Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My first Thanksgiving

In South Africa we don't have Thanksgiving. I grew up never knowing the delicious combination of stuffing, cranberry sauce, turkey and gravy. I had heard about it, of course, and loved the idea that Americans, those mysterious, magical people that lived across the Atlantic, gave an entire day over to giving thanks. I had watched movie and TV versions of Thanksgiving. Although I had never seen the Norman Rockwell painting of Thanksgiving, that's exactly what I thought it was: an idealized, beatific day of love, thanksgiving and warm family moments.

My first Thanksgiving in the States didn't go quite according to this imaginary version. Here's what I learned:

1. Life happens EVERY day of the year. For some reason I have this notion in my head, always have, that certain days of the year are too special for anything catastrophic to happen. Maybe because I was raised a Christian and the God I believe in would never spoil a special day? I don't know but the fact remains that I am always completely shocked when a crisis happens on a holiday. Imagine my surprise when my host has a heart attack while carving the turkey and making gravy.

2. Denial of a problem can be very dangerous. The bizarre part of this, my first Thanksgiving story, is that apparently my host was in agreement with me about this idea of "bad things can't happen on good days" and refused to acknowledge his heart attack despite turning grey, sweating profusely and having sharp chest pains. Two days later his wife found him, unconscious, on the living room floor. Fortunately he survived both heart attacks and was immediately scheduled for bypass surgery.

3. Living unconsciously will hurt you. You can't live a stressful life, drink too much, smoke and eat junk and expect that you'll still be okay. It's the same with your psychology.

4. There's a compound effect. My host didn't have his heart attack on that day because of his choices that day, that week or even that year. It was the result of years of choices and at the time, each little one didn't seem all that harmful. He could light up a cigarette, smoke it and not die. And for years he had been lighting up cigarettes, smoking them and seeing no ill effect but with smoking as with many ill advised activities, the effect is only seen over time. The same is true of life affirming choices. They too have a compound effect.

5. There is great power in thanks giving and appreciation. There were many things about my first Thanksgiving that didn't fit what I had imagined Thanksgiving would be like. My host having a heart attack not the least of them! But my overwhelming sentiment about the day is one of appreciation. When I think back I remember how thankful I was to be with good friends. How intrigued I was that a holiday food could come straight out from a can. How similar this holiday was to the ones we celebrated in South Africa with it's combination of traditions drawn from history, sports, food and yes, even bickering. My feelings of thankfulness far surpass any memories I have of things that went wrong and although we didn't fit the Norman Rockwell painting version of Thanksgiving, we had a day that I will always remember as a day of being welcomed, and loved and for that I am most thankful.

It is my hope and wish that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you need help getting your life turned around and you've realized that denial is not a good solution for you either call or email me and If I can't help you I'll put you in touch with someone who can.

You can also connect with me on Facebook.

There is great love and appreciation for you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

About Being Organized

For years I thought organization was boring and restrictive. "I am an artiste" I would think, "Organization cramps my creative flair." In fact I even had a fridge magnet that said, "I'm creative I can't be neat as well."
I realized something was wrong when I never actually got my creative ideas out of my head and into something concrete, which was immensely frustrating and disheartening. I didn't finish projects, I couldn't find things, I constantly made good intentioned promises I didn't live up to and sometimes, the mess around me, would overwhelm to the point that I would drop an entire creative project just to get away from it. Organization is not just about stuff. It's also about how we are organized in our minds, how we organize our lives and work.

Here's what I learned about organization and what it means to be organized:

1. Everyone needs organization in different ways: Having studied various personalities and their organizational needs I came to realize that organization is different for different people. This is very difficult for the super-organized to accept. Their assumption is that everyone needs to be just as fastidious as they are. It's equally difficult for the super-disorganized because they've been told there's only one way to be organized and anything short of that is just NOT. The super-disorganized is completely overwhelmed and throws in the towel...on the floor.
Some people need their socks to be organized according to color and occasion. Some people just need one drawer for their socks and some people need a sock drawer with matching socks folded together.

2. If you're not organized very little can be accomplished: I know this from personal experience and I have watched many talented creative, right brain friends, family and clients stuck in their careers because they didn't have simple, basic organizational skills. In fact if you study Wealth Dynamics, a personality system designed by Roger Hamilton, you discover that the 8 different personalities all need to be organized in different ways in order to be effective in their lives. For example, Fire type personalities, usually right brained, need big picture organization. That means that they don't need to pay as much attention to fine detail but will be much more effective if they organize the boundaries  - things like deadlines and chunking projects into smaller pieces. They just need one sock drawer for all the socks.

3. We can learn from each other: My husband is super-organised. I am super-disorganized. What have we learned from each other? I have learned that being disorganized is not a cool creative thing. It's actually selfish and disrespectful. Promises broken, appointments missed, projects left half done. Not the example I wanted to set for my children, not the wife I wanted to be and not the way I wanted to show up in the world. What has he learned from me? I'm guessing he would say that he's learned to be more go-with-the-flow and  enjoy the moment. I'm thinking I've probably saved him from an ulcer - seriously he was that intense about it.

4. Organization has psychological ties to feelings of safety and comfort: We are all, in some form or another, trying to keep ourselves safe - emotionally, physically and psychologically. Our organizational rules are some of the ways we feel safe and comfortable. This is a great opportunity to be  understanding of the needs of those we love and care about. Think about it like this: A child, who has a high need for organization will feel very unsafe and uncomfortable in a disorganized home or with a mom who is always in some form of chaos. On the other hand, if you're a child that is naturally more inclined to being disorganized and you have a super-organized mom you might feel stifled and claustrophobic and not accepted for yourself.

5. Delegate, strategize, leverage and routine: I wish I had learned to use these skills sooner. Honestly, I wasted so much time resisting organization that it took my brain years to get into solution mode and create ways to help me be more organized.

  • Delegating: The process by which you give the task to someone else. It's amazing how many people love to organize. It was shocking to me when I first discovered that people who love to organize will willingly do it. For example my13 year old daughter is very organized. When we travel she takes care of the passports and tickets. Seriously. She helps me with the grocery shopping. She reminds me about appointments. Once she even organized and labeled the cutlery drawer, for fun! She would much rather do that for a chore than say, cook dinner.
  • Strategize: The process of using systems and tools for getting things organized. For example, I use my iPhone - a lot. It keeps my appointments for me with an alert. The strategy starts when I'm at the doctor's office or on the phone making the appointment. I right there and then put the date time and any notes into my phone with the ALERT. I set the alert for the day before and to repeat again 30 minutes before the appointment. That way, even if I've forgotten, I'll have 30 minutes to get there. If it's a super important appointment or there's something else that might distract me I ask my husband to help me remember too.
  • Leverage: To me leveraging means noticing other people's talents, thinking about what value I could offer them and then asking if they'd like to trade.
  • Routines: Routines save me.... I'm in a routine of cooking dinner at a certain time, spending time with the kids etc. I also create routines that bring me greater fulfillment like playing cards or boardgames once a week as a family, watching Super Soul Sunday and making Sunday lunch with my husband.

Being organized, in your own way, can only be good for you! Take it one step at a time and if you can afford to hire someone who can help you along the way.

If you need help being organized at home I recommend Fly Lady. She's broken down housework into step by step process and was a lifesaver for me.

If you're in the Sarasota area I present a Life by Design workshop on personal organization. Check out my workshops page for more information.

Andrea Brundage is a professional organizer and I encourage you to visit her website for her ideas and tips on getting organized.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Being bored....

It's Saturday afternoon. My daughter is staying over at a friend, my son's are playing League of Legends and my husband is sick in bed. Nobody is demanding anything of me, nobody is entertaining me and for some reason all the quiet little "me" activities that I fantasize about doing when I'm rushed off my feet don't seem the least bit appealing to me right now.
I'm bored.

And so I'm thinking, "What can I learn from being bored?"

1. Being bored really gives me a craving for Ben and Jerry's ice cream. That's interesting. I wonder how often I eat out of boredom?

2. Boredom is only a breath away from contentment. When I ask myself why I feel bored and not content my answer is, "perspective". It occurs to me that boredom and contentment are two side of the same coin and if I shift my thoughts a little I don't feel bored any more, I feel content. The thoughts I've been thinking are, "I don't feel stimulated. I shouldn't feel this way." If I shift my thoughts to thinking, "Maybe I need a break from stimulation. Maybe feeling this way is okay." I start to feel calmer and not so restless and agitated.

3. Using an uncomfortable emotion as a tool is actually quite entertaining and enlightening. I know I'm a bit of an introspective nerd but being able to observe my boredom from a little bit of removed perspective is really helping me to see how, if motivated, I can shift my thinking and therefore the resulting emotions and behavior. It's easier to do with a slight negative emotion like boredom but it's giving me insight as to the process I can use with more energized emotions like irritation and frustration. And doing this is entertaining me in quite a cerebral way.

4. It highlights how reactionary I can be and how quickly I react. I haven't been bored for that long. Just about an hour and I quickly started to label the experience as "wrong" and I immediately started looking for relief from my discomfort. I wonder what would happen if I just sat with the agitation for a little bit.

5. Vipassana meditation has helped me! The fact that I have even been able to look at this with more of a balanced mind shows me that since my Vipassana course I have learned not to be so hooked by emotions and circumstances. I'm bored and I'm able to step back from the emotion a little, notice that I want to eat a tub of Chunky Monkey and redirect my attention to something that will have longer lasting benefit than a sugar rush - like writing a blog post about what I'm learning from it.


Letter to the American Government


We need a government made up of mature, responsible adults that care more about the people in the country than political careers, grand-standing and "shanking" each other.

I don't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat. 

What I care about, and I hope you do too but at this point I'm really not sure, is that you come to some agreement in the next 6 weeks that will protect our country from another recession.
What I care about is children going hungry because their parents don't have work.
What I care about is men and women who fought in a war, with the honorable intention of protecting and serving Americans, who are returning with PTSD and are not getting the help they need and are killing themselves in desperation!
What I care about is that what happens with our economy has a ripple effect felt throughout the world.

I am so sick of hearing that you can't get along. I'm exhausted by your constant inane bickering.
We, the people of America, need jobs, a strengthening economy, support for veterans and care for the children and elderly.


Please share this if you agree.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

5 Ways I Learned to In-Joy the Holidays Guest Blog

Written by Andrea Brundage

I have learned that reducing holiday stress can be a reality. By planning ahead, asking for help, and learning not to take on more than you should, you too can enjoy (In-Joy) a marvelous holiday. My goal as a professional organizer is to transform lives and living environments into peaceful places, and this is particularly important during the holidays. I want you to truly “In-Joy” the holidays this year and in the years to come.  

Below are tips that may make your holidays a little less stressed so that you can be more “present” to yourself and to others. Decide this year to control your environment versus allowing your environment to control you.

5-Tips to Help You “In-Joy” the Holidays

  1. Identify what's most important to you. What is your vision of the true spirit of the season? Make decisions this season that are in alignment with that vision.
  2. Be realistic about your finances. Love is not measured by price tags and the number of gifts under the tree. Stay within your budget and do not overextend yourself by impulse buying.
  3. If you are stressed out due to family dynamics or social situations, try to reframe your thinking. You cannot control others but you CAN control your reaction to others. If there are toxic people in your life that you cannot avoid, limit your interactions and time with them.
  4. Create your own traditions. If you are pulled in too many directions with extended family obligations, consider lovingly advising them that you are starting you own family traditions this year and invite them to participate, if you so choose.
  5. This your holiday, too. Limit stress by planning ahead. Implement effective time management techniques. Ask for help. Simplify gift giving. Do not over commit. Be mindful, be grateful, be present.
Andrea Brundage is a professional organizer and founder of Simple Organized Solutions S.O.S.). She is available for speaking engagements, self-improvement workshops, and employee training programs offering topics such as "Tackling Time Management Techniques," "Chaos into Calm," "Maintaining Balance in an Unbalanced World," and others. Visit or contact her at (480) 382-1085

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

5 things I've thought about...guest blog

5 Things I have thought about not necessarily learned;
however I'm a work in progress!!

  1. of the first words I would have used to describe myself.  I'm not quite sure of the technical definition but to me it means that I would never say or do anything to make someone else feel bad, that I would be honest and caring with another person's feelings. However, I was missing the compassion for myself.  I think I will practice that!
  2. Saying No...I would say a very good portion of the time when someone tells me "no", I completely understand. Although I might be a little disappointed, I realize it (whatever they say no to) just doesn't work for them.  Hmm...why do I find it so hard to say "no" or "let me think about it" when something doesn't work for me? I do try but then I feel the need to go into deep explanation and end up sounding ridiculous. So from now on friends, family and others please understand that if I say no it has nothing to do with you, it just doesn't work for me.
  3. Awareness...I think I'm pretty intuitive and pick up on another persons mood pretty quickly.  Yet I go through the day completely unaware of my own thoughts and feelings.  If I am happy, sad, mad, worried, etc do I realize why?  I have decided to set my phone alarm 3 times a day 12, 4 and 8 pm so when I hear the beep I will remember to think about how I'm feeling and why.  I think that simple step will help shift  perception of my feelings for the better.  Because if you actually think about the truth (the real truth) things usually aren't as bad.
  4. Gratitude....I absolutely love and enjoy the coconut water from a thai coconut.  Without fail every time I drink that cold bit of magic, I literally thank God for the most delicious and refreshing fruit he put on this earth.  It makes me feel connected, happy and purposeful.  Maybe, just maybe, I should be grateful for a few other simple things in life. Like a super tight hug from my husband, or a belly laugh with my BFF, or the quiet smile between my son and I because we share the same humor and found something amusing that no one else did, or the proud look on my daughter's face when she masters her front walk over at gymnastics.  
  5. A little sweat goes a long way...This is the one thing that I have learned; not just thought about and I've mastered it.  I must break a sweat every day even if it's just 15 or 20 minutes.  It clears my mind and gives me a sense of accomplishment. And it just so happens that I do my best thinking, planning and goal settings when I go for a run.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Vipassana - What I hope to learn

This is not a 5 things I learned post but on Wednesday I'm leaving for Vipassana and I wanted to share my own spiritual development journey.

What is it? Basically Vipassana is 10 days of silent meditation.
Why am I doing it?  I'm doing it because I want to be even more peaceful and happier with myself and the world around me. I am doing it for my spiritual and emotional growth.

This note is serving as a journal for myself and a blog, a space to express my thoughts and fears about this endeavor and a platform to share why I feel it's important for me to do this at this time.

So what will I be doing? I will be going away for 10 days to a Vipassana Center in Jessup, Georgia where I will, essentially pause my extrenal identity, possessions and voice for 10 days. I will commit myself to the rules and times schedule. I will be completely reliant on the kindness of strangers who will feed me and provide me with a place to sleep with no expectation of any reward. (They are all volunteers and there is no fee for attending Vipassana.) I will have no contact with the outside world or the other participants. I will wake at 4am and meditate, according to instruction, for most of the day.
Just the notion of this process and set-up humbles me.

The premise of Vipassina is that through the process of meditaion, instruction and immersion I will develop a deeper understanding of myself. Vipassina means to see things as they really are. It is a method that has been taught for 2500 years in India.

I am nervous. I have listened to the reports of others who talk about leg cramps, tiredness and deep emotional releases. I am unsettled by the unknown. What will I find out about myself that I don't already know? Will I dissapoint myself and not make it to the end? Will I be starving hungry all the time? How will I get through 10 days without talking to my husband and children? I can hardly get through a couple of hours now.

And at the same time I am excited. I am so excited about the idea of being more free from mental addictions, which is what the process often produces. I am excited by the physical and emotional challenge of it. I am excited about the certainty it will give me about me - who I am at my core. I am very excited about expanding the space in my mind that is tranquil and content and bringing that more into the world on a practical, daily basis, into my relationship with myself and others, and into my work.

I, like anyone else, want more freedom from a crazy mind that is in a constant motion of noise and busyness - part of the time telling me about my faults in fantastic, painful detail contrasted by times of grandiose posturing about an I that is unrealistic and puffed up with an identity dependant on the ownership of titles, people and possessions that don't even really belong to me. I want to be free from it and although I know this will not be complete emancipation I am excited about the progress. This is one step towards it.

To learn more about me and my work please visit my website Nicky Roberts Coaching

To learn more about Vipassana here are some great websites that I've come across in my own searching: