Archive for the ‘Lessons Learned’ Category


Lessons Learned from Buying 3 Homes…

the money pit

Book Club Lovers: We start The ONE Thing on Friday. Do you have your copy? If not, go here for details.

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As you read this, the daughter and her hubby have just signed their lives away….er…um…just signed on the dotted line for their first mortgage. In the early years of our own married lives, I would have told you that we would probably have bought 5 houses by now.  But, Texas now seems like home to us, even though we are evil, transplanted Yankees. So, here’s a little of what we learned along the way as home owners. Dear daughter and son? Are you taking notes?

1. Whatever you think is your budget, what you pay when all is said and done will be higher than that “ceiling” you had in mind.

2. Closing costs are code for “ways to take your money for really stupid stuff.”

3. Points are code for “spending more money to save money.” Only in the USA.

4. Truth-in-Lending Disclosures (TILs) should be accompanied by Prozac injections.

5. Committing to paying for something over 30 years somehow makes you feel as though you’ve just been sentenced to life in prison.

6. # 5 is actually true.

7. At the closing, after you’ve signed your name 18,000 times and been sentenced to financial prison, the bank will give you the pen you used. Shouldn’t you at least get a free sofa out of the interest they’re going to make off of you???

8. After going to prison, fall in love with your current sofa. It’s not going anywhere for a while.

9. When you have 3 teenagers, your old sofa will have to be replaced, just from the stress of living with them. Fortunately, the sofa company has a payment plan and it’s only for 15 years.

10. If you buy a new home, you will go broke buying curtain rods, curtains, blinds, grass seed, fertilizer, weed killer, bug killer, flowers, bushes, and trees.

11. If you buy an older home, you will go broke repairing curtain rods, replacing worn out curtains, and picking out new blinds from this century. And you will still be buying grass seed, fertilizer, bushes, trees, weed killer, bug killer and have to replace your lawn mower.

12. About the time you recover from the above, the furnace will break. Count on 4 figures.

13. About the time you finish paying off the furnace, the roof will get hit by hailstones.

14. About the time you finish paying off the roof, you will discover cracks in your walls.

15. About the time you repair all the cracks in your walls, your exterior paint will start peeling.

16. About the time you repaint the exterior, you will find out you’re preggers.

17. Once you have your first child, home repairs and replacements will seem really cheap.

18. Once the eldest child starts driving and needing a cell phone, you won’t be repairing or replacing anything in your house for about 10 years.

19. Plan on buying a freezer or another refrigerator if you have teenagers. It’s okay…the appliance store has a payment plan…for about as long as the appliance lasts.

20.  No matter how large the home seemed when you bought it and how little furniture and belongings you had moving in, you will still find a way to exceed the storage limits of all closets, drawers and cabinets in that roomy house.

21. When your children leave home, their stuff stays behind.

22. You will get rid of your own stuff to store more of your kids’ stuff. Your stuff will go to your kids’ homes. Weird and stupid, but true.

23. You will think about moving to the country for the plethora of barns and storage buildings available for your kids’ stuff. Okay, and your own weakness with a December holiday.

24. You will think about a storage unit for your kids’ stuff just so you won’t have to move.

25. In an effort to conserve money, you’ll just wind up moving more of your stuff into your kids’ new home so you can keep their old stuff at your house without paying for storage of their stuff. And we wonder why people complain about living on fixed incomes.

26. When you die, your kids will go through all of your stuff and throw out all of their stuff (that you bought for them) and say, “Why didn’t Mom and Dad spend more on themselves?”

27.  Your home, now paid for finally, will be worth a fair fortune to your heirs, aka the children.

28.  Your children will sell that house.

29. Your children will use the proceeds from the sale to buy…wait for it…a new home. Your entire estate will be good enough for a down payment for each of them on their next home.

30. You’d do it all over again…just for the “tax benefits”…just because that house became a home and a lot of happy memories were made in between repairing dry wall, repainting the same room 6 times, and fertilizing the yard.

Here’s to you, the newest homeowners in the family! I’ll be there soon to help you unpack. And I’m bringing some of your stuff with me. And probably some of my own.

Friday’s Post: The Odd Days of August

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Lessons Learned from a Colorado Family Reunion Vacation…

Estes Park

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Warning: War and Peace was shorter.

If you’re a fairly regular visitor here, then you probably have detected a little themeMIP went on vacation with the extended in-law family last week. Early in the 2000’s my hubby’s family decided to do destination family reunion vacations together. Despite the diversity of people in the family, we manage to get along with each other in sometimes tight quarters for an entire week. Quite a feat for what was then a group of 24 people total. 24 people showed up this time, but that’s now only 3/4 of the family! We are up to 31.5 with a new great nephew due in early October (Yesss! More people to spoil rotten and then swiftly return to parents!).

We have taken on a number of destinations now (or they have taken on us and lived to tell the tale??): Branson, Virginia Beach, Nashville (IN), Hilton Head and now Estes Park, CO. Here’s what I learned this week while hanging with the fam-in-law:

1. Never believe the emails from a property management company regarding lock box codes.

2. Never believe the codes in the vacation home “renter’s manual” for how to unlock the dumpster. (Yes, the dumpster. Reminder–there were 24 people! And yes, locked. Bears in Colorado think a dumpster is fine dining.)

3. It doesn’t matter how much you emphasize that 1/3 of the food cost is built into each family’s housing fee, we’ll all bring food.

4. Because of # 3 and because we are all too generous, there were enough tortillas to feed a 3rd world country, not to mention fruit and Keurig cups.

5. The best solution to early morning people demanding coffee immediately is to have too many Keurig cups next to a Keurig machine.

6. Your biggest hassle arriving in the nation’s snow playground is renting a car for clear roads.

7. Breakfast for 24 takes 3 full grocery carts and 2 cars to transport.

8. When feeling the effects of thinner air, drink water.

9. You can never buy enough bottled water in Estes Park.

10. To satisfy the soda drinkers in the house, you may need another fridge for the week.

11. The freezers stay empty. This includes ice for water. And no, I still don’t understand why.

12. No hot tubbing after 8 pm. (Get your mind out of the gutter!)

13. If you ask the “sub-families” to each cook one dinner meal, your biggest problem will be finding enough dinner meals for everyone and giving everyone the Monday night meal.

14. With families coming from 3 different states, the dinner meal variety is simply awesome.

15. If you didn’t get to cook on Monday, volunteer for Friday and Saturday night. You can do “leftover night” either time and it’s remarkably wonderful…and cheap!

16. If you want to do anything with the Fowlers, get up at 2 am.

17. The earliest I went to sleep was 2 am.

18. I wish I’d had more time with the Fowlers. Wait. Did they even come on this vacation???

19. When the hubby and the DSL are ATV-ing, make sure all insurance is paid up.

20. My niece’s last name must be Andretti.

21. If I ever video my entire life, call the other niece. She was smart enough not to drive.

22. Yes, you can get a speeding ticket on an ATV in Colorado. It’s a Communist plot.

23. Your spine will tell you about your ATV-ing a full 2 days after the actual event.

24. Plan your visit to the top of the Continental Divide the day before the huge thunderstorm.

25. Elk are not intimidated by goofy tourists.

26. Elk don’t respond to, “Hey Elkie, come here!”

27. I need 2 bottles of water to get to the top of the Continental Divide.

28. I brought 1 bottle of water to get to the top of the Continental Divide.

29. I need my heart meds and frequent stops to get to the top of the Continental Divide.

30. I left my heart meds in the car.

31. When you’re at the top of the world, you need 2 gift shops. Here’s a thought: add on to the already-existing gift shop??? Oh, wait. That would require fewer tax dollars. My bad.

32. I am a sucker for 3 types of stores: food, Christmas items and hand-blown glass.

33. I had the greatest quiche of my life in Estes Park.

34. There was an awesome farmer’s market last week in Estes Park.

35. There were only 3 Christmas stores in Estes Park.

36. One glass store (out of many) had an entire snowman village, including pine trees.

37. Creditors started calling our home this morning.

38. Only my hubby buys horseradish at the farmer’s market.

39. We will be playing “Ticket to Ride” this Christmas. It’s like Risk without any luck involved.

40. I predict I will be the loser of every “Ticket to Ride” game this Christmas.

41. The hubby needs to make raspberry & pecan pancakes to make me a morning person.

42. If we have granddaughters someday, they will get “princess pancakes”.

43. When I have to get up at 5 am to help the hubby with the princess pancakes, it’s probably smart to go to bed before 4 am.

44. It’s hard to shut off my brain at 4 am.

45. There is nothing as beautiful as a rodeo with a Rocky Mountain backdrop at dusk.

46. Your kids’ favorite youth director lives a mere 2 hours away from in another state.

47. My son lives 4 hours away in the same state. You’d think he lives in TX or something.

48. When visiting the farmer’s market, take your shower early. Let’s just say the temp of my shower and the cool temps were similar.

49. It takes a full car load to bring back half of our kitchen for princess pancakes.

50. My Surveymonkey membership comes in handy when analyzing family vacation feedback.

Monday’s Post: Did you fret and fume about spume? 

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56 White Men…

U.S. Flags

U.S. Flags

Today marks the 238th anniversary of the start of a new country as declared by 56 white men. Not an exactly “equal before the law” kind of start for us Americans today. But, we had to start somewhere and so, the people who could do something about “taxation without representation” decided to speak for a scattered, unorganized mess of 13 small colonies. They were educated men, by-and-large, and knew there were little funds to sustain a ragtag group of farmers and merchants who wished to die trying to establish more freedom for themselves and their families.

Most of those 56 men died without their families by their sides. Most died penniless. Most lost their homes. And yet, despite all of the above inequities, that unlikely few established some pretty far-fetched ideas for their time that remain with us today.

Throughout our history the odds have been stacked against our success. We’re not a homogeneous group. We have a huge variety of “mutt-type” pedigrees from distant lands. We often bicker with each other loudly, to the point of destroying each other. We make a ton of huge mistakes. Our leaders are not exactly “Exhibit A” of moral leadership, often having to make very difficult decisions in very difficult times.

Who else would choose a slave owner to draft a declaration about freedom? Who else would pick a log-splitting wrestler to free slaves and end a vicious war? Who else would pick some guy in a wheelchair to lead a country out of great poverty and despair? Who else would consider that same wheelchair guy a great leader against a foe bent on annihilating 6,000,000 people merely because they weren’t “pure” enough? Who else would put a Massachusetts Irish Catholic in office to bring equality to African Americans? Who else would count on a former Hollywood star to lead the country out of sky-high inflation and unemployment and to help end Communism’s reign on 2 continents? Who else would elect an African American to office less than 50 years after crosses were burned in Mississippi?

Only the USA. We may not be at our best these days, but that’s exactly when you had better expect us to get our collective dander up and do something about it. Why? Because we believe in silly things like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We believe that each of us is just as valuable as the person standing next to us, even if we don’t like that person very much. We believe that you don’t have to come from privilege to become a champion. We believe that hard work and creativity should be rewarded, not thwarted. We believe in sticking together to do the impossible when the chips are down.

That is what we have done. That is what we do. That is what will help us solve our current problems yet again. So today, as you’re eating that hot dog, savoring that watermelon, binge-eating on that corn on the cob and munching on your flag-decorated dessert…and as you’re oohing and aahing over those fireworks, smile at the person next to you. Smile at someone you don’t even know. And remind yourself that your fellow Americans have died for you…the ones who never knew you and the ones who did.

And one more thing, pull out those smart phones and mark your calendar for the first Tuesday in November and make a date with yourself to vote that day, no matter what. 56 white men will smile down at you for doing what they were not allowed to do 238 years ago today.

Monday’s Post: WOW Time!

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Lessons Learned from A Family Vacation…


Warning: War and Peace was shorter. 

I just finished a trek to the lovely state of Washington with my hubby, daughter, the DSL, my brother-in-law and my father-in-law. While I adore both my own family and the one I married into, there are always little surprises along the way, even though I’ve been to this destination before and have been on vacations with this same group of people.  Here’s what I learned this time:

1. I don’t pack well under pressure.

2. The final episode of Survivor is more important to watch than packing.

3. I proved # 1 true yet again.

4. When # 1 occurs, I always forget something. Even if I make a detailed packing list.

5. I forgot my PJs.

6. Workout clothes make a good substitute for PJs.

7. I worked out once while on vacation.

8. I wore street clothes to work out because I was too lazy to change into workout clothes.

9. Glad I packed 5 sets of workout clothes.

10. TSA pre-check status rocks.

11. The hubby who surprised me with a TSA pre-check status rocks even more.

12. When going through TSA pre-check, I have flashbacks to trips I took in the 1990s.

13. I have more circles under my eyes than I had in the 1990s.

14. I’m pretty sure TSA put those circles under my eyes after 9/11.

15. I don’t respond to TSA instructions well under pressure.

16. Did I mention I like TSA pre-check?

17. We would super-glue the DSL’s belt to his pants to help him through security, but TSA wasn’t laughing when we suggested this.

18. Someone needs to get TSA agents a sense of humor.

19. Belts to hold up pants are lethal weapons and that’s why no one wears them in Seattle. See # 17.

20. I didn’t know there was such a diversity of boxer shorts in Seattle. See # 19.

21. Anyone under the age of 30 in Seattle shops at Goodwill and purposely puts polka-dots, paisley and plaid together. Color coordination optional.

22. If I go through Pike Place Market 10,000 times, I will still feel like I’ve never seen it all.

23. Beecher’s Cheese Mariachi Mac ‘n Cheese is da bomb. Next time I’m getting the large, economy-sized helping even if 4 wheelbarrows are required to carry me out of the place afterwards. Even if I have to make use of 1 set of workout clothes for something other than PJs.

24. The beautiful bouquets of flowers at the Market are way under-priced. And yet I walked away empty-handed because I had no place to put them.

25. # 24 is cruel and unusual punishment.

26. The Underground Tour never disappoints even if the new tour guide is…well…new.

27. Did you know “Lincoln” was a superhero and had a cape and everything? See # 26.

28. In the 25 years plus since my last Underground Tour my allergies have made it nearly impossible for me to go on the Underground Tour. Grr.

29. Pioneer Square is still one of the prettiest parts of Seattle.

30. I can play in a wind-up toy store for a solid half an hour. Maturity went right out the window.

31. Chocolate pasta and sweet potato orzo are just too difficult to resist in bringing home in crumbs in my suitcase.

32. The flying fish never disappoint, even if no fish are flying.

33. I am in awe of tea sets that are in the shapes of peacocks, phoenix (What is the plural of phoenix??? Phoeni? Phoenixes???), hummingbirds and other assorted fowl.

34. I’m not in awe of the price of # 33….at least not enough to bring it home in pieces in my suitcase.

35. O’Asia is not an Irish Asian restaurant, but the food there will make you feel lucky to visit.

36. When forced to choose between an interactive music museum and a world-renown glass artist, MaryAnn picks the glass artist.

37. When the hubby is forced to choose between an interactive music museum and a world-renown glass artist, the hubby picks the interactive music museum.

38. Neither one of us felt cheated.

39. Dale Chihuly is a genius.

40. The Hamilton Middle School string orchestra and jazz choir will make you wish your kids were raised in the Seattle public school system.

41. I don’t do Kenyan curry well.

42. I do potato chips and yogurt much better.

43. The daughter is as giddy as a kid at Christmas when taking new forms of transportation. Let’s just say Ms. Master’s Graduate liked the ferry ride.

44. We adore the houses on the shore at Bainbridge Island. We doubt the owners of these houses adore the ferry still coming into the nearby dock at 2 am.

45. The drive from Bainbridge to Sequim is breathtaking.

46. MaryAnn needs to quit saying the phrase, “Pretty, pretty.”

47. When the hubby needs a GPS holder, he recruits his wife.

48. The GPS holder has a lot of arthritis that doesn’t do well holding a GPS for 2 hours straight.

49. Sequim is pronounced, “Skwim.” I’ll remember that the next time I order my skinny latte.

50. There’s no fish and chips like the fish and chips prepared by a Kiwi.

51. They do xeriscaping in Sequim. Ummm….why? Is there a shortage of lawn mowers or something?

52. I lost count of the number of lead changes in the Indy 500 at lap 50.

53. I lost count of the number of drivers leading laps at lap 100.

54. I shouldn’t go 7 days without an allergy shot.

55. I went 9 days without an allergy shot.

56. If I go 9 days without an allergy shot, I should bring my Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Beta Carotene with me.

57. I get terse when I forget Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Beta Carotene.

58. There is nothing quite like fried raspberry cheesecake when I forget Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Beta Carotene.

59. The worst cup of coffee I had in “Starbucks Central” was in Seattle.

60. They don’t even give you pretzels on a 4 hour flight anymore. What is my $ 50 for a checked bag going for???

61. The EPA has decided that having a non-oil smelling airplane is good for my health. I now know what the $ 50 is going for.

62. I think I will invite the EPA to fly with me the next time I go to Seattle.

63. I will not invite the EPA to go through TSA pre-check with me.

64. When you get 5 seasoned fisher persons together with 2 rookies. the rookies will score the big fish.

65. If you want to avoid starvation, go with the rookies.

66. Because of # 65, I’m now divorced.

67. Did I mention I like TSA pre-check?

68. There’s no place like home and still no better family.

Friday’s Post: The Real Memorial Day…

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Lessons Learned from…


One of the unfortunate “side effects” of the last 2 heart attacks is that I can no longer take ginkgo biloba to help with my chronic memory problems. Anyone reading this blog has already probably concluded that I need more brain cells and thus, not being able to take this anymore did not help! Add to that being a little sidetracked by grief and it’s amazing that I’m even typing this right now.

So, to try and stave off the genetic heritage of dementia, I elected to join While some may call it pseudo-science, the reality is that I do think I might be making some small improvements here and there. I’ve only been a member for less than a month, so the jury is still out, but at least I’m actively trying to use my brain each day, which is more than I can say for the “Barney years” when I was only knowledgeable about Arthur, Oscar the Grouch, and Blue’s pal, Magenta.

But, here’s what I’m learning so far:

1. I am a good problem solver. Tell that to the diabolical level Sudoku puzzles I’m trying to complete.

2. I am pretty flexible. Ummm…I raised 3 kids (who couldn’t be more different if they were adopted), worked with college students who don’t know how to sign their names in cursive and counseled people who dream about doing nasty things to other people…in their dreams. Yeah, I think I already knew that.

3. I am lousy at speed tasks. Could that be because game systems came out when I was in the Barney years and I was too busy picking up those game systems??? Hmmm….To this day I have yet to play more than 1 computer game, unless WiiFit counts. (I suck at that, as well.)

4. I’m not much better at memory tasks.

5. Naming your web site “” doesn’t improve my memory. Why? Because it’s not a real word. And I confuse it with other words that are in the dictionary, such as illumine, luminescence, etc. Please note that I can spell those!

6. What is my name? See # 4.

7. I don’t do much better at attention tasks. Why? Because I’m still trying to answer # 6.

8. I’m improving at attention games. Why? Because I finally remembered my name.

9. I kick tail at games involving words. Go figure. Especially if you have to create words beginning with the stem “ill” or “lum”. See # 5.

10. I’m pretty speedy at answering simple math facts. This apparently improves my problem-solving score. I hate to argue with Lumosity, but I’m pretty sure that has to do with memorizing them as a child.

11. Memorizing is usually about employing your memory, right?

12. Since I’m already strong in the problem-solving category, could we up my memory score instead??? See # 11.

13. I am now processing better than the 70 and older age group. I guess I can delay reserving my room at the rest home until tomorrow?

14. I also seem to be remarkably smarter than the 16 to 20 age group. Would Lumosity send an email to my 19 year old to tell him that? Oh. Wait. Send him a text instead. He doesn’t do email anymore.

15. The only area where I don’t kick tail with the aforementioned age group is in the speed area. Perhaps that’s because I wasn’t born with a game controller in my hand like the 19 year old???

16. I have no sense of direction, particularly when it involves the arrow keys on my keyboard.

17. I seem to have an itchy trigger finger when it comes to the arrow keys on my keyboard.

18. I now hate all Lumosity games involving the arrow keys on my keyboard.

19. I think has failed to address one part of my brain–the part of my brain with no hand-to-eye coordination. Where are the games to work on that and measure that??? Oh. Wait. Maybe there are no games where a negative brain score is possible. That’s a glitch in their programming, right?

20.  More of my to-do list gets done if I “reward” myself with playing another Lumosity game.

21. Based on # 20, Pavlov’s dogs are laughing their heads off.

22. Based on # 20, I start addiction therapy next week.

Monday’s Post: Are you a pettifogger?

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Keeping Your 2014 Resolutions: Color-Coded To-Do List

to-do list

Book Club Members: I am up to Passover Week in Killing JesusI am finding the politics of Jesus’ time very, very interesting. How about you?

Warning: You might want to get a beverage first.

I am doing a small series on how to increase your chances of keeping your 2014 New Year’s resolutions. Most of us generally want to improve each year, but we often fail because we fail to plan. Today I discuss another way that I keep myself on track with the changes I want to make each year. It’s my color-coded to-do list:

1. I create a simple list at the top of my “Date List” that only includes 16 items each day in a Word document. Why 16? Because you have a better chance of keeping your resolutions if you are well rested. Many research studies indicate that you need 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night. As we age, some of us can get away with 5 – 6 hours of sleep. If that is your situation, then you can add 1 – 3 more items to your to do list. That leaves you 16 hours a day to work, to do household chores, to study, to run errands and to improve your life.

2. I write down things as I think of them for what I want to accomplish that day. This includes daily items, such as reading my Bible and washing the dishes (They never leave the list even if I get them done every day!). It includes appointments and things that must take place that day such as: “Go to XYZ appointment” and “Take out the trash”. It includes items from my date list which now should have not only appointments on there, but also the deadline dates for the steps in my improvement projects. When I hit 16, I stop adding items.

3. Then, I look at the 16 items and find the 5 most important things for me to do that day. For instance, appointments are probably going to be red (can’t do them any other day!). I simply highlight those 5 items and click on the font color button and make them all red.

4. Then, I look at the remaining 11 items and decide which ones are the next most important to get done. These usually include my daily items, such as exercise, getting the mail, and doing laundry. I pick the 5 most important and highlight them and make their font color yellow. (Think about traffic lights!)

5. The remaining 6 items become green in font color.

6. I attack the red items first until all of them are accomplished.

7. Once all the red items are done, I attack the yellow items until all of them are done. (I at least make progress on all of them, giving each one at least 10 minutes of my time.)

8. If I am fortunate enough to get all of the yellow items done, then I start attacking the green items. Notice I said, “If”! There are lots of days when I don’t get all the yellow items done and thus, the green items never even make it to my attention!

9. I use the strikeout button to cross off the things I’ve done each day. This makes me feel accomplished, even if the only thing I accomplished was cleaning out my belly button lint. (You can’t let that stuff build up…it might attack you in the middle of the night when you least expect it.)

10. At the end of each day, I highlight everything on the list and “unstrike” them by clicking on the strikeout button again. Then, I highlight them again and turn the font color black.

11. Now, I delete any items that were accomplished and don’t need to be done ever again (or at least not the next day!). Depending on how many items are still left, I add on items for tomorrow based from my date list and any other new commitments that may have cropped up during the day until I get to the magical 16. Then, I re-code them red, yellow and green as in Steps 5-7 above.

What I have learned from using this system is that the yellow items eventually become red and the green items become yellow. Since I’m pretty good at getting the red items done every day and some of the yellow items every day, most things get accomplished eventually and amazingly, on time!

There are good days and bad days. Why? Because sometimes life intervenes and crises arise. For instance, right now a family situation has cropped up that requires a lot of my attention. But, I’m still getting at least a few of the red items done every day and the family’s agenda has temporarily become my agenda, meaning that the most important things are being done (taking care of my family)–my agenda has just become mostly yellow and green for right now.

Also, some days I lack motivation and just need a break from the to-do list, so I often look at my to-do list on these days and don’t see a lot accomplished. But, resting is important, because if I don’t take care of myself, I’ll be in a hospital or dead and then my agenda really won’t get accomplished. I do have days where I’m just plain lazy, so this past year I did even more with that to-do list to combat my procrastination tendencies:

1. Since I feel accomplished crossing off things on my list, I estimate how many minutes it will take me to get each item done. I put that number next to the item.

2. When I’m lazy, I find the red item taking the least amount of time and do it first. Then I take the red item with the next least amount of time estimated and do it next. That way I can pretty quickly cross off several items within an hour or two.

3. The increasing number of items crossed off motivates me to get those yellow items done next. By the end of the day, that “lazy day” turned into a pretty productive day!

Do you have to do this exactly as I have described above? No. Do what works for you! But, get busy and try some system and see if you can’t keep those resolutions better in 2014! Even if you fail and your system didn’t work, you at least tried and learned that you need to try a different system and that, my dear reader, is progress and improvement.

Point to Ponder: Try the system above if you’ve never done it. If you aren’t a computer whiz, then just use a notebook to make your to-do list and use highlighters to color-code it. You can also use “A”, “B”, and “C” to order your priorities for the day. Or, “R” for red; “Y” for yellow; and “G” for green. The point is to get started today…somehow…some way. Do it! No more procrastination! Then, give yourself a small reward for being so good!

Friday’s Post: Keeping Your 2014 Resolutions: Blissful Sleep!

You might also like: Keeping Your 2014 Resolutions: the Date List and Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions: Backwards Planning


Keeping Your 2014 Resolutions…the Date List

calendar dates

Book Club Members: I’m into the “early ministry years” of Killing Jesus. How about you?

Warning: You might want to get favorite beverage.

Contrary to what is probably your first impression of the above title, this is not a list of celebrities you’d like to date! This is developing a to-do list based on a “date list” that you compile after you look at all of your resolution steps, deadlines and important dates.

Many of you who have “your acts together” may think the following is really rudimentary. But, what I’m learning is that many, many people struggle to overcome the non-stop ravages of something that has been plaguing them for years. So, if that’s you, read on. If you’ve got it together, how about sharing how you accomplish tasks and projects by sharing a comment with us below? Two minds are better than one, even if it turns into a “committee meeting.” 🙂

On to the Date List idea. I am always attracted to innovative, attractive planners and planning systems with cool graphics. Unfortunately, these don’t seem to work for me. I don’t even want to think about how much money and time I’ve wasted on such stuff. What started working for me was the back of a spiral notebook and a pen/pencil. Yep, that’s what worked. Now, I use a Word document. Yes, just one. Why the Word document? Because it’s “green”, cheap, my laptop has a delete key that gets used more than I care to admit, and I can cross things off and color-code with the click of a mere button.

While in grad school I was juggling a lot of responsibilities: schoolwork in a 21st century college setting (I felt like I got my bachelor’s in the stegosaurus era.) 3 hour classes at the end of the day when most of us middle-aged people are trying to put our feet up and trying very hard not to think actively, work in a very active graduate assistant’s position, mothering duties, husband-wife time, housekeeping, car maintenance, home improvement projects, and helping my daughter plan her wedding. Sometimes I was also balancing trying to get in 150 hours of counseling in 16 weeks–another requirement for the master’s degree. Did I do all of these things perfectly? No! But, I accomplished a lot and realized I’m not perfect and neither is anyone else. If they look perfect, it’s an illusion.

I found myself completely lost with all the deadlines circulating in my head because of all of this. So, at the back of one of my spiral notebooks used for class notes I started writing down all the deadlines based on the project/role/task in question. I didn’t worry about whether they were in chronological order–I just wrote them all down from calendars, to-do lists, backwards planning and syllabi. Then, I put them in chronological order. From there I created a to-do list for each day. The tasks for the first date on my list go on the to-do list first, even if my backwards planning has managed to miss a step or two. The 2nd date’s tasks go next on the list until I get to 16 items. (More about my to-do list next week). I keep adding tasks on my daily to-do list until I get to 16 items. Why 16? Read next Wednesday’s post!

While in grad school, I would compile a date list for an entire semester–it just seemed like a good “cutoff.” Now I do it about a month ahead, but continually. In other words today I will add items on the date list for 2/10/2014. I keep my date list right below my to-do list in my Word document, so that I can make sure that the most urgent deadlines are always on the same screen with my to-do list.

So, let’s see what a portion of my date list might have looked like in 2011:

    • 1/9 Take out trash
    • 1/9 Work from 1 to 5 pm
    • 1/9 Read Ch. 2 of Culture book
    • 1/9 Meet with site supervisor at 6 pm
    • 1/9 Counsel client at 7 pm
    • 1/9 Pick up youngest from church youth meeting
    • 1/10 Work from 8 am to 12 noon
    • 1/10 Class from 6 to 9 pm
    • 1/10 Read Ch. 3 of Theory book
    • 1/10 Pick out a research topic for culture class
    • 1/10 Bring trash can inside
    • 1/10 Meet daughter to select wedding invitations
    • 1/10 Take daughter to dinner


Get the idea? Now, I have to be honest. I’ve been doing this for so long now, that my date list is no longer this specific. Now, it would probably just say, “Work…Trash…Ch. 3 Culture” next to a particular date. But, I put enough there to jog my very faulty memory. One of the common date list items now is “Post,” meaning that I need to have a post fully written, edited, published and promoted by that particular day. Anything that I do on a daily basis like exercising, doing dishes, cleaning, and doing laundry is not on the date list…only items that have a specific deadline.

What’s the beauty of this system? It forces me to deal with the highest priorities and deadlines first and it forces me to think about all the tiny steps and tasks that must be done to meet those deadlines. 

Would this list work for a planner or smart phone app? Absolutely. So, if you like your planner or app, use it! I’m not insisting you do this my way–this is what works for me.

The best part? If you create a date list, you often have time for a…date night. 🙂 But, to this day, I’m still waiting on a date night with…George Clooney.

Point to Ponder: Is your brain “swimming” with deadlines? Do you just want to “throw in the towel” and give up? Stop. Breathe. Get a pen and a piece of paper. Get your favorite beverage. Sit down. Pull out all the calendars, papers, flyers, brochures and anything that has a date/deadline on it and compile your date list on a piece of paper. Take it calendar-by-calendar, project-by-project, until you have one really long list. Now, put that list in chronological order with the earliest deadlines first. It’s okay if you miss one or two and have to add in some few, in between lines. Nobody is going to see this list except you–so it can be as messy as it has to be. If necessary, re-write the list once you’re sure you didn’t miss any important dates/deadlines. Don’t forget your backwards planning dates for all of your resolutions! Good job! You’re on your way to keeping those resolutions and being the successful person you envision!

Monday’s Post: Have you ever engaged in stichomythia?

You might also like: Keeping your 2014 Resolutions…Backwards Planning, Keeping your New Year’s Resolutions…for good; and Because I Want to Be With You


Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions…Backwards Planning

painting a wall

Warning: You might want to get a beverage first. 

Last Friday I discussed that a possible reason why we don’t keep our New Year’s resolutions is because we fail to break down these lofty ambitions into “bite-sized” pieces. In the past when I have succeeded at keeping my resolutions, it has helped if I take those pieces and schedule them onto my daily “to-do list.” I work backwards on this. How? I take the date I want to realize my goal or resolution and then order the pieces backwards from that date, putting the last critical piece closest to the “due date” to complete the resolution. This year I really need to get busy and paint one of our bedrooms. I’m trying to turn it into a guest room.

I may have visitors wanting to use that guest room by as early as February 1st.  So, here are the pieces of that painting resolution, in reverse order:

1. Dust and vacuum finished room.

2. Remake guest room bed.

3. Put furniture back in place.

4. Remove all drop cloths and painter’s tape.

5. Clean up paint cans, trays, rollers and brushes.

6. Finish 2nd coat trimming.

7. Finish 2nd coat painting.

8. Finish 1st coat trimming.

9. Finish 1st coat painting.

10.  Spackle holes or dents.

11. Tape around door and window frames. Put down drop cloths

12. Move or cover furniture.

13. Purchase paint and spackle.

14. Select a paint color.

15. Get paint samples.

Since my health adventures can often derail these resolutions, if I don’t plan for them, I also try to build in a few “ill days” just in case. This is a good idea, even if you don’t have my health adventures–you never know when life is going to hand you a “curve ball.” So, if I’m working backwards, here’s when I need to get each of these steps done, date-wise:

February 1st – Ready for company

January 31st – Dust and vacuum room

January 30th – Remake bed.

January 29th – Put furniture back in place.

January 28th – Remove painter’s tape and drop cloths.

January 27th – Clean up all painting equipment & finish 2nd coat trimming.

January 25th – Finish 2nd coat painting.

January 24th – Finish 1st coat trimming.

January 23rd – Finish 1st coat painting.

January 22nd – Spackle holes and dents

January 21st – Tape around door and window frames. Put down drop cloths.

January 20th – Move furniture.

January 18th – Purchase paint and spackle.

January 17th – Select a paint color.

January 16th – Get paint samples.

Once the above is completed, I start putting the first dates’ tasks on my to do list as I complete other tasks. My daily to-do list only has 16 items on it. Why? Because you cause your body undue stress and illness by not getting 8 hours of sleep per day and that leaves you 16 hours to get things done out of a possible 24. Granted–some items on my to-do list take much longer than an hour, but many also take less than an hour, so this seems to work for me.

What if a resolution requires the same repetitive step day-after-day? This is also true of me. It needs to stay on that to-do list so you remember to do it and not allow other things to get in the way of completing it, if at all possible. I make this easy for myself by keeping a simple Word document of my daily to-do items. It makes deleting and color-coding my list really easy (more about that in a later post). I tried to do this on a fancy planner and on a computerized and smart phone version and I grew irritated with all of them. The KISS to-do list document works best for me and I’m not killing trees in the process. I started using this process in grad school and seem so much more productive since then. (Not perfect, but better!) But, if you like the fancy planner, smart phone or computer-version, be my guest and use it. The biggest mistake is not to plan at all!

Point to Ponder: Ready to get started on putting deadline dates on all of your “pieces” for attaining completion of that resolution item? Good for you! It’s okay if you struggle to put the “pieces” in reverse order as I did above. That’s what a delete key is for! Just keep working at it until you have thought of every step or piece and keep re-arranging them until they are completely in reverse order. Then, assign a target date to complete your resolution. Then, schedule target dates for each of those steps/pieces based on your target completion date. Don’t forget to build in some “days off” for unexpected things!

Friday’s Post: Keeping Your 2014 Resolutions…Color-Coding Your Daily To-Do List

You might also like: Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions…for good; How I Cope with a Heart That’s a Ticking Time Bomb, and You 3.0: Questions & Tips, Part III


The 12 Days of MIP: 8 & 7…

dental office

Book Club Lovers: Author Jane Christmas has offered to answer questions regarding her book, And Then There Were Nuns, for our book discussion this month. How do you feel about this possibility? Please comment below or send me an email. Click here to email. Thank you! And she just shocked the tar out of me today with the passage I read!

My next two favorite posts are, once again, an illustration of going from the sublime to the ridiculous. If you don’t know what I mean you may want to click here or here to see the other posts in this series!

Number 8:

The New Information on Prinzmetal Angina…

I completely understand why this post is not one of the most viewed items on MIP. It’s factual and probably not that entertaining. But, when I was first diagnosed with Prinzmetal Angina I was told that 1 out of 2 Prinzmetal Angina patients never even make it through their first heart attacks. Since Prinzmetal patients are often diagnosed in the prime of their lives (often in their 20s or 30s), this death rate leaves countless young children and spouses with a missing, but essential person in their lives at an age when few are expecting to say goodbye to their wives, husbands, mothers or fathers. That death rate is unacceptable to me and to the 139,000 other Americans who live with this condition–a condition that is not mitigated by exercise, eating right or taking your heart medications regularly.

When you’re in the hospital recovering from a heart attack, you’re strapped down, almost literally, by a pile of machines. Thus, you can’t go anywhere. You have a LOT of time to think. While in the hospital the first time, I found it astonishing that I had survived at all. I couldn’t fathom any logical reason why I would survive while all the other patients in the CICU that week never made it out of there (except in a hearse). One of the few reasons I believe I survived is that I have a “big mouth,” both in speech and in writing. And so, I believe I’m here to spread the word about Prinzmetal Angina and to suggest that more research needs to be done to prevent Prinzmetal deaths. In the 14 years intervening between my two sets of heart attacks, we do know more and let’s hope we learn even more in the next 10 to 15, when I probably will re-enter the hospital with heart attacks yet again (a near certainty for Prinzmetal patients).  And finally, I believe I’m here to remind folks that you can have heart attacks even if you do everything right; thus, it makes sense to take care of yourself so that you have an excellent chance of recovering from those heart attacks. My belief about that probably saved my life 4 times in 14 years. Still want to pick up that donut or cigarette? Put it down now and click here.

Number 7:

Lessons Learned from My Dentist…

One thing I noticed, as my parents aged, was that they had a never-ending series of medical appointments to keep. This and attending the funerals of their friends became a full-time job when retired. I, myself, have chosen to work from home, at least for now, because similar things are happening to me. This is not encouraging since I’m still in my early 50s. Since I don’t have interesting discussions at the water cooler anymore, visiting the dentist semi-annually can become the highlight of my day. (Pretty soon I’m going to be talking to random strangers who all try to get away from me as fast as they can.) Click here to see what I mean.

Friday’s Post: The 12 Days of MIP: 6 & 5

You might also like: The 12 Days of MIP: 10 & 9…; The 12 Days of MIP: 12 & 11; and The Odd Days of December


The 12 Days of MIP: 10 & 9…


If you read my post from last Wednesday, then you know I’m in the midst of revealing my 12 favorite posts from this past year which most likely will not make it into the Top 10 or Top 12 of what all of my readers viewed most frequently. Why 12? Because I adore the Christmas song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Thus, this is my little tribute to that illusive bird known as the partridge. Seriously, how many of you have actually seen a partridge???

These posts all missed the top 12 in viewership by a “hair.” May I conclude that you still liked them? Just not as much as the Top 10 or 12 (which I will reveal in January)? I hope so.  Here are # 10 and # 9 and why I consider them my favorites.

Number 10:

“Because I Want to Be with You…”

When I started MIP I wasn’t sure I wanted my Christian viewpoint to take “center stage” in what I posted. But, little by little, God worked on my heart and I realized the whole point of my writing is to work on building a closer relationship with Him. While not every post will be evident of this, a great many of them reveal just how blessed I feel to have Him in my life. This post recounts the beginning of the realization that it was okay to be publicly open about my Christianity, despite an increasingly secular world viewpoint. I debated, for a long, long time whether or not to post this story because it makes me sound crazy and because I hope to fictionally include it in my first book. But, finally, I just couldn’t stand not sharing it, much like Jeremiah just couldn’t stop prophesying. Click here to either review that story or to read it for the first time!

Number 9: 

Lessons Learned from a Routine Examination…

This post is probably the total reverse of the tone of # 10! Because of my health adventures, I have to endure a lot of examinations and hospitalizations. The medical community’s major mistake is to actually make a writer wait for such stuff. It gives me entirely too much time to construct my next posts about the embarrassing and silly things doctors and nurses ask one to endure to take care of health issues. Yes, some of this is definitely fictionalized, but it is oh, so based on actual reality. Click here to laugh again or to get your first insight into the nonsense that is my life.

Monday’s Post: Do you fard? (I beg your pardon!)

You might also like: The 12 Days of MIP: 12 & 11; The Odd Days of December; and Don’t Need Any More Stuff This Christmas? How About This?