Category Archives: life is good

One Small Change is Changing My Life

Somehow I came across this book title months ago and put it on reserve at the library. I picked it up this week and read right through this little book. Dr. Maurer takes the concept of “kaizen” (continuous improvement) which is an important part of the Toyota Production System and lean manufacturing in general, and applies it to non-manufacturing settings.

I suppose we’ve all heard that you eat an elephant one bite at a time, but I have never been able to apply that idea when it comes to the daily issues I face. And most of the “big” issues I have tend to feel overwhelming to me.

Major learning points from this book:

**Our brains are designed to respond with fear when faced with change and the amygdala is the brain part that controls the fight-or-flight response.
**We typically respond to the need for change by using “innovation,” which is the drastic process of change. I don’t know about you, but when I need to start exercising after a period of sedentary inactivity, I do NOT start by walking 16 steps down the street and back (or whatever the doctor tells you about starting slowly). I do a TOUGH WOMAN’S workout and do a two-mile run/walk no matter how long it has been since I have exercised. I ignore the aching feet and muscles and pretend like my heartrate is just fine.
**The alternative to innovation is “kaizen,” which means small continuous changes.

How this works in my life:

I usually have 500-600 (exaggeration maybe) huge things I must make decisions about — anything from what to cook for dinner (very huge issue) to whether or not one of my kids should do a certain activity to how in the world to fit in a date night this week to wondering if I will ever get Kepler off the bedtime ice-water bottle he loves. ETC. My amygdala seems to be PARTICULARLY adept at the “flight” part of fight-or-flight so whenever I am faced with a decision, I almost immediately get overwhelmed and get the heck OUT of there.
(Isn’t she cute?)

I learned TWO things that made this a really FINE week.

1. Tiptoe past fear by contemplating small changes that allow the amygdala to stay in its happy state of hibernation.
2. Ask small questions that also bypass the whole fight-or-flight nightmare.

Examples of #1.

I have six dining room chairs that need to be re-upholstered (backs and seats, separately), and really look pretty dirty and ratty. I believe the idea of reupholstering probably came to me about 1 year ago, and I got the fabric at about the same time. But the thought of all the work involved, and the unknowns of the process, and getting the chairs to my mom’s for her pneumatic stapler, and buying the foam and the right amount of foam, and, well you get the picture. When I contemplate all that, a bag of Lime Chips and a nap usually get me calmed down.

This week I asked myself: What is one step I could take to getting my chairs reupholstered? Answer: Reupholster the back of one chair. Did I do it? Yes. Do I feel like I really accomplished something — I sure do.

Another example was looking at cooking dinner but using the kaizen method. Usually, I experience a doomdart when I remember ain’t nothin’ going to be on the table unless I put it there, and then I realize that I need to go to the grocery, and remember I do not ever feel like I am on top of having a good inventory of food, and oh no, I haven’t given the kids any vegetables for five days unless ketchup counts, and the reason I’m overweight is because I don’t have a meal plan, and well you probably get the picture again. Again, a bag of Lime chips and a nap help, but I usually have to add in a handful of chocolate chips too.

This week I asked myself: What is one dinner that sounds good to me? Answer: chicken cordon bleu, rice, salad, sliced peaches and a nice loaf of bread. Did I cook this for dinner on Thursday? I did. Do I feel like I really accomplished something — I sure do.

And there are many other examples from this week of how I applied and used this idea in my life.

I feel a lot less like this:

and a lot more like this:

Updating Everyone Especially Stephanie (My Pet)

Hello faithful legions of readers!

It has been five entire fun-filled days since I have last written. Although the yearbook is tapping its toe, and threatening to send me to the principal’s office if I do not complete it, I have decided it is now time to bravely update the world on my doings from the week!

Many great highlights from the week. Kepler and I went to his new physical therapist and I really like her, and I think Kepler does, too. He thinks physical therapy is super-duper fun, and since we only go once a month, it’s always new to him. The facility is updating their computer system (again) to the biggest, best, and newest program so we had a slight delay, but since none of our information has changed, we got through pretty quickly.

Tuesday, I went to my first personal training session with my very own trainer, Javier. I had had two free half-hour sessions with him a couple weeks ago and decided I just didn’t like his style. But I’ve had enough trainers to know that they all have their strengths and weaknesses and own styles, and I decided to give the training relationship a chance. The main thing about personal training is that I LOVE it. And I already feel more fit and healthy and balanced.

Tuesday night I went to my special Food Group where I meet with other women who have eating disorders or food issues. What a sweet time that was. When I arrived at group, I was feeling very tired but when I left I was feeling beautiful and energized!

Wednesday I went to my regular therapy group, the first meeting I have attended since Mark left. You can read more about that change here..
I wondered what the group dynamics would be like, but overall I thought it was a great improvement, even though we will miss his input and presence.

Thursday, I became a temporary pet owner. We are pet-sitting Mason, a sweet, sweet dog belonging to friends of ours. Valerie was hired to take care of him but she was at camp this week, so the rest of us walked him (and stuff). I think everyone who knows me know that I would most certainly NOT call myself a dog person. I have had one dog in my life, and even though “Bernadine” was our family dog, I doubt that I ever even petted her, let alone walked her, or cared about her. (Fortunately for Bernadine, my two sisters loved her dearly, so she got lots of love and attention.) Anyway, surprisingly, I have really enjoyed having Mason here. He will be here for 2 1/2 weeks.

Friday, I had my other personal training session of the week. It was really probably a little more intense than I like, but it’s always a process to figure out how to work with the trainer. Maybe I have hindsight disease, but I don’t remember my first trainer ever having any trouble figuring out good weights, reps, exercises for me. Javier isn’t having any trouble figuring anything out, but I want to make sure the exercise time is the most value it can be, and if I work out too hard that is no better than working out too easy.

I will post this and write another post on the major learning I did this week.


Although I am not a mouse, I think the body-shape is relatively accurate! I just returned from my second session with a personal trainer. And I am reminded that I absolutely love working out with weights. I always feel so strong and healthy when I finish. There are many benefits beyond just the initial high I feel, including stronger bones. My trainer’s name is Javier. Personal training is expensive, I will grant you that, but I think it is a great choice for me, in light of my assignment and the fact that I really do need to take care of myself. Going to a PT takes care of me REAL GOOD.

I’ll figure out one of those sidebar things that charts my progress for you and me. This is exciting!

Lost and Found

Missing cell phone status: FOUND. Even though we had looked down in and under the couches, yesterday I stuck my hand down in the cushions and pulled out a cell phone! Kind of like Tom Thumb — Oh, what I good girl am I! (Told you I’m still a good girl!)

Missing library book status: STILL LOST. But I was able to renew it, and I also found out that losing it will only cost us $3.91 so I’m not sooo worried anymore.

Missing Sure Steps: STILL MYSTERIOUSLY LOST. So strange. I still believe I am going to find them because I still have hundreds of nooks and crannies to check.

What all three of these items have in common is that I am going to keep them a little closer to ME and a little farther away from the KIDS as I find them. I know Kepler loves dangling his little Sure Steps, but he can dangle these once he has new ones to wear on his feet. And I think I will just hold onto Joel’s phone for the time being.

Making progress!

Boomerang Bay Today – I’m a Hero

Today, I singlehandedly took 7 whole children to the waterpark, Boomerang Boy. Of course, five of them were my own, so that made things a little easier. But this was the very first time I have ever been there, and I was taking Kepler along, so I wondered it was going to work to have him there. It worked great!

Sorry I don’t have any actual photos of the kids. It was more than I thought I could handle to take my camera, keep track of it, keep it from getting wet, take photos, let alone good ones.

We arrived just as the park opened. I anticipated a long line of people waiting to get in but I was pleasantly surprised to find a parking spot three spaces from the door, and a fairly low attendance when we arrived. We were even able to find chairs under the canopy by the baby pool.

I took Kepler on one of those lazy river rides where you float along on an innertube. Characteristically, I made sure not to go under any of the big splashy parts. He was way relaxed and on the second time around his little eyes closed, even as he clapped at the end of each song.

We ended up staying about 2 1/2 hours and it was just a perfect amount of time. With season passes, we can go up any time and not feel like we have to stay for 6 or 8 hours to get our money’s worth.

We are looking forward to going back! It was so fun to see how much the kids enjoyed themselves and how much they enjoyed playing with Kepler. Such great kids. Several of the kids independently thanked me for taking them to the waterpark today.

See? I’m a hero.

Flat Tire and Helpful Strangers

If you can believe this, I have had two flat tires this week. The first one was on my bicycle when I was riding home from the grocery store on Monday. But the second one was on my van yesterday in the pouring rain. I of course did not notice it since I was much more concerned with the fact that the gas price on the pump said $3.94. But the nice man pumping gas next to me pointed out the flat. I had two of the kids with me and several more places to go before I was in for the night.

That man actually laid down on the wet ground to see if he could loosen my spare tire (who thought of putting it under the car? bad idea in Ohio) but was unable to do so. The rain was dripping off the bumper onto his face, and he was lying on wet concrete trying to get it (his face? the bumper? no, the spare) off so he could fix it for me. He told me that he thought about what it would be like for his wife if she were in my position and that is what he wanted to help. I was so touched. Seems like anymore people don’t like to get involved and I was so appreciative of his help. I have never changed a flat tire although I have been in a car a couple of times that had a flat.

So, the man put some air in my tire so I could drive to the tire store. I could see the screw that had punctured the tire and I expected to drive to the tire store and have the helpful tire man fix the tire and be on my way. But, no-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o! The puncture was too close to the edge, so the tire had to be replaced. And blah blah blah blah. Two hours later we drove off with 2 new tires and 200 fewer dollars. I actually had to call Greg a couple of times because I wasn’t sure about some of the stuff to do since he handles this kind of stuff almost all the time.

The thing that really struck me besides his help was the fact that I live in a place where I can get pretty much anything I need pretty much anytime. It made me think about all the people in the world who don’t have cars, let alone gas stations every 50 feet, and all the other amenities we totally take for granted every day.

My son was annoyed because he was having to wait and I did mention to him that that was selfish thinking, only because I wanted him to focus on the fact that in our time of need, our needs were met. I know there are many people who face such minor problems as flat tires that turn into major problems because of work issues, or no support, or lack of money to get the thing fixed. While I was waiting at the tire store, a woman came in who had had to be pushed into the parking lot by another car because her clutch had totally gone out. It wasn’t a very nice car and my heart went out to her for having to deal with such problems.

My experience of life is that I am so very blessed. Even when I have a flat tire.

What is Marriage Anyway

I am part of a therapy group that meets on Wednesday evenings. I love my group. We have been meeting since last August, and have lost one member and gained three, so we have a full group now with eight members. Our newest member is unhappily married and soon to be divorced. Because of confidentiality, I cannot even share in this format anything else about his story, but our meeting Wednesday night really made me think alot about marriage.

We have been married for 23 years. And I believe we will stay married for good. I was so distressed to hear the conversation at group about “taking care of yourself” and “honoring your truth.” I think there is a place for that kind of thinking, but when it comes to marriage, sometimes “taking care of yourself” can cause some huge problems in a marriage where one of the people is unwilling or unable to change his or her behavior. I do not advocate abuse of any sort. Abuse changes the reality and taking care of yourself is an extremely important thing to do.

I like to think there is a solution for most problems. Sometimes, or even most of the time, the choices we make as young people are not the choices we might make as forty-somethings, so the pragmatist might think that it’s a good idea to jettison “bad” choices and find true love now that he/she really knows what he/she wants in life. But I believe that marriage is a great refiner of each of us. We learn to think of someone other than ourselves. We learn to give of ourselves, even when we might not want to. When both people really love each other, I believe ANYTHING can be gotten through.

When Kepler was born, even as strongly as Greg and I feel for each other and are committed to each other, I looked at him one day in the first week and told him I could understand why tragedies (which Kepler’s birth and diagnosis were NOT, but it was still a difficult time) cause relationships to break apart. And I told him I thought we needed to be really aware of that possibility and re-up on the commitment side of things, and make sure we talked about what was going on. I shudder to think what might have happened if each of us had started focusing on “taking care of myself” to the exclusion of taking care of the other person at the same time.

How can anyone stay married these days without a sense of a larger meaning to life? If someone is unhappy in their marriage, why should they stay if they aren’t happy anymore? If what matters is only now, and only what I want, then divorce makes a lot of sense. But if we are part of a larger story, which I believe we are, then there are great reasons for staying and working through things.

A New House for Siouxsie and Fam?

My parents live one mile from us, in the house I grew up in, and have lived there for almost 48 years. They are the only ones who have ever owned the house. Dad’s knees are starting to complain about the steps he must climb each day so they are considering buying the house next door to them. If they do, I know who wants to buy their house. We do!

I love their home. Not only is it filled with happy memories and laughter from my entire life, but the actual house is wonderful. The kitchen looks out onto the backyard, and I dream of watching the kids play in the backyard while I work in the kitchen. My mother is a wonderful decorator and is a beauty magnet, so their home is beautifully decorated. Warm, beautiful, comfortable.

There are a few things that would have to happen before the big switcheroo could take place, namely, we would have to sell our house. But it can happen! I look forward to seeing how it all plays out.

14 Years Ago Yesterday

I woke up at 4:30 having contractions, but calm, cool and collected despite the fact that the hospital was ONE HOUR away. Waited to wake up Greg ’cause I figured we had lots of time. We finally got on the road at 6 am. Got into the room at the hospital at 7. Joel was born 30 minutes later, after only 2 pushes, all 10 pounds, 8 ounces of him. 8 hours later we were heading home with our new little guy. Easy-peasey, lemon-squeezy.

I have a theory that my labor and births correlate with the personality of the child. In Joel’s case (more about the others another time), that is so true. He is an easy-going, happy, laidback guy. Labor and birth were all of those things as well.

What a joy this boy is to us. Thanks be to God for the blessing of Joel!