It’s Always Something

A friend commented today that she wasn’t getting my blog anymore. I had to come clean and admit that she wasn’t getting one because I hadn’t written anything in a few days. Well, almost a month if you’re going to be picky about it.

This is the cover.
This is the cover.

A large portion of my time was spent getting my latest book finished and ready to be launched last week. I’m glad to announce that the book is finished, printed and sent out into the world.

People have asked me how long it took to write. Here’s the thing: when you write a year’s worth of daily devotions you’re pretty much setting yourself up for writing about 366 devotions. (My former 6th grade teacher checked to make sure I’d remembered leap year provisions. I did.)

I started writing a lifetime ago; really, several lifetimes. Life kept interrupting me and throwing me off course. Accident and injury. Healing and physical therapy. Illness and death of people close to me. Sorting through a lifetime of memories in the form of a house and its contents. Caring for people who had cared for me.

My first year as an Associate Minister I kept waiting for the “slow time of the year.” About the time I celebrated my first anniversary there  I realized there was no such thing. With this book, I kept waiting for the “slow time,” the time when things would settle down. Still waiting.

Because, as Rosanne Rosannadanna reminded us, it’s always something. (Here’s a link in case you missed the comedy treasure that was Gilda Radner.) If you wait for the perfect time to write a book, to write a letter, to right a wrong you’ll never do it. Because there is no perfect time. There are only times that are marginally more manageable than others.

What are you waiting for? what are you waiting to do? Who are you waiting to be?

Now’s as good a time as any other to start.

Living Well

One of the questions that’s never far from the back of my mind is this: Are there other ways of reaching out and meeting people at the place of their need? One of the great joys of my work as a counselor is getting to see people make positive changes in their lives. Although I joke around that it’s quite the faulty business model (they come in, get better and leave) I love the bittersweet conversation with a client as they are finishing up  their work. Sometimes a new client will ask, “Do you really think that people can change?” My answer always is that I wouldn’t be in this profession if I didn’t.

At the same time, I know that not everyone makes it into a counselor’s office. Maybe they live in a remote area or their schedule is crazy. Maybe they don’t have insurance or they have a high deductible. Otr maybe they’re just not to the point of allowing themselves to take that next step to get help.

That’s why I’m proud to announce a new web site, Living Well (www.livingwellstuff.com) This is a place where I’ve gathered a lot of different articles and books that can be of help to people. The articles, which can be downloaded to Kindle (all of them) and Nook (some of them) range from brief guide available for free and slightly longer articles for no more than $2.99. Right now the articles include:

5 Ways to Stop Saying Yes When You Really Want to Say No

How to Heal From the Loss of Your Dog

Seven Ways to Help a Friend Who’s Lost a Pet

How to Find a Counselor

I’ve also included a link for downloading a free kindle app so you can read them even if you don’t own a kindle. Keep checking back because new articles are added regularly.

So how to make use of this web site? First of all, use it for your own benefit if any of the resources speak to you. Secondly, if you have friends who are facing these issues, send them here as a starting point. The articles are not long but there’s a lot of help packed in them. They are accessible in terms of the time it takes to read them and they are accessible in terms of what it takes to purchase them (if anything). Thirdly, if you are in a helping profesison (or simply a person upon whom people lean for help), I strongly encourage you to make use of the How to find a Counselor guide. It provides clarity about the differnces between psychologists, counselors, psychiatrists, social workers and pastoral counselors. Starting therapy can be a scary thing, and it helps people know what to expect.

Finally, let me know if you see a need that’s not being addressed. Maybe you and your friends find yourselves struggling with the same issue. Maybe it’s something you see in a lot of other people but don’t know how to help. Whatever it is, let me know. Because I am not all-knowing, I cannot promise an article will follow but I’ll do my best.

The 12 Days of Christmas: Surviving and thriving (Days 6-12: Punt)

Punt.

Yep, that’s my wisdom for today.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the wisdom I’d planned to have. I had such good plans. I’d blocked out the first three days of last week. No clients. Plenty of time at the office to get caught up on other tasks. I’d promised myself I’d leave no later than 4 each day to get Christmas things done… like get a tree, do shopping, finish getting the house ready for my family who was staying with me. It was such a good plan.

Monday morning  I waltzed into the office, efficiency oozing out of my pores. I started writing the sermon I was scheduled to preach Sunday night. But then I started feeling not so good. I started getting chills. I knew what was coming.

Flu.

That’s right, a rip-roaring, 102 degree fever case of the flu.  So much for my plan. I spent all week on my couch, working my way through the shows I’d recorded but had no time to watch. I discovered  I really liked The Chew. I spent a lot of time napping with my dogs.

None of which was on my list. Early in the week I contemplated my situation. None of the things I’d planned to do during the week were going to get done. It was time to punt.

In football, a coach decides to punt when there’s no real chance of gaining a first down. It’s not what they’d planned to do, but at least they could give themselves a chance to score the next time around. You’ll hear commentators talk about living to face another day.

I decided to punt. I might not get everything done that was on my list. I might not finish the touch-ups in my newly painted bathroom before my brother arrives. But the bathroom will be functional and we’ll all live. If I had to do gift cards for everyone, I could do that. I called the church to let them know that they’d better have a plan B in hand just in case I couldn’t make it.

I did wind up preaching. And after six hours of ninja shopping on Saturday, I finished my Christmas shopping. Hopefully today I’ll get a tree, and if that’s the only decorating I do, then so be it.

Because sometimes we can only do what we can do, not what we’d planned to do. Sometimes we just have to take stock of where things stand… and punt.

If all goes according to plan for you this Christmas, then blessings upon you. Enjoy it. And if it doesn’t, remember that sometimes there’s no shame in just punting. After all, you live to see another day.

 

12 Days of Christmas: Surviving and Thriving (Day 3: Present-Day Decisions)

First, let me begin with a disclaimer. I love Christmas shopping. I’ve had years where I found presents throughout the year so that when the first week of December rolled around,  I was done. And I’ve had years in which I was out there at the last minute, taking advantage of all of the desperation bargains. Either way, I really love looking for the right thing and finding that present that I’m reasonably sure they will enjoy.

I realize this passion is not universally shared.

Dealing with presents is usually at the top of lists of Christmas stress. Here are some tips to make life a little easier.

1. Before you begin, decide what you can do. Each year I decide how much money I have to spend on Christmas. I then divide that among by the number of presents I have to buy. And that’s my budget for each present. It doesn’t matter if I find just the perfect thing for someone. If it’s twice as much as my budget allows, I’ll keep looking. By sticking to the budget and paying in cash, I’m not hit with the month after remorse. Some years that budget has been pretty small, but it’s amazing what you can find on a good sale.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask. If you have no idea of what your niece would like, ask her. It doesn’t mean you love her less. People get into trouble applying the mythical wedding ring ESP to other family members. (The mythical wedding ring ESP refers to the belief that if your partner loves you, they should be able to read your mind.) If your niece asks for a new car and that is beyond your means, ask her for a longer list.

3. Presents don’t have to be perfect. It’s easy to fall into the trap of passing on a really good present in the quest for that absolutely perfect present. When you’re tempted to fall into that trap, remember that your good mental health is the best present of all that you can give your family.

4. Along these lines, presents aren’t magical. They probably will not mend fractured relationships, heal family dysfunctions and make up for everything you didn’t get as a kid. It probably won’t finally make your mom love you best when she’s always favored your brother. It’s a Christmas present. It can be pretty special but it probably won’t radically change your life. And that’s okay.

5. Figure out what works for you. Your family may decide to draw names. Or to put your present money together and spend it on a family trip. Or adopt a goat in a third world country. The most important thing is that everyone is able to have a voice in the decision.

6. Gift cards are not tacky. You know all of those people whom you’d like to remember at this time of the year – teachers, choir leaders, hairdressers, etc.? The vast majority of them are not offended by a gift card. If you give a card to a local restaurant, just be sure it’s a place where they’d like to go.

Organized?

Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it’s not all mixed up.  – Winnie the Pooh

The maker of some new product contacted me, asking if I’d be willing to review said product in my blog. I wrote back to say that this is not that kind of a blog. It’s a blog for reflection and (hopefully) some inspiration and encouragement.

But I’m breaking that rule today.

One of the things that I see people struggle with is how to get organized. Many of us are leading at least two or three lives at once (work tasks, family tasks, church tasks, home tasks). How can we keep track of all that has to be done, much less do it? We waste a lot of time and generate a lot of frustration just trying to keep track of things.

I kept looking for some magic system. Every year around this time I started prowling the aisles of Office Depot thinking that this year I could find the perfect planner. I flirted with the Getting Things Done (R) system but found it too cumbersome. I really wanted something that was hosted on the web so that I could access it anywhere.

And then I found Todoist. Todoist is a flexible, easy task manager program. It works on Outlook, Mac and Chrome as well as having a mobile app. (I have not yet tried the mobile app.)

Here’s how it works. You create a project. Within that project you can add as many tasks as you need. You can add a due date by the calendar or by typing in things like “tomorrow” or “Wed.” You can also make it a recurring task. For example, I’m writing this today because my “blog task” is labeled “Every Wednesday.” You can easily rearrange the order of your tasks.

One of the nice things is the filter. I can bring up lists of tasks for today, tasks that are overdue or tasks for the next seven days. The basic service is free but with a $30 a year subscription, you can add labels. For example, my labels include things like “publishing,” “counseling,” and “marketing.” You can put as many labels on a task as you want. This way I can bring up a list of what needs to be done today – or I can see what’s on my list for marketing. I can add a task when I think about it – no matter how far into the future it is.

Todoist integrates with iCal and Google calendar. I can bring up iCal on my computer and immediately see not only the appointments I have for today but also the tasks that need to be done. Being a visual person, it really helps me having it all in one place. It was very easy for me to learn.

If you’ve been struggling with keeping track of things you have to do or if you’d just like to be a little more efficient, I highly recommend Todoist.