to start making Valentines for the kids??

5. Friday Night Fun for me? I am going home to declutter my closet. I need to pare down stuff I do not like and create some new outfits of the stuff that's left. I am tired of wearing the same stuff over and over again when I have an entire closet and dresser to choose from.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Introversion 101

Hi, my name is Michele and I am an introvert.

I have been studying introversion and what it means for me for years. There are endless articles on introverts:

Are you Secretly an Introvert?
Myths About Introverts
Dating While Introverted
Etc., etc., etc.

I bet I read at least one article per day on the topic... and I have learned a lot over the years.
  • There are things like the physiological manifestation of introversion which includes low blood pressure. I have struggled with low blood my whole life and it is interesting to now find this correlation.
  • It is normal and ok for me to want (ok need) to recharge. And there are countless ways I can do this and still be productive.
  • For me, introversion can sometimes mean craving absolute solitude... and that is not uncommon. This post said it well, "The other day I heard a fun-loving morning show radio host say she needs to be in the house alone often in order to be civil.  Having someone in another room of the same house isn’t good enough. She can feel them there. I loved that she said that because I am the same way." Me too!!!
  • Being introverted is not an excuse to flake on your friendships. I need my friends... a lot. And sometimes that means stepping outside of my comfort zone, making a plan to see them and keeping that plan. No matter how depleted I may feel at that time. If I waited for that moment I am feeling energized and uber-social to connect... I'd end up a lonely lady crafting nifty cat fur projects.
  • There are good and bad jobs for introverts. I wish I had figured this out about 20 years ago before I got into retail management, which is one of the worst possible jobs for my personality. I am now in the career that is much better suited to me and I can feel the anxiety that has lifted from my life due to this career change.
  • If it's my birthday, get me something like this.
  • And I have so much more to learn. Coming to terms with my introversion has led to much self discovery, but there is much more work I need to do to understand myself and to make living with me easier for my loved ones.
Or if anyone has tips to share, I would love to hear them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Hello 2017, Goodbye Stuff

Helllooo 2017!!!

No new resolutions here... because who really keeps those? But I did set a few goals. Realistic and attainable goals, because that is what you are supposed to do, right?

First for me is to get rid of 100 things in January. My mantra (and tattoo) have been to live simply for many years now (see that name of my blog??). And I fear that moving from an itty-bitty apartment into a much larger house in 2016 will possibly give me incentive to get more stuff so I want to be cognizant of behaviors and make sure I am still keeping things and distractions and stuff to a minimum in my life.

Starting with purging 100 somethings. I have decided these 100 somethings can be anything from junk email subscriptions to tangible items in my life. Anything that takes up time/space/attention that is giving me nothing in return.

What can I purge? Let's brain storm....

Probably anything found in a "junk drawer".

Clothes not worn for the past 6 months.

Apps from my electronics that I no longer use.

Contacts from my phone that I do not need.

Friends or followers on social media that I really have no interest in learning about.

Paper files. Nearly everything is digital (or can be) now, why keep hard copies?

Paper bills (sign up for paperless instead.)

Electronics cords (I have at least 40 random cords hanging around that I have no use for or idea what they belong to.)

Bathroom trinkets (ie. old makeup, toiletries, gazillion travel shampoo bottles you should donate to a shelter, etc, etc.)

Items you "plan" to fix, mend, sew... etc. If you have not done it within a couple of weeks, will you really ever?

Kids toys that I am only holding onto as some sort of way of keeping my children young.

Pounds! You know, everyone has to throw in the fitness goal at the start of the year, right?

Subscriptions/junk emails. Spend 30 minutes and hit that "unsubscribe" button on every unneeded email and you will save hours of your time scrolling through unnecessary crap in the future.

I have started already and have accomplished a lot in the first week or so. I am up to nearly half of my purge 100 goal.  I think it is easier for me than some, but I truly have no issue in tossing the unnecessary. You can solve so many life issues by simply living with less. And if you have children, you are doing them a huge favor by setting this example early.