Tag Archives: keep it simple

I enjoy taking photographs.

I love taking pictures of my two daughters and capturing their larger-than-life personalities along with their beauty. I love taking pictures of my pets (2 cats, a black lab and a ferret, in case you were curious). I love taking pictures of my partner and my other family members. And pictures of my friends and their families.

I love capturing moments. Frozen in time. That when I look back on those pictures years later I can recall exactly what was happening in that moment long ago.

I love capturing feelings. Of joy. Of surprise. Of happiness. And even of sadness and sorrow. Because those feelings are genuine and, even in sadness, are beautiful in their unique ways.

But perhaps one of my favorite things to photograph is nature. And the tiny details of life that, if we’re not paying attention to them, we miss. These pictures remind me that sometimes all I need to do is slow down, to take the moment and appreciate all of the little things, the beautiful, amazing things, that I might have otherwise not seen.

A very small selection of little things I captured this year:

For One Minute…

You may have seen one of these pictures floating around your town. Or on facebook. Or tumblr. Or twitter.

Or maybe you haven’t.

Either way, I love the concept. Take one minute – where ever you are, whatever you’re doing – and just look at the sky.

In silence.

For that one minute, contemplate how awesome life is.

Right now, as it is.

(Not how it used to be. Or how you wish it would be. Or how it could be.)

Just how awesome life is, right now, in this moment of being alive.

Really. I encourage everyone to do this.

Being mindful in the moment. And grateful, thankful, of just how awesome it truly is.

Regaining My Voice & Perspective

I lost my voice. For almost four days there was no talking from me, save for scribbled down notes, text messages and vague resemblances of whispering. Today, I’m beginning to regain use of my voice. I can talk, though not in the same voice I used prior, but none the less I can talk.

Not being able to talk and thus effectively communicate for the past few days was frustrating, not only for myself but for those around me. I found that my lack of speaking led way to a great deal of miscommunication and confusion. Apparently while the hand jive is (in my opinion!) an awesome component of dance and ’50’s culture, it’s not an equally awesome manner of communicating. Along with mistaken communication there was also a great deal of intentional miscommunication, mainly on the part of my lovely daughters:

What mom? We can have 3 pieces of candy?!?

*I shake my head no*

Yes? You said yes?

*I shake my head no again* and quickly write N-O in big letters on a piece of paper, which is ignored as they each eat their 3 pieces of candy I “said they could have”…

I’m also baffled by the thought of how other’s who have lost their voice prior to the age of technology handled communication. With the  assistance of the internet/my smart phone, I was still able to communicate. I was able to email a professor to let her know I couldn’t attend class, text message information that needed to be relayed to my partner and even post an update on facebook letting people I know (many who live near me and who I see daily) what had happened, so they wouldn’t try to call to contact me.

Having regained limited vocal ability today (and just in time to video record a mock counseling interview for school this morning!) I realize how many abilities are taken for granted on a daily basis. Talking. The ability to walk. The ability to read. The ability to hear.

Flickr: Snoshuu

Today I am taking the opportunity to pause and reflect on how fortunate I am for all the abilities I do have, instead on focusing on any I may be lacking in.

Procrastination

I have so much to do.

Not just today, but everyday. Always. I’m a mother of two daughters who are three and seven. They take dance lessons and swim lessons. They have health issues that require doctor appointments and tests. They need lunches packed, homework help, stories read, projects planned and all the amazing things that go along with being three and seven. Including tantrums and dramatics.  I’m attending school for social work and I’ve set a goal to achieve a high GPA. This requires research, homework, papers, traveling to and from school, etc. I live in a house with my kids, my partner and our four pets. Four pets that require a lot of care and attention. And the house? That requires a lot of attention as well. I have chronic health issues that require appointment to doctors, therapies, medications and the need to sometimes slow down and take care of myself. And this isn’t even mentioning half of the things required daily and those that surprisingly pop up.

I have a lot to do. And, I’m sure, so do you.

It can get overwhelming fairly quickly. The easiest way to not get overwhelmed is, of course, to just not do it. Procrastination. I swear it was invented just for me. But despite the desire to just put things off, many of these things simply must be done.

Here’s one way I manage my procrastination: I make a list. A list?, you say. Yes, a list.

Remember to get some milk. Don’t forget to pick up the prescription! I need to start that paper for school! Laundry needs to be folded… I should email Mary…etc.

When the thoughts of all I need to do are flying through my head…instead of ignoring them, I write a list. I write mine on whatever paper is nearby. I’ve even written them on napkins because that’s what was available in the moment. I jot the items down in shorthand, as they come to me. And once I begin writing it’s not unusual for things to appear that I hadn’t realized I needed to do. Just write.

Once I’ve gotten them all down, I add one more. A simple one. Make a list is a good one. Or an item that I’ve already completed. Trust me here. When I look at a list of things I’ve (quite often) put off for a while, I feel pretty guilty. And horrible. Adding an item that I know I can cross off immediately,  feels good. I truly don’t know why, but putting a line through an item on my to-do list gives me satisfaction. That good feeling often propels me to continue on, if only so I can cross more items off my list.

And then I begin doing them. I don’t go in any kind of order. I just start doing the items on the list, with the ultimate goal to complete them all. If it’s a particularly long list, I likely won’t. If it’s a particularly short list, I also might not complete it. But the point of making a list isn’t to make yourself feel horrible about not “doing it all.” The point of making a list is to, a) organize and visibly see what needs to be done, b) have a sense of accomplishment in completing any of the tasks, and c) get some of what needs to be done completed. Even if you complete one thing, it’s one more than what was completed before!

As a self-proclaimed perfectionist my plan is usually to do everything amazingly well. If I do one thing amazingly well & a few others decently well, I call the day a success.  Some days, if I do one thing even half-way well, I call the day a success. There will always be more things to do, tasks to be completed. For today, see what you can do, right now, in this moment with all the resources you have.

Besides, it feels pretty awesome to cross off completed tasks. 🙂

Focus

I often find it impossibly difficult to focus. I may have ADD to compound the matter, but I know I’m not alone in my inability to pay attention and stay on task. I’m frequently found making dinner while emptying the dishwasher, corralling children, helping with homework, letting the dog out and conveying directions to my partner on the phone.

Multi-tasking has become more than just a way that people do things; it has become the norm, for myself as well as a good portion of society. And it has it’s purpose. And it’s place.

But multi-tasking constantly doesn’t help anyone’s difficulty to focus, especially not mine. How can we expect to focus when we’re trying to accomplish multiple tasks simultaneously? The two are diametrically opposed in principle.

Sometimes we need to have the ability to get a vast array of things completed in a short amount of time. Multi-tasking works well for this. But what about when we really need to focus on one particular task, a task that requires detailed attention? Something like a report or a physical task, such as painting trim in a room.

Recently I’ve begun learning about mindfulness. Mindfulness is a main component in Buddhist meditation, as well as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and many other practices. Generally, it’s about being aware in the moment. One exercise in mindfulness that I have been practicing is picking a task and practicing staying present in doing that task.

For example, if I choose the task of eating I would try to pay attention to eating and only eating. I would really be aware of picking up the food with my utensil, of putting it in my mouth, of chewing it and swallowing it. I would notice the smell of the food and the taste, as well as consistencies and temperatures. I would be fully mindful in the moment of what I was eating.

It’s truly surprising if you pause to think about how many other things most of use do while eating. We hold conversations. We watch television. We read books. We surf the internet. We talk on the phone. We text. We drive. I’ve been practicing this exercise for a few weeks now and it’s amazing the difference in my experience eating when I am successful in being mindful. I actually taste my food. And I eat better quality food and less of it.

By practicing mindfulness in this manner, I am better able to access the focus I gain when doing other tasks that require singular attention. Writing reports has become a bit easier in that I can better bring myself back to the task when I am distracted. I can better stay on the task, and just the task, as well.

It’s by no means perfect, as nothing is perfect, but it is an improvement. I will continue to practice in hopes that I can further improve my focusing abilities. Don’t let the name scare you off, mindfulness is something we’ve all done at one time or anything. Putting a label on it doesn’t change what it is –  and that is really being present in the moment. It’s seamlessly easy when we’re having a “good” time. But with practice we can all gain better control of our abilities to focus on tasks that would likely not fall into the “good” category. And that’s all it really comes down to. No one is in control of our lives but ourselves.

All the Small Things

I spend enormous amounts of time thinking. Worrying, analyzing, trying to determine all possible outcomes in all possible situations. I often get caught up in all these details, in all the things that could go wrong that I often don’t focus on or even notice the little things that go right.

We all do it. We get wrapped up in the big picture, making sure our kids have lunches packed for school and that their homework is finished. Completing the never-ending list of chores: laundry, dishes, meal planning and prep, vacuuming, cleaning, organizing, yard work, more laundry. In assuring that the pets are fed, that holiday presents are bought, that we keep in touch with family and friends and on and on and on… that we sometimes miss out on the little things.

Yesterday, as I stood in the driveway of my friend’s house after a particularly long and stressful day, I noticed the stars. You know, the same ones that are there every night. The same ones that most of the time I don’t notice or, if I do, I take for granted. For some reason though last night I noticed them. And they were beautiful. And in that moment I felt a sense of wonder. A sense of calm telling me to slow down and look around myself. Because there is beauty right in front of us. I pondered how many times lately I had missed other beautiful, wonderful, amazing things that were right there for me to enjoy.

Later that evening, on my drive home, I noticed movement on the side of the street. On any other day I may have not given it a second thought. A squirrel, a dog, something. But I didn’t turn away. Two deer, one full-grown and one much smaller, were about to cross the street. I slowed my speed and they crossed directly in front of my car. The larger one paused for a moment before scurrying off to the other side, the smaller one in tow. Just a moment. Just a moment that I could have very easily missed out on.

Today, throughout my travels, I noticed things that very likely may have previously been there. I saw how crisp and warmly colored the leaves on the trees were. Many branches already bare. I saw how the rain droplets fell on the grass, pooling together into bigger drops. Tiny purple and blue flowers I had written off as being already gone this far into autumn grew along the parking space my car occupied.

So many things. So many little things that go unnoticed daily. And yet they fill me with joy; with pleasure. The old saying “don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff” feels true to me at this moment.