Looking at ourselves and the world through the lens of the 21st century.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Perspective: It's All in How You Look at It


Sometimes we look at things a certain way for so long that we begin to think of it as “right” or “normal”, or maybe even the only way. We make a plan, we work at it, and we refuse to budge when it comes to adjusting. But everything changes – our environment, responsibilities, commitment, and even us. Sometimes an idea isn’t so much, wrong, as it is just too rigid or out of alignment with what is going on in our lives. Maybe it’s the wrong time to work on that long-term project you started in the spring, or perhaps other goals have become more important to you. It could be that you’ve simply begun to see things from another angle and that new point of view has changed the way you think about what you were doing before. That’s why it’s crucial to have a goals alignment every 3 or 4 months to assess how we are progressing and to get back into alignment with our goals, or even change our goals altogether.

A great case in point is a goal I mentioned this week on the podcast.  I have continually struggled to get my taxes and bookkeeping up to date since January 2020. As you may recall from previous podcasts, that is when I became the primary caregiver to my mother, who has dementia. I moved her from Lubbock, Texas, some 350 miles away into my home here in the Dallas, Texas area. (For those of you in Europe, that’s a farther distance than from Paris to Amsterdam.) Being January, this was, of course, the exact timing of my 2019 year-end bookkeeping and tax preparation, and because my mother’s illness was far more advanced than we had initially presumed, she took up a great deal of my attention. I was barely able to keep up with my workload for my travel agency and my household chores, which left no time or quiet work environment to take care of the bookkeeping. I got behind. Way behind.

Making use of some extensions and a lot of knuckles-to-the-grindstone, late-night work habits, I was able to get the taxes submitted just in time and then to begin on the next year’s set, but I never could get caught up. So when we recorded this week’s podcast, I was feeling the pressure of getting it done. It was the biggest, most important task on my to-do list, and months earlier, when my therapist asked me what one task would lighten my load the most, I answered, “the bookkeeping.” That was when she encouraged me to focus on just one task at a time and knock it out. It seemed like a good plan, and that’s what I talked about on the podcast…about working consistently at that one task to get it under control. And that’s what I did, but then other priorities popped up, the bills and receipts kept coming in, and pretty soon I was over-whelmed by it all over again.

So shortly after the podcast recording, I had another visit with my therapist and we were talking about how I resented the fact that the responsibility for the bookkeeping rests squarely on my shoulders and that my husband takes no part in it. I had asked him to help me by doing some sorting and organizing of receipts, and he obligingly did so, but only after I had reminded him several times. His excuse was that the tub of documents was in my studio, so he didn’t see it and therefore never remembered it. This led to a series of questions from my therapist about why the files are in my studio, and where else could they be stored so that we both had access to them. 


I kept all the taxes and bookkeeping in my studio as a convenience to me, but I really only kept them there out of habit. I don’t need all the files stacked up on the floor of my studio where they are constantly in the way of all the other things I need to do there. I could move them out to another part of the house and retrieve just the files I needed when I needed them. It would also make things more convenient for Mark to help me with the sorting and processing. So this new perspective prompted me to move the bins to another room of the house, out of my craft studio and out of my way. What a relief that was! But it also got me thinking even more about how I approached some of the other tasks on my to-do list and the other things that were stacked up all over my room simply because I had no time to sort through them and put them away, like several boxes of my mother’s photos, documents, and other belongings.

The next day, I had a coffee date with a friend. We usually spend our coffee dates talking about our goals, working on our One Little Word projects, and commiserating about the particulars of our mental health. This day was no different, and so our conversation turned to my revelation about moving the taxes out of my studio and how I was beginning to realize that this same principle might also apply to a number of other things in my way. It also reminded me of a tip I had read in (I think) Better Homes and Gardens magazine a few years ago…the idea that people who have clean homes don’t use the floor for storage. So true.  And I actually hate seeing anything stacked on the floor! So why had I allowed all this stuff to be stacked up on mine? This led to further discussion about what to do with all the stuff, and I realized that I was looking at one of my goals the wrong way.

To date, I had been looking at completing my goals in a particular order, starting with the taxes and bookkeeping. Once that mess had been cleaned up and caught up, I wanted to organize my studio, including going through all of my mom’s belongings. Another big task was to clean out my garage so I could park in it. It has been full of other people’s belongings since my niece, Ashley, came to live with us at the end of 2017. The piles of stuff just kept getting bigger as other people moved in and out…first my mom, then our friend Koy who passed away. It was my hope to be able to go through all that stuff, find a place for it or get rid of it, and eventually park my car in the garage again. The last task on my to-do list was to upgrade the storage and work tables in my studio, but the other tasks were more important, so I felt like they should come first, in that order, and that’s the way I’ve been working at these goals since I first conceived them. But I was wrong.

When I started looking at these goals from another perspective, I could see that I had the steps in the wrong order. The first (and most obvious) was that I couldn’t really organize the belongings in my studio until I had a place to store them, and I couldn’t create storage until I knew exactly what I needed to store. In order to do that, I had to collect all of the stuff in one place and sort it. It didn’t make sense to sort and store all my art and craft supplies in my studio only to have to do it again when I sorted through all the stuff in the garage. Likewise with my mother’s belongings. So the obvious answer was to gather all the stuff in one place. The second part of this epiphany was that I couldn’t organize and store all this stuff until I had adequate storage for it. I needed shelves, bins, tubs, and boxes. 

So what started as an afternoon talk about moving my taxes to the mud room snowballed into an action plan for getting both my craft studio and my garage whipped into shape in what I hoped would be quick order. This new plan had me start with gathering and sorting all the stuff first, using broad categories like donate, work-related, craft supplies, home decor, electronics, holidays, and yes, trash. That meant taking all that extra stuff in my craft studio that didn’t already have a home to the garage with the rest of the homeless stuff. With my room thus emptied, I was able to assess where I could create storage, and I already had a plan for that, which my friend and I had already projected. A few suggestions from my husband along with a trip to Ikea and Home Depot, and I had an awesome, custom-built workstation and storage unit that took less than a day to build. The last step was (and still is) to sort through all the piles. That first sort was just a macro sorting by the broader category. Now comes the more tedious task of micro-organizing…where I look at each individual document and file it into the appropriate folder in the file cabinet, divide the craft supplies into paint, beads, and scrapbook paper, toss out anything that is damaged, dried up, or otherwise unusable, and work my way through each of the piles in turn until all the piles are gone and I can finally get my car in the garage. 

While all this was happening, I did set aside the task of working on my taxes. This task was more important because the anxiety caused by all the clutter in my studio made it impossible for me to work there. I was beating myself up over goals that had been on the list for years, but that I could never get to because I was always putting the taxes or something else first. But that stress was having a real effect on my motivation to do the other tasks, so I wasn’t really getting any of them done. Sometimes, you have to look at the bigger picture and rearrange the steps to get the best and most efficient outcome. In my case, doing a few things that gave me a quick win (all the extra stuff is out of my work room and I now have a great workspace) makes it easier to work on the other goals like the taxes. And although it is much too hot the last few days to spend much time in the garage, everything is sorted into broad categories, so I can find anything I need, and I’m bringing things back into the studio a little at a time as I need it and create space for it. It’s really a perfect solution. And all because I approached it from a different direction.

As we begin this second half of the year, I encourage you to reassess your goals. Look at them from every angle and really question why and how you approach them. Is there another way to do it that will get quicker results? Can you do less to accomplish more (more on that next week!)? Is there someone who can help you or can help you see another point of view? Is this goal still as important to you as it was at the beginning of the year? What one thing can you do right now that would change the momentum of your progress? Think about what is most important to you and what you really need. Try to see it from a different point of view. After all, perspective is everything.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Heard it on the Podcast - June 28, 2023


Did you miss a link we mentioned on the podcast? Here's a quick post we do most Wednesdays to share any links or information from the podcast. We'll also keep a running post on the "Links from the Podcast" tab so you can refer back to any previous episode. Here's the links for this week:

S3E26:  Goals Reset

Amber mentioned the Carb Manager app, which you can find here.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

The Social Media Marketing Conundrum


I used to think social media was fun. I loved scrolling Facebook and Instagram for news and stories about the lives of my friends and family. It was a great way to stay in touch. It was also a great way to promote my scrapbooking events…or at least it was at first. When I first started hosting scrapbooking events and fundraisers, I was marketing mostly to my friends and family, and it was a great way to get the information out to a lot of people very quickly. I could create an event, and invite all my connections; the resulting event page served as a great way to pass information and updates to the attendees.

Eventually, I created business pages for Crafty Neighbor and Crafty Neighbor Travel, my crafting event company and my travel agency, respectively. I needed to market to others – people outside my friends list. I paid for advertising, boosted my posts, made use of groups, tagged other pages, you name it. None of it worked. I never had a single viral post, and my likes and followers never went much beyond friends of friends. Because of this, I decided to really learn how to make it work for me.  I’ve lost count of the number of workshops and webinars that promised me success in marketing my business via social media. If everything these people were selling was true, I would have been the next Grumpy Cat by now. Instead, I have just over 1,000 followers on my craft business, under 200 on my travel site, and less than that for Modern Musings. Why is that?

The page with the most followers, Crafty Neighbor, is the page where I have the least activity and consistency, but I also seem to have the most engagement. When I post craft projects, sales, or news, I often have friends and followers who comment on or like the posts. It doesn’t make sense to me, because it goes against everything all those workshops have taught me about building an audience. My posts are sporadic…when I remember to do it. Sometimes I go months without making a post. I don’t respond to messages or reply to comments because I have my notifications turned off. I do not pay to boost my posts and I don’t buy advertising. Most of the posts I do make on that page are reposts of content I posted on Instagram.

By comparison, Crafty Neighbor Travel and Modern Musings actually do have regularly scheduled content. Christen creates weekly posts on Instagram to share our upcoming topics, and Amber’s always putting together some kind of TikTok video or posting links to her blog posts. We also post polls and conversation starters on our Modern Musings chat group MMC Chat. For my Travel page, I actually have a service that posts curated content for me on a regular basis. And yet neither of these two pages get much interaction or engagement at all. I can’t figure out why. I’ve done everything the “experts” say I should do, but it just doesn’t work.

It’s a problem of algorithms. Facebook is constantly tweaking the algorithms that control what pops up in your feed. Once upon a time, everything you followed or subscribed to showed up there. But as Facebook became more and more greedy, they began tweaking those algorithms to show more and more of the content Facebook wants you to see and less and less of the other stuff. In fact, most of the time even my personal posts don’t get seen by friends and family because Facebook prioritizes paid content over personal or unpaid. My feed is filled with paid ads, often for products I couldn’t care less about, and all the joy of mindlessly scrolling through the posts of my friends and the content I do care about has been reduced to a handful of posts between a series of advertisements. And now that Facebook owns Instagram, they have corrupted it in the same way. Gone are the days when I could follow my favorite designers and artists for inspiration. I’m lucky if I get one good crafty post out of a 30-45 minute scroll.

So what’s a girl (or business) to do? The very thing that I hate most about Facebook and Instagram is supposedly the best way to reach potential clients and viewers. But is it? I no longer pay to boost or promote my posts and I don’t place ads. I prefer to increase my “reach” organically through quality content, consistent posting, and engagement with my followers. So when you see here on the blog or hear us on the podcast asking you to “like” our content, give us a good rating, or comment on our posts, that is because the algorithms favor content that has engagement. Posts that have a lot of “likes” will be sent higher up in the feed, while posts that have no comments will wallow at the bottom of the list, possibly to never be seen at all. 

So if you have favorite content creators you follow, or you want to see more from your friends and family, be sure to “like” their posts and actually “subscribe” to their pages and channels. Comment on their content. Share the posts you love with like-minded people. It’s the only way to take back our social media from the powers that want to shove paid advertising down our throats and control what we see. Let the people you follow know that you appreciate the content they are creating so that they are encouraged to keep creating more. Otherwise, there will be nothing left but the ads, and I don’t think any of us want to see that.

Have you tried boosting a Facebook post or purchasing ads on Facebook or Instagram for your business? Was it successful? Do you struggle to have your posts seen while missing out on content from your friends and family? Let us know in the comments below, or join us on MMC Chat for a discussion of the pros and cons of social media.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Heard it on the Podcast - June 21, 2023


Did you miss a link we mentioned on the podcast? Here's a quick post we do most Wednesdays to share any links or information from the podcast. We'll also keep a running post on the "Links from the Podcast" tab so you can refer back to any previous episode. Here's the links for this week:

S3E254:  The Ups and Downs of Social Media

From Part 1:
From Part 2:

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Heard it on the Podcast - June 14, 2023


Did you miss a link we mentioned on the podcast? Here's a quick post we do most Wednesdays to share any links or information from the podcast. We'll also keep a running post on the "Links from the Podcast" tab so you can refer back to any previous episode. Here's the links for this week:

S3E24:  Serendipity vs. Synchronicity

Don't forget to check out our 7-part podcast series on Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth" available on this website on the "Listen" tab, on YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Do you believe in fate? Or do you feel like everything that happens is by either human design or chance? I can tell you that I have had so many odd coincidences happen in my life that I simply can’t believe they are just accidents, and there’s no way you could convince me that human intervention caused it. So that just leaves fate. But what is fate, and how is it affected by free will?

This week, on the podcast, we’re talking about “Serendipity vs. Synchronicity,”what they are, and whether they are just coincidences or are predestined in some way. We even talk about some very odd synchronicities in our own lives. I don’t want to give any of those stories away, so I’ll just say here that I’ve had some doozies. But I’ve never been able to decide if they are synchronicities – a pure coincidence through which I’ve spotted seemingly related patterns – or if they are destiny – something pre-ordained to happen or a karmic connection that draws people and circumstances together. And still I ask, what is fate? And can a belief in fate exist without a belief in a higher being or some kind of faith?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, fate is

“...the development of events beyond a person's control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power.”

So then, believing in fate inherently means believing in a supernatural power, doesn’t it? 

But wait…if we can’t have fate without believing in a supernatural power, can we believe in a supernatural power without believing in fate? Doesn’t it seem highly unlikely that some omnipotent being with the power to create all of the universe would just sit idly by and watch it play itself out? Could you do that? So it would seem that if there is a God or gods (or a fully-connected universe) he (she/it) would be compelled to tinker here and there to make sure the grand design actually works as planned. But to what end I might find a dime on the ground just when I need one, I can’t even begin to imagine.

And then there’s coincidence, which I’ve already mentioned as being highly unlikely. There are just too many, and sometimes they are way too specific. But we’ve already theorized that fate can’t happen without some supernatural power pulling the strings, and I get that a lot of people don’t believe in God or any other supernatural power. So then how do we explain these weird bits of things that happen to us just in the nick of time, or that people discover weird connections with new people they meet? How can luck or synchronicity exist in a world comprised of only free will and accidents? If everything is based on free will, why do bad things happen? And if it is all only an accident, are we ever really in control of anything?

I don’t like the idea of not being in control. At the same time, I’m often comforted by the idea that someone else, call it God or the Universe, has at least a little control over things. I like the idea that someone is out there looking out for me, making sure I’m where I am supposed to be, but also giving me enough room to explore and learn, to make my mistakes, and to get a few things right once in a while. I take comfort in believing that some bad things happen purely by chance and are not the result of my own stupidity or carelessness, nor the consequence of spiteful vengeance or some wrathful God’s punishment. So maybe there’s a mix. A little accident, a handful of fate a la divine intervention, and a lifetime of making my own choices, whether for good or for bad. Either way, I think I’ll be celebrating the Serendipities and Synchronicities when they come my way, and if I have to take the blame for a few bad mistakes, well…then at least I probably learned something from it, right?

What do you think? Do you believe in fate? Is serendipity or synchronicity part of a divine plan, or is it just a happy coincidence? Share in the comments below, or post over on the MMC Chat Facebook group.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

A Memory to Make Us Smile


My friend, Stephanie with Christen and me on our first cruise.

Yesterday’s podcast was about journaling our vacations, a topic I’ve mentioned multiple times on both the podcast and the blog. Loyal listeners and readers have no doubt figured out that this is a near and dear topic for me. All journaling is, really, but I am especially attentive to journaling the events of my travels, and it all took root with a trip that Christen mentioned in the podcast – my first cruise.

That cruise changed a lot of things for me. First and foremost, it birthed a life-long passion for cruising that soon after turned into a change in career. I loved that cruise so much that I couldn’t imagine it being my only one, and I was willing to do just about anything to do it again and again, so I became a travel advisor. And of course, it taught me the value of documenting my experience, which allowed me to include great detail in the scrapbook I made of that trip. It also allowed my traveling companions to do the same.

That first cruise journal wound up being some 19 pages long and almost 5500 words when typed. At one point, I had posted it on the internet on my MySpace account, which has long since been deleted, but it made me wonder if I should post it again…this time on my blog or maybe even on my travel agency website. Just thinking about it compelled me to hunt it down, searching multiple CDs and thumb drives for the original typed documents, just to confirm that it would be possible to post it somewhere if I decided I wanted to do that. And that made me want to read it, so I skimmed through a few pages before dropping the folder on my harddrive for later retrieval.

I love going back to reread my journals. I often read about things I had all but forgotten, and it always makes me smile to remember the fun I had. It encourages me to travel again, and to share my experiences with others as I do. This summer, I have several trips in the works, and I hope to find the time to journal each of them as well. It may not be in the great detail that I journaled that first cruise, but hopefully it will capture the spirit of the trip so that I can look again at it many years down the road and remember what great fun we had. And that’s what life is all about – living it to the fullest and making as many good memories as we can while we can. Hopefully we are preserving them in some way so we can relive them again and again – something wonderful and sweet to bring a smile to our faces and wash the hard parts of life away. We can all use a little bit of that.

For more info on journaling your travels or journaling in general, check out our Heard it on the Podcast where we’ve included links to previous podcasts and blogs on the topic.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Heard it on the Podcast - June 7, 2023


Did you miss a link we mentioned on the podcast? Here's a quick post we do most Wednesdays to share any links or information from the podcast. We'll also keep a running post on the "Links from the Podcast" tab so you can refer back to any previous episode. Here's the links for this week:

S3E23: Journaling Your Vacation

Monday, June 5, 2023

Packing Light but Keeping It Crafty

This summer the Modern Musings girls are going on a trip! We just booked our hotel in Marfa, Texas and we are so excited to go on this adventure together, just us girls – no husbands, kids, or pets! I typically bring my craft supplies with me and work on a project during the down time in the hotel room. This usually includes my travel journal, a little supply  bag with glue, scissors, a pencil, markers, little scraps of paper, washi tape and some ephemera. I may even bring a stamp or two. Oh…and stickers…can’t forget stickers. The list goes on and on…

Actually, the last couple of trips that I have been on, I brought my little scrapbook album and way too many other supplies. I had these grand ideas of scrapbooking on my trip and completing the travel journal as my trip unfolded. I think I brought too much, thus giving myself decision fatigue.  Yes, I did spend a little bit of time actually scrapbooking, but what ended up happening was I started a new travel journal and never finished it. This resulted in yet another unfinished project.

I made a resolution to myself to not start any more new projects, though. So thinking back, I actually busted my goal, which is a little disappointing. The plan was to not start anything new. I am slowly but surely knocking off projects, one at a time so there is that. I am really proud of myself for completing some of my projects. This is a big deal for me as I am the queen of not finishing things. 

I set a goal and I'm sticking to it this time, though. It might be a little challenging to not do some type of craft while we are on this trip. I may still need to find something to do to keep my hands busy. The projects I am working on are too big to take on a road trip like this. And of course I will still scrapbook this trip, but not at this time. I am going to save the scrapbooking for when I am at home and have all my supplies close at hand. This time around I‘m going to keep it simple by only hand journaling the trip. I am going to bring my small journal, some smooth writing pens and pencils and I will just write my heart out. I can still take pictures; I’m just not going to print them until the time is right. 

I think the nice thing about keeping it simple will be no mess to pick up, and less things to lug around. Since we are going on a road trip, we need to get all our things to fit into one car comfortably, and the less I bring, the better for everyone. This means more time can be spent being in the moment with my mom and Amber, relaxing, and creating new memories. 

Do you have any summer plans or are you looking forward to getting away sometime soon? Have you thought about what you will bring with you to work on during the down time? Do you have any journaling tips that you can give me? Drop me a message below in the comments. 

5 Ways to Manifest Your Best Life

Hi there, and welcome back! Since we have been heavily focusing on goals and planning, I thought we should discuss manifesting. I love this ...