Distracted

Do you ever feel fuzzy?  Distracted?  I do!  My mind is SO full of things.  Thoughts are whizzing this way and that.  My great big wonderful life brings tons of items to my to-do list.

My family about to enter the crowd at the PoBoy Festival!

My family about to enter the crowd at the PoBoy Festival!  Look behind them you can see the sea of people!

It’s like standing in a huge crowd.  A PoBoy Festival, for example.

There are so many voices going on around that you can’t hear anything, or all you hear is the hum of the crowd, or if you strain to eavesdrop you might hear the one conversation of the person next to you.  I think this creates that fuzzy, distracted feeling and that tendency to focus (or not focus) on something else entirely.   Crowds can be overwhelming, but usually they’re there because something is WONDERFUL.  (Hello, fried green tomato, bacon and remoulade poboy!!)

Caleb drowning out the crowd!!

Caleb drowning out the crowd!!

It’s tough to deal with a crowd, but hiding from it means hiding from my life.  Not acceptable.   No crowd, no poboy if you know what I mean. I usually hide away from the crowd through mindless activity (like social media trolling) that lessens the crowd noise but doesn’t really do anything to thin the crowd at all.

This is a huge problem for me.  I love my big ol’ crazy life.  All of it!  Sometimes it can just be overwhelming and I tend to zone out rather than deal with the tidal wave.   It happens before I know it, and then I’ll “wake up” to half a day gone, or a deadline missed, or just feeling like I can’t enjoy my life.

You’ve heard the old saying “How do you eat an elephant?  (or a POBOY?) One bite at a time!”  In order to keep from getting helium balloon head and floating away from my life, I’ve got to employ the elephant eating philosophy.

Here are a few elephant bites that help bring me out of a fog:

 

1)  Find out what I’m about.  The crowd of voices in my head stems from all the wonderful things I’ve willingly brought into my life, but some voices come from other things too.  I’ve got to identify the things I love, what I’m about, where I want to go.  When I know that, I can tell the unwanted voices to Shut. It.   So what am I about??  My faith, my family, my friends, my career, and some side interests like good books, good music, good writing, and good food.  Throw in one more dash of feminine adventure just for me and that’s it. These things are my main things.  These are the voices I need to hear.  If it doesn’t come from one of these categories… then shut it.  For me, this would include multi-level marketing (learned that the hard way), overseas mission trips, knitting my own sweaters, and learning to sew.  All awesome things, but none that fit in with my life at this time.

Transitioning home to these darlings is fun!!

Transitioning home to these darlings is fun!!

2)  Make appointments.  Yes.  I make appointments with myself.  Nowhere near as much as I should, but I do it.  I use my phone alarm to remind me of these appointments.  We were visiting with my mom and dad recently and my phone alarm went off at 8am while we were eating breakfast.  Caleb said “Nana, it’s time for English!”  My mom asked what he was talking about and I explained that I use my alarm sounds to remind me when to move to the next thing.  Sometimes that little noise brings me out of the fog and gets me back on track.    I don’t want to be a drone dependent upon my smartphone to direct me.  I see the phone as my secretary.  My personal assistant who sounds off to remind me what we’ve got going today.  If only it could pour me coffee and rub my shoulders too!

3)  Re-evaluate.  Every so often I’ve got to take inventory of what I’m doing and evaluate whether it is effective.  Sometimes as we change, kids grow, life morphs and strategies that used to work don’t fit so well anymore.  Lately the routine of waking the kids up after my shower isn’t working well.  I’ve had trouble getting the kids fed and started on schoolwork on time.  So we’re trying a new strategy where they are responsible for waking up on their own and getting to the table.   At 16 and 11, they’re big enough to begin learning to get themselves up, and it saves a step for me in the morning.

 

The hubs and me at work!

The hubs and me at work!

4)  Learn to transition.  Every morning on my way into work, I enter the house through a back door and walk down a long hallway toward the time clock.  I use that hallway as my transition.  I take a deep breath.  I let go of what we did or didn’t get done that morning at home and transition to business mode.   I’m learning to give what I’ve got while I can, be entirely present, and then when it’s time to move on I can let go and move on knowing I’ll be back to that task again tomorrow.  On the way out, guess what?  Same hall.  Deep breath.  Work is over and time to transition to mom again.  I find the transition at the end of the day to be more difficult than the beginning.  Often I walk in my front door and greet my family still grinding my teeth over the work day.  I want to learn to more effectively shake off the work day and fully embrace wife and mom once again.

5)  Re-fuel.  It’s important to take intentional breaks.  Last weekend we had a little getaway.  No school.  No work.  All fun.  It was

Takin' a break at the BEACH!!  My favorite place to refuel!

Takin’ a break at the BEACH!! My favorite place to refuel!

awesome!  I try to use my lunch break each day as a rest time.  I usually bring my kindle and read something I’m enjoying or something encouraging.  I take more deep breaths.  I sit in the quietest, most private spot available.  I can’t be “on” all the time or I’ll find myself totally “off.”

It’s so easy when we have lives crammed full of…. well… LIFE, to become overwhelmed.  It’s easy to slip off into a fog of distraction because there’s just too much going on.  I just don’t want to settle for fogged up, fuzzed out, life on autopilot.  These are ways I’m trying to keep myself engaged and in tune, so that I can really live, really love, really embrace the life I have.

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Attacking Your Day

I recently read the book,” Attack Your Day! Before it Attacks You!” The main thing I took away from the book was the idea of managing my TASKS instead of my time.  Just because someone comes along and asks something of me doesn’t necessarily mean I must stop right that moment and complete the interrupting task.  It’s my responsibility to prioritize my tasks.

SOOOooooo much easier said than done.  My knee-jerk reaction was “Well, you’ve never spent a day at my desk!  I’m the first face anyone sees when they pass our office, and there are 63 people between the ages of 80 and 100 who all think I’m at their personal beck and call, not to mention all of their responsible parties who need questions answered or need to tell me about a doctor’s appointment.  Before and after and during work, I mother three children.  Three children with no less than 5 years between their ages, all needing different things simultaneously.  Mommy! Mom! Mama!  Hey Mom!  I have a husband and a boss (not the same person) and somehow I’d LIKE to think I try to write stuff and help people.  NO way I can just call the shots on what I want to do.”  It seems that most of my life is basically one interruption after another, putting out one fire after another.  Even while typing this, I’m typing around a pair of three-year-old hands as they stick stickers on my laptop.

So basically, my first thought was “Nice idea.  Totally impossible for me.”  Then I remembered… (start playing Battle Hymn of the Republic background music) I remembered that it’s still the United States of America, the land of the free.  I’m still of legal adult-decision-making age.  This means I AM in charge of what I do.  I make the choice to allow myself to be interrupted, to allow myself to forget the tasks I’ve decided are most important and do the stuff other people present to me as “emergencies.”
I admit, I wonder if deflecting all of the interruptions that come my way would take more time than just doing the task right then and getting it overwith.  A legitimate concern, except if I keep on simply stopping and doing every single interruption, I’ll keep on being unable to get past all the interruptions and accomplish the things I’ve deemed important.

This idea applies to all of life.  Churches, jobs, friends, social organizations, and more are all lining up for a piece of us.  Saying “yes” to them all creates a constant stream of interruptions and interruptions to the interruptions.  (Dizzy yet?  Me too.)

I’ve decided it’s important to homeschool my kids.  I’ve also decided since we still need to feed them, that I can’t quit my job.  Oh yes, and I also want to make a healthy happy marriage, do life with my friends, and make a difference in the world.  This means I HAVE to be a master at managing my tasks.  This life isn’t going to just “happen to me.”  I have to keep my priorities in the forefront of my mind and I have to make these things happen.  I have to be on the attack.

So what do I do?  Here are some ideas:

1)  I need to know what is important to me today.  There’s no way I can order my tasks if I don’t know what I want and need to be doing.  This means I’ve gotta spend a few minutes planning, thinking, and prioritizing.  This could be a simple “to do list” or a calendar program or whatever.  Anything that helps identify what exactly I plan to do and need to do puts me in a better position to be in control of my tasks.

2)  Learn to say NO already!!  Sheesh!!  There are some things absolutely required of me because of my job or position in the family, some things to which I can’t simply say “no.” BUT there are a LOT of things not absolutely required.  A lot more than I want to admit.  For me, saying “no” is uncomfortable, it’s weird, it’s unfriendly… I hate doing it.  But, I can’t say yes to the important things if I can’t say no to the unimportant. 

3) Strategize.  I don’t often think about having a strategy.  I prefer to dance around and float through life while everything seems to fall into place.  Nice idea but not effective goal achieving material.  I need to use strategy.  I don’t think great marriages and good parenting just happen.  There’s a strategy there, or at least a set of core beliefs that are applied by the partners or parents.  I wonder what the simple step of identifying what I want and actually creating a strategy to achieve what I want, would do?  This may seem silly to a business-minded organizer, but to a people-pleasing social butterfly it’s groundbreaking. There’s also a level of commitment in making a plan.  It’s one thing to say I want to homeschool my children.  It’s another entirely to make a strategy figuring out how to do it.  Strategy in place, my excuses are few, aren’ t they?

My life is a juggling act.  THIS IS NOT A COMPLAINT.  I’m overly, wonderfully, incredibly, undeservedly blessed with more than my share of loveliness.  Attacking my day means I get to dive in with gusto and enjoy fully the huge pile of good things in my life.  Handsome husband, wonderful children, great job, dreams of good things to strive toward.  All mine to attack at will.

Ready.  Set.  GO!!

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Iced Tea and Hot Romance

There’s no such thing as a perfect marriage.  Even if there were, mine would be far from a candidate for the title.  We’ve got our moments of crazy, and we both carry plenty of baggage.  So does everyone!  That’s life!

But every once in a while, the most romantic moment will come along and I’m just overwhelmed at how incredible love is.  Today, a glass of tea ushered in one of those moments…

We work together, me as director of marketing and he as executive chef, at an upscale assisted living home.  We’ve been SO busy at work lately, and today was as intense as ever.  I was working hard, deep in concentration, and focusing completely on how I can best serve a family who is looking at our home as a possible residence for their dad.  As part of the process, families often eat a meal with us, and today was such a time.  I gave our drink order to one of our care managers, Kathleen, and she headed to the kitchen.  She returned in a few moments with salads and drinks. Everyone else had water, but I had asked for iced tea.  Normally I’d have water because I like my tea sweet and we serve only unsweetened tea at work.  But I felt the little caffeine would be just what I needed, so I went for tea, figuring I’d drink it plain since I don’t do packets of sweetener.  When Kathleen put down our drinks, I was deep in conversation, focused on the issues this family is facing with their father.  In mid-conversation, I took a sip of my tea and…

Sweet.

Cold, and sweet, and wonderful.

Not the kind of sweet you get from a pink packet.

 

Washing down my throat, and over my heart, was the knowledge that my husband had just stood in the kitchen in the middle of his busy lunch service, made a simple syrup, and sent an authentic glass of sweet tea to me.

A few seconds later, he popped in with the food.  I wanted to run across the room and tackle him, kiss his face and tell him how incredible it is to be loved like that.  I couldn’t.   I had to maintain my professional composure.  But inside, I was being melted by a glass of iced tea. (I *might* have sent him a “for your eyes only” text later… you know… just to express my sentiments.)

We might not have much.  We’re working extra jobs and stretching our pennies and our time and our emotions to make this family work.  Really though, it doesn’t take much.  I don’t need diamonds, don’t need prestige, don’t need exotic vacations.  What could be hotter than a man who not only would make me a glass of tea, but  is willing to spend thirty seconds of the busiest, most intense part of his day to make sure mine is sweet?

That’s sexy.  It’s love.  It’s incredible.

Feel free to print this and pass it along to any significant other who may need to consider making a glass of tea. (Here’s a link to a great article showing you how) Or maybe you should make one for someone yourself???

 

 

 

 

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Can’t Do That In Heels!

This morning I was all dressed and ready for work.  I had on what I call a “sophisticated businesswoman costume” complete with a cute pair of heels.  I was checking on the dog, helping my oldest with her vocabulary, and packing a lunch when I heard a ringing sound.  I looked up to find that my toddler had my phone in his hand and was making a call.  I took a step toward him so that I could grab the phone and avoid disturbing who knows who from my contact list, but as slippery toddlers tend to do, he ran.

Funny how little legs can move so quickly.  Not so funny how I couldn’t keep up with him. I tapped and clopped after him in my high heels, doing my best not to slip on the tile floor and end up in the emergency room.  Guess what?  High heel shoes aren’t made for chasing speedy little boys with impish grins and ringing cell phones in their hands.

Caleb giggled and I kept tapping and clopping, feeling larger and more clumsy with every step.  Around the dining table we went, through the kitchen and into the next room where big sister was working on vocabulary.  Mackenzie stuck out her hand and helped me catch Caleb and I snatched away the phone.  We discovered then with a sigh of relief that he was calling his big sister.  We disconnected the call and I proceeded to finish the morning craziness, inching ever closer to tears.  With a few minutes left before time to leave and a few things left to accomplish, I kicked off the heels so I could function as mom.  And function I did, as I started the dryer, put on some makeup, fixed breakfast, and then, in my last act of motherly bravado, changed the poopy diaper that appeared at the exact moment I should have been walking out the door.

I stepped back into the heels, grabbed all the necessary stuff, loaded the car and backed down the driveway with a sigh.  My heart is always heavy as I end my mommy time and start my professional businesswoman time.  Did I do what I should?  Was I too crabby?  Will they remember how much I love them?  Did I forget the cookie dough fundraiser?  When will I get around to hemming his pants?  Do I have enough diapers?

Tonight, after everyone was in bed, I realized as I squeezed out the last of my contact solution that I forgot, again, to pick up more today.  I also forgot to get the alka seltzer I like to keep on hand, and the orange soda Mackenzie needs for a science experiment.  There are some documents in my purse that need to be scanned and emailed.  They’ve been there 4 days now.  So I’m letting the tears flow at this point.  Sometimes I have to let the spinning plates drop and just cry over my inability to do it all.  Sometimes I have to nurse the blisters that pop up from trying to chase tiny boys while wearing high heel shoes.

Maybe I’ll invent a pair of perfect shoes.  Ones that look sophisticated and gorgeous, but have traction for running after two-year-olds, with comfort that makes standing in the grocery store line a pleasure, and of course they’ll match every outfit.

But there is no such perfect shoe, just like there’s no such perfect me. It’s impossible.  What I’ll do is keep living my life, keep loving my kids, keep working hard, keep learning and growing and chasing, and make the best of the times when I just plain have on the wrong shoes.

And I’ll keep smiling.  I CAN do that in high heels!

 

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