In what has become an annual tradition, I’ve been contemplating my Not New Year’s Resolutions. It started a few years ago with an unlist and it’s morphed into an ongoing … conversation … with myself about what I want to accomplish, what I will accept, and where I will compromise, and what are essentially my deal-breakers.

2011: More or Less List.

Twenty things I want more of. Eleven things I want less of (or not at all).

More* Less*
1. Giggling 1. Drama
2. Naps 2. Conflict
3. Puppy time 3. Uncertainty
4. Sunrises with friends 4. Broken commitments
5. Sunsets with friends 5. Weight of all kinds
6. Motorcycle rides 6. Self-doubt
7. Good books! 7. Dog hair
8. Lazy afternoons 8. Duplication
9. Appreciation 9. Dependence on technology
10. Delight 10. Indecision
11. Snail mail 11. Clutter
12. Patriotism
13. Faith
14. Deeper relationships
15. Swimming
16. Self-confidence
17. Dreams
18. Unscheduled time
19. Organized storage
20. Moments memories are made of

 * In no particular order


For some time, I’d been *thinking* about beginning to blog. It just felt like something I should be doing. I pondered a few things. What would I write about? If I did write, would people care enough to read it? If they did read it, how would I handle feedback? Did I have time to write? Why did I feel compelled? One of my alter-egos, the planner, was a little put out the night I stopped *thinking* about it and actually created a blog in late 2011. Really, what would I write about?!? Another alter-ego, my doer, did a little happy dance (complete with pom-poms) excited to be in action.

The tipping point was the moment–in the middle of an *intense* project I should have been completely focused on–I realized I’d been spending way too much time generating work content and not enough generating life content. And so I resolved to reverse this worrying trend. My planner {sighed} and shut up when—reviewing my 20-11 list—I realized I did indeed have enough content. Every-day moments, in all their spontaneous glory.


2012: To Count or Not To Count List.
I learned to swim at age 4, competed age 7 through 17, and have stayed fairly well-chlorinated ever since. These 30+ years later, it’s safe to say swimming is my life-long sport of choice. In the middle of a workout in late December 2011, I realized the difference between my workouts then (when I was competing) and then (just before Christmas that year) was counting. When you’re prepping for the next meet, yardage is important. When you’re following the black line on the bottom of the pool to “just stay in shape,” yardage isn’t as important as whether or not you’re hitting your training heart rate. Some days I counted laps, some days I didn’t.
It dawned on me I’m more motivated, and felt better about my workout, on the days I counted. It also occurred to me that my workout strategy (or lack thereof) had become a good analogy for the rest of my life. I’m more motivated and pay better attention when I’m counting. My 2012 list included things I wanted to count (do more of) and things I didn’t want to count (pay *significantly* less attention to).
Expressing gratitude Acknowledging something I appreciate; saying “please” and “thank you”
Quality time Family dinners; inside jokes & crazy capers that birth legend; puppy kisses
Snail mail Sent … being tangible with family and friends across the miles; and
Received … that isn’t a solicitation or a bill!
Healthy habits Calories burned, miles swum, walks with friends and the 4-leggeds
Accomplishment Finished projects; good books; permission to abandon old stuff
Celebrations High fives and happy dances
Laughter Giggles; chortles; guffaws; snorts!
Moto rides!!! Camping trips and wandering to nowhere particular
Photo ops Family & friends; sunrises, sunsets, ocean, mountains, rivers, valleys; dogs, cats, kids, cows; moments that memories are made of (and legend, too)
Not Count*
The number of times it is “my turn” to talk When a friend has the floor … be still, and listen between the words (it’s what I hope they’d do for me)
When I don’t get my own way In 5 years, will it really be important anyway?
Being right Quarreling takes too much energy, and there never are any real winners
Minor personal inconvenience Especially if it’s while being of service to someone
Unanticipated change in plans Often, the best adventures are unplanned. Definitely don’t count if it’s family/friends changing it up.
How often I’m sent “up over” or “down under” Being the young bendy one in the family means I’m climbing the ladder or crawling under the house to do…something I’d probably rather not. But, it’s precious time and relationship maintenance with my old people I wouldn’t trade for anything. Count under “face-time” and “accomplishment.”
Rainy days It’s Oregon after all. It rains here. But it means fabulous green stuff and gorgeous blooming things.

* Again, in no particular order


I’ve intentionally taken some time this year to review these lists, the process that generated them, and the life in between. Several observations strike me:

  • There is continuity in some of the things I want more of, and to count.
  • I’ve accomplished some pretty major goals the last two years, both personally and professionally.
  • I’ve learned how to make progress on multiple projects at once, and I can meet a deadline like a champ, but I really dislike working at the last minute.
  • I’m there for others when they need me (have pom poms, will travel).
  • I *stink* at keeping appointments with myself.
  • There are still things cycling on my lists I’d like to shed. Put differently, things I want to disown.

To that end, this year’s list seems an appropriate evolution of the previous two.


2013: Stop Doing List.

  • Stop comparing myself to others. Comparison is the thief of joy.
  • Stop listening to negative voices. They are wrong. If they don’t shut up, and I can’t drown them out, find duct tape (it comes in pretty colors now).
  • Stop worrying so much what others think. At the beginning and end of the day, it’s only me in the mirror.
  • Stop letting other people dictate/change/manipulate my priorities. The things *I* want to accomplish are equally important to everyone else’s.
  • Stop being afraid of being vulnerable. Everyone has their own insecurities.
  • Stop formulating answers until I’m sure I know what the questions are. Look outward, at what lies just beyond the apparent spotlight.
  • Stop looking wistfully at what other people do/have/prize. Just because the grass looks green … Focus on my own goals.
  • Stop canceling appointments with myself. I am an important meeting–of the same worth and value as everything else in my calendar. I am a worthy and valuable resource.
  • Stop procrastinating. Dooooo eeeetttt.


What if she wore hats anyway?

On a vibrant, sunny summer afternoon, I played hookey from work for a few hours to connect with two of my favorite people. We met over a picnic lunch at the river front. These two, in their own way, charge my batteries. Can’t explain how or why, just being around them is refreshing. We giggled our way through lunch, and decided this must become habit.

Jean happened to mention she’d found a new business book she was excited to read. After hearing a short description, Kristina and I immediately pledged our support and committed to purchase said book and read along. Someone wondered about birds and stones. Viola! Our book club was born.

We successfully coordinated calendars and booked our next get-out-of-the-office-laughing-mandatory-snorting-guaranteed-food-optional meeting. I arrived at the River totally pumped about our time together. And a little sheepish, because although I purchased said book via Kindle, I hadn’t actually started reading yet. Kristina hadn’t either. {whew!}

But no matter; Jean had not only read a bit, she’d taken notes, bless her heart. She had been prepared to lead the discussion, but we opted instead to take turns reading out loud. O.h.m.i.g.o.s.h. Accents, pronunciations, emphASSis on the wrong sylahbulls …

The premise of the book, in a sentence, is to poke the world with a stick. Challenge assumptions first, identify them later. Go, do, go go go, experiment, it doesn’t have to be perfect. The big question is: what could happen? What if…?

—> Go do, then assess. Don’t overthink it. Analyzing this in my world could be a proverbial can full. So we’ll leave it for now. Maybe later.

There’s a lot of content just in the introduction, crammed between the lines like a motivated traveller having rolled, tucked, and squished a month’s worth of gear into a single piece of carry-on luggage. The author says he has 8 objectives, but they all essentially boil down to challenging the norm of what being “creative” is.

We stopped reading after the challenge on page one of chapter one.

“Think of a way to provoke the world. This will often start with ‘What if I …’ “

–> There is a lot of potential power in those 3 little words, I think… what if I … what if I did, or what if I didn’t?

More hilarity–and yes, a snort or two–ensued as we brainstormed different What IF? scenarios. Nothing too silly, too extreme, too bold, too small, too _____. Poke the world. Poke it like you mean it.

We wondered what sort of uniform a Culturematic would wear. Jean took notes. Somewhere in between testing out different accent options for Culturematic-speak (and discovering we’ve a shared adoration for things like Jane Austen and movie quotables) and whether or not lab coats would be standard issue, the discussion developed a more serious-in-the-sense-that-it-grazed-vulnerability undercurrent when I suggested it wouldn’t be complete without a hat.

–> I’ve always longed to be a “hat person” but never had the ______ (guts, self-confidence, hutzpa, etc) to feel like I could pull it off. I’ve tried on hats over the years and managed to find some reason or other why it didn’t work. Can of Worms #2 (Good news: some time ago an unanticipated hardware malfunction–a busted strap sent contents sprawling–triggered maintenance and some repair of this particular vulnerability. I’m happy to report this baggage is now secure, packed into a small bag (in mostly good repair) that fits neatly in the overhead compartment.)  I still have some baggage to shed, but progress is progress. Claim victory where you can, even if it is just a label. 

Conversational current doubled back and swirled in a whirlpool. McCracken suggests in the intro that things we don’t understand send a useful message: “your models are broken.” *I* understand this particular model, but my friends didn’t. So of course, they started poking it with sticks. Big sticks. Me and my big mouth.

–> It’s worth noting that Jean and Kristina have been present and privy to one or more vaguely alluded to personal growth spurts over the years we’ve been friends. 

“What if Jen wore hats?”

What if, indeed?

Mercifully, McCracken allows it’s OK to rock the vague. Don’t anticipate, figure it out as you go. In fact, he has a formula:

1. Test the world
2. Discover meaning
3. Unleash value

As conversation continued to ebb and flow around other what ifs, I realized my darling friends had just given me a precious gift. At the drop of a hat, (pun intended) they challenged me to stop seeing myself through my own lens of how I think I portray myself, what I think I can do (or wear) and how I think others think of me … because apparently the mirror lies to me.

“What if I saw myself the way others see me? ”

So, {deep breath} testing. To wrap up our first meeting, we all committed to individual what ifs, and promised to report back when we convene for chapter 1.


What if Jen wore hats?

So much inspiration, so little time

I’m not a big fan of recreating the proverbial wheel. Especially if someone else has been terrifically brilliant. So I go looking for inspiration, and I am very rarely disappointed. The problem is that–like with so many other things–there really can be too much of a good thing. 

Sometimes I wonder how I managed before Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest … but then I remember my Pollyanna sees opportunity in, well, nearly everything.

When I kept the commitment to myself to start this project, I really did worry if I would have enough things to write about. At least, enough things of significance to write about. Or, more accurately, enough topics other people would think significant enough to read. Lately, I’ve noticed I make mental notes–gee, that photo or that interaction would be a great blog topic. And I have a space staked out in Evernote to corral them all. The Idea Bucket doth indeed runneth over. 

But back to my point about too much of a good thing: I’ve been spinning wheels lately, not quite sure where to start. Thinking about the right angle to approach a topic from. Deciding how to put down my thoughts in a coherent manner. Finding an appropriate photo or image. Catching myself editing a post I haven’t even written yet. And then realizing another day has passed and there are more ideas flooding aforementioned Idea Bucket. 

Time to give myself permission to stop over-thinking things and just do. 



More to come …

Generating more LIFE content

Soooo… I’ve been *thinking* about starting a blog for more than a little while. Here’s some insight into my thought process on why it’s taken so long to actually *do*: If I started one, what would I write about? If I did write, would people care enough to read it? Do  If they do read it, do I have enough _____ (fill in the blank with the right word) to respond to feedback? Do I have time to write? Why do I feel compelled? Once the thought-train starts picking up speed, it’s hard to slow it down sometimes. And never mind the different tangents it can run away on…

One of my alter-egos, the planner, is a little put out that tonight I stopped *thinking* about it and actually created a blog. Another alter-ego, the doer, is doing a little happy dance (complete with pom-poms) excited to be in action. 

The tipping point was a 2:18pm AH-HA moment. I was dutifully hunkered down and hammering out progress on a major project with a 5pm deadline. (I’ve been diligent lately with my personal productivity). It dawned on me that I’ve been spending way too much time lately generating work content and not enough generating life content. And so I am resolved to reverse this worrying trend. 

Which loops back to where I started: deciding to actually create this blog. This afternoon, I decided I have content. Life, in all it’s loveliness. And I’m not sure I care whether anyone reads it. I’m also not sure I “have” time, but I am determined to *make* it. I’ve kept a paper journal for years, so there’s my motivation. 
Pollyanna on Purpose … to see all the wonderful possibility in any situation, like Pollyanna. Purposefully. This is my accountability experiment.


What’s yours?