February Fresh Start

Fresh start

It’s February and my question for you is “How did that New Year’s Resolution thing work out for you?” The idea of resolutions has become so archaic and fraught with failure that many of us choose to bypass the process altogether. While I love to make lists and check them off, it is useless to make a list of changes you want to make on the outside until the inside is in better shape.  Instead of focusing on exterior resolutions such as start an exercise program, organize my office, or lose 10 pounds, I chose these five steps to a fresh start that came to me at 4 a.m. when my brain refused to sleep. Even after reviewing them in the harsh light of day they make sense to me and I hope they do to you!

 5 Steps to a Fresh Start

 1. Let go of hurtLittle ones take hours or days; big ones might take years. Releasing the hurt, resentment, and anger you have over an incident or about a person will in turn release yourself to grow. I realize that sometimes there is no closure or perfect solution to what is bugging me so the best alternative is letting go.

2. SHH Do a secret good deed for someone at least once a weekIt helps get rid of the “Hey look at me!” attitude that seems to plague our society and will make at least two people feel better. This is kind of like random acts of kindness done with a purpose and a mask.

 3. Stop being a Drama Queen (or King!)  No matter how cute it looks on t-shirts and hot pink pillows trimmed in sequins or feathers it doesn’t play out well in real life. In reality it is a lot like a saying my mother used to tell me over and over, “Don’t make mountains out of mole hills.” Exception to the above: It is okay to play the Drama Card if you are doing it with humor and effect to make a point, just don’t make it your personality.

 4. You are a collection of all your experiences Take charge of the experiences you have so you don’t turn out to be a pile of junk. Value yourself enough to decide what is worthwhile and what is not. Make good connections to others and be choosy about who you open your soul to.

5. Be of service Any way, anytime, anywhere. I’ve never felt as useful and alive as when I’m stepping outside myself to make a positive difference for someone else. Opportunities for service are everywhere. It doesn’t have to be in another country or another state; it can be next door, at work, or for a family member. It will become habit forming and it can change the world.

So what if these five steps don’t make you thinner? They will improve the quality of your life and put you in a much better position to make carefully considered improvements to your whole self. The goal is not to be a beautiful facade; the goal is to be an authentic whole.

5 Ways to Cope with a Bad Day

It happens to us all, you wake up feeling out of sorts, crabby or cloudy.  You don’t know why, you just do.  If someone asks what’s wrong you have no answer.  If they ask you more than once you might bite their head off!  You don’t want to feel this way but you can’t seem to shake it and it’s just not in you to fake a good mood.  When those off days happen and you’re not your best self, there are ways to manage yourself so your mood doesn’t get out of hand and ruin your entire day.

 1. Bite your tongue!  Don’t say everything out loud that pops into your head.  Activate your inner filter and block statements that could sound hurtful, out of line, or crass.  This is no time for bloviating; say what needs to be said with the least amount of words and move on.

 2. Do no harm.  Lashing out at others physically or verbally, will make matters worse and could escalate into conflict you will regret later.  In every situation there is a choice point; choose to deal with your mood in a positive non-confrontational way instead of blowing it out of proportion.  I still struggle with this and beat myself over the head later when I realize how one comment or attitudinal gesture left undone could have saved the day.

 3. Breathe.  I’m not talking about the shallow, automatic, keep you alive breathing we take for granted.  Sit back in your chair, close your eyes and breathe deeply, from your diaphragm, in through your nose and out through your mouth ten times.  It sounds simple and you’ve heard me say it before but millions of people tap into this powerful practice that brings relaxation and clear thinking, and I believe you are worthy of it too.  Just when you can’t stand ‘it’ one more minute, purposeful breathing can bring calm to your chaos which is why it is often a key component in anger management programs.

4. Don’t fight it.  Your off feeling will not last forever and soon this bad day will be history.  As my mother always said, “This too shall pass”, and while I hated hearing it I have to admit she was right. (But don’t tell her that, okay?)  Accept your feelings as transient and get busy with life.  When I have off days I draw a sad face or write the words, ‘bad day’ on my planning calendar; more often than not, a week later, I have no idea what that bad day was about!

 5.  Be antisocial.  Really.  If you are having one of those days it’s a good time to avoid the water cooler, put off lunch dates and isolate yourself.  The time alone can be rejuvenating and keeps you from being aggravated by others.  Retreat into your personal cave of choice and emerge tomorrow a better person.

Lessons Learned

Camdiluv ♥ / Foter

My daughter turns seventeen today! Seventeen isn’t a milestone birthday for anything in particular; you don’t start school, or get your license or become legal to drink, but it is very important to me. I did many things in my life before I got married and started a family, and at the age of 38 I was truly blessed with a daughter!

She would say I have been a great mom but I haven’t felt that way myself and maybe all mom’s think they could always do better.  I like the way we are and even if she wasn’t my daughter I would want to be her friend. I admire her courage, integrity, spontaneity, intellect, height (she is 5 inches taller than me), tenacity, spunk, opinions, and heart.

For the past seventeen years I believe I have been more the student and she the teacher. At each stage I have learned valuable lessons from her and in honor of her birthday am sharing some with all of you.

Lessons I’ve Learned from My Daughter

  • Onions are round and look like a ball, but they don’t bounce very well.
  • Even though powdered cocoa looks like chocolate, it doesn’t taste near as good!
  • Pumpkins are round and look like a ball, but they don’t bounce very well either. (And it is very embarrassing to your mother if you choose to try it out on live television!)
  • Just because you like peaches one day, doesn’t mean they won’t end up on the floor the next.
  • Spoons are nice, but sometimes your hand works better when you’re really hungry.
  • Boxes of cake mixes make great building blocks and step stools.
  • My most expensive silk negligee  looks better on a toddler as a Halloween costume than it ever did on me.
  • A piece of masking tape can occupy a person for at least 10-15 minutes.
  • Sliding on the tile floor in your stocking feet is really fun.
  • Everything doesn’t have to be done a certain way to be right.
  • Relaxing is not a crime.
  • You can accept others easier if you accept yourself.
  • Perfectionism is overrated.
  • Family traditions are important and very comforting.
  • We can agree to disagree and still be okay.
  • Mom’s aren’t always right and that’s okay too.
  • It is fun to share makeup and clothes!
  • Families are happier with a puppy in the house.
  • Privacy is important!
  • You never get too old to need your Mom.
  • We will learn from each other the rest of our lives.

Perception Deception

Steve-h / Foter

Perception seems like such a straight forward thing. We assume that what and how we perceive something, whether it is the weather, our boss, our relationships, a news story, or the size of our hips, is reality. Not so fast. We might physically see or experience the same thing as someone standing next to us, but we perceive it differently. That’s because perception involves taking what we see or feel and running it through our mental filters that are based upon our own past life experiences.

Too often we rely on our limited experiences to make judgments and decisions every day. We perceive situations, food, music, individuals and even whole countries by an often outdated, second or third hand experience.  If you’ve attended a high school class reunion or happened to run into someone who knew you as  a child, you know what I’m talking about. No matter what you have become, done or accomplished former classmates assume you to be as you were ten, twenty or thirty years ago. Our experiences have changed us but those who knew us before often hold onto their past view of who we were.  Is it any wonder we have discord and misunderstandings in the world?

Let go of preconceived notions and expand your day-to-day experiences, pull yourself out of the rut of ‘same old, same old’ and learn to fully appreciate the variety that exists in the world.  Where do you start? Small, of course and work up!

1. Retrain your palate.  Are you a regular who eats the same thing for lunch or breakfast? Is Wednesday always meatloaf and Friday pizza? Has it been years since you set foot in a new restaurant? Mix it up a bit and try that new Mexican place, give Brussel sprouts a chance, or grill salmon the next time instead of burgers. The worst is you won’t like it and you get to try something else the next time!

2. Culture won’t kill you  Do you remember a museum as some place an adult made you spend hours of time when you really wanted to be outside? Many museums today now have interactive exhibits; often feature local artists, and shows that change every few weeks. Check out what museums within a sixty mile radius have to offer and note the exhibits or special activities they have planned for the summer.

3. Ear for music I always loved stations that played music from my college years but shied away from current pop and country. Then my daughter got an iPod and as I downloaded tunes for her, guess what? I actually liked many of the songs! Now I find myself tuning into different stations in the car and learning lyrics to new songs. My taste of music has expanded and so can yours.

4. In your own backyard Often we plan elaborate trips and vacations to far away places but spend little time exploring what is within a few hundred miles of our home. I’m not saying give up your get-a-ways, but also take time, save money and energy by exploring the sites within your area. A quick, on-line search can reveal a year’s worth of day and weekend trips to satisfy your quest for adventure.

5. Set in your ways Do you always sit the same place at the dinner table, church, in the car, or the family room? We can become so comfortable in ‘our seat’ that we become irritated when someone dares to sit there! Let it go and try moving yourself around so you have a different view of the same old places. You might like it.

No excuses, branch out, stick your big toe in the water and dare to try something new. Be brave enough to open yourself up to new experiences, new points of view, and perhaps new connections.

“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” Leo Tolstoy

 

 

Multi-Tasking

Βethan / Foter

You hear it on the nightly news and network morning shows. You read about it in newspapers, self-help books and magazine covers. Everybody is supposedly doing it and wanting to learn how to do it better. Therefore, it must be a good thing-Right?

Wrong, just because it makes a good sound bite and EVERYBODY wants to say he or she is doing it does not make it right for you. (Didn’t your mother ever give you the ‘If everyone is jumping off a cliff does that mean you should’ speech?) Are we so programmed that we are eager to jump on the latest bandwagon without questioning the validity for ourselves?

Multi-tasking sounds like a great idea but the premise is false; you cannot possibly be doing several tasks with equal attention and emphasis. If you have ever driven on the interstate and watched someone put on their makeup, tie a tie, or dive for something on the floorboard as they hurl their vehicle down the road at 75 miles an hour, you know what I mean. That being said, I admit to being a victim of the multi-tasking mindset until I realized that I was losing focus. I was doing several things in mediocre fashion and not even remembering most of it.

There are plenty of people, organizations, and companies ready to solve your time management dilemmas. I did a Google search for time management and came up with 756,000.000 sites. If you really want to multi-task and waste a lot of time, sort through all those someday! In the past couple of days I have run across the following article titles:

-11 Time Management Tips
-5 Categories for Effective Time Management
-12 Easy Ways to Organize Your Work Life
-10 Quick Time Management Tips
-Top 10 Time Management and Productivity Tools

Titles like these leave me wondering, is it 10 tips or 11? If more is better, maybe I should go with the 39 tools. Is a category better than a tip? How can there be 39 tools if someone just told me there were 12 easy ways?

Time management tips, books, and articles are as prevalent as diet books and should be treated the same way. There are undoubtedly some good ideas in all of them, but that does not mean every method or idea is right for you. You will have to make choices. Choices require thought, reflection, and being honest with yourself.

It is often easier to accept someone else’s solution or opinion, but they rarely work for us. Multi-tasking can be a form of avoidance used to distract us from facing the situation and doing what needs to be done. To gain focus so you can make intelligent choices on how to best use your time, try the following exercises.

1. During the day, preferably first thing in the morning or last thing at night, empty your mind. Do this without distractions and interruptions. This can be done by writing out everything that is on your mind or sit quietly and mentally click through what is junking up your brain and visualize dumping the contents into a dumpster. Experiment and find out what works best for you. As you do this, you will begin to notice recurring patterns, concerns, and even worries. List them, invest your time, and deal with them so you are free. Often dealing with them means changing the way you view them or your attitudes.

2. You may not realize it, but every waking moment your brain is filled with mind chatter. This internal conversation is framing the way you see yourself and everything that happens to you, and most of it is negative and judgmental. Your mind chatter, or whatever you choose to call it, makes you feel both afraid to do something and guilty if you do not. Good news! Research shows that even a slight decrease in your negative self-talk increases your ability to respond to the world more creatively. My favorite way to combat negative messages is the rubber band trick.

Wear a rubber band around your left wrist if you are right-handed or your right wrist if you are left-handed. Each time you catch yourself thinking negatively, pull on the rubber band and give yourself a flick. I guarantee this will wake you up and make you take notice! If your wrist is red and swollen at the end of the day you know your negatives out weigh your positives. I use it myself and like it so much I had special rubber bands made to use and share with others

Darla Arni 2011

Welcome!

Do you have too much to do but not enough YOU to handle it all?             

You are not alone. I feel like I’m living with a full plate of ‘to dos’ and no fork to move them off the plate. In fact I believe most of us are. One day my daughter came into my office and forever changed my life by saying to me, “Wow, you have a full plate with no fork.” (See About FPNF for more of that story.) And the rest is history. Or it will be when I’m rich and famous and sharing this story with Barbara Walters. Okay that might be pushing it but a girl can dream.

I grew up on a farm as an only daughter with two older brothers. In fact, there wasn’t another girl for miles around so I played boy games or I couldn’t play at all. I vividly remember being exiled to the outfield with a left handed glove and told to stay there but don’t tell my brothers I said that; they have a different story. They are wrong. Really, trust me on this.

I live in small town Missouri with a semi-retired husband, a teenage daughter, a Yorkie, a Terrier mix we saved from the pound, and my mother who lives in the local nursing home. I am a speaker, author and artist (in a past life I was an art teacher) who regularly uses stories about my family in my work, which is why I NEVER want them to travel with me when I speak. We tried it once in Baltimore and it wasn’t pretty.

I spend most of my days trying to cram all the living I can into the time I have! I hope you enjoy my blog. You can count on me sharing day to day revelations, lots of stories, recipes, and how tos and pictures of my art and DIY creations.

As Rosanne Rosannadanna would say, “It’s always something.”