Thursday, October 30, 2014

How to Go From Chronically Messy to Clean and Organized

It's a pleasure to introduce you to Susan Penning from the DIY blog Living Rich on Less.  Susan and I both share a love for up-cycling and immersing ourselves in a creative projects.  Let me tell you: this woman has a smart eye for design, and it's coupled with the practical know-how that's necessary to bring projects to completion. 

Recently Susan launched a new endeavor, which I'm eager to share with you today!

I am thrilled that Robin is letting me steal her space today to share a project I just finished that has completely changed my life and will change yours, too.

I actually met Robin in person a few years ago at the Allume Conference, an event geared specifically toward Christian women in social media. Robin is so sweet and genuine and I am blessed that I was introduced to both her and her blog. Plus, we don't live that far from each other, which means, Robin, we must do lunch together soon. :)

In the meantime ... about that project ... Do you often feel like your finances, schedule and even your thoughts are out of control? Does the clutter and chaos in your home give you stress and anxiety when what you really want is joy, peace and rest? Do you feel like your family's health and well-being are suffering due to a lack of organization?

I can totally relate.

For many years, I tried without success to keep myself organized. I'd do well for awhile then "fall off the wagon." Things would pile up and my schedule, home and life would spiral out of control again. I had trouble keeping track of stuff, trouble getting projects done on time, and trouble keeping anything neat for very long. I'd vow to do better next time. I'd embark on one epic cleaning and organizing binge after another, and the cycle of struggling would continue.

It wasn't until I was injured by the clutter in my own home – yes, I was physically injured by my own mess – that I was ready to do whatever it took to get organized for real. I started to get serious about finding organizing solutions that really worked for chronically messy and busy moms like me.

I discovered that if I regularly practiced a few basic strategies in five key areas of organization, everything else in my life seemed to fall into relatively good order. I began to experience lasting joy and peace and I even started noticing that my home seemed more comfortable and my family was happier, too.

I shared my tips with friends and family members and they encouraged me to write a book about them. So in an effort to help others like me keep their crazy busy lives organized, I wrote the electronic book, "Organized for Real: How to Conquer Life's Top 5 Chaos Hotspots."

This super-affordable e-book is jam-packed with 76 pages of helpful (and practical) information about how to organize your mind, your schedule, your food, your finances and your home. And it is available for purchase now!

I am so excited about this e-book because I truly believe it will be life-changing for many of you. The principles in this book have rocked my world! To find out more details about the book, check out my brief video.  To get your copy of my e-book, "Organized for Real: How to Conquer Life's Top 5 Chaos Hotspots" and start creating the margin and beauty in your life that you crave, click here.

Note: This e-book is currently on "early bird" discount at 50 percent off for a limited time! Be sure to snag your copy now.

Visit Top Mommy Blogs To Vote For Me!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

CHALKING it up to one unique opportunity.

Every so often, I'm caught off guard by unique opportunities that present themselves because of blogging.  This was the case when I received a message earlier this month from Laurie Pinna and Dave Conley, two Florida-based chalk artists.  They had discovered a photo of my daughters eating ice cream in a 2011 blog post and hoped to recreate the picture for their entry in the Clearwater Beach Chalk Festival. 

When they asked if we'd grant them permission to use the image, we agreed happily.

After all, I am the woman who once wrote a brief dissertation about chalk revealing that I periodically brainstorm other potential occupations besides writing and teaching college students: among them, being the person who transcribes the daily specials on the chalkboard in restaurants.

You see, chalk not only influences my career aspirations, but thanks to the artistic talent of Laurie and Dave, it also has captured a lifelike representation of my two oldest daughters on a 12' by 12' square of pavement over one thousand miles away from home.

Before I explain their fascinating process, let me note that these folks have some serious chalking skills.  Case in point: when I tried to recreate this picture, this was my end result:

The contest took place this past weekend, and each evening Laurie emailed updates on their progress.  At the onset of the first morning, they primed the area with a base coat of Tempra paint, which essentially is liquid chalk, and then establish a grid pattern to keep the image in proper proportion. 

Kind of like what I did with my chalked artwork above, which clearly demonstrates lifelike details and realistic scale.  Clearly.

By the end of the first day, the images were sketched and the shading had begun.

The work progressed during the second day with additional layers of chalk to create depth and precision.  (I'm blown away by the sheen captured in the hair!)

Converse to the Sistene Chapel where Michelangelo painted while lying on his back, chalk artists work while on their hands and knees, often in the shadow of passers-by who pause to talk with the artists about the subject and the process. 

By the end of the second day, the majority of the picture was colored.  (Let it be known that if there was a spike in the sale of ice cream at this particular festival, we are responsible.)

During the third and final day, Laurie and Dave refined details and made touch-ups before rising to their feet, stretching, and basking in a job well done.  Granted, I'm a biased observer due to my deep love for the subject matter, but isn't their work remarkable?

Although I'm separated from the beach by many months and miles, Laurie and Dave's artwork provides a window of remembrance into those carefree days of a summer vacation since past.  And isn't this one of the purposes and joys of art: to transport us to another time or place; to leave us not only with an image, but also with a feeling?

I can't thank Laurie and Dave enough for sharing their talent and inviting us to be a part of their experience, and I applaud their efforts and all the artists who demonstrated their creative work during the festival. 

Click here to view more pictures from this weekend's Clearwater Beach Chalk Festival or check out the website for the Florida Chalk Artists Association.  Chalk on!

Visit Top Mommy Blogs To Vote For Me!

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Perfect Transition: Campfires, Marshmallows, and Putting the Garden to Sleep

Campfires are the perfect transition between summer and fall.  We gather around our fire pit during both seasons -- barefoot in the summer, bundled in the fall.  The key to a good campfire experience is patience.  You never rush the cooking of a hot dog or the roasting of a marshmallow.

No, you simply bide your time, rotate your skewer, and trust the flames to do their work.

See that sunburst in the background?  That's heavenly approval.

During these chilled October days, our yard slowly succumbs to the deepening autumn and we put our garden to sleep.  Our raspberry bushes no longer offer vibrant bowlfuls of berries like they did during the late summer months, and soon we'll cut them back. 

Our zucchini plants stop their production with these final offerings: two zucchinis (one the size of a club) that I'll eat with an end-of-the-season appreciation that comes with the sober knowledge that it'll be many long months until I can once again walk outside and pick a portion of my dinner from our garden.

In the meantime, we enjoy a different kind of harvest -- the weekend festivals at local farms where we take hayrides to pumpkin patches and apple orchards. 
It's so simple, these little moments that make up the seasons, these little moments that make up the fabric of lives that unfold in a small town. 
Just give me a campfire, and somehow everything seems right in the world.
Visit Top Mommy Blogs To Vote For Me!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Life Margin Tip #4: Get an Aerial Perspective

I started this blog series about creating life margin mostly because I was failing to do so.  I've been burning the candles at both ends, holding too many irons in the fire, and trying to keep all the balls in the air.  (See?  I'm using three back-to-back idioms.  You know it's serious when someone does that.)

Given this overwhelming state of affairs, I've been searching for practical ways to reclaim some necessary open space in my life and schedule.  So far, we've looked at three key tips: 1) Seeking and Accepting Help, 2) Saying No, and 3) Knowing What Refreshes You.

Today I'm looking at a fourth and final strategy to reclaim life margin: Getting an Aerial Perspective.

Last week I had an afternoon meeting on campus.  Instead of snagging a parking spot an one of the lower levels of the parking deck like I normally do in the morning, I had to drive to the top to find an open space.  Way to the top.  Before rushing down the six flights of steps, I paused and surveyed the view.

It stopped me in its tracks.  I regularly notice the beauty of the campus, but this particular view was so pleasing, so serene, so calming.  I saw the traffic passing along the road from a distance.  I watched people gathering and talking from a distance.  I examined buildings where exams were being taken, papers were being submitted, deadlines were being established, and work was piling up -- both for professors and for students -- from a distance.

And from this distance, all the workings of campus seemed simple.  Because I wasn't in the midst of the situation -- because I was above it all -- I was able to see my world differently.

This moment tangibly reminded me of the benefit of shifting my life perspective, of moving beyond my pedestrian understanding of affairs where I see matters only from my limited human vantage point.  We're reminded in Isaiah that God's thoughts are not our thoughts and that his ways are not our ways.  His ways and thoughts are higher than ours.

Higher than ours!  He sees farther than we can.  He's able to discern the scope and scale and beginning and end in ways that we can't.  He's not overwhelmed by the details that threaten to overwhelm us.

At the same time -- and here's the beauty -- God isn't distant.  He sees our lives from that sovereign vantage point, yet he's available, moment by moment, for us to call upon when we're in the thick of things.

When I'm struggling, when stress weighs heavily, and when demands encroach on my life margins, I can't forget the most important factor: I can view these troubles from above. 

Thank you for joining me during this series on reclaiming life margin!

Creating Margin: The Necessity of White Space in Life
Now that We're Talking About Life Margin
Life Margin Tip #1: Seek and Accept Help
Life Margin Tip #2: Just Say No
Life Margin Tip #3: Know What Refreshes You
Life Margin Tip #4: Get an Aerial Perspective (you are here)

Airplane image complements of Grosler (

Visit Top Mommy Blogs To Vote For Me!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Life Margin Tip #3: Know What Refreshes You

I haven't yet met someone who doesn't want to achieve a lifestyle where the physical, social, emotional, and spiritual components are healthy and balanced, like smoothly spinning gears.  That being said, I rarely meet someone who feels like she's regularly living that balanced lifestyle, myself included.  This lack of balance was my impetus for writing this post about the necessity of reclaiming life margin.

To this end, each day this week on the blog I've been exploring how I can create the open space I need to thrive.  (If you're new or if you've missed a post, let me invite you to check out the first two life margin tips: 1) Seeking and Accepting Help and 2) Saying No.)

Today we'll look at a third practical tip: Knowing What Refreshes You.

This tip sounds unnecessarily basic, doesn't it?  But how many times have we stumbled upon a spare hour and wasted it by mindlessly scrolling on Facebook with a vague sensation of discontent instead of using that hour well?

Simply put, I'm not always in tune with what I really need.  Sometimes I eat because I'm bored, not because I'm hungry.  I watch TV because I'm too tired to do anything else, when perhaps I should just go to bed and get a good night's sleep.  I fritter away small segments of time and reach the end of the day, unsure of where it all went.

Now, today's tip is not about squeezing more activity into our days or increasing our productivity.  Rather, it's inviting us to assess whether we're building life-giving elements into our schedules, those endeavors that invigorate us.

I've taken inventory.  I know what refreshes me.  Writing regularly, whether in a journal or on this blog, transforms my swirling thoughts into a coherent shape and brings clarity into my life.  Exercising boosts my mood and physical health.  Spending time outdoors draws my attention to nature and breaks the constant pull toward a screen-saturated lifestyle.  Immersing myself in a DIY project lets me tap into creativity.  Spending time praying and reading devotionals in the morning brings hope, lifts my spirit, and grounds me for the day ahead.

And I didn't even mention organizing closets.  Oh, I love a good hour of closet organization!  Don't get me started!  The more ordered my space is, the more ordered my life feels.

Beyond this, the older I get, the more I need adequate sleep each night.  Gone are the days when I could stay up until one or two in the morning and still function the next day.

These are the things that refresh me. 

Of course, I'm not suggesting that I don't occasionally crash on the couch at the end of a tiring day and mindlessly watch back-to-back episodes of Fixer Upper or Chopped, staying awake against better judgment because I "need" to see the final house transformation or learn which chef's dish is on the chopping block. 

I still do that.  (Have I ever told you that I once watched four-and-a-half successive episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on a particularly weak-willed Friday night?  I'm not proud of this fact.)

I'm learning.  I'm learning that establishing life-giving elements in my routine, even if that routine seems impossibly full with work and responsibility, increases my sense of life margin.  (Case in point: although it sounds counter-intuitive in terms of time expenditure, I often feel less harried on days when I take the time to blog than on the days when I don't.)

Today, would you take inventory of what refreshes you?  Do you thrive when dinner is prepared early so you're not scrambling at 5:00 in the afternoon?  Do you need to call a friend or schedule a date night with your spouse?  Do you simply need to pamper yourself, like getting your hair cut or your nails done?   

Take inventory, and then take action to build these life-giving elements into your schedule, even if in small increments.  Sometimes adding good things can expand your life margin, too.

Image compliments of Brian A ChicagoSage (

Visit Top Mommy Blogs To Vote For Me!