Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Self-esteem is a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of her or his own self worth. The definition seems to be a pretty simple given that it is such an important, complex part of a person’s psyche.

I’m not a psychiatrist; in fact I really didn’t like psychology in school. However as a mother, friend, boss, employee, I see the effects of the different levels of self-esteem every day.

• The teenage girls who don’t like to eat because their thighs are “too fat”.
• The boy who won’t go out for the football team because he doesn’t think he’s good enough.
• The bully who is always picking on others to make himself/herself feel better about themselves.
• The mother who won’t join the PTA or MOPS or whatever other organization you can think of because she thinks she won’t be accepted by the other moms.
• The man who won’t apply for the promotion because he’s sure he won’t get it.
• The woman who is stuck in an abusive relationship because “no one else will want her” or “she’s too stupid to support herself”

Every single one of those thoughts is rooted in low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is a destructive force that can lead to depression, self-destructive behaviors (drugs, alcohol), lost opportunities, poor relationship choices and more. A person with low self-esteem may show the following behaviors:

• Self-criticism
• Indecisiveness
• Hostility
• Defensiveness
• Perfectionism
• Overly willing to please

Abraham Maslow was a noted professor of psychology (don’t be too impressed that I know that, I did some research) who believed that healthy self-esteem allowed people to live life more confidently, widen their capacity to be happy, treat others with respect and show benevolence to others.

While observing monkeys, Maslow noticed that some needs took precedence over others thus creating his “hierarchy of needs”. Just as we have a need to breathe, eat and feel safe we also have a need to have a positive view ourselves.

A person with healthy self-esteem may exhibit the following behaviors:

• Sensitivity to other’s needs
• Trust in their abilities to solve problems and work through difficult situations
• Don’t worry excessively about what happened in the past
• Stand up for their convictions
• Enjoy a variety of activities
• Know that they are “just as good” as everyone else even though their talents may lie in different areas

“Why”, you may be asking yourself “is she writing this?” There are two reasons I’ve chosen this topic. This first of which is because many of us are parents and there is an epidemic in this country of young people committing suicide. A beautiful, young girl in our city recently committed suicide. As a mother, my heart breaks for her mother. Losing your child is horrible enough; I can’t imagine the additional pain of knowing that your child was in so much pain that they thought death was the better option over living. I’m acutely aware of my daughter’s self-esteem and do everything that I can to give her a positive view of herself. We need to make sure we are doing everything in our power to make sure that the children in our lives, whether ours or not, have environment where they can grow and thrive.

The second of which is that many of us adults suffer from poor self-esteem, at least occasionally. Most people would tell you that I have a fairly healthy level of self-esteem and exhibit confidence, I would agree with them most of the time. However, I think at times all of us are wracked with doubts. Doubts about how successful we are in our relationships, how well we’re doing at work, our physical appearance, etc. Need I go on? When I’m in the grips of self-doubt, trying to overcome my negativity, I reflect upon how someone who doesn’t have a fairly healthy self-esteem deals with it.  I can only imagine how overwhelming it can be.

The good news is that there are ways to instill a healthy self-esteem in our children and to improve our own self-esteem. It doesn’t happen overnight, but consistent messaging will have the desired effect over a period of time.

In my next post I’ll talk about ways that we can build a healthy self-esteem in our children.

What are your thoughts on the topic?

I'll be linking this up at We are THAT Family

Monday, March 26, 2012

Goals for the Week

With the craziness of the last few months I have slacked off on pretty much everything.  The areas that I organized last year are starting to show signs of backsliding.  The 12 goals for 2012 that I made at the beginning of the year (you can read them here and here) have seen very little progress and my writing has completely taken a back seat.  I'm here to tell you that's about to change.

Now that life should be calming down a little bit I need to reign in the chaos that has been my life.  The first step is to start writing a weekly to-do list.  I've found that if I don't have it written down so that I can hold myself accountable that I tend to forget about it.  This isn't one of my crazy "do as much as I can in a given day" lists, this is a list that is manageable and doable in one week. 

Here is what I'm planning on accomplishing this week:

1.  Finish decorating project for our bedroom
2.  Re-straighten the girls' bathroom cupboard (you can read about the original organization here)
3.  Re-write the "About Me" section of my blog and finally add a family picture
4.  Finish and order a photo album on Mix Book that I created as a gift but never finished
5.  Start a vacation album on Mix Book
6.  Make an appointment with an attorney to prepare a will and power of attorney
7.  Make an appointment with the personal trainer at the gym and exercise three times
8.  Finalize one of the serial posts that I've been working on for the blog

I feel pretty good that I should be able to knock out this list.  I'll update you next week on my progress. 

Do you have some goals for the week?  Feel free to share them or a link to your post in the comment section.

I'll be linking this up at Money Saving Mom

Back from Vacation

As I mentioned yesterday, the reason you haven't heard from me in a while is that life got a little hectic and stressful as we were preparing for our vacation.  Mix in a large work project, shopping, packing, getting the house in order, a passport rejection letter as well as the sudden need to buy a new motorcycle and you have a recipe for a lot of stress with no time to write!

As I mentioned last year, we decided to take a family vacation this year.  It's been five years since our last big family vacation so Mike and I took the kids on a cruise to the Caribbean last week.  We spent seven days on the Serenade of the Seas and had a wonderful time.  Our itinerary included: Grenada, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Croix and St. Thomas. 

I thought I'd share a few photos from our vacation with you.  In the near future I'll be doing a travel series talking about planning a vacation, checklists of things to do before hand as well as going into more detail about the various ports of calls.

The ship we were on sailed out of San Juan, we decided to fly in the day before so we could relax a little before boarding the ship.  Unfortunately, there was a little snafu at the airport with our transportation which made to a stressful start to our vacation.  Here's a picture of Mike and I enjoying ourselves at our hotel's beach.

Our first port of call was Grenada, an absolutely beautiful island.  We chose to do an island tour which we really enjoyed.  The stops included a spice plantation which is where this picture of the four of us was taken.  We also stopped at Crater Lake, Fort Edward and a waterfall where I got the opportunity to snuggle with a monkey!

Our second port of call was St. Lucia.  The island tour on Grenada was so enjoyable that we decided to do it again. However a second day in the car was a little to much for all of us.  Belle tends to get car sick and a lot of the information was the same.  However, we did get to see some pretty neat scenery like the volcano in Soufriere.  I wish I could package the smell for you, it was quite atrocious.  The picture below is Mike and the kids standing in front of the caldera.

When we decided to take the cruise we discussed what sorts of things we wanted to do on the islands.  Zip lining was high on three family member's list, just not on mine!  However, I was told that skipping the zip lining was not an option so I agreed to do it.  Even though I had stressed about having a panic attack, it was actually fairly enjoyable.  Here's Belle doing her first run.  Afterwards we did a rope challenge which was even more fun than the zip lining.

After three days of activity, we were all looking forward to a beach day.  A co-worker of mine who had taken the same trip last November recommended Rainbow Beach.  We were the first ones to arrive and had the beach to ourselves for about an hour.  Snorkel gear was available to rent at the beach so the four of us spent some time snorkeling.  We also got to see quite a few dolphins and soaked us some rays before it started pouring, sending us back to the ship for a dip in the hot tub before taking a nap.  Below is a picture of our ship from the beach.

Our last port of call was St. Thomas, home to one of the the most beautiful beaches in the world according to National Geographic.  It was quite pretty as you can see by the panoramic picture we took.  This was the last day of our trip so we wanted to do nothing but relax.  After leaving the beach we stopped in at the Harley Davidson store across the street from the pier and purchased our very first Harley t-shirts to commemorate the purchase of our new motorcycle. 

After arriving back at San Juan Saturday morning, we left the ship at 9:30am.  Unfortunately, the trip ended very much the way it started.  We had to wait outside the airport until noon, they couldn't find our reservation and one of us over loaded her suitcase requiring us to quickly reallocate items from one suitcase into another while a throng of people were waiting behind us.  You can't take some people anywhere!

As much as we enjoyed the trip, we were thrilled when we finally walked in the front door at midnight and crawled into our own bed.  Home sweet home!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Menu for the Week

I know some of you had been wondering where I've been the last couple of weeks.  The unexpected hiatus was due to a couple of things.  First we took the vacation that I mentioned last year in my monthly financial updates.  Second, the weeks leading up to the vacation were incredibly stressful and I wasn't able to get anything written on a daily basis let alone in the hopper for the 10 days that I was gone. 

We had a a really great time (above is a picture of where I spent Friday afternoon. Pretty fabulous, isn't it?), I'll share more in a post later this week.  For now I'm up to my eyeballs in dirty laundry (4 people x 10 days equals a lot of laundry!), planning for the upcoming week and trying to get ready for work tomorrow.  My plan was to take the day off  on Monday but duty calls!

In keeping with my "just back from vacation theme", I'm keeping the menu plan pretty simple.  We'll be able to squeeze in three family dinners, the kids will be eating over at grandma and grandpa's one day, the rest of the days will be fend for yourself and/or take-out.

Here's our plan for the week

I do have to say that I miss not having to worry about cooking dinner.  That's it for my menu this week, what are you serving?  Feel free to leave a link in the comments or just share.

I'll be linking this up to I'm an Organizing Junkie, Money Saving Mom and Life as Mom

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Catch a Leprechaun!

St. Patrick's day is right around the corner.  Do you know what that means?  It means that leprechauns will be out on St. Patrick's eve playing their practical jokes on unsuspecting children.  If you're skilled at building a leprechaun trap you just may get lucky and receive a token payment for his release!

No, I haven't been nipping at the bottle of Peppermint Schnapps!  I can't really remember the origin of our tradition, but one of our favorite family memories was building a trap every year to catch that mischevious leprechaun.

There are a couple important components to the event.  The first important component to the event is building the trap.  Getting creative helps build the anticipation and provides a fun activity for the family.  The second, and potentially most important to the kids, is the payment the leprechaun always pays to be released from the trap.

There are multiple ways to build a trap, remember decorating and/or disguising the trap is important so that the leprechaun is lured in and realizes to late that it's a trap!  Keep in mind that leprechauns are delicate creatures so your trap should not kill or maim the leprechaun.  Here are some trap ideas for you:
  • Box trap using a shoebox propped up with a stick, pencil, etc.
  • "Snare" the leprechaun using a cleverly hidden piece of rope that will pull him up in the air
  • A can trap that would lure him to "climb the hill" which would then collapse leaving him trapped in the opening
  • A dropped net trap, once the leprechaun hits the "x" he's covered by a blanket or net (the net could also be used with the snare trap to pull him up in the air)
Don't forget you'll need bait to lure the leprechaun into the trap.  Since shoemaking is their livelihood, something related to shoes may help.  Also, leprechauns are drawn to gold so sometimes that may lure them in.  Have the kids do some research on leprechauns and help decide what bait to use.

Now, the most important part of the trap......the fee to escape!  Our kids LOVE to read so typically, our leprechaun would leave books for each of the kids.  Movies, CD's, a video game and gold chocolate coins in a pot also make good payment.  Once in a while the kids were surprised with the leprechaun turning to "stone" and still being in the trap the next morning.  The fee doesn't really need to be a high value item, the kids will be thrilled that they actually caught a leprechaun and got something out of him.

You better get crackin on those traps, you only have a little over a week.  Make sure your leprechaun isn't lurking around spying on you while you are making it!

Do you have any fun St. Patrick's day traditions?

Using a Kaizen Approach to Simplifying Life

As a busy wife, mother and aspiring writer juggling a full time career, I’ve strived to find balance in my life. Unfortunately the success that I’ve longed for has been elusive. Last year I finally took control and searched out ways to de-stress my life.

To uncover the areas that were causing me stress and find solutions, I decided to take an informal kaizen approach to the problem. Kaizen is a Japanese word for “improvement” or “change for the better”. I frequently use this approach at work to eliminate waste and improve processes.

Here are the steps I took to.

1. Identify the issues

Identify the areas that are causing you stress and write them down on post it notes, one issue to a note. On a large piece of paper draw two lines that make four squares (like a cross). Across the bottom write impact and down the side write effort. For each post it, decide how impactful a solution would be and how much effort it would take. Add the notes to the chart based on the following:

· Low effort, low impact should go in the lower left quadrant.

· High effort, low impact should go in the upper left quadrant

· High effort, high impact should go in the upper right quadrant

· Low effort, high impact should go in the lower right quadrant.

Any issues that are in the lower right quadrant (high impact, low effort) would be the issues you would want to focus on first.

2. Identify the root cause

Honestly identify the root cause of the issue you’ve identified. I say “honestly” because it’s very easy to lay the blame at the doorstep of others. Remember it’s the process, not the people causing the problem. Instead of blaming others, look at the process you are using and identify where the breakdowns are occurring.

3. Brainstorm solutions

Once you’ve determined the root cause, brainstorm ideas to solve the problem. When brainstorming, be sure to include everyone involved in the issue and don’t throw out or be judgmental of ideas. There are no bad ideas and it’s important that everyone feels comfortable speaking.

4. Decide on the solution

Decide on a solution and keep it simple! Often in a kaizen event I see people trying to over engineer the solution. Keeping it simple will significantly increase the chances of success. The solution should eliminate waste, meaning the new process should take less effort and time than the old process

5. Sustainability

Determining how you will keep this new process in your life sustainable is important. This is another reason it’s important to have the people involved in the issue help solve the problem. Ownership goes a long way to promoting sustainability.

By following these steps I have identified several areas of my life to target for improvement. The result is that I am finding more balance in my life and am looking forward to continuing my progress in 2012.