May 2013

Exactly where the problem is

Meredith meant to order my admin phrase book. But she inadvertently ordered my manager phrase book. She was happy to keep the manager book and place a new order for the admin one. I appreciated that.

What I appreciated most was that Meredith took the time to send me an email to explain how the incorrect order was placed in the first place. The “buy now” button on the page for the admin book took you to the right place, but if you clicked on the picture of the admin book, it put the manager book in the shopping cart.

I don’t know how long it would have taken me to figure that out, but it only took me minutes to fix because Meredith cared enough to tell me exactly where the problem was.

There was nothing in it for her, but her thoughtful detailing made a difference for me.

That’s good communication. 

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Hearing anew

“Can you tell me, what’s that “tick, tick, tick sound?”

My dad is trying out new hearing aids. Yesterday, he heard the sound of the car turn signal for the first time in many years.

My (step)mom came very close to dying last week and is in skilled nursing now. (“Lockdown,” as she calls it.) I flew in to help them through the crisis. Did the social worker really expect us to decide where mom and dad should go in five minutes, when they suddenly released her from the hospital into skilled nursing? Yes, they did, but since there were several variables, we gave ourselves enough time to work though the delicate questions before we decided. Dad is now preparing to move into an assisted living apartment they both liked before mom became ill. She will join him when she is ready.

Everything is different. They resisted hearing aids. Today I’m enjoying not having to shout at my dad. Mom never would have welcomed my buying her new clothes.Today she looks great in her new duds. We’re getting to know each other – as we each are now – in these new circumstances.

And it’s sweet. So much love. If you could see them hold hands, it would say it all. Yes, we have to contend with resistance at times. Decisions need to be made faster than anyone is ready for. Dad doesn’t like it that the realtor insists he replace the red carpet on the stairs before she lists the house. Mom wants to direct things like she used to, and she isn’t strong enough for it. But we’re easing our way through all that into this new reality.

The ticking sound of a turn signal isn’t the only thing my father now hears that he missed before. And my father isn’t the only one whose hearing is awakening. Hospitals and hearing aids have woken this family up to each other.

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YIkes! Grace through trials

If you’ve been to my site, you probably already know, I’ve been hacked. It’s taking a long time to get it fixed, partly because I’m across the country helping my folks make tough decisions, and helping to get my mom into skilled nursing and my dad into assisted living. I assume if you’re reading this, it’s via feedburner and you should be fine.

It is a powerful and tender time, and the way the family is pulling as a team is wonderfully inspiring. My mom’s first remark after waking from her coma was to tell everyone to go home because they looked tired.

The only graceful way through these challenges is in speaking the truth in a kind and loving way. And that’s what’s happening. We all feel good about the decisions that are being made.

Wishing you all grace through your challenges.

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How not to change behavior

Here’s a great SlideShare about changing behavior. One thing I love about it is how simple it is.

The first mistake is relying on willpower. Is that ever true! The power of attraction is so much more effective. I can power through short-term, but there’s always a backlash. (Ever been on a diet?) I’m trying to use willpower to get over the habit of using willpower, and that’s not working out too great! 😉 
The second is going for change in big leaps instead of baby steps. I think the leaps can happen sometimes if you’re really ready, but generally it’s like trying to eat an elephant in one gulp. I’m constantly reminding myself to take one step at a time. I mean constantly. I get overwhelmed and this gets me grounded and focused.
Oh – I like number four a lot – trying to stop old behaviors instead of creating new ones. I’ve been trying to stop leaving the burner on when I’m through cooking. New behaviors – new behaviors – I changed that to turning the pot handles out when I start and then turning the burner off before I take any food out or move the pan. I turn the handles back in when the burner is off. It’s working! So far…
I encourage you to view the presentation and create your own examples. It’s great stuff. 
We really do tend to go about a lot of things just plain backwards!

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Closet Bliss

I have an amazingly gorgeous sequined knit teal top I bought ten years ago and never wore. By all sorting systems, it should go in the donate or consign pile. But yesterday I paired it with a fringed red woven jacket and a print scarf and it looks terrific. I finally figured out how to wear it, and that magically transformed it from clutter to a wardrobe asset. 

I’ve been in closet bliss since I shifted from sorting stuff piece by piece into stay-or-go piles, to creating outfits I’m excited to wear. I started with pieces I love and pair and accessorize them one outfit at a time. Playing with my favorites helps me understand what works for me. Other items just don’t appeal in the same way – the contrast makes it clear.

It’s a slower process than imposing a rule on each piece. It’s worth it. I have constant creative breakthroughs. I’m recognizing the thinking that led to my bad buys. And I’m having a blast doing it in a way that makes sense to me.

It’s more than a way to approach closets. It’s also a way to approach life. Focus on what you want and what you don’t want loses its draw.

Look out house! My, there’s no stopping me now!

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A Good Plan is Hard to Find

“Please, just take it all!” Caroline implored. I walked away from her yard sale with hundreds of dollars’ worth of fine items, and she wouldn’t take a dime. But it wasn’t just me. She and Wally were lightening their load for a move. Their driveway and yard and garage contained box after box of unsorted tawdry trash mixed with thrilling treasure. They took great pleasure in essentially giving it all away to come who may.

“How does it feel to watch us all walk away with your stuff?” I asked.

“Like barnacles off a ship,” Caroline replied. 

They got the job done. Caroline and Wally’s decluttering plan was a good plan for them. 


“I got rid of anything and everything I haven’t used in two years,” Victoria told me. “Even if I loved it. It feels great to have it gone.” 

Unlike Caroline and Wally, Victoria sorted her stuff, applying a mechanical rule that kept her from having to think much about each piece she considered. She got the job done. Victoria’s decluttering plan was a good plan for her. 


If I had applied either one of their methods, I would have my closets cleared by now. But their plans aren’t good plans for me. If I had followed their plans, I would have missed the wealth of insights and discoveries that have come from not imposing a plan that doesn’t fit me. 

A good plan is hard to find. But it can unwind, unfold and reveal itself if you’re willing to let it. I’m experiencing a “creative closeting” breakthrough that is energizing and enlivening. More soon.

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Loosening the Knot

“Would you be willing to help me untangle the strings in this box?” Dr.  Estes asked her client. The lady, all tied up in knots herself, was happy to. The counseling session proceeded almost as normal, but seemed a bit lighter than usual.

When the session was almost complete, Dr. Estes asked the woman about her method for untangling the strings. The response inspired them both. She said, 

  • First you must loosen the knots.

The client knew she was speaking advice to herself. She needed to loosen her own knots before she could untangle them. 

Sometimes I need to loosen knots before I can speak strong. That means establishing rapport, showing grace or creating context. It’s setting a tone of mutuality.

And sometimes we need to loosen knots in failed systems. My first journal entry about leaning my world to life was titled “Our house is full.” The first step in creating a flow in our home was to loosen the knots (free up the gridlock) so I could begin to untangle them. There’s that space for grace theme again.

The thing about that is, there often isn’t much to show when you loosen things. It’s like much of the creative process. It can seem like nothing is happening, and then somehow, what was so hard becomes easy. 

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Excellence Through Wholeness

Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all else will be added unto you.

Yogastha Kuru Karmani: Established in Being, perform action.

These similar messages serve as powerful beacons of light when we get lost in life. But wait! There’s more! At least for me. I have two more axioms that keep me in balance:

Create Space for Grace, and

Excellence through Wholeness

Angela and I often remind each other to step back at times when pushing forward isn’t working. While there are times when soldiering on and powering through are needed, we help each other remember that when we’ve lost our center, finding that kingdom, beingness, grace and wholeness is our first focus. We all have our own ways of coming home.

Covey says put first things first. We say, putting wholeness first is the way to true excellence. 


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It’s Not About What’s On Your Plate

Cleaning your plate is a bad idea. It’s not about what’s on your plate. It’s about what you can digest. No matter what it cost you or who made it or how much anyone else can eat with impunity – if you can’t digest it, don’t eat it..

There might be some foods you can digest separately, but not together. You might have had a super meal at lunch, but it is still with you, and woe is you if you try to have the dinner that you digested just fine last week after a lighter lunch.

This is a metaphor for other things, including planning your day, week and life. It’s not about what tasks are on your metaphorical plate, it’s about what you can process without overloading your system.

It’s a simple fact of life. You can’t do more than what you can do. There is nothing noble about ignoring that fact and pushing yourself past your limits.

I could go on with the applications of this metaphor, but I won’t. I don’t want to put more on the plate than my readers can digest. Metaphorically speaking.

It’s not about what’s on your plate.

It’s about what you can digest.


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Whom Do You Invite Into Your Process?

I was honored that my neighbor was so pleased to show me the cabinets she is staining while they’re at such an early stage. Her home looked like you would expect during a project like this. All the contents of her entire home were strewn about. I ooohed and awwwwed over what she was up to, and we enjoyed talking about how things were unfolding, what else she was considering doing and on and on.

The next evening. Bob and I were returning from a walk when we saw my neighbor. She had knobs for her new cabinets. I was eager to see them, and suggested Bob come in, too, to see how good the stain looks. She wanted to wait for her project to be complete before he saw it. I went in and admired the new knobs alone.

I get it. There are some people I love to share my unfinished work with, and with others I prefer to wait for more completion.

When I began making changes at my foundation, there were only two people I invited in. That’s expanding, but I still am careful of whom I invite into my process. In yesterday’s post, I wrote of how Anthony Bourdain tunes out the voices of family and possible readers in favor of his own. He makes tuning those voices out sound easy. Perhaps it is for him. But for me, giving birth to a new idea or expression is a delicate process. I am very selective about who gets invited in.

And probably you need to be selective, too.

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