Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. What Can A Coach Do For You?

If you’ve read my blog, you know that I credit coaching as the best personal development I’ve ever done. I firmly believe that all change occurs internally first and externally second. So, I’ve always been a student of leadership and motivational theories. Maintaining a positive mindset and energy to be productive in all aspects of your life takes work. It’s akin to becoming and staying physically fit. One must be disciplined and dedicated to sustain a healthy body. If we need help with this, we know that we can hire a personal trainer or sign up for a class at a local gym. A coach works in much the same way. As we make goals for our life and/or personal development, sometimes we need help with motivation, making a plan, and accountability. I know I did. I was overwhelmed with the many aspects of life that needed to be tamed to achieve my goals. My life coach has helped me sort those out and empowered me to take action. In a nutshell, she has helped me to name my fears and find my courage to overcome. Now she is holding me accountable to take the necessary steps to work towards success. I can’t stress enough to you how life changing and fulfilling this has been for me.

What can a coach do for you? The real answer is – that’s up to you! Each person has different goals and areas of personal development upon which they’d like to focus. In turn, there are coaches with various specializations to allow you to choose the best one for you.

I’ve found confusion surrounds the distinction between coaches and consultants. A coach is not a consultant. The best way for me to describe the difference for you is with an example. Let’s pretend you are hungry and want fish for dinner. You are eager to learn to fish and to prepare them yourself, but have no idea how to start. You meet with a consultant and a coach for help in achieving this. A consultant will give you a written plan on the best places to fish, a list of equipment needed, and a recipe for how to cook them. Acting upon this plan will be up to you solely.  Alternatively, a coach will help you learn to do the research for finding the best places to fish, the best equipment, and finding the recipes you like best. Further, a coach will walk with you through the entire process to provide guidance and accountability as you learn to cast, reel in the fish, and prepare it to cook. You and your coach will celebrate together after you’ve enjoyed a wonderful meal. Now, let’s pretend you are hungry again, but this time you want to fish in a different area of the world and prepare it differently. If you used the services of a consultant, chances are you must hire the consultant again. However, if you hired a coach, you will have learned how to do things yourself. A consultant finds the answers for you, while a coach helps you find the answers yourself. It is much like the proverb, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Consultants provide, and coaches teach. There are appropriate situations for both consultants and coaches. I have been fortunate to have done both consulting and coaching in my career. I value the services provided by consultants and fully understand their importance. Personally, I find coaching more fulfilling. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which is best for helping you reach the success you seek.

If you have further questions about coaching and how it can benefit you, please email me at gina@freelunchkid.com. I’d love to help you succeed!

Are You Stuck?

You know how sometimes you feel stuck in either your life or your job? It’s a helpless feeling. You get lost in the humdrum of daily activities trying to make sure that you finish everything you are supposed to do. You go to bed exhausted and wake up the next day to do it all over again. Is this what life is really like? You work hard to get to a point in your life that is where you thought you should be. Now you realize you feel unfulfilled in some way. You want more but for some reason you can’t take the steps to move forward. You are stuck. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives.

Perhaps you feel stuck in your personal life. Is it that you can’t seem to get the healthy lifestyle you long for started? Has your relationship with your significant other become stagnant? Are you beating yourself up over your parenting skills? Are you struggling with self-esteem issues? Has there been a tragedy in your life that you can’t seem to get past?

If you feel stuck in your job, it could be that you feel hostage to your income or you don’t feel as though you have the skills to obtain another job. Maybe you have been in your job for quite some time and do not want to start over or give up some benefits you’ve earned. Do you have a difficult co-worker and you can’t find common ground?

There are lots of reasons you might perceive you can’t move past the situation that has you feeling stuck. The truth is that you CAN move past it. Maybe not tomorrow, but with a solid plan, good guidance, and continued support, you can achieve most anything in an acceptable time frame. Circumstances should not control you, you can control your circumstances. You have the power to move past any situation. The only question remaining is are you ready?

If you have been following my blog, then you know I have been at a place in my life that had me feeling stuck. I decided last September on my 44th birthday to do something about it. As I tried to sort through my current circumstances and set goals to where I want to head, I realized I needed some help with planning and empowerment. I decided to seek out a life coach.  This decision has changed my life dramatically. My goals are more clear. My plan for reaching them is taking shape. I feel more alive and empowered than I have in a long time. I no longer feel stuck! Life coaching has been so powerful and fulfilling for me that I have decided to become a certified life coach. This is something I will do outside of my job at TTS. If you would like to talk about how a coach could help you, email me at gina@freelunchkid.com. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have, just know that I will get back to you after 5:00. Remember, the only person holding you back is you.

Have a great day and get moving! I hope to hear from you!

I’m Ready for 2017!

I love to read social media. It allows me to stay up to date on news stories, research, and most importantly – my friends. As 2016 comes to an end, it is interesting to see how many people want this year to go away. They’re so ready for this year to come to an end and for a new one to begin. The reasons vary. Some are depressed at the loss of popular icons this year such as Prince, George Michael, and Carrie Fisher. That’s very understandable – heck, I’m devastated that I never saw Prince in concert and never will. Other people are ready for the year to be over because they’ve lost loved ones. The pain of loss can be debilitating and most are seeking a way to overcome it as quickly as possible. I also see some friends wanting the year to end because things just haven’t gone their way lately. The common denominator in every one’s wish to end this year and start next year is the yearning for a fresh start. We’ve all faced times in our lives when we need an era to end and a new one begin. The end of a year and the beginning of a new one seems to be the most logical time to hope for change. The idea of New Year Resolutions has been imbedded in us our entire lives. We have been conditioned to reflect on our lives at the end of the year and look for ways to improve it in the new year. This is truly a good practice but statistics tell us that 88% of people fail at keeping their resolutions. Over the years, my opinions of NY resolutions have changed from setting them to not setting them. The years that I did set them, I chose the most popular ones like losing weight and exercising more. I failed too! This year I find myself at a different place in life. A few months ago, I began a journey to find true happiness in my life. I have dedicated myself to genuine change. I suppose one could say I began the same process of a resolution, but I started on my 44th birthday. I feel the same as everyone that wants 2016 to be over. The difference for me this year is that I realize a day on the calendar is not enough to instigate true change. The only thing strong enough to cause the positive change I am seeking is ME! If I wanted, I could look back at the past year and fall into a pity party. I’ve experienced some crappy things this past year from the loss of an adoption opportunity to a second neck surgery. I’ve gained 10 pounds and I’m more out of shape than I’ve ever been. It would be easy to play victim and whine about all of this. It would be just as easy to be angry and lash out. Every circumstance and situation creates energy. It is our choice how we use that energy. It can be negative energy or positive energy. The energy doesn’t decide – we do. When we make the decision to be optimistic regardless of situations, we create more positive energy and force the negative energy out. This is the key to success in all things, including resolutions. If we begin our resolutions with a negative outlook such as I’m fat and need to fix it, we will fail. Instead, take the positive approach and empower yourself. Your resolution could sound more like this – I will reward my body with healthy food and exercise this year. If you do that, weight loss will come. Learning how to harness energy and focus it in a positive direction takes practice. I know because I’m learning how to do it myself! It is making a huge difference in my life and well-being. I am looking forward to 2017! I hope you are as well! I wish you all the best year of many yet to come!

Our Christmas Ghosts

The past two weeks have been very life changing for my family. I feel like we have been living in our own Christmas movie. We’ve had several emotional ups and downs that have been framed within the holiday season. It’s as if we have been visited by several Christmas ghosts that have been tasked with reminding us how blessed we are. The first one I’ll tell you about is the visit from the Ghost of Christmas Reality.

The Ghost of Christmas Reality

The holiday season is a time meant to celebrate and to be thankful for friends and family. We start in November with Thanksgiving and finish on January 1st as we begin a new year. The holiday season is fun and full of magical moments with those you love. Depending upon your religious preference, you may celebrate on a different day and with different traditions, but the underlying message is very close to the same. We are thankful for deliverance and freedom. I celebrate Christmas. It is easily my favorite time of the year and I go all out with decorations, gifts, and parties. I spend too much money and eat too much food. It’s all quite grand, if you ask me, but somehow, in the hustle and bustle I tend to lose sight of how fortunate I am. I’ll admit, I’ve done that for many years. I am blessed to be surrounded by family and friends, to have the ability to fulfill my daughter’s wish list, and to splurge on a vacation if I feel like it. In the midst of my privileged life, it is easy to lose sight of those less fortunate. I think the whole “out of sight, out of mind” adage certainly applies. Last week the Ghost of Christmas Reality reminded with a vengeance.

Over the past weekend, I was in a hospital waiting room for several hours. While there, I eavesdropped on a conversation between a group of family members. The group contained both males and females and blacks and whites. Their ages ranged from two years old to some probably in their forties. They all seemed to really like each other and talked easily and comfortably with each other. As I listened, I heard them converse about their friends being murdered and some spending time in jail. I learned that one of them had witnessed the murder of his mother, while another’s mother had gone to jail for trying to kill him when he was a baby. I could tell this is something they discuss on a daily basis and is a part of their everyday life. There was almost a competition in their conversation as to who had experienced the worst life. Then they nonchalantly switched gears and began to talk about food and which restaurants take food stamps. The part that struck me was how normal this conversation was for them. I could tell this is something they discuss often and is a part of their everyday life. As I internalized their reality, I felt so small. The Ghost of Christmas Reality gave me a slap on the wrist or better yet, my heart. I have complained about needing to downsize and lose weight because I have too many possessions and too much food to eat. Meanwhile, a large population of the people in the world are struggling to survive. I have never experienced the struggle they are facing so I cannot understand how they feel. I can say that I am ashamed that I have never taken the time to truly explore the circumstances of those less fortunate than me. The Ghost of Christmas Reality reminded me that I live in a privileged bubble. I have a true passion to help the underprivileged and this gave me a big boost of motivation. Thank you, Christmas Ghost of Reality. If you feel the urge to help others during the holiday season and the whole year through, I’ve listed a few charities that could use your help. They do great work.

The Salvation Army: http://salvationarmyalm.org/tuscaloosa/center-hope/

Tuscaloosa’s One Place: http://www.tuscaloosaoneplace.org/

Big Brother’s Big Sisters of West Alabama: http://bbbswestal.org/

Community Soup Bowl: http://tuscaloosasoupbowl.com/

The Ghost of Christmas Dreams

Our Christmas Ghost visits didn’t appear individually as they did with Scrooge. Ours were present at the same time with overlapping motives that weave together. The Ghost of Christmas Dreams has been lingering with us for some time, probably our whole lives. I hope he stays for the remainder of our lives too. He reminds us to dream and reach for the stars because our dreams give us hope and motivation. My family and I have been dreaming big dreams. My husband and I would love to have multiple children. Our daughter would love a sibling.  Unfortunately, we have had a very hard time achieving this dream. Over the past ten years, we’ve suffered through the loss of our second daughter at 6 months of age, multiple miscarriages, and failed IVF attempts. I no longer have the ability to bear children, but we haven’t given up our dream. A little over a year ago we began the process to try adopt a baby. We’ve been “on the market” for a year waiting and hoping that a birth mother will choose us. Two weeks ago, we received the call we wanted. A birth mother had chosen us and was due in a little over a week. We rushed into action, prepared everything, and drove almost 10 hours to be with her as she gave birth. The poor thing was in labor for over 20 hours. She gave birth to a perfect baby boy. We had the chance to love this boy as if he was ours for almost 24 hours. Unfortunately for us, she changed her mind and decided to keep him. I can’t blame her because he was so adorable. We had to pack up and drive home with an empty car seat. Our daughter was so upset. She is learning lessons about life, love, and loss that I wish would have occurred when she was older. We are very sad and disappointed to say the least. We have gotten so close to having another child and it seems that at the last minute, something happens every time. I can honestly tell you that after this happened last weekend, I was ready to give up on this dream. I began to wonder if fate was trying to let us know that we were meant to have only one child. The Ghost of Christmas Dreams showed up in a big way. He spoke to us thru our daughter. She asked us to please keep trying to adopt. I explained to her that it could mean we have to experience pain again. She immediately said, “So what. It will be worth it eventually.” She’s right. It will be worth it eventually. The Ghost of Christmas Dreams would like for us to tell you that we are back “on the market” and hope to have another opportunity soon. Please keep us in mind if you hear of anything.

The Ghost of Christmas Love

Just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, the family I was eavesdropping on in the hospital waiting room was the birth family of the child we hoped to adopt. We have experienced so many feelings and emotions about the situation. We have been angry, sad, and heartbroken. I believe deep in my heart that we could have given the baby opportunities that they cannot. The Ghost of Christmas Love stepped up to relieve some of our anguish. As I watched this family in the hospital waiting room, it became clear that we live very different lives. The one thing that was the same though was love. They all loved each other very much. They loved the birth mom and new baby too. I can’t be angry with them for wanting to have the baby to love.

We had prepared to spend several weeks in a hotel waiting for the courts to allow the baby to come home with us. My husband and daughter had decorated the room with lights, garland and a small tree. As I looked at the small hotel room with cheap garland around the door and multicolor lights hanging in the window, I was overcome with love for them. The Ghost of Christmas Love reminded me that I have so much to be thankful for right now. I thought back to the moment we had to tell the baby good-bye and leave the hospital. We hugged and held each other tight as we all felt the disappointment of the missed adoption opportunity. We held hands as we left. We cuddled together back in the hotel and enjoyed the Christmas decorations. The Ghost of Christmas Love helped us to experience a deeper level of togetherness and family love. As we packed up and took down the decorations to come home, I was sad but I also have never been more proud of my family.

The Ghost of Christmas Love wasn’t quite finished.  As our family and friends found out about both our possible adoption and the outcome, the outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming.  It is wonderful to be reminded that one is surrounded by a circle of love.

 

This will be a Christmas that my family will never forget.  Our Christmas movie might not have the happy ending that we expected or envisioned, but it still has a happy ending. They say the best movies have twists that result in endings that no one saw coming. We didn’t come home with the baby we were hoping for, but we did return with valuable life lessons and affirmations of love. The Ghost of Christmas Reality taught me to be more thankful and generous. The Ghost of Christmas Dreams taught me to keep dreaming and to not give up when things seem hopeless. The Ghost of Christmas Love showed me how much love surrounds me and is in me. Indeed, this is still a happy ending. Merry Christmas to all!

See No Evil

Last Thursday, I boarded a plane to attend a training conference. This is not a new occurrence for me. I’ve traveled quite a bit for work throughout my career and I’ve attended several training conferences as well. You know how it goes… you have to go to a seminar to get continuing education credits or you have to attend some training that is required by your job. These seminars are typically held in some great location (this is done on purpose to entice you to go!) and you spend the entire time you are in the training daydreaming about what you will do as soon as you bust out of that joint! If you can get away with it, you might even skip some of the sessions. Typically, we are more excited to go wherever we are visiting than we are the actual training conference. As a tourism professional I absolutely condone this behavior and will tell you I engage in it too, but last weekend was different for me. I didn’t go to this training conference because I had to, I went because I wanted to. It was held in Chicago, which is my favorite city, and I never went into downtown. I stayed glued to my hotel and conference for three 10 hour days and I didn’t want it to end. As I was flying home this morning, I kept going over everything I learned and experienced. I can honestly say I feel like today is the first day of my life that I have been totally in control and it’s so empowering. A little over two months ago, I was at rock bottom. I was drained emotionally, physically exhausted, guilt-ridden, and an all-around miserable person. I now realize I had felt that way for several years. I’m a pretty tough gal, so I have the strength to work through a lot of things, but I’m not super human. My strength was completely gone. Today I know it is coming back!! This past weekend I attended a training seminar to begin the process of becoming a certified life and business coach. It is the best thing I have ever done for myself! I learned that I’m not crazy or weak and that my feelings are normal for someone that has gone through the life experiences I’ve had. Most importantly, I learned how to recognize and own my feelings and emotions so that I can control how I let them affect me. Over the years, I’ve developed one hellavu poker face to hide how I truly felt inside. I’m not going to need it as much now. I hate to lose that skill so does anyone want to start playing cards?!

I want to share one of many stories to let you know how great this weekend was for me. Those of you that know me know I used to be an avid cyclist, marathon runner, and triathlete. A result of my sad state of emotional affairs is that I am now over-weight and in the worst physical shape of my life. There is still a vain side to me that doesn’t want anyone to know how I look in work-out clothes or to see me struggle to walk on the treadmill. I want you all to think I can still kick a little butt. So to hide this, I stopped working out at gyms and participating in group athletic events. That eventually led to me not really working out at home either. Of course, this has been fantastic for my self-esteem – NOT! I had made my mind up that while I was at a hotel with a gym, where no one knew me, I was going to work out every day that I was in Chicago. On Friday morning, I headed down and got onto the elliptical. They gym was pretty full and I was self-conscious. I didn’t have a lot of energy but I made myself power through 30 mins of cardio and went 3.1 miles. I tried to do some weights but I saw a couple of hot chicks working out and I was embarrassed, so I left. Not the best results, but day one was accomplished. I showered and headed down to the training conference only to find the two hot chicks were there for the training too. Insert a sarcastic GREAT here. The negative thoughts started and I feared I’d be too embarrassed to go back to the gym in the morning. The training began and one of the things we learned hit me hard. It can be summed up with this quote:  “We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” – The Talmud. Hmmm….. I assume everyone sees me in the negative manner I see myself. A little later in the day we broke out with partners to practice coaching. I was paired with one of the hot chicks. Insert another sarcastic GREAT. Much to my surprise, a pretty fabulous thing happened. I got to know her and found out that over the past year she has lost 64 lbs. Wow! She had worked her butt off – literally! Same kind of story for the other hot chick. Let’s get back to that quote now. If I judged them for being fit, what did that say about me? How did it affect me? I had considered not going to the gym the next day. Now, I was determined to go. I took this “seeing thing” pretty seriously. On Saturday morning, I prepared for the gym. I made an upbeat playlist and put on a cap that I pulled way over my eyes. I walked into the gym, did not look around, and went straight to the elliptical. I cranked up my music and started moving, but this time I did something different. I closed my eyes and kept them closed! I got lost in the rhythm of the music and my cadence. I did not “see” anything. It was fantastic and so freeing! After 30 minutes, this time I had covered 3.8 miles. Now that’s more like it! I went over to the weights (beside the hot chicks) and did my work-out without hesitation. Sunday morning, I did the same thing. I spent 30 minutes on the elliptical with my cap pulled down, my music cranking, my eyes closed, and pumped out 4.2 miles. Now I am sure I looked a bit silly with my eyes closed, sweating, smiling, and bobbing my head to Meghan Trainor. I kind of wish I had a picture of it! The See No Evil emoji keeps coming to mind! Seriously though, the truth is that I stopped assuming everyone sees me as I see me and I stopped looking at what I wish I looked like. The results were an improvement of over a mile in just two days!! As I apply the things I’ve learned this past weekend, I know that the improvements I will see in every aspect of my life will be this dramatic. I will no longer say that I look forward to being myself again. Now I’m looking forward to the person I am about to become!

Getting My Groove Back

One of my favorite movies is How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Stella is very successful business woman that is down on herself because of failed romances. A friend talks her into taking a vacation. A series of events forces Stella to take a personal inventory of her life and to try to find a balance between her desires for her personal life, motherhood, and her career. Stella rides a crazy roller coaster of emotions until she finally gets into her groove. I love this movie because while we don’t all have the same circumstances, I feel like most of us are trying to find the same sort of balance in our lives. We all love it when we are in our groove. As I look back on the reasons I began my downsizing journey, they revolve around me not feeling a good balance in my life. I was so off balance that I was downright miserable. All along, I’ve known that my downsizing journey is not just about purging possessions. It is about finding my groove. I’ve been in my groove before, so I know how good it feels. I would wake up every day ready to conquer the world. I’d dance around the bathroom while I got ready. I would own my destiny and face each day in complete control of my life. There are lots of reasons people fall out of their groove. I don’t really feel the need to get into the reasons I lost mine because they don’t deserve my energy or attention anymore. The important thing to focus on is how I get my groove back. One important step is to purge possessions that take too much of my energy. While I enjoy the stuff I’m selling, I realize that I enjoy other things more. Another important step is to purge my negative energy. Pinpointing the areas causing negativity for me and that I want to change in my life is one thing. Understanding the steps to take to make those changes in a productive manner is another. I’m Type A, so I need a plan. I’ve researched ways to do this and decided the best way is to undergo training to be a business and life coach. I’m in Chicago right now doing this. I’m a firm believer that the test of how well we know something is our ability to teach it. I didn’t want to simply hire a coach to help me. I want to be a coach. I want to first help myself and then if the opportunity presents itself, I want to help others. I’m very excited about this too! This morning I found myself dancing in the bathroom. Look out – Gina’s getting her groove back!

Monkey See, Monkey Do

I took the day off work on Friday. It’s rare that I get time away from work that I can use for just me. My husband was at work and my daughter was at school, so it was ME time. Of course, I went to the spa. I got a fantastic facial, but the conversation was amazing, thought-provoking, and downright life changing. My aesthetician is one of the most insightful women I’ve ever met. She and I talked about my downsizing journey and what I am trying to accomplish. She nailed a few things that I haven’t had the courage to write about yet. Most importantly, she pointed out some things I haven’t thought of in my search for happiness. I know that true happiness must come from within. I know that I am the only one that can decide if I am going to be happy or not.  What I didn’t realize is how little I am actually doing for myself. I believe that when a person decides to become a parent that the child’s needs should come before your own. I have lived that way since the wonderful day 8 eight years ago that my daughter was born. I spend practically every spare moment I have with her.

Before I became a mom, I was a fit triathlete and business owner. I owned a bicycle shop and was fortunate enough to get to ride my bike as part of my job. In fact, I road my road bike until I was eight months pregnant and my OB-GYN said, “STOP!” As my own my boss, I had the liberty to take plenty of me time. Although most people don’t believe me, I truly am an introvert and I value my alone time. Alone time energizes me. After our daughter was born, things changed. I put my bike away and kept saying, “She will only be little once and my bike will be there forever.” Any time that I am not working, I spend with her. I felt guilty if I did anything for me that required paying a babysitter. I thought I was doing her and me a favor. I have spent the past 8 years with this mentality. It was so evident on Friday. There I was at the spa, but the only reason I was there is because I took a vacation day from work. As I was getting my facial, I was complaining about how terrible my skin looked. My astute aesthetician asked if I have a nightly routine for cleaning my skin. Well, of course I don’t! I crash at bedtime and yes, I sleep in my make up all of the time! She didn’t berate me for this. Instead, she went for the jugular. This is what she said, “Your daughter will take care of her skin because you tell her to, but not because she saw you do it. Your daughter will learn her habits from you.” Ouch. That has resonated non-stop in my head ever since she said it. Holy smokes! What are my habits?? Does it really matter if I sleep in my makeup?! Man, it’s time for a dose of reality. I do not take time for me – ever. I don’t take the time to be healthy, either mentally or physically. I come home every night and have a glass of wine to wind down. I am on my phone constantly. What in the world am I teaching her???? Now, I have a lot of positive habits too so I’m not beating myself up terribly, but I am taking note of something very important. I haven’t been taking the time to take care of myself. I have been too guilt ridden to do so, but now I realize I’m doing her a terrible disservice. In the Monkey See, Monkey Do world of parenthood, I have not taught my daughter to value herself and to spend time on herself.  That’s going to stop. I don’t expect that she will like or appreciate this very much. She complains I’m not with her enough as it is. But thanks to a facial on Friday and some great conversation, I now see that it is necessary. I picked her up from school on Friday and we immediately went to the nail salon. A couple of manicures and pedicures later, I’m hoping to improve what my Monkey sees and does.

As I view parenting from the Monkey See, Monkey Do lense, I have a new appreciation for my mother. A lot of the good habits I have, I attribute to her. She worked sun up to sun down to make sure that our family had everything we needed. My mom used to cook breakfast for our family every morning. Not just any breakfast either. She made buttermilk biscuits from scratch every day! She worked all day, then came home and made us a home cooked meal every night. Now, don’t go assuming I cook biscuits every day because I don’t! I do work sun up to sun down to make sure my family has everything it needs. As I look back, I now realize my mom never took any time for herself. Thank you for that, but I’m sorry too. I’ll correct that for our next generation.

My downsizing journey and blog have become so much more than I expected. I am astonished at how my decision to get rid of “stuff” has turned more internal than material. I love everything I’m learning and plan to get my bike back out!

The Big Black Pot

I grew up in a small town of about 4,500 people. I went to school K-12 with the same ~90 people. In my hometown, everyone knew everyone. It was a fantastic way to grow up. Of course, I was bursting at the seams to get out. I always thought I would move to a big city in another state. It’s funny how things never work out like you think they will.  I now live an hour from my hometown in a moderately large town. My life is nothing like I imagined all those years ago. I have always been ambitious and in-turn discontent in my present setting. It’s the entrepreneur gene in me. I constantly look for things to grow or change because I thrive on the challenge. I defined success in the stereotypical ways – the size of my home, car type, brand names of clothes… Now I realize, those things don’t make me successful at all. They are good performance measures, but not true signs of success.  No one told me that after you achieve all of this, it takes a great deal of time, money and energy to maintain it. I’m tired of maintaining it. I find myself longing for the more simple life I had in my hometown. It’s amazing how things have come full circle.  The life I so wanted desperately to leave as a teenager is the life I want back. I don’t regret any of my life or career choices. I’m proud of the things I’ve accomplished. I want to continue to thrive as a successful, professional. I just want to be able to go home at the end of the day to a more simple life. I refuse to believe those things cannot co-exist.

I’ve been trying to decide what I truly mean by the simple life. Looking back through memories of my childhood, I think I have figured out part of it. While I was growing up, my dad had a huge black cast iron pot. He used to cook in this pot in our back yard. He had a homemade steel propane burner. We had a really big yard and I can remember playing out back while he would fry up something for dinner. In those days, we fried everything. I think I could fry water if I had to! He used to cook fried chicken, okra, French fries, hush-puppies, and lots of fish. He used to love to entertain and cook for people. I’m quite sure I inherited my love of cooking and entertaining from him. He would host huge fish fries. He cooked for family quite a bit (and we had a HUGE extended family). What I most remember though is the big fish fry he used to host for what seemed like everyone in our town. My dad was the fire chief. At least once a year, he would move the firetrucks out of the building and would open it up to host a fish fry for the firemen, volunteer firemen, city employees, elected officials, their families, and many others in our community. We would set up tables and make lemonade. He would spend all day frying in that black pot, cranking out pounds and pounds of fish, fries, and hush-puppies. We would play, eat, fellowship, and have the best times. Those fish fries are some of my fondest memories growing up. It’s only recently that I have realized that the sense of family and community I felt at those fish fries is what I long for most as I strive for happiness. I still have my family and a great community, but it seems I am not taking the time to truly enjoy them. Life is busy. I live in a world of controlled chaos. My downsizing journey is about reducing chaos in whatever areas I can. I now know that part of the definition of simplicity for me is having time to fellowship in a meaningful way that celebrates friends and family.

Dad always left a good deal of grease in the pot and used it over and over. He would clean it out when the grease was old and add new grease. It was never empty. My dad died a little over 10 years ago. I brought his black pot home with me and put it away in the garage. I have walked past this pot numerous times over the last 10 years. I would look at it and sometimes have pleasant memories, other times I would really miss my dad. This pot has been sitting for 10 years with the same grease. You can imagine that it had gotten pretty nasty. A couple of months ago, I finally summoned the strength to try to clean and restore that pot. I have soaked, scraped, and worked for weeks hoping deep inside that I had not let it sit for too long to ruin. Last weekend, I finished! My husband helped me get the last bit of rust out of it and we have begun the process of seasoning it. Seeing that pot back in working order made me cry both tears of sadness and happiness.

This black cast iron pot symbolizes so much for me. After my dad died, something inside of me changed. I’m sure that happens to everyone as we lose a parent. Whatever changed caused me to shut down a part of myself. There is a part of me that I have let sit, the same way I let the pot sit. I restored the pot and now it’s time to restore me. That pot had collected a lot of dirt and rust that had to be scraped out. I feel as though I have collected the same sort of contaminating things in my life. Downsizing is my first step in restoring myself. My dad was my source of strength and encouragement. Who knew he would be able to speak to me again ten years later in the form of his old black pot? That pot was never empty and fed countless people as long as it was kept in working order. It was down and out for 10 years but is back and better than ever. I want to never be empty and to feed thousands as well. I have been out of commission in this area for the past 10 years, but I feel like I’m back and better than ever too. It’s going to take a bit to get the pot and myself seasoned just right, but oh what we will produce when it’s done!

Thanks, Dad, for the lesson and the big black pot!

Motivated Mondays

I am super productive on Monday mornings. I wake up ready to attack the week head on. Most Mondays I do not struggle to get out of bed at all. I throw back my coffee and exercise with zeal. I knock out all of my morning chores and do it while smiling. I go through Mondays feeling great with lots of energy and usually in a great mood. I do laundry on Monday nights. I choose to do this because I refuse to dread my weekends based upon the pile of laundry I have facing me. I’d rather have a long Monday than a chore-filled weekend. Around 8:00 pm on Mondays, I fade. My energy is depleted, smile is gone, and I’m desperate to get in bed. Tuesday mornings do not go as well as Monday morning. I don’t have trouble getting up (I’m a terrible sleeper anyway!), but my energy to exercise and knock out my morning duties is waning.  I don’t even have to tell you what Wednesday-Friday mornings are like! Let’s suffice it to say that I rarely get in a workout on Friday! I’m trying to figure out why I’m gung-ho on Mondays and so-low on Fridays. My best theory is that on Mondays I’m rested and reinvigorated from the weekends. I have time on Saturday and Sunday to think more about my journey. I also have time most weekends to accomplish some tasks needed to move my downsizing project forward. I make plans on Sundays for how to attack the week. I start every week with a promise to take care of myself, to exercise, to eat well, and on and on…. On Mondays I’m excited to get started on making me the best me I can be! (That sounds like a Dr. Seuss line! I can amuse myself on Monday mornings too!) I listen to a motivation podcast every morning while getting ready for work called “Every day is Saturday”. This has made me think a lot about the difference in my days of the week. My Mondays are better than my Saturdays, so I’m trying to figure out how to make every day like Monday. How do I keep the energy and level of motivation I have on Mondays? They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over. I have been doing the same Monday for a really long time. I’m in need of change for my well-being, both mentally and physically. I want to be as productive on Friday as I am on Monday. Honestly, I have no idea how to do this yet. I’m still counting on the fact that simplifying my life will free up some of my resources, such as my energy and time. If I feel great on Monday because I have replenished my reserves on the weekend but terrible on Friday because they are empty, then I must find a better way. I’m frustrated at my weight and lack of fitness but can’t find the energy to be consistent in doing anything about it. I’m frustrated that I don’t celebrate Fridays! That used to be my favorite day of the week. Once again, I am open to any and all advice! Please chime in if you have a magic formula!

I want to bottle my Motivated Mondays and drink from this bottle every day!

I’m Back!!

Finally! I have some time alone to sit and write. It has been almost 2 weeks so I’m about to burst. My schedule has been a bit hectic and finding time for me has been impossible. It’s not a bad thing as I’ve spent a lot of time with family and friends. In fact, it has been quite refreshing. Fall is a busy time in a college town if you love football and your team is the best in the nation! RTR!

The last time I posted I told you we were close to deciding where we might like to move. We talked with someone about building on a lot in a neighborhood we really like. I think we have decided against that. It was way more money than I want to spend and I can’t imagine ever getting a good return on that investment. Soooo…. we are still looking. We are super close to being ready to list our current house for sell. We have a person doing some touch up painting, etc… right now. I have cleaned out all of the closets (insert wide-eyed emoji here!) and bagged up everything we want to donate. I have separated out some great things to sell later, perhaps in a moving sale. I’m ready to do this!! In the meantime, I threw our house up for sale by owner. Help me spread the word that I’m ready to make a deal! My impatience got the best of me!

I continue to do a great deal of self-introspection and realize I have tons to sort out concerning my future and my happiness. As I do this, the list I’m making of things important to me changes. I haven’t shared it with you because it is a very telling list. It’s not that I have things to hide, but it is because it changes. The things I thought were important when I started this journey seem to be more superficial and I keep diving deeper.  For example, when I began making my list it included features I want in a house. Seriously. That’s embarrassing as I realize that is the least of what makes people happy! I’m really glad I didn’t share the list with you from the beginning because you’d think I’m crazier than you do now. The changes in the list are the result of my journey. When I do get to a final list, I will share the iterations with you because they tell a fascinating story.

As the past couple of weeks have passed, I’ve made notes about various thoughts for future blogs, so stay tuned. I plan to share thoughts about maintaining discipline, motivation, my health, and relationships. My schedule over the next couple of weeks is less busy so I know I’ll have time to write. Go enjoy this beautiful fall Sunday!!