Friday, July 14, 2017

Funny Friday - Five Things I Wish They'd Told Me Before I Became a Parent

Before I met my husband, I had pretty much given up on any idea of getting married or having kids.  I was in the process of making my peace with it.  Then we met, all the sparks flew, and we got married and then got pregnant on our honeymoon.  Our daughter was born on May, 19, 2009.  We went on to have two more kids, a boy on May 10, 2011, and another girl on August 21, 2013.  I managed to learn a lot about parenting from my parents before they passed away (all too soon, as I was only 19 when my dad died and 23 when my mom did).  But there are a few things I wish they'd taught me...things I wish I'd known before I embarked on this legendary journey they call parenthood!

This is meant to be a Funny Friday post, so please know that a) I love my children more than life itself, and b) my tongue is firmly implanted in my cheek here.

1. Three year olds say the same things over, and over, and over again.  Just after my 30th birthday, before I met my husband, I went to see a friend who had a three-year-old and she sang the last line to the theme from Bob the Builder incessantly.  At the time, I thought it was cute.  My youngest singing nonsense made-up lyrics at the top of her lungs?  Not so much.

2. You will watch the same episodes of the same mind-numbingly stupid TV shows over and over again.  I never realized how annoying that is until I had kids.  Granted, I can still binge-watch Friends, Grey's Anatomy, and the Harry Potter movies ad infinitum, but some of these shows my kids watch really grate on my nerves.  I can't tell you how many ridiculous episodes of Sponge Bob Square Pants I've watched (this one is particularly hated by the adults in this house, at the risk of incurring the wrath of millions).  And we confine it to the upstairs TVs!  Luckily, we have a few that we adults like, such as Bubble Guppies, Paw Patrol, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

3. At some point during each day - I'm serious, EVERY.  DAMN.  DAY. - you will end up sticky.  They will cajole and whine and plead until you make them French toast for breakfast, and then every surface in your house is sticky, and you get it on your hands, or anyplace else you touch.  If it's not maple syrup, they're spilling juice or soda or running around the house with a piece of Laffy Taffy that some well-meaning adult gave them at one function or another...

4. Quiet in your house means the apocalypse is near.  Never trust kids under 10 that are too quiet.  Quiet in a house full of little kids is death.  It means they have gotten into trouble and are trying to cover their tracks without you finding out, or they're doing something that they know is going to get them into trouble!

And taking the tongue out of my cheek...

5. I always was jealous of my older sister and younger brother.  My mom was always exhorting me to be more like my older sister.  And my brother...he was the prince.  He could do no wrong.  I honestly thought that my parents loved my sister and brother more than me.  But what I learned as I had my own family was as that the family size increased, my capacity to love actually grew more.  Even so, I am reassuring my kids of this all the time.  When I met my husband, I had never loved anyone like I loved him.  Until we had our daughter.  Then I loved her more.  Until I had my son, then I loved him even more, and I loved my daughter and husband more too!  Our baby girl, who is now 3, completed our little family.  We have our ups and downs but most of the time, we're doing OK!  And there's always a lot of love.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Importance of Practicing Gratitude

In my live series on my Facebook page and in my Facebook group, I have shared about three things that keep my emotional health stable.  I call it my trifecta of emotional wellness.  The three legs of the trifecta are journaling, prayer, and expressing gratitude.

I began keeping a gratitude practice around 2005.  And something I noticed about practicing gratitude was that as you showed the Source of All That Is Infinite in the Universe (however you choose to refer to said source; I prefer God, but respect all other names) what you were grate*full for, that source would give you more reasons to be grate*full. 

I had gotten out of practice with my gratitudes.  I couldn't find a good way to express them that felt right to me.  I had tried writing them down in a notebook.  I joined a Facebook group called The Collecting Gratitude Collective.  I tried keeping them in my journal.  Nothing was working.

I decided this past week that I needed to start practicing what I preached and I got really intentional about it, and, when I went to bed on Thursday, I actively set my mind on going into The Collecting Gratitude Collective and posting five things I was grate*full for. 

On Saturday, my kids had been invited to a birthday celebration for my youngest daughter's best friend.  It was at Eldridge Park, which has a midway in the summertime with a few rides.  One of the rides is a fast-moving carousel.  I've never been on a carousel like it.  It's one of my favorite things about living in Elmira.

Alas, I didn't get to go.  We'd had laundry building up for a few weeks (IKR?) and so I dropped my husband and the kids off at the park and, after procrastinating as long as possible by getting gas and stopping at Wegman's to get lunch, I headed to the laundromat.

I had NINE loads of laundry, ah ah ah.  By the time I got to the laundromat and got every stitch washing, it was time to go pick my husband and the kids up from the park.  So I picked them up and took them home, and then I went back to the laundromat. 

It was then that I met Miss Roxanne.

At first, it was just a cursory exchange of pleasantries and some polite conversation.  I got my nine loads of laundry all into dryers and got them going.  As I loaded the last couple of loads into the dryer, the first loads started to be dry, so I started to pull them out and fold them.  I was at the laundromat without the kids, so I was painstakingly taking my time to fold each thing neatly, as opposed to hurriedly shoving clothes into bags like I do when I have the kids with me.  Usually, by the time things are dry, they have had it up to their eyeballs with the laundromat and just want to go home. 

As I folded the first load, the second, third, and fourth load finished drying.  I just patiently worked on my folding, and then an amazing thing happened.

Miss Roxanne, while waiting for her stuff to wash, started to pull my stuff out and fold it alongside me. She paused long enough to transfer her things from washer to dryer, and then jumped right back in.  All told, she probably folded about half my laundry, and then she even helped me bag it up and load it into my car!  And by helping me load it into my car, I mean doing the lion's share of the work!
Of my seven bags of laundry, I only had to load two...she did the rest!

Without Miss Roxanne's help, I probably would have been at that laundromat until it closed.  As it was, by the time I started folding, it was almost 6 PM.  This was not your ordinary run of the mill random act of kindness.  This was a HUGE random act of kindness.  I firmly believe that this was the result of being intentional and active my gratitude practice.  I list five things I'm grate*full for every day.  This was worth all five gratitudes and then some! 

First of all, I probably would have closed the laundromat, still being there folding.

Secondly, everyone's clothes were sorted into their own bag, with separate bags for the towels and blankets.  This makes it so much easier to put the clothes away!

Third, it turned out that she was washing nap mats for her sister's daycare, and it turned out to be the same daycare where my daughter's best friend goes.  So we had a really nice conversation about how cute and sweet my daughter's best friend is and how much fun she and my daughter had together at Head Start.  (It was actually the same little girl whose birthday my family had been celebrating at Eldridge Park.)

Then, today, I cut a turn short in a parking lot and ran my car up on a curb, popping the right rear tire.  Thank God, no one was hurt.  Thank God, we were at Barnes and Noble, and Pick-a-Part was less than a mile away.  Thank God, they had a tire that fit my car and cut me a deal that I could afford.  Thank God for the kind soul who stopped to help us when we couldn't use my old rusty jack to lift the car high enough and offered us his floor jack.  Then he mounted the new tire for us! 
I almost didn't do my gratitudes last night, promising myself I'd do them in the morning.  I am so grate*full I made myself do them before I fell asleep!  You'd better believe that tonight, I'll do them first thing!

By the way, that kind soul who helped us with his floor jack turned out to be a cousin by marriage of someone I used to work with.  To quote SARK, "We are all so indelibly connected to one another."

If you would like a tracking sheet for rewarding yourself for doing journaling, prayer, and gratitude, sign up for our mailing list!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

My 7 Favorite Places to Visit in the Summer

This post is part of Blog Promo Community's 100 Days of Blogging.  Hopefully I can enhance some of these earlier blogs with pictures during the picture blogging phase!

I recently learned that July is National Outdoor Month, so I thought I would share with you 7 great places to visit that are right in my backyard.   I'm going to start close to my home and branch out.  :)

If you're feeling a little under the weather mentally and not quite up to par, getting out into nature can be just the soul vitamin you need.

Eldridge Park has a rich yet troubled history.  In its early years, it was the property of a local doctor, Edwin Eldridge, who had moved here from Binghamton in 1857.  He purchased the land, described as "wilderness," and built beautifully sculpted gardens, as well a huge lake, casino, and restaurant on the property.  Despite the fact that Eldridge owned the property, it was open to the public.  The park was a jewel in Elmira's crown, attracting visitors from neighboring towns.  Dr. Eldridge died in 1876, bequeathing the property to the City of Elmira.

In the mid-20th century, when my husband was growing up, it was a mini-amusement park, featuring such rides as a carousel, a roller coaster, and The Whip.  My husband fondly recollects many a summer evening spent strolling the midway, riding the rides and taking the boat ride around the lake.

In the 1970s, it was converted from an amusement park into more of a recreational park with a playground and walking trails. 

This is my daughter Melanie at the 2011 July 4 celebration in the park.  I was at home with her baby brother, who was less than two months old, and who I thought would be scared by the fireworks.

  In recent years, the Eldridge Park Carousel Preservation Society has been trying to restore the park to some of its former glory.  Its biggest draw at the moment is the vintage carousel, which travels at very fast speeds, and is the best thing you can do for $1 in Elmira in my opinion.  It's so much fun.

(Note to self: take more pictures at Eldridge this summer!)

Last fall, we also had the kids' fall pictures taken there (luckily our babysitter has a photography business and takes pictures of our kits to build her portfolio!)

During the summer, Pulaski Park is the place to be in Elmira.  It has the greatest splash pad in town!  

Grove Park has the biggest pavilion in the city, as well as a really nice playground and a splash pad.  On Mondays, there is also a farmers' market there, which features my favorite farm, Muddy Fingers Farm from Hector.  (My friends Matthew and Liz own this farm.)  My kids love Grove Park 

This park is near and dear to my heart, considering that I'm a daughter of a New York State trooper who was critically injured in the line of duty, ending his Trooper career.  Andrew J. Sperr park is named after a local Trooper who was killed horrifically in the line of duty in the nearby village of Big Flats.  It has a really nice pavilion, a pond with all kinds of wildlife, a gravel walking path, and a really nice playground with tire chips.

5. Watkins Glen State Park, Watkins Glen.  Watkins Glen is about 20 minutes north of where I live, and the state park there is really one of New York State's hidden gems.
 People come from all over to hike the gorge.  It also has a beautiful stone pavilion for gatherings, and a public swimming pool with a kiddie pool and a "big pool."  Despite the fact that we have splash pads and other pools nearby, this is where we choose to swim.  We meet people from all over the US and Canada there, which is good for the kids, because we like them to be exposed to people from diverse backgrounds.  Plus, we get rewarded on the way back down with an absolutely stunning view of Seneca Lake.

6. Robert H. Treman State Park, Ithaca.  Granted, I've only been to Robert H. Treman once, and only the southern part of the park.  But what I've seen has been absolutely beautiful.  It's just off the main road, but once you enter the park, you feel like you've left society and are enclosed in wilderness.  Lush greenery, beautiful hiking trails, and waterfalls.  In the southern part of the park, where we picnicked with friends, there's a lovely pavilion with a lodge-like feel to it.  I've only seen pictures of the main part of the park, but we are really looking forward to going there at some point, maybe this summer.  The natural swimming area looks tremendously inviting.

7. Letchworth State Park, Castile.  I have never been to Letchworth, but my husband raves about it.  He wants to go camp there.  I hope next year with our tax refund we can purchase some camping equipment.  I would really love to have Succulent Diva's Mama's Rejuvenation Retreat there if I can get my you-know-what together in order to plan it!  They have a meeting room and cabins where you can sleep.  In addition, hello!  You can take HOT AIR BALLOON RIDES OVER THE FALLS.  Letchworth is also billed as the "Grand Canyon of the East," so the views are pretty spectacular.  I can't imagine what it must be like in the fall.

So, there you have it.  Seven great places to spend some time in the great outdoors in my little niche of upstate New York.  Get out there and enjoy!

In need of an extra set of ears to listen to what's going on in your life right now?  Succulent Diva Coaching has coaching packages starting as low as $97.  Book your FREE discovery call today!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Getting Really Real

I hope you've come to me because you have a dream.  A dream that lights you up.  A dream that has your soul on fire, that you know that you have to share to the world. 
But maybe you're afraid.
Or maybe your house is a wreck (I know mine is) and it feels frivolous to spend time working on bringing that dream to fruition.
Maybe your laundry is piled up (again, mine is).
Maybe you have an unsupportive spouse who issues ultimatums and thinks your dream is impractical. And they certainly don't want you spending any money getting involved with a coach or a mastermind group or anything.
Here's a little secret, though.
You have this dream because the Source of all that is Infinite in the Universe (however you choose to refer to it) has laid it upon your heart.  It's been lain upon YOUR heart.  And the reason it's been lain upon your heart is because YOU are the one...the ONLY one...who can bring this to life.  The Source of all that is Infinite in the Universe has chosen you to bring your dream to life.  Now maybe you're working as an independent contractor in a direct sales company, and you think, "Yeah, right, I'm one of a thousand (or million or whatever) people working for this company.  What do you mean, the Universe has chosen me to bring this dream to life and I'm the only one who can do it?  What about all the other consultants/beauty guides/presenters/etc?"
The opportunity that you said yes to, the opportunity that was shared with you and lit a fire in you, came to you at the most opportune moment because the world needed your unique vision for how you build and run your business.  When I was an independent beauty consultant with Mary Kay, I once heard a sales director say that she had asked someone if they had had a facial with Mary Kay before and the woman told her yes, she had, and that she had had a negative experience.  The sales director responded, "Well, you've never had one of my facials."  I wasn't ready for the lesson in that at the time.  All I could think about was how arrogant it sounded, but now I realize that while the company may have guidelines for how to run your business so it's somewhat uniform among its sales force, each person brings their own unique personality to the table.  There are people out there who need to are waiting to hear about those products and opportunity FROM YOU.  They are hungry for it.  And you are the one to bring it to them. 
When the Source of all that is Infinite (whom I call God, while respecting all the names He is referred to by others) laid the dream on my heart to mentor creative dreamers who stay at home with their kids or work from home, I looked around at my life and told God that He was crazy!  But I stepped out in faith, because I’m not one to get a calling from the Lord and go hiding my light under a bushel basket (anymore LOL, more on that another day).  I showed up at the page to do my daily journaling.  I looked for journal prompts, and then one day, just before Thanksgiving, BAM!  Ideas for a 12-part Facebook Live series hit me.  And I just started doing them.  Just me, in my kitchen, unscripted, with all my life messiness in the background, because the Lord didn’t tell me how to do what He wanted me to do, he just said, “Do it,” so I did. 
And then I learned how to do better, so I did better.  I wrote scripts.  I made sure I looked pretty.  And the Lives got better.
I started joining groups where I could surround myself with sunny, crazy positive people so that I could raise my energetic vibration, because having depression and anxiety as I do, it’s soooooooo easy for me to go over to the dark place. 
One day, a group showed up in my Suggested Groups, and it was called the Slay Baby Collective.  I had to find out what that was all about, and when I read the description, the overture to Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet played in my head.  It was like the mother ship was calling me home.  In that group, I found these power*full, amazeballs boss babes who speak words that build, bless, and comfort.  I started to make friends with them.  All of a sudden, my Facebook news feed was flooded with all this positivity and belief in possibility and magic and sparkly things.  I started to believe I could uplevel my box-wine life for one filled with champagne, roses, and, as the founder of the Slay Baby Collective, Cara Alwill Leyba, says, "limitless luxe."  And I started to believe that Succulent Diva Coaching could be successful.

You came to me because you have a dream.  This dream is your holy purpose.  It's what gets you out of bed in the morning.  It's what lights a fire in your soul.  Never, ever, ever let anyone pull you away from it, talk you out of it, or stop you from making time for it.

Monday, June 5, 2017

5 Things I Keep in My Extreme Stress Kit

by Elizabeth Brown-Shook
Being a stay-at-home mom is no joke.  I spend half my day running.  We start at (or around; mostly around) 7 AM, running my eight-year-old to her school, which, by the way, is across town.  Then we come back across town to a block from our house, where we drop my son off at school.  Finally, I drop the three-year-old at Head Start.  I have to physically take her into school and sign her in.   Only at that point do I finally, finally, get some time to myself.  If I'm lucky enough to not have an appointment or other errands to run, I come home, and that's when I write.  I make a cup of coffee, I sit down, and I journal.  I do all my journaling at
Many days, I do have an appointment or other errands to run, though, so I bring with me something that can help me manage the stresses of the day.  I was first inspired to create my Extreme Stress Kit when I saw an episode of Grey's Anatomy from Season 9, where Dr. Yang was still working at the Mayo Clinic with Feeney from Boy Meets World, and the two of them were treating a pair of doomsday preppers.  They had what they called a "bug-out bag," in which I'm assuming they put doomsday prepping items such as food, water, extra clothes, etc. (I don't know, I'm not a doomsday prepper...I can barely think past tonight's dinner.)  But when I'm extremely stressed, what I do could most definitely be termed "bugging out," so in my house, my extreme stress kit is affectionately known as my "bug-out bag," not to be confused with the similar bag geared toward doomsday preppers.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.  The only known treatment for borderline personality disorder, in addition to  medication and talk therapy, is a type of group therapy known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).  I have been through two courses of DBT in my life, and it has four modules, one of them being Distress Tolerance.  When a distressing event (one that would have normally led BPD sufferers to engage in self-destructive behaviors in the past) occurs, we do three things: Distract, Self-Soothe, and IMPROVE the moment (DBT has lots of acronyms).  In this post, I'll be discussing the first two components of managing extreme stress, distracting and self-soothing.  For information on IMPROVE the moment, visit this resource from
My two favorite things to distract myself are coloring and blowing bubbles.  Supplies to do this are the first two things I keep in my Extreme Stress Kit.  I always make sure I have a coloring book (luckily adult coloring books are all the rage these days) and a package of colored pencils in my bag.  Coloring actually forces me to concentrate only on the present moment, and bubbles are only present for a short moment before they pop.  Instead of catastrophizing about how the stressful event is going to impact my future, these two activities force me to be mindful of the present.  Extremely helpful.
The next part of distress tolerance is to self-soothe. DBT protocol indicates using the five senses to soothe yourself. There are three things I carry in my Extreme Stress Kit that I use for self-soothing.
First, a super-soft purple blanket with peace signs and hearts. You can see this either on my Facebook page or Twitter feed (it's the same picture of me with it wrapped around me; it was taken on a day that I was having a minor surgical procedure). This was a Christmas gift to me from my eight-year-old daughter. I love it. There's a scene in the movie "Home" where the leader of the Boov (an alien race), Captain Smek, asks for his "stress blankie," which turns out to be a roll of bubble wrap. My super-soft purple blanket with peace signs and hearts is affectionately known as my "stress blankie," and when I know I might be in a super-stressful situation, I make sure I stick my stress blankie into my Extreme Stress Kit. It indulges two of my senses; sight, because purple is my favorite color, and touch, because it is so soft!
The next thing I keep in my Extreme Stress Kit is a bottle of the Stress Away essential oil blend from Young Living. My good friend Shelley got me hooked on Young Living oils a little over two years ago, and I've never looked back. Stress Away, an essential oil blend exclusive to Young Living, includes copaiba, lime, cedarwood, vanilla, ocotea, and lavender oils. I never leave the house without it. Also, diffused with some extra lavender, these two always ensure a rest*full night's sleep for me. I use this oil both aromatically and topically, on my wrists and the back of my neck.  If you have questions about Young Living, don't hesitate to ask.
Finally, I always make sure I have my phone and its charger. If I'm anywhere with a decent wi-fi connection, I can listen to Pandora or Amazon Music, pull up soothing music videos on YouTube, or watch Netflix.
I would love to hear what kinds of things you might include in your own Extreme Stress Kit. Please comment below, on my Facebook page, or hit me up on Twitter @succulentdiva.
And, of course, if you are interested in DBT or think you might have borderline personality disorder, please seek the assistance of a qualified mental health professional.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

100 Things: The One I Messed Up

WARNING: This is going to be a very sad post about the brevity of life. Those who are triggered by such things, please proceed with caution.
Every year since 2010, I have made a "100 Things to Do in the New Year" post, and, in the past, have blogged about it by listing the entire 100 things at the beginning of the year, and then reviewing the entire list at the end of the year.
It made for a very cumbersome, hard to read post. So I decided recently that this year I'm going to identify one thing on my list and write about it each month. Unfortunately, even though it's only the end of March, I already have one that I definitely won't be able to complete. I never got around to starting it, and now it's too late.
My plan had been to take my father-in-law, affectionately known as Poppie, to breakfast on the 6th of each month. His birthday was October 6, and so I thought using the date of his birth would be a nice reminder for me.
Poppie was 91. His parents had died when he was young, and his siblings, although older, were still young and just starting their families and couldn't care for him, so he bounced around the foster care system until he was 17 and his older sister signed a letter so that he could enlist in the miltary.   I was aware that what time he had left would be shorter rather than longer, but he didn't seem to have any imminent health issues, so when January, February, and March went by and I neglected our breakfast dates, and he was still calling weekly, and sounding chipper, I wasn't worried.
Until Sunday, March 19.
My sister-in-law called to let me know that Poppie was in the hospital, in acute kidney failure, that the risks outweighed the benefits of dialysis for him, and that he was dying.  Four days later, with my husband and sister-in-law by his side, Poppie died.
Poppie moved to an assisted living facility a little less than two years ago. It is a spectacular place. The staff there does a great job taking care of their residents. Being there was good for Poppie; even though we kept him in his home as long as we could, after we moved out three years ago, he was there by himself. He never got out and did things, and rarely saw friends other than the neighbors. When he moved into the assisted living facility, suddenly, he had friends - four Navy buddies that he ate breakfast with every day, workout buddies (at 89! workout buddies!), even lady friends. He also had the staff wrapped right around his little finger. The nurses would let him know when their shifts were ending and when their days off were, so he would know to expect a different nurse the next time he had to have meds or be checked on.
He was good for the other residents too.  During the calling hour, a resident came through with his daughter, and told us that her dad had pretty much decided, because of the way old age was affecting his speech and memory, to be more of a fly on the wall, a listener rather than a talker.  I was shocked.  Whenever we went to visit Poppie, this man was always one of the first ones to greet us with a big smile.  And he loved the kids.  Boy, did he love the kids.  All the residents did.
After we moved out, our little family didn't spend anywhere near as much time with Poppie as we would have liked. As much as we missed being able to see Poppie every day (when we moved to this area eight years ago, we lived with him for five years), the culture shock, I'm sure, was much worse for him. We knew that he was well taken care of, but I know that when people get old, it's those connections with family that bring them the most joy. We didn't visit enough. Now it's too late, and for that, I'm sad.
There had been talk on the day before Poppie died of transferring him to the VA hospital an hour away for hospice care.  So that night, before he was scheduled to leave, my son and I made our way to the hospital to say goodbye to Poppie. My sister-in-law, husband, and I had agreed not to take the kids with us to say our goodbyes, but my precious five-year-old boy, wise beyond his years, had refused to take no for an answer. I went in, touched Poppie's hand, blew him kisses, said my goodbyes and my sorries, and told him it was OK to go and be with his beloved Nonnie, who had passed away back in 2011. I was at peace with letting him go, but I started crying my eyes out as soon as we left the room. Crying for the smiles we'd no longer see, the jokes and tall tales that we would no longer hear, and most of all, for the three little ones (8, 5, and 3 at this time) who would never again have the joy of having a grandparent.
His funeral was one of the most impressive I've ever seen. My sister Cheryl has a friend named Kris who had told Cheryl when our father died that you can tell how important a Catholic person was by how many priests concelebrate their funeral. Both Cheryl and Kris were impressed that there had been 3 priests at my dad's funeral. It paled in comparison. Daddy had a lot of people there, and, of course, the 3 priests, plus a member of the Air Force, a State Police escort, and the entire church choir singing.
But Poppie?
His funeral achieved a dignity and sense of patriotic ceremony the likes of which I've never seen. Poppie, one of those responsible for building up the military honors corps in Chemung County, would have loved it.
The Chemung County Honor Guard Veterans, mostly Vietnam guys now, stood guard quietly outside the funeral home with flags. I had had to sit in the hallway with the kids, who, after a calling hour for which we arrived about half an hour early, were starting to get a bit unruly. Just before the service was to begin, they all came in to pay their respects. As they filed out, I thanked as many of them for coming as I could, and each and every one said, "It's our honor, ma'am."
The honor guard headed up the funeral procession so that Poppie was led to our local National Cemetery by flag bearing vehicles. He was interred with full military honors. My five-year-old son kept one of the shells from the honor corps salute. Taps was played. It was beautiful and reverent and well fitting for the war hero that our Poppie was.
I am heartbroken that I will not be able to follow through on my promise to take Poppie out to breakfast each month. Even though he was old by most people's standards, I didn't expect his death to happen so quickly.   What I've learned from this wake-up call is that the 100 things list has to be reviewed weekly rather than monthly, and that if I have things scheduled for a certain date, to do them right away rather than waiting.  Who cared if we had gone to breakfast on the 6th or 26th of the month?  Of course, now there will never be a breakfast with Poppie on the 6th of any month or any other day.  I really screwed this one up.  So I need to review the list more frequently, and make the things on it a priority.
Here's to John W. Shook (who absolutely hated to be referred to as John W. Shook, Sr.), born October 6, 1925, and died March 22, 2017, aged 91. A Navy man, civil servant, tireless veteran, hard worker, beloved husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Now gone to his eternal rest with his beloved Barbara.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Celebrating Small Accomplishments

Happy New Year, kind readers! As creatives, we are more subject to mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.  The scientific jury is out on whether a proven link exists between creativity and these disorders, the most prominent link being between creativity and bipolar disorder.  A link between creativity and depression, though not necessarily scientifically proven, seems to exist anecdotally among myself, my friends, and people in Facebook groups I frequent (and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing).

In 2005, right around my 30th birthday, I didn't know where my life was going.  I went into Barnes and Noble, looking for a guided journal that would speak to me and help me get back on the right track.  The best they had to offer was this little black book with a clock on the front called Do It Now! by Pat Croce.  It gave you a to-do list with 23 blanks, and then a second page for follow-up.  At the time, it turned out to be worth it, because I was literally so depressed that I was having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. I started to put things on my "Do It Now!" list that included things like "Get out of bed," "Take a shower," "Brush your teeth," and “Get dressed."  It was in the process of doing those little accomplishments that I started to get my mojo back.  I could do small things that made me feel better.  Being able to check those things off on my to-do list gave me a sense of accomplishment, like my day hadn't been a total waste of precious time, and that the space that I take up on this planet was not a waste.  So, I recommend just using a blank piece of notebook paper, numbered to 23.  And make your to-do list items as small as possible.  If you have a creative dream that you're working on, this approach works for that too.

My creative dream right now, in addition to building my following with Succulent Diva, is a nonprofit of my creation, the Everybody Can Play Music Collective.  I've been getting disheartened with it over the past year or so just because we're not getting the word out as fast as I would like.  We had an organization that was going to fiscally sponsor us, and that has fallen by the wayside.  I've tried to crowdfunding to fundraise with only minimal success.  We have nine kids on a waiting list right now because I can't float the cost of buying their books out of pocket anymore.  A lot of little things have been getting me down.  My friend Andrea Schroeder has a business called the Creative Dream Incubator, which includes a paid subscription site called the Creative Dream Circle.  Recently, within the circle, they did a mastermind called Creating Momentum, where each person was supposed to pick a reason they were participating in the Mastermind and commit to one tiny goal each day, and then they were supposed to report back to the group after they completed their goal.  I got more done in that month than I had in many months, just because I was actually working on the dream itself and had made a commitment to it.

So, whether you're birthing a creative dream, or just having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, setting tiny goals and celebrating their accomplishments can help you.  You can choose how you want to celebrate your accomplishments. I usually choose one particular thing I’m working on for a particular day/week/month and then put a sticker on my calendar if I accomplish that thing.
Please leave comments below telling us how you celebrate your small accomplishments!