Five Minute Friday – Search

Oh my, how I have searched. I feel like my last decade has been spent searching. At first, I was searching for answers. What was cardiomyopathy? Did babies really have heart transplants and lead semi-normal lives afterward? What was it like to live in a Ronald McDonald House? Were we really going to be able to do all this medical stuff when we went home? Where was home going to be? Could we go back to doing all the things we had done before? Could we work? Could we send our daughter to school? It was an endless barrage of questions, some answered, some not.

After we came home, I began a search for normal. We had a place to live now, but what was our normal going to be like? I was back at work, but how could I predict if our baby would be healthy or not? How could I get it all done? How could we commute four hours for doctor’s appointments once every three months? How would I find other moms to hang out with when we had been away for months and months and none of my friends or co-workers had babies? Could I leave her with a babysitter? They would have to give her medicines through syringes and deal with a Broviak catheter in her chest. She didn’t sleep in a crib well, so they wouldn’t be able to just “put her down” to sleep. We wouldn’t be able to “put her down” to sleep either. Should we co-sleep? Should we have her continue to sleep in her pack n play like she did at the Ronald McDonald House? She could sleep on the couch next to us in her boppy pillow. Would we ever sleep again?

Once we got through that stage and found our new normal, my search began for myself again. And that search is on-going. I am happy to be a mom. I like my job as a college instructor. I am enjoying being a Girl Scout leader. BUT. Always, the but. Do I want to do 5Ks? Do I want to do crafts? Do I want to compete in something? Am I doing all I am meant to do? Am I ever going to be a mom who can keep the house clean? I think I need to make more money, but maybe I just need to spend less. Should we be living in a house instead of a townhouse? Should I really own six animals? Will I ever get all the laundry done? Am I a writer? Should I be a speaker? Can I reach more people through consulting and maybe make some more money along the way? Am I doing too much? Am I not doing enough? How will I know?

I am in the midst of the search for myself and my goals and what is meant to be. This week, I am trying a new planner I heard about on a podcast. The Rise Up planner by Moira Kucaba. When I heard about it, it spoke to me. I am one who struggles with staying positive, keeping track, focusing on the right things and having a vision for myself. This planner seemed like it might be helpful. I feel like I have zero vision for myself other than to get through it.

Well, I forgot to start my timer. LOL. This may speak to where I am right now in the scheme of things. So, I will let you know how this planner goes!


Five Minute Friday – Influence

Joining up with Five Minute Friday on a Monday this week. It was a long weekend, so we went to my in-laws on Friday and I focused on getting my Winter Session grades done (which I did, other than late work, which I will be entering today and will be done with that before starting Spring semester tomorrow). But, I didn’t want to miss a Five Minute Friday so early in the year, so I figured, better late than never! This week’s prompt is “influence”.

Influence has taken on a whole new meaning in this age of electronic communication. I wrote a bit about this before in my post, “Do We Need A Following?” I have been reading blogs for a long time and I have noticed how many more people are describing themselves as “influencers”. There are lifestyle influencers, fitness influencers, parenting influencers, and the list goes on and on. But, what does this really mean? In a lot of cases, it simply means “salespeople”. But, I guess we feel better about being influenced than we do being sold things.

I think of “influence” as so much more than selling something though. Influence is the ability to change someone’s behavior or choices and like any other form of power, it comes with a lot of responsibility. That responsibility is often forgotten in the exchange though. We think of the person being influenced and we put a lot of responsibility on them. “Resist”. “Be aware and think before acting.” But, what about the influencers themselves? Do they have any responsibility to be ethical? I mean, I know we have laws that make people post when they are using affiliate links (so we know they are financially gaining from the clicks) and we have some expectations for the bloggers we read to be honest in their opinions online. We have always been sold things in our daily lives, after all.

But, the internet takes it to a whole new level. I worked in retail during high school and my first few years of college. I remember the uncomfortable feeling of having to ask someone if they were interested in pairing that sweater with some socks or getting a discount for applying for a credit card. That discomfort was from hearing my mom’s voice in my head every time, saying that if she was interested in those things she would have ASKED for them. My mom was not a retail fan. But, it made me consider whether I was actually asking them about the socks and credit cards to help THEM or to help ME (or our company, although we often got points for upselling items) and the answer was often ME (or our company). Every once in a while someone actually needed a pair of socks and didn’t realize we had them on sale, but that was really rare. That discomfort stemmed from not only my upbringing, but also the fact that I was looking someone in the face when I was asking. I could often tell when someone was pushing it to get the sweater alone. But, still, we were supposed to ask them about the socks. And maybe if they got a credit card they could go into debt to get them! The internet takes away the face-to-face. The posts are written with millions in mind and no one in mind. There is no indication of whether someone reading can afford the items listed or are struggling to just get through a day of meals. But, they chose to click, so aren’t they responsible? I’m just not so sure.

Some influencers are really responsible and honest and ethical. But, there are many out there who may not have considered what it means to be an influencer, but instead are focused on being a seller. Whether young or unaware or naive or purposefully uncaring, they just don’t think/care about the impact they can/will have on a large number of people. I am going to try to support those influencers (life Five Minute Friday) who have their readers at heart when they write their posts. They may sell things, but they do so in a way that recognizes their readers as humans and try to add value to their readers’ lives, not just value to their own wallets. It isn’t always easy to tell the difference, but if you read for long, it will usually become apparent.


Five Minute Friday – Better

I am joining the Five Minute Friday community on this first community post of 2019! It probably isn’t an accident that this week’s prompt is “better”.

I am a perfectionist. No one would know that from watching my behavior. I am constantly making a mess, leaving messes and having to fix mistakes I’ve made. But, most of those are problematic because of my perfectionism. I often won’t do something because I know I won’t be able to do it perfectly. That means that nothing gets done and the problem or the situation gets worse. So, I have to learn to embrace “better”. It is the perfect response to perfectionism.

I preach this to my daughter and to my students, but I often forget it myself. I have seen what can be done through incremental improvements. In fact, most things won’t improve at all without incremental improvements. Small steps lead to big trips. So, by being a little better each day, we can become the person we’ve only dreamed of being. By focusing on doing better with our actions – whether they be choosing healthy foods or exercising regularly or writing regularly – we will improve. The difficult part comes in the wait. Patience is often difficult to hold on to while we are only getting slightly better day-to-day. We (well, at least I) want to see the impacts right now! We don’t just want to get better each day, we want to get great immediately.

This year, I’ve chosen “less” as my one word. And one of the ways I will use that word is to focus less on big changes and instead move to just be slightly better day-to-day. Better at taking care of myself, my home, my family and doing my work. I’m not going to be perfect. I’m not going to be the best. I’m just going to have to settle for better and realize that God didn’t make me to be perfect. He made me to live life in His grace and forgiveness, but strive to be better – to try to live as Jesus lived. Not because I can live as Jesus lived, but because trying to live that way – making decisions based on those principles – will make me a better person. Ever-so-slightly better.


Independent Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday is on a break this week, so I’m doing one independently. I’m going to use my Word for 2019 as my prompt – Less.

In 2019, instead of looking for more in my life, I’m looking for less. As I look around my home, my calendar, my life in general, I realize my More at Forty goals has got me way too much at fifty. I have too many things. I have too many obligations. I have too much food in my fridge and freezer and pantry. I have too many books. I have too many pets. So, although I won’t be changing the name of this blog to “lessatfifty.com” it is tempting. So, what does this mean?

Well, first it means doing some major decluttering of my home and my calendar. I have been decluttering for a while now, but I must admit that I do it with a bit of reserve. I get rid of some things, but hold on to others even though I don’t use them or want them because of some obligation I have to others or some idea I have of myself. I am often the same way with my schedule. I will get rid of one thing, only to add two others because of some form of FOMO. So, now I need to get serious about both my things and my schedule.

Our society is so focused on getting more, having more, showing more. I’m ready to seek less, have less and show less in 2019.


2019 One Word – Less

Kind of ironic that my blog is named “More” at Forty and I’m choosing my one word for 2019 to be “Less,” but I think it makes sense for me. Maybe I should rename my blog, “More at Forty and Less at Fifty”. I have come to the realization that I need to do something to give myself more space for rest and recovery and fun and relaxation and enjoyment. But, to do that, I need to have a lot LESS scheduled into my life and a lot LESS stuff to move around, take care of, clean, and deal with. I have been reading about minimalism and I realize that my mind craves space to think and reflect.

I have spent so long feeling like I needed to be something more or do something more that I am constantly exhausted. Today I realized that I am often striving to be someone I don’t even know or like, but that others think I SHOULD be. I am constantly seeking approval from others and it is exhausting. So, the first thing I will be looking for less of is approval from others. I am going to focus on my own approval. What do I approve of for myself? What do I want for myself? And that, my friends, will be my focus. I am tired of wanting to please others all. the. time. It is exhausting. And usually disappointing.

I am also going to be looking to have and do less. As I look around my home, I notice that we have so much. And a lot of that never goes to its intended use. I have so many books that I have never read and still I go to the library. Why have all the books? I also have piles of papers from students (the semester just ended and there is lots of grading to be done). Why have all the grading? Most of them will not learn anything from my grading. They have either learned from the process or will simply not learn. So, why have it all? I am stuck with it now, but moving forward, I realize neither me nor my students need all this grading. Why have so many clothes? Why have so much camping gear for our once a year (maybe twice a year) trips? Why have so many glasses for three people? So many bowls? So many plates. The volume of it all is overwhelming when I think about it. We don’t appreciate it or use it and love it. We simply have it. And having is no longer enough for me.

I am sure that this commitment to less will be hard to do at times. After all, I am a person who is constantly suffering from FOMO and I spontaneously buy things often. I often feel “need” when really it is simply “want”. And that want isn’t even something that exists beyond that first burst of good feeling after purchasing or getting something.

I look at photos of simple, minimalist homes online and I immediately feel comforted. I feel calm. I want that in my everyday life, not just when I’m looking at things online. I also want to give my daughter a better idea of what it means to be comfortable and calm. I can already see in her this need for “more” constantly and I want to stop it before it gets to be something that is so difficult to change.


Five Minute Friday – With

Joining the linkup over at Five Minute Friday this week. It is the last one of 2018. I am hoping to participate a little more regularly in 2019.

“With”. It is a small word that has big meaning. This has been a rough couple of months in our little corner of the world. I live in Chico CA, next to Paradise and near Concow, where the Camp Fire ravaged a majority of those cities. We are now six weeks out from the fire starting, about two weeks out from its end and the impacts are being felt all over. Our smallish city (90,000 in a rather spread out area) has taken on a new population of fire victims that number in the 10s of 1000s. We have FEMA centers and insurance tents and a Red Cross Shelter at our fairgrounds that has a bunch of RVs and trailers that people are now calling “home”. When the fire first happened, people in Chico were welcoming and giving and patient. But, as time has worn on, that spirit has been dampened a bit. As our roads have gotten more crowded and lines have gotten longer and patience has worn thin and the holiday stress has taken over, people may be “for” the Camp Fire victims (they don’t wish them harm by any means), but they aren’t as much “with” the Camp Fire victims. They don’t want to suffer along WITH them. This idea of being “for” people or causes is strong in our society, but it becomes a little more unique to find people who are willing to be WITH those people or causes. We feel comfortable sending along our donations. We feel good about volunteering here and there to help out. But, when it comes to actually sitting or standing WITH the people who need help, it becomes harder. We are busy. We have our own stuff going on. We want our own space.

So, now the true test of our community begins. As we move forward and need to decide where to put FEMA trailers (we’ve already rejected them being put in an area near me because the “community” doesn’t want more traffic and there are limited “services” like stores and such – this, I think, is true of anywhere in our city now), will we be WITH those who need homes or we will view them as separate from us, where it is US vs. THEM and who should be valued more (or equally)? I think we will be asking these questions for many, many months to come. I hope that we will remember that we are all one community and we are here WITH them, dealing with this disaster of an unprecedented level. But, we may just decide we are FOR them instead and will look for ways to help that do not impact us in a way that means sacrifice and discomfort.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Countdown to Christmas 2018

One week is all there is left before Christmas 2018.  We don’t have a tree.  Our Elf on the Shelf has only moved a few times.  I’m not feeling terribly festive or joyful.  I’m not sure why.  It just hasn’t seemed like much of a holiday season this year.  We live in the community next to Paradise, CA where the Camp Fire ravaged an entire city.  I can’t say that it has personally impacted me much physically, but mentally, I’m just not feeling like celebrating much this year.  Every time I am out and about, I hear stories.  My Facebook feed is filled with friends digging through ashes at their former homes, looking for a few remnants to take to their new “homes” (many are still in hotels or trailers or sleeping on couches).  And although there are many stories of resilience and selfless giving and joyful reunions with animals, there is still an entire community that no longer exists in our midst.  

I feel the excesses of our lives so much more acutely this year.  I see the piles of things that barely get touched other than to move them from one location to another.  I feel guilty for having so much while others have nothing.  I feel even guiltier for not caring for what we have in a way that allows us to give to others.  But, most of all, I am overwhelmed.  I am overwhelmed with things to do, things to clean, things to organize, papers to grade, clothes to wash, more papers to grade, classes to prep.  And yet, none of it seems to be important anymore.  I mean, sure I want to go see lights and give my daughter a joyful Christmas, but then I think, what brings joy?  Presents?  Decorating?  Lights?  I feel like I’m jaded and I’ve jaded her.  I feel like I’m at the beginning of a Hallmark Christmas Movie, but there is no progression to the spirit of Christmas coming and rescuing us.  And the worst thing is that I don’t even know why I feel this way.  

So, the question is how do I focus on making this last week before Christmas be one of joy and celebration instead of just plodding along, getting things done (sort of) and feeling blah?  I think a Christmas Countdown Bucket List is in order!  So, here is my seven days to Christmas Countdown list:

  • Get a tree!  Even a small tree that we can put some decorations on and enjoy the lights twinkling will be better than what we have now.  So, that is the first order of business.  We have a permit to go cut one down, but it sounds daunting and difficult, so getting small one as a temporary solution should help.
  • Christmas Concert! My daughter is performing in the Winter Choir Concert at her school tomorrow.  So, we’ll make an evening of it.  
  • Christmas Caroling!  We will be caroling at a couple of nursing homes with my Girl Scout troop on Wednesday afternoon/evening.  
  • Mall shopping! I think one of the things I struggle with/miss is shopping during the season.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but I used to love going to the mall and seeing all the festive decorations and kids lined up to see Santa Claus.  I shop mostly online now and it is just not the same feeling to get a box on your front porch as it is to carry bags around the mall.  So, I think I’ll plan to visit the mall with my DD on Friday.  We’ll make a trip out of it – lunch and some treats are in order!
  • Christmas movie marathon! I had given up my Sling TV subscription just before Thanksgiving because it was all Christmas movies and I missed Murder She Wrote.  But, I think for this last week before Christmas, I will renew the subscription and put on the cheesy Hallmark Christmas Movies!  Glory to the predictable storylines and sentimental endings!  
  • Make Christmas cookies! I am not a baker, but I do love making some simple cookies and giving them to people.  So, I will plan to do that this week as well.  I think I will make some on Wednesday while my DD is at school and save one recipe to make with her before or after caroling that day.
  • Go see Christmas lights and get hot chocolate! Our local paper just put out its annual Christmas lights map this weekend, so we will take that and go see some lights and get some hot chocolate and listen to Christmas music!

There you have it!  Seven things to do during the last seven days before Christmas to try to get into the Christmas spirit.  Here’s hoping it works!  

What are you doing to get countdown to Christmas?  Is anything missing off of my list?