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The One Trick that Changed Our Life

I have a secret. I love lists! It doesn’t matter whether it’s a shopping list, a to-do list, or some other random  list. I love to write things down!

I discovered a new way to use lists that brought our family closer together and helped accomplish even more every day. Plus it decreased our stress and increased our fun! What could be better than that?

Check out these two lists and how we use them:

 

Daily List

The daily list is a list of no more than 3 items (except rare cases when something out of the ordinary happens). One item is something we’ll finish that day. The other two items are things we hope to finish, but don’t need to.

Each evening, after supper, we talk about what we accomplished that day. Then the whole family makes plans for the next day. We use ‘Reminders’ on our apple devices so we can all access the list during the day. It’s important for everyone in the family to know what everyone else wants to do, that way we can work together instead of against each other!

Once we check off each item on the daily list, the rest of the day is free. We don’t add to the daily list except at the end of the day.

 

Weekly List

The weekly list is more flexible than the daily list. We add to it during the day and throughout the week. Anything that pops up, we just add it to the list. If the list gets to be 50 points long, that’s okay. This list isn’t about importance or how quickly something needs to be done. It’s about reminding us of things we wanted to do.

We use this list to help generate the daily list. I usually read this list once a day. It helps me decide what’s most important to do the next day. It also helps me see any patterns develop. For instance if I’m adding a lot of extra cleaning to the list, it lets me know the mess has gotten to me and it allows me to either shift my perspective, or do something about the mess before it overwhelms me.

 

How These Lists Transform

One of the greatest feelings is checking something off your to-do list. But that pales in comparison to finishing your to-do list! Because our daily list is so short, we finish it everyday. It feels ah-mazing!

Every life success amplifies the way we feel about ourselves and our life. Each small step makes the next step that much easier and more enjoyable.

But the real transformation is on the whole family. Our children learn to set their own goals.  Even Brom makes a goal each day (admittedly his goal is the same every day: Play more video games). Talking about our goals together, increases the connection between us in so many ways. They see what Ryan and I need to finish each day, so they either help us, or give us space so we can get it done quickly. We know what they want to do, so we help them with their goals. Once we’re done our items, we then have a lot of time in the day to do things together as a family, or spend special one-on-one time with the kiddos.

At the end of the day everyone feels more loved and respected and we all feel more peaceful.

This simple daily activity takes no more than 15 minutes each day, it’s impact on our day is immeasurable!

 

 

 

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5 Steps to Increased Life Satisfaction

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Nathan Hale (1755-1776)

 

I deeply admire the selflessness and courage of those who serve their country. I think that’s something we all agree on, even when we don’t agree with each other on other things. 

But would you give your children’s life to your country, what about your partner’s life?

Their lives aren’t ours to give, yet so often the choices we make in life aren’t for the well being of our families, but of our country. The saddest part is we don’t even realize what we’ve done!

Ryan and I both entered adulthood with a sense of scarcity. We felt we never had enough, always wanted, always went without. One of us might do okay for a while, but that’s when the other had to buy all the things. We were the perfect target for so many advertisements. When we had our first baby, we bought all the fear, we have the premium priced receipts to prove it! We wanted nothing subpar or dangerous for our perfect darling. We paid dearly for the crib that wouldn’t kill our baby with toxic fumes.

At the time, we believed it was best for our family. In reality, our family paid in more than just dollars for those choices. We paid in happiness and increased fear. We paid in time together and Christmases with no presents. Through our fears and our spending, and the fears and spending of so many other people like us, our country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) grew and grew.

The country got richer, stronger, while our sense of fear increased, and our ability to buy food wasn’t guaranteed. We felt poor, but the news told us the economy soared.

Time to Bloom

We thought it was just us. Turns out it wasn’t.

Over the past several years, we’ve talked to so many people, in person and online, going through something similar.

So many of us experience a quiet dissatisfaction with our lives. It’s nothing sturdy enough to identify, rather a susurrus we catch as we walk into a room or go out with friends. We don’t know if it’s longing, loneliness, or regret. All we know is what we expected when we were 19 is not what we got.

I’ve seen and felt this dissatisfaction. I’ve fallen victim to buying things I couldn’t afford, all in the name of hoping to (finally) be enough.

Then on a day filled with determination, I discovered there’s a different way.

It’s a way I want my children to learn now. A way I want to share with others.

It’s both extremely simple, and so complex all at once.

  1. Rethink what you spend money on. Do you really need it? Is it something that’ll bring you happiness today and next week/year? Will it make it easier to experience life? So many times we hear, “Spend money on experiences, not things.” It’s true. The more life we experience, the better we feel! Maybe that means you buy that coffee, and sit in the coffee shop with a friend. Maybe it means you don’t buy that Dooney & Bourke, but instead take your children to the fair.
  2. Be vulnerable. It’s easy to throw shame at the people around us when we’re anxious or afraid, but if we open up and calmly tell others what we’re worried about, often the result is a deeper connection that brings us closer together instead of driving us apart. You’ve done something that hurt your partner. You could ignore the hurt. You can let your partner know they’re too sensitive. You could find ways to point out how it’s really your partner’s fault. Or you could walk over, let your partner know you see they’re upset and you want to make things right. You can listen and understand why your partner’s upset. Really listen to understand, not to respond, but to connect. You can open yourself to your partner and share in the vulnerability so you’ll both be stronger together.
  3. Feel your fear. Examine it. Don’t push it away. Then do what you’re afraid of and see what happens. (This does not mean putting yourself in dangerous situations, it means making a phone call, asking favours, admitting you don’t know something or trying something new). It’s applying for a job you want, even though it scares you to hand in your resume.
  4. Understand there’s a difference between humility and invisibility. It’s okay to be aware of what you’re good at. It’s even okay to tell others. Being humble is not about hiding your own value, but rather about how you rate your value compared to others. “I’ve worked really hard to learn how to do this. I’m really happy with how it turned out and think I did a great job. It’s professional quality.” vs “My work is so much better than Jim’s. I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am and am so happy with how mine is coming along.” One builds you up and allows the other person to decide for themselves what they think. The other statement tears down another person in order to make yourself look better.
  5. Be a leader. Leaders build others up. It doesn’t matter if you’re the boss, a parent, or a friend. Building others up is always better than tearing someone down. In the long run, the results will always be better. This step is the hardest to maintain, especially if you’re used to snarking or had low self esteem. I grew up believing there wasn’t enough love in the world. The only way I could be loved, is if I was the only one receiving love. If someone else received attention, that meant I wasn’t good enough. I constantly tore others down so I could feel a little more worthy. It’s really hard to change that pattern.

 

It’s time to take a stand and do what’s right for you and your family. It’s okay to feel the fear, and not act on it. It’s okay to live in the house you have and be happy with it. It’s okay to have a house with no garden. It’s even okay to not own a house at all. The government makes money every time we buy or sell something, the government wants us to spend money, lots of money. It’s time we all make decisions based on what’s actually best for our families instead of decisions based on the latests commercial or magazine article that tells us we’re not good enough!

 

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Embarrassment, Failure, Growth

Recently, I submitted some of my artwork to the Strathcona County Art Gallery@501. I hoped people would like my work. I hoped the county would buy my art to display. I hoped for a lot of things, but beneath, and on top of, that hope something else whispered to me.

Something whispered that I wasn’t good enough. Something whispered that people would laugh at my work.

I felt embarrassed by my submissions. I told myself the gallery accepted all submissions. I didn’t even need to be good and they’d still display my work. People would see my work. They’d see it for what it really was.

I saw derision.

In my head I picture people telling my they like my work just to be nice. In my head I see other people thinking my work is childish. They’re only saying nice things about my work to be – well – nice.

In my head I hear a lot of things.  In my head I hear all the reasons I should keep my art hidden at home. In my head I hear all the reasons I shouldn’t talk to real artists. In my head I am not good enough. In my head I do not deserve to have my art on display. In my head my art is not valuable to others. In my head I doubt myself. A lot.

I submitted my work anyway.

Even though I never received a phone call saying my art was selected, I attended the unveiling reception at the gallery. I talked to other artists. I praised other artist’s work. It was so hard to go. I felt rather sick while I drove to the gallery. I wanted to leave before they made the announcements. I wanted to leave as soon as the announcements were done and I knew my work wasn’t selected.

I stayed anyway. I was uncomfortable. But I stayed. I chatted. I looked at a lot of art. Particularly the art that was purchased. I wanted to see what the selection committee saw. I wanted to learn. I wanted to open my eyes a little wider.

I was sad my work wasn’t selected for purchase. I was sad my work didn’t win the people’s choice award. But in my sadness I was also happy I tried. In my sadness I see hope. I see growth. I see a chance to learn more and do better next year.

I don’t know if I’ll feel anymore worthy next year, but sometimes it isn’t about feeling worthy, it’s about proving worth just by showing up.

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Self Development

When Ella was a new baby, Ryan and I attended a parenting conference, I couldn’t tell you much about it now, except for one speaker. I barely recall her name, Ivy Shawl Song (or something like that), I don’t know anything about her, but she had a very powerful message.

She said in order for a person to have a fulfilled, happy life, a person needed ten ways of identifying themselves that had nothing to do with their work or family roles.

At the time I was an RN, a wife, a mother, but beyond that I had few interests or hobbies that I could pursue. The act of becoming both a nurse and a mother meant I needed to give up other aspects of myself. At the time, it hurt. I fought it. Looking back, I’m not happy with the person I was, though I know that person was me, and made me who I am.

That person was empty, but she tried.

I picked up various hobbies, tested them out, saw if they fit. Many I put back. Others I held onto. But mostly I remained where I was.

Over time, 1 child turned into 2, then 3, then 4. Plus 3 cats and 2 dogs. Our lives became very busy. But those titles of mother and wife weren’t enough. I needed more. I needed to find myself.

It’s taken time, but now I have many different hobbies and interests that help define who I am as a person, singular. Myself.

I am spiritual. I’m still not sure if this falls into one of the categories that doesn’t ‘count’ or not. But my spirituality brings me comfort, and it’s a part of who I am outside of my relationship and work roles. If it wasn’t for my faith, I don’t know if I’d have made it through the past ten years or not, and I know my faith brought me so much comfort and healing while I had cancer and was going through chemo.

I love Disney. I enjoy reading about the company, the parks, resorts, and entertainment. And of course, I love spending time at Walt Disney World. I can hardly wait for the day when we can experience all the things we’ve yet to experience there!

I sew. Not often right now, but I make dolls, stuffies, and even clothing. I’m self taught, and sometimes I feel very insecure about my sewing abilities.

I enjoy reading. Often my reading is done online, but at least once a month I pick up an actual book and I read. I just took Lisa Scottoline’s book, “Most Wanted” as well as Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” out of the library, both highly recommended books by people I like.

I love to craft. Most recently I’ve been working with wire. I’m really excited about my newest creation and can hardly wait for it to be finished!

I enjoy entertaining. This includes creating party themes, decorations, activities, and the food.

Cake decorating is an interest I have as a result of our dietary restrictions. But I enjoy the challenge, even if the results frustrate me to no end!

Gardening is my passion. It’s how I spend my time relaxing. It doesn’t matter whether I’m digging holes, or sitting staring at my flowers, I find both equally refreshing.

I’m a dreamer and a planner. These two are intertwined so closely, even as they’re almost polar opposites. I love to plan for everything, and change plans as needed, but I also love to plan for the ‘what ifs’ and the one days’. What if this dream of mine came true? Then what? I know what I’d do. It’s something I find great joy doing.

It’s taken time for these interests to develop organically. There were times I had neither time nor energy to devote to anything other than the basics. But I’m now happy with where I am and the person I’m becoming. A few years ago I wouldn’t have been able to say that.

I can hardly wait to see who I am in a couple more years!

What are ten interests that define who you are?