“When one door closes another opens; but we look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, we do not see the ones which open for us.” ~Alexander Graham Bell



How 30 Minutes Changed My Life



Lately I’ve been all about clearing out the clutter in my head. It was weighing me down and spinning me side-ways! Getting reconnected with mindfulness meditation and stepping up my exercise routine have been crucial steps to handle my over-the-top prednisone induced ADD. Seriously, both have made a huge difference while I adapt to that crazy-making medication.

Yesterday I felt like doing something a little different. There is a corner of my bedroom that I’ve ignored for far too long. As I wrote yesterday’s post I realized I really would feel better if I just took on that little corner of my life.

It’s a weird little niche that is a clutter magnet. It’s where all the paperbacks I’ve read collect, photos of the kids that haven’t been properly framed pile up, a yarn bag from seven years ago when I thought I’d take up knitting, knick knacks that were given as party favors and I don’t have the heart to throw out. It’s the junk drawer of my otherwise clutter-free bedroom. Every time I looked at it, which is every day, I thought, “I should clean that out.”

I didn’t realize how much it had been bothering me. It wasn’t exactly like an episode of Hoarders after all.

Just half an hour, a couple of garbage bags, a roll of paper towels and a lot of Pledge dusting spray later, I had reclaimed my space and felt mahvelous dahling! Just mahvelous! I should have taken before and after photos! The junk was in the garbage bags (discard), a pile of books went to the library (donate), and I “found” some CDs of classical music, gifts from my father I thought I had lost (keep). Imagine that.

I was rewarded ten-fold for something so simple. Now I’m on the prowl for my next ‘fix’! What will it be? The cabinet under the bathroom sink? A file drawer in my home office desk? The basement? OK, let’s not go overboard!

As long as my zealousness stays under control and I don’t put more than 30 minutes aside to de-clutter on any given day, this might actually be fun AND good for me. How many things can you say that about?

Here are a couple of good related articles and a book highly recommend by Jane Brody, Health reporter for the New York Times:

The Health Benefits of De-Cluttering

It’s Time to Say Goodbye to All That Stuff

The Hoarder in You: How to live a happier healthier uncluttered life

A Gratitude Booster Shot



Warning: This is an unabashed FEEL GOOD post!

Research supports the notion that taking the time to be grateful, by writing in a journal, through meditation or prayer, improves mood and enhances resiliency. But what about those times when we are so low we can hardly come up with one measly, teeny, tiny, itty, bitty thing for which to be grateful?

A few weeks ago a friend, knowing I was feeling a bit down, sent me this sweet little book. Without even opening it I was cheered right up! What a thoughtful thing to do! How often do we think of making gestures like this but don’t follow through? I was sincerely touched. The book is called thx thx thx, by Leah Dietrich. She writes thank you notes to the funniest little things in our lives like zippers or the TV remote. I opened the book which randomly fell open to:

“Dear Rice, Thanks for revealing your mysterious preparation to me. I know I’ve burned you in the past, pretty much every time, but suddenly I feel like we get each other, and now I can make you whenever. You taste so good. Thanks again, Leah”

It made me smile and I needed that smile right at that time. Appreciating big things like having enough energy to write more on the blog wasn’t happening. It was too big a hurdle at the time which was depressing me. But appreciating the smell of laundry as it came out of the dryer? I could do that! This little book, and my friend, reminded me.

12 Tips for When Adult Children Come Back Home



They are called boomerang kids. Just when we are beginning to enjoy the empty nest instead of dreading the silence, there is a knock at the door. Many factors contribute to the reasons why adult kids come back to their parental homestead after being away for a while. There are just as many reasons why parents say, “Of course you can stay with us while you get back on your feet!” The trouble is your kids can’t go back home and assume it is going to be the same as when they were 14 or even 18. They need something different from you and it isn’t free room and board.
The situation can be uncomfortable for all parties, the kids and the parents. Sue Atkins, parenting expert and author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” helps give parents guidance. She wrote this terrific article for Fab After Fifty, a website I discovered on Twitter and well worth a look. Anyway, Sue Atkins writes:
There’s a new word out on the street called the “boomerang kids” – children who return to their parents’ home in adulthood and remain there into their 20s or even 30s !!!

According to a leading charity Parentline Plus they are putting enormous strain on family relations.
Student debt, the housing shortage and a general lengthening of adolescence (itself a result of growing life expectancy), are all contributing to the well-documented phenomenon of boomerang kids.

Young adults still living with their parents are frequently said to be suffering from the “failure to launch” syndrome but now with the credit crunch really taking hold of family life throughout the world, young adults are returning home as they can’t afford to buy or rent their own home.
Here are Sue’s tips for parents:
  1. Remember It’s your house – and your rules
  2. Insist that your kids make a financial contribution – as this teaches them to respect you, as well as themselves and puts the relationship on a much better footing so resentment doesn’t build up.
  3. Draw up an agreement on chores around the house and the basic house rules, then stick to them
  4. Don’t wait upon them hand and foot! Just ask yourself what are they learning if you do?
  5. Don’t treat them like teenagers and don’t try to control them
  6. Accept that you have to go through a transition in what to except in behavior with adult children.
  7. Ensure that both of you as parents are on the same side. If your partner expects a woman to do all the chores, the adult child will too, as you are still being a role model to your kids no matter how old they are.
  8. If their behavior upsets you, speak to them – work out compromises, solutions and ways forward. Don’t let resentment, anger and arguments build up
  9. Insist that they tell you if they are not coming home at night and explain why you need to know. (Peace of mind, security so you can lock the door etc). Asking for accountability is reasonable.
  10. Be prepared to say: “I love you, but not your behavior” just as you did when they were younger kids
  11. Remind them that this is your house. If they don’t like your rules, they must leave
  12. Set boundaries – be firm, fair, consistent and respectful and of course, helpful and look at ways to move this situation forward long term.

AND another article on the same topic with similar ideas but from another angle which you may find helpful:

Rules For When the Chicks Returns to the Nest

Let us know what you think, what your situation is and how you are making it work, or if you still could use some help. 

The Awesome Role Models in My Mother’s Sewing Circle



My mother passed away over ten years ago, unbelievable! Her colorful, bring-it-on spirit continues to inspire me. But she wasn’t the only role model close by while I was growing up. There was a whole tribe of amazing women. They all had one thing in common. They were all ex-patriates of one kind or another. Strangers in a strange land, they adapted and thrived. In honor of my Mom’s birthday here is my little tribute to them all.

Back in the last half of the last century the Menninger Foundation and Clinic was a cutting edge international center for the study and treatment of mental illness. My father was one of many professional who flocked to Topeka, Kansas from all over the world to train and work.

My parents were from Colombia, South America. A physician, my father wanted to become a psychoanalyst. When he was accepted to do his psychiatric residency at the Menninger Foundation program, my Mom broke down in tears. Bogota in the early 1950s was a little Paris, sophisticated and cosmopolitan. All she knew of Kansas was from Hollywood Westerns. She was convinced her little family would perish in such a hostile environment.

She wasn’t alone.

The Menninger community became a society within a society. My parents’ friends came from places like England, France, Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, Egypt, Scotland, Guatemala and, most foreign of all, New York City!

The women of this micro-United Nations, were brave, strong women who made being exiled from their original homes look easy. They learned a new language, to drive, to cook (many of these women came from cultures where servants and nannies were part of the family home.) Far away from their extended families and familiar support systems they created their own in each other. They would congregate once in a while in “sewing circles” which I remember viewing from the height of a four year old. Laughter and movement is what I remember most. These women did not sit still for long.

Many of my Mom’s friends were in Kansas originally because their husbands studied and worked at the Clinic. After all, it was the fifties and sixties. But some, quietly, or in the avant guard of the women’s’ movement, had the guts to act on ambitions of their own. They studied and became nurses, psychologists, social workers, physicians, teachers and business women. Other’s were community organizers, philanthropists, volunteers.

My own mother came to this country with very little English. Back in Colombia she studied French as a second language, not terribly useful in Eastern Kansas. Although she had the American equivalent of a B.A. she went back to high school to learn English, continued through University and earned a Masters degree. Eventually she got her dream job, teaching Spanish literature at Washburn University. All while rearing five kids and dealing with a high maintenance husband!

These women, my mother and my aunts-of-the-spirit, their courage, tenacity, love of work and family, killer senses of humor and intellectual curiosity: Thank God for them! I owe each one a great deal and hold them close to my heart always.

The Tornado Disasters: How Can We Help?



Imagine in one minute losing your home, the roof over your head, all your possessions, all those irreplacable things that anchor you?

I live in New York, far away from the devastation. When I heard on the news that Harveyville, Kansas was hit by a tornado last week I called  my sister who lives just 20 miles from there. She said it was horrible. She and my brother-in-law have been trying to do what they can to help but it is overwhelming.

We can feel miserable in our helplessness seeing the people hit so hard by the tornadoes that took everything they have last weekend. But doing anything really does count and is Good. Every single person making the effort does make a difference because that’s what a community does. And in this small global village we are all part of that community.

For those of us who live close to a disaster area we can volunteer to help with the clean up, distribute water, collect clothing. Look for an organizing leader to direct you to what is needed most, a church, minister, civic government, the mayor’s office, your local Red Cross chapter. We can open our homes to provide warm meals to the displaced. A place to clean up and rest until more permanent arrangements are made is an oasis to someone who has lost everything. Just sitting with people and listening to their story, allowing them to vent, cry, can be a huge blessing.

Below are a collection of web sites that may serve to guide us in what we can do. If you have any other resources that could help us help others please let me know and I will post them.

The Red Cross Launches Huge Tornado Relief Response

If someone would like to help people affected by disasters like tornadoes and floods, they can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to their local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Locate a shelter. People can find Red Cross shelters by contacting local emergency officials, visiting www.redcross.org, or calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). iPhone users can download a free Red Cross shelter view app from the app store.

Those affected can let loved ones know they are safe by registering on the secure Red Cross Safe and Well website, where they can also update their Facebook and Twitter status. If you don’t have computer access, you can also register by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Loved ones outside the disaster area can use Safe and Well to find information about loved ones in the affected areas by using a pre-disaster phone number or complete address. Smart phone users can visit www.redcross.org/safeandwell and click on the “List Yourself as Safe and Well” or “Search for friends and family” link.

Tornado Victimes Flock to Facebook for Helping Hand

Some communities, such as Denning, Alabama, have set up Facebook pages to share resources.

Please:  If you have any other resources that could help us help others please let me know in the comments or my email, draletta@explorewhatsnext.com, and I will post them.

Everyday Mindfulness When Stuff Happens



Watch this video of a renowned concert violinist playing for free in the subway and see what happens. Elisha Goldstein, author of The Now Effect, offers thoughts on how mindfulness enhances resiliency. Funny I didn’t expect to use this lesson just a few minutes after reading his post.

This morning woke up with a purpose: to appreciate the small beauties that surround me. Just being able to use my legs to walk, the softness of my dog’s fur, hot water when I want it! I was doing great when my daughter called from school needing something urgently that she forgot. She needed me to drop everything and bring it to her right away!

My body tensed up like a spring. It was remarkable how fast I went from serene to severe! I was irritated that my routine was being interrupted in this rude manner. I couldn’t shake the feeling entirely but I was able to breathe enough, create enough space, to lower the volume on the irritation and know my perspective would return if I gave it a little time.

When I dropped the stuff off that my daughter forgot, she looked me in the eye and said, “I’ll make it up to you.” Knowing that she meant it, I smiled, recognizing another small beauty, and said, “Thank you.” Just like that, I fell back into balance.

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