Category Archives: Transformation

Life Makeover: Follow-up

This past June, I finished a year long course from Cheryl Richardson’s book,
Life Makeovers: 52 practical and inspiring ways to improve your life.

The book was divided into 52 chapters, with an assignment to be completed weekly.

Many of the weeks were repetitious. Some were meaningful, others were discarded completely. Regardless of the outcome, the big win for me was that I stuck with the program and completed a year’s worth of weekly work while addressing it in my blog. The second win was that my accountability group stayed with me the entire time, enabling them to benefit from the work I did as well by applying some of the various lessons to their own lives.

It’s a good feeling to finish something I started out to do. That isn’t always the case for me but this time it paid off. I don’t remember exactly what I was hoping to accomplish by doing the weekly tasks when I first started the book. I think it was somewhere along the lines that at almost 50 years old, I found myself directionless and I was hoping some kind of program would help me to get past that.

Throughout the year I learned some new tools to aid in my growth. I stood strong with the things I already knew and I shared with others my successes and my failures. It opened up all sorts of conversations and gave me a more indepth vision into my own psyche.

It was a learning process through and through, and now that the year is over I must admit, at the beginning of my journey, I did imagine when it was over, I would be a better person for my struggles. Not that I was a bad person to begin with, I just had it in my mind that I would be completely different by the end. That didn’t happen.

There is a reason learning is a lifelong process. It doesn’t end and you must keep at it, applying the lessons you pick up along the way, constantly incorporating them into your daily routine. This action forms new habits which hopefully replaces the old, worn out, dated ones that no longer serve a purpose.

There’s a bit of irony to the fact that while change is formidable, inevitable and inescapable, it is also the hardest thing to do.

The things I did learn this past year are as follows:

Self-care is of the utmost importance. Giving of yourself is commendable, but there is no place for martyrdom in daily living. Fill your soul up first and you will have more to pass on to others. It is as simple as that.

Have an Absolute ‘Yes’ List. I loved this idea from the moment I read about it. It has taken me over four decades to learn the importance of boundaries, and this is one more tool to aid in that. Knowing the things you will say Yes to makes decision making so much easier. I’m not a telephone person. I don’t like to talk on the phone just to shoot the breeze, but the obligation to answer when a call came in was plaguing. With my Absolute Yes list, if I get a call from those not listed, I let it go to voicemail without the guilt.
If I am asked to do something I’m unsure of, before, I would give a slight maybe then immediately regret my decision. Now, if it’s not part of my Yes list, I can say no with ease. If anything, this course really did help me to firmly place my boundaries and stick to them.

I was happy to see that many of the exercises in the book, I was already applying in my life, which made those weeks extremely easy. Some ideas were so inane, had no bearing on my life, (much of this book was geared toward self business owner of which I am not one), or held no interest whatsoever, that I chose not to do them yet I still blogged my opinion of them. There were other ideas that I am still working on even now.

When all is said and done, I am glad I spent a year of my life working towards something positive even if the results are still yet to be determined. I firmly believe no bit of learning is ever wasted, and that alone has made this journey all the more worthwhile.

If you followed along with me, if you encouraged me, if you are interested in reading the posts that chronicled the year I did this, (it is all there in mostly black and white, under the heading, Transformation), I thank you.

Now that my focus has been lifted from the workbook to my life, I am looking onward to the next step of this never ending story. I thought it might be something along the lines of minimizing my lifestyle, but now some other ideas are surfacing that are getting a lot of play time in the recesses of my mind.

Stay tuned, it just might be of interest to you.
Thanks again.

Now I can finally check this off my list as completed.

The Power of Prayer (wk52)

My final week of following through Cheryl Richardson’s LIfe Makeovers book, a year of working week by week through personal projects that could change your life.
This is the last chapter.

The entire book was filled with weekly self-care projects that could change your perspectives, and ultimately your life. Some of the projects were easy, many repetitive, and others were hard, taking up more room than an allotted one week visit would allow.

The author saved her most important project for the final chapter. The Power of Prayer is not just a Christian ideology. It can be used by anyone at anytime. The important thing to remember is not to whom the prayers are directed to but as to the Why behind the prayer in the first place.

Good energy sent outward makes a difference. Love released into the wild will find its mark and not end up in a void.

Prayers and intentions have weight behind them. Although it cannot be quantified in physical terms, I am of the belief that prayers are heard on a different level from which we operate and if done with enough intention behind it, they are heard. Maybe not always answered in the manner we had hoped for but they are heard. Sometimes that alone is enough.

The author advocates the power of prayer to be used in conjunction with being of service to others. It is in giving that we receive. As we finish the year, it’s time to reclaim our purpose and share with others the benefits of this past year’s lessons we have learned. Open your heart and share your gifts.

One act the author follows up on with prayer requests is to keep a special candle at hand, and when a prayer request comes in, she lights the candle to bring more focus to the prayers on her list. I love this idea. To fully engage in an activity like prayer could only benefit all parties involved.

This week’s final take action challenge:

This week share your love, knowledge, money, time, attention, and whatever gifts you have to offer, to someone in need. Create your own daily ritual of service and put it into practice. Remind yourself of your daily gift of service so as not to miss a day. Or start your morning ritual by saying, How can I be of service today? Share what you have learned throughout this past year to those who might benefit from your wisdom.

And enjoy your life

Sane and Special (wk 51)

Almost finished with Cheryl Richardson’s, Life Makeovers, a week by week process of changing your life. Because I started this midyear instead of at the New Year, my works do not always correlate with her chapter plans. Her final few chapters in this book are taking place over the Christmas holidays so while I am looking forward to the Fourth of July, she is gearing up towards a new year. I have taken this chapter and altered it to fit where I am at this place in time.

This week is summed up by finding ways to keep this holiday week sane amid the craziness that can develop and keep it special for yourself and others in your immediate sphere of influence.

Her suggestions:

Smile more– even if you don’t feel like it, this simple act can be an immediate mood lifter. I do believe in this. It goes along with positive thoughts and positive actions. It’s a small thing to do and an honest smile at any time of the year is always a welcome sight.

Go for a drive and enjoy the holiday decorations. Well, that isn’t going to happen but going for a drive and enjoying the view, the beach, the mountains, the park, is always an option. There is something about getting out of the same old, same old rut you are in and checking out the views that often lead to creative breakthroughs. Use this time for all its worth.
Sit quietly by the fire and lights of the tree- Well, even in winter, very few SoCal people have fires going. Being the middle of June, there is no tree either. But that doesn’t stop me from checking out local garden areas and sitting quietly at night just listening to music is always an option as well.

Help a parent– acknowledge and aid a parent that can use a little relief at this time of year. I think appreciation is always welcome and you don’t need the excuse of holidays to do this. Offer up thanks to the parents in your life or acknowledge other parents you come into contact with to let them know what a great job they are doing. A little goes a long way. A little thanks. A little word. A little help.

The biggest takeaway here is to not lose yourself in the shuffle of the daily grind or the busyness that life tends to throw our way. Relax. This thing called life is a marathon, not a sprint. Enjoy it in all its glory.

The only action work this week is simple:


I can do that.

Shake Up Your Life (wk 50)

It’s week 50, of working through Cheryl Richardson’s Life Makeovers book. Now at the end of this year long journey, the author seems to have skimmed the surface for topics that could have been life changing, but ended up choosing something shallow and meaningless for those that have dug deep all year long to improve themselves.

This week’s topic was on shaking up the daily routine of your life for something different. It’s these shifts that change the internal landscape as well. Not that I disagree, only, her example was how she was put out when she had an office renovation and had company stay with her at the same time. Heaven help us, that the much needed paint job threw her life into such chaos and she had no choice but to cope with it and decided this was the exact type of change her life needed in order to learn some lesson from it.

I cannot relate to any of that. Maybe because the shake-ups my life goes through happens more often then I would like, and to me, dealing with drying paint and covered furniture would seem like a vacation to me and not an upheaval.

 The only homework was to list one thing you will do this week to shake up your life.

I am not going to do anything that will shake up my life more than it already has been. A shake up is the last thing I need, and I am never disappointed because the shake-ups come whether I want them to or not. I never have to seek them out. They find me.

 So if your life is so steady that you need to actively look for ways to turn things on their head for the sake of change, I commend your balanced lifestyle. As for me, I plan to dig in and enjoy the quiet that comes before all the storms that continue to flow my way. That is how I do life.

(picture: free clipart images)

Stop the Madness (wk49)

This book I have been working through, [Life Makeovers], is leading up to the culmination of the holiday season–only I started in June instead of in January, and for me, that means the holidays are either well behind or just ahead of me, depending on which way you want to look at it.

Since the author is looking at Christmastime giving, she outlines some low-key methods to create meaningful gifts, removing yourself from the holiday madness. Come December, this is a BIG issue, but in June it is a bit removed and almost non-relevant. Not to mention that only a few short weeks ago she was covering much of the same topics, gift giving and meaningful sentiments.

Then it was titled, People and Priorities, now it’s titled as Madness. No matter. While            Cheryl Richardson has written a book and dug deep for topics, it’s still a step ahead of where I am at, although admittedly, I have come a long way from where I was a year ago.
That being said, my feelings haven’t changed from last month either.

I love giving to people. I love thinking of ways to make others happy and finding moments they can enjoy. So continuing along that vein, I still strive to give of my time, my skills, and my possessions to others so that I remember that it is in giving that we receive. Maybe the lessons seem repetitious because they are, or maybe that is what it takes to instill better habits as opposed to what we started with.

As this book slowly winds down, I keep my eyes on the road that I am travelling and looking forward to the good things that can still come of this. I have continued to embark on the decluttering of my belongings and passing on the things that still hold value to me but I would love to see gifted and valued to and by others. That is my current goal in life and that is what I have been up to. In addition to cutting down on the commercial shopping sprees, she makes suggestions that benefit the giver as well. Give yourself permission to sit this one out. Not giving in to the madness of the season. Taking time for your soul, doing things differently. I am all for different.

This week’s homework:
List two things to do differently this year
Give myself time for me
Enjoy the peaceful moments with others without overloading on work.

My favorite holiday accessory is:
Candles and Music

I look forward to the end of the year knowing I have prepared ahead of time for the main event.
Fingers crossed, it all goes as planned.

The Benefits of Boredom (wk48)

Working through Cheryl Richardson’s book, Life Makeovers, this week she covers the benefits of boredom. After 48 weeks of topics to change your life, I believe she must have been running out of ideas because this week was quite a stretch. She equates filling your spare time with activities as a refusal to accept boredom for what it is.

I don’t buy into that. She claims she has studied this topic in order to write about it, but without links, I am not sure where her studies landed her. This is what I found.

Boredom: In conventional usage, boredom is an emotional or psychological state experienced when an individual is left without anything in particular to do, is not interested in his or her surroundings, or feels that a day or period is dull or tedious.

That being said, I can honestly say that I am never bored. I do not ever feel uninterested in my life or that I experience periods of dullness. Tedious, maybe, but I am never without anything to do, or look forward to doing.

In her book, she thinks by using your free time to catch up on the things you want is some kind of escapism from your life, as though it’s a bad thing. I was rather disappointed that she would fill a chapter with something so weak.

If I am with free time, I want to fill it with things i enjoy. I want to lean into my creativity and utilize that time for this. I want to sit with my thoughts. I want to meditate, pray, dream.

If she feels the need to denigrate free time by calling it boredom and tell people they are doing something wrong by filling their moments with meaningful things, then she is the one with the bigger problem. Otherwise, this entire chapter and entire week has been lost to me.

I enjoy the fine art of doing nothing. I also enjoy my moments of writing and doing fine art. There is nothing wrong with wanting to fill your spare time. If this year of transformation has taught me anything, it’s that while it’s good to have a direction to move towards and be guided by external ideas, in the end, we all walk different paths and no one person knows the best way for you to take than yourself. Trust your own inner compass and don’t put too much stock into what others, including professionals, think you must be doing.

This weeks action steps:

List ways you avoid boredom by filling your time with other activities, and choose three items to NOT do this week in order to sit with your free time.

Enh, I will pass on this.

The Thank You Game (wk47)

This week, the author invites her readers to play a game she calls The Thank You Game. Cheryl Richardson explains how this was inspired by her father that loved to surprise people with gifts of gratitude. For many people, they only wait for special occasions in which to express their gratitude towards others, usually during the holidays.

Like Cheryl’s father, my dad would do things like this, too. Year round. He was a most generous man and was always thinking of others. Maybe it was because of rough childhood, filled with an impoverished upbringing. Maybe it was just his nature. Whatever the reason, he passed this kind of example along to his kids. Some of us took it to heart. Others never gave it a moment’s notice.

Regardless, I fall into the camp that if you want to thank someone for something, you don’t wait until a special holiday to express it. You tell them, show them, do something to demonstrate your feelings. There is always something to give thanks for. I don’t always capture every opportunity that comes my way to do this, but I have a higher than normal average.To me, giving thanks isn’t a game. It’s a way of life and should be treated as such if one wants to make a heartfelt difference in their life or in the world.

Several years ago, I read a book that made a huge difference in my life. It made me look at the people surrounding me with gratitude and it did what a month of Sundays in church, did not. It made me feel grateful without the guilt.

The book is called, 365 Thank Yous. It is a true story about a man whose life was in the toilet and he turned things around by a conscious decision he made to be thankful for all situations in his life instead of continuing the victim role he had partaken in for so much of it.

In this book, the author makes a vow to handwrite a thank you note a day for an entire year, to see if he can notice any difference.

His whole life changes as a result.
The very thought that something so small as a simple thank you can create worlds of difference is exciting and awe inspiring.

I think it’s time for me to reread this book. As with anything, gentle reminders are sometimes needed to get our feet back on the right track.

This week’s work:
The author suggests to make a list of seven people to thank for something, and spend one day each week to do just that.

I am not making a list as I feel that since this is a deeply ingrained part of my life, all this does is limit my actions. But if this isn’t something you are used to doing, I would highly encourage you to do this.

If the only prayer you say in your life is “Thank You”, that would suffice. ~Meister Eckhart

On Gifts and Giving (wk 46)

The Spirit of Giving

Because I started this project mid year, instead of a the beginning of January, the chapters are sometimes off kilter, geared for seasonal timing and not where I am currently. So this week, the author is approaching the Christmas season as I am approaching summer.

The author’s current chapter is making suggestions for alternatives for gift giving during the holidays…while I just finished with Mother’s Day. And while I liked her suggestions, I will use this week to give my take on gifts and gift giving instead.

I’m not the type of person that gets overly excited about things or events. While I enjoy both, my excitement factor is kept drastically in check. That is my natural default factor. On a scale of
Will Farrell from Elf, down to the level of Grumpy Cat, I register just above that adorable ball of sarcastic fluff.

That being said, what I like best about gifts is giving them. I enjoy making things or buying things for others that I think they will like.

Lately, I have started a new phase in my life that is pushing me towards a minimalistic lifestyle. I am culling out the ‘things’ in my life that I have so carefully hoarded for decades, realizing that as much as I like my own stuff, keeping it locked away in a dark recess, away from the light of day, does no one any good. And I have nice stuff, too.

I am learning that if we cannot utilize our stuff the way it is meant to be used, there is really no use in keeping it. That goes against conventional wisdom that says it’s better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it.

I believe there is an ebb and flow to life. Like tides rushing in and out with a gentle rhythm, always in conjunction, the same goes for our possessions. We should use what we have or send it on its way to perform better somewhere else. But somehow, we get caught up in the belief that if we can’t use it now, we should hold onto it in case a need arises in the future.

I find it very easy to see how the mentality of hoarders comes about. Maybe it is written in our DNA, passed down from previous generations that never had enough and wanted something better for their offspring. But instead of a helpful advice, what was created was a minefield of people hoarding their belongings, wanting only the best and the most for themselves, not thinking about benefiting others along the way.

What was started with the best of intentions became a society of people off balance and out of step with nature. Americans spend a small fortune on storage spaces to hold their stuff that they do not wish to share because one day they may have a need for it. It is a sickness that we are not even aware of until we are drowning in clutter.

What I have come to learn is that there is always a need to be filled somewhere, and the simple act of passing along your belongings to someone in need, that are merely collecting dust, can be more beneficial than anything purchased in a store.

By giving away something you hold dear to you, shows not only a level of maturity, but benefits you as well. Shopping for gifts is nice. It’s fun. It means something. But giving something so deeply personal to you, holds more meaning than anything you can find in a store.

These were the author’s ideas:
Write a love letter or poem to your partner
Write a book for someone you love (fill a blank journal with personal notations and stories for that other person)
Plan a surprise event for someone else
Give a gift of your time and energy
Lift a burden

I actually love all these ideas and have done them all at some point in my life.

My ideas:
Choose something you have that you adore, and gift it to someone who may love it just as much.
Share your deepest dreams with someone close to you, showing your trust in that other person.
Help a friend achieve a goal they have been having trouble achieving on their own.
Make something for someone else. It is the action behind the gift that is the gift in itself.

St Francis of Assisi stated it best when he said:
For it is in giving that we receive

Give with a kind heart and a gentle spirit, because that is what we are here for. May you be blessed in your endeavors.

People and Priorities (wk45)

Coming down to the final weeks of my year-long project of a life-makeover, this week concentrates on focusing on the people in our lives that we possibly take for granted.
There are times we get so busy with life that we forget we are surrounded by the nearest and dearest yet don’t really see them.

The truth is, we have to make a conscious effort to set aside time for those who matter most to us. This book was written early on before Facebook became the social behemoth it is today, so the author mostly focuses on those we come into contact with on a daily basis and not so much with the online world. I focus on both and give credit where credit is due.

This week we concentrate on those who matter most to us and may have been overlooked a time too often. The author states, ‘when we make the people in our lives more of a priority, we eventually realize that the rewards are well worth the sacrifices.’ I certainly agree. It is the rare human who is not socially inclined in some way, shape, or form. Even the most introverted among us, myself included. We do not get through life all on our own. No matter how independent we may be or think we may be, there is always someone that has shared in our journey, even if it is only a small part of the way. Those someones need to be acknowledged and regularly, too.

Homework: Answer the following questions.

1 Who are the people in your life who matter most?
2 What kind of attention do these relationships need?
3 Are there any skills needed to deepen these relationships?
4 What will you do differently to insure they get the attention they need?

As we use this week to recognize the important ones in our lives, I want to give a shout out to some of those who have made a huge impact on me even though I have never met them face to face. Some of my online contacts who for the better part of the year have encouraged me, prodded me, gave me sagely wisdom or shared their own personal stories with me to help aid me in my own personal journey.

My biggest, heartfelt thank you goes out to my friend, Sam Hobbs, who is proof that you do not have to live in the same area as another person to have a lasting, indelible impact on another person’s life. This past year, without fail, Sam has contacted me weekly, with gentle reminders that it’s that time again for another post. This make-over has helped put my feet on the right path to where I hope to go and Sam was my biggest supporter, walking this path with me every step of the way.

Thank you, Sam.

And then there is Clare, who was my biggest cheerleader. Within minutes of any post, she is always the first one to give me a high five, thumbs up or a kind comment. No matter how busy our lives get, Clare is one of those rare souls that always, always finds time to pep someone else up. Everyone should have a friend like Clare.

From my heart to yours, Thank you, Clare.

Then I have my coworker, fellow minimalist and sagely friend, Jason. From the beginning I would bounce off my weekly chapters to him and get his input. He would often share stories from his own past that would correlate with the current week’s work or read to me excerpts from books he has read to give me new insights.. I have found that in sharing my story, it prompts others to dig into their own histories for some kind of comparable lessen to share. This was a fantastic way to learn about others and a better way to learn more about myself.

As for the others in my immediate life, the biggest kinds of attention needed that I can give, is my time. Something I need to work on but I am getting better at this. People just want to be heard, and shown that they are cared for and appreciated.

As to the other questions as to the important people in my life, that would be my immediate family and a few close friends. Again, my time is what is needed and this is something I am willing to give. I have made it a point to schedule them into my calendar and barring illness or unforeseen circumstances, I will go out of my way to keep my word. They mean so much to me and don’t want any of them to feel they are anything less.

Who are the people and priorities in your life? It’s good to think about these things.

Mental Self-care (wk 44)

I remember watching a television singing show where a female contestant auditioning seemed different from the rest of the crowd. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. She had a beautiful voice, as the majority of contestants did, but what was even more captivating was how she looked. All American blond, she had this ethereal quality about her that set her apart from the others, lighting her up. Listening to her backstory, she mentioned in an off handed way that she had never seen an ‘R’ rated movie, [she was 21], never drank, cursed, or smoked. She only concentrated on her music, which is what she lived for.

I know genetics has a lot to do with things like this but I also wondered if not being exposed to the harshness that life has to offer might also have a visible impact on a person. If our skin was never overexposed to the sun, we would certainly notice the difference. Could filtering out the negativity in our lives make an even more visible impact. Aside from lessening the stress in our lives, does something happen on a molecular level that exudes from our being? Meditation brings inner peace but is that inner peace visible to the naked eye?

This week, Cheryl Richardson’s book, Life Makeovers, talks about mental self-care and brings up studies that have shown a direct correlation between negative outside influences and a lowering of our immunity system status, that could leave us vulnerable to various diseases. [The author did not give links to cited studies]
However, I do not need scientific studies to tell me how noisy distractions can raise stress levels.
There is a reason spa’s pipe in soothing music for their guests to relax to, how walking in nature is calming, and why meditation is recommended in quiet places.

People are not aware how many unsettling distractions they are bombarded with on a daily basis.
Dogs barking, horns honking, police sirens blaring, overhead airplanes flying in for landings, construction crews working, loud people talking over all the noise. We learn to live with this elevated volume but that doesn’t mean it’s not having an effect on us.

The same can be said with visual stimuli. Nice art, pleasant photographs that allow our minds short respites from the daily grind, and once again, walks in nature. The only problem is that most of us do not spend our lives in museums, rural countrysides or down by the beach.

We work our jobs, fight traffic home, throw a meal together, then sit down to relax, turn on the t.v. and our senses are immediately assailed by the latest news,crimes, violent shows, or merely useless things being hawked to a tired crowd looking for something to make life easier.
It wears on our souls and we let this all into our lives for no other reason than we are too tired to fight it. It’s there. Deal with it.

This week’s call to action is to limit the negativity that is seeping into our lives. Halt it at the door of your mind. Instead of turning on the t.v., read a book.Turn off talk radio and tune into soothing music instead. Don’t engage in negative talk with others. Leave a conversation if you must. Limit social media. Keep scrolling. Don’t feed the trolls.It’s this type of mental self-care we need to keep our boundaries strong and our systems healthy.

(photo by stock images)