Modified direction – New blog

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Hello, friends…

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. It is quite something how teaching (and parenting teens) can take over your whole existence….so it’s always a treat to have morning time to write. What I have found this past year is a calling to shift my writing to an area that burns like a fire inside. I’m on a mission to encourage and inspire women (and girls) to achieve dreams and goals—in a phrase to “Channel Their Inner SuperGirl”. It all started when I noticed the incredible confidence, bravery and drive of the 3rd grade girls in my class–and was equally astounded by how this can go away by 5th grade, sometimes never to return. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Sometimes we just need a few new tools.

In my own journey, these tools have fallen into four areas: attitude/motivation, Goal-setting/productivity, communication skills, and diet/exercise. I’ve been doing aaaalll the reading, research, workshop-attending in the past five years and am so happy with the life I’m living. I want to share what’s worked (and not worked). I believe the dreams that little girl inside you has are valid and do-able.

I know many of you are on a quest for minimalism and I do feel that simplifying life is a huge part of achieving big dreams. It has been for me…but it’s also been more than that and I want to be completely authentic & transparent in my presence in Blog Land. I would love for you to join me on this journey.

Please visit and check it out!

With gratitude….

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8 lessons 3rd graders can teach you to have an extraordinary life

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This summer has been amazing. Lots of family adventures and travel. I’ve got some images from a trip to Santa Fe I can’t wait to show you (soon!). I’m always a bit melancholy at the end of August, but there’s also some excitement mixed in there to get back at it.

As I head back to my classroom tomorrow, I will enter a place where I learn as well…A LOT, actually. I love letting go of the technology that has grabbed hold in our house with our teens. I love embracing the fact that I need to give all of my attention, because 8 and 9-year-olds require all of you most of the time. I am happy to give it to them. In fact, it’s nice to have someone want your attention and guidance sans grumbling! I have been making a list of what the small people in my life have taught me.

 

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1) Let go of multi-tasking and give it your all

I believe it’s true. Multi-tasking makes a person stupid…well, as least me. There is so much power in giving complete focus to the task at hand, whether it’s teaching writing or making a green smoothie. I’m hell-bent on committing to this..and not just in my classroom. Cooking isn’t something I enjoy, but maybe it’s because I’m trying to make appointments on my cell and organize the cereal cabinet while I’m making spaghetti. Focus, Lara, focus!

2) Your wardrobe shouldn’t hold you back from playing kickball

I have really enjoyed having just a few items (black and gray–my Johnny Cash wardrobe!) to wear this summer and I’ve gone to great lengths to weed out my fall closet as well. Lots of comfortable fabrics with flexibility for crawling around on the floor. I managed to find items that also look professional. The extra time (and space in my brain) this frees up is very liberating.

3) Forgive easily and often

3rd graders don’t hold grudges. It’s fabulous and I intend to follow their lead on this as well. Not to be trite, but life’s too short to keep score. Is it that we have so much baggage built up over our tired, harried lives that we just can’t let go? Ahhh..to be 9.

4) Ask for help when obstacles arise

I’m not good at this and I’m always amazed at how easy this process is for kids. In our getting our rooms ready week, I have bravely asked people I respect for help with certain teaching methods/curriculum for this year. ‘Feels good! People want to help and feel honored when asked. We should do this more often.

5) Seek friendships with all walks of life

3rd graders do not polarize themselves in our school. They tend to be very open with who they play with during recess. I can’t say enough how much the cover-of-the-book-judging has hindered some great relationships in my life. I’m more open now to different types of people and have been enriched with these friendships.

6) Get excited about simple things

I can’t tell you how much squealing ensues when there’s a prize box involved in my classroom….or some extra time for a class kickball game…or a visitor coming in to our room to teach us something new. Their enthusiasm is contagious and awesome—one of my favorite things about this age. Having coffee ready to go in the coffee maker at 5:00 is something to be excited about. As is a found earring on the floor of the car.

7) Celebrate small victories

When did we stop celebrating little victories? They’re the lighter fluid that gets that fire roaring. Times tables, continent memorization, handwriting improvement…so many opportunities to dance the happy dance when I turn on I Feel Good in our room. Behind the prize box, dancing on the desk (with feet “glued” to the top) is our most coveted thing in room 205. As an adult, having the bills paid with a little money left over for a weekend trip is definitely something to shake the disco booty about.

8) Show appreciation & affection at every given opportunity

I’m a hugger. My kids take full advantage of this at the end of the day. I want them to know I’m proud of them and happy that we had our day together. What’s great about 3rd grade is that they’re small enough that it isn’t awkward 🙂 Especially with the boys. They slip and call me mom all the time–what a privilege to be in that category! Affection and appreciation is a bucket-filler for adults and sometimes we underestimate its power.

I hope your summer was extra lovely and you’re enjoying the beginnings of fall where you are.

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Who else yearns for family-free alone time?

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It’s clear to me that a huge part of a Simplicity Quest is letting go.

This summer, with a house full of “teen scene” and girls who would rather walk across hot coals than be seen with their mother at the local pool, I am experiencing a bit more freedom. I’m letting go of my roles as Julie McCoy (Love Boat cruise director for those of you under 35) and chauffeur extraordinaire. Stolen moments alone have been popping up much more lately, to my sheer delight. I was at my dad’s place this past week and I wrote about how it felt. Strangely, just having time to sit quietly and write felt decadent (and necessary).

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How many times have I sat in this same sandy dune, sparkly silver granules blowing in miniature tornadoes around my ankles? It’s an unusally warm day on the Oregon Coast and my shoulders soak in the sun like thirsty plants. I turn my head one direction and the wind blows past my ears, hair whips obstructing my view. I feel a complete part of this beautiful scene. I turn my head the other way and I’m deafened by the whipping gusts reminding me of the difference between California and Oregon beaches in July. As if  this beach is whispering, I’m still a rugged coast, water chilled and erosion beaten cliffs. Pointy beach grass shadows pave the way down to the hardened sand where I wiggle my toes, diving deeper, water seeping up to the top–future makings of drippings for a child’s sand castle trim. I am reveling in island time with no mom duties or schedule bending to fit the whims and desires of beach companions. Me, the steady white noise of the waves and a serenity trickling into my neck and shoulders stand in the center of this summer day, a deliberate release of seasonal frenzy and lingering to-do lists.

A steady gait leads me down the sand, tailwind propelling me with a promise of struggle when it’s time to turn and head home. It’s worth every step towards open, wide beach filled with kite boarders, family football games and shell-collecting children.

I love all of it.

This is my happy place, full of our family’s memory collection of 4th of July parades, 10 foot wide sand castle compounds and naps stolen against resting driftwood logs. It’s such a different experience on my own. I slowly play a movie in my head of all four seasons where I partake in this coastal luxury solo…thinking, writing, creating. Maybe it’s my recent finished read of “Gifts From the Sea”, Anne Morrow’s beachy answer to a “A Room of One’s Own”. There is zero guilt of taking this time alone and I feel free to fully embrace all the magic and nostalgia the coast can bring. It settles in my chest like a heating pad, dial turned up, tingling warm and comforting. Words like rejuventate, recharge and rest (r words are my favorite) pop into my head like a free association game I’m playing with the sea. Is it the crashing waves that drown out all worry and heaviness? Or is it the sand drifts, rolling in vast, airy space that allow me to breathe deeply? I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. Once again I reach for the invisible mason jar to bottle it all up so it can be poured out on my desk in February when the daydreams start…small coastal town ice cream shops, picnic-bound bicycles with baskets, and of course, my beloved Manzanita receding tides.

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Hoping you have time to think in a beautiful place ~ happy August!

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5 things from 1989 to better my life

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Is it a bad thing to constantly want to turn the clock back to 1989?

It’s not the cool high bangs look or the colored leather that brings such longing. Nor is it a yearning for synthesizer-heavy tunes, a livin’ large attitude or step aerobics craze. For me, it was the beginning of my “adult years” (ahem, the big 1-8 that year) when I was ready to take on the world and the world at that time was filled with face-to-face conversations, the beauty of being unavailable by phone (no email yet!), written correspondence, rerun city on the boob tube in summer and a general sense that a solid resume and a winning attitude could get you far in a possible career.

What has happened to us?

Yes, I’m a user of the internet. Heck yes, I’m a believer that it makes marketing and making a living easier (especially fabulous when done in PJ’s from your kitchen table). This is a very exciting time to be an entrepreneur in the making. Yet, there’s a flip side too….Who needs Christmas holiday letters when we can keep up with our friends’ dinner plate photos and party plans on Facebook all year round? Why mess with sending thank you cards when a short email will suffice? Teenage breakups are even easier when one can text a jilted lover that it’s over.

I’m beginning to feel that it’s all too much.

My heart is caught between a vice of the digital keep-up and a wedge of comparison to others’ lives. Lives I didn’t even know much about (which turns out was a good thing) before social media parachuted violently into our laptops and smart phones. I feel sheepish for yearning for the days when my home phone would ring and no one was there to answer it—I simply was not reachable. I hate to admit it, but I really, really like being unreachable sometimes. What does it take now for folks to render us legally unavailable? Balancing atop Mt. Everest? Gawking at penguins in the Artic? Somehow I’m thinking these two places might even be candidates for emergency cell service and it makes my head hurt.

I’m also keenly aware that I am part of the problem. I haven’t holed up in a cabin J.D. Salinger-style. I haven’t shunned social media with peacock-like pomposity and a drive to communicate with every person I know over coffee instead of Skype. I’m sitting directly in the center of this lovely glass house, arm raised, stone in hand. Yet there are days when my 80’s nostalgia rears it’s ugly heavily made-up eyes and wants it be different. I know I’m not alone because my spouse and I lament about this like two old ladies regularly over our morning coffee. My teen daughter was overheard saying to her sister, “It was so great that our summer camp outlawed phones. We were all happier for it. There was no FOMO going on while playing Capture the Flag or hanging in the lodge.” Ah, that one made me open my eyes wide, wide, wide. What have we done to our kids?

It got me thinking.

 

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1) Communicate clearly that I’m unavailable.

Hello vacay email and voicemail message. I’m not reachable when I say I’m not reachable, right? Of course, easier said than done for folks who have their superiors breathing down their necks all the time. For a teacher, I admit this one is a little bit easier. But this is my time capsule, yes?

2) Call a cease fire on social media

I’ve gone round and round with myself on this one and finally landed on a happy place of tweeting and FB’ing blog posts only. I don’t lurk or dwell, yet I do want people to read (like you!) about this message, because I think it’s important.

3) Adhere to at-home digital sabbaticals

We’re still working on this, but I’m loving it when we are committed. All phones go in a basket by the door when we have company, too—love that one.

4) Stop the hustle of trying to be heard

As a past photographer who did all marketing through social media and blog posts, I have had to wean myself of the proverbial tap-dance of self promotion. I think this hustle was a huge reason I left my entrepreneurial life for my teaching job. Frankly, I’m was done with trying to get my squeaky voice to rise above the din in the noisy lunchroom that is online networking. I just want to write and then hope that my words are read by and matter to someone. I’m officially subscribing to the JUST DO REALLY GOOD WORK mantra in this cyber world of horn-tooting and me-glorification and hope that it will be what it’s supposed to be. On this topic, I loved this article about more doing, less promoting.

5) Two words: Down time

I love the Italians for their phrase, l’arte di non fare niente, the art of doing nothing. I used to suck at this. I always had to have baskets and baskets filled with the fruits of my labor. And for what? Burn-out and anxiety. No longer is this something I feel guilty doing—it’s my weekend currency and I’m trying to spread this hang-out-in-a-hammock pixie dust to everyone in my clan. It’s important and I want my girls to know what it feels like.

Will they long for 2018 when they’re older? I wonder.

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Three tools to help you realize goals & find contentment

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I believe in writing big goals down and reading them each week, if not every day. I believe that if we want something bad enough,we will work to make it happen.

 

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1) LISTEN

Listen to others who are realizing their dreams and listen to folks who you might want to do the opposite of. Then, most importantly, be still so that you can listen to the small voice within who knows you completely.

This voice is always right and is so teeny tiny quiet, that we may not ever hear it’s “rightness”. Meditation, prayer, quiet time..whatever works for you. 5 to 10 to 30 minutes investing in listening can produce some really amazing things. If only we all would take the time to take it seriously enough to give it the time it deserves. My ability to set aside quiet time is improving. I’m realizing that it is a detriment to avoid it and I’m committing to do it even when I don’t feel like it (frequently at 5 am.).

Do you have 2 minutes a day you can sit in the quiet to just listen?

What if it meant the difference between a pretty good life to one filled with amazing happenings and incredible circumstance? 

I’ve been clutching this compass so hard it’s making an indentation in my hand as I bustle about my life in the name of getting things done. There’s really a better alternative…I realize that now.

2) Look straight ahead and own your story

Tap into your own brilliance, even if it doesn’t look remotely like anything you’ve seen out there.

There is so much dreaming other people’s dreams going on in blogland as well as the creative world. First off, I think a lot of folks see something happening for an artist, writer, entrepreneur, etc. and they want what they think is that person’s experience. We have NO IDEA what kind of sacrifices occurred for that person’s success. We have no clue what their day to day is in juggling a career and family life. We just don’t know.  I’ve found it best to not assume anything about anyone’s success, as well as not covet it for my own life.

It’s taken me 43 years to get this, but I believe I really only want what’s best for this vida loca of mine—what’s best for my simplicity quest right now in this moment in my life. It’s forever evolving and changing, but I am honoring the process by not wishing for what is not mine. I’m looking inside for what is yelling out for my attention. 

I know myself well enough by now to be able to release, release, release looking at others’ success for my own growth to happen.

3) Pay attention

I am guilty of getting lost in my own list of to-do’s and errands and hustle & bustle. My children have taught me how to slow down. My youngest, especially, with her “naturalist” ways outside and love of animals has helped me to stop and marvel at the little things. I’m always glad when I do. There is a ton to be seen if you widen those peepers!

This is my favorite recent story about paying attention. I think it says a lot about what’s missing in our lives.


Joshua Bell plays in subway No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition. No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

(text via Pinterest)

How ’bout you? Do you listen to your longings & pay attention to the world around you? What are they telling you?

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How I overcame obstacles on the road to simplicity

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When you go to the optometrist for a checkup, you are told to look through lenses at the eye chart (This one…or this one?). At the beginning you will see double, everything a bit fuzzy. Then she tweaks something magical and the image comes into crystal clear focus as one image.

This is the perfect metaphor for what has happened to my life in the past three years.

There were obstacles in the road on this quest to simplify. I didn’t see them before, but now with a new pair of eyes, I hit myself in the head cartoon style and laugh that I didn’t see them before. Looking at this list, it’s no wonder a simpler life eluded me for so long.

1) Time wasting and mindless habits

With each minute I wasted trolling social media or needlessly checking email there was a completely missed opportunity to do the things I love. Read, write, walk, dream, read, converse, de-clutter…did I mention read? That’s the thing about habit (especially the digital kind)—they won’t change unless you mindfully remove the distraction. This is where digital sabbaticals and the release of Facebook came into play for me.

I also noticed that I have a tendency to do things the way I’ve always done them simply because I haven’t taken the time to look at what it blocks from my life. I do not need to spend an entire Saturday running errands and cleaning the house. It’s become a day for family fun, reading, hammock time (weather permitting) and slow cooking.

2) Excessive focus on what others think

It’s a beautiful thing to fully let go of the opinion and approval of others. We’ve always done things a little differently with our family, but I finally realized (wonders of all wonders) that this same principle applies to me. Out of this way of thinking has come a simplified wardrobe, changing my job back to working for someone else, taking note that my interior design style has completely changed and that I don’t want to drive the typical over-scheduled mom taxi. There has been a tremendous amount of freedom that’s come from being brave to just be me, however much I’ve changed over the years.

3) To-do lists that become cement blocks attached to my ankles

There will always be 101 things to do. I never get through the list and for awhile this used to send me into a hand-wringing state of tizzy-fitting. No more. I see now that more than half of the stuff just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Do I really need to wash the bead board in the powder bathroom today? No one dies if things don’t get purchased, cleaned or organized. Phew. As a teacher there is the list for the day, but I love doing that list. It means wonderful things for little people who depend on me. But even with my constant state of flux in my colorful classroom, I know the difference between right now and in a few weeks.

4) Anxiety about What-ifs and JustInCases

I used to have an ability to turn borrowing trouble into an Olympic event. The good news is that constantly fretting about potential inconveniences and catastrophes really doesn’t change the outcome. If they appear, they appear and as adaptive humans, we learn to deal. I’ve had my share of dealing, believe me. Yet, the fussing and anxiety? ‘Tis best to let go of that rope. Now, for the JustInCases (I love this post!), those are a bit more challenging to release. I’m getting better, but I practice it monthly. This week there is a massive garage sale transpiring at the abode. I’m hoping it will spring forth much needed momentum!

5) A firm grasp on a career I wasn’t loving

If you had told me two years ago that I would be back teaching 3rd grade at this point in the game, I would’ve had a good belly laugh. My photography studio and book were front and center and I was hustling on that marketing Disco floor like nobody’s business. It is so great to let that piece go. It wasn’t me, but I was forcing it because of all the work I had done up to that point. So, so much time and effort went into building a successful business. The news flash was: Just because it’s successful financially, doesn’t mean I have to love it and stay with it. It took some letting go of pride and ego squelching to walk away and return to an old profession. The big surprise was that I didn’t even know how much I missed working with kids. To me, it’s the most important job there is. I go to bed every night knowing that I made a difference (even on my worst day). Invested time and money do not require a person to stay the course.

My friend Cecilia met a man in Texas who let go of his dentistry practice to become a craftsman of saddles. He told her he was not a happy dentist and was brave enough to make the change. His saddles were works of art and he lived more simply in order to something he loved every day. It completely overhauled his happiness. I love stories like that!

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Removing simplicity obstacles is not a go-to-a-workshop-have-a-good-cry-and-reinvent-my-life territory. This has been a incredibly long baby-stepping journey where each obstacle was noted and conquered gradually. A control craving person does not have an epiphany over coffee. She documents the need for it and then intentionally releases it with each (almost) fearless step toward the Land of Letting Go and Changing Circumstance.

I’m also clear on the fact that this boulder removing process isn’t even close to being done. I will forever be sitting in the optometrist’s chair with adjustable lenses…and that’s a good thing.

How ’bout you? What obstacles have you uncovered in your quest for a simpler life?

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7 Things I would tell my 10-year-old self

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When you’re on a quest for a different way to live (ahem..What shall we unclutter next?!) ) it’s so easy to point out where you went wrong through the years. I was having a day. You know the kind…where you start with toothpaste slopping on your black shirt and end with dog poop at the foot of your side of the bed. Well, I decided to end the day on a hopeful note and compose a letter to the girl in the picture (Oh, how I loved those skates!):

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Dear ten-year-old girl,

Enjoy every minute of your front walk rollerskating days. This is the time to play outside and frolic and be worry-free. I bet you feel pretty fearless at this moment. It’s such a great age to believe that one day you will be doing exactly what you were meant to do. I want to provide you with a list of what to hold in your heart as you grow out of those skates and into your grown-up life.

1) Hold onto to those big dreams of what you want to be when you grow up. Remember the talents that come naturally to you and don’t be afraid to use them even if others tell you that you can’t make a living doing them.

2) Know that you are worthy of love at all times and never, ever let anyone make you feel small. Simply walk away in confidence when you sense that someone doesn’t know the value of your love. Hold your head high when you make mistakes (admit them too–out loud) and know that there will be many…but it’s okay…because that’s how we learn.

3) Marvel at how well your body serves you as you grow into it. There will be so many changes, but through it all remember to be grateful for your health at all times. Part of being grateful is taking care of it by not getting too much sun and eating lots of live foods. You know, like the pounds of cherries and apples you ate in hot summer months. They’re still important when you’re forty…you’ll see. Also, know that there is future invention called Photoshop and retouching that will make magazine models look perfect. Remember that it’s hocus pocus…better yet, avoid looking at them altogether. You’re lovely just the way you are.

4) It’s your responsibility to keep that chin up when you’re frustrated, even though positive attitudes might not be in the people around you. Language yourself in a way that others know you have self-respect and hope for the future, even when things don’t go your way.

5) Ask for help and give help when you can. Be sure to include those who seem to be pushed aside…the clique thing changes a bit as you get older, but not much. Value what everyone can bring to the table. You’ll see that one day the eccentric young people are the folks who achieve amazing things in this world. Look to them now for insight and inspiration. They will teach you a lot.

6) Trust your gut instincts with ruthless conviction and don’t lose yourself in others…especially when it comes to BOYS. They take up way too much time when you should be focusing on your own dreams. Mr. Right will show up eventually. Ironically, yours will because he’s drawn to your independence.

7) Forgive, forgive, forgive….and know that your parents did the best they could with what they have and they adored and loved you. Look at them with loving eyes always in return.

As your future favorite poet, Rainier, said,

“Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Know that the answers may be disguised as disappointments–but don’t give up on them.

You. Can. Do. Hard. Things.

Love, Me

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What would you say to your 10-year-old self?

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