Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy YOU Year!

I love the start of the year... ah, the clean page of a new calendar and the fresh possibilities in a just created map of the year to come!

In 2007 Oprah and Jerry Seinfeld were chatting about life and he said something that made a big impression on her: It's yours to design. I love this statement because it goes so nicely with this time of year and my strong belief in mapping out our lives.

We can use our power and brilliance to design a life we would love and an attitude we can embrace to live into it. Will it always work out? No, but more times then not it will at least make us happier along the way.

Whatever you want for yourself this year map it out, put it on your radar, discuss it with others, work towards it, sacrifice for it.... and you'll see much of it start to show up.

You deserve a great year so go create one for yourself!

Wishing YOU a joyous New Year! :)

[Highly recommend mapping your year using the above technique asap... but if you'd rather do it with others come join me on January 11th and we'll create your year together.]

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Joy of Disco ♬

I've been known to on occasion break into some dance moves when the music hits me and there is no doubt that a little Disco on a drive with the windows open can rearrange your mood in an instant... so why do we wait till a wedding or it is forced upon us?

Anytime you're feeling funky you need to get your funk on and that is why I went to great pains to track down the disco-mirrored ornaments and will be giving them to my friends as this year's Christmas gift. I'm requesting they keep them up all year long and that I might be calling to check in and disco with them at anytime.

Don't wait to get down on it.... a little music, 60 seconds, and a few moves and I promise JOY will come to you :)

Happy Holidays and may the beat be with you!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Save ThankingsGiving~ Stop With All The Stuff-ing!

Outraged! Outraged I tell you!!!

I spent my holiday breaks in college waitressing at a country club which included serving Thanksgiving dinners instead of partaking in the turkey and trimmings. I didn't mind horribly because I still got to see families, even if they weren't my own, enjoying a dinner together. And yes the time-and-a-half pay made me thankful for sure. It's a given that some folks will always work on Thanksgiving to help serve others whether it be at restaurants or movie theaters; but this year stores including Macy's, JC Penneys, and Target are opening on Thanksgiving to offer discounted shopping- WTH?!!!

Macy's I expected more from you... you owned the goodwill of this holiday and are now throwing it away. For goodness sake what would giant Snoopy say?

To open at 8am, then 6am, then 3am was crazy enough but at least is was technically after Thanksgiving. But shopping on Thanksgiving should consist of running out to get more stuffing not more stuff!

We as a country take one day a year to be thankful for what we already have and now folks want to spend the day getting more stuff that they don't already need. To me this is crazy and a sign we have tainted my favorite holiday.

Let's put aside that most Americans are in more debt then we can handle and focus on the fact that if we can't spend time enjoying the company of friends and family we can at least not clutter our lives with more stuff we do not need. Discounted or not. Gifts or not.

We spend a fortune renting storage spaces, upsizing our housing, working to buy the latest all through the year. This is the one day we should stop stuffing our lives with stuff and give thanks for the people and lives we have. And if we have situations were family and friends are not nearby then it is a great day to help serve the less fortunate and remember how lucky we are.

Sorry for the sermon-- but boy every time Christmas promoting gets earlier in the year I get annoyed; each time I see people, and now kids, focused more on their devices then each other my heart sinks; I refuse to willingly sit silent while stuff takes over ThanksGiving!

I beg of you all, don't give in: make yourself a Thanksgiving List and please, please put down the shopping list!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's The Little Things

Whenever I go to the movies or fun outing with my friend Diane she brings me a bag of Happy Cola gummies for my snacking enjoyment. Most every time there is a bow or some form of decoration too to make it festive. For less then $2 she makes my night every single time- even if the movies sucks and even when I know it's coming I still get excited to get them. 

There are many reasons I love her as a friend but how I know she loves me is through the little thing she does to actually show it. How sweet is that?!!! 

Next time you want to show someone you care don't not do something because you don't have the time or money for a grand gesture... it really is the little things that make all the differnce in the world :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pick A Different Way Of Doing It

Creativity is my gift... I fancy myself a sort of Joy-Appleseed who likes to scatter ideas around and see which grow into something fruitful. But I also believe most people have the same talent if they would relax and get into a creative frame of mind.

I've been practicing this in new areas of my life and the simple act of taking something that isn't working and trying to look at it from a different viewpoint works. 

Yada, yada, yada... you don't need me to tell you this.

It doesn't matter the topic or how creative you think you are- if something is not working in your life pick a different way of doing it. I could list tons of ways to look at life differently but you have an inner creative genius too and all you need to do is decide what's not working for you and pick something new and try it. If doesn't work try the opposite. Doesn't get you unfunked- ask a creative friend or call in a profesional. 

Life is too short and too sweet to eat from a mealy slice. It's a new season and a new quarter go pick yourself something delicious!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sadness, Silence & C.K.

Weird that I'm finally digging into Susan Cain's book Quiet the same week Louis CK goes viral talking about how so many of us can't be alone and quiet. The thing I love most about him is how he takes a profound point and wraps it in funny.

The riff is more then just social commentary it is also a big red flag pointing us to a huge issue that affects everything from our health- both mental and physical- to the breakdown of our families. Rushing around, constant stimulation, screens vs faces is the new smoking. Distracted living and not being able to be quiet and process our lives is not only bad for us but is horrendous for our kids. I remember when I was growing up playing too much Pong was considered bad now look how kids need hyper color, motion, noise coming at them all the time. Seriously, when was the last time you actually saw a teen or even a 30 year old having a real undistracted conversation; no, everyone is looking down at or into a screen, even when they are sitting next to someone they love.

Quiet talks a lot about relentless outside stimulus being too much for most introverts but I think all of us are overstimulated and are numb to the effects it is having. And if we're not getting quiet we're definitely not letting ourselves feel what our minds and bodies are processing either. People would be surprised how quiet my life is most of the time. I am very outgoing and extroverted in social settings because I enjoy the interaction but most of my days are quiet. I love silence and never have a radio or tv on when I'm reading, writing, or working on a project. Actually too much motion, noise, or stimulus gives me a headache and makes me a bit nauseous.

What about you? When was the last time you thought about how your environment and habits are affecting you?

Engagement in life now vs even 20 years ago is remarkably different and I don't think for the better. We busy and distract ourselves to the point of numbing our minds and bodies to everyday thinking and feeling. Sadness is not a bad thing if we can sit with it, process, and then utilize what our feelings enlighten us to. But if we are constantly distracting ourselves how will we ever get to feel and be in touch with ourselves and our joy let alone really be there for and with others?

I don't want to move to Walden Pond or poo-poo technology and all that it brings into our lives but I think we need to text less, call more or even better yet see each other in person with no phones in sight. Turn down the noise and tune into our emotions and build some quiet time into our days. Everyone will have a different ratio of silence that works for them but I think we could all benefit from taking the prescription from a comedian and get more silence, sadness and Springsteen into our lives*.

Side notes: Met Susan Cain at an event I attended last January at 37singals (which is a beautiful space btw). She is lovely- if you ever get a chance to hear her speak you should go. 

*My favorite sad Springsteen songs: Streets of PhiladelphiaInto The Fire

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Cutting The Cord(less)

When I worked for Sony years ago and wanted to buy my parents a cordless phone for Christmas they rebuffed the offer: why would we need a cordless phone when it just takes a few seconds to walk to the one in the kitchen? I remember trying to explain how convenient and modern it was to not be tied to a phone on the wall.

Fast forward to last week when I finally decided, mostly for cost reasons ($60/mo.), to stop home service on a phone I barely use. Going mobile only means giving up the number I've had for 2 decades- Wah, waah! I could not believe how traumatic it was for me to finally release the comfort of having a phone I've probably spent as much time forwarding to my cell as I did actually talking on.

I've thought about it and think I know why: there is just something about the thought of cutting out the main way people reached me that chokes me up. Chris, my old boyfriend, would occasionally say no matter what distance came between us he always knew how to get in touch when he needed me. He has since passed away yet I still think of my home line as the way any former connections could reach out. Keeping an open line to the past was what the phone, cordless or not, meant to me.

My parents have gone on to be mobile users and both read on Kindles and now look back at their tech fears amused- this, while still keeping their home line. Best of both worlds I would say. But for me in my second half, part of what I want is to streamline my life and that means in every area. So even though it physically hurt and I spent an excessive amount of time weighing the options- I cut the cord and let my line go and am now fully mobile.

The possible lost connections is what caused me to fear going cold turkey and now I'm clear that tethering ourselves to our past and leaving open reconnection are two different things. I am clearly reachable through multiple social media platforms and there is no one who wanted to that couldn't connect with me. So, ahhhh... one less bill, one less voicemail to check, one less thing weighing me down from getting to my life's work.

What cord is keeping you tethered? What cut to your past needs to be made?

Do it, you'll feel better- even if it takes a day or two and a good cry. Life is for living forward, not for pulling us back to the past.

Happy cord cutting to you :)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Butler Who Inspired Our Nation

Symbolism is the subtle beacon that lights our unpaved way. To go from picking cotton in the fields with no rights at all, to serving in the White House, to then being able to cast a vote for the first black President- few would have guessed it was possible. And that is why one person's journey can have a profound impact on all that follow, even if they take a different path.  

Not everyone can lead a revolution like Martin Luther King Jr. but who knows if one dignified server actually did as much to change the hearts and minds of those in power and therefore our nation. The movie, which is based on the life of Eugene Allen and an article written about him and his wife Helene, is magnificent. Not only is it a great story but it is a history lesson that walks us through the many layers of race relations at that time in our country. 

The election of Barack Obama meant something to me but I didn't ever doubt it would happen someday; I can't imagine what it must have meant to those who were not able to fathom it. And that is why movies like this are themselves change agents. It enlightens those who did not live through it with a sense of what folks before us went through and documents what change is possible in one's lifetime. Danny Strong did an amazing job weaving the experiences of one family, 8 Presidents, and our nation into a very compelling story-- as did the magnificent acting of all involved. Lee Daniels created a masterpiece of a film that will serve as one of those movies people will want to watch decades from now as a symbol of what is possible in America. 

I think of how proud Eugene would have been to see his story touching so many others, and Helene to be portrayed brilliantly by Oprah. Their struggles and their contributions (even with the embellishments done in telling it) will inspire another generation and they will inspire another with the way they carry themselves in the work that is left to be done in our nation. I doubt Wil Haygood, the Washington Post reporter who wrote the article that lead to Danny's screenplay, knew at the time he was writing this piece he would inspire one of the great stories put on film. Rarely do we know all the lives we'll touch when we are simply living ours. 

We need the big dreamers like MLK, the big personalities like Oprah, the big talents like Forest Whitaker, Danny, and Lee, but it is often those who live in quiet dignity and work hard on their own dream that change the world. One butler would eventually move the first black President to tears and remind us all how far we've come and what is possible when we live a dream for ourselves and take our unique path where it leads us.  

Please go see this movie and then ask yourself: What dream is possible in my lifetime? And then get to living your story so you inspire yourself... and maybe, just maybe others along the way :)

The Real Butler Who Inspired the Movie Lee Daniels' The Butler

Saturday, August 31, 2013

My New "Boyfriend"

I will always love Louis but I might need to give in to my other crush Gary Gulman. I enjoyed him on Last Comic Standing years ago and even bought one of his first CDs but never really saw much of him after. Then he recently was on a John Oliver's show on Comedy Central and had me smitten.

He loves many of the same things I do: Trader Joes, grapes, Chipotle, avocados/guac, Discman, found $20-bills... and he's a tall Jew with great legs and luscious hair! Pitter patter my heart.

Having crushes is one of life's great JOYS-- so, happy to share mine with you :)
[more Gary on CC & on Letterman]
Who's yours?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I Have A Dream...

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream and 50 years ago today gave the speech that he will be forever known for. I still get stirred and choked up hearing his words. The part that touches me most is while standing for a better world and equality for all he inspired others to dream a dream for their own lives.

My dream is that we don't simply survive our lives but that we all live into our dreams. I started hosting Wildest Dreams Club gatherings this year and they, along with my workshop, have already changed the lives of several of my friends and attendees. To me living into a dream coming true is an amazing gift and worthy of one's time and energy. Knowing others' dreams is an honor and privilege and helping them work at them is both exciting and addicting.

Through socialmedia many folks today have been sharing their dreams and they each give me a little chill: Maria Shriver- to end Alzheimers in her lifetime; Bill Gates- quality education for all children regardless of their zipcode; Dalai Lama- we come together in oneness of humanity and end war in this century. Are theses huge dreams, sure, but if we can fly through the air, land on the moon, cure polio, we can do anything.

A dream in our head is nice and maybe occasionally inspiring, but to live into our dreams we need to get them down, speak them to others- thus the Wildest Dreams Club- and be in action even if it is simply babysteps done over our lifetime.

My other dream is to turn ME Mapping into an app that people use like they would a calendar. When they are planning the day they reference their ME Map as a gauge and tool of living a great life. That folks feel working on their life gives them more power and appreciation for what they already have and vision for what they'd like to create.

Do our dreams need to be about world peace and saving the planet from pollution (Richard Branson's), no. My belief is that each person making their own life better and their own family, friends, business more joyful makes the world as a whole a better place. Having a smile on your face, letting someone merge in front of you in traffic, bringing your coworker a coffee all make mini-contributions that add up to a ripple of goodness. We don't need to be leaders, wealthy, famous, or have huge all consuming dreams to make a difference to the world. Even a little dream lived into creates a butterfly effect and changes the world, even if it is only in your little corner of it.

What is your dream? Do you know the dream of those closest to you? Are you teaching your children to have big meaningful dreams? Can you do one small thing today to help someone else get one inch closer to their dream?

To have a legacy of fighting for racial equality was a worthy use of MLKjr's life, what is a worthy use of yours?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Time To Have... The TALK

The TALK, depending on where you are in life could mean: getting married, time to have a baby, explaining sex to your curious kid, or the dreaded breaking up. But, if you're in the sandwich phase of life, kids and aging parents, then it's about Death.

Already cringing? Don't! Having a conversation about life and death is one of the responsibilities of adulthood and trust me it's way, way worse if you don't have it. And although every once and awhile one goes off the rails, most lead to a reaffirming gratitude that you've said what you wanted to say on the issue and relief that now you can get back to living a life worthy of a good death.

When I was writing my book My Last Wishes... folks, especially strangers, would always tell me of some horrible story of a family torn apart by the mess a death left in its wake. At this very moment I have more then a couple of friends living through nightmarish aftermaths of parents who never got around to getting their affairs in order. And let me be clear, a conversation even in front of all parties involved won't stop all the chaos if there is already bad blood; but having the talk about death gets the basics wishes on the table and are at least a starting point.

Speaking of tables, I was delighted to find out that there is a new trend hitting the dinner party circuit called Death Over Dinner. People in over 250 cities are throwing events on August 24th to kick off this grassroots movement. Wish I'd known sooner I would have totally hosted one- any friends interested? Anyway, I love the idea of it and will absolutely participate next year.

Sure death discussions probably aren't as much fun as discussing winning the lottery over chocolate fondue... but imagine how connected you'll be to others knowing how they feel about embarking on life's last great adventure. And as TEDTalk speaker Michael Hebb, who started the conversation says: looking at death has taught me how to live.

Look at life, talk about death... let's not avoid the topic and not say what needs to be said leaving everyone we love with a pile of sadness and frustration when we're no longer here. You're better than that. So whether over a nice dinner with friends, or a quiet Sunday afternoon with your parents and/or spouse have the talk. Above you will find my Chat-About-Checklist slidedeck taken from MLW... that serves as a summary and springboard to the key topics you'll want to touch on. And if you're really ready to dive in get my book and leave it all on the table :)

I wish you the most wonderful life and, when it's your time, a very good death.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Try Something New (Even If It's Blue)

My favorite colors for years were purple (80's) then forest green (90's) and then red for the millenium. Never blue, never light colors. So when I was getting a pedicure almost the last color I would have picked is an aqua-teal-ish one. But there I was and my dear friend- who was treating me as a birthday gift- was teasing me to get something fun outside my regular reds. According to the two young ladies about to give us our pedicures this was the hot color of the summer. I was protesting I don't like blue when one pointed out that my purse was the exact color I said I didn't like- the irony. Even more so that the purse was a birthday gift from a different friend last summer which I have received many compliments on and does really brighten an outfit. Why not? I could always paint over them (in red) if I didn't like it later, right?

I don't think we should give in to peer-pressure or even go with trends... but getting out of our comfort zones- why YES we should do that. I'm not sure I love the color but it's definitely growing on me and it was a spa treat I will not soon forget (the best pedicure ever- with eye mask, heated neck compress, reclined chair, and aroma oils- it was awesome!). Plus this is the second half and I want to dare and live fearlessly; am I afraid of blue toes? No, not Me!

We think we know what looks best on us and what works for us in almost all situations and most of the time we're right. But sometimes we're not and we'll never know that unless we try new things on. Just try them on and see if they're a fit. No harm, no foul if they're not- it's the taking of chances that helps us grow.

People get stuck in dated hairstyles, unfulfilling jobs, unconnected relationships because safety is well- safe. But if we keep still we get mossy and we never grow. I learned even when we're sure we don't like something we need to revisit every so often. I hated avocados and would always insist they be taken out of whatever I ordered. Now I eat them several times a week. I learned even if I didn't like something once I need to try it out again and see if it's still not to my liking. And these are the most simple basics- salad ingredients and toe colors... what else could change if I REALLY pushed myself: maybe it's time to move cities, date outside my decade, different hair color, take an out-of-the way trip, who knows?????

I hope you enjoy these last few weeks of summer and I'm going to be so bold as to suggest you try something new and it doesn't even need to be blue :)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Showing Up Matters

Shiny Strands, Barrington IL
We're all so busy... busy, busy, busy. That said, it matters that you show up.

Some friends recently opened a business- and because the idea sprung up in my workshop they kept me posted on the progress as it came along- so of course I was there with champagne opening day. Nice of me, sure-- but really equally as selfish because there is nothing nicer then sharing in someone's JOY.

It made a difference to have been there for me and I could tell for them to feel supported. You make a difference when you show up for someone and you should know it. Even if they can't relay it with as much appreciation as Carol and Kim did, people notice when you show up for them.

I'm good at funerals, not everyone is. They take an emotional toll to be there but I never leave one without a renewed sense of love of life and appreciation for how lucky I am. I also leave with a sense of frustration that I wish we could bottle the love people feel once they know that someone is gone and splash it around into the everyday. If we knew someone was going to be gone would we have made more of an effort to show up for them and love them while they were here?

Showing up at funerals matters. Showing up for friends going through a divorce matters. And for: weddings, babies, business launches, publishing days, etc. Kindness on either ends of the spectrum demonstrates what we value. 

There is no need to guilt ourselves into adding one more thing onto our plates to give ourselves a gold star- that defeats the point. But looking at our lives and seeing where our priorities line up is well worth the effort. TV, attending every kids sports practice, buying and maintaining more stuff, keeping up with the Joneses... is that what we want our lives to be about?

Remembering Megan Golf Outing
For a few years now a college roommate's family has held a golf outing to raise money in memory of her sister that died of suicide. I've never gone for various reasons but mostly because I don't golf. Last year she told me it bothered her many of her friends, and me in particular, had never come and it disappointed her. We can't show up for everything for everyone but knowing it matters to her I'm attending the dinner festivities (tonight as a matter of fact). She matters and I want her to know that.
[Update: Photo from the wonderful evening. Why had I waited so long?!]
More than a couple of folks I know have prioritized kids sports, bigger houses, stuff and appearances over connecting with their bodies, their spouses, their family, and their friends and now are sick, divorced, or lacking support when they need it. We all choose where and on what we spend our time and energy but I think it's wise to look at what that says about us every so often so we are showing up, whatever that means to us, for what matters.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

JOY TH!NK: Capturing And Creating Your Genius

JOY TH!NK: Capturing And Creating Your Genius: Everyone has a book in them... or at least half of everyone I've talked to in the last few years does. That or some other big idea th...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rocking The Second Half

Right before my Nonne's 89 birthday I was teasing her that she only has 11 more years until Willard Scott wishes her a happy 100th. She did not laugh, instead looked puzzled who Willard was and then said: No, I'm not living till that old this is long enough. She loved her life and had her full faculties but she had no desire to live past her health. She passed with dignity and grace within the year.

Doing the math- as 88 as the enough point- anything after 44 and I'm into my second act. Well last week I started Joy part II and I decided as much as I enjoyed the first half I wanted to do a few things different in the second. Here are a few:

Appreciate Julie: I love my sister so it's ridiculous to fight with her. We can both be opinionated and stubborn and can get on each other's nerves. What a waste of time! She is one of the most fun, generous, likable people I know so there is no reason to not feel constant gratitude for her :)

Forgive Everyone: I consider myself a very forgiving person but some hurts were still smarting. Clearing the slate and forgiving everyone and in the future just recognizing not everyone is my cup of tea and it's not personal.

Be Fearless: Even typing this scares me ;) ... but it's so true that we are the ones who stop our dreams from coming true. And last thing I want is to taint my second half with regret and have to defend my cowardice.

Clear Space: Open space is necessary for anything good to come in. People, things, good fortune all need a landing spot so I'm committed to decluttering my life on an ongoing basis.

Capture Joy: Take photo or document moments I feel happy and appreciate the beauty of people, places, and things while they are in front of me.

Love Outloud: I never want people I care about to not know how much I love them. I consider this a strong suit of mine but I could take it up a notch and really celebrate people with more fun and lightness.

Move It: I spend a good deal of time in my head and although I feel connected I don't always use my body to its full capacity. I remember this whenever I see someone who doesn't have full use of theirs- why I am I taking movement for granted? Dance, work, express, sex, rock and roll from head to toe!

Live Like It's My Last: The truth is two of the men I loved the most in the world ironically both died at 33 so I've known anything after 34 is a gift. I would love to live healthily to 88 or beyond but even this next year is worth treasuring. I don't want to waste any time being ungrateful for the life I have.

These are the big things I'll be living into- wish me well. And feel free to remind me if you find me not practicing them and make sure I thank you for holding me to what I know I have in me.

Cheers to my Nonne, my second half, and to you and your healthy happy life too :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Defending Your Life

I adore Albert Brooks. Yesterday was his birthday and so I was thinking about one of my all-time favorite movies Defending Your Life and how it changed my own life. It's easy to watch the movie as an enjoyable and amusing comedy but really it contains one of the most profound life lessons: it's our fears that keep us small minded and stuck in life.

I think I've recommended this movie to everyone I know but incase you missed it: Daniel dies in a car accident in the prime of his life and he, as everyone does, makes a stop at Judgement City to spend four days defending his life to see if he will move on or be sent back to Earth. In the evaluation process you must revisit certain times in your life were you let fear overcome you and you are forced to explain why you let fear rule vs following your true wishes. If you're smart/evolved enough not to let fear run your life you progress to a higher level of existence and if you are still ruled by fear back to Earth you go.

I'm not an overly fearful person but I also don't live the biggest bravest life I can and I am constantly wishing to be more myself and really living into my greatness. The idea that fear fogs our joy really rings true to me and when we combine the fear upfront with the regret of fear stopping us it's actually a double whammy. Anytime I'm afraid to do something I try to remind myself that at the end of our lives it is only the things we are too afraid to do that will haunt us. Brave boldness is not something that comes naturally to most of us, even as an amazon of an extrovert I still play small and safe in much of my life. And the real ridiculousness of it is that most of us know this and are still letting fear stop us from being our most magnificent selves.

One of my favorite scenes is when Daniel is eating in a fancy restaurant enjoying a wonderful time with Meryl Streep's character Julia and instead of fully enjoying it he is overcome with fear that the waiter is embarrassing him by bringing him nine pies to take home. He's so uncomfortable and anxiety filled and this is while he is already dead!

My wish for my life and for all of you is that we live true to ourselves and let fear play its proper place in our lives- to warn us to run from lions... and not from challenges and our dreams. I highly suggest you watch the movie sometime soon and if you're a fan follow @AlbertBrooks on Twitter. I'd like to someday say I've tamed my fears to the point of playing at life like it's all one big comedy. Not there yet but having DYL as a reminder to try has been profound for me and makes me very happy Mr. Brooks was born and brilliant and brave enough to make this film :)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Clearing Clutter, Opening Spaces

I've been on a perpetual decluttering project for the last 5 years or so but I've really dug in as of late. Leading a workshop where I talk about sorting out what's working from what's not is confronting. I'm answering questions from participants about how to declutter their lives and so I want to practice what I preach.

Last weekend I went thru my office and got rid of 50 books, a fax machine, numerous electronic devices, and tons of paperwork. It's not where I want it yet but was thrilled that I finally broke a barrier of getting rid of things I once considered valuable. Loving books like I do they were really hard to part with so I had to ask myself what is more important: clear space to create or old books?

My other weakness is keeping sentimental items that were gifts from people I care about, especially items that came from people that are gone. But I have learned the best way to honor people's love and generosity towards me is to capture the sentiment in a photo and release the stuff to someone else who would benefit having it. And once I found a place by me Shelter's Inc, that helps children and teens in need I was happy to give them stuff I wasn't using.

We can't be our most powerful when we're weighed down by things that don't work for us. And we definitely can't welcome wonderful things and people into our lives if they're too full and we have no openings for them. Whether in our home, head, or heart we need to constantly keep clearing spaces for joyful things and people to show up.

Whenever I'm feeling overwhelmed with any area of my life I clear something out first and it gives me more room to breath and think more clearly. I usually hate making the time and pulling the trigger to get rid of something but feel amazing and free after.

Incase you're ready to join in... I learned Best Buy will recycle most electronics for FREE. Your local library will take most gently used books (mine actually doesn't use them they sell them to the public to raise funds). In last month's workshop someone was even wondering to do with her old fridge and luckily another Mapper shared that ComEd will not only come pick up old fridges for FREE they'll give you $35.

I can't tell you how awesome I feel having less clutter in my life and I will keep it up until I have only what I need and love surrounding me. Not totally there yet but I'm reciting: when in doubt throw it out. Now ironically or maybe not, I have also been eating less sugar and carbs in the last few months so I can't in any way show total correlation but as soon as I got serious about getting rid of stuff I have also dropped some lbs too!!!

What is weighing you down? Try 15minutes a week just gathering one type of item and getting rid of it. Life's too short to waste it dusting, moving, and caring for stuff we don't need or love.

Wishing you tons of open space and lots of love and wonderfulness left to enJOY!!

Friday, June 28, 2013

I'm Not Everyone's Cup Of Tea

Coffee #17
Coffee is not my cup of tea. Most people I know enjoy coffee to varying degrees but I have never liked it and don't even enjoy the smell of it brewing. If I don't like coffee does that mean I should feel bad about it? Of course not. 

Same goes with people. I recently ended a longterm friendship with someone who I loved very much because I was not her cup of tea and instead of talking out our differences or respecting them she felt they were divisive and decided to check out of our friendship. (Don't worry she won't see this, she doesn't read my stuff.)

We can choose to be less of ourselves to not offend people, we can choose to blend in so everyone likes us, or we can just be ourselves and let the people who enjoy us be in our lives. And the thing is there isn't anything necessarily wrong with people who choose not to have Joy in their lives. It's ok, I'm just not their cup of tea. 

I like tea. I like me. I find being yourself is much less of a grind when you worry less about everyone liking you and more about people who do like you getting to enjoy the fully roasted, deep, and delicious YOU! :) 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Starting With ME = More Joyful WE!

People say they love their kids. Would do anything for them… give a kidney, run through fire, or protect them from any outsider who wanted to harm them. I believe this to be true.

Ok, great. How about giving them their happiest parent possible? How about 2 happy parents? Would they do that? Would You?

We think taking care of others means doing for them, giving them things, sacrificing our time, energy and money so they can have. No denying that is a part of the equation but many times it’s not and shouldn’t be the key factor. It’s totally un-pc to say this but our happiness is what makes or breaks our relationships and kids. We can’t be exhausted, unfulfilled, uninspired, unhealthy, un-loved-up and expect our family to thrive. Our overall joy is predicated on how happy and healthy we are and how much we have left to share with others. If we’re drained we have nothing to give or we give the backwash.

I was talking with a friend about her sex life and no need to get into details but let’s just say as soon as she started feeling great about herself (working out, getting enough sleep, projects that inspired her) she felt happier and much sexier and her husband saw the benefits. He wanted her to get as happy as she could get if that was the result! They were better as a couple when each were happy individually and came together to create a more joyful home. The Joy Math supposes that what we bring into the equation of partnership has to be greater or equal then what we expect to get out of it. We can't be with someone in whatever capacity (love, friendship, work) and expect them to add more then we are willing to give ourselves. 

It’s far more difficult and unpleasant to be married to, parented by, work with, or be friends with someone who is not flourishing. There are obvious negative-nellies who everyone can clearly see are draining their kids, partner, co-workers and friends, but I’m not talking about that necessarily. I’m more referring to the numb-ers who do, do, do for others and don't give the same or equal to themselves. They numb their needs down which in-turn sets a bad example for their kids of how to live a fulfilling life. Or who are wasting a great marriage by just being in it- not engaging with their love like a lover. And I don’t just mean sex, I mean enjoying life and being with them like it’s an adventure and loveaffair worthy of what they want to create as a family.

Ask your love if they would like to see the happiest most joyful you?

Ask yourself if you don't love seeing them when they're loving their life?

A great way to start is to create your own ME Map and see what is working and not in your current life and start making small increments of change using the Circle Of JOY.

I’m finalizing my WE (Mapping) Workshop, coming this Fall, and one of the key points I’ve found is we can’t be truly happy with someone else if we’re not making our own joy a priority. 

Starting with ME makes us a way better WE!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Reviving Dead Horses, Dodging Charging Bulls

S. Alvarez
It must have been all the old movies and romantic comedies I watched in my youth but I grew up believing big conflicts were usually simple misunderstandings and things always work out in the end. Granted my parents divorced and people I've loved have died, but still I was a hopeful child and grew into a hope-filled adult.

Not naive or unrealistic but I really genuinely thought that if you cared about someone even if you didn't end up with the fairytale you could end up as friends. My first love and I spent his last Christmas together (before he passed away) over a decade after we broke up; another love and I are still close even after they married someone else. Of the four people I've loved in my life only one was unrepairable.

I do this with friendships too. And herein lies the problem, I try and keep things connected even after there is no life left. I've stayed in friendships way past the expiration date. Even after someone's shown me they're not a good -let alone great- friend I've tried to revive that connection because there was still some love left.
You can't keep everyone that's ever been important to you in your life,
otherwise you won't have room for people that might become even more important. 
Ironically a friend who is no longer a close friend told me that. Still brilliant advise. So when a friendship is dying and someone stops carrying I'm learning to let them go... not easy... but you can't revive dead horses.

Another ill advised habit along the same lines is when someone was upset with me I would try and find out why and fix it. Then recently a very wise person told me: sometimes people are just mad and/or nuts... so when they are angry and coming at you don't charge into the situtation and try and fix it. People's anger at you isn't always (read: often) about you. If someone is that mad and you didn't kill their dog, screw their sister, or take their life savings maybe they are angry and you just happen to be in their way.

Rational people that have a valid point talk things out like adults, mad people are mad and instead of trying to reason with a charging bull run the other way or at least get out of their path so they don't trample you.

There are plenty of people in the world that will treasure our friendship/relationship, will argue rationally, will even fight fair, but for those that show us they don't or won't, we need to stop reviving and know when to let things go ... and when to stay out of the way.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Find Your Tribe, Create Your Art

Seth Godin has several great books about business and marketing but two of his most important messages are about the broader concept of living our lives: Find Your Tribe & Create Your Art. Here's how I started to do both...

In the Spring of 2002- or as I've come to call it... my time of discombobulation- through the Summer of 2003 I had parted with 1/3 of my friends, 1/3 of my stuff, and almost all of what I thought I'd known for sure. It was disorientating.

Fast-forward to the Spring of 2013 and I'm hosting workshops about what I've learned and the philosophy I've created for myself and my life. One of the key lessons I learned was to declutter the things that aren't working in our life and replace them with aspects that will light us up- this includes the people we choose to spend out precious time with.

I use Seth's book Tribes as the lead-in to this conversation. I talk about how many of us have collected friends by as flimsy of criteria as we went to school, worked, or lived by each other. It's time to stop and ask ourselves if these are the folks we want to continue to invest our energy and time in or are we ready to go find our tribe? The folks we admire, are fascinated by, that value us and make us better at who we are: these folks make up our Tribes.

We don't need to be asked, to be picked, or invited into a tribe- we just join in or begin to lead our own.

I tell the story of how I became a published author, how I was mentioned in pal Amy's book Bright Side Up, and how coming from no background in writing what-so-ever I now have a bunch of writer friends that I consider my tribe. As I explain Seth's point of finding our tribes I open to the inside jacket cover of his book where there is a picture of me in the top corner. Then I deliver the line:
I went from loving books and admiring writers... to being in books and becoming a writer. 
Seth and I are not friends, I made the cover jacket because as an admirer of his work I had gladly sent in a photo when he had asked (not knowing what it was for but trusting it was something fun and worthwhile)- but that's where everyone can start. Find people we are inspired by, marinate in their wisdom, and then go and create our own path with our own message.

Seth's current book The Icarus Deception is all about how now is the time to create our art and get it out into the world.

This is what I am doing with my work and my workshop. And how do I know it is working? Because a friend who took the workshop recently thanked me for some help and ended with: ... you are part of my tribe! 

Seth's brilliance is he observes things, names them, and then expands that concept with his writings so we can participate if the message speaks to us. Finding our tribes and sending our art in to the world... I can't think of two more important things for us to focus on. So thanks Seth, you've made a difference in my world, inspired me to get my art shipped, and helped me explain the importance of finding people we connect with and then creating even more possibilities of art from there.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

ME Mapping: The Basics & Worksheet

ME Mapping is a technique I developed to look at our lives- the good, the bad, and the ugly- and then sort out what's working from what's not. Check out the basics but you won't really get it until you create one for yourself. You can map on a simple blank piece of paper or below you'll find the worksheet I use when I give introductory talks- try it out, it's free and virtually painless 😜


This is a brief taste of how it feels to get started with ME Mapping (this slidedeck makes up about 25% of my workshop) so if you like it... you'll LOVE joining me for the full workshop.
Next event dates here: The ME Workshop

Mini-ME Talk: If you'd like me to come speak to your group and present ME Mapping Basics please contact me by email with the dates and details for consideration.

Find ME on Facebook:

Happy Mapping!

(Updated from 1/30/13)

(Updated in 2017 for Couples)

WE Mapping! 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Solution To All Your Problems

The problem with our problems is not that there are no solutions it's that we like complaining about them, ignoring them, or using them as excuses more then doing what it takes to fix them.

It's almost always that simple.

Seth Godin was giving a talk and asked people to write down on a card the problem that was holding them back from making their art. They then passed their "problem" to the person next to them who was tasked with writing down a solution. He didn't care if the problem was solved by this random person next to them, there is never a shortage of solutions that can be shot at a problem. But what if they did come up with perfect answer, how many would be willing to act on the solution? And unsolvable problems are their own solution because they are simply limits that need to be worked around or accepted and signal we can now move on.

So if you're stuck ask for solutions, hire an expert if you need to. But my guess is you probably know what the first step to solving your problem is you're just choosing not to do it. No judgment, I'm doing the same thing. I just happen to know that's what I'm doing... do you?

When we label and then carry around problems that aren't solvable we're wasting our time (never going to be able to fly, be 5'7", have magic to bring my loved ones back to life, or have perfect family and friends). Not to say we should give up on something because we haven't found the answer, but come on-- you know the answers to 99% of your problems, have access to find them, or know who does.

The solution to our problems is to move forward and start enacting a solution whether it be ours, an expert's, a random one suggested by the person sitting next to us and then pivot as a better solution comes along. Now the question is will we let something stop us or will we start living into the solutions... only you have that answer.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Scheduling Your Suffering & Sadness

Yesterday I got sucked in... I heard about the bombing at the Boston Marathon and turned on the news and couldn't turn away for a full four hours. My friend Karyn was running the marathon and just last week we were talking about how excited and nervous she was, so to think she might have been in the area when the bomb went off was terrifying. She and her family are safe but I couldn't help think about all the people who were injured and the families and friends waiting to find out if they were ok.

Last night I had to take a shower at 7pm just to wash the ickiness of the worry and sadness off of me. Luckily today it is sunny and I haven't had the tv on yet and have limited my online exposure to the aftermaths. The people affected will live with the nightmare for weeks, months, probably their lifetimes, but for the rest of us we must get back to our lives. Giving blood, donations, checking in with loved ones are all good things to do but we can't get stuck in fear and sadness and let evil, tragedy, and negativity invade the rest of our lives.

Thinking about this reminded me of when my Nonne was dying. She was totally aware she had only a little time left to live and it was within months of my sister's wedding. She was sick the weekend of my sister's shower and when we thought of rescheduling or someone staying with her she said: always go to the happy event. Her philosophy was that we should never give up happiness to wallow in sadness. We took lots of pictures of the beautiful, fun, happy shower and she loved seeing them.

Later that same year I was taking a Landmark Education course and there is an exercise they do were you write down something you are suffering about and they guarantee by the time you complete the exercise your suffering will be gone. I won't give away the details but let's just say at the end of the night I was the only one left still suffering about something and the instructors had no idea what to do with me-- apparently no one had ever not stopped their suffering. What can I say, I'm gifted!

Anyway, on my drive home I am now suffering about how my suffering is so extraordinary that it can't be resolved. I climb into bed exhausted and of course as it almost always does my mind woke me up at 3 a.m. with the answer. Life isn't about not having sadness and suffering in it, it's about understanding why we're in pain and putting it in its proper place. The image came to me of boxes on a shelf that you can't ever get rid of but that you take out and "play" with when you want or need to think about something or someone then you put them back when you're tired of being sad.

The bottom line is if we thought about all the tragedy in the world we would never get out of bed. Yet, if we ignore the suffering and sadness that life has handed us we'll numb ourselves to the joys too. We need to feel things, we need to be sad, occasionally it is good to suffer a little. So schedule yourself some time for a good cry, a sad movie, a date with Ben & Jerry, or give in when the world is in mourning. And when you're done then it's time to put it where it belongs and get to the party. Go to the happy! Because that's what we're here for and that's what our Nonnes, and anyone who loves us, hell... humanity needs and wants for us.

UPDATE: Here's Karyn's post about her experience at marathon: http://t.co/fNcsdnSw4P