Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mind Mapping

Mental models are can be exhausting.

They are internal assumptions that we hold about how things/we work, how things/we are, and how things/we should be--and then apply them to our external surroundings.

In other words, it's what we believe mothering, weight, parenting, marriage, cleanliness, simplicity, tidiness, organized, healthy, smart, pretty, savvy, chic, creative, looks like.

And often, we spend our time comparing how far away or how far surpassed we are to that model in our life.
  • How clean our desk should look
  • What kind of relationship we should have with our children
  • What good home-keeping looks like
  • What successful feels like
  • What thin looks like
  • How fast we should be running
  • How much money we should be making
You get the idea.

And while mental models are important in making sure that we aim high, their existence doesn't guarantee that the aim is right. For you. Or your family.

I do a lot of journaling as a way to help challenge my own mental models and to make sure that my aim is right. Usually, if the model is wrong or our aim is off, we feel tension around it. I ask a series of questions in the process, an adaptation of which I'll share below. To illustrate their impact, I'll use an example that a friend shared with me recently:

Mental Model: Good employees go to the office summer party. I should go.

Why should you go? Because they're expecting me too and they've put a lot of time into arranging it. I'll probably end up having fun, anyway.

What happens if you don't go? I'll feel guilty.

What would you rather do? Stay home and spend time with my husband and son.

How will you feel if you don't do what you'd rather do? I'll feel guilty, too. And resentful. But they'll understand more than work would.

If you had a party and someone couldn't come because they wanted to spend time with their family, how would you react? I'd totally understand. I'd probably even envy them a little bit.

What makes you think that work wouldn't feel the same way? I'm not sure, actually. Maybe they would.

Does considering that make you feel differently about going? A little bit. But I'm also afraid I might miss something.

And you're less concerned about missing something at home? I'm more confident at home, I trust home more than I trust work.
She thought that being a good employee meant attending the summer office party. But through the questions, she realized that her model was more a mask that perpetuated some time sucking energy draining behaviors. She left our conversation questioning her values and wanting to spend more time with her family, with whom she felt at her best and who deserved her best.

I suspect that by reallocating her energy to things that bring real fulfillment, she'll have more positive energy to give to things that bring the financial fulfillment as well.

Not all models are masks, or drains. But it's important to continuously challenge them to make sure they are helping us to become our best, not getting in the way of it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Feeding Connections

Image by: Little Friends of Printmaking Photostream

Earlier this week I had an interesting conversation with my husband.

Well, the topic wasn't interesting, but the circumstances were.

He was looking over my shoulder, onto my computer screen, where I had my Google Reader page displayed.

"What's that you're looking at?" he asked.

"You mean my Google reader?" is how I replied, but what I thought was, "duh, are you serious?"

Because context is important, let's get something straight. I like pens and I like pencils. I love paper and I don't care if its already been used, I'll find a way to use it again. The extent of my computer-wizness is that I can type really really fast. And while there's a strange and bit obsessive reason as to why, I'll save it for another day. The bottom line is, other than their keys, I don't know much else about computers, even less about the world wide web, and double less about electronic gadgets that can make life easier.

But I do know an itty bit about RSS feeds.

Don't worry, you'll read all about them in a minute.

So I proceeded to probe my husband who knows everything about technology and websites and efficient surfing (doesn't he?) and learned that he knows nothing about Google reader.

Once I got over the initial shock, it occurred to me that if he doesn't know, then there are probably a lot of people who don't know.

So I sat down to write a blog about it. This was on Tuesday.

I eked out a paragraph and then did some procrastinating, specifically, other blog reading. You can imagine my total and utter disbelief at the first post I landed on.

It was all about RSS feeds. Written THAT DAY.

At first, I was a little bit freaked out. Then I was a little bit discouraged. What was I going to write about now?

But the truth is, Simple Mom did a WAY better job of describing what this time-saving genius application is than I ever could have done. So you must visit her blog and read all about it. Then set yourself up with one.

I'll give you a primer, though: subscribing to a feed, usually through your email account, is like an inbox for all of the websites you visit regularly. You don't have to keep checking to see if they've been updated, once you "subscribe" to them, they appear bolded in your "inbox" as soon as they are.

There's another really strange occurrence related to blogs and topic ideas that I also experienced with Simple Mom, but I'm afraid you won't believe me if I told you about it, so I'll skip it and marvel in silence at the way God gets his messages to us.

Splurge & Crafts

Ava and I spent about an hour in Michael's craft store this week. I'm not very crafty. Creative, but not crafty. But she loooovvvvveeeeesssss "arts and crafts" so we went for some resupply.

Is there anything better than a secret sale you don't know about until you're in the checkout? We picked up what I estimated to be about $25 worth of stickers, beads, glue, and paper lanterns--but ended up being (drum roll please)....$9.08!

We hit it right on Wednesday. Big sale on things already on sale. What a feeling. I don't need breathtaking sunsets or crashing waves (okay, yes I do) I just need an unexpected savings every once in a while.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I am boring.

I am, really. And it's okay, I've accepted it. Recently.

There was a time, though, that I so badly wanted to be the go-to fun-loving, thrill-seeking, good-for-a-late-night laugh pal. But I've never been able to pull of inauthentic without looking, well, completely inauthentic. I can remember once as a kid wanting a different laugh, so I'd practice it in my room, when no one was home. I was young, but wise enough to know how silly and forced it sounded, so I moved on to something else, like flavored sugar that you'd suck off a candied dipstick.

Point is, I'm okay with my boringness and that jokes don't live up my sleeve and I have no desire to go anywhere after ten pm where beer is served out of plastic cups and bathroom floors smell (and look) like something that's been dead on the side of the road for a year. Even if just an unoriginal laugh.

I do like to spend my time being creative, active, and calm and among my family. That's when I'm happiest. Fortunately, it also seems to be when my husband is happiest (though he could probably do without the active part) and, so far, little one, too.

So, this past weekend, when we packed up the car and headed the six hours to our home-town, that's exactly how time was spent. We have family who let us stay in their beautiful lake home, reminiscent of ones you'd see in the pages of Coastal Living. Talk about authentic, there wasn't a thing in that house that wasn't (except maybe the LEGOs on hand for little one). From exposed wooden beams to early 20th century glass, to the wood that furnished it, it was an escape right in the middle of nature. No cell coverage, no internet...just the water, the trees, and the breeze.

We swam, we kayaked, we ate smores, and we fell asleep on the porch one rainy afternoon. What was remarkable about spending a weekend at a lake I grew up with, was watching my daughter experience it for the first time.

As I've said, I can know something as well as I know my own name and somehow, watching her experience it is getting to know it all over again as if I never knew it any other way.


I ran in my fifth 15K Utica Boilermaker on Sunday; my dad ran in his fourth! I ran my best time, but the results won't reflect it because there was a malfunction with the chip timing system.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the running world, there are two times that a runner receives:

  • The Gun Time--the time it took a runner to finish the race from the sound of the gun
  • The Chip Time--the time it took a runner to finish the race from the point he/she crossed the start line
The distinction is important because in big races, like the Boilermaker, it can take anywhere from a minute to fifteen minutes before a runner makes it to the start line after the gun fires. For instance, on Sunday, it took me three minutes to get to the start and it took my dad 12 minutes! So when Chip Timing malfunctions, the only record they have is gun time finish, which in my case tacked on an inaccurate three minutes and in my dad's case, an inaccurate 12 minutes! It not only throws off your time, but your place as well.

Now, I don't mean to complain, these things happen. I should be satisfied with the knowledge that I ran my best regardless of what the "official" results convey. And I am. I just can't help but be an "itty bitty bit" bummed, as Ava would say.


Go Slow

This time-compression thing happens at night. I fix dinner, we eat it, clean up dinner, play for a bit. Get ready for bed, go to bed. All within about two hours.

This leaves little room for my age-preventing, life-saving grooming routine. In other words, I was skipping the fancy skin-care regimen that would keep me looking young, and, I hate to admit it, the all-important flossing routine that would keep me alive.

So, I'm doubling up. While Ava plays in the tub, I kneel beside her and floss. She sings about it and I try not to laugh, but she makes it hard.

While she brushes her teeth after bath, I put on my Youthtopia--skin and eye cream.

Before she goes to bed, we both drink a glass of water, "together" as she says.

And while I read her stories before bed, Pete heats up my water for a cup of tea. I drink it while I tidy up any work items or make a list for the next day...or, just sit on the couch next to him and do nothing.

Then I brush my teeth and head straight to bed.

[Curbing the Urge to] Splurge

I got an adorable little notebook for my birthday that I've been keeping track of writing ideas in. On Monday, I reserved a page in the back to keep track of credit card spending. I know there are all kinds of great software out there that can slice my data in five hundred different ways...but I just want to see what how much I'm putting on the credit card, where, and when. Kind of like I do with my diet when I'm training or overeating.

It's worked to curb mindless eating; let's see if it's successful in curbing mindless swiping.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

check it out

Another first: I was asked to guest blog over on LobotoME.

If you're looking to waste a little bit of time today, you can read about a day in the life of moi over there and see how I spend mine ;)

More to come on our long weekend away, surrounded by nature--water, bald eagles, and fresh, fresh air.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

not a thing

I did not like college. I liked the idea of it, but once I got there, I wanted no part of it. As big and as bold and wide open as college was, I didn't feel like there was any room in it for me. But I went, I saw, I experienced, and I finished--in four years with a transfer from one state school to another. (I was damned if the experience I disliked, okay, hated, was going to make me miserable and poor.)

In fact, I spent so much time hating college, that I never left much room for thinking about what I liked. Yesterday though, ten years after I graduated the first time (that's right, I hated it so much I went back for a second time), it occurred to me what I liked.

I liked the day that didn't have a plan. The day when there was no place to be, nowhere to go, nothing to clean, not a thing to prepare. While college was busy in different ways, it seemed that there were more of those unfilled days than not--and there was always someone else to share nothing with--Julie across the quad or Laura next door, maybe Merry downstairs, someone. Nothing usually began by finding a sunny spot to sit and stretch. Conversation was light and unattached, and growing by the body. Two people quickly turned into three, into four, into five, into six and more. Time moved differently; it wasn't urgent, didn't run out. In my case, it stood still. It didn't move fast enough (to have THOSE days back).

So when I saw a group of college-agers in a sunny spot yesterday with their coffee and their water, some chewing on a blade of grass, others just picking it, I remembered all of a sudden what I liked about college. Not what I miss, but what I liked. I certainly don't want those days back, I love the ones I'm in too much. But watching those friends--some who would be friends forever and others just til summer's end--reminded me of how nothing feels, and how filling it up with laughter and love and blades of grass doesn't require a courtyard or a quad. It just requires someone to do it with and the time to do it.


Go Slow

I've been making time for 10-minutes of clarity every morning...and it's turning into hours of peace every day. I'm going to keep at it for the rest of the month and hopefully have all kinds of prosperity to report at its end.

Splurge, splurge, splurge

Ava and I are meeting my running partner who's turned great friend and her little one for some non-running nothing this afternoon.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth of July

Break out the bomb pops and the sparklers. It's the fourth of July.

Here's the latest citizenship test. How well do you know our nation's history and the markers of its making?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

If I Were a Tree...

We took Ava to the B&O Railroad Museum on Saturday. Our good friend Courtney is the Executive Director; he and his wife Leslie have been great friends to us. It's an incredible museum that Courtney has done a remarkable job of renovating. You can read all about it here.

Ava L.O.V.E.D. the trains.She did not want to leave and we'd been an hour and a half by the time we did, in 90+ degree heat. We'll be going back soon. She told me she misses the Caboose.


I can't make it out yet, but a message is making its way to me.

It's July by the way. Summer's first full month. To me, July always feels like a fresh start more than January does. Time to revisit those goals and see how they're coming, what needs shifting, tossing, and a little bit of attention.

Back to the message.

In June my husband spent two weeks in a leadership class. It was an experience (I'm obviously inferring here) that seemed pointless while in it, but with distance has proved priceless.

For starters, while attending the class he learned he'd been selected to interview for a new position--one with, you guessed it, bigger leadership responsibilities. I'll spare the suspense and let you know that not only did he ace the interview, he got the job. The two weeks he spent reflecting on leadership styles he'd observed in the past and anticipating the style he would employ himself only helped. (Because, of course, he'd have gotten the job anyway. :)

Beyond professional enhancement though, this leadership class has done wonders for our communication as a married couple. I think Pete spent as much time analyzing his own personality type as he spent trying to figure out mine. :) We are completely OPPOSITE. I wasn't sure how to take his reaction to Myers-Briggs' validation of what we always suspected, "It'll be okay. The speaker today told us he and his wife are total opposites too and they managed to stay married for 35 years." He was unclear as to whether or not they were still married, which my personality type would've asked about but his took at face value.

Truthfully, though, understanding ourselves has helped us to understand each other. For instance, I learned that a slight acknowledgment from him is equivalent to a rooftop shout from me. I learned that when he comes home to sit in front of the TV, it's not because he's lazy it's because he's transitioning. (As I write this, I'm feeling like I've been schooled here). But seriously, over the past three weeks we've both made an effort to extend beyond our own comfort zone to spend a little bit of time in the other's.

Then, today, my mom called me with a thought completely out of the blue. I hadn't shared with her all of the personality analysis that Pete and I had been engaged in, either, by the way. Anyway, she thinks that engaged couples ought to go through activities like pitching tents together and putting up Christmas trees to train for marriage. Activities that companies and businesses pay a ton of money for their employees to do so they can work better together. Apparently, that's what she and my dad spent the afternoon doing and she was quite proud of how they came out the other side. Researcher me added another layer...actually, I was thinking of my parents while I said it, "and I wonder how their interaction with each other would change and evolve over the years...say from engagement, to third year, to eighth year, to fifteenth, and so on."

If divorce weren't something you declared and needed a lawyer to do, but instead was something you were eligible for each year on three specific occasions: putting up the Christmas tree, driving home from vacation, and pitching a tent in the dark, then my parents would've been eligible A LOT in the first 15 years, less for the next ten, and pretty much not at all at 35 years of marriage.

At any rate, as couples, as children, as friends, and as parents, we all have a lot to learn about each other, from each other, and with each other. While it gets darn frustrating at times, love wouldn't be love otherwise.

As I said, I'm not sure what the message is, but it's resonating love and learning and patience. I'll let you know as soon as the decryption is complete--but then again, maybe simple awareness is the message.


So are you dying to find out your personality type? Thanks to my husband's find, you can do it here, for free, and you don't even have to sign up for it.

Here's a peak at my personality type. I need to find the person who wrote this because I have a lot of questions. Like, how did they know? and...what do I do!?


I've been working on a personal essay for a week or so and when I read my profile today, I got chills up my spine at the points it raises, which are almost entirely included as actual experiences in my essay. God always finds a way to talk to us, even when we're listening-resistant.
Go Slow

I'm really trying to quiet my mind again. It's been a little cluttered with things that don't matter much and, as my profile points out, are related to my inability to be at complete peace with myself--there is always something I should be doing.

I've gotten away from my ten minute prayer and quiet time in the morning. It's a 2008 goal that I've neglected for about three months now, right about the time the clutter worked its way back in. This month, that's what I'm focused on. Ten minutes in the morning and getting to bed a little earlier at night.


Oh my gosh. You know how much I loved Juno. Well, guess what? The fella who wrote and sang the opening song to that movie (Barry Louis Polisar) is performing tonight at the park I run at nearly every day. For free. For kids. Ava and I are packing a dinner, throwing a blanket in the car, and heading over for some dancin and dreamin. You can read more about him here.