Designing a Life(style)

November 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

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After our youngest was born, we actively designed the lifestyle our family would lead.  We left Southern California and moved to a family-friendly neighborhood with good schools in North Texas.  We chose jobs that would allow us to be home at night and on weekends with our kids.  We became soccer coaches and Girl Scout leaders and we drove mini-vans.  Our lifestyle design focused on parenting, community involvement and achievement.

Fast-forward 16 years and our youngest is getting ready to leave the nest.  We’ve learned much about ourselves and our values during that time and we no longer measure our success by external achievements.

Moving is in our future.  We are looking forward to down-sizing (no need for the big family house and yard now) and are thinking about what we want our lifestyle to look like.  We have some limitations (location due to work; double college tuitions) and a lot of new wants:

  1. Walkable (at least to the local bar and/or breakfast establishment)
  2. Manageable (we don’t want to have to hire people to paint our walls or clean our gutters)
  3. Low-maintenance (after the initial move, we don’t want to spend all of our time and money on our house; ideally a lock-and-go situation)
  4. Personal (we want to live in a house that actually represents our style and values instead of worrying about re-sale value)

It’s hard to live in the present when the present no longer reflects your values.


Minimal housing

November 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 7.04.34 AM This is almost identical to the house I lived in during high school with my single mom.  She redecorated the kitchen (smartly) with a moveable island and barstools instead of a kitchen table and added a screened porch off the back (here the right side because we lived in a tri-plex).  I personally lived in one similar before I got married — same layout only the front door was on what would be the left side of the house here.  The kitchen in that one had been updated as well.

The size was good — I remember being a little cramped with stuff — never enough places to put my stuff — but with a renewed love of decluttering, this is still a livable size for two people.  And it was only 675 sq ft.  (I know, not a “tiny home” by today’s standards, but definitely smaller than anything I’ve lived in since.)

Time for a reboot

October 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

VBF Imperfect

My life is like a latin dance — one step forward, two steps back.  I haven’t done anything “me” for much of the year because I’ve been living in the past or in the future — anywhere but the present.  (Ironically, around the same time I decided being “present” was one of my core desired feelings!)  Somehow the year has taken me down a road where I can barely stand my life — home, neighborhood, work, even my own skin.

I’ve naturally spent much of the same year trying to find some external force to blame … peri-menopause, mid-life, bad-boyfriend-boss, lack of “true” friends, childhood … possibly good excuses, but definitely not answers.  I’ve spent some time with a counselor off and on to learn that a) it’s not my husband <g>; b) meds are available and common (still on the fence); and c) mid-life is a time of reinvention and I should embrace it rather than fight it.

What I haven’t been doing is writing.  Or meditating.  Or journaling.  It’s all felt too changeable, mutable, intangible.  But I have done some reading and I’ve started to feel my way.

The first thing I’ve learned is that my life is a journey … a work in progress … not a destination.  I will never just BE who I am  … I will keep DISCOVERING who I am and who I am not.  This means that I need to learn to embrace the changeable, mutable, intangible feeling of always being in discovery mode.  I can enjoy the knowledge that tomorrow’s picture will not be the same as today’s and that this is GREAT!

The second thing I’ve learned (thanks to Brene Brown’s amazing work) is that I am (forever) imperfect and I am enough.  When I acknowledge (and even embrace) those imperfections, my authenticity is a gift to myself and the world.  We don’t need more airbrushed cover girls in the world to reinforce our inadequacy (so we continue to consume in our quest for perfection) — we need more real women in the world to own our imperfections and accomplish great things because of them!

The push for generosity

February 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

I read Joshua Becker’s post last night titled “We Are Wealthy. And Why That Matters” (which was truly profound for me, btw and I highly recommend reading it, sharing it and maybe printing it out and sticking it on your frig,) and one of the comments (related to the article’s discussion about how we might be more generous once we realize how wealthy we really are) seriously pushed my buttons because the commenter made the assertion that “The fewer [people who attend church] each week, each year, each decade that we see in western society, the less virtuous we become.”

I come from an unchurched family and spent my early years on a quest to find my religion — started with the Methodist church of my babysitter, then the Greek Orthodox church of another babysitter, a Catholic church with my best friend and even a brief stint with the Mormon church — all before I graduated from high school.  In the decades since, I’ve found my religion only twice — at a Unitarian Universalist church when my kids were little and we were looking for “religious tolerance” in the Bible belt and again at a Unity church we visited for an Easter service one year.  In all cases, I’ve been turned off by the “virtuous” at these churches and have repeatedly confirmed that virtuosity and church attendance are two completely different things.

But the question is not one of just defense for my own lack of church attendance — it’s really about what motivates us to be generous.  I have found that as my personal beliefs have moved away from traditional religions (where we are physical beings trying to become spiritual beings in the afterlife) to non-traditional spiritualism (where we are spiritual beings learning from this physical experience in order to evolve our souls) my generosity has expanded.  I am now much more concerned with relieving (or at least acknowledging) the suffering and plight of others.  I am called to learn from my experiences and question them.  Did I do something to “deserve” this relatively easy western-culture lifestyle that those in third-world countries did not do? (I don’t think so) And if I did nothing to deserve it, how is my journey in this life related to that affluence?  This is the wellspring of generosity for me.

What motivates you to give?

Decluttering: Core Desired Feelings in 2015

January 4, 2015 § Leave a comment


For 2015, I’m embracing the ideas detailed by Danielle LaPorte in her book, The Desire Map.  Specifically, rather than setting resolutions — which have never worked for me — I’ve focused on which feelings I want to have this year.  After much deliberation, I’ve settled on Inspired, Intentional, Present and Worthy.

The book includes a workbook section that walks through how to convert your desired feelings into intentions for the year and I’ve kicked off my activities with a big declutter (as part of being Intentional about how I use  my space) starting with my office and den and doing my closet this morning.

My closet was the most difficult because I love clothes, shoes, bags and jewelry, though thankfully, I’m “minimalist” on the types (black clothes, bags and shoes, silver jewelry).  My closet rules for semi-minimalism include limits based on space and hanger availability.   The down-side of these rules is that if you aren’t continually decluttering, any excess ends up piled on the floor and in the bedroom chair.  For 2015, my intention is to declutter in smaller portions more regularly … a drawer, a shelf, a file, a box.  Hopefully, this will help me stem the chaos.


I didn’t count them, but I’m sure I had close to 60 pairs of shoes and I donated 1/4th in order to fit back into the allowed shelf space.

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I wanted good drawer storage for undergarments and pajamas, so I moved a discarded dresser into the closet.  This also allowed me to shrink the boundary for the amount of hanging clothes I keep.

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How about you?  How are you kicking off 2015?

How to minimize being impacted by “cultural imprinting” in advertising

September 29, 2014 § 3 Comments

I read an article this morning about how ads work (and how they don’t work) and the author describes the difference between how we think advertising works:

  • ads make you want something by associating the thing being advertised to a feeling/value/state-of-being you want, (“emotional inception”)

And how he thinks advertising actually works:

  • ads make you want to associate yourself with a value that has been agreed upon by a group of your peers as being associated with the thing being advertised, (“cultural imprinting”)

Cultural imprinting relies on the fact that even if you have lived under a rock and avoided television, radio, magazines and advertising of all forms, your peers have not and they have agreed upon a value being associated to a specific thing.  Because of the widespread viewing of the Corona ad above, for example, if you show up at a party with Corona, you may be perceived as a relaxed, beachy kind of person.

The beneficial part from what I can tell, is that this type of advertising doesn’t always drive you to purchase, it is more of a purchase decision influence … kind of like the “Choosy mothers choose Jif” ads of old that ensured you would buy Jif when you were in the market for peanut butter, but didn’t make you feel the need to run out and buy peanut butter.

The downside, though, is that some of things I try to do to minimize my shopping desires — things like eliminating commercial television and canceling magazine subscriptions and catalogs — are of no use against this type of advertising.  If I’m feeling a lack of creativity, I may feel compelled to run out and buy an Apple product or a Moleskine to get a needed boost.

So how do I minimize the impact of this type of advertising?  First, I do not assume that these ads speak the truth.  Second, I continually strive to know myself.  Is buying water in a recycled plastic bottle really consistent with my environmental values or is carrying my own reusable bottle more in-line?

How about you?  Have you found yourself buying into a product’s image rather than the product itself?  How do you minimize the impact of cultural imprinting in your own life?

Tolerance is so yesterday …

September 24, 2014 § Leave a comment


I’ve seen this bumper sticker … a take-off on the similar Co-exist but this one leaves me feeling less enthusiastic … jaded, even.  (Don’t believe me, google “tolerate” and check out the images — it’s not as pretty as it sounds.)  And the definitions of tolerance confirm my feelings:


transitive verb \ˈtä-lə-ˌrāt\

: to allow (something that is bad, unpleasant, etc.) to exist, happen, or be done

: to experience (something harmful or unpleasant) without being harmed

: to accept the feelings, behavior, or beliefs of (someone)

The time for tolerance was when you didn’t have a choice … because you grew up in the same town where your parents and grandparents lived and leaving wasn’t so easy … because your best friend married that schmuck from science class … because you grew up being a minority in your community in some way … whatever your reason was, tolerate was something you did because you had to.

Today, the ability to surround ourselves virtually and even literally with “like-minded” folks is easier than ever.  To simply tolerate, therefore, is no longer a valid benchmark.  I am now setting my sights on celebrating.  Care to join me?