Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Realized that almost all of the pictures I took today in New York were of the sky....

...except when I looked down at the heart-gripping 9/11 memorial.

I might be a little preoccupied with the resting place of souls.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Doing the things you can't do


In September I  returned from a trip I had no expectation I could pull off, and my husband kept his own concerns private. But when I got home we both said variations of "I did--not expect that to work." And when I look back at the pictures and all the places I went I am downright amazed. I'm posting them...bit by bit...on my romance-writing site here.

Bit by bit because two weeks after this trip, I lost my father. It's not possible for me to describe the devastation to my heart and my family. He was an amazing soul and we were in no way prepared to say good-bye.

And yet we did.

I'm a confident person, and yet there are things I'd say with certainty I could not do. Cater a wedding for a thousand people, say. Solo. That kind of thing.

Yet in the last three months I've been gone from home for weeks traveling, completed and submitted books, sat through an election night where America seemed to spin and turn and sideways. and brushed my fingers through my father's hair at his wake. All impossible, before they happened.

Now? I'm aware they happened, and that I took part. But I'm not quite sure how.

That's what happens when you do things you can't do. The details evade you but the shock remains.

People can basically do anything. For better and for worse.

Love, Lisa

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Soundtrack to our Home

I'd say most days it's a combination of Home by Blue October (if silly dances in the kitchen count):

And Our House by Madness.

Equal parts love and chaos.

What's yours?

Love, Lisa

Monday, June 27, 2016

Everyday Mom

After a whole lot of planning and hoopla my husband and daughter set off for a week in Rome this month. It was a lifelong dream of Mark's and a repeat trip for my 19-year-old on her way to somewhere else because that's how she rolls--all around the globe.

I expected an instant reduction in what I needed to do for other people because getting them off had been intense. When my daughter told me in the car she'd forgotten the UVA protecting sunglasses she needed for archeology field school in the Mediterranean I plucked the pair off my face and handed them to her, even though they were $10 shades from Target that probably welcomed UVA rays like old friends rather than fighting them off.

Anything either of them needed was fine, because (I thought) a respite would follow and I could regroup.

Early the next morning I realized my mistake, and how many women must have made it before:

19th c. Frontier Mom

Up before dawn to feed animals and collect eggs, stirring and feeding fire, making porridge and lunches for husband going into fields and children going to school. When they leave sits in rocker to nurse baby while drinking sassafras tea and eating a scoop of the cold breakfast sprinkled with a little of her secret sugar stash. For the sake of the baby. 
"The New Baby" by Carlton Alfred Smith, 1885

Child 1 (poking head inside door of their hillside dugout): Ma, my pants ripped on the way to school.
Ma: I'll fix them later, get going.
Ch: But--(opens door, reveals pants sliced across his rear)
Ma (hustles out of rocker, baby holds on tight): What in glory's name--
Ch: I know! Surprised me too. There's this pokey kind of wire across the land on the far side of the creek and when we climbed through it to use the path to
Ma: My goodness. Good thing no one got hurt.
Ch: Oh, they did. That meant they couldn't run, though. They should be along in a bit. Shouldn't take more than a stitch or two here and there and we'll all be fine. But we're late so could you give us a ride in the pony cart after?
Ma (putting on water to make a poultice, in case that's what was called for): I suppose.
Ch (places sewing basket on rough-hewn log trestle table). I'll take the baby.
Ma: 'Course you will. How foolish to go through wire fence that had already cut one of you up.
Ch (takes baby): It was a game. We each dared each other we could get through in one piece.
Ma (flustered, struggles to thread needle with pant-colored thread): Plenty to 'fess up to at church this Sunday. The Good Lord didn't give you smarts only to have you leave them at school each day.
Ch: Yes Mama. (Places baby on floor while he slips out of pants. An apple rolls from a pocket and he presents to Ma). I clear forgot. I saw this and thought of you. Isn't it pretty?
Ma: Oh, aren't you sweet? Even on your worst day. Come here. (gives Child 1 a hug then a swat on the behind).

This little scenario felt familiar because my day was shaping up like this:

21st c. Summer Mom

Up before dawn to get an hour of writing in before kids awake.  House in shambles because of camping trip return, summer camp send off, Rome trip discards (luggage too heavy), and remnants of prior night's rushed departure when someone (me) had the flight time wrong. Sees overgrown garden from window, vows to weed before it gets hot.Makes coffee and a list of what to tackle first...later.

Ch1 (dragging self down stairs at 6:30 am): Do I still have to do that useless AP class prep?
Mom: Yes (writing)
Ch 1: Can we at least stop at Dunkin' for iced coffee and a breakfast sandwich?
Mom: Yes (writing)
Ch 1: Is that your phone going off?
Mom: Yes (writing)
Ch 1: Isn't it early for that? Who is it?
Mom: Dad. His flight's delayed. He wants me to call when his gate is assigned so he can nap while waiting.
Ch 1 (looking at phone): No, it's Child 2. He wants to come over and do laundry. And for you to take him to Maine to look at a job program. 
Mom (looks up): What?
Ch 1 (repeats).
Mom: Uhh...well. Tell him I'll get him after lunch for the laundry and we can talk about Maine then.
Ch 1 (types away): Child 3 wants to know if you remember about playground camp drop-off starting for (grandchild 1) today. 
Mom: Yes (not writing; looking up gate assignments in London)
Ch 1: Don't give Child 4 the car before you pick me up. I know literally no one going to this dumb thing. Don't ask me to get a ride  from some random kid at school, this was your idea.
Mom: Okay, I won't. Or I'll ask Child 4 to pick you up if I do. Who's texting now?
Ch 1: (Child 5, from Rome). She says her fitbit wristband went RIP, can you mail her another one? 
Mom: Yes? Once she has an address? I have a village name, that's it. Might be enough, might not.
Ch 1 (typing response): Did you see the letter about Child 6 and his summer school transportation? You have to call by last week to get him on the route.
Mom (stops and frowns): That's...difficult.
Ch 1: And Child 7 says don't forget to take the car seat base out of your car if you give it to Child 4. She has to take the baby with her to a job today. 
Mom (gets up from table): Okay. I need more coffee. Pre-Dunkin. 
Ch 1: I got you, I got you, relax. Are you done writing?
Mom (sits and stretches and yawns): Yup, for now. Thank you sweetheart.

So...not so different to have two family members away if the rest of us are all here in our regular lives. 

And not so different for moms in other times and places.  There's always someone who needs taking care of, and who in turn takes care of you back. If you don't look for people who need you they will certainly track you down, especially in summer when kids have nothing better to do and assume you don't either. 

Do you? Have something better to do?

I don't, not really. I take care of people, making sure they're where they need to be and okay. 

And other stuff, some more interesting but none more important and being an everyday mom. 

Love, Lisa

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Travel Combines the Familiar with the Unexpected

Last month I went to spring training and Harry Potter world for the first time. Both were a thrill because they combine elements I love with new twists.

David Price in Red Sox uniform
 (a little disorienting),
starting against Pirates
I've watched major league teams play and been to minor league parks but never saw the two combined. The vibe is relaxed, players talk with fans and for the price of a nosebleed seat during regular reason I could rest my elbows on a front row third base seat. 

I've also loved the Harry Potter books, seen the movies and been to theme parks but never had a convergence of all three like at Universal. The this is the closest I may come to walking through a movie set, one with goods in the stores and regular people pouring the butterbeer. 

Medium-fun during rain delay
at Phillies game
I loved simply being there, soaking up the details. During a downpour the Phillies and Yankees played through I sat on a vendor's cooler eating nachos and keeping score, wiping the card with a napkin, sipping my first ginger beer between innings. At Universal Mark and I compared the Hog's Head on one side of Universal (Islands of Adventure's Hogsmeade) with the Leaky Cauldron on the other (the Studio's Diagon Alley)--repeatedly--and it's hard to imagine a time I was happier. 

The immersive experience is part of the pleasure but another is the way nothing is exactly as you'd imagined. The goblins of Gringott's were stern but kinder than expected. The Phillies Mikael Franco was more intimidating in person, and funnier. 

Butterbeer (of course): one is plenty
There was also no learning curve where I tried to figure out how to get where and do what because everything in JK Rowling's inspired world is one-off to begin with--the bus is normal but the driver has a shrunken head on one shoulder. The modern-day students of Hogwarts wear Oxford-like academic gowns but carry wands and write with quills. 

Dragon on the bank.
Mash-ups like these make for a comfortably unfamiliar world, where similarities to "normal" life help us slip in unannounced but the differences hold us fascinated, shocked we never thought about what it would be like to have our mail delivered by owl. 

This seems to me the ideal way to travel anywhere, without enough common ground to make minor details like train times and police whistles make sense but enough surprising details to make sitting on a corner with a drink (indian chai? thai iced tea? japanese bubble tea? italian espresso? mexican coffee? british cream tea?) gripping stuff. 

Sunrise in New England is solitary
while sunset on Florida Gulf Coast
is communal and it's all good
I find travel where I don't understand what's going on or know what I'm doing highly stressful and there's no enjoyment there. And travel that I've done a number of times borders on boring.The sweet spot is the comfortably unfamiliar of going for a walk at dawn with my daughter and finding the Gulf-side beach where we were staying had a view of only sunset. Shocking for girls who grew up on the East Coast where the beaches always faced the orange-pink dawn. 

And fun, and a challenge to get back out there at sunset and check out the color differences. 

'Twas cheerful bliss, and addictive. I'm collecting ideas and books for travel at lightning speed.

I mean fastball speed.

I mean Quidditch fast. 

Love, Lisa

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Personality Type and Pressure

Today is my husband's last day working for Walmart, and hooray and booyah and yippee for that.

Seriously, it's been bad. After working for the company for seven years, the last five years as an assistant manager, last month he was put on a schedule of 1pm to 1am every(!) Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, indefinitely. Then asked to work various Mondays and Wednesdays as well. Tuesdays were all his except for the dozen or two texts he needed to respond to. 

And his schedule was only his fourth-worst work problem. So yeah, moving on. Even a Type A employee has his or her limits.

But the busyness of his job is something he'll miss. His current store does $60 million a year and Mark was often the only manager in the building. That broke down to 30k an hour in sales on some weekends, which is a flipping crazy amount of business. I went there once (the store is in South Norwalk, CT) and could not get down the front end of the store because 20 registers were all going with 8-10 people in each line. Cars and taxis were out front blocking the fire lanes, kids were running through the place shrieking, overhead announcements called for cleanups and fitting room keys and Assistant Manager Mark every half minute or so. I'd brought him lunch and he opened it mid-aisle, grabbed a piece of fruit saying that's all he'd have time for until things died down in 6-8 hours. 

from Backdrop Fantastic
Your basic circus, one he liked being ringmaster of, much of the time (see my prior post "Ode to my Walmart Assistant Manager at Christmas")

So when interviewing for new jobs and the question came up about "How do you handle pressure in a work situation" he smiled and said "when the walls all collapse, I'm the last man standing, organizing the cleanup crew and getting things back on track." 

This is a guy who feels pressure as the wind at his back, pushing him forward. 

The "Type A" personality  was originally described more than 50 years ago as the workaholic who
from "16 Tips for Dating a Type A Personality"
developed coronary heart disease at a rate double more laid-back ("Type B") peers. And indeed Mark had heart surgery last year, though it was a valve rather than CHD more typically related to stress. But more recent research has found that when taught (and using) stress management skills (like these) Type A's are just as happy as those more Type B.

Sure, a lot of stress management skills for Type A's are basic Type B go-to's (live in the moment, feel the joy, life is good) but iType A's give them a new twist, making their innate conscientiousness a sane and passionate pursuit of excellence rather than a mindless ambition for "more." Over time (and with effort), self-awareness and maturity build more "positive" Type A traits over negative into a high level of life satisfaction.

Positive Type A Traits
Negative Type A Traits
·       Focus
·       Impatience
·       Drive
·       Frustration
·       Extroversion
·       Perfectionism
·       Leadership
·       Demanding
·       Goal-orientation
·       Dismissive
·       Self-discipline
·       Short-tempered

Because who doesn't want to be the master of their own universe?
As long as you have the occasional weekend off to enjoy the view from the mountain top :).

Buy link and blog for this adorable new book
(that REI should stock :))
So the great and funny irony is that Mark's new job is with REI, an absolute bastion of Type B people. The manager who's been most involved in his hiring has been touching base every few days to remind him how "super happy" they all were to have him joining their team and how they chose his start date on a day they could have a group "welcome" and give him the "true REI experience" of putting people first and getting them outdoors to love life.

"Super happy?" he finally said after she'd repeated the phrase on each call.

"I'm going to have to stop saying that to you, aren't I?" she said.

He smiled and said no, he'd find a way to adapt to positivity.

Because Type B people are mostly impervious to pressure and generally super happy. If Type A folks want the wind behind them to double their speed (and Type D people feel it as a headwind getting them stuck), Type B people feel the crosswind, might lick and stick up a finger to note the direction out of curiosity, but they don't change course based on external pressure. They are who they are, they do what they do, and they note with amusement all the scurrying others do to get somewhere else when the way to enjoy life is to be happy right where you are.

And they're right.

So are Type A's who methodically pursue their dreams in steadfast, persistent, gritty (see Angela Duckworth article here) and undeterred fashion.

Because wherever they are on their goal-driven path is exactly where they want to be too :).

Love, Lisa

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow is...

Empty, and blessedly so.

What is the payoff for the hard work of examining your consumption and collection habits and

making needed changes?

A heckuva lot more physical and mental space. Less anxiety. More money. There's no downside.
There's just getting from here to there.

Maybe one of these will help.

Simple Living tackles health, time and finance streamlining but I like the one on home.
I do not have a minimalist wardrobe but I see the attraction. This may not appeal to you but truly nailing your personal style and then carrying it through day to day, no matter what is nagging you, unworn from your closet? 
Well, there wouldn't be anything nagging you unworn from the closet, that's the point. Sounds like heaven. 
 Zen Habits takes on overabundance in multiple ways too. Some of my faves:
Conquering your clutter
72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life
And, with all that extra time and energy you can transform your relationship
More on reducing clutter from:
I dream of clean (foolproof!)
HGTV (reduce stress!)
apartment therapy (spend less!)
You don't have to spend less. reading my tealeaves promotes intentional luxury, which sounds pretty good--make every purchase count and last.

But if you're going to buy something it should probably be a book :-). Maybe this one, which came out today:

The buy links are on Josh's becoming minimalist website but sensibly suggests you stroll through your favorite bookstore and pick up a copy there.

I love this book.

There are plenty of other books on purposeful living so it must be his writing voice. I like his blogs, and the book is ever better--smart, kind, accepting, inspiring.

His definition of minimalism:
“the intentional promotion of things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them.”
That kind of helps-anyone clarity is a gift.

How are we doing at the homestead? As this is the last of the 4-part Less Stuff posts, I will tell you that Mark tackled the basement brilliantly, paring down to camping gear, tools, and a few not-needed-at-the-moment-but-soon kid items.

Before yesterday this entire screen would have been blocked by the jumbo pile of camping gear, now neatly stowed on a couple of industrial shelving units from BJ's.

This feels so good.

Because yes--these are our priorities. Keeping our home in good repair. Getting outdoors. Spending time with the kids.

Getting your life into alignment with what you love is a looooooooong process but totally worth it.

We used to dread "packing for camping" day, and maybe we still will, but now it's "packing for camping" hour.

Much better.

Love, Lisa

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Real Problem of Trophies

A recent youth sports pushback on awards for everyone followed by a teeing-off by an NFL player on
participation trophies has led to a recent wealth of opinions on the subject. I categorized them for you so you can choose which side(s) you're on:

Dallas News editorial:  : Awards should be only for winning and sportsmanship

bleuwater blog post:  they reward mediocrity

Bob Cook in Forbes: Calm down, people

Evan Grossman in Men's Journal:  They make our kids soft

Changing the Game Project: Misuse of limited funds

Ashley Merryman in New York Times:  Losing is good for you (includes social science research)

Aaron Blake in The Washington Post: Older generations knew better (includes opinion poll graph)

Patrice Bendig on Huffington Post:  As a twentysomething in the workplace I'm in praise withdrawal

Lisa Heffernan on Today: They reinforce the right values of effort, teamwork and persistence

Kelly Wallace on CNN: They have their place (i.e. with younger kids), aren't to blame for narcissistic kids (that would be parents), and are expected as much by parents as kids (esp. in high-cost sports). Links issue to earlier piece on how hard (and necessary) it is to let kids achieve and fail on their own.

Despite the different takes, all pretty much agree that losing is an exceptionally difficult emotional experience but a constant in life so buffering the blows when kids are young won't help them learn to cope when they're older. Also that parent overinvolvement, youth sport specialization and confusion about what constitutes self-esteem are formative issues for the last couple of generations.

What they disagree on is whether an inclusive celebration of participation is a bad thing by itself.

I've never been a coach but I know plenty and sympathize with the pressures but can't speak from that perspective. I've never received a participation trophy so I don't know if that feels good or kind of dumb; perhaps it depends on the context. Our neighbor Mr. Joe is currently thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail; if I spent six months on that journey a medal at the end that said "completer" might feel pretty special, regardless of my relative time.

But my main problem with trophies as a mom of nine kids is the issue touched on in some of the above pieces, both in practical and symbolic terms of clutter. Do you dust a plastic trophy without your kids' name on it? Do you throw it in a box? Ten years after it's been given do you chuck it in a landfill? And does having a host of relatively meaningless awards dilute the meaning of the few that symbolize stellar achievement or a big deal win?

Most of all, does it make me a bad mom if I quietly thin the chaff from the wheat?

As the mother of a large, sports-loving brood, most of whom have left this nest (and the awards behind), I am left with pockets of trophies and medals in almost every room.

They seem sacred childhood hallmarks so I've left them in places semi-honored to semi-obscured. But some are not aging well. Glued-on nameplates are peeling off, gold plastic is peeling off featureless black forms beneath. The truth is showing its ugly face: some of this stuff is junk.

And it obscures the truly great that lies in the cluttered midst. Academic honors for being the best of something in a school of 1000 students is impressive. So is a state championship, or an athletic conference first place or competitive invitational first place. Ironically, none of these trophies is made of the marble and steel, three-wish-granting-lantern form I cherished growing up. Those are still at my mom's house. And having to buy so freaking many, even the top gun awards these days aren't built to last.

So this week I decided to find the most important awards amongst the many and find a place of honor for them. The rest don't have to be chucked but can be periodically swept away in thorough, husband-led room cleanings. One of our kids already did this herself ("yeah, that stuff was taking up valuable real estate in my room") and Special Olympics medals get a pass. The rest of the kids don't care as long as they don't see the trophies getting thrown away because that seems kind of cold.

My parents had a glass-doored bookcase for this purpose. There's not a lot of those around these days.

Where would you put the "keepers" where they'd look like they belonged?
I think I know but I'm open to better ideas.
You're the best.

Love, Lisa

Thursday, March 31, 2016

I Will Send You Free Books

We have half as many books in our house as we had last year. This is my strategy with paring down and organizing in general--divide into roughly equal piles of "top half" and "bottom half" based on how much you like something and it's a whole lot easier to let go of the bottom half. You can almost feel that bottom half weighing you down, and feel lighter when you let it go (see part 1 of this series here)

In practice, rather than making piles, for every book I kept on a shelf I had to find another book to put in a box and move out.

We still have a lot of books.

Archaeology, Egypt and
General YA
American history, memoir
and travel

More YA, general fiction
and contemporary romance

Romance favorites
Dystopian YA

Historical romance

(emd of thinking capacity)

And there are always more incoming. I have 20-30 books on pre-order at all times (to make sure I don't miss a new release by a favorite author), plus new interests or authors I want to try out. Bookstores are my idea of a good day shopping. When I love a book I take out from the library I'll buy it somewhere else so I can re-read. Mark has favorite authors he buy on release day, as do Ciara and Liz. Keeping my mom stocked in books is also a pleasure, and a quest since I try to give her complete series.

So now I have a system of moving books out as new books come in. Some can't be saved and go to the landfill (Sorry planet but I've found that people want only one kind of dirty book and it does not involve coffee stains). Some go to the library (a few for the shelves, most for their lobby sale). Some I trade for credits at our local used bookstore (Penny's)  where I get older books I wouldn't pay full price for but would pick up and try for a fraction (I've found some new favorite authors this way). Some I re-sell on Amazon (only worth it if they're out of print).

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Less Stuff

Image credit here based on
("Maybe the Answer is Owning Less")
The more stuff you have, the more time and energy you have to spend dealing with it, or avoiding becoming minimalist gave me the number I was looking for: the average number of objects in an American home.
dealing with it. This reality is at the heart the Tiny House movement, the Tidying Up books and (of the flip side) our cultural fascination with hoarders. The cool site 

What do you think it is?

from The Tiny Life webpage
My husband Mark guessed 12,000,which was wrong.

I guessed 50,000, also wrong.

Guess yourself, and then read the post (“21Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own”). Which stat did you find most astonishing? Mine was no. 16 but they all explain a lot. 

I do not own a tiny house, and after downsizing from a travel trailer to tents don't think I'll ever go in the other direction and get an RV park model/log cabin (the original tiny houses). But I'm fascinated by those who do, especially those sent through the public wringer on Tiny House Nation where John will put a hula-hoop in the front yard for each person (or some such thing) and say all their personal items must fit into that space.

Impossible, for most of us, but hey, they signed up. I have a suspicion that many of the people featured on other tiny house TV shows (Tiny House Hunting, Tiny House Hunters, Tiny House Builders, etc.) rent storage units for the belongings they can't give up or find a way to give away.

That last concept is the key to the cult of Maria Kondo tidying up book followers. Her process is an idiosyncratic one (why hasn't there been an SNL skit on this yet?) but as I laugh about it (hold objects in your hand a certain way, see if they spark joy, if not then find them a new home) I also do largely as she says. 
Because why should you keep anything you don't like? You might have some gut-level defenses (it cost so much, it was my aunt's, I'll fit into it someday, we might have more kids) but none of those make sense unless you like the damn thing. In that case, keep it. If not, give it away. Simple, right?

Not so much. 

Because the effort needed to deal with a mountain range of stuff (papers, pictures, books, clothes and everything that goes into a kitchen, bathroom, office, family room or workshop) is immense, more than letting it all sit with an "organize later" timeline. Until one day a switch flips and you really can't take the clutter anymore. That's when doing nothing is harder than starting the process of fixing your life. 

We all get that what we have is not who we are, at some level. But our possessions symbolize our priorities and personality, to the degree that anyone in your home would get a sense of who you are without your being there. 

Big kitchen, lots of gadgets? My guess is you're social, innovative and nurturing. 

Home library, neatly organized? Introspective, curious and value education.

Basement gym, worn and ripe? Disciplined, careful with money, probably a guy :). 

From the very funny--and tough love--post
 "How Out of ControlIs your TBR Pile
 (Based on This Scale I Invented)?"
So every item we give away can feel like a part of ourselves we're tossing. This is most extreme on the quite-depressing Hoarders  but also the backbone of humorous, upbeat shows like American Pickers where Mike and Frank are often sent in by family members as an intervention for those whose collections have taken on lives (and warehouses, attics, basements, yards, garages and rented storage units) of their own. 

Then again, like the toppling "TBR" piles of readers, having more stuff than you can possibly use or cope with doesn't say anything good about us to the world, and makes us feel lousy about how wasteful and ineffective we are mired in patterns of excess consumption. Jared Diamond wrote a  NYT op-ed a few years ago on the consumption factor of developed countries being 32x higher per capita than in developing countries, who aspire to such lavish ravishing of finite resources.

Thus the tipping point.

Mine was filling 20 boxes of books from one corner of one room of a family member's office who wanted help de-cluttering. And while sure, it's unusual that it was only one corner, most of us could do this several times over in a full-house purge. I certainly could. And should. 

Mark is a ruthless cleaner and tosser. What he sweeps from under the couches goes into the garbage unless it's a TV remote or high-denomination money. Me? I shake off the hair elastics in the pile, pocket the coins, ponder the plastic piece of something (is this the bottom of that lantern that's always dropping its batteries?). I throw and give away lots of stuff, but not without thinking and organizing.

Mark prefers his way. I do too, in all honesty. I have better things to think about and have never (truly: never) missed anything of significance that he's chucked or donated. Rarely do I even notice. But there are areas of our house that can't simply be Markcized, and the problem of managing the (X thousand) items in our home goes deeper, into how much we buy and why.
image by Lynne Cazaly 

This post is Part I of that process.

On deck:
Part II: I Will Send You Free Books
Part III: The Real Problem of Trophies
Part IV: The Pot at the End of the Rainbow is...

Oh, come on. It'll be fun. See you next week ;).

Love, Lisa

Monday, February 29, 2016

Social Media FOMO

Yesterday's post on FOMO seems to have hit a nerve, and possibly missed the point. FOMO grew with social media and I didn't address that directly. I also don't have anything to say about that so I looked for others who did. This post from NirandFar seems to be less about Fear of Missing Out and more about this timeless emotion:

But I do love two parts of his essay. One:

The Joy of Missing Out

That's cool, the idea that while others are superfocused on doing stuff that's postable, others can opt out of the madness and enjoy giving their kids a bath.

The other is this paragraph. Does anything strike you here?

Steve Corona, former CTO of TwitPic, did just that in 2012. He took himself off social media for a full month. It changed his life. He read books, spent time with friends, meditated, ran three miles a day, and wrote a book.

Umm...I'd move the focus to the last three words. Reading a book can take an hour but writing one can take thousands. Not the same :).

The main point, in all seriousness, is that we all have limited time we control.

You can spend it doing things. 

You can spend it posting about things you do. 

And you can spend it angsting about whether the things others post are things that you should have been doing instead of what you chose.

Doesn't that seem like list with diminishing returns?

Happy Leap Year.

Love, Lisa

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Indecision and FOMO

I go to water aerobics class with my mom every week and laugh enough in this one hour span to tide me over through several grumpy days with my kids, if needed. Here's a peek at the fun:

Yes, we have to wear those life preserver belts.
Because of all the laughing, of course.

And yes, I will take down this picture of Mom.
If she makes me. But it does make me smile (you too, right? She did synchronized swimming in college, I'm sure you can totally tell--you rock Lucie!)

Anyway, in addition to discussions in the pool and actual exercise there's a lot of locker room chatter. You don't get that so much when you're my age. Locker rooms at the gym are very quiet, and at the Y they are raucous with screaming children.

But as someone who spends most of her time at home writing and taking care of kids I get a mega-dose of girltalk in this hour because all the women know each other, or are getting to know each other. The groups leader Therese is hilarious (though also a rather severe drill sergeant) and how can you not be happy when you're doing underwater jumping jacks and getting sucked under because you can't coordinate the movement to keep your head in the air. Fabulous stuff, my mom's brilliant for signing us up for this nuttiness.

So after class this week I was trying to jam my wet body into dry clothes and on the periphery of a conversation about how much time older women (retired or working part-time) are willing to give their children for babysitting of grandchildren. While there was some talk of school and summer vacations, and of three week visits (June went this month to New Zealand!) to help with newborns, the real rubber-meets-the-road conversation was about whether you would care for a grandbaby weekly to help your child with daycare costs, and if so how much time would you offer?

How about it? What would you do?
Emerson lays it out for us
(nice image from

The going offer seems to be one day a week. That's the amount of time most women look forward to without getting overtired or feeling taken advantage of. And you have to be ready for the discussion. Despite the nine month warning and then the six weeks or six months of maternity leave, the conversations can sneak up on you.

One woman said a co-worker recently retired, and by happenstance her daughter had a baby at the same time. And The Conversation came up before the woman retired, and before the baby was born, because the parents had to get on a daycare waiting list for a slot. When it did, she said she wasn't ready to commit to a regular babysitting gig. She'd be willing to help out and thought she could do one day but needed to get her bearings and see what her schedule looked like once she retired. Without a set day they could skip, the parents took a full-time slot.

Then the grandmother was upset. Once the baby came she wanted that time alone with her. But any day the baby didn't attend the parents still had to pay for. The grandmother offered a set day at that point but the center said the parents would have to wait for a part-time slot to match, which might not happen. And the grandmother was hurt that she wouldn't have as close a relationship with the child as a result.

From five-part series on FOMO and personal values.
Complete with a QUIZ!
What is this? Indecision and FOMO x 2.

Because you miss out on more by not making a decision than by making the wrong one.

As the story was told, the friend kept saying "she couldn't commit. She couldn't commit. And this is what happens. You lose out."

The whole reason the grandmother couldn't commit was because of the Fear Of Missing Out on something wonderful retirement would offer. Then she retired and realized the child was that "something wonderful" and feared she'd miss out if they weren't alone together every week.

FOMO never goes away. It's always on your shoulder, ready to steal your fun. When you commit to one course of action, yes, you rule out others and if you can't make peace with that quickly then your life will be ruled by indecision, frustration and regrets.

There are a lot of decisions to be made, and the choices overwhelming. Big (when to marry or have children), Medium (where to vacation and with whom) and Small (what to eat and watch), they keep coming at you and the process of weighing your options can lead to a paralysis in decision-making (see articles here from Scientific American, The Economist, The New York Times and Psychology Today, and a counterargument--of course--from The Atlantic).

The research in general says that people are happier with their decision when they choose from a smaller group of options but the results are mixed because all decisions are not equal. Regret over not buying lunch out cannot be equated with one involving who you chose as a life partner, or whether you skip having children.

For those Big Decisions the only solution is to know what's most important to you in vivid technicolor and chose from your gut based on that. Need help? Read these on choices involving love, travel and life.

Or since it's halfway between Valentine's and St. Patrick's Day, use the Irish version of Stephen Covey's Big Rocks  metaphor shared by my good friend Judy.

Slainte and Love, Lisa

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


love the book Everyday by David Leviathan where everything changes daily for the protagonist, except for his soul. 

But I'm much more Groundhog Day myselfSame situation everyday with minute changes within that only show themselves over time. 

Trying for productive, I take my meds

Have a healthy breakfast 


Drink plenty of fluids

Closing the top there would have been smart. 

Moving plan in GTD journal

AFTER checking the calendar (small mistake, use self-compassion)

Be accountable for daily goals 

Try something new

But no overachieving, bite-size chunks

(Ok, I promise to look at the book. Open it, even. But the real new thing I'm trying is to blog on my phone for the 1st time so I write less. Totally working).

Don't reinvent the wheel--accept help--

Seek to do better

But be grateful for what you have

Ignore the gaping maws of distraction 

And above all keep your sense of humor

(That's a character note for the story I'm rewriting. The brilliant idea I wrote there before I went to bed was "has to get something done/fixed/taken care of" in the scene. Like this isn't my everyday theme.)

But the Everyday v. Groundhog Day experience is pretty universal. Some people lead busy lives and need to keep themselves centered and consistent. Others lead more routine lives and need to find challenges to keep them evolving.  

I used to be the first, now I'm the second. 

Which are you? 

Love, Lisa