Live. Really Live. Start Today…Start RIGHT NOW

In the quiet of the often still-dark morning, I engage in a little ritual. I get up a few minutes early and peruse the Internet in search of interestingness over a cup of green tea with honey while my body and mind slowly acclimate to the burgeoning day.

Sometimes I chuckle at captioned animals who can’t spell. Other times I catch up on all the latest goings on in the world of tech. Still others I watch Filofax video blogs on YouTube.

Today I saw this

Sisters pose for the same photo three separate times, years apart

Look at it. I mean, really…LOOK at it.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but to be honest I have been staring at these three pictures (I’m counting the one of them at their youngest at the top of the photo on the left) and  I struggle with one word to describe how it makes me feel, let alone a thousand.

I suppose if I had to choose that one word it would be this:

Urgent

I’ve written before about my lessons on the frailty of the human condition and the sometimes shocking brevity of our time here. I’ve written of my ongoing quest for the mindfulness to truly live in the now.

But these photos make me feel the urgency that surrounds each moment. How to cherish it;  the time we have now…really cherish it…and those we share it with. How to move forward into the next moment without drifting slowly away from that sense of peace and gratitude. How to do what we need to do, be where we need to be, and yet not lose sight in the din of how fleeting life really is.

The rose at the place where the third sister used to be makes me choke back tears.

Because there is not stopping time. And change happens just that fast.

These photos move me to take a look at my own life. Where am I holding back? What have I been merely settling for? What if today were my last day in this mortal coil?

What am I afraid of?

What am I waiting for?

They make me determined to live.  Really. To take the leap of faith into love. Again. To write more. To spend more time doing what makes me smile as I do it without even realizing I’m smiling. To worry less about what society thinks makes me who I am and focus more on nurturing what I know makes me who I am.

To be damn sure that, after I am gone, I will have left even just one tiny, little thing (or one individual) better for having shared space and time with me.

So my dear readers, please take a look at these photos and tell me in the comments the first thing that comes to mind.  How do they make you feel? What, if anything, is seeing these sisters inspiring you to do as a result?

Let’s take this moment and cherish it together by connecting with one another…

(PS the photo came from this website entitled “40 Of The Most Powerful Photographs Ever Taken”. I encourage you to check out the other 39.)

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Mid-Year Tweak (You Knew it Was Coming…)

Well, I made it halfway through the year without changing my planner inserts, but it seems that six months will have to be the standing record, because gone and changed them, I have.

You knew I was going to. Hell, even I knew I was going to! It was just a matter of time.

You may remember that, after an end of the year battle royal between two brands last Fall, I started out 2012 using Franklin Covey 7 Habits 2-Page per Day diary inserts (in a Personal sized Malden…but I never said I would resist changing binders throughout the year, just inserts) and although they were working just find & dandy and there was no real reason for it, I started getting that restless feeling around May and knew change was in the air.

Compelled by the ongoing tab dilemma between my beloved set of 6 DayTimer Shadows and Light tabs (discontinued sadly) and the bafflingly extraneous and tiny set of 12 Franklin Covey tabs, which never did play well with my OCD, I decided I was just going to give in and try plain old Filofax inserts again.

As much as I love the functionality of FC pages themselves, the rest of the system lacks true Filofax compatibility just enough to be bothersome, and as minor as I thought it would be, FC tabs suck and using them really started to get under my skin. So…

I ordered myself up some Filofax Day on Two Pages inserts (I was already used to filling up a two page per day format) and, because Filofax stubbornly refuses to evolve its insert line and get with the tabbed month program, some Day Timer Two Page per Month refills. Fortunately these mesh well together aesthetically and don’t trip any obsessive/compulsive nerve endings in my brain.

The breaking points for the months aren’t perfect, but since the weekends of the FF 2PPD inserts are only one page each for Saturday or Sunday, it is possible to split the month (and therefore tab it) – you just have to do it on a weekend.

For example, June starts with Sunday 6/3 as the first page, so the May monthly tab has a wee bit of the start of June.  July happens to be dead on with Sunday 7/1 coming straight after the monthly tab, but that is the exception not the rule. The August tab starts with 7/29…you get the idea. A small price to pay to have  monthly tabs.

Anyway, my new set up goes as follows:

After the obligatory plastic page (in this case, a Filofax Multi Purpose Holder) with some fun kitschy items and my business cards on the bottom, I have my Personal Info sheet and the usual Filofax pages that come with every binder.

Then we have…

6 Subject tabs which are “Capture” (the ubiquitous capture tool from Getting Things Done), “Lists” (a slew of shopping lists – grocery shop, Target, pet shop, etc), “Action” (just a bunch of FF To Do pages for general action items from the Capture tab or things that don’t belong on daily pages), “Projects” (that one is pretty self explanatory and relates mostly to work stuff), “Positive” (my ongoing gratitude list) and “Quotes” (because I love me some good quotes).

All 6 of my subject tabs. Each tab has a pretty photo with a saying on it. **love them**

Close up of the first 4 tabs. I just used my label maker to print them out.

And the last couple tabs…

A full year of Tabbed months. I don’t put a lot on these, just symbols for paydays, holidays, birthdays and things that generally don’t change. I would use stickers if I could find any small enough and that I liked (the Filofax stickers are just too small for my aging eyes). These mostly serve to divide up the daily sheets into their respective months and provide an overview.

Here’s the Holborn closed. You can see the tabs. From this angle it looks like they stick out, but they really don’t.

Typically, behind the monthly tabs, I carry the  Two Page per Day diary inserts for 1 past month, the present month and then the next 3 months, for a total of five months. Though, right now I just have June through (and including) October in there, as I also keep my calendar and task list in Google Calendar/Tasks and if I need to refer to past months for work I am trying to get into the habit of doing it on my phone as opposed to in my planner.

My two page per day spread. The left page is appointments and the right is to do’s and some tracking stuff on the bottom (vitamin, exercise, etc)

I’ve been using a Personal sized Holborn and LOVING IT! I posted here about Holborn vs Malden and, at the time, my end vote went to Malden. After several months of using the Holborn however, I would have to say it is my new favorite binder. Yes, even more so than Malden.

It does lack the mystique of the Malden, true, but the interior pockets give it undeniable functionality that wins the day for me. As has been said before, it has a lot of the same interior features of the premium Regency, but at a more modest price point (especially if purchased from Pens & Leather. Just sayin’).

Now I’ve gotten my grubby little mits on the black one as well, and I am in absolute Filo heaven! Somehow the leather is softer than the brown, and the stitching is NOT contrast stitching, so it also looks more professional. Check it out below…

In case you were curious here it is next to the brown one for comparison…

As you can see, the brown Holborn has contrast stitching, while the black has tone on tone stitching.

Brown on the left, black on the right. The grain of the leather is very different on the black one.

Contrary to how this photo looks, both are Personal size and the black one (on top) is NOT larger than the brown one. I just wanted to show the design detail of each.

Brown on top. Both are quite spiffy…I just happen to personally be in love with the black one right now!

Currently I am not using my planner as a purse too, so inside the front cover I have various business cards & misc papers in the cool left and right facing slip pockets. The outside one generally gets receipts or quick-grab items because it’s so darn convenient.

I absolutely love the bottom curved pocket. Most of the time I carry around a pad of sticky notes in it (as in the photo above), but it will also fit my mp3 player or my phone, which is no slouch because a Samsung Galaxy Nexus is not a small phone (and it will still snap closed) so sometimes that comes in handy if I only want to carry one thing around.

Here is the curved pocket holding my mp3 player (I needed the phone to take the picture). I don’t often carry it in my Filo, but it does fit nicely. Unfortunately, the headphone jack is on the bottom of the device, so I couldn’t just leave it in the pocket and use it. Oh well.

Yup, it easily snaps shut with all my inserts AND a gadget in the front curved pocket.

When not using my planner as a wallet too, the back left & right facing pockets just hold miscellaneous papers and such. As a wallet, cash would go in the out-facing pocket and coin inside the hidden zipped pocket. currently, I have some band aids and a cloth to clean my glasses in there. Nothing to write home about, but I do like that, should I want to go back to having a planner/purse, I can easily do so with the Holborn.

Unlike the design faux pas on the Regency, the pen loop is attached at the outside edge so that you can actually use it, while still retaining access to the outward facing pocket and snapping the binder closed.

Oddly enough, I’m disproportionately satisfied with this mid-year change. As if tweaking the inserts weren’t enough, I also changed from using an erasable medium (either Frixions or a mechanical pencil) to just using my favorite pen, a Pilot Hi-Tec C. I craved the true black of “real ink” as well as archival quality over the ability to erase I guess.

I know what you’re thinking…how, oh how does your rampant OCD hell-beast do you handle it when appointments change? Are you sitting down, because you’re not going to believe this:

I don’t scribble through them or use white out. I simply leave them be and put an “x” next to the item and, if feeling particularly inspired, a brief note as to what happened in parenthesis (“moved to such and such date”, “cancelled”, “decided against”, etc) like so:

So far this is working splendidly and has the added benefit of leaving a history of the event of sorts. Sometimes it’s interesting to see how many times a particular appointment gets moved around & why.

And there you have it.  I confess it’s nice to be using Filofax stuff in my Filofax binder, not to mention have the potential to use the plethora of FF accessories I’ve accumulated over the years. The sticky note insert might even make an appearance one of these days, who knows.

At any rate, I’m very pleased with this new set up and am excited to finish out the year with it.

Hey, stop laughing….

Life Giveth

As you all know, I am an awkward, nerdy, sci-fi she-geek with a loud mouth, very few filters and the inexplicable ability to make a humorous (if not interesting) story out of just about anything.

So it probably won’t surprise you when I say the inspiration from this post came from watching a science fiction movie. I won’t say which one because I don’t want this to inadvertently end up as a Google search result.

But it had a line in it that made my ears perk up. The line was this:

“We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away.”

I’m 46 and the last five years have seen their share of things being taken away. Pretty much everything on which I had built the foundations of my life. My job. My home. My marriage. My beloved dog. Two family members. One dear friend.

It is very easy to allow those losses, particularly when they come in such a consecutive manner without much time to emotionally recover in between, to become your point of focus.  It is easy to start thinking of yourself as more of a survivor and less of a thriver.

(I know…there is no such word as thriver. So noted. Just bear with me and keep reading; this is a blog not English class ; )

The truth of the matter is that life never stops giving us things. We just have to learn to be more mindful and to proactively look for them.

For example, the last post I managed to write was regarding Mother’s Day. A day that it can be a challenge for me to see what has been given rather than what has been lost.

Years of self-work have allowed me to get to a place where I can see the fact that I even got to have a mother like I did (because let’s face it…some people in this world don’t have good mothers let alone great ones – or even know their mothers at all) as the true and utter blessing that it was, and to quell the sadness by digging deep for every joyous memory and thought in my heart (and there are oh so many) about her and put my energy into the gift rather than the taking away.

But you know what else? I was amazed at how many in this community were also struggling that day, in one way or another. A lot of whom reached out in response to the post I put up.

What a gift – all of you.  Life may have taken away some people over the last few years who were very dear to me…but it also gave me YOU. And somehow without ever having met most of you, you have become so very dear to me.

Life didn’t just take, I thought to myself that day…. It gave.

And ever since then I have realized more and more that it has been giving all along.

Imagine how my heart swelled yesterday when the new man in my life, brought me down to celebrate Father’s Day with his family. I was welcomed into their home with open arms and as we drove home after a truly wonderful day, I found myself thinking it would make me very happy indeed to celebrate many more occasions with these people.

Several years ago, life took away the person I thought I would grow old with (and by “life” I mean another woman, but I digress…) and after 7 years I had come to a place of peace, being pretty convinced I was going to travel the remainder of my path alone  – but yet deciding, consciously, to be grateful that I had known love at all (because again, some people live their entire lives and never do).

And voila, here I am in a burgeoning relationship that in a mere few weeks has proven that, not only am I capable of…well, everything I thought I was no longer capable of after my divorce…but also that anything really is possible so long as you never give up hope.

Once again, life gave. Just when I needed it to.

I used to feel that every hard lesson that came to me chipped a part of me away (I don’t want to say ‘every bad thing’…there are no bad or good things; only lessons to be learned, challenges to overcome, opportunities for growth to be discovered). They have made me stronger, certainly, but because you can’t un-know things, there is always a cost to that strength. Innocence perhaps? I don’t really know what, but it is there none the less.

But now I realize that sure, life may break off bits of me as I go along, but it also gives me what I need so that I always come to balance. It might not give the same things back that it takes…but it does keep giving. You just have to know what to look for. What to focus your attention on.

It’s not what we don’t have. It’s not what we’ve lost. It’s what we have been given…what we continue to be given. Each and every day there is something.

Yes, life takes. Accept it. Deal with it. Move on. Don’t let it also take your power away. Because it can’t – that is what I have learned – it can’t unless you allow it to.

I have come to realize there is no such thing as ‘the age where life stops giving’. But there very well may be an age where it becomes easier to really appreciate the gifts. Even the subtle ones.  Especially the subtle ones.

They are there, no matter how hard things are right now. They are there, I promise.  Look for them.  See them.

…And thrive!