Category: Mindfulness

2018 Reboot!

Let’s be honest; 2017 sucked. Moving on.


2018 is going to involve a return to taking care of myself… physically as well as mentally. I’ve really let that slip and I’m feeling it. Bad.

I recently took time to review what makes me feel good, mentally. One of the biggies is being productive; but not in the way of being-busy but of growing, learning, and creating.

So for 2018 I’ve decided to try to make something every day.

Most days it will be something small; that is OK.

Today I made this blog post.

2016 Theme: Level Up!

Well I feel like I’ve said this before, but last year sucked… here’s to a much better 2016!

I see I haven’t posted since Maddie’s 3-year birthday. Since then…. well, very little has changed. At least in 2014 I got several projects done around the house; 2015 not so much.

I did make some progress on building a home-based business, with Sproutwise Kids — had hoped to be much further along by now but I’m still happy with the foundation we have in place. We achieved profitability (without salaries anyway), and managed to give $591 to charities in the process. Good start!


So how about those 2015 goals?

I spent a good bit of time a year ago figuring out where my focus should be, in order to look back at the year with satisfaction. What I didn’t put in here was anything relating to Maddie; that is just the giant boulder in the middle of the room that we have to simply work around as we try to craft a happy life…

Here’s what I came up with:


1. Get SL to $200k in profit.

OK… in retrospect that was overly optimistic (though it’s not impossible to do that, given the right type of business and a bit of luck!)

But having that as a focus did help me drive hard in the right direction on a good many things; and frankly having something to work on building helped keep me sane through the long long long days and nights of tending to Maddie.

In 2016, I actually think we could hit that goal, if we execute well. (btw I keep saying “we” — building this business with my brother-in-law; so $200k profit would be split between us…)

2. Establish a Friend Rhythm

FAIL. But it’s still important to me; so it’s something I will work into my 2016 planning which is in progress.

3. Climb three V8’s

Well, I got one. (Technically a V8- but I’m counting it!) But I don’t feel bad about that at all. It was a fun goal to work towards, and it did have some great side effects — helped me focus a bit more on healthy habits; and got me to the gym a couple of times a week (which again helped my sanity).

4. Outdoors Time

Yes. And it definitely worked. More of that in 2016…

5. Grow relationships with 3 mentors/coaches

Hmm; not really. I ended up subbing this with “find some folks online to follow and learn from”. Not nearly as great as real relationships… it was what I felt I could do in 2015. Still need to think about where to go with this one.


level-up2016 — Time to “Level Up”.

Forget about New Years Resolutions… to actually get somewhere you need a system.

In retrospect that’s the biggest problem with my 2015 list above — it’s just a bunch of goals without any real strategies as to how I was going to get there…

To be fair, for each of these, in 2015, I did write up some strategies (separately) and I reviewed every month. Useful, and helpful, but I want to find a more effective way in 2016.

The one good thing about surviving the wasteland of suck that was 2015 is that I feel like I’ve truly regained my footing, and can rebuild a better life from here on out.

Maddie will continue to be a roller-coaster and time-sink… but I can work around it. No point in worrying about stuff outside my control.

So going forward I’m putting into place some systems to help get towards my 2016 goals… My theme for 2016 is “Level Up” — been experimenting with lots of things over the last 2 years or so… time to put the pieces together and effect some major changes in 2016. 1% better. Every. Single. Day.

Direction Matters more to Happiness than Position (Maddie’s Progress)

They say that lottery winners, on average, don’t end up any happier a couple of years after their big win. On the other hand, folks that have lost a limb in an accident often report being happier — again, on average — a couple of years down the road.

Seriously; folks that have lost a leg are often happier than lotto winners. Why?

It all comes down to a truth that I’ve been reminded of recently: the trials of everyday life don’t have nearly as big an effect on your happiness as whether you believe that things are getting better. The direction of life change is more important than where you are right now… or to put it another way, it makes all the difference in the world whether you think your life will get better and better in the future.

Here are two examples I’ve lived lately.


1. The Purple Hand

At the end of January I broke my hand. The cast they put on it had a fiberglass “web” running over the soft fleshy part between my thumb and index finger, as they usually do. After a couple of days, that started cutting into my thumb pretty good… but for lack of options I did my best to ignore it.

Three weeks into six-weeks of healing, I took a serrated kitchen knife to the webbing.

Aaaaaaaaah!  Now that’s relief…

For the next week I was barely bothered by the rest of the cast, even though it was still rubbing my index finger fairly badly (hence the tape in the picture) — I just kept remembering how much better it was to have that webbing gone. (And I knew the cast would be gone soon.)

When the cast did come off, my world experienced a similar lift. Sure, the hand hurt… and I still couldn’t climb… but my new wrist freedom was such a huge step in the positive direction that it lifted me for weeks. And since I could feel things healing up, I continue to be reminded that things are getting better and better…

2. Maddie’s Growth Chart

For the past 22 months we’ve been fighting to get Maddie to gain weight. Long story. This chart says a lot:


She’s been under the 1% of weight for just about all of her life. It’s hard to eat when your GI system is under-developed, and it’s hard to develop your GI system when you can’t eat…

From month 12 through months 23 she gained approximately nothing… just slowly slipped off the bottom of the growth chart.

Those were 11 very difficult months.

It’s not hard to let one particular life rut pull down your whole mental frame. When the present isn’t changing, why would the future be any better (irrational thought this is, it’s not hard to understand). Of course the best way to make sure the future sucks is to stop trying to make it better… but let’s move on.

Finally, over the past 6 weeks or so, things are starting to click. See that uptick I circled in green? That is the single most exciting thing I have ever seen in my life. No exaggeration. All of a sudden the future is looking bright… there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it isn’t a train coming our way.

Once more, even though things are still challenging the direction of change makes it all feel OK.

The Lotto Winner and the Amputees

So what’s the deal with these sad lotto winners and the happy amputees? From what I’ve read, it comes down to much the same thing.

Sure, the lotto winner might still be rich (might not, often enough), but is their life getting better? In fact, they often feel like the best thing to ever happen to them is in the past, and it’s a long slow slide down from here.

Whereas the folks that lost a limb have one of the biggest challenges (mostly) behind them… they’re getting by and hopefully getting better, and they tend to see the future as better still.

The Point

The big takeaway for me is that you can easily use this to hack your whole mood. Rather than complain about the weather, find one thing that is within your control and work on improving it… revel in the glow of this one little area of your life moving on up, and you almost can’t help but see the future as rosier.

Then it gets even better.

When this sense of things getting better in one area spills over into a positive outlook on the future, it gives you more energy and lets you notice and take advantage of other opportunities, which ends up causing things to actually get better and better in other areas.

Thinking really can does affect reality.

Feb Experiment: Be Still

purple-castI’m behind in writing about this, but my February experiment was more or less thrust upon me when I broke my hand.

I had just put in my notice at trinket the day before to spend more time helping Maddie. We needed to double down on her therapies to try to get back on track after a recent weight drop; per Einstein we couldn’t just keep doing the same thing and hoping for a different result.

But even those therapies only take so many hours per day, so I was already facing the possibility of having some slack time — which is always a challenge for an engineer.

As you can probably guess, I had been compiling a mental list of projects I might tackle in bits and pieces whenever the girls didn’t need my help. Some things I want to build, some things I want to learn, and some things I’ll be writing about in future months…

Then the purple cast happened.

Go go go…

My first instinct, actually, was to press ahead with my projects, hand and all… anything to avoid that maddening feeling of being idle… but landscaping with one hand is a just not an efficient use of time. (Writing is far slower as well; but I still want to do as much of it as I can — I learned that much from my January Experiment.)


But a nagging thought started to form around the fact that I was so opposed to having idle time. Why do I find it so challenging? I decided that I need to find out, so I reshuffled my monthly experiment plans and February, thus far, has been the month that I am doing my best to just be.

(Yes, those are my abs.)

I am no expert on meditation, and unlike most of the time I haven’t taken the time to read up on it at all thus far. This isn’t meditation, actually… this month’s experiment is far simpler… I’m merely trying to catch myself whenever I start to do something to “distract” my brain from the here and now.

First-world Distractions

I’ve never had any real interest in TV or Facebook; but I can easily while away hours reading up on science, technology, psychology, even history and politics… and while I’ve learned some interesting stuff, it has been totally without intention, and isn’t advancing the cause.

What cause? That’s part of what I’m trying to figure out, actually… and I’ve realized that this constant mental motion is hindering that quest.

The Goal

On the surface this might sound like I’m just trying to cull a few time-wasters from my week. But it’s much more than that, to me. Soon I will set about creating the next chapter of my life. I want it to be intentional, and crafted to maximize happiness on several different planes (me, family, community, perhaps world) as things go along. But I have always been fuzzy about my direction, and before I start down another path, I want a clearer picture of something. Not where I’m going, exactly, because that will change… rather I want to be clear on what happiness looks like — otherwise how can I be confident that I’m creating a life well-lived?

So this month whenever I find myself compelled to research some intriguing but non-essential fact on Google, I shut the computer and look outside instead. Whenever I enter a new room, I try to actually look around and see it. I’m trying to share more of what’s in my head, in order to be less inside my own skull and more present.

So by the end of February, I hope to get to the place where I can just be still and fully present for an entire hour. 

It has not been easy at all, so far — but already it’s been worthwhile.


(Image credit

Feeling like a 3-year-old

broken handLast Tuesday I quit working at The next day I broke my hand. Unrelated.

The timing is somewhat ironic though; I quit to help out more with Maddie’s continuing medical issues, and this definitely makes it harder to help.

Given that I’m very right-hand dominant, it’s been an enlightening week.

It turns out there are literally dozens of things that you think you have mastered — but you have actually only mastered doing them with one particular hand. Brushing your teeth with the wrong hand, for example, is awkward but still very possible. Hammering a nail, on the other hand? Almost impossible.

Eating with the wrong hand is odd; it feels almost like trying to handle a fork with thick leather gloves on.

But the one that really made me laugh was trying to use a knife.

This morning Sydney (age 3) and I made a PB&J sandwich together. And we were equally bad at it!

Handling the knife left handed, specifically… you just don’t realize how many subtle hand movements go into the simple act of spreading peanut butter… all the little angle changes… the pressure has to be just right… one slip either way and your either glomming it on in huge dollops or leaving bare spots.

It sounds annoying, but it was actually pretty amusing. And in fact it has been a nice week of mindfulness — I’ve paid far more attention to the little everyday things, since I’ve been forced to tackle them with the dexterity of a 3-year-old.