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My First Blog Post

Just Be Brave….

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

TIPS FOR DOWNSIZING YOUR STUFF

There is a task on my long term “to do” list that has been carried over for a year now. What’s the task you ask? The answer is downsizing. Only one word but one that is often overwhelming. So I thought I would share some tips for downsizing your stuff!

A Little History

At only 53, some might wonder why downsizing is on my “to do” list. A little history will explain why. My mother grew up during the Great Depression and because of that, she had a tendency to hold onto everything. I believe that the items she held served to remind her of the precious memories and people that were attached to them.

When she passed away in 2016, I was tasked with going through all of her things and deciding what was to be kept, trashed or donated. My husband and youngest daughter helped with the task and it took two full days to separate everything.

I did not have the luxury of time with this task as I live in another state, so we worked hard to get it all done. As I sat and went through drawers and closets overflowing with stuff, I made a promise to myself not to do the same thing to my children.

Downsizing Conversations

Now that the nest has been empty for several years, conversations about downsizing our home have become more common. Whether you are planning to move into a smaller home or not, the empty nest is the perfect time to consider downsizing your stuff.

From my own personal experience, adult children often do not need or want many of the things you consider valuable. It is so important to have conversations with your children and grandchildren to find out if there are items of furniture or jewelry that they would like to keep.

The bonus to these conversations is that they may be able to take the items now. If not, make notes for the future so there’s no confusion.

I have kept important items from each school year for both of my daughters. These treasures take up quite a bit of attic space. However, I have faced the reality that they may not see them as treasures. And, that’s okay! I will let them decide if they want to keep them or not.

There’s a great article in Prime Women.com with more details on downsizing.

Start Small

Downsizing your stuff all at once is an overwhelming thought. A better plan is to start small, perhaps one room at a time.

Whether it’s the kitchen, bathroom or family room, take a look at everything. Keep the things you use and toss or donate the rest. If you haven’t touched an item in years, then you probably don’t need it.

Use Techonology

Everyone has different levels of sentimental value placed on items. Some people want to keep every gift, card or picture that they possess. This is simply not practical and creates clutter and large storage problems.

One solution is to keep a few significant items and take digital pictures of the rest. You can then toss the extra stuff yet still hold onto the memory digitally. This is an excellent idea for children’s school projects and awards. Then you won’t end up like me with an attic full of school papers in totes!

Clothing

Clothing is probably one of the most common areas that gets “out of control”. As you go through your clothing, here are some guidelines to make it easier:

  • Immediately get rid of stained or damaged items. Be honest with yourself! If you haven’t repaired it then you likely won’t in the future either. Let it go!
  • If it doesn’t fit, let it go. We all tend to think maybe it will fit again. But, it won’t! You are far better served by investing in proper fitting clothes that you will actually wear.
  • Remember that trends change as well as your personal style. If you haven’t worn an item in a year then donate it to a worthy charity. There are many underprivileged women who would love to wear your nice quality clothing. It may no longer be your style, but perhaps can benefit someone else.
  • Once you have purged your closet, follow this rule: when you bring something new in, get rid of something old. This discipline will keep your closet neat and current.
collection of female clothes on rack in boutique
Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

Final Thoughts

We are not defined by the things we possess. Our stuff should be useful and enjoyed, not weighty and cluttered. When it no longer serves you, then it is time to move it on. There is something freeing about downsizing your stuff. It is a gift to yourself and your family to move forward in your golden years without all the “extra baggage”.

Never let your “stuff” stand between you and the life you want to be living!

SEIZING OPPORTUNITIES

I recently had an interaction with a waitress named Stephanie. Thoughts of how hard she worked for her customers stuck in my mind. Her work standard was excellence. Although the restaurant was short staffed, Stephanie was seizing opportunities to shine for her customers rather than complain about the circumstance.

Her hard work paid off with happy diners and nice tips for herself. I couldn’t help but think about today’s culture and how many people seem to want everything given to them. Someone else to make it easy for them and of course plenty of excuses and blame for everyone else not doing what they want.

What Is Opportunity

First let’s define opportunity. As a noun it is a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something such as a chance for employment or promotion. Opportunity can be viewed in two ways: (1) as something to be given and (2) as something to be taken.

I often hear people say ” I just need someone to give me an opportunity”. But, is that really true? To quote Orison Swett Marden Opportunities? They are all around us … There is power lying latent everywhere waiting for the observant eye to discover it.”

Opportunities were meant to be taken advantage of, or to accept or pursue with conviction. This means that it is not up to someone else to give you an opportunity as much as it is your responsibility to take action.

open to new opportunities lettering text on black background
Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

Why It’s Important to Seize Opportunities

One characteristic of opportunities is that they come and go. Opportunity comes with a window that will not stay open forever. Seizing opportunities requires watchfulness.

Taking advantage of opportunities is always going to move you outside of your comfort zone and create a path for growth. You will learn and develop new skills that will reward you in the future.

If you only want life to be easy and comfortable, then you will likely miss out.

How To Seize Opportunities

Seizing opportunities is not a stereotypical strength for women. Often when doors of opportunity are opened, women don’t go through them. This is due to the fact that there is still a confidence gap for women pursing new goals, especially in leadership.

Gloria Feldt said it perfectly “women’s biggest challenge in the 20th century was to change laws and open doors. Our challenge in the 21st century is to walk through those doors with big intentions. And we must each bring other women along on that journey. If women embrace the power we already possess, we can take full advantage of this rare moment of strategic inflection. We can turn a potential tipping point into the long-overdue reality.”

Generally speaking women aren’t raised to be risk takers. More often, women are told to play it safe; don’t take risks and you won’t fail. Women should be sweet and not bossy or pushy.

Boys, however, are taught the complete opposite. Take risks and play hard. That’s being a winner!

Unfortunately, the business world still has a bias toward men even when skills and experience are identical with women. This won’t change until women begin seizing opportunities. We can’t continue to limit ourselves and we must model for our daughters that you don’t have to wait for things to happen; pursue what you want.

Key Thoughts

  • You must be open to opportunity. If you are too “busy” you won’t see them.
  • Keep trying things. Every opportunity is not a guaranteed success. But, there is always something to be learned from every effort.
  • Take risks.
  • Reach for opportunities – they are usually NOT handed to you. You have to take action to take advantage of them.
  • Mistakes will happen and it’s okay. Perfection isn’t the goal. Learn from mistakes and move on.
  • Don’t let cultural/social manners sidetrack your authority. It’s great to be polite but don’t let being a “lady” cause you to miss an opportunity.
  • Ask for what you want. Not asking is a for sure NO.

Final Thoughts

I have had many opportunities come across my path. Some I’ve missed and others have taken me to places I never thought I could achieve. My daughters have been taught a strong work ethic and how to be change makers in their own lives.

Hopefully the “over 50” women will mentor and encourage those coming behind us to be women who won’t shy away from seizing opportunities.

LESSONS FROM MY 21-DAY CHOCOLATE FAST

Three weeks ago I began a 21-day chocolate fast. I began this fast as a means to participate with my church community in fasting and praying for marriages during this time. Here is what I learned and experienced along the way.

What Is Fasting

Fasting is a practice dating back centuries in many cultures and religions. It is the absence from all or some food or drink for a certain period of time to focus the mind and body.

There are many types of fasting and food is not the only thing you can restrict. I find that fasting from social media, television or other habits is a good way to clear your mind and gain perspective.

 pic of  cracked chocolate
Photo by Vie Studio on Pexels.com

Types of Fasting

There are 5 main fasting categories:

  1. Water Fasting – only water for a set period of time.
  2. Juice Fasting – only vegetable or fruit juice for a set period of time.
  3. Intermittent Fasting – partially or completely restricting some food/drink for a few hours or days at a time, then returning to normal eating.
  4. Partial Fasting – eliminating certain foods, drinks or habits for a set period of time.
  5. Calorie Restriction – eliminating certain foods/drinks for a period of time.

Please note that fasting is meant to be temporary. Fasting for long periods of time can create health problems because you are depriving the body of necessary nutrients.

Benefits of Fasting

There are many studies that reflect health benefits from fasting. There is a great article in Healthline with detailed information about how the body responds to fasting. Click here if you want to read that article.

The following is a list of health benefits:

  • Improved Blood Sugar Control
  • Reduced Insulin Resistance
  • Helps Fight Inflammation
  • Improved Blood Pressure
  • Boost Brain Function
  • Aid in Weight Loss and Boost Metabolism
  • Delay Aging

While this is not an exhaustive list, it is certainly a good reason to consider fasting.

pic of girl pursuing clarity, mindfulness
Photo by Daniel Torobekov on Pexels.com

Why I Chose Chocolate

If you have read my post “How I Love Chocolate” then you know that giving up chocolate for 21 days is not an easy endeavor. While I don’t eat a lot of chocolate, I do enjoy my bite-size treats throughout the day.

After spending some time in prayer, I felt like this habit had become a comfort habit and was worthy of putting back in proper perspective. My sweet tooth was not going to be happy, but fasting requires some sacrifice.

For me the goal was two fold:

  1. Join with others in my faith community in the discipline of fasting and focusing on prayer for our marriages.
  2. Exercise the muscles of self-control and self-discipline.

While I am a very organized and generally disciplined person, there is always room for growth and improvement. Just like any other physical muscle, our spiritual muscles need exercise too. Fasting is one way to do just that.

The Results

I am not new to the concept of fasting. Partial fasts pertaining to food and also non-food indulgences are something I have done before. I would love to tell you that my chocolate fast caused weight loss, but it did not. On the positive side, this reflects that my little chocolate indulgence isn’t affecting my overall health in a negative way! WHEW!!!

As I moved beyond the cravings on about day 5, I did find it easier to stick to my commitment. I was much more proactive in my daily routine and even got some old “to-dos” moved to “to-done”!

The past three weeks have had an improved flow and I believe that is due to feeling a greater level of inner peace and quiet in my soul. My confidence increased as each week passed that I was not controlled by my flesh or emotions. This experience was freeing.

Final Thoughts

The discipline of fasting strengthens the mind’s ability to be disciplined and tell the flesh to step back. All too often I am led by my hunger, comfort or desire for convenience.

Breaking the emotional attachment to chocolate made way for me to be more conscious in my decisions about what I take in.

I believe food is meant to be fuel for the body. Certainly I enjoy good food, but I also know that I have the self-discipline to moderate my eating.

Challenging your comfort and your mind is good. I hope to never be so comfortable in my life that I am mentally weak.

I’ll finish with the words of Plato:

“The first and greatest victory is to conquer self.”

PRIDE vs. HUMILITY

Do you ever find yourself “right fighting”? We all all victim to this mindset at some point. And it rarely ends well.

To pursue proving that you are right is to do so at the expense of someone else and perhaps end a relationship.

Humility doesn’t need to prove being right. It will cause you to pursue relationships over “winning” a disagreement.

That mindset always ends well!

FINANCIAL LITERACY FOR WOMEN OVER 50

I recently read an article that surprised me. In 2021, girls still do not receive the same exposure to financial literacy that boys do. In fact, financial literacy in women over 50 is still an issue.

Many women would rather talk about anything other than finances. This reflects a lack of foundational understanding about money in our community. There is a terrific article in Real Simple about this topic if you want to learn more.

One of the ways to create change is to make sure that as women over 50, we teach our daughters and granddaughters how to manage their finances. Here are some great tips to learn from and to teach.

Be Involved With Money Decisions

My mother grew up in an era where men were totally responsible for all financial decisions. That is not how she and my father managed their finances though. She taught me the importance of being a part of all of the money decisions in the home.

While the responsibilities of paying bills, daily expenses and investments may be divided between partners, each person has a responsibility to be aware of all the financial holdings. Communication is so important regarding investments, savings and following a budget.

Live Within Your Means

  • Did you know that 4 out 5 U.S. workers live paycheck to paycheck.
  • Over a quarter of workers never save any money each month.
  • 75% are in debt and see no way out.

To live within your means is simple. If you can’t afford it, you don’t buy it on credit. Most Americans have a mortgage debt along with credit card, auto loan and student loan debts as well.

You cannot invest in your future while being strapped to excessive debt. Paying off debt is “FREEDOM”. Not to increase your lifestyle, but to be able to tell your money where you want it to go!

Budget

Creating a budget is the only way you will know where your money is going. This is the means by which you establish a plan to save (10%), give (10%) and spend the rest (80%). This simple budgeting guide will create the discipline to save for goals and delay gratification for the benefit of future needs.

I personally create a budget each year. This gives me an opportunity to see on paper my expenses and income. This is an opportunity to really look at your expenses and make decisions about things you can reduce. It’s easy to let regular small expenses add up to big budget impacts.

pic of budget preparation
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Money Is A Tool

Money is not the solution to money problems. It is a tool to be used wisely. Money is the means by which our economic system works. The things we need and want require money. Having a proper mindset is key to using this tool wisely.

As mentioned above, we already know most people do not have any savings built up. Creating an emergency fund should be a high priority. Let’s face it, the unexpected will happen to everyone at some point.

Building an emergency fund of at least $1000.00 will help with minor repairs to cars, appliances and health needs. Taking the next step is to increase that fund to 3 to 6 months of expenses. This creates a financial cushion and peace of mind for larger life events.

person holding bank card
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Have Money In Your Name

In my parents generation, married couples only had a joint bank account. Women typically did not have anything financial in their name. This proved very hard for women of this time period when life events changed for them.

Unexpected things can happen. For all women, it is a good idea to maintain a checking account and/or a credit card in your own name. This allows you to maintain your own credit score and have a sense of security and stability that is yours alone.

Another great idea for women of all ages, is to keep at lest $20 cash in your wallet. In today’s world most of our transactions occur using “cards”, but you never know when you may need some cash. You might want to consider hiding a $20 bill in your car for an emergency as well.

Be Generous

Good news, you don’t have to be wealthy to be generous. Giving financially to worthy charitable causes yields a far greater benefit to the giver. Even if you can only spare $10, that money combined with the giving of others leads to a significant impact in helping your community.

Giving serves to help us maintain the right mindset about money. Your bank account does not define you. How you make people feel will always be remembered.

Never forget that no matter how much or little you have, there is always someone with more and always someone with less.

Final Thoughts

Dave Ramsey says it well in his article “What Do You Need to Know About Financial Literacy?” He states that financial literacy is the development of a stronger understanding of basic financial concepts in order to manage money better.

Financial literacy in women will equip them with skills to make smart decisions about their money. As women over 50, we should make sure that we gain financial knowledge ourselves, and pass it along to the next generation.

Financial literacy for women is our responsibility. We must make sure that our daughters and granddaughters are equipped with the financial tools and knowledge to manage their financial lives well.

ARE YOUR ROOTS SHOWING?

I recently had my hair colored and cut. It was much needed as my grey roots were showing like dull diamonds through my brown hair. While I was enjoying my “salon time”, I started thinking about roots. My mind was racing with all kinds of thoughts.

The definition of the word root as a noun is the part of a plant that attaches to the ground and provides water and nourishment to the plant. The verb “root” means to cause to grow or establish deeply and firmly.

My thoughts shifted to the important role roots play in our lives. I color my hair because the roots cause it to grow.

My faith, family and values keep me rooted and grounded in how I live my life.

Hidden roots are the kind that cause me to stumble both literally and internally. So let’s talk about roots.

Roots You Cover

I spend a lot of time and money trying to keep my grey roots covered. Premature grey hair runs in my family and I have been fighting this color battle for years.

So far, I am still winning! I feel my best when my hair is close to it’s original natural color of dark brown. It seems silly to hide the fact that I color my hair. I am very open and honest about it. These roots are the kind that are completely appropriate to cover up!

There are other roots, however, that aren’t so easy to hide and reveal a lot about us.

Relational Roots

We all have relational roots. These are the roots that connect us to places and people. Where we are born and live as well as our family and friends root is in a place of belonging. This belonging creates a condition of feeling settled.

Relational roots can also be found in what we value. My faith is a huge part of who I am and how I live my life.

The values we embrace and the people we love serve to keep us grounded and focused on doing our best in all circumstances. Our relational roots run deep and provide the physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment that we all crave and need.

Hidden Roots

Hidden roots are the most troublesome. When I hike in the woods, even though the scenery is beautiful, I keep watch on the ground because tree roots can cause me to fall. Nobody wants to be 2 miles into a trail and have an injury.

My daughter ran cross country in high school. The run trail always wound in and out of the woods. I can remember a few occasions where she emerged with scraped up knees and elbows. Hidden roots had done their work!

Are your roots showing?  Pic of hidden tree roots on trail.
Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

There are more deceptive and damaging roots that affect us. Roots of bitterness, anger, pride and unforgiveness hold us captive to negative experiences and emotions that skew our perspective for the future.

These roots can’t be seen but are definitely felt. You can’t simply cover these roots and walk away. They must be exposed, unpacked and brought to closure.

In doing this hard work, they no longer hold you captive. You are free to move forward in your future, establishing new experiences with healthy roots.

Final Thoughts

I’ll ask this final question of myself and you the reader, “Are your roots showing”?

If they are then ….

  • Cover the roots that need some color.
  • Embrace the roots that you value and keep you grounded.
  • Expose the roots that hold you captive.

It’s hard work taking care of roots. Watering, pruning and perhaps even uprooting are the necessary actions needed to maintain healthy roots. I hope that all your roots run deeply and nourish you richly.

“All things must come to your soul from its roots, from where it is planted” Saint Teresa Avila