Leader Life Lessons #1 – Don’t Punish Inactivity

I’ve been inactive on this blog for a couple of months.  I apologize to anyone who was actually reading the posts.  Life got away from me, as it has a way of doing at the end of the school year and I began to wonder if this blog was something I really wanted to do.  But, I’ve had some downtime and I’ve decided I do want to prioritize writing and blogging and sharing and using my Girl Scout experience as a life-long learning opportunity.  I hope you won’t punish me for my inactivity.  I hope you can welcome me back and we can start wherever you might be right now.  I won’t ask for any backtracking.  I’m just going to jump in right where we are at this point!

I try to give the girls (and parents) in my troop the same grace that I am asking from you.  I think of Girl Scouts as something that girls should WANT to be doing, not something they are FORCED to be doing, so I don’t take no-shows personally.  Girls (and parents) have a lot going on and Girl Scouts may not be their top priority.  I know that some leaders frown upon girls who are inactive.  But, I feel like I want each meeting and event to be a stand-alone where a girl who shows up will get something out of it, whether she has been at every single meeting or has missed the last few.  Sure, the girls who come to every meeting get more out of Girl Scouts than those who miss a lot of meetings.  But, it is my sincere hope that all of them get something out of it whenever they are there.  And that is more than they would get if they never showed up.  And sometimes girls just need a break from all the demands on their time.

So, my Leader Life Lesson #1 is one that I can relate to as I jump back in on this blog – Don’t Punish Inactivity.  I did consider leaving totally, but I feel drawn to this blog.  I think we can all learn lessons from the Leader Life.  I think Girl Scouts has some really good lessons that we can learn, even as adults.  I think inactivity is sometimes simply a time to think or try other things or test the waters elsewhere and a good Girl Scout is not single dimensional.  They are explorers, thinkers, adventurers, and risk-takers and that means that they are sometimes doing that elsewhere.  But, when they are there, give them something valuable.  So, I would like to think I was out exploring and adventuring the last couple of months and now I’m back, hopefully, to give you something valuable.

Instead of judging inactivity, make each activity you do worthwhile.

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When Reality Crashes Into Ideality

Life is not ideal.  At least, my life is not ideal.  So, I constantly find myself disappointed or disillusioned or guilty as reality crashes into my ideality.

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Sometimes that crash is big.  Like when my daughter was born almost two months early and soon after diagnosed with an unrepairable heart problem and in need of a transplant.  That crash was huge.  But, more often, the crashes are small.  Just little collisions really, that jolt me back to the disappointment of reality.  One such collision just happened.  I was reading an old blog post and saw a book that sounded wonderful.  So, I clicked over to Amazon to put it on my Wish List and CRASH!, I had bought it already.  In 2016!  I’ve owned this book that sounded absolutely wonderful and that I really wanted to read, for the past two years.  In that time, I haven’t really read much at all.  I buy books, I have Kindle unlimited, I go to the library regularly, but I. do. not. read.  In my ideality, I would read all the time.  But, in my reality, not so much.

A second crash happened a little before this one.  I got up to get something to drink and CRASH!, I saw my kitchen.  I have really been trying to follow Stephanie O’Dea’s daily tasks and keep my sink clear of dishes and my counters wiped down.  I feel like I’ve been more on top of cleaning the house (I feel like I’ve been cleaning and cleaning and cleaning), but that kitchen is evidence to the contrary.  And I mean, totally to the contrary.  Messy counters, sink full of dirty dishes, the floor needs sweeping, etc., etc.  And I know that I would feel so much better tomorrow morning if I cleaned it up tonight, but I. am. tired.  So, the reality is my kitchen won’t be clean tomorrow despite my ideality of wanting to be able to follow a simple, daily to-do list.

A third crash happened this morning when I realized that despite my desire to rejoin Jazzercise classes this week, I wasn’t going to be able to do it for numerous reasons.  I want to be a healthy, happy and fit person in my ideality, but in reality, I am often unmotivated, tired and feeling overwhelmed, so instead I sit at home struggling to get through a to-do list of cleaning and work items.

So, how do I prevent these crashes from happening?  I figure I have two choices.  One, I can accept reality as it is and live with it.  I can stop setting myself up by trying to be more, do more and do better.  But, to me, that sounds depressing.  It sounds like a lack of progress.  It sounds like settling.  It sounds like…well, giving up.  So, I refuse to take that route.  Two, I can work on avoiding the crashes by living up to my ideality.  This is going to take work, of course.  But, according to Psychology Today in Five Ways to Help Become Your Ideal Self the advice includes giving yourself credit for any steps you’ve taken, even if they are small.  So, despite not keeping up EVERY day with the dishes, there are fewer mornings they are piled high and the beds are made every day.  Despite reading few books over the past few years, I am currently reading a book out loud with my DD and I am reading a chapter a day in a cozy mystery set in Ashland OR, where I visited last week.  From there, the road gets a little less paved:

“You are the values you embody.”  Yikes.  I embody some good values.  Caring about others.  Being kind.  But, others, I really fail to act accordingly.  I value being well-read, but I only read things online most of the time.  I value social justice, but I can’t really identify much that I do that advances social justice.  So, this is an area I need to work on making changes.

Assessing daily choices can offer guidance for what you must change in order to become the person that people may one day toast.

That is a pretty powerful statement.  I go through my days without really thinking about the choices I’m making and how it will impact my future self.  For example, when I get up in the morning and just drink coffee without eating breakfast, I don’t think of that as a choice, but it is.  When I fail to focus on grading for a certain period of time or choose to read emails and scroll through Facebook mindlessly instead of cleaning something, that is a choice.  I really need to be asking myself, “What SHOULD I be doing if I want to move closer to my ideality?” every time I make a choice during the day.  That would probably be a pretty big shift.

“You are who you befriend.”  In this area, I feel better than other areas.  I have some good friends and all of them are pretty good people.  But, I also feel like I limit myself quite a bit.  I can’t decide if I am an introvert or just a little bit lazy.  I often feel exhausted after teaching, so having more interactions seems more than I can handle.  But, I am also energized by those really meaningful interactions when I have them.  So, I think choosing those people who really energize and motivate and embody the values I am interested in embodying would be helpful.  Again, choices.  Good choices as my daughter’s elementary school would say.

“You are how you use your time.”  Ouch.  That one really hurts.  I know that this is a major weakness of mine.  I love having the TV on, sitting on the couch, laptop on my lap.  It is only made better if I can be in pajamas and comfy socks.  This is not a good use of time.  This is not a good choice.  I could be reading books.  I could be visiting with those energizing friends.  I could be cleaning my house so it feels good and welcoming.  I could be sitting outside and enjoying the sun or rain or flowers or butterflies.  But, instead, I am sitting on the couch.  Enough of that already!  I am writing this message on some sticky notes and putting them on my refrigerator, my planner, my mirror, etc.  I need to be constantly reminded of this item.

“You are how you spend your money.” Another ouch.  A lot of this is awareness.  I don’t look at my bank statement or online statement unless something goes wrong or I’m running out of money.  I spend mindlessly.  I buy things I don’t need.  I buy my DD things she doesn’t need.  Our house is overflowing.  If I am how I spend my money, I am mindless and out of control.  Yup.  It pretty much fits right now.  Again, I think raising awareness is step one.  Looking at statements.  Balancing checkbooks.  Actually thinking about what I’m spending and on what before I spend it.

“You are what you eat.”  Well, this one also isn’t good.  Today was not a bad day.  I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner and all of them were decently healthy.  Some days (many days?) I will drink coffee for breakfast, grab a soda and some snack for lunch and then eat so much for dinner I feel like I’m going to pop.  I will also eat dinner early because I haven’t eaten all day and then I end up hungry and eating around 11 p.m. again.  If I am what I eat, I am, again, mindless and out of control.

I like this article because, despite my negative findings above, the ending gives me hope:

Remember, life is not a snapshot in time. It is a path. So, if you were celebrating your 100th birthday today, could you say that you are proud of not just the life you’ve led, but also the path you chose for your future?

Choosing a path means choosing each and every turn along that path.  That can seem a little daunting, but I think it just requires mindFULness instead of mindLESSness.  It means that I actually consider my choices from the time I wake up in the morning – take a shower or not, wear clothes that make me feel good or not, do my hair and put makeup on or not, brush my teeth or not, exercise or not – until nighttime, what time to go bed, reading before bed, cleaning before bed, etc.  Up to this point, I think I’ve been living by not making choices, but in the words of famous rock band Rush, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

What will your choices be tomorrow?

Friday, I’m in Love

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Welcome to Friday!  I plan to do a “Friday, I’m in Love” post each Friday (you children of the 80s may recognize The Cure reference in that title – it is purposeful).  Please feel free to add some of your own loves in the comments or provide a link to your own Friday, I’m in Love post!

LOVE #1:  FRIENDS AND HOLIDAYS!  This Friday is a holiday in our little corner of the world – Cesar Chavez Day.  My daughter is going kayaking with a friend so I have the whole day to catch up with housework, work work and do some relaxing.  I’m incredibly excited about that.  There aren’t many days that I don’t have to go to work AND I don’t have her home with me!  Glorious!

LOVE #2: TRADER JOES! This week, I’ve really been living a Trader Joe’s life and it tastes quite good.  The day I got home late and exhausted from work we had Trader Joe’s Turkey Chili.  Another night, we had Trader Joes White Tortilla Chips and Guacamole.  So, yummy!  We’ve also snacked on Trader Joes Movie Style Popcorn.  They are reasonably priced, easy snacks and meals and I love their little cooking station where I get a ton of ideas to make meals.

LOVE #3: JESSICA FISHER!  I’ve followed Jessica Fisher (affiliate link) for a while now and I’ve bought a few of her products.  I am currently getting her Digital Goodie Box:

and I love it.  There are a few things I love about Jessica Fisher – she is a real mom who gives real mom advice. Sometimes blogs I read give advice or offer a recipe and I think, “there is no way I’m going to be able to do that.”  It just isn’t realistic to me as a mom with little-to-no creative or cooking talents.  I have to be realistic and face facts and Fishmama gets that.  Her recipes are totally doable even for a cook like me and as a former school teacher, I feel like she gets me and my lack of motivation to do all the things all the time.  Check her out!

That’s it for this week’s Friday, I’m in Love!  I would LOVE to hear what you are loving this week too!

Monday Lessons

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Why, yes, it is basically!  Today was a busy, busy Monday.  It is always hard jumping back into a regular schedule after Spring Break and this one was no different. I have a hard time prepping what needs to be prepped far enough in advance to actually have everything done well.  Today was no different in that aspect either.  I am trying to not just recognize these struggles, but actually learn lessons from them.  So, what’s the lesson here?  Plan! Plan! Plan!

I have lost my ability to plan (if I ever had it).  I think with all of my daughter’s health issues, I became a little afraid of planning and then I became almost resistant to it and then I became unable to do it effectively.  One thing I love about Girl Scouts is that the organization does a lot of the planning for me.  They not only schedule events, but they have deadlines and planning documents and easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions with checklists and suggestions for what to do and what to bring.  I feel like Girl Scouts gives me the ability to look and feel organized beyond my capabilities.  I want that for the rest of my life, but it is hard to find planning documents with easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions with checklists and suggestions for what to do and what to bring to everyday life.  I’ve looked.  Trust me.  But, I have found a few things that seem to be working relatively well for me in a few areas.  I thought I would share those with you today:

  1. Stephanie O’Dea’s Calendar Pages.  These little gems are so reasonable and they give me a list of daily to-dos that keep my home out of total chaos (e.g. make the beds, keep the sink clean of dishes, wipe down the bathrooms, etc.) as well as a few “extras” each day that get parts of my house clean and/or organized.  I love the tone of the calendar pages and the encouragement they give me to do what I can do each day.
  2. Amazon Prime Shopping.  I am an impulse shopper.  I will go to the store to buy running shoes for my daughter and end up coming home with two loaves of bread, coffee creamer, another pair of shoes, disinfecting wipes, toothbrushes and more.  True story.  That was my trip to Target yesterday.  Amazon Prime shopping keeps me out of the store and I am not as likely to “browse” around throwing things in my shopping cart on Amazon.  I just go in, get what I want and get out.  And shipping is fast and reasonable.  If you don’t have it, Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial!
  3. Teachers Pay Teachers. Although I teach college and many of the materials on this site are designed for K-12, some of the materials for high schools work well for my classroom.  This gives me planning documents and easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions with checklists and suggestions for what to do and what to bring to my classroom.  Sometimes I come up with my own things as well, but it sure is nice to have something of real quality to fall back on when I can’t come up with my own ideas.

It isn’t nearly enough to get my life on track, but those three things have been helping me along.  I really need to use my calendar in a more meaningful way.  Although this article was written for Real Estate agents, I think it is a helpful perspective I can adopt.  I remember watching Devil Wears Prada and thinking, I need to be that organized in life.  I also need a personal assistant to get me coffee and do my bidding each and every day.  I would be nicer than Meryl Streep though.  But I do love her look.

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What about you?  Did you learn any lessons on this Monday?

Let’s start with a Spark!

What a better way to kick off this blog than with a Spark of positivity?  I am joining McGuffy’s Reader in posting a positive quotation that can become a weekly meditation.  This week, she shared a beautiful photo and a simple reminder to just breathe.  In honor of my inspiration for this blog, which is my being a leader of my daughter’s Brownie troop, I will use a famous Juliette Low quotation (she was the founder of Girl Scouts for those who don’t know):

The work of today is the history of tomorrow and we are its makers.

I sometimes often start a day with the thought, “I’ll just get through today,” thinking that it is the absolute best I can do.  But, the ramifications of that are a loss of meaning in the work that I do that day, which is a loss of history for tomorrow and a loss of making the most of the day I have in front of me.  So, this week, I’m going to focus on bringing my best self to my work each day (whatever that work may be – actual paid work, or doing things around the house, or leading my Girl Scout troop).  But, as another step, I think I need to be better at recording that work somewhere.  After all, how do we access history if no one is remembering?

I have so many journals.  I have an Erin Condren Gratitude Journal and a Two Minute Mornings: A Journal to Win Your Day Every Day and I’ve used both intermittently, but not consistently.  So, this week, I’m going to make an effort to use the Two Minute journal in the morning and the Gratitude Journal in the evening each and every single day.  I am going to put a reminder in my phone to help me remember to do each of them every day.  Research shows that gratitude increases happiness and I definitely want to “win” my day every day, so this seems like a relatively simple thing to do that can really SPARK something larger.

What about you?  What’s your SPARK this week?

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