How Discovering Your Inner Lizard Can Make You Happier and More Productive

My poor baby!Meet my inner lizard. Her name is Shelby. She looks a little depressed because she’s worried that nobody likes her. Shelby voices these fears when I merely consider meeting up with very good friends. So you can imagine what happens when I sit down to blog and people who don’t know me are going to judge me based on a few paragraphs of prose. Shelby goes a little nuts, to put it mildly. I tell her, “Aw, there, there, Shelby. It’s okay. Some people like you, and some people don’t. But it’s nothing to worry about. You just go out there and be YOU and good things will happen. Nothing good comes from hiding.”

The amazing thing is that it’s working. I’m getting more joy from my work and I feel less stress. This makes me more productive and more likely to promote my pieces when I don’t spend energy caring that some people might not like me. Thanks to Shelby, I’m coming out of my shell and it feels great.

Inner Lizard? What Are You TALKING About, You FOOL!  Read more at…

Rant: Summer is NOT Over!

I won’t lie, I’m irritated. Everywhere I turn, I keep hearing the words, “As this summer comes to a close,” and “Now that we’re a few days from the end of this summer,” and other such crap.There are 28 days left. Yeah, that’s right. 20-freaking-8 days, or FOUR whole weeks. That’s almost a month of summer left.

Listen up, my people. Summer is three months long. The first day of summer was June 21st and the last day of summer is September 23rd. Ignore Labor Day, except to enjoy a nice summer BBQ or other festive little summer party. And I stress SUMMER party. Labor Day does not mean it’s fall.

I don’t know who started this ridiculous rumor that summer is over after Labor Day, but I’m here today to tell you that it’s NOT. Each season is three months long. Fall gets three months. Winter, unfortunately, feels like it gets six months, but it DOESN’T. It gets three. So does spring. And by golly, SO DOES SUMMER.

So stop trying to end summer early, or I’m going to cut a bitch. Summer is conducive to swell easy living. Cutting bitches is neither easy, nor swell. You can see how this premature end-of-summer B.S. is problematic for me.

If you’d like to see me look like a crazy homeless person, ranting about summer (this is not my finest look, y’all) then watch the video.

Here is a pleasant article I wrote about how to squeeze the juice out of summer, in case you missed it the first time:
12 Ways to Take a Small, Daily Vacation This Summer to Let Your Soul Sing

That is all. Carry on.

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Why Making Your Bed Every Day Can Be a Waste of Time

Don’t make that face or it will freeze that way. If you touch yourself, you’ll grow hair on your palms. That old tin can on the counter labeled “pineapple juice” actually contains the grease from the roast. (Sadly for me, it turns out the last one was true.)

When we’re kids, we’re told all sorts of things to keep us in line. When we become adults, we hang onto some of these mental artifacts and feel guilty or slightly “off” when we don’t do things our mother’s way. There are times when our mother’s way feels right, and there are times when we need to forge our own path, sans guilt.

How You Spend the Moments Is How You Spend Your Life

Let’s say it takes you one minute to make your bed every morning. That translates to more than 6 hours per year used on bed making. If you live until you’re 80 years old, that’s two or three weeks of your life spent on straightening and fluffing sheets and pillows.

I don’t know about you, but if I were on my deathbed and somebody handed me the gift of a sprightly three additional weeks to live (preferably in Hawaii), then I’d take it.

Sometimes Mom Is Right

When you live in a bedroom with all the size and charm of a meat locker in New York City, your bed equals your living space. An unmade bed is essentially your home, and that can feel yucky and chaotic. I was beyond thrilled to have a made bed when I lived that way, so my motivation was high to keep up the habit. There are times in your life that having a made bed enhances the quality of your experience, so that single minute each day is time well spent.

Some people just looooove themselves the sight of a neat and straightened bed. There have been times that I’ve gotten all googly-eyed over my pristine bedroom and I just want to sit and stare at the sexy serenity. This is all about swell easy living after all, and if a made bed feel so good – while a messy bed appears so dreadful – then do it! Make the bed! Drink in the view and feel superior to all the non-bed-makers out there. You deserve it.

Sometimes Mom Only Thinks She’s Right

If you find yourself, day after day, admonishing yourself for the unmade bed but you aren’t motivated to change it, then I absolve you. You have my permission to throw off the yoke of your guilt and skip happily through the tulips. Rest easy knowing that you’ll simply unmake your bed at the end of the day anyway, so you don’t need to bother. Feel superior to all those suckers out there wasting their lives feeling smug over their made beds. You deserve it.

Now that I don’t lay eyes on my bed until I’m tearing off the covers to climb in at night, I’ll save myself that one minute per day, thank-you-very-much. These days, with a one-year-old underfoot and career strides in sight, each minute is priceless and my priorities are a little different. And so I’ve chosen to bump bed-making off my list.

Listen to Your Mother (Sometimes)

I promise you won’t grow hair on your palms. Your face might actually freeze that way, in which case I hear Botox is an option. There is one thing I know for sure: you shouldn’t snatch that tin can off the kitchen counter because you want pineapple juice when your mother warned you not to drink the fat.

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The Most Embarrassing Parents Ever to Have Walked the Earth

Photo Credit: Daily Sunny

My husband and I often ask ourselves, “How can we expect to raise a poised, well-behaved daughter when we act like nine year olds ourselves?”

Here are examples of our behavior:

We give each other raspberries about 20 to 30 times a day. This is currently right up our one-year-old daughter’s alley, since she would be giving raspberries whether we did or not. However, I’m starting to worry that the example my husband and I are providing will cause her to think raspberries are a sustained and legitimate part of human communication, or potentially part of the English language.

Best Game Ever… :: keep reading …

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Get Motivated, Get Happy! 3 Posts About How to Live a Richer and More Satisfying Life

Here are the latest posts I wrote to fill our brains with positive mojo.

Click to Read :: How Focusing on Mundane Household Tasks Can Make You Happy

Surprisingly, it’s the act of wishing ourselves away to another time and place that makes us unhappy, not the chores themselves.

Click to Read :: 12 Ways to Take a Small, Daily Vacation This Summer to Let Your Soul Sing

The pathetic tale of how I went from being a feral ice-cream sandwich scarfing, sun-soaking, free-living beast to being a domesticated, prune-nibbling indoor cat, and what I plan to do about it.

Click to Read :: What I Learned From Oprah: Stop Wasting My Life

Time is slipping by. Are you doing what you’re meant to do with your life?

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How Taking My Daughter for Walks Changed My Life

I’m now blogging for TLC’s Parentables! I will blog the post introductions here at swell easy living so you can keep updated on new content as it becomes available. Just click through to read the full post on parentables.

baby bjorn

Picture it: You show up to a party. The room is dim and a disco ball throws annoying splashes of festive color at the walls. You would rather be home in bed, but people have been telling you that you need to get out more. You see people socializing and having fun. You want to join them, but you are too hesitant to approach.

You feel unsure of your rusty conversation skills. You marvel at that one. You were never so keenly aware before that conversation required skill, let alone the whole possibility of a “rusty” factor. Your clothes are 24-hour clothes, meaning they involve a stretch fabric or perhaps a drawstring, and they can be worn day or night.

You can’t recall the last time your body felt shower spray. Your hair has been falling out, and you didn’t brush it today. You press your butt, your inflated butt, which doesn’t even feel like it belongs to you — it’s someone else’s butt, yet distinctly your butt — you press that butt up against the wall so you can try to make yourself appear smaller in an effort to hide.

You are a wallflower. A smelly, fat wallflower. Such is the experience of some new moms showing up at the party of life.

Why Bother Leaving the House? :: keep reading …

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Snap Out of It! 3 Steps to Pull Yourself Back Together When Things Fall Apart

The day before my daughter was born, I sat in the delivery room waiting for my contractions to get a little more exciting while I used my Blackberry to do some work. That day a colleague emailed to tell me that I was INSANE and that I needed to put my Blackberry down and go have the baby.

I did put the Blackberry down, but that exchange didn’t get the point across that maybe I was doing something unhealthy. Maybe I was compulsive. Maybe I was a workaholic.

When I came home from the hospital, I spent many loving moments with my beautiful new baby daughter. Common wisdom says, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” While the baby slept, I kept up with my work email.

Wishing I Were Blogging
In the first two months after Alexandra was born, I also felt a lot of internal pressure to blog. I felt I should announce where I had gone, to show photos of the baby and say that mom and baby are doing okay. But I was exhausted and consumed with sleeplessness, taking care of the baby and checking work email.

I obsessed about blogging almost every day – what photo I would use, what to write – but I was running on fumes, I was irritable and I wasn’t thinking clearly. I eventually drove myself to new heights of lunacy due to sleep deprivation.

Losing It
Yes, motherhood is beautiful, blah blah blah, but you hear enough women proclaiming how beautiful it is. I’m here to be honest – it’s also messy and demanding and fraught with emotional peril. There are highs that come with the love and the satisfaction of soothing a crying baby, and there are the lows that come with the stress when nothing seems to soothe the baby (or mom), the lack of sleep and the wacky hormonal mood swings.

I couldn’t control everything, but at least I knew that my job wasn’t spiraling out of control while I was off smelling the roses. Hence, checking work email when I should have been sleeping or blogging.

I guess I was hanging onto the structure and productivity of my old life, because my new life was frenzied and chaotic. I was lost in the lack of organization of my days and activities, constantly reacting to what the baby required and struggling to meet my own basic needs.

Father Time was abusive, paying no mind to the nuances of a.m. and p.m., let alone to the days, weeks or months that swept past me with little sleep. I would remark to my husband that prisoners of war are tortured with sleep deprivation, and that now I knew why. It was physically and emotionally excruciating.

The “Aha” Moment
Then I read an article in the September issue of Oprah Magazine called “Lying Low.” The tagline reads, “When things fall apart, your urge is to do something – anything – to put them back together. But what if you can’t do that right now? Martha Beck on the hidden blessings of life’s little low points.”

Martha Beck made some excellent points for those times when we suffer a break up, a job loss, or maybe you’re stuck in the slow lane at the grocery store and you are totally losing your mind:

1.       Do Nothing: When nothing seems to work, do nothing. Stop resisting, stop struggling and stop planning. Just be in the moment and chill out.

I stopped checking work email. I also stopped obsessing about blogging and told myself that it’s okay to let the web site lie fallow while I adapted to this huge life change of having my first child. I scaled down my expectations to be kinder to myself, and my daily task list included things like “shower” and “empty the dishwasher” – and if I failed at completing my to do list, I didn’t beat myself up.

2.       Focus on Hope: Rather than being focused on just how difficult everything is, instead make a list of all the things you appreciate. Think of everything that offers comfort, support and hope. When you lose your cool, repeat the exercise as often as necessary.

It was easy for me to put things in perspective using this exercise. I have a healthy, happy baby girl, a loving husband and a comfortable home. The newborn stage doesn’t last forever, and I began to appreciate those unique new-baby moments like sniffing her delicious little head while she sleeps peacefully in my lap.

3.       Rest Like You Mean it: Ms. Beck learned the practice of intentional resting from Dan Howard’s web site, Intentional Resting.

To loosely sum up the steps of how to rest:

  • Focus on where you’re feeling discomfort or tension, whether that’s in your body or your mind.
  • Think the word “relax. Take some moments to enjoy the new sensation.
  • Think the word “rest.” Breathe rest into the spaces of your body that are holding onto tension. Encourage each anxious space of your body and mind to rest.

Following these steps helped me fall asleep at night on more than one occasion when I was feeling overwhelmed and panicked about taking care of a tiny, helpless new person. I will still occasionally think to myself, “Relax … rest” and I will immediately feel calmer and more collected.

Things Fall Apart
Then I went back to work, and the game changed again. New baby exhaustion combined with getting up early for the daily commute, plus all the added tasks of packing up both myself and the baby every day made me feel new levels of panic and fatigue.

My days went something like this: Get up at the crack of dawn, get myself and Alex out of the house, work, then endure the long commute home, usually while the baby screamed the whole time. Then I would eat dinner and fall into bed, until Alex would wake to be fed in the middle of the night.

My nerves were shot. I kept thinking, “People actually do this? This is supposed to be normal?” In short, I felt trapped on a treadmill set at a ridiculous pace with no way to hop off.

Things Fall Apart Again, but for Real This Time
Suddenly, I was shoved off that treadmill when I was laid off from my job last week. The first sensation to wash over me was despair. The next was indignation. How could they terminate a new mom?

For the first few days, I was in shock; I continued to robotically haul myself out of bed soon after sunrise. But then the lessons I had learned came back to me, and I felt an emotion akin to relief. I went through the exercises once more.

1.       Do Nothing: It would be crazy not to take advantage of an event like unemployment to catch up on zzz’s. Yet my innate inclination is to continue to punish myself and start the day early for no apparent reason other than some vague sense of guilt or wish for productivity that can’t be fulfilled while I’m chronically sleep deprived.

I’m making it a priority to sleep during Alex’s first nap of the morning instead of hopping up and showering and eating breakfast. It’s less than an extra hour of sleep, but it makes a major difference in how I feel physically and emotionally.

2.       Focus on Hope: I’m gaining three priceless experiences out of losing my job. The first I already mentioned: the chance to rest and get more sleep for the sake of my wellbeing. The second is the opportunity to blog again, which is extremely important to me.

As for the third benefit of unemployment … It’s only natural to think that getting laid off with all the expenses of a brand new baby make it the worst timing possible. But what a great point in our lives to spend more time with my baby before heading back to an office and leaving her in daycare. She’s still tiny and fragile and so entirely dependent; it feels good that I’ll get to care for her myself for a little while longer.

Lastly, I know I’m employable, even in this job market. I have a broad set of skills that are in high demand. My worst case scenario is that I wind up in a job that’s a step back in my career for less pay than I want. No big whoop.

3.       Rest Like You Mean it: So I’m resting. But I’m also blogging and taking care of my baby while I begin the hunt for a new job. Life is pretty sweet.

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