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The Content of His Character

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Today we're celebrating the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. and his beautiful dream that we would view each other through the lenses of character, integrity, and kindness rather than color or ethnicity.  It's an ideal my own father lived by. In March of 1955, my father was the 21-year-old son of an American living on the island of Trinidad in the West Indies.  My grandfather, the black sheep of his family, had left the U.S. more than 30 years before that to seek his fortune, and wound up working on oil rigs off the coasts of Venezuela and Colombia.  My grandmother was Colombian, uneducated, cut off from her family by her unsatisfactory marriage to a wild non-Catholic. My father had a rather neglected childhood.  His father was home less than half the time and apparently took little interest in my dad, his oldest surviving son (four other children had died before my dad was born).  My father was not sent to school until the British colonial government passed a truancy la

Touch Everything

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One of the things I particularly like about Marie Kondo's approach is her insistence that you touch each of your possessions as you declutter. So many of us have well-organized homes, with extensive storage solutions.  Some are even carefully styled and color-coordinated.  We think, "Look how neat and tidy my home is.  Look how attractive my clothes closet/pantry/linen closet looks!  I don't have a clutter problem!" But when confronted with the challenge of actually touching each and every thing we own, we balk.  We panic.  We feel overwhelmed with the impossibility of handling every item. Some studies show that the average American home contains 300,000 objects, from serving spoons to sofas.  That's 300,000 items to hold and evaluate.  To decide "Do I need or want to keep and use this, or should I donate, sell, or discard it?  Is this the optimum place to store it, if I am going to keep it?  Is it easy to access and put away again?" If your first though

What Does It Mean to "Spark Joy"?

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At this point, Marie Kondo is practically a household name.  Most of us have at least skimmed her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up , and a lot of us have watched her Netflix TV show.  And we've probably heard the all-important question we're supposed to ask about each of our possessions:  Does it spark joy? But before we ask the question, we're supposed to put our hands on everything we own.  For example, a while ago I got every piece of clothing I owned from my closet, the dresser, the coat closet, the closet in the back bedroom, the storage boxes under the bed... wherever I had managed to stash clothing. I had a big pile of clothing on my bed, far more than I expected (even though I aspire to minimalism).  One of the most eye-opening results of Kondo's method is that you can't fail to realize exactly how much stuff you have.  Most of us have plenty . Now's the time to ask the question about joy.  Does this shirt or nightgown or pair of socks "s

More Goals for 2021

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(If you haven't already read it, you might like my post about how I started complaining less , and what I learned from my failure to completely eradicate complaints from my life.) We're all hoping that this year will be better than 2020 was.  But merely hoping for change is pretty useless, when we have the power to actually make a change.  Why stop at only one resolution for the new year?  I can think of other worthwhile enhancements to life here on earth. 10 Resolutions for a Better Year 1.  Smile Lately I've noticed tiny children in the grocery store who look at me expressionlessly when I catch their eyes.  It's because they can't see my smile through my mask!  It's a bit scary to see kids who don't smile (or even frown or stare at you like you're a crazy lady), and that's become more common in 2020.  So I'm going to keep smiling, especially when I eventually don't have to wear a mask in public.  I'm going to smile more at everyone. 

Beyond Failure

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New Year's resolutions are the very definition of best-laid plans.  Many of us make them, or try to improve our habits and behaviors at other times.  Unfortunately, a 2018 study which looked at millions of participants found that most of us give up within two weeks. Have you ever done that?  We all have ideals, but we don't always live up to them.  That's disheartening, but it truly is the effort that matters. So my ideal, my goal for December, was 31 days of no complaints .  And to be honest, I failed.  Big time. Here I was thinking I was a pretty positive person.  I thought I tended to find the bright side, to focus on the positive, to give people the benefit of the doubt.  Ha!  What did I discover instead?  I complain all the time about things large and small.  Even during the "happiest season of the year," I found plenty that I wasn't happy about. How do I know this?  One major result of my failed "No Complaints Challenge" was mindfulness.  At le

Home Tweaks for the New Year

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Sometimes our homes just need a tune-up, rather than a complete declutter. Even though I've been practicing minimalism for a while, stuff creeps in.  Maybe I buy something new or replace something old and neglect to remove the out-of-date or no-longer-loved item.  But a quick and easy adjustment can put me back on a lighter, more streamlined path. Are you ready for your home to feel more spacious and poised for the new year?  As we take down our Christmas trees and put away holiday d├ęcor, it's the perfect time for a gentle cleanse. 5 Adjustments to Get You Back on Track 1.  Use fresh eyes. Go out your front door and reenter your home as a guest (or even a potential home buyer).  Use a fresh, discerning eye to view the space.  Consider your entry hall, living room, kitchen and dining area.  Go down the hallway and enter your bedrooms and bathrooms, and the room where you gather as a family.  Are you pleased with what you see? Maybe a desk, table, or countertop needs some attenti

Make the New Year Merry and Bright

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Even in 2020, the holidays have so much potential to be about real things that last – hope, renewal, love, peace, inspiration.   But advertisers want us to focus on other things.  They want us to think that love is expressed through jewelry, merriment requires booze, and joy is found in a mountain of toys.  They work hard to convince us that a gorgeously decorated tree, a Martha Stewart-worthy feast, and a new car with a big red bow will insure a perfect holiday. Advertisers are wrong. Unfortunately, I still get caught up in the promises of consumerism, even though I know they are empty.  I still rush out to buy all the things.  At times, I have maxed out my credit cards and spent all of my energy.  I've gone crazy chasing the perfect holiday. And then it's all over. The presents are opened, the food is eaten, the special events are in the past.  You'd think I'd be happy and fulfilled by all of it, but instead I feel exhaustion and letdown. As a kid, I remember wailing,