Habits, routines and apps, oh my!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how daily habits can really make or break you, so to speak. I have found that if I put off my top priorities for ‘later in the day’, they don’t always happen.   What I do first thing in the morning has everything to do with what kind of day follows. So I gave my routine a mini overhaul. Now I walk-jog before breakfast, and start in on my writing shortly afterwards.  No matter what takes place the rest of the day, if I’ve exercised and written, I am invincible.

I appreciate the words of fiction writer Anna Quindlen when she describes the importance of her own routine.  During her interview with Gretchen Rubin (author of the Happiness Project), Quindlen says: I have a picket fence of habits to keep me on track.  I neither like nor dislike them; I just need them to do my work. I really like how she compares her habits to a picket fence- keeping productivity in and wasted time and energy out.  Her habits include eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch each day so as not to spend brain power on such decisions. This sounded rigid to me, until I recalled the many times I floundered for breakfast. Oatmeal? An egg? No, yogurt with fruit. Hmm, but we have this new cereal…

I think the key to forming lasting habits is to know yourself and what will actually work for you. Then do it. The beauty of a well formed habit is that we no longer have to think about it. We can use our precious energy for other things- things that really matter to us. Although I am not one of them, I understand that many people thrive on finding and using more and better technology for their everyday needs. Therefore, I did a simple search on some top habit forming apps available on iTunes.  Here are a few:

Carrot– This one is definitely the most amusing. It’s introduction is “Don’t Suck at Life”.  This app is your tough love coach- oh and it has a gender- it’s a girl. She will reward you and punish you, depending on how you are doing. You can earn points or carrots, or whatever she calls them. Those familiar with video games will speak her language.  If you like competition, and do well with negative reinforcement, this one is for you. Also, I read that it does not overload you with options when you start, so you probably won’t spend more time figuring out the features than you will engaging in the desired habit.

The Way of Life- The Ultimate Habit Maker-This one sounds very basic, and is data driven. The free version limits you to three habits, and you simply type them in and check off boxes each time that you meet your goal. You will get a visual of how you are doing as you go along.

Lift– If you are looking for short term support, this one lasts for just seven days, and it somehow involves community support.

Whatever your habit-forming style is, there is a way to succeed.  The distance between feeling like you suck at life, and feeling on top of the world, may just be a few simple habits away!



Where can all that stuff go?

For anyone who is doing more than just your average spring cleaning, and needs places to put all the stuff they may be clearing out of their homes, I have shared a few links below to help the process.   In addition to yard sales, and Craigslist, you may be looking to donate some of your things. Goodwill and  Big Brother organizations are just two of many good options. Unwanted stuff needn’t go in a landfill. There are plenty of people and organizations that may be able to put it to good use. Knowing that makes it easier for some people to let their clutter go. Just be careful not to let the donation period drag on for years!







Motherhood and all that

Maternity Stock Photography

When I thought about writing something for Mother’s Day, my focus was scattered and unsure. It is like trying to write on the topic of love for Valentine’s Day. I mean it’s just so broad and all-encompassing and elicits too many ideas. Sure, I could write about my own motherhood experience (where do I start? where do I end?) and how proud I am of my nearly grown children. And what it has been like to raise three daughters, through their growing up years, having three sets of eyes watching me, learning what it means to be female and a grownup; the ways I succeeded and the ways I may have fallen short. I might like to take credit for who they are becoming, but I also know that some of this-maybe even a lot of it- really has very little to do with me.

Or I could write about the loss of my own mother after my parents’ volatile divorce when I was four, and the need for truth that this mystery evoked in me. Etched in my mind in outlines and colors, reddish hair, white skin. What would I call her? My mother or my imagination? But that story is already part of my memoir, so I will just say this about it: It has kept me off my suburban high horse, and left me knowing that where we lucky mothers paint our homes and pay our bills and hold our children close, we could possibly, easily, slip into pretending that this is how it is for all mothers, everywhere. But other mothers have other stories, sometimes tragically different from our own.

I really did not want to go on and on about any of this, so I thought I would share a link to Brain, Child magazine which has several excellent Mother’s Day posts. http://www.brainchildmag.com/  I was particularly struck by Janelle Hanchette’s story, “This Mother’s Day, Celebrate Somebody Else”. After reading it, I wandered onto her blog and found another Mother’s Day post titled,I’ve Summarized Every Mother’s Day Post (in two sentences or less) So You Don’t Have to Read Them..”  www.renegademothering.com

So there you have it. Her language is very colorful, and certainly blunt and humorous but she has come to happiness in motherhood after some tragic years of alcoholism. Why wouldn’t she be colorful? Her suffering, and failure as a mother, eventually churns into strength and love and wisdom and surely has made her more interesting. What I found most valuable about her story is what I most want my daughters to grasp:  That if bad things ever happen to them, they will very likely come out better at the other end. Of course I wish them joyful, peaceful, and meaningful lives, preferably free from pain and loss and hardship. I want them to be happy. But what is happiness? This is what I think it is: knowing that you have an invisible strength even before you think you need it, and believing that growth and wisdom and all kinds of interesting things come from all the challenges that mothers don’t want their children to face.