Good Habits

ranting

Social Ranting: Which Side Of The Fence Are You On?

#CoffeeBreakStory: Is Every Thought Worth Ranting About To The World?

I drastically cut back on my social media consumption during my summer hiatus, which I explained over here.  Now I’m cautiously dipping a toe back in. With a refreshed perspective, today’s story spotlights social ranting.  

To be clear, I’m not ranting about it—really! Instead, I’m pondering the value of over-sharing hot buttons while under-offering solutions. And since I’m not a rambler (a definite hot button for me), top off your coffee and let’s get right into it, shall we? 🏃‍♀️

🎉 P.S. Don’t miss the new section at the end of this story! ⤵️ September is the debut of “3 Fun or Fascinating Things”  I recently discovered—Enjoy! 🎉

ranting
image by karolina grabowska from pexels

One of my personal issues with social media is the plethora of “I think it, I’ll say it” or “I feel this way, so I’m going to lay it on you” posts.

Admittedly, I’m also telling you what I think and how I feel, every time I write, too! 🤓

However, my style is not skipping the critical subsequent step of sharing what it can mean to you—the value proposition.

In other words, I seek to provide some sort of useful takeaway: a laugh, an epiphany, a lesson, or a new perspective. ✨ 

We all have our share of negative experiences or difficult days. The struggle is real for everyone—no exceptions. So why add to that burden without offering some sort of relief when you want to talk about yours?

ranting

Three examples of ranting that make me sigh

#1: The Stranger who did them wrong

Nothing makes me wince quicker than reading a FB post which opens with, “To the person who…” and then the author proceeds to share details of an unsatisfactory experience with an unknown or unnamed person.

The transgression? It varies. But it’s typically a minor irritant, in the scheme of things. There’s never a shortage of driving examples. Perhaps someone cut them off in traffic. Maybe someone didn’t park within the lines at the store parking lot.

Does the writer really think the stranger is going to (a) read the diatribe, and (b) immediately change their ways? Or is the author simply ranting publicly … ISO a place to dump ruffled feelings or to receive validation for perceived indignations?

What are we supposed to do with this negativity? 💣

Or how about this:

#2: Whining about societal pressure to do things one way

Who doesn’t chafe against all the “shoulds” that social lays on us? What to wear, what to eat, where to go, how to be, how to do anything and everything!

It’s difficult enough figuring ourselves out. We also deal with round-the-clock bullhorns feeding us answers we didn’t ask for, which don’t necessarily align with our preferences.

But how tiresome are the unleashed posts about how the author doesn’t want to be told what to do … they are who they are and they refuse to bend. The language gets salty with “Fuck you, algorithm!” or “The Hell with you, society…I’m not ready for kids now!”

And that’s the extent of the story: leave me alone! 😡

So maybe the author is drawing a public line in the sand. I am a fervent “line draw-er” myself with being told what to do (just ask my husband, hehe).

Nevertheless, what’s the benefit for the reader? Where are the suggestions for how to do things our own way and be good with that? Or the chuckle about how to circumnavigate pressure to conform? Crickets! 😶

And lastly:

#3: A political stance about a complicated topic

I’ve yet to see how using social for ranting personal political beliefs has ever ended well. Either the author gets a bunch of head nodders, which means they didn’t change anyone’s mind, or they attract folks from the other side of the issue and it all dissolves into chaos. What was accomplished?

Even worse, I’ve seen writers dive in with “This is how I see it and I’m not interested in debating”. They may turn off comments or delete them if they aren’t in synch. Lovely, eh? 🙄

Sure, we all have freedom of speech. Rant away! But why serve up political beliefs you want others to embrace without giving them a chance to respond with their diverse views? Why not try listening?

If one doesn’t like society saying what we should do, then why do you get to rant to the rest of us  about “how it should be”?

Bottom line, is social truly the best platform for a thoughtful, considerate political discussion? In today’s increasingly polarized society, it appears to only have us dig our heels in deeper. And it also seems to sever more personal ties which is sad. 😢

ranting

Three Alternatives To Social Ranting

Firstly, when emotions are high, consider using a personal journal to process those feelings.

Maybe you weren’t a sensitive young girl who once upon a time wrote in her little diary about how rejected she felt when Johnny didn’t ask her out. Then she locked it with that little key, hid it under the mattress, and she carried on anyway. 💃🏻

But hey, same principle! Whether old school pen and paper or online digital journaling (like 750 Words which I adore and faithfully use), spew forth those negative or squirrely thoughts in private. 📕 

It’s a relief just to say them and get them out of your head, right? This allows your irrational impulses to join the party and be acknowledged.

Then, process the situation unemotionally. Think of all the times you spoke before thinking, and in hindsight, you had second thoughts or more useful conclusions. Too late now, eh? This is the power of the pause. 😎 

Secondly, figure out why you want to share your situation or outlook.

What action or perspective do you want your readers to take? Feeling compelled to vent is normal. It relieves frustration and that’s what friends are for—sometimes.

It just goes to another level when we broadcast it into the ether, going above and beyond our closest friends. How many people need to hear you gripe and moan so you can feel whole again? 🤔

How would you feel about developing a reputation for finding fault, complaining, or mounting a soapbox? Your dearest friends may not see you this way (unless it’s true 🙄) but what about those that you rarely if never meet up with? That could happen and who needs evidence of your misery in the world?

Thirdly, what value are you imparting to those receiving your words?

A vent can be turned into a useful post (look at what I’m doing here!💡)

For example, if you want to change someone’s mind, then there’s likely a lesson learned or a new way of dealing with a problem that you can provide.

Or maybe it’s about lightening up with the issue, and so you share a few laughs and jibes. You choose what your objective will be.

Ultimately, not taking every little thing too seriously is an invaluable life skill, don’t you think? 🤗

the wrap with Mary V

The Wrap on Ranting

If you want to change someone’s mind or gain their support, don’t just broadcast your opinion.Tell them why your view matters to them, as well. Consider how your words will make others feel. 

In fact, sometimes saying less like I shared over here is an even wiser choice. Just sayin’ 😉

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What do you think:

  • Do you enjoy reading rants?
  • Do you regularly share them?

I’d genuinely like to hear your thoughts … and thanks for stopping by! 😀

New! 3 Fun or Fascinating Things

✅ If you’re a Foodie, you’ll enjoy the real back story of French Laundry. Savor this heartwarming short feature 🎬 of Sally Schmitt, one of California’s first female chefs who built and then sold this famous restaurant to Thomas Keller.

In Her Own Words 👩‍🍳❤️

✅ I’m FB following Fritz, the new baby hippo, at Cincinnati Zoo! Then I came across this throwback video of his older sister, Fiona, savoring an iconic summer treat.

Nom, nom, nom! 🍉

Calling all my long-haired friends! 💁🏻‍♀️ The inventor of the Scrunchie™ has died. Learn more about how Rommy Hunt Revson went from nightclub singer to millionaire businesswoman 💰

The Rise of a Boss Lady 😎

next

The Next Step Is … Actually, I’m Not Quite Sure–You?

Your Next #CoffeeBreakStory!

While you might think writers are generally writing for others, I think there are many times we are actually writing for ourselves. Unless it’s an appliance manual or some other dry instructional pamphlet … though someone’s gotta write those (just not me!)

But when we write from the heart, we write what we feel compelled to share. We write what flows from our souls and top-of-mind. And while our content may resonate, reassure or uplift someone else, most times, it’s often what we ourselves need to hear! That’s what makes writing so personal.

Yet sometimes, the impetus fades. Enthusiasm wanes. Clarity blurs. A pause is needed as we wonder, Now what?
… … …

Which is the prompt for today’s #CoffeeBreakStory. I find myself at this very crossroads again. It’s a mashup of discomfort, revelation and relief! Yet with a very definite overlay of “okay, fine–but what’s next?”

Don’t get me wrong: No one is coming to tell me what to do! I firmly believe our next move is entirely up to us. I’m just not quite sure what that is for me. I feel like the last couple years have been an exercise in figuring out what it isn’t going to be! Which is extremely valuable intel, no?

But after several occasions of thinking I found it … or I was found … Nope, not quite yet!

So for now, I’m on pause with writing on Medium, the platform I talked about in the kickoff to #CoffeeBreakStories over here. 

Although I’ve been known to slip out of social events when I’m not feeling the vibe, it felt properly adult to announce to my Medium followers that I’m taking a hiatus. 

Got your beverage of choice refilled? Here’s the story I shared there:

next
image by Bogdan R. Anton from Pexels

A Personal Journey Continues...

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image by Dmitriy Ganin from Pexels

The Wrap On The Next Chapter

When things feel like a grind, it’s a good sign that it’s time to slow down and even pause for a bit. 

Whoever gets a map with a direct route from Point A, The Dream, to Point B, The Achievement? Anybody? 👎 Didn’t think so!

What brings us joy and fulfillment can and will evolve over time. Don’t be afraid to shift when your intuition nudges you to check out a different path.

I’m feeling that way with Medium (and perhaps with social media in general!) So a couple of upcoming trips will be the perfect time to figure things out. 

Meanwhile, I’ll still be here weekly— I hope you’ll join me, too! 😊

~~~~~

Oh, and when you have six extra minutes (a two-cup coffee break) , do listen 🎧  to this Ted Talk brilliantly delivered by (gulp) a 16-year old! Hey, I’m willing to consider wisdom from some surprising resources. Halle shares some very compelling reminders about life journeys. 

Time

Time: Too Much, Too Little, Too Late?

It's Coffee Break Story Time!

I’m simply stunned with how this year is rolling by—you, too? It got me thinking about how time is the ultimate shape-shifter. It crawls when we are bored, unhappy, or impatient for the future. It clips along when we are busy or happy. And it literally flies by the older we get.

I’m at the age where I really want to make the most of what time I have ahead of me. It starts with being honest about how I spend my time. Only then, can I make clear choices with fewer regrets afterwards.

Got a little time? Grab your coffee and dig into this weekend’s one-minute #coffeebreakstory!

Time
Image by Victoria Borodinova from Pexels

Where Does The Time Go?

Nothing f*cks you harder than time. —Ser Davos, Game of Thrones

Who doesn’t bemoan the passage of time?

 Never enough! More, please!

Time is a precious commodity easily frittered away, cavalierly ignored, or taken for granted. We put things off for another day … but does that day ever arrive? Or does regret show up instead?

Yet what if it’s not time that’s the thief of our days?

Maybe it’s what we give the privilege of our attention to that determines the satisfaction with our allotted time…

Each moment of every day is an opportunity to choose how we use our time. So it follows that we should also recognize what takes us off course. 

My personal distractors are texts, my dogs, and “sometimes” a sale on shoes. (Know thyself, eh 😉 

What steals your attention? I’m listening…

The Wrap On Time

Is time on your side? Uncover more when you reassess and redirect where your energy goes.

For a deeper dive on time management, check out Laura Vanderkam’s brilliant 12-minute TED Talk. 

New to my Coffee Break Stories? Here’s another! 

time management
image by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels
present moments

Drink In The Respite and Renewal of Ordinary Present Moments

Take five for a new coffee break story!

The present moments feel satisfyingly full when I appreciate what a gift they truly are!

I’m referring to the mundane tasks, ordinary moments, and non-events that are legitimate parts of my day. Those commonplace aspects are invaluable counterparts that let the occasional extraordinary moments and thrilling activities shine. And they also give relief to my active squirrel brain, ha!

Young children and older adults seem to readily grasp the beauty of average present moments. The former are yet unburdened with the business and busyness of life. And the latter are wise to fewer days stretching ahead than behind; they no longer take any time for granted. 

Today’s 2-minute Coffee Break Story celebrates our present moments! If you’re new to these tiny tales, they’re short form reads, 5-minutes or less. You’ll find links to prior #coffeebreakstories below.

For now, refill your cup, sit back, relax, and enjoy!

present moments
Image by Artem Beliaikin

Present Moments Matter

Present Moments
Mary V's Happy Place

Coffee Story Wrap On Present Moments

We are served selected slices of other people’s stories all day long. It’s easy to get caught up in 24-7 cajoling to constantly be in motion with something exciting, admirable, or new. Sometimes, it makes our own ordinary days feel lacking. I don’t buy into that (any more), nor should you! 

Slow down. Breathe. Step mindfully into your day.

Focus on your commonplace present moments and you’ll start to treasure just how invaluable they are.

+++     +++     +++

Make room for this soulful contemplation of the ordinary by the extraordinary Eckhart Tolle. His calm delivery lowers my blood pressure!

Head here to catch up with the kickoff of Coffee Break Stories. 

And thanks for stopping by!

personal health

Better Personal Health Journeys with Carolyn’s Community

Feeling our best matters, especially as we enter our 50s and beyond. Who doesn’t want to continue living a vital life? Which is why managing our personal health is super essential.

Yet how long was your last convo with your primary physician? If it was over 30 minutes, you’re lucky—the average PCP exam in the USA is less than 20 minutes!

Did you leave with a new diagnosis or health alert, armed only with general instructions? Or a new Rx (or two) for managing your medical status quo? Again, you’re not alone! Were you satisfied? Fully informed?

This is not intended as a condemnation of the medical community. Medicine has morphed into big business. Doctors and nurses are equally frustrated with the charting and coding activities that monopolize and divert from patient time. And the growing emphasis on monetizing a fractured health care system has led to abbreviated appointments and a lack of adequate patient education. 

So now enter my friend, Carolyn: She and thousands of other certified health coaches are filling the growing gap between the medical community and the patients they serve.

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ALERT:  Carolyn and I are not doctors or mental healthcare professionals of any kind. All medical statements by either Carolyn or myself in this post are for informational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care providers.

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Personal Health

Carolyn is the fourth in my monthly Midlife Stories series, which introduces Everyday Women Over 50 pursuing a life chapter that brings fulfillment and joy.

These are unfiltered accounts of women living life on their own terms. They’re doing what they are curious or passionate about— not what social media or anyone else tells them they should be doing! Isn’t that what we all want to achieve?

I have links below to the prior posts for this series if you’re just joining us now. But meanwhile, sit back and hear all about my friend, Carolyn, a savvy health coach and emerging personal health community builder!

How Personal Health Issues Led To Health Coaching

Carolyn’s mom actually played a pivotal role in her quest for nutritional well being. Growing up, there was no hint of processed food in the house. While Carolyn laughingly labels her mom as “a health nut ahead of her time”, there was good reason: a history of heart attacks for the 50-year old males  on her dad’s side!

While she looked longingly at the Ding Dong cakes or other sugary treats in her classmates’ lunch boxes, she had to make do with a small bag of raisins (yeah, that got tossed!). Then Carolyn broke free of the restricted food environment when she attended summer camp. She was in (temporary) nirvana, filling up on Wonder bread and margarine.

But when her folks showed up for Parents Day, they had to bring her new clothes, one size larger—whoops! Yet that didn’t alter her subsequent resolve to follow a more relaxed eating regimen once she left the nest.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

More Personal Health Issues Cropping Up

Fast forward to life in the Boston suburbs with her husband and growing family. After an initial career in marketing and advertising, Carolyn chose to be a stay-at-home Mom. The complexity of juggling the busy schedules of four active young girls in combination with an outside career was too daunting, especially since her husband traveled abroad extensively for his own career. However, she nails what being a SAHM really means: 

“Unpaid, equally stressed and busy, in order to spend more time with my own kids!”

In other words, she wore many hats for many years, volunteering on numerous school committees and community boards, plus chauffeuring to  and organizing various extracurricular activities and field trips. It was during this time that Carolyn developed IBS symptoms, which she is convinced were stress-induced. Lifestyle and diet are also classic major contributors.

And then her children started to exhibit allergies and ADHD. In fact, nationally, there were more and more reports about the rise of allergies, asthma and a new diagnosis of autism.

The more she read, the more she became convinced that she had gone overboard with allowing junk and processed food in her pantry. Mom was right! (side note: Carolyn’s dad is now in his 80s—more proof about the impact of good nutrition.) So yes, it was time for a change!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Searching for Personal Health Resources

Happily, Carolyn was able to get her IBS symptoms under control. Thanks to her newfound passion for eating right, she had already done extensive research on ways to mitigate IBS symptoms on her own.

Next, she consulted with a well-known physician, who concurred with her conclusion. He handed her a stack of prescriptions and a $5.00 refill coupon. 

 Yet rather than immediately relying on drugs, Carolyn wanted to start with incorporating some small yet powerful everyday dietary and meditation habits first.

But when she shared her desire with the doctor to postpone the drug regimen, his immediate response was, “If you don’t take these, then we’re not working together!” 

Time to get a second opinion— and so she did! Fortunately, the next physician was amenable to a “wait and see” stance. Carolyn was prepared to take the prescriptions if her lifestyle changes were insufficient. As it turns out, her IBS side effects were effectively wrangled, woohoo!

This experience was evidence of a belief that Carolyn fully embraces: we can exert a certain amount of control over our own personal health by mindfully tweaking our lifestyle choices. 

“Genetics loads the gun; environment pulls the trigger” —Francis Collins, M.D., Director of NIH

And so yes, because of this experience…a lack of medical resources (time, attention and information) for her as an individual patient…she shifted into a new life chapter. Health Coach Carolyn was born!

body acceptance

Carolyn's Coaching Philosophy

Once she earned her first Health Coach certification in 2010, Carolyn was on her way to creating her own unique method for helping others with their personal health journeys.

She attended numerous lectures and logged in hours (and hours) of research. Her Masters in Psychology combined with additional intensive courses on functional medicine has resulted in a very positive, client-centric approach.

As she puts it,

“I don’t tell people what to do. I listen. I look for their strengths in order to learn how those can be applied to their health concerns. I’m by their side, encouraging them with making small steps.”

In other words, she has no preconceived remedy or path for new clients. For Carolyn, it starts with being a companion. And that’s what she does in personalized, one-on-one sessions. Some of her clients are referred from a local physician, who readily acknowledges the gap she fills.

Then, as a way to spread the word about the unique role that health coaches play, she launched a podcast in 2020. Carolyn was completely new to the whole podcasting platform, but she dug in anyway!

Wellness While Walking Podcast

Each episode focuses on sharing 30 minutes of encouragement and education while her listeners are exercising (walking). What a brilliant concept! And she has the perfectly modulated voice to deliver a quality listening experience (my unbiased opinion, hehe!) She also includes a variety of guests.

Shameless plug: Be sure to check out episode 94, Swedish Death Clearing With Mary V.

While her daughters mostly thought of her as “Mom”, they did take notice of her coaching commitment. Carolyn overheard one them saying to a friend, “You can try new things, even if they are hard at first. My mom started a podcast at 57!”

Her topics cover a broad array, from organizing your home (lowers stress), mindset, and meal prep, to breaking the twitch with alcohol, productivity, and purpose.

When you think about a lifestyle approach for better personal health, there are all kinds of things we can do to feel and be better. And it all starts with taking small steps.

personal health steps

Her Vision For A Personal Health Community

Like the rest of us, the recent pandemic stay-home period was a wake up call for Carolyn, the Health Coach. When “meh” was sarcastically voted the word of the year in 2021, it epitomized our spirit, languishing in separation from others. With that, she knew creating a community for helping improve personal health was an essential undertaking.

So this is exactly her latest wellness endeavor, which is currently a work-in-process. I don’t want to give away too many details ahead of the launch but it will be another ingenious mashup of online group meet-ups and one-on-one coaching sessions. 

Designed with a lifestyle-driven concept, her community will welcome all age groups because issue like getting rid of household toxins, reducing inflammation, or getting better quality sleep are universal topics.

Carolyn is convinced that  strength and support can and should be found in community. The rampant fragmentation we are all witnessing in the world today makes her wince.

In her own way, as a compassionate health coach, Carolyn strives to bring people together for better wellness. I, for one, have faith in her…and I think when you meet her, you will, too!

midlife stories

The Wrap on Personal Health with Carolyn

Together, we are better!

This truly summarizes Carolyn health coaching philosophy. And little steps go a long way for improving our personal health and well being. 

As a self-described “card-carrying realistic optimist”, who better to have by your side, cheering you on!

And you’ll never be alone, when you’re part of Carolyn’s Community. As she envisions it, 

“I will be the maestro of this orchestra. Each member has their own instrument to play. Together, we will create beautiful music!”

In her “spare” time, Carolyn loves word games, dance class, funny talking IG dogs, and time with her family.

Where to find Carolyn?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
Where to meet the other Women Over 50 featured in this series:

♥ Got thoughts about what you read here? Drop a line below … And thanks for stopping by!

(Note: images of Carolyn and her IG posts were created by her & stylized by this author)

listen

Listen: Be Known As A Great Conversationalist By Saying Less

“The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”—Ralph Nichols

Shaking his head, David grimaced as they cruised past a pan handler at the traffic light near the end of the highway exit ramp. “What is with these people? Why doesn’t he just get a job? Everyone is hiring these days!”

Nina glanced over as she tensely replied, “I always give a few dollars. How do you know what their situation is?”

“I know our tax dollars fund lots of agencies who can help, Nina!” David retorted. “How do I know this guy isn’t just scamming us?”

“I really don’t like when you assume the worst about people!” With each word, Nina’s voice got higher and tighter. “Would it hurt us to give a little? We never really know their situation, do we?”

David rolls his eyes and wonders how Nina can be so naive.

Nina sighs and questions how David can be so unsympathetic.

Impasse alert!

I’m not gonna say who’s wrong … but what if our process is?

Have you ever had a conversation like this that just goes South? I know I’ve had more than I care to remember!

We don’t see each other’s point of view because we are deeply entrenched in our own. Even a compromise can feel dissatisfying for both. There’s a whole lot of eye rolling and sighing going on everywhere, don’t you think?

And other times, you’re not even focused on the same issue. There’s back and forth sparring as you each insist on what the “real” point is. You know, the old “it’s not me, it’s YOU that doesn’t get it” clash.

It’s so distressing because we all want to be heard and understood.

Yet we actually can converse peaceably, even when we don’t agree … because 

“It’s not about being right. It’s about getting it right.” — Elizabeth Spelke

3 Listening Tips

  1. Start with recognizing an impasse is forming

Certain things trigger each of us. And then we automatically revert to a defensive position. We don’t budge. We are consumed with the feelings that descend and the words we reflexively utter reflect this unexamined state of mind.

So when someone insists they are right … when their body braces and their voice rises … when they adamantly repeat their take on things— these are clues!

Stern body language and high emotion make for a toxic combination.

Time to back off.

Equally important: pay attention when these clues describe us!

Unless we’re in a dire situation requiring action, is it really worth escalating as we go round and round? Is anyone really listening to the other? Does anyone really relish that? What does that accomplish?

   2. Next, gather more context

Adopt an attitude of curiosity. Are we sure we grasp what the other person is saying? Where is it coming from? What has been their experience? What additional intel would help us better understand their position?

Ask them to tell us more. “That’s interesting. Why do you think/feel/say that?”

Then—let’s stop talking. Start listening.

An open mind is comfortable with inviting a different perspective into a conversation.

   3. Now, end with smile

This is the moment to let it go! If we didn’t come to an agreement, that’s fine. If there were mutual questions that enabled both of us to expound on our positions, ponder that.

Our final words? “Thanks for sharing.” or “I never thought/felt about it that way.”

And now? (brace yourself)

Let them have the last word (I know, I know, argh!). But consider this: it’s actually a power move on our part.

A well-time pause can speak volumes

Wow, what just happened here?

By paying attention to emotional and physical cues, we step back timely and focus on how they see things. When others are wrapped up in their own point of view, they are not poised to entertain ours—yet. Now politely give them the platform to provide their rationale thoughts (or irrational feelings). Whether we agree or not, let’s thank them for sharing. Let’s indicate they’ve given us something to ponder. And then? Let’s ponder it! That’s how we learn!

And now, imagine if David and Nina had followed this suggested 3-step process. Perhaps their conversation could have ended like this instead:

David winked at Nina and marveled at what a wonderful listener she was!

Nina smiled lovingly at David and thought, “What an idiot he is!” NO, scratch that! She thought, “David always shares ideas that I hadn’t considered before!”

Hey, I’m just being realistic that we may still agree to disagree! But why fan the flame of division? 

Sometimes things are better left unsaid, no?

After all, being more gentle with each other recognizes that

“We’re all rough drafts of the people we’re still becoming” —Bob Goff

listen

The Wrap on How to Listen

As Dr. Joyce Brothers says, “Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.”

Who doesn’t feel the world can be an incredibly noisy place? Particularly when it comes to social media, everyone is seeking attention. Hardly anyone seems to be listening … to be available to others. Maybe this is one of the reasons we find social media to be so exhausting.

And divisiveness only gets deeper when no one takes the time to listen to the other side. Yes, it can feel painful to hear a view that may be radically different from our own. But when we pay full attention, we can discern non-verbal clues about what seems to be important to someone else. It may very well be a shared value. But we won’t know unless we truly listen.

Multitasking is often the culprit when we aren’t fully present. Circle back here for a reminder to look up from your screen!

Or listen here for a powerful Tedx talk on listening!

What do you think? I'm listening!

Intentional Living

Intentional Living 2022: Teeny Tiny Actions To Shift Closer To My Big Goals

A new month in a new year signals a return to intentional living— you know, picking up those goals you jotted down last year that didn’t quite stick!

And if you’re like me, New Year’s resolutions can sometimes feel heavy. I mean, we’ve been doing this for a number of years by now. And we’re still at it with some of them! 

But who doesn’t feel there’s always room for improvement in one or more major areas of their life? So we start in January (or December, for the truly organized), dreaming about how things could be (or dare I say, should be, which is even more daunting).

But how many of those ambitious line items continue to be worked as the year unfolds?

Well, after years of pledging to be perfect (and shocker: falling far short), I’ve recognized a flaw with the inordinate emphasis on big.

So instead, I’m choosing an intentional living approach: executing on little actions that can bring my larger goals within reach. And along the way, I’ll be relishing this focus that makes each ordinary day meaningful.

Think about it this way: There are many ways to get from where I am to where I want to be. Some of those ways are direct paths, or habits to do more of. Others are detours, or habits to do less of.

I’m going to focus on incorporating the little habits in my daily life that will keep me on track and offloading the ones that derail my journey!

……………………………………………………………

Today, I’m sharing a few examples of “more and less” little habits that will comprise my 2022 Year of Intentional Living. Because working the small steps feels more sustainable than fixating on the big ones. Feel free to claim any that resonate for you!

living with intention

What I'll Do More Of This Year

The last few months of 2021 had me on a bit of a pause. (Over here if you missed the last post). It was a time where I was sorting out my own living intentions by shifting inward. And by doing so, I observed success with occasional tiny habits that lifted me up and felt empowering. Clearly, it was time to do more of those things!

This is still a work in progress, so I reserve the right to tweak as I go along.

But so far, I’ve drafted a short list of little actions for major categories (work, relationships, mental/physical/spiritual health). They are tiny habits which can yield big benefits when done daily.

Such as:

  • morning journal (brain dump) to release swirling thoughts and to center myself
  • physical activity to get my endorphins flowing
  • mantras to turn around worry (“I’m right on schedule”), hesitation (“do it anyway”) or negativity (“think this, not that”). The last two are courtesy of the brilliant Mel Robbins! 

Being sensitive is both a blessing and a curse for me. It’s challenging how easily my mood can turn on a dime, just by what someone says or does. It’s a reflex.

But what if at the moment when that happens, I train myself to pause? Use one of my mantras? The bottom line is, my reactions are simply old habits that can be adjusted…one day at a time.

And the good news is, each of these micro actions take less than 20 minutes and some are barely 10 seconds! With practice, they become second nature.

The more I do them, the better I feel.

And the better I feel, the better my day goes … boom!

What I'll Do Less Of This Year

On the flip side, I’m restricting what brings me down, feels like a slog, or gets me stuck. Identifying and limiting what I must allow less of …even if the world (or sometimes myself) keeps nudging me to do them.

Who knows better than I what makes sense for my own well being? Each of us is wonderfully unique. It follows that  “one-size-fits-all” / “do what everyone else does” approaches are not always best.

So what’s on my “doing less of” list? 

  • endless audible notifications
  • all-day work marathons
  • backseat driving

There’s a lot to parse here! Let me just say that incessant interruptions really derail my focus and my mood. I’ve long prided myself with my multi-tasking skills—but at what price?

Deep thinking or being fully present in a conversation means something’s gotta give with the electronic pings. The same with stealing time every few minutes to glance at my phone or to scroll a little.

And life balance is essential. My corporate days are over. While writing brings me fulfillment, it’s a blessing that my personal life does not need to constantly come second. Time to break that twitch!

So along the lines of the Pomodoro Technique, I’m not entirely giving up getting several things done….I’m just going to ensure I go deep enough with my main objectives before I reward myself with a little social catch-up!

Lastly, yeah: backseat driving refers to my instinct to control things and direct people. It’s such an ingrained habit that I find it quite humbling to realize how often I do this. Whether I’m right or not, it’s not always appreciated (yikes!). Nor is it always effective. (Time to refer above for the proper mantra!).

Some habits may likely be something I’ll need to work on forever, never quite mastering. But always refining. Like that backseat driving.

intentional living

The Wrap On Intentional Living By Way of Little Habits

Intentional Living allows us to live our best lives.

When we pause to pay attention to what our souls yearn for, we can discover our deeply personal big goals. Then we can create little habits that move us in that direction—one tiny step at a time!

This approach feels so incredibly liberating, powerful, yet doable! Which sounds like a recipe for a sustainable approach to achieving what matters most to us.

The bar is always moving higher on our big goals. But then again, so should we—don’t you think?

………………………………………………………….

For another take on why it’s hard to accomplish big goals, check out this post over here. (spoiler alert: perfectionism is a notorious non-starter!)

Did you uncover a useful idea here? Have some little habits of your own you’re incorporating this year? 

Share your takeaway in the comments below—I welcome your thoughts!

…And thanks for stopping by!

Other Posts You May Enjoy

declutter your house

5 Easy Ways To Declutter Your House Now & Still Enjoy The Holidays

Believe it or not, you can add “declutter your house” to your December to-do list and not feel overwhelmed!

Are you thinking, “Surely you jest…I’ve got a ton of things to do before family and friends descend upon me!” 

Well, stay with me: I’m thinking of areas where you can weed out excess stuff and still be ready to toast the holidays with your loved ones!

I know…it’s traditional to begin a new habit on January 1st. It’s a logical starting point for those who make New Year’s resolutions. December is often a final hurrah for eating the cookies, sipping the eggnog or laying on the couch for a Netflix binge. 

Then, when the holidays are behind us, our attention is not pulled in quite so many directions. We can focus on where we want to head next.

But if you incorporate making some small uncluttering decisions while you’re preparing to celebrate, wouldn’t it be awesome to make headway now?

After all, you’re already handling many of your possessions as you prepare your home for the holiday get togethers. 

Where to start decluttering your house can start in those very spaces you’re cleaning and clearing as you prep for your guests.

Read on about five places where you can declutter your house before the end of the year!

declutter your house
laura james | pexels

1. Declutter Your Holiday Decor

Holiday decorating both inside and outside the home is part of many a family tradition. 

When I was growing up, we amassed and displayed a fair number of Christmas ornaments, Santa Claus collectibles and outdoor lights. Some of them were even passed along to us adult children as our parents scaled back. 

If you also regularly transform your home at this time of year, how about setting out fewer items? You, too, could let your grown kids pick and choose their favorites.

Or consider donating some so others who are less financially stable can also create a festive atmosphere in their homes, too. As you’re hauling out and unwrapping your decorations, review which ones are your favorites to keep and which ones can now be shared.

Crating extra space between your favorites will also feature them front and center. Everything you look at will make your heart swell.

And then think about how streamlined next year’s holiday decorating will be when you have less to set up and then store again!

tips to declutter your house
anna tis | pexels

2. Declutter Your Everyday Decor

We generally need to swap out our knickknacks when we display holiday trinkets and decor. 

Instead of simply boxing up all your things temporarily, think about sorting and releasing some of your customary items now. It’s an ideal time to clear out what no longer thrills you, especially if you’re planning to make a move into a smaller space next year. 

Oftentimes, we don’t see clearly what is in our home because we are so familiar with our things. Once it’s time to move it or pack it, only then do we start to look at our stuff with a critical eye.

As you handle each item, is it something that you truly love? Do you use it now? Is it in working condition? Might it be something to pass on to somebody else? 

 Not sure? Then defer the decision for now but at least give the process a chance.

Don’t agonize over the decisions—if your gut instinct is to let it go, do it and move on!

declutter your linen closet
elisabeth smithard | pexels

3. Declutter Your Linen Closet

Who doesn’t set out their nicest kitchen and bathroom towels at this time of year? 

They may or may not be in holiday hues but we display the ones that are in the best condition. While you’re doing this, take some time to straighten out the linen closet or shelves.

We often have many more everyday towels, washcloths and bed sheets than we truly need. Our tastes change as our decor changes. And eventually, all towels become faded, frayed or even stained.

If you do laundry on a weekly basis, why not just keep two or three sets for those in the household and perhaps another set or two for overnight guests? All the rest would be welcome donations at any charitable organization. Animal shelters in particular would appreciate your slightly frayed hand-me-downs!

Enjoy the sight of a tidy linen closet with matching pristine towels in the shades you prefer now! 

declutter the kitchen
andrea piacquadio

4. Declutter A Kitchen Cabinet (Or Two)

For all the bakers and chefs out there, the holidays are a prime time to churn out seasonal savories and goodies.

Baking cookies with my mom is one of my favorite Christmas memories! We had sweet treats by the dozen stored in the unheated breezeway between our house and garage. Someone always had an excuse to go to the garage as a pretext to sneak a few cookies!

These days, my cookie baking marathon is no more. I’ve saved a couple of the treasured cookbooks. And I whip up a couple choice treats. However, I’ve let go of the cookie press, the tin cutouts…even my kitchen-aid (gasp!) but I have other appliances that I reach for now.

Truth is, it’s just my husband and I now and we don’t need all the sugary temptation around us. Oh, I’m not averse to making a few goodies. But the extras go home with my adult son! 

If you, too, are cooking differently, why not weed out cookware and recipe books that are no longer used? Someone else likely wants a new tradition of making Belgian waffles on Christmas Day. 

Me? I’m content with an easy overnight pop-in-the-oven breakfast casserole.  You? Perhaps you’d rather make reservations….go for it!

Declutter your kitchen gadgets in a nod to how you cook now!  

decluttering conversation
askar abayev | pexels

5. The "Declutter Your House" Convo With Family

Our families gather from near and far when the holidays arrive!

Most would agree that seeing our loved ones gathered in real life is the highlight of the season. Sure, there can be some mini-dramas here and there…all part of the deal!

It’s not often that everyone convenes, due to hectic schedules and scattered home bases. So while you’re all together, initiate the conversation about what things of yours they have always admired. 

Parents often assume their kids have the same regard for family heirlooms or mementos but it’s not true. Tastes vary and so does the capacity to incorporate large furniture or collectibles into a new household.

Here’s a short of what they likely don’t want: Top 10 Objects Kids Don’t Want!

Or check out this iconic article from The New York Times: Aging Parents With Lots of Stuff & Children Who Don’t Want It.

Instead of making assumptions about who wants what, just ask! It will help your distribution process when you start paring down in earnest. 

And if more than one of your kids wants dibs on an item, now’s the time to know. 

There are a few ways to resolve this, whether drawing straws, or making concessions on one item in return for another. It doesn’t have to be finalized now. But it’s good intel for future reference.

Above all, don’t take it personally when they feel differently about your stuff.

We each have the right to decide what enters our own homes. And no one welcomes guilt at the door, don’t you agree?

The rap with Mary V

The Wrap: How To Declutter Your House In December

  • Prune your things as you go about your holiday prep routine. You can toss, donate or gift several things in as little as 15 minutes!
  • Initiate a conversation with your adult children to learn what they would like to incorporate into their own homes. You may be surprised with the answers!
  • Your small but powerful head start to declutter your house now can reinforce your New Year’s momentum!
  • Above all, enjoy the one-on-one time with your loved ones!

Your Turn!

  • Do you normally go all out with the holiday decor?

  • Is holiday baking your thing?

  • Do you prefer hosting or making the party rounds?

  • What tradition are you ready to pass on to your kids?

Share your thoughts below …and thanks for stopping by!

charitable donations

Charitable Donations Make The Holidays Merry For All!

It’s hard to ignore the emphasis on material presents at this time of year, don’t you think? It’s one of the traditional ways we show our love to family and friends. Maybe you’d like to cut back on retail excess and focus on the holiday fellowship, instead. But what about the gift of charitable contributions for those we don’t even know?

There are so very many who are less fortunate financially than ourselves. Whether our charitable donations are for soldiers stationed overseas or for domestic abuse families in our own community, there are (sadly) endless opportunities for lifting others up during the holiday season.

Check out these 5 suggestions for sharing the blessings you have. In fact, a few of these ideas will have the added benefit of clearing out what you no longer need or use in your home, too—double score!

charitable donations
image by kaboom.com | pexels

1. Books

Do you have books that you no longer read?

Anything that doesn’t interest you anymore? Or maybe a favorite that could positively influence someone else? As the author of The Book Thief wrote, “Words are life”. 

Many of us struggle with letting go of our books because they seem to define who we are. Yet understand that while they reflect certain interests of ours, we don’t need them sitting idle on our shelves to validate our worth to those who already know us … or to ourselves!

If you’re ready to share some of your collection, consider making charitable donations to your local venues such as:

  • youth centers
  • senior centers
  • hospitals 
  • nursing homes
  • shelters & crisis centers

Donating your time may also be an option. Here’s an opportunity to pack and ship books for our troops abroad: Operation Paperback.

Help foster the imagination and inspire others with the written word!

charitable donations
image by pavel danilyuk | pexels

2. Clothing

While prepping for the next holiday mixer, pull out a few (or several) garments for the charitable donations box.

Our tastes change over time, not to mention our body shape (sorry)!

Rather than hang on to clothes we may (never) wear “someday”, think about donating those items to make room for the ones that you reach for time after time because they truly fit and flatter.

It’s quite eye-opening when we consider that 20% of our wardrobe is worn 80% of the time. How about reversing that percentage: retain what you love and release what you don’t. It will shed clarity on your actual clothing options!

In fact, it’s not uncommon to hang on to corporate attire long after the dress code has relaxed or you yourself have exited the job. 

Donating to an organization focused on those entering the workforce with little funds for new duds would be an awesome gesture! One such charity committed to helping disadvantaged female professionals is Dress For Success.

If you can spare some time, there is also a strong need for volunteers to counsel those building a new business. Share your corporate wisdom with others through Score, a network of volunteer mentors for new small business owners.

Help others climb the corporate ladder and achieve financial security!

charitable donations
image by emily hopper | pexels

3. Towels and Linens

At some point, it’s time to refresh our towels, linens and blankets.  

They wear out over time. They fade or fray. And when our color palette changes, our old towels and bedding get shoved to the back of the closet or drawer. 

Yet those are ideal items for donating to your local animal shelter or rescue group! Grab a bag and pull out the ones you no longer use or care about.

There are countless local animal rescues you can help out. Simply google using the search terms, “animal rescue near me” to uncover your options for charitable donations. 

Or give financially to your local Humane Society and help those who can’t speak for themselves. Any of the stray animal causes would also welcome your time or financial donations, as well.

Help keep the four-legged orphans warm and dry!

charitable donations
image by suzy hazelwood | pexels

4. Toys

Got a spare teddy bear (or two)? 

OK, if you’re over 50 like me, the toys have long vacated the premises! Oh, they may make an appearance from time to time, when our grandchildren visit, but they already belong to those young owners.

Unfortunately, many children lose whatever prized possessions they have when they experience a house fire or when they abruptly flee a domestic abuse situation.

Both local police and fire departments are ideal drop-off sites for donating new stuffed animals. Once again, Google to the rescue! Search using the words, “toy donation drop off sites near me”.

Or here’s another one: Stuffed Animals For Emergencies. And one more noteworthy group to make kids’ holidays brighter is Toys for Tots.

Help children feel secure with your charitable donations when their future feels uncertain.

charitable donations
image by laura james | pexels

5. Pantry Items

Whether you’re clearing space in your pantry or grocery shopping for the holiday meals, consider setting aside some extra food supplies for those who have less.

Hunger affects people of all ages, from the very young to the elderly. An event such as unemployment or a health crisis can quickly lead to food insecurity.

And know that food pantries are especially strained during the holidays so your donations are greatly welcomed. You can search for your local food bank to donate either food or money (or both) here at Feeding America.

Again, if time is an available resource, donating your service in a soup kitchen may be your gift of choice. It’s a real sign of stewardship when we humble ourselves and personally tend to those in need. 

A nationwide resource that provides your local options for charitable donations of both time and money is at Homeless Shelter Directory.

Help nourish those with empty fridges!

The rap with Mary V

The Wrap on Charitable Donations

The drive-through lanes can be long this month at national organizations such as Goodwill. December 31st is the last opportunity for making tax deductible 2021 charitable donations. If you yourself have waited patiently in that giving queue, thank you! 

  • Remember those who are without and consider donating what resources you can
  • Sharing the blessings we have is how a community bonds and thrives

Do you have a tradition of giving back? What charitable donation experience is particularly meaningful for you and why?

Share your thoughts below … and thanks for stopping by!

But First: Plan Now For A Peaceful Holiday Season

If you’re like most, the thought of the upcoming holidays fills you with equal parts of excitement and dread!

After more than a year of lockdown, restriction and confinement, who doesn’t relish the idea of family get-togethers, friends, parties, decorations and presents?

But let’s be honest: there’s a part of you that stresses out…so much to prepare, to buy, to decorate, to bake, to wrap…you name it! Do you find the hustle and bustle exhausting?

Would you prefer a lower key yet fully meaningful celebration?

Let’s take five and think about how we can plan for a peaceful holiday season without losing our composure.  Consider incorporating the following four practices into your holiday routine. 

After all, regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, it’s a sacred time to focus on what matters most….to you and what you truly value!

peaceful holiday season
image by lucie liz | pexels

1. Say "No" to Pinterest Perfectionism

It’s so easy to want everything to be just right. 

From the tree and the home decorations to the presents and the menu. It seems there’s an expectation for each and every facet to be perfect. Or else it falls short.

But why does it have to be one or the other?

There’s nothing wrong with having a realistic vision of your gatherings.

So what if the tree is a little crooked? Who cares if your hand towels don’t sport holiday motifs? 

If family and friend time is what matters more to you, then allow yourself to keep things casual. When you plan for the comfort of your guests instead of the fancy wow of your decor, you’ll be less tense. 

In fact, as you haul out your holiday decor, consider paring down your collection.

This would be an ideal time to approach your adult children about selecting which items they would love to receive for their own home. 

Just remember: if they say no, don’t take it personally. Their taste may be different. Or they may truly want to keep their own decor on the minimalist side, as well. Part of a peaceful holiday season means accepting others’ personal preferences, too!

When you retain only your favorites, your set up and take down routine will be much easier—less time consuming. And every item will be sure to bring joy when they’re displayed.

People may compliment a well coordinated theme. But the genuine fellowship is what they will remember with a smile, long after the party has ended.

Circle back to this post for more ways to cut yourself some slack: How Perfectionism Holds Us Back From Clutter Free Living

peaceful holiday season
image by negative space | pexels

2. Prepare for Retail Hype

Oh, my: We barely said goodbye to Halloween and now the Pre-Black Friday sales are in full swing! 

Not to mention it always starts well ahead of Thanksgiving. Even the radio stations and streaming music channels have started up with the 24-7 holiday music.  Poor Thanksgiving has become the red-headed stepchild of holidays.

It’s dizzying how persuasive the ads and promotions can be. Not only should we buy the perfect gifts for family and friends. We are supposed to treat ourselves, too. Half-off, BOGO, Close-out, Clearance….the various sales go on and on…and on!

No wonder January is a sobering month when the bills come due! It’s a financial month of reckoning, to be sure. Not exactly how we’d want to start a new year, right?

How about shunning the retail siren to over-buy?

Start by carving out dedicated time to create your shopping list. Decide who’s on it and what you’d like to gift them. 

One of my favorite suggestions (and not just for the hard-to-buy) is to give experiences instead of things. Perhaps a family outing of some sort?

It can range from a simple night at the movies or an Escape The Room night, all the way to a weekend cruise…you choose! 

Talk about making memories that will last a lifetime. If you plan this correctly, you may just succeed in avoiding the mall altogether!

And with the unending supply chain snafus, how about considering gift certificates for a massage, a facial or a pedicure?

Of course, there will always be the iconic present we received as a child… a beloved doll, a shiny bike or a pretty necklace. Yet if you think back over your adult years, what stands out more: the gifts or the memories? 

What if we plan for the holidays with a focus on “presence” rather than “presents”? Wouldn’t that take a load off our shoulders?

diffuse family drama
image by cottonbro | pexels

3. Diffuse Family Drama

Gathering with the clan over the years during the holidays can be really good. Or really awful. 

If you’ve experienced both or something in between, think about what the conversation was about.

Was the focus on what you were thankful for or what you appreciated in each other? That was likely the positive memory. But if the dialogue veered towards old wounds, unmet expectations or pointed criticisms…yeah, that was a downer.

So what if you prepare for this year’s get together with an upbeat attitude?

How about staying with the present fellowship rather than detouring to past offenses? How about gently redirecting the conversation towards neutral ground when it detours negatively?

When we look for the value that each family member brings to the table, our holiday celebration can be joyful and loving. Save the points of contention for another day, when the issue can be discussed rationally and fairly.

People don’t change just because we tell them to!

Instead, plan to enjoy the finer qualities of your family. Imagine how this can be a peaceful holiday season you look back on with love.

peaceful holiday season
image from pexels

4. Pause for Reflection

End of the year holidays provide a timely segue to plan for the New Year and all the hope it can bring.

Taking time to evaluate how this year unfolded for you has value. Sometimes the regret we have for how we handled (or didn’t handle) things can weigh on us. It makes it difficult to enjoy the holidays when we have nagging guilt or disappointment. Even if we skip this step, those unresolved feelings will continue to hover below the surface until we eventually address them.

But what if we plan for dedicated reflection time about our year without judgment? In other words, what if we are willing to acknowledge our weaknesses and not just applaud our accomplishments?  

There’s no reason to beat ourselves up for our shortcomings. Instead, we can be gentle with ourselves (and others) while appreciating where we are at now.

This prior post can kickstart your 2022 New Year’s planning: Declutter and Downsize: Lay the Groundwork for Really Remarkable Results in 2021!

Remember: We are human and we make mistakes. We don’t always take the best course of action or follow through with our goals.

But consider each and every year as a building block towards the next. 

In the end, our journey is always on-going. Embrace each twist and turn along the way!

The Wrap With Mary V

The Wrap

Take time to plan for a serene and heartfelt holiday season.

  • Don’t let retailers or unrealistic standards dictate how you choose to celebrate
  • Take control by deciding where you can avoid excess materialism 
  • Cut back on the drama by focusing on your family and friends, not the decorations and presents
  • Review your year without judgment and look forward to a fresh new year
  • Breathe! Enjoy a peaceful holiday season

Your turn!

  • Ready to wean yourself from excessive “retail therapy”? How will you minimize the spending hype?
  • What is one of your most memorable peaceful holiday season practices?
  • Do you have family members or friends who won’t understand or accept your wish for simplicity? How will you handle that?

Share your thoughts below ... and thanks for stopping by!

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