Dec 31, 2014

Plan for 2015 - It's Your Life

Tomorrow is the first day of the new year.  You've probably been thinking about what 2015 has in store for you, what will happen, and how will things be the same . . . . how they will be different.

A lot could just "happen" during the next 365 days. After all, if you do absolutely nothing, life still happens, right?

But I propose we stop waiting for things to happen. At the risk of stating empty platitudes, I say: Let's take the year by storm!  

How? Well, I'm glad you asked.  The following topics are just a few that I will delve into this year. 

*Define your goals into something concrete.

*Develop and action plan to support those goals.

*Simplify all areas of life that don't directly contribute to your goals.

*Work with your schedule so that you are not a 'victim' of it.

*Boost your confidence by honing skills, increasing knowledge and changing habits. 

*Recover from set backs.

*Plan things to look forward to.

*Recognize and overcome distractions.

*Organize your stuff, and let go of emotional ties to physical things.

*Think ahead to avoid crisis management.

Realistically, you won't implement, or even find interesting, all of the above.  But you can make much of it work for you.  

January is GO month: 31 days to get kick start the year.  Every day for the next month there will be a post on this blog with tips and articles to assure this is the year that is DIFFERENT. So, take the advice of Star Trek's Jean Luc Picard and: "Make it so."

*Photo credit: This photo had no credit, but it nostalgically reminded me of one of those motivational posters I used to see hanging on office walls in '90s!

Jun 30, 2014

What Deserves Your Time?

What is the value of your personal time? 

When we're working, we pretty much get that time equals money. If we have any concept of time management, we will regularly ask: "what is the most productive and valuable use of my time?"

But what about after hours, our personal time, when we don't have to account to a boss or a bottom line? Is time any less valuable?  Most of us would probably answer that is time is MORE valuable, more precious when it is our own.  And yet, a lot of it is frittered away. There is a reason the phrase "time suck" has entered our vernacular.   

I'm neither proposing that every minute needs an accounting, nor that it must be so "amazing" that it's social media fodder. It's more about knowing what the big picture is, whatever that big picture is to each of us. It's the marrow of life, what we'll regret or be satisfied with at the end of the day, the year, or at the end of life. Even more so, it's not only about knowing what the big picture is, but living accordingly. Why? Because in the world as we know it, time is a finite and limited commodity. There are only so many personal hours we're going to get in a lifetime, and the clock is ticking . . . faithfully . . . relentlessly on. 

So how do you live the life you want? Let's look at Bill.  

He's a single father, and after some consideration he says his priorities are Career Advancement, Family and Health. Eventually he would like to remarry, but not until he reaches his professional goals and his family life is more settled.  He exercises regularly and watches his diet.  He does well at his job but probably will not get a promotion until he finishes his Masters.  His relationship with his kids is good but stressful at times, and the kids are asking for more attention . . . . attention that he cant seem to find between chores, meal preparation and general household hubbub.  With all this on his mind, he looks forward to each evening to when he can shake off the day to play his favorite video game - sometimes until he collapses into bed for the night.

What Bill is going through is normal, and so is his response.  He's overwhelmed and he turns to entertainment to forget about things for while.  So while there is nothing wrong with video games (or doing absolutely nothing), his current actions don't line up with what he believes his priorities to be.  Gaming makes him feel in control. It's a means of escaping the pressures and chaos of the day, and helps him forget he is not exactly where he wants to be in his career, family life or potential relationship. So gaming for Bill is a Band-aid, not a solution. Does Bill want to add Gaming as one of his priorities (because the time he devotes to it qualifies it as a Priority.) Not really. Bill truly wants his Masters, and he wants a more fulfilling family and professional life. He just doesn't know how to go about it with so few hours in the day.

What can Bill do?  He can examine how he currently spends his time.  He does not have to give up gaming. But the amount of time he dedicates to it must change until he achieves the balance he wants. Also, he can tweak activities so that they support two more of his priorities at the same time (multi-purposing.) Simplified, his activities might look something like this:

PRIORITIES: Family and Health.
ACTIVITIES: Menu plan with kids. Take kids to farmers market and grocery store. Make meals and clean up with kids. Plan and participate in physical activities with kids. Purchase the roller blades kids have asked for (and get a pair for himself). Sign up for locally sponsored family run at the end of summer. Go for a walk around the block or toss a ball with kids after supper/clean up.

PRIORITY: Career and Education
ACTIVITIES: Prepare better for meetings. Re-enroll in one 3 credit online class. Attend classes/do homework after kids go to bed or on mornings he doesn't jog. Listen to 1 CD/month regarding his trade on the commute to work. Read two pertinent articles a week regarding his work or education. Try to incorporate work into homework.

ACTIVITIES: Slowly replace screen time with healthier with quality activities. Strive to be in the moment with kids. Read up on developmental stage of each child.  Research suggestions of how to introduce chores to kids (Bill originally thought about hiring a cleaning service, but he has decided to try to tackle this as a family.) Discuss together with ex-wife, then kids, how many extra-curricular activities the kids should be involved in at one time, perhaps cutting back.

PRIORITY: Entertainment
ACTIVITY: Use gaming as a reward for completed tasks. Look into new (and more effective) forms of relaxation. Invite kids to participate if appropriate.

Bill may not be able to make all of these suggestions work, nor will he be able to incorporate them all at the same time.  But he has a plan of action of his own choosing that fits what he currently wants out of life. For the first time in a while, he's excited about the challenges ahead.

The absolute beauty of adjusting our activities to line up with our goals, is that our lives tend to go from stagnant and middle-of-the-road, to exciting and purpose-driven.  With a little bit of self-examination and effort, we can meet a challenge head on, or make a much anticipated dream a reality. In addition, it keeps things flexible as wants and needs change - and they always do!

So . . . what deserves your time? Tick . . .tick . . . tick . . .

Jun 14, 2014

Find Your Own Theme Song!

Music gives you the opportunity to feel something .  . . something that turns the mundane into extra ordinary.

Remember the days of your misspent youth. . . when that song came on the radio? Remember how it seemed as if everything was sooooooo right?  And even now, that same song can transport you back to those halcyon summer days - as if H.G. Wells himself put you in a time machine?  That's the power of music.

If like most people you are inundated with life's To Dos, exploring new music may never enter your mind. You might even forget to crank up the old tunes you loved from a decade or more ago.  But if music has the ability to motivate, to elate, to empower . . . . why not use it to your advantage?  Have fun while busting through your chores, or exercising, or any activity that could use a bit more excitement!

Perhaps the answer to tackling that pile in the basement or the mess in your garage is adopting your very own theme song . . .  Ally McBeal-style. Why not make a compilation CD of songs that make you feel UNSTOPPABLE!

Where to begin?  Start here! Below is an extensive list of songs from various genres.  Some are old, some are new. But every song has something special about it. Prepare to feel upbeat, hopeful, bright, happy or even slightly intoxicated by a great combination of lyrics, melody and beat. (This is perfect time to open your mind to something new - give it at least until the chorus before you move on!)

There is SO MUCH MORE music out there . . . . . But I had to stop and call it "good enough."  :)

Now go find your theme song, and be FIERCE!

32 Flavors – Ani Difranco (folk/alternative)
Accidentally in Love – Counting Crows (pop/alternative)
Bamboleo – Gypsy Kings (rumba/flamenca/pop)
Becoming - American Authors (modern indie rock)
Believer - American Authors  (modern indie rock)
Best Day of My Life - American Authors  (modern indie rock)
Boom Clap - Charli XCX (from "The Fault in Our Stars" soundtrack)
Born This Way - Lady Gaga (pop/dance)
Brave – Sara Bareilles (pop)
Breakaway - Kelly Clarkson (pop)
Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison (folk/blues/classic rock)
Build a Levee – Natalie Merchant (alternative/pop/folk)
Bulletproof – La Roux (synth, bit pop)
Champion – RuPaul (dance pop)
The Climb - Miley Cyrus (pop)
Defying Gravity – from "Wicked"  Idina Menzel & Kristen Chenoweth, or Glee (Broadway)
Do My Thing – Estelle (R&B, soul, hiphop, reggae) 
Do You Love Me? - The Contours (Motown)
Don’t Stop Believing – Journey (80's hairband rock)
Epie – Royksopp  (instrumental)
Feeling Good – Nina Simone, or Jennifer Hudson, or Carly Rose Sonenclar, or Michael Buble (jazz/soul)
Fighter – Christina Aguilera (pop)
Firework – Katy Perry (pop)
Gang of Rhythm - Walk Off the Earth (Indie/alternative)
Get Up – Superchick (Christian/alternative/pop)
Girl On Fire – Alicia Keys (R&B, pop)
Good Life – OneRepublic (pop, alternative)
Good Mother – Jann Arden (pop)
Good Time – Owl City, Carly Rae Jepsen (pop, electronic)
Groove Is In the Heart – Deee-lite (dance, pop, house)
Happy – Pharrell Williams (pop, dance)
Headstrong – 10,000 Maniacs (alt)
Hey Hey - Superchick (Christian/alternative/pop)
Hey Soul Sister – Train (pop)
Hey Ya! - Outkast (hip hop)
Hit The Lights – Selena Gomez & The Scene (electrical pop)
Hold On – Wilson Phillips (pop)
Hot Topic – Le Tigre (electroclash, synthropop)
Human - The Killers (alternative/indie rock)
I Am Not My Hair - India Arie (R&B, neo soul)
I Am Woman – Helen Reddy (70s AC, EZ listening)
I Am Woman – Jordin Sparks (pop, dance, R&B)
I Can See Clearly Now - Jimmy Cliff (reggae, R&B)
I Feel Like a Woman - Shania Twain (country)
I Got A Feeling – Black Eyed Peas (alternative hip hop, dance)
I Got You (I Feel Good) – James Brown (soul)
I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor (70's R&B, disco)
Independent Women - from "Charlie's Angels" Destiny's Child (contemporary R&B)
Intuition - Jewel (pop rock, folk, AC)
I'm Coming Out - Diana Ross (80s pop rock, R&B)
I’m Every Woman – Whitney Houston & Chaka Khan (pop, R&B)
I’m Too Sexy – Right Said Fred (British pop)
I Won - The Sundays (alternative, dream/indie pop)
Istanbul (not Constantinople) – They Might Be Giants (alt rock)
It’s Amazing – Jem (soft electronic)
Joy - The Sundays (alternative, dream/indie pop)
Just a Girl - No Doubt (rock, pop, alternative)
Just the Way You Are – Bruno Mars ((pop, soul, rock, R&B)
Least Complicated - Indigo Girls (folk)
Laisser Tomber Les Filles - Frances Gall (ye' ye')
Learn to Fly - Foo Fighters (alt rock, post grunge)
Let It Go – from "Frozen" by Idina Menzel or Demi Lovato (Disney soundtrack)
Let Your Heart Sing – Tinkerbell (Disney soundrack)
Life is a Highway – Tom Cochrane, or Rascal Flatts (rock, country)
The Long Way Around – Dixie Chicks (country)
Love Shack – The B-52s (dance, pop)
Love Song – Sara Bareilles (pop)
A Little Less Conversation – Elvis Presley w/JXL remix (dance)
Mean Girls – Rachel Crow (pop)
The Middle – Jimmy Eat World (emo, alt, indie, pop punk)
Mmmbop – Hanson (pop)
Mr. Blue Sky – ELO (British rock)
Moving on Up - MPeople (dance, pop)
My Boogie Shoes – KC & The Sunshine Band (70s top 40)
My Finest Hour - The Sundays (alternative, dream/indie pop)
New Attitude - Patti Labelle (80s pop)
New Slang - The Shins (indie rock)
A New Day Has Come – Celine Dion (pop, AC, EZ listening)
One and Only – Superchick (Christian/alternative/pop)
Overrated – Ashley Tisdale (pop, dance)
Paradise - Coldplay (alt/piano rock)
Part of Me – Katy Perry (pop)
People like Us – Kelly Clarkson (pop)
Perfect - Pink (original or cleaned up version) (pop)
Pork and Beans – Weezer (alt, power pop, pop punk, emo, indie)
Proud – Heather Small (dance, pop)
Raise Your Glass – Pink (pop)
Red Rubber Ball – The Cyrcle (60s rock)
RESPECT - Aretha Franklin (Motown)
Roar – Katy Perry (pop)
Rock What You Got – Superchick (Christian/alternative/pop)
Rolling in the Deep – Adele (pop, soul)
Royal - Lourde (pop, indie, art pop)
Shake it Out – Florence + The Machine (rock, soul)
She’s Not Just a Pretty Face – Shania Twain (country)
Simply The Best – Tina Turner (60s/70s R&B, pop)
Sir Duke – Stevie Wonder (Motown)
Sisters are Doing It for Themselves – Eurythmics (British new wave, pop)
So What – Pink (pop)
A Sorta Fairy Tale - Tori Amos (alt, pop, piano rock)
Stand in the Rain – Superchick (Christian/alternative/pop)
Staying Alive - BeeGees (70s pop, disco)
Strip Me – Natasha Bedingfield (pop)
Strong Women – Meg Braun (urban folk)
Stronger – Kelly Clarkson (pop)
Stupid Girls – Pink (pop)
Summer of ’69 – Bryan Adams (80s pop)
Summertime – The Sundays (indie, pop, jangle)
Summertime – Will Smith (pop, dance)
Supersonic - Oasis (alt, British alt pop)
Survivor - Destiny's Child (R&B girl group)
Take Your Mama – Scissor Sisters (glam rock)
Tell It Like It Is – Tracy Chapman (folk)
That's Really Super, Supergirl - XTC (alt rock/new wave/psych pop)
This One’s For The Girls – Martina McBride (country)
Three Little Birds – Bob Marley and the Wailers (reggae)
The Time of My Life – from "Dirty Dancing" Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes  (80s pop)
Think About It - American Authors (Modern indie rock)
Titanium – David Guetta & Sia (dance, house)
Touch the Sky – Brave (Disney soundrack)
Unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield (pop)
Uptown Top Ranking – Althea and Donna (reggae)
Video – India Arie  (R&B, neo soul)
Viva la Vida - Coldplay (alt/piano rock)
Waiting for Something to Happen - Veronica Falls (English Indie Rock)
Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves (English rock, pop)
We Are the Champions - Queen (progressive rock)
We are Young - Fun & Janelle Monae
We Can – LeAnn Rimes (country)
We Will Rock You - Queen (progressive rock)
What I Am – Edie Brickel (alt rock)
What a Wonderful World - Luis Armstrong (60s, jazz)
When You're Good to Mama - from "Chicago" Queen Latifa (Broadway)
Who I Am – Jessica Andrews (country)
Who Says – Selena Gomez (electro pop, dance, teen)
Wild One – Faith Hill (country)
Wishing Well - Bob Mould
You Gotta Be – Des’ree (90s British R&B)
You Know I’m No Good – Amy Winehouse (blue-eyed R&B/jazz/soul)

Apr 6, 2014

Ultimate List of Things To Do While Waiting

The average person spends 45-62 minutes a day waiting.  For the person who lives to be 70, that's 3 to 5 years of life WAITING.  Waiting for trains, appointments, traffic. Waiting for gas tanks to fill, commercials to end and coffee to brew. Even Barney Stinson from "How I Met Your Mother" wants you to wait before you hear a word in it's entirety.

That's a lot of waiting.

In the age of instant gratification, people dislike waiting more than ever.  Disney knows the psychology of waiting so well, that it purposely posts overestimated wait time for rides. This is so that guests will be pleasantly surprised that the lines moved faster than they expected.  Why do Internet companies continually bombard you with their newly improved speed? Because customers hate to wait.  We hate waiting so much that we'd rather read the uninteresting information on a cereal box than enjoy a few quiet moments while eating breakfast.

I don't have 'wait rage' ( if there is such a thing.) But those few moments waiting for my turn in the grocery queue feel like an eternity. It's as though real life has somehow removed itself from me, while it's out there, pulsing with possibility. I however, remain cemented and stagnant in '15 Items or Less.' The check out aisle is the perfect metaphor for stasis . . . . weeks of my life I will never ever get back. 

What's a wait-hater to do? This is one of the few areas in life where multi-tasking is good. Having something productive to do is the best way to stave off that cloying feeling that Time is marching on, and pointing to itself . . . .  like it's a watch on a wrist.

So while at the laundromat waiting for a quilt to dry,  I have composed . . . wait for it . . . . The Ultimate List of Things to Do While Waiting.

General Waiting:
  • Memorize something you think you should know. Maybe: prime numbers past 47, the Gettysburg address, Q words for Scrabble, your spouses SS# . . things that wont really make a big difference in life, except to make you feel ever so slightly smug.
  • Eat an energizing snack, so that when you're done waiting, you can hit the ground running.
  • Increase your vocabulary  
  • Read a magazine or a book for fun.  Readers and smart phones make it super easy to carry around reading material.
  • Increase your business acumen: catch up on trade mags, blogs, books, etc.
  • Doodle. You can even doodle with friends for free  (look at the bottom of the web page)
  • Strengthen muscle groups with isometrics such as glute and stomach squeezes, Kegels and more.
  • Have a conversation.  (Oh no - did I just suggest engaging someone sans technology?)
    "This is a crazy long line" is a socially acceptable conversation opener.    
  • Give your neck and shoulders a mini massage.  
  • Meditate.  You don't have to reach Nirvana. Just pick a focal point and count backwards from 10.
  • People watch (without being creepy.)  Assign them secret identities!
  • Consult your To Do list to make sure you're on track for the day. 
  • Do one thing to solidify your plans for the week/weekend.
  • Review your work or study notes. Retention percentages increase within the first 24 hours of learning something the more times you review it.
  • Pray. 
  • Clean out your jacket pockets, wallet, purse, backpack or briefcase.  
  • Hydrate with a non-sugary, non-caffeinated beverage (translation: water.)  75% of Americans suffer from chronic dehydration.
  • Moisturize your lips, hands and even elbows and knees if appropriate.
  • Stretch.  Cats and dogs do it many times a day.  There must be something to that. 
  • Make or confirm an appointment. 
  • Relax and relish in the moment.  Nothing is required of you.  No one is calling your name.  Your thoughts are your own. You are in your own quiet world. 
  • Play a game, but turn off the volume.  Even people who are addicted to Candy Crush don't want to listen to you playing it.
  • Breathe.  That's right - fill those lungs! This is what oxygen feels like!
  • Daydream. You weren't allowed to daydream in school, and you could get fired for it at work.  But nobody owns your time or your gray matter while you're waiting at the doctor's office.  "Dream on, dream on, dream until your dreams come true."
  • If you're with someone, work on your listening skills .  (P.S. If you're scripting a response while they are still talking, perhaps there's more work to be done.)
  • Focus on one of the three most important priorities in your life (family, work, health, relationship, etc.) and think about one thing you can do to enhance that area.   
  • Play games with your kids.

At the pump: 
  • Clean your windshield
  • Check the tire pressure
  • Empty the garbage container 
  • Organize the trunk, back seat or glove compartment
  • Search for petrified french fries and lost chocolate candies with a crunchy shell
  • Keep a small stiff brush in your console and whisk out the crumbs your vacuum can never get to. Who DOES that? well, um . . . *sheepish grin*
  • Wipe off your dashboard with the wipes you keep in the car for this purpose, but never use. (If they are dehydrated, add a little water.)
  • Clip your nails, put on lotion, apply Chapstick
  • Purchase a beverage or newspaper, get cash from the ATM, say hi to the clerk(s). It's a lonely job they have.
  • Watch the pump numbers escalate towards infinity. Vow to ride a bike or use public transportation more often.
  • Clear your head.  Take these few moments for yourself to think, or not think.  This might be the only time you are free to do so.
At the Laundro-Mat, Doctor's Office, mechanic, etc.
  • Study
  • Read a book from home, or an outdated, germ-filled magazine supplied in the waiting room.
  • Catch up on emails, social networking
  • Close your eyes.  A catnap might do you some good.
  • If you're in a place where quiet is the norm or people are working, take your calls outside. You can cross off some calls while being respectful at the same time.
Long commutes or travel:
  • Learn a language. Parlez-vous Francais? Sprechen sie Deutsch? nǐ huìbúhuì jiǎng guóyŭ/huáyŭ/pŭtōnghuà?
  • Rock out with some tunes. Bring your favorite CDs or get a music player converter to hook up an MP3 player or iPod. 
  • Spend some time listening to news radio and learn about what's going on in the world.
  • Take a quick nap. Just kidding! If you're not driving though, this is a seriously good idea.
  • No place like the road the improve your road savvy and driver's etiquette.  Most people are NOT excellent drivers. In your state do you have to pause for a stopped school bus in oncoming traffic on a four lane divided highway?  Wouldn't it be marvelous if everyone knew? 
  • Call your mother.  Call your father.  Return just about any phone call you can think of, as long as you can do it safely, and according to your state's laws.
  • Books on CD are great way to sneak some reading in. Libraries lend them out for free and there online sources that let you download them.
  • Borrow CDs of past seminars from a professional organization you belong to.  It's a great way to sneak in some industry know how to advance your career!
At the grocery or a convenience store: 
  • Organize your purchases into loose categories: freezer, produce, pantry, upstairs, downstairs, etc. so that they get bagged the way you want them. When you get home you (and the kids) can quickly put everything away. 
  • Get coupons in order
At the computer (especially at home): 
  • Update your play list. Find a new artist/song. A great song can motivate you all day.
  • Organize your music by category. Or if you have a lot of crossover music, start an alphabetical system by artist or band name. Some organize their music by mood (Energizing, Relaxing, etc.) or by activity (Work out, Study, Dinner, Party, etc.)
  • Play a quick game or fill in a few more clues to the NYTimes Crossword.
  • Take a survey.  Some companies even pay you for taking them (
  • Enter a sweepstakes.  Dream a few moments about what it would be like to win that 100k vacation to Morocco.
  • File a few papers.  Clean out old papers in your folders as you go. 
  • Wipe down your desktop/monitor/keypad. 
  • Love on your pets. Love on your kids.
  • Pay a bill online, or set it up online if you haven't already.
  • Organize one desk drawer
  • Clean up desktop icons
  • Straighten your posture.  Obviously it's better for your spine, but it staves off heartburn too!
  • Delete a program or cookie that has been bothering you
  • Take a moment to look at your browsing history.  How did you spend/waste your time?  Then clear your history.  
  • Organize a few of your kazillion pictures.  Some do it chronologically.  Some do it by event: Sports, Graduation,  Anniversaries, Holidays, Vacations, etc.
  • Empty your office trash
  • Step away from the computer - you could use a mental break!
  • Fill out paperwork you've been putting off
  • Return an email, text message, or a phone call
  • Get sucked into social media
  • Do one thing to improve your grooming: trim eyebrows, nails, toenails, nose, ears, brush your teeth, floss, etc.   Oh yeah - you're dapper now!
  • Research.  What was that Jeopardy question you got totally wrong, and still cant remember the answer? 
  • Order a product you've been meaning to buy.  Amazon really is "the everything store."
  • Delete old emails if you don't do it everyday.  
In the kitchen while coffee brews, the sink fills up, kids finish breakfast, etc.:
  • If you are cooking, clean as you go.  There will be less to do later when you are less motivated.
  • Empty the trash
  • Wipe off one shelf in the refrigerator
  • Get the mail/newspaper
  • Stare at a wall.  There are no lucid thoughts until coffee anyway.
  • Update the family calendar/command center
  • Go through mail over the trash can
  • Empty/load the dishwasher
  • Load up the car for the day
  • Feed the pets. Pet the pets.
  • Have a mantra, affirmation, or thought for the day? Some say it projects how the day will turn out.
  • Wash a load of laundry in a.m. At the end of the day you can dry, fold and put away.
 The Zen of Waiting is illusive -  an Agony in Process. But let's give it chance! It just might be the most productive time of our lives.

Mar 14, 2014

Care Giving: Get Organized and Stay Balanced

Even for those who view it as an honor and a privilege, taking on the care of a loved one can be one of the most challenging opportunities of a person’s life.    What are the chances you, or your children, will be faced with this life changing event?  Fairly high . . . . because family size is trending smaller, with fewer children to care for parents,  or other family members.  And as the baby boomers creep toward the fall and winter of their lives, the population of elderly persons continues to increase, along with the need for some level of functional care. With the rising cost of professional care, more and more families are taking it on themselves. 

Having been a caregiver with my mom for her mother, I can tell you it rocked our world. Even though I truly felt it was an honor to give back to my very much loved grandmother, I was not prepared for the gamut of emotion, the influx of responsibility and information, and the test it put on family relationships.  If you are lucky, the transition will take place gradually - periodic adjustments will go smoothly and no one gets burnt out.  But if it happens suddenly, the learning curve is often brutally overwhelming.  The best thing you can do for yourself at any stage in care-giving, is to get organized.  Get organized so that your energy and focus can be spent on what matters most:  you and the ones you love. 

Below are a few things to help you get started, as well as some tips on how to stay balanced: 

Access to Important Documents: 
  •  Medical: medical directives, DNRs, Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Wills, disability/health/dental/long term care/life insurance, contact information for all doctors, detailed information regarding prescriptions.  
  •  Personal:  will, birth/marriage/divorce certificates, driver’s license, organ donation, military record, passport/visa, Durable Power of Attorney.
  •  Financial: banking, deeds, loans and bills, investments.
  •  Final wishes regarding funeral arrangements/wake, music, passages to be read, who will officiate. Some people find this hard to do, and if your patient refuses, trust in your ability to put something nice together when/if the time comes.

Family Meetings/Updates:
  •  Share this opportunity with others to give back. Family members, friends, church family, etc. can do something to help Grandpa (prepare a meal, laundry, errands, mowing the lawn, reading to Grampa, etc.)  Or they can help you.  Say “yes please!” to assistance – everyone will benefit.  
  •  Dedicate some kind of notebook or binder for all things related to the patient so that it is in one easy-to-access place.  There are free sources online of charts and clever ideas to help with schedules, medication and medical information. AARP is a great resource.
  • Identify action items, and assign each task a level of importance.  Set priorities first, taking care of less important details later.
  • Discuss what needs to be done, by whom, how often and for how long, how it will be paid for, and at what location.
  •  Embrace the theme of simplification regarding meals, physical space, schedules, obligations and responsibilities . . .all with the goal of making way for new and evolving circumstances, as well as peace of mind. 
  • Delegate as many of your non-care giving responsibilities as possible. If you're busy with an aging or ill person, every one in your immediate family can learn new tasks and share the load. You may receive a lot of complaining over this, but ask them if they want to be the ones to bathe Grammy. Trust me, they'll get over it.

Comfort and Compassion:
  •  Remember your personal needs.  You will need to refuel, gain perspective, and work through any number of frustrations.  Know your limits and respect them.
  •  Lean on the healing power of relationships and emotional support.  Family nights, outings, visits from friends, activities, phone calls, or simple conversation can take both your minds off illness temporarily.
  • Utilize online tools: from caregiver calendars, lists and charts to support groups. 
  • Not all patients are sweet and cooperative all of the time.  My grandmother was an independent woman who, for all her love and humor, could be downright obstinate at the funniest things (like ice cream for breakfast!)  Try to keep in mind how difficult is for a person to give up their cherished independence, to rely on others, to come face to face their mortality.  As much and as often as possible, include your loved one on family decisions, such as: what movie tonight?  which of these three colors should we paint the walls? Ask for input and advice and let them contribute any work they are capable of doing so they feel valued and that they have a solid role in the family. Especially include them about about decisions pertaining to their own life. 
  • Break the rules sometimes. Relax together.  Laugh! Have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee together. Listen to each other.  It will go a long way in gaining cooperation from the patient, and ease your burden as well. 
  • Give everyone a generous learning curve, including you and the patient.  If perfection or hyper-vigilance is a part of who you are, work very hard to let go in things that don’t really matter.  What really matters in this chapter of your life, and perhaps the last chapter of your loved one, is love.