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You Can Do It Too: Nailing the To-Do List

I was incredibly productive today, absolutely nailed my to-do list. This is the time of year when our minds turn to goals, resolutions, and other grandiose planning strategies. Follow my methods, Young Grasshopper, and productive, you can be. (A lot of Star Wars excitement up in this house this holiday season.)

Effective goal-setting is a matter of priorities, resources and alignment of opportunities. But mostly, it’s all about the list, baby…  This isn’t brain surgery, or rocket science, or even binge-watching HGTV. (Is addiction to “Tiny House” a thing? Cause I’m a little worried…)

Don’t believe me? Well, check it out. Writing a blog post wasn’t even ON my to-do list today, but I’ve been so productive I’m still doing it, and now I can add it to the to-do list JUST so I can check it off. Oh, yeah, that feels good. Don’t tell me you don’t do it too, you know you do.

Curious? Intrigued? Sick of waiting for the point? Here’s today’s to-do list,  read it and be amazed:

  1. Sleep in – Done.
  2. Stay in pajamas all day – Done.
  3. Eat ridiculous amounts of Christmas treats. Balance with mandarin oranges and popcorn. Repeat – Done. And then some.
  4. Read a book. A real book, with chapters and without pictures or People Magazine columns anywhere – Done. (The Bone Labyrinth by James Rollins, beginning to end. Great fun in the style of “National Treasure” or “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, and equally believable.)
  5. Ignore the disaster that is post-Christmas chaos for one or two more days – so far so good, although I did have to clear a path through gift and toy detritus from my reading perch to the kitchen. But that was all in service to #3.
  6. Randomly demand throughout the day that my other family members “go eat some protein, enough sugar already!” I mean, #3 is on MY list, they should make their own  – Done.

Impressed? I am, and also happy and relaxed (and possibly high on sugar, but that’s for another day). After days weeks a couple of months being incredibly focused on the needs of others up to and through the Christmas holiday, today was all about me. You know what? It felt good.

Did reading this list leave you wistful, snarky, or even a little angry? Then do yourself a favor and adopt it as your own one day this week. Go on, you deserve it!

Oh, yeah:

7. Write a blog post, even though it’s been a really, really long time

– Check and Done!

 

Look! I’m Guest Posting!

Hi, friends and readers! It’s been a big couple of weeks, as my co-author Dave and I finished our book, got it on Amazon, created a website for the book, and celebrated with a Sales Spike Day today! (Is there a limit for how many links I can put into a sentence???) We started the day ranked #600,000th something, meaning that there were 600,000 other books selling better than we were.

Guess what? We have cracked #9000!!!! We are currently ranked about #51 in our category of humor essays, and the competition there is just, you know, TINA FEY. AMY POEHLER. So I’ll take #51!

It’s not too late, if you haven’t grabbed your copy yet! The Kindle version is ONLY $3.99 right now, and I promise there is something in there that will change how you think about mental illness. I promise. OH, AND THERE’S A CONTEST!!!*

Perhaps the most exciting thing about today for me personally has been my first-ever guest post, and it’s a biggie! I’m honored to be guest posting on Bipolar Happens, the blog of author, coach and speaker Julie Fast. If you know anyone who lives with bipolar disorder or depression, you must get to know know Julie. She has been such an inspiration to me, as she just attacks life even when it’s not easy. In fact that’s what she’s about, getting it done even when it’s tough. Check her out, and please check out my post, which is about having hope for the future when family members live with mental illness.

This is Julie, holding the first copy I signed!

This is Julie, holding the first copy I signed!

*Contest Fun! For anyone who is able to be SUPER supportive of our Amazon spike day, we have a super fun contest! Send us your Amazon receipts for BOTH the hard copy and Kindle copy of our books, you’ll be entered into a drawing for ONE FREE HOUR of comedy coaching with Dave and Tara for you, a loved one or a client. We’ll spend an hour helping you or someone else transform tough experiences into laugh-out loud funny jokes – on the phone, Skype, Google hangout or (if PDX-local) in person! Send receipts to Tara at tjrolstad@gmail.com no later than Thursday, February 19th. Drawing to be held on Friday, February 20th.

Sweet Season of Goodbyes – My Doctor

Seems I am in a season of change and goodbyes, whether I like it or not. Losing my dad (three months ago, wow) was the first, and biggest goodbye, and I am still processing and cherishing his lesson of a goodbye done well. So as I walk through what is shaping up to be a season of change big and small, I am determined to follow through on this lesson of good goodbyes.

I tried that most recently Friday morning, but it didn’t seem like quite enough, so I thought I’d finish up here.

Friday I had my final appointment with my OB/GYN, a smart, capable and caring woman I’ve been blessed to have in my life for around twenty years. Really, since I’m clearly NOT very old at ALL, Dr. Joanne Rudoff has been with me nearly my entire adult life. She is retiring, which is great for her and a loss to women like myself.

She saw me through two decades of endometriosis, a condition which has caused me significant pain and multiple surgeries, and two years of related infertility before my husband and I were able to conceive my oldest. She delivered my first baby, and my second son was one of the last babies she delivered, due to the changing healthcare and insurance field, along with the realities of malpractice insurance for a solo practitioner.

When I became pregnant a third time, I clung to her as long as she would allow and then reluctantly saw another obstetrician until shortly after my third son’s birth, when I happily returned as a patient to her practice.

She was reassuring when I was frightened, firm when I needed confidence, always willing to answer my questions and address my concerns. In an era when we are lucky to see a doctor for a full ten minutes, she was never rushed, never impatient, always straightforward. The decisions were always mine, but she never hesitated to give me all of the options and her opinions.

As she told me Friday, she didn’t get into medicine to be a typist, tethered to a computer screen, and she is leaving the practice of medicine understandably impatient with many of the current realities. In fact while I appreciate all the paperwork, the insurance company battles and the referral procedures she had to fight, I am most thankful for the human moments she shared as my doctor:

  • Sitting next to me, hand on my arm, as I lay on the operating room table waiting for anesthesia to take effect;
  • Her personal call to me while I was out-of-state on business, calmly sharing difficult test results with me, making sure I understood;
  • Her voice barking out staccato orders to the nursing staff, urging them to action as it became rapidly clear I would deliver my first baby in less than three hours of arriving at the hospital;
  • Listening and really hearing me, whether it was when I was a sleep-deprived and anxious young mom, or a overwhelmed foster parent and mom dealing with unremitting pain, or just asking her advice on how to lose weight.

I found myself Friday at my appointment surprisingly emotional, showing her pictures of my boys, eager to let her know how deeply she had impacted my life at really critical moments, and how grateful I was for her role in my life. But when I tried to tell her, she hugged me goodbye but uncomfortably tried to brush my words away.

I’d known hearing these thoughts expressed might be tough for her, because although she has always been unfailingly kind and caring, she is NOT particularly sentimental or touchy-feely. Not only that, but I can imagine she was exhausted from the difficult process of shutting down her practice. We shared a few thoughts on goodbyes, and my thought that while allowing her patients to grieve and share their feelings might be difficult for her, but because it was good for her patients it was just one more opportunity to be a good doctor.

So, Dr. Rudoff, should you read this, be MY good doctor just for one more minute, would you?

Thank you. Thank you for committing your life to medicine, to women, to babies. Thank you for your expertise, your care, your time, your sacrifices, for your kind words, your straightforward advice, and the occasionally necessary kick in the pants. Thank you for your incredibly important role in my family, for helping to make my family possible.

Thank you, happy retirement, and blessings on your next chapter.

(PS: speaking of chapters, the book is finally done! It should be in print and available by the end of the month. Believe me, I’ll keep you posted.)

Serious Announcement of a Serious “Pastry” Nature

(This post is not related to the holiday season or to the celebration of the birth of Christ, or to my previous post about the loss of my father, which my family and I continue to grieve and process, or to anything vaguely important. This post is of a wildly different tone, but that’s who I am. I am deeply emotional, deeply passionate, and deeply goofy. There you have it. )

I have a serious announcement. An announcement of such a serious nature that inappropriate commentary–regardless how tempting to those with humor tuned to “12 year-old-boy”–would be both unwelcome and, well, inappropriate.You have been warned.

For some unknown reason, my husband bought Hostess Ding Dongs today while at the store to pick up milk. Actually, he doesn’t need a reason. He views trips to pick up basic grocery necessities as delightful challenges to impulse shop. I digress.

This is what is important. I have long been a fan of the Hostess Ding Dong. I have certainly believed it far superior to, for instance, the pasty, sticky Hostess Cupcake, which always seemed to have a mystifyingly large fan base.The Ding Dong’s contrast of creamy filling with the thick chocolatey coating all wrapped in festive shiny foil like a present was a rare treat to be indulged with joy and nostalgia. As a child, a Hostess Ding Dong was almost always reserved as a special treat my mom packed in my lunch for field trips, definitely not included in regular school lunches or daily snacks. I would unwrap the foil and press it flat with my fingernail, enjoying the silvery mirrored surface while slowing eating the biggest pieces of coating I could pry off at a time.

Today, however, I must say that I believe I have eaten my last Hostess Ding Dong. (Please refer at this point to my earlier prohibition against inappropriate commentary.) It’s true. Not only were today’s Ding Dong’s smaller, with an inferior, thin chocolate coating, but they WERE NOT WRAPPED IN FOIL. They were in newfangled white plastic wrappers, cheap white bags that offered no celebratory shine or sparkle. Why, back in my day … whoa, grandma crankypants, easy old girl

I am offended by the sacrilege, and yet I also feel strangely–all at once–freed from the hold the childhood treat has long held over me.

Nay, Hostess Ding Dong, you are but a plastic-y shadow of your former self, and I am free of you. Free to walk by your entirely unnatural little cakes in the store, free of the childhood wish for who you used to be. For you are no longer the treat of my youth, and today I bid you a nostalgic goodbye.

What childhood treats have you lost to days of yore? (Or am I the only one feeling like a cranky 90 year old right now?)

A Legacy of Love

(Note: I’ve been on a blogging break since last summer, focused on writing my book. I’d say it was a neat coincidence that my last post was about my dad, except I don’t believe in coincidences. This tough post hopefully marks my return to blogging, as I’ve stored up some stuff to share with y’all. But that’s for another day.)

Tomorrow, December 10th, will be a difficult day for my family. Although it seems like just last week, it’s been a little more than 6 weeks since my dad went outside to walk his dog, Luke, and passed away lying under a grove of oak trees. Had he been given the opportunity to choose where he would die, I’m sure that Dad would have chosen it just that way — just him, outside, somewhere beautiful.

Tomorrow would have been my parents’ 54th wedding anniversary, and I can think of no better way to honor my father’s legacy and his love for my mother and the family they created than to share with you the following piece that my dad wrote just six days before he died.

Despite how very, very much I miss my dad, and how grieved I am for my mom, I have been so comforted by the clear movement of God’s hand in the timing of events allowing my mother to find this the night of my father’s death. Dad died right at the start of a big wind and rain storm, and the power was out for several hours afterwards. Not only did the storm, the dark, and the quiet feel appropriate to us in those first horrible moments and hours, but it meant that when my mom was finally alone that evening, she could not turn to friends by email or Facebook as she might otherwise have done. She was alone and unconnected that evening in the dark, numbly looking at her tablet, when she saw the “Pages” app, which she’d never seen or used before.

The only thing in it was this piece, created just the week before, when my dad had spent a few days in the hospital. He had not mentioned it to us, but clearly Dad had some sense that his life was drawing to a close. Had the power not been out that night, it might have been days or weeks or more before my mother found it, but because the power was out she found it and was able to immediately recognize it as my father’s last gift to her, and to us.

There was nothing left unsaid between my father and I, and I cannot be anything other than grateful for the 45 years I had with him. I knew he loved me and was proud of me, and he knew I loved him. I’d had a wonderful lunch with Mom and Dad just the day before, and I am so grateful that the gift he left us, through his life and through this letter, is that we have no regrets.

I share this with you then in my dad’s honor, and in honor of the nearly 54 years he spent loving my mom and our family. I hope that after you read this, you will determine to share that same gift with the people you love.

Life is short, and we do not know how much time we will have.

Make sure your people know you love them.

by Howard Lowery

I was born July 25th, 1939, in the middle of the night in Salinas, California. I have lived 75 exciting years of adventure, love, worship, dedication, and faithfulness.

Every phase of my life has been an adventure; marriage to the love of my life, my life partner, camping buddy and confidant. Adventure with our beloved children Tara, Scott and our Grandchildren (and little squirt, the new great grandson) and Tara’s wonderful husband, David Rolstad. What marvelous descendents Carol and I created!

I have loved Carol with unbridled abandon, our children with awe and wonder and our grandchildren with devotion.

I have loved all my assorted family and enjoyed them when we had contact. I have greatly cherished brother Ken and his family and enjoyed many adventures with him and them.

My spiritual life has been with constant love and worship for my Lord and Savior, striving to share and be a blessing to others.

I have always strived to be faithful to the mission of free public education and a career well served and enjoyed.

I hope that I have been faithful and true to all my many friends over the years as they have been an inspiration and blessing to me.

There are no regrets; if I missed it it wasn’t for lack of trying.

— Written October 25, 2014, one week before his death

63597_1700747449538_261456_n 63206_1700748449563_6185717_n Dad and fish

I STILL Win Father’s Day

One year after I wrote this post, and my dad is still the greatest.I was gonna write a new post, but I just reread this one from last year and I just want my dad, and my reader’s, to know all of this stuff AGAIN.

I Win Father’s Day!

Dad, I love you, I am grateful for you, and I want to grow up to be like you.

Happy Father’s Day!

 

Simmer Down, Missy!

Simmer Down, Missy!

I am a master of catastrophizing. That’s a word, I assure you. I learned it in parent classes I took for my niece when she was in DBT, or dialectical behavioral training, for her mental health struggles. It was actually, um, disconcerting how much helpful information I learned for myself from those classes.

Catastrophizing is the tendency to see everything in black and white, to immediately assume the worst possible outcome and spend precious time and energy spinning out instead of SIMMERING DOWN,  and proceeding with reasonable caution and cautious optimism. Isn’t it amazing how quickly we can assume the worst, and spiral into a vortex of impending disaster and doom?

It’s extra “special” that I am so good at catastrophizing, since I’m a Christian who professes to believe that God has good things planned for me, that He is working even the bad things out for His good, and that He walks alongside me in the hard times. I say I believe He is more interested in who I am and who I am becoming, and not in what I achieve.

That’s what I say, but I still spend far too much time panicking and freaking out, careening wildly between frantically trying to fix everything myself and anticipating the worst.

I was doing just that yesterday. We are in the final days of preparation for a church event for which I am nominally responsible (nominally because, you know, it’s really God’s bidness) that is shaping up to be, shall we say, more intimate than we had hoped for. More intimate to a degree that is possibly not, um, self-sustaining.

The more prudent approach that would protect your perception of how awesome I am would be to tell you all about it in a few weeks, after we make it work and we’ve learned lessons and I can tie a pretty bow on it. That would be prudent. But after an exhausting self-centered day yesterday of worrying about what people will think OF ME, I awoke this morning with a clear understanding that once again, IT AIN’T ABOUT ME. (Apparently a lesson I need to have repeated frequently.)

So I’m confessing my crappy attitude now, publicly, to do absolutely everything I can to get myself out of my own way before I even know how He’s going to work it out, because this is where the rubber hits the road.

(Anybody counting cheesy cliches in this post? I hope not.)

This event isn’t about me, and it isn’t about attendance numbers. It’s about what the Lord has planned for the women who He knows are coming. It isn’t about my leadership or reputation, it’s about the message we’ll hear and the stories we’ll share. If worst comes to worst, it won’t be about me being embarrassed but it will be about me being faithful, following His leading, and doing the best I can AFTER centering myself in prayer, in His Word, and in the counsel of others. It will be about me trying to follow as much of Him as I understand with as much of myself as I can.

You know what I get out of that approach?

A clear head for decisions.

A calm mind for creative problem-solving.

An open heart, ready to perceive the best way forward.

You know what I got out of yesterday’s approach?

A headache.

A self-indulgent pity party, party favors not included.

Shoulder muscles so tight you could bounce a quarter off of them, and a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

You know what my family got out of yesterday?

Cranky mom.

Cranky wife.

Cranky daughter.

They deserved better.

 

Today is better. I am not the center of the universe. You know what? Neither are you. Thank goodness!

So simmer down with me, huh? He’s got this.

 

How about you, been spinning out lately? What helped? If you’re a Christian, what verse from Scripture helps you remember Who’s in charge?

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