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Some Assembly Required

Do those words make you shutter?

446f87299cecabd15e216efd4bdf3f56_254920-700xDo you have the patience to assembly an Ikea bookcase?

Have you been training with Legos since you were a child?

If they put all the pieces in a box, give you instructions in pictures and include the only tools you need, can you do it?

Or do you think outside the delivery box?

Do you have a few tools that are old friends, feeling natural in your hand?

Is there a project you envisioned, planned out, gather supplies and created all on your own?

Have you stood by watching a skilled craftsman or the rare master craftsman as they explained the nuance of a technique or the secret of a process?

Everyday we are offered the opportunity to put together lives and people and memories.

Everyday we have the choice to just slap together the bookcase, grab a cold drink and pat ourselves on the back.

Everyday we have the chance to take the time to learn and think and feel and craft for ourselves.

Everyday some assembly is required.

Priority Mail or Slow Boat

Yesterday I mailed three boxes.

uspsThe first box contained a Christmas gift. I purchased the gift in July, wrapped it in September and mailed it in October. I have notified the recipient not to open it when it arrives but to wait until December.

The second box contained a blessing. On Saturday a very colorful garage sale sign caught my eye and I followed the bright arrows. Driving past the address I got a quick look at the merchandise being offered. It looked like it was mostly used clothes. After making a u-turn I was able to pull in front of the garage and see the owner had laid out a king sized sheet to display over sized books. Treasure was waiting and very reasonably priced.  Scooping up four art books and getting change back for a five dollar bill I was on my way again. Fitting nicely in a free USPS Priority Mail box these happy gifts will arrive in a week or so.

The third box contained memories in the form of foot long sections of madrone and olive tree. The Madrone tree was felled on our property in the Santa Cruz mountains. It grew behind the family log cabin and was harvested last year for fire wood. The olive wood was harvested just last week from the tree my husband planted in our back yard for my birthday 5 years ago. The sections are on their way to a master craftsman to be made into custom pens for me. They will be number six and seven in my collection of handcrafted writing instruments.

At the post office counter the patient government employee asked me the standard questions.

“Anything fragile, liquid, hazardous or explosive?”  ”No,” I answered.

“How would you like to send these?” “Slow boat”, I said. “No hurry.”

As he finished weighing and stamping the first box and reached for the second he told me it was cheaper to send it Priority than it would be in a normal category. Surprise treasure can be heavy.

The third box contents shifted as he put it on the scales. But he never questioned it’s size or the odd distribution of weight. Stamped, paid and tossed into the big bin behind the counter the boxes are headed south, east and north.

There are so many options at the post office counter. Priority…Express…2 Day…Next Day…Air Mail…Special Delivery…Insured…Certified…Return Receipt Requested…

The faster the service the more it costs. Having plenty of time or no deadline at all made it less expensive to send these boxes. Do you have time to save money? Or do you pay a premium for last minute transactions?

An old adage says “haste makes waste”. It also costs extra.

 

 

 

Living in Oz

Symbols-of-Virtues

Today I was thinking about the Wizard of Oz. Mainly I was considering what each main character desired and how those desires were already met within themselves. Each one was looking to someone else to give them something they didn’t think they had but desperately wanted. They were willing to face their fears, vanquish their foe and go long distances to satisfy someone else’s plans in search of their hearts desires.

Dorothy’s journey led her full circle to realize the place she was running from was actually where she wanted to be the most.

The scarecrow was already smart but without a diploma he didn’t believe it. How many people have been widely successful without a college degree and how many college grads are deeply in debt flipping burgers, making coffee or running a photocopy machine?

The Lion was brave but without the acknowledgement of someone else didn’t trust his strength was real. If we wait for someone else to give us a medal or to recognize our courage how many battles will we loose? How many rotten apples will be thrown at us before we learn how to roar?

The heart of Tin Man rested in the praise of others. The Wizard gave him a testimonial. Other people’s words opened him up to risk having his heart broken but he felt it was worth it. Do you wait for other people’s words of acclaim and praise before risking being generous or loving again? Do you feel it is worth the risk?

It seems like everyone was looking for something from someone outside themselves to see they already had it all along. “Oz never did give nothing to the Tinman….”

 

Due Diligence

Due-DiligenceThere is an old adage about looking before you leap. In this era of information overload and quick access it hold even more true than ever. How many of your friends, because I’m sure you would never do this, post alarmist reports or warnings without checking the facts?

Before offering advice or jumping to conclusions, how much research or just old fashioned listening do you do?

Are your words considered and ponder or do they just escape your fingers and mouth without a second consideration?

I must confess, I am too quick to offer opinion or my observations when they have not been requested. And I get frustrated with those who would rather be spoon fed information instead of making the effort to education themselves.

What if, just for one day, we only answered the questions that were directly asked and found the answers to our own questions without asking someone else?

Tomorrow I will make this attempt. I’ll let you know how it goes, but only if you ask.

Personal ROI

ROIInvestments are something we generally associate with money. But everyday we make decisions on where to invest our time, strength and attention. Some decisions are a combination of all three with the end result being money. Many are habitual investments. Same use of time day in and day out. Same strengths being drawn upon time and time again.

Large investments of our time and money could look like college. Four or more years dedicated to learning something, a skill, an area of expertise. It comes with a high price tag these days. Even at a public university it can cost $80,000 or more. Then there is the cost of those years, the end of your teens and the first few of your twenties if you are fortunate enough to go straight from high school. Formative years full of energy and uncertainty.

The night before you sign the papers buying your first home is one of restless sleep if any. Depending on where you purchase that home could cost anywhere from $100,000 for a small fixer-upper to $500,000 for a slightly larger fixer-uper. Taxes, maintenance, insurance, job security and the stress of can you make the mortgage payments. 15 years or 30 years is a long time to commit to making that payment but at the end the house will be all yours. Well, as long as you keep paying the property taxes.

How about the people in your life. They take time and strength and often money not just attention. I’ve always found it interesting that attention is coupled with pay. The notes home from the teacher…”Your child doesn’t pay attention in class”….”Pay attention to your driving”….”You screwed up because you didn’t pay attention”…. Attention costs. It costs those who give it and those who receive it. Ever been under the scrutiny of someone who has decided to focus all their attention on you? I can get my Boradors undivided attention simply by picking up a certain squeaky ball. I don’t even have to squeak it. Just pick it up. They don’t have to be in the same room as I am when this happens. Their squeaky ball radar kicks in and they know it has moved from it’s resting place to my hand.

You are an investor. You have invested heavily in some areas of your life either by conscious or passive choice. How are those investments paying off? Are you enjoying or even working in the field you studied for in college? Was it money and time well spent?  Did you skip college and head straight to the work world? Have the years of on the job experience brought you what you expected? Would more education be worth the investment?

Is your house a house or is it home? Whether you own it or rent it it is the place you decided to unpack your stuff. Are you still investing in making it your own? Are people comfortable when they enter your front door?

Those people and pastimes…good investments? Rewarding? Mutually beneficial?

What is the Return On Your investment?

These are not new concepts. They go way back. “You reap what you sow”….”My word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent.” Sound familiar?

Maybe today is the day you need to take a look at your investment portfolio.
Maybe it’s time to redistribute some of your assets.
Maybe it’s time to unload some that just don’t pay dividends.
Maybe it’s time to double down on some that you have undervalued.

You decide. Everyday. What will you invest in today?

Digital Detox

I wish I could tell you where the idea of Digital Detox started. I picked it up somewhere on line and have adopted it as my own.

The idea is pretty simple. Turn off electronic media for a self determined amount of time. If you are suffering from serious FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) this can be a very difficult thing to do.

images (3)My first digital detoxes were not deliberate at all. Our family has an old log cabin in the mountains and there is no wifi or cell signal up there. I love going up on Friday evening in time to grill dinner, start a nice fire and be sitting with a glass of wine as the darkness and silence falls around us. It makes it easy to turn off my cell phone. Even taking my ipad or laptop to read or write didn’t feel right. Pulling out my thick leather bound journal and my hand crafted fountain pen at the big picnic table did feel right. The heft of a book in my hand and the motion of turning pages felt right. There is a special magic at the cabin that makes time slow down.

But going to the cabin every weekend isn’t possible. So I decided to try to get the same effect by turning off the electronics at home. The first couple of tries were not successful. My home office computer is usually on 24/7 with the sleep mode set to kick in if I am away from the keyboard for more than an hour. I use the television as a timer. It runs in the background all day and I know what time it is just by listening. Turning everything off is easy. Leaving it off is hard.

This week I have been part of a daily blogging challenge a friend of mine put out to her blogging community. Everyday for a week. Consistency and deliberate effort on our sites being the common goal. Reading the other bloggers has been inspiring and encouraging. Sharing the struggle of writing daily and meeting the midnight deadline brings us together. I am lucky. Because of the way my site is set up I can schedule my blogs to post while I am offline.

So this will show up, Friday July 26th while my computer is off and my phone is off and I am off line.

How do you take a break? Do you take a break? What are you deliberate about?

Use Your Super Power For Good

I have to admit posting this morning is not my idea. In fact, if I hadn’t been prodded by a friend I don’t know how long it would have been before I started writing again.

superpowerFor the past 6 months I have been working on another website. It is for my daughter’s high school music program. It was a challenge learning some of the technical stuff I didn’t already know and stretching my skills. It was easy to populate because I didn’t have to create all of the content. The music program itself was the content. Content arranging was much easier for me than original content creation.

But while organizing that it was easy to avoid my own site and building my own program. I was doing good but not sure I was doing my best.  Then came the renewed call earlier this week to blog everyday for a week starting today. My creative nature stirred if not woke up. I still had a few days to think about it and come up with something interesting to write. While I was formulating my thoughts I realized this particular friend has encouraged me to do a lot of things I have let slide off and on. She’s brought to mind authors I had read or been meaning to read and I have read. She’s mentioned song lyrics I haven’t heard in years and soon an earworm has worked its way into my head and playlist.

Another friend inspires me to paint and garden. A couple inspire me to lighten up not only emotionally but physically. Two encourage me to knit!

Each one is using their God-given gifts for good. None of them lecture or scold me into action. They are usually just going about their own life doing what they do without an agenda to change my day or my life or my attitude. But when I let them in, when I spend time cultivating our relationships, when I really listen to their hearts, I become a little stronger, a little kinder, a little more loving, and a little more my best self.

What is your super power? Encouragement? Listening? Helping? Creating? Setting a positive example? As I apply myself to the blogging challenge this week I extend the challenge to you…

Use your super power for good everyday this week. The world needs you to. I need you to. And, your heart probably needs you to, too!

 

Are you a Dip Stick?

This week I have spent time in a foreign word. For many of you it is very familiar and bookends your work day. But for me commuter traffic is something I am able to avoid. The school I drive my daughter to during the school year is 3 stop lights away. Summer music camp at San Jose State University is 10 miles away, most of it heavily traveled freeways leading into downtown San Jose. She has to be there at 8 am so we hit the height of traffic. Picking her up at 6:30 pm puts us back on the same freeways with many of the same people trying to get home. I do not care much for their world and rejoice that today ends my commuter status for another year.

The afternoon round trip downtown I get to ride shotgun. My favorite person in the whole wide world comes home through the commute traffic only to take the wheel of our mini van and drive back into the frey to pick up our daughter. He is also my chief mechanic and yesterday the faithful mini van was having trouble shifting gears. I can relate. Shifting from one thing to another often causes me to rev my engine too much and make loud clunking sounds when I finally find second.

dipstickAs we were just about to head out the door this morning, he decided he wanted to check the transmission fluid before I took to the road. Moving the van out of the driveway and on the level ground of the street, he pulled out the transmission dipstick. It was dry. Not low. Not needing to be topped off but totally dry.

Pulling the van back in the driveway he said he would take our daughter to camp in the truck. Within just a few minutes, disaster was averted ( I didn’t drive a van with no transmission fluid), plans were changed ( instead of jumping in the shower to get ready for work he jumped in the truck and delivered daughter) and I began to consider dipsticks.

It’s really a simple thing. A thin flat piece of metal with a few markings and a way to grasp the end. But checking it is crucial to the operation of any engine. Too much or not enough of whatever it measures can make all the difference. There is no judgement or criticism from the dip stick. Just a simple registration of what is or isn’t. The fluid is there or not.

Then comes the decisions. Do I drive it based on the dipstick? Do I need to refill? Have I over filled? The dipstick doesn’t make the decision. It doesn’t tell you what to do. It just shows you what is.

Are you the kind of person who reflects what is? Do you know when someone is running empty or overfilled? Can you show that without judgement or criticism? Do people check in with you to help them get a good reading of how their engine is running? Are you a good dipstick?

 

I Don’t Want It All

I have an arm full of cloths on hangers that I keep moving around.

They were hanging in a storage unit in the garage for several years. But earlier this year we moved that cabinet and added a shelving unit. I took the clothes out while the re-org was going on and the space they had occupied for a long time was back filled with a popup tent and stadium chairs. The pile was left on the chair in the living room for a couple of weeks.

Then we were having company over and the pile got scooped up and put on our bed. After the company was gone, it was re-scooped and moved to the couch in the living room. (As you might guess, we don’t use our living room much these days.)

Over the weekend, my favorite teen had a crafting party for her English class Ren Faire group. The pile made the brief journey back to our bed only to return to the living room at the end of the day resting in the rocking chair.

Walking past it this morning , I was keenly aware of how that pile was getting a lot of movement but no resting place. None of the items has been worn in a long time. A few are sentimental pieces. I’m not sure why the rest are still here. As I stood looking at sweaters that I will never wear again it occurred to me that they really weren’t mine at all. They aren’t my style any more. They aren’t my size. They aren’t reflective of who I am at this stage of my life. They aren’t mine. It’s time they move along and find their true owner.

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At one time each of these things were something I choose to bring into my life and my home. Each day they have remained has been by my choice. It will take my decision and my action to send them on their way. Once I set them free I will no longer be moving them back and forth from one inconvenient temporary place to another. They will have no more of my time or attention. Considering the small sense of freedom that offers I wonder what else it’s time to send out into the world. I wonder what else I’ve been moving from one place to another without truly dealing with it once and for all.

I don’t want things that don’t belong to me. I don’t want clothes in my closet or books on my shelf or anything else that just isn’t me anymore. As I pull things out and stuff them into bags to take to Goodwill I find my heart and beliefs need a good spring cleaning as well. Just as seasons and styles change, I’ve changed on the inside. Things I held tightly to in years gone by no longer serve my heart.  Not that my values have changed much but my understanding has. Not that my faith has changed but my spirit has. Not that I desire less but that I desire better.

There is so much in the world. So much good. But I don’t want it all. I just want what I need for this chapter of my story.

(Anybody need some sweaters?)

Are you ignorant?

Ignorantia juris non excusat

When it comes to legal matters, ignorance is not a viable excuse for breaking the law. With over 180,000 pages of Federal law knowing everyone is not possible. But there are a lot of things that you can know. Things that can save a life or make the one you have run just a little smoother.

If you have a driver’s license you should know how to change your own tire, how to check the engine fluids and air pressure in your tires, and how to use jumper cables. If you do not know these four basic maintenance skills, park your car, call someone who does know and get them to teach you. Driving with low pressure or fluids can be a hazard not only to you but to me. Not knowing how to change your tire leaves you vulnerable and “helpless” on the side of a road somewhere.  Same thing with jumper cables. Keep them in your trunk next to the car jack and know how to use both.

Budget. Oh, how different our country would be if public servants knew what this word means and operated accordingly. If you don’t have a budget you are well on your way to debt and financial instability. There are hundreds of FREE sites that will teach you how to create one. After you set one up, teach your kids how to do it. Your grandkids will thank you.

If you have a computer, and I guessing you do if you are reading this. Learn how to back up and protect your information. If you need help, again, there are hundreds of websites that can give you step by step instructions. Not backing up and protecting your information is naive and just plain foolish.

Vote. I know you are being bombarded with political stuff right now. It may be annoying and seem overwhelming but if you don’t spend the time really educating yourself on the issues and the candidates you have no one to blame but yourself for the outcome of the elections. Don’t understand a proposition? Read it. Don’t just watch the t.v. commercials and decided which one annoys you the least. That’s not how to make an educated decision. Decided on a candidate you want to vote for? Great. If I ask you why you chose that person can you explain it other than “He’s not the other guy”?

Our country is facing some tough challenges. Everyone I know is dealing with their own stuff and wondering how it’s going to get better. Not knowing is no longer an excuse. What can you do today to be just a little bit smarter than you were yesterday?

 

 

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