Just Because You Have Space Does Not Mean That You Have Room for More Stuff!


Daughter Tara spoke those words last week when she was in Raleigh.  These few days later, I do not even remember the context, but her words ring so clearly in my mind.

I know that I have too much stuff, and I have been trying to reduce it this last year.  And I have made some progress.  But there is so much more to do.

Tara, who is soon to be 42 years old, and who has been living in other places since college, still had a closet full of many of her things in our house, things I could not bring myself to get rid of. There were school trophies, notebooks, cheerleading outfits, pom poms, letter jackets, letters, photos, and sorority memorabilia.  I asked her to go through it all, and decide what to keep and what to eliminate.  She did so, in about one hour, and threw away most of it.  She told me to not even look at what she was discarding, knowing that I might find a reason to keep some of it. I had a hard time with that, but I honored her directive.  After all, it wasn’t even my stuff, so if she did not want to keep it, why should I?

I remember many of the times those memories she discarded represented.  Her grade school friends; Cameron, Katherine, Adria, Katrina, and Anna. Those were precious friends, and the photos of their times together recorded their good times.  I do not know if the photos are necessary to remember their special times, but I do know that I went down memory lane when I saw those photos.

The same was true with high school friends; Damien, Katy, Michael, Jenkins, Christophe.  These were friends who made this time in their lives rich with memories, memories of growing up and going forth; going forth into adulthood, all the better for having had these relationships.

There was lots of other stuff in Tara’s closet, stuff that she could discard without flinching. I am so glad that she could, for I couldn’t.

Just because we have space does not mean that we have room for more stuff.

Perhaps our space should be reserved for current priorities, not past.  Perhaps we should be ok with discarding the tangible evidence of the past, even if we want to hold tight to the memories of the people who were a part of our lives during those times.

I am still a novice at getting rid of stuff.

But I am an expert at holding onto people and memories.


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Time in a Bottle

On a trip this week to Pottery Barn Kids and Teens, I went down memory lane.  Daughter Tara, granddaughters Mary Grace (12), Elsie (10), and Virginia (5) and I were shopping for a new bed for Elsie.  One of the sections had a kids’ kitchen, and Virginia immediately went to it and began playing.  Flashback to 2006 when Mary Grace, who was one year and nine months old, did the same thing at a Pottery Barns Kids store in Atlanta.  This is recorded in my recently published book of that time, A year in the Life of a Recovering Spendaholic, on page 124.  That was December of 2006, and Elsie was born a couple of months later, and Virginia not until almost six years later.  It is amazing to me that it is now 2017, and these precious granddaughters are growing up so quickly.  Whenever I make a comment about how fast they are growing, my husband Mike replies, “That is what they are supposed to do!”  Being a Futurist, he is very focused on looking forward, while I am often looking back and reminiscing.

We all know that time stands still for no one.  We also know that once experienced, our hours, days, and years are gone forever.  That is why our moments should be cherished.  For it is our moments that we remember with great clarity.  My example of our recent visit to Pottery Barn Kids and the flashback to the similar experience years previously was a moment in time never to be forgotten.  We can save time, if not in a bottle, in our memory.  We all have moments worth remembering.

I have had many moments worth remembering with these granddaughters and our daughter Tara, the past couple of weeks.  Although we see each other at least once a month, the visits are usually short, since a six and a half hours’ drive, and busy schedules for all, separates us.  This visit was for twelve days.  We started the visit in Edisto Beach in South Carolina, then went to Oak Island for a few days, and then to Raleigh.   Mike and Stephen, our son-in-law, were not able to be with us due to work and other commitments.  One of Mike’s “other commitments” was a long visit with his dad in Florida, which also included moments that will last forever.  We are both grateful for these times.

Creating memorable moments does not require beaches, or any activities.  In fact, we do not need to even “create” the moments, they happen; we just need to be in touch with them.  Suzy, soon to be six years old, and her family, had such moments this week.  Suzy started kindergarten, and for the first couple of days, she wasn’t so sure she would go!  And then, as quickly as she decided she might not go, she was in!

A memorable moment of a different type was my visit yesterday with a friend who is dealing with terminal cancer. My friend is at peace with her circumstances.  She has had a good life, and is comforted by her relationship with her daughter and her son.  We should all be so blessed.  Visiting with her was indeed a memorable moment.

Now, what are your memorable moments?  What moments make your heart sing?  It is important to be in touch with those.

The latest memorable moment of the visit with Tara, Mary Grace, Elsie, and Virginia occurred as they pulled out of the driveway yesterday, when Virginia rolled down her window, waved goodbye and yelled out, “Nana, don’t forget that I LOVE You!”  How could I ever forget?!

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Just Get Started!

Perhaps like me you made some New Year’s Resolutions, which I prefer to call commitments.  How have you been doing with those?  Well, I have had a slow start with mine.  I have not made much progress with the twenty pounds I want to lose, going down and up a couple of pounds a week.  I am trying to be kind to myself, and focusing on the fact that I have started, that I have at least not gained any more, and that losing one or two pounds is better than adding to that.  While this is true, and I do need to focus on the positive to keep moving forward, I am still disappointed with myself.  Instead of allowing myself to have a pity party, I want to get serious about losing the weight.  To do so, however, requires that I get serious about something else.

I long ago realized that for me to lose weight I must combine better and less eating with exercise.  I also learned many years ago that as much as I plan to, regardless of how many gyms I join, I will not consistently go to a gym and exercise.  Nor will I get on a bicycle or treadmill at home.  I do not like to exercise on machines!  The only exercise that has worked for me over the years is walking.  And not running, just walking.  I also know that I am cold natured, so walking outside when it is cold is not something I easily do.  Although there are indoor areas for walking, such as the mall and my church recreation center, I have not used those.  So, winter weather gave me a great excuse to not exercise.  In spring and summer, there is no excuse.  So, I got off to a good start, then one of my hips started hurting, and just this week I have had a problem with one of my feet, so my walking routine has temporarily stopped. I am unsure what to do at this point, other than let the hip and foot heal and focus more on eating less until I can resume exercising. I know it will take longer to lose the weight this way.

Have you found that once you start doing something, it is easier to keep doing it?  Also, that one good habit or routine seems to make it easier to develop and maintain others?  That is what I have found to be the case.  Once I got serious about eating better and less, and the weather cooperated, I found it much easier to get outside and walk for exercise.  Once I walked the first time, the second time was easier.  I found that getting started was the hardest part, and that once I got started, it was harder to quit than to continue.  And that being consistent with one good habit made it easier to be consistent with others, such as eating better and less.

Enough about me.  I am honest about my struggles, hoping that in so doing, it will inspire others to deal better with theirs.  Sometimes, however, we let ourselves off the hook by focusing on the struggles of others.  It can become too easy to look at others and fail to look at ourselves.

What do you need to get started doing?  It may not be weight control and exercise for you.  It could be stopping something, such as smoking or spending too much money, or getting in control of some other area of your life.  Whatever it is, whatever promise you made to yourself at the beginning of the new year, there is still some time left in 2017 for you (and me!) to be successful.

If we just get started!  And what better time to get started than now?  It will not get any easier.

So, let’s just get started, and keep the positive momentum going.

Good luck on your journey to being the best that you can be!



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Living in the Past

One of my commitments for the summer is to clean out my closet.  This is a daunting task.  While I am making some progress, there is still a lot left to be done.  One of the reasons it takes me so long is that I have difficulty parting with things.  And my closet has lots of things housed in it, not just clothes.  This includes photos.  Yesterday while looking for some reel to reel tapes of our oldest daughter Tara’s young years to be digitized (which I never found) I discovered boxes of photos.  I spent several hours going through them.  I organized the photos for each family member.  In the process, I went down memory lane, living in the past.  I discovered several things in the process.

One discovery is that I have taken too many pictures through the years, and many of them were of people who are no longer in my life due to time and distance, and some, due to death. The photos of the people who have passed away were easier to deal with than those who haven’t.  I kept some of the photos of loved ones who are deceased, wanting to remember them as an important part of my history.  For others, I could let go of some of the photos of those who were only a part of my life for a certain time, a time which passed many years ago.

I suppose we all have people at different phases of our lives who, for various reasons, we do not carry into our future.   Even so, I had difficulty parting with all of their photos.  If someone else is charged with the arduous task of cleaning out these photos when I am no longer around or able to, they will have no idea who many of these people are.  I did destroy some of these, but kept entirely too many.  This reinforced something I have known about myself for many years.  I hang on to people too long, and not just in the nonphysical sense.  The photos reinforced that knowledge.

Another discovery is the importance of traditions and family.  There were many photos of Thanksgivings past, an important holiday celebration in our family.  Each year I put photos out of the family at Thanksgivings we have shared for the past thirty years, and the nieces and nephews especially enjoy poring over those.  Those photos must remain.  What I have been able to let go of is framed photos of many of the children at different stages.  Those were taking up too much space.  I accepted the suggestion of a decorator I had do some work in our home during the winter to clear out that clutter.  Many of those are photos of family members who always enjoy going down memory lane by seeing photos of their early years.  I have added those to the other family photos that can be spread out on the coffee table to be enjoyed each Thanksgiving, and not have them take up so much space on furniture surfaces.  That change was a hard one to make.  I still have family framed photos, just not so many. 

Poring through photos of family members who are no longer family, and deciding what to do with those, was especially difficult.  Photos of Tara’s dad were put away for her, as were photos of his family. I had to keep some of the photos of that family since they are still my family, and in my heart, will always be; divorce did not change that. I could not part with all the photos of friends who have died, even those who I have not seen for many years.  That would feel like wiping them out of my history, and I could not do that.   I was able to let go of many photos of business colleagues who due to death and other changes are no longer in my life.  While memories with some of them will always remain, the photos are not necessary to keep those memories alive.    

I separated many of the photos into packets for each family member.  I did not want to make decisions about which photos Mike, Tara, Chatham, and Paula and family, would want to keep.  I hope they will take those to their homes now, since they are theirs.  But if they don’t, I am willing to box them up for them and maintain them, for them to go through, (and probably discard!) when I am no longer able to try to convince them otherwise.  I just could not destroy those memories.  Too many ballet recitals, school pictures, and pictures of birthdays past.  But those represent our family history.  Let others decide they do not need to be maintained; I could not do it. 

My closet feels lighter, and so do I.  Now I need to do the same with those digital photos!

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A Life Well Lived

You have probably heard it said that we should think about our funeral while we are still living, envisioning our eulogy.  What would others say about us?  How would our spouse, children, and other loved ones describe us, and what would they say about the life we lived?  The purpose of this is to change those things about us that we are not proud of (and I imagine most of us have them) while there is still time.  I have thought about this a lot this week, remembering the Celebration of Life of a business colleague of my husband Mike’s that we attended last week.  Paul O’Day passed away June 1, leaving behind 4 adult children, 13 grandchildren, and many friends.  He left a powerful and positive legacy.

I knew Paul O’Day, having attended his meetings with Mike, who was on the board of the association of which Paul was the president for many years.  I saw him as a warm, engaging, and friendly person.  And per others who knew him much more intimately, he was these things, and so much more.  Paul O’Day likely never needed to envision his funeral so he could make changes.  I am reminded of the quote that aptly describes him, “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.” In a two-hour celebration of his life, Paul O’Day’s family, friends, and business associates told with great consistency of the man who they knew and loved. I was amazed at the outpouring of affection for this man, and from people from many parts of his life.  His words and actions obviously touched so many people.

I took notes during the celebration, wanting to remember this life well lived as a model for others of us.  So, while this is about Paul O’Day, it is also about the rest of us, those of us who if we are reading this Blog still have time to be the person we want to be.  Paul O’ Day’s life is now in the history books.

There were many words used to describe Paul O’Day, words such as Incredibly Humble, Highly Principled, Warm, Genuine, Dedicated, and Fun.  Stories were told by many people of his love of reading, and more than one person said anytime you were with Paul, he would ask, “What book are you reading?” He gave his children and grandchildren books for their birthdays and other events.  He was an intellect, knowledgeable about history, the arts, Shakespeare, and world events.  The fact that Paul was the first in his family to graduate from high school may have been a motivating factor in him furthering his education, culminating in an honorary doctorate after earning a Masters’ degree from American University and a Juris Doctor from Georgetown University.  He also received Georgetown University’s Constitutional Law Award.  There were many other awards he received, and while all this is impressive, these degrees and awards are not what I will remember most about Paul O’Day.

What I will remember about Paul O’Day is that he was first and foremost about relationships, and not what those relationships could do for him, but what he could do for them.  It was mentioned more than once that he was incredibly generous, always picking up the check.  He was generous with his time and his connections, enjoying introducing others, truly expecting nothing in return.

I will also remember his optimism, the fact that no one mentioned him ever complaining about anything.  His wife and his children told of his love, his celebrations, and his generosity. While they noted his accomplishments, they spend more time focusing on the wonderful man he was, the husband, father, and grandfather he was.

There is more that could be told about Paul O’Day, but he would want us to focus on others, on ourselves.  While he would most likely be proud of his celebration, as he should be, he would undoubtedly care more about the people who came together, people who he cherished from different parts of his life.  He would probably be more interested in what lessons (although he would probably not call them “lessons,” but maybe “messages”) can be gleaned from his life.  There are more, but I will list three.

First, and by far the most important, is the importance of relationships.  People matter more than degrees, financial assets, or positions of power.  When it is all over for us, people will remember how we made them feel when we were in their presence.  While ego gets a lot of media attention, humility matters more.  There is no position power in the great beyond.

Secondly, we are one person, not two.  There should be consistency in our personal and professional life. If we act with integrity in our business life and not in our personal life, others will not judge us as a person of integrity.  I think about my husband as an example of this, and the number of times that he has told a server that he was undercharged.  They are always surprised, and thank him for his honesty.  That is integrity as important as a business dealing.  Who we are speaks so much more loudly than what we say.

And finally, the impermanence of life.  We can be healthy one minute, assuming our life will go on as we know it, only to be stopped by a disease that will shorten it.  That happened to Paul O’Day, it seems to be happening to Senator John McCain, and it may be happening to some reading this.  There are others of us, however, who have more time.  Time to right wrongs, time to live without regret, and time to be the people we want to be, before it is too late.

It is decision time.


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Communication Nation

People have different styles of communication.  Some of the differences come from personality, which I have written about in previous posts.  My personality tool, It’s in the Sauce, identifies those differences, and provides insight into how to communicate best with different types of people.  However, personality differences are only one of the differences related to communication.  There are others that are all too common.

It isn’t infrequent for me to be a part of a conversation with a mother of an adult child lamenting about how hard it is to get the adult son or daughter to communicate with them.  I must admit, I am sometimes that mother!  Most of us know to not expect phone calls from our adult children, or that our phone calls will be answered or returned.  We are usually dealing with the texting generation, so we have learned to text when we want to get info to or from our adult children. Even that does not always, or even often, work.  It is bewildering.  We know our texts are usually received when or soon after they are sent.  We also expect that they are read.  Then why are they not answered?  And if the text is answered, it is often much later and with incomplete information.  Reasons for this?  Unfortunately, sometimes the failure of the adult child to reply to a parent’s text is reflective of a relationship problem.  This post is not intended to address that reason.  Sometimes the other person thinks they are too busy to reply. This relates more to the respect the individual shows to the other person. And this is not just with teenagers or adult children, but all of us at times. Not replying to a text is at best careless and is often rude, whether it is intentional or unintentional.  Perhaps it is appropriate to identify some “rules” for texting.

Texting is best used to give or receive quick info that is not complicated.  If the matter is complicated, another communication method should be used.  Most people who text often are tied to their phones and aware of a text when it comes in, and read at that time. If it isn’t answered soon, there is a reason, and not always a good one.  One of the reasons is that the text comes in when the other person is driving.  Yes, too many people do read their texts while driving, and you know this to be true.  The person may be talking with another person, or is engaged in something else that requires their full attention. These are all good reasons for not replying to texts quickly. There are other reasons that are not so defensible.

Another reason for not replying to a text quickly is that the individual does not know the answer, and must check with someone else or do some research before answering.  This also happens with emails.  This is understandable and defensible, and there is a quick solution so that the other person knows the text or email is not being ignored or hasn’t been seen. The solution is to reply letting the other person know that you received their question, do not have the answer, but will be back in touch soon (defining “soon”) with it.  Although this is a good approach, it is easy to forget to reply.  We have all done this.  The difference between those who do this occasionally or infrequently and those who have a reputation of slow or no response separates good communicators from poor communicators.

Emails are another means of communication that have some “rules.”  Emails should be answered the same business day, or within twenty-four hours. This is especially true in business, and it should be true on a personal level as well.  The reason for this is simple.  People are busy.  If someone takes his time to write an email to someone else, there is a reason.  The reason is usually that they need to give the other person info or get info from that person.  The solution to the problem of not having the information (or determining that it is not appropriate to give the information at this time) is not complicated.  A simple, “Got it; I will be back in touch about this hopefully by the end of the week,” or whatever is an appropriate time frame, is sufficient.  If some response is not given, the person who sent the email can only imagine why there is no response, and human nature being what it is, we usually conjure up a negative reason for the no response.  Sometimes the person receiving the email has the information and does not want to deliver it, for a variety of reasons.  Regardless, some response is appropriate, even if it is non-committal.

Back to the issue of phone calls.  Although we can’t expect our adult children to return our phone calls, (and yes, we should be able to expect them to) we should be able to expect others to do so. Friends aside, people are too busy to call us to chit-chat; if they call, they need something.  If a voice mail is left, we should listen to it before returning the phone call. Doing so often saves us both time, unless the message is simply, “Call me back.”  Avoid wasting others’ time in this manner.  Leave the detail that will tell the other person what they need to know, including when you will be available for a call back, or not.  Phone tag wastes time.

We are not perfect people, and none of us are perfect communicators.  Our goal in communication should be to deliver to and receive information from others in a timely and respectful manner.

While the information in this post is not all inclusive, if we adopt some of these “rules,” we will be a better communicator.

Now, answer those emails, phone calls, and texts.  And maybe even call (or text) your mother!

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Let Freedom Ring

We just celebrated the birth of our nation’s independence, the 4th of July.   The United States of America adopted its Declaration of Independence 241 years ago.  The significance of this cannot be overstated.  This is all about freedom.  But although the significance of our independence as a nation cannot be overrated, freedom can be.  Too much freedom is, well, too much.  The land of the free and the home of the brave need to be managed well or the freedoms we hold dear may be in jeopardy. 

Freedom is a slippery slope. At this point in our country’s history, we seem to be more concerned about individual liberties than the collective good.  At what point will we be able to sacrifice some individual liberties for the sake of the common good?  The answer to this is not clear at all. 

Just because we have the freedom to speak in a certain way does not mean that we should.  We seem to be losing sense of right and wrong in regards to language in our society.  I have been concerned for many years about the degradation of our language, speaking out against profanity, especially from the platform.  I am afraid that battle is lost.  Many people use profanity in everyday language, even people who we would not think would.  While I am offended by it, I do not think that most people are; it has become so common place.  But if speaking in this manner by adults in positions of power is acceptable, what are our children to think?  I think our teenagers see this as a license to do likewise.  Why would they not?  And I must ask, is this the behavior we want in our children?  And if not, then why do we continue to model this behavior to them?  Have we forgotten that children learn what they live?

And what about our freedom to live and do as we please, even if doing so puts those we care the most about in jeopardy?  Do we have a higher obligation to be our best selves, to live lives of honor, even when doing so isn’t easy?  And who ever said our lives should be easy anyway?  We seem to have forgotten the sacrifice and obligation part of being a member of society.  Many people are more focused on pleasure than purpose.  We seem to be losing our moral compass.

Freedom is always accompanied by sacrifice; nothing important is ever accomplished without it.  Yet many seem to be more focused on doing what they think is best for them, without regard for how their choices affect others. The freedom to do what we want at times comes face to face with the facts of obligation.

As I write this the TV is on and the woman who is the featured artist is scantily clothed.  Her talent is without question. I am curious; could she not dress more respectfully and still be viewed as the talent that she obviously is?  Who decided that her attire is necessary for this audience?  While she has the freedom to dress in this manner, does she need to?

Just because we can does not mean that we should.

We should spend less time worrying about what the Donald is doing and more time focused on what we are doing.

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