Friday, February 26, 2010

What is EOF and why do you need it?

For those of you who are my Facebook friends, you may notice that every two weeks I make some cryptic post about "EOF".

Let me explain.

My life is full, and I love it. I am blessed with two wonderful kids, a nice home, great friends and a family that stands behind me every step of the way.

I'm also divorced, and like many single moms, tend to push it to the max, trying to work, keep up a household, and take care of two very energetic boys. My ex gets his time with the boys Every Other Friday. Which means that Every Other Friday, I get a break - an EOF.

It may appear that EOF is when I let loose and go dance on tables somewhere. Not necessarily. Though it could happen. EOF is a chance to decompress; to remind myself that I am "me", and not just a mom. It's a time to reconnect with friends, family and loved ones, whether that be having a few drinks at the local pub, dinner at a nice restaurant, or just hanging out on the couch watching movies with my buddies.

Everyone should have an EOF.

A few days before EOF, I start to get the itch. I'm ready. I've given and given, and often look in the mirror and think random things like, "When was the last time I tweezed my eyebrows? Wow, look at all that gray hair. A little make-up would do you good, Girlfriend." I tend to forget "me" during those two weeks. I'm not complaining. My priority is raising my boys and making a living. But the closer it gets to EOF, the more I look forward to getting back to me for a little bit.

EOF is fun, rejuvenating and completely necessary to my well-being. And as the weekend comes to an end, I am missing my kids and ready for them to come back so we can do it all again.

My point is, we all try to do what is expected of us. We raise kids, we run households, we work, we volunteer, we try to do it all. But in order to do all that to the best of our abilities, we need to make sure we carve away a little time for ourselves - to regroup and remember who we are without all of those forces that try to define us. It can be an EOF, it can be a Saturday afternoon, it can be a Tuesday evening. It doesn't matter. It's important. So do it.

Happy EOF, Everyone!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bargains galore at your neighborhood ReStore

My unemployed friend just bought a dryer for $75.

The owners of Blue (619 West Main Street, Downtown Peoria), purchased seven chandeliers that they spray painted in various shades of blue and silver for their new bar/restaurant.

And most of my finished basement is outfitted in "early ReStore".

If you haven't heard of this place, you're not alone. Though they do a bit of TV and print advertising, I'm not sure that people know exactly the treasures that can be found at this Habitat for Humanity- based store located on Main Street in Peoria.

The Peoria ReStore opened its doors in 2005 behind what was then Shirley's Thrift shop at the corner of Main and Douglas Streets. Expansion into the vacated Shirley's area in January of 2007 increased their retail space to 12,000 square feet. While first year sales totaled $150,000, in 2007 they exceeded $250,000, and have been growing by leaps and bounds in both quantity and revenue ever since.

So what's in it for you? Check it out for yourself and see.

Furniture and kitchen cabinets are their best sellers. Sometimes the items come in different levels of "used", but more often than not they are in great shape. Other times they're brand new, like various mismeasured items from local contractors or surplus inventory from home improvement stores. The latest delivery was a truckload of countertops of various lengths and more office furniture than the place can handle. There's a whole "lighting department" - run by my dad. I can assure you that every light in the place has been engineer tested and approved.

Other items to shop for, or to donate:
-Furniture including couches, chairs, end tables, entertainment centers, dining room and kitchen tables and chairs, barstools and office furniture
-Artwork. In fact, my mother, the "interior decorator" for ReStore, discovered a first edition Picasso print several months ago
-Carpet remnants, tile, and other flooring materials
-Building supplies
-Appliances (no TVs)
-Ceiling fans
-Hardware, tools and wood
-Windows and doors (I have several ReStore doors in my home - just write down the measurements and take them in!)

It doesn't matter who you are or what your income is - it makes sense to shop ReStore. It's as perfect for college students needing to outfit their first apartment to the handyman looking to improve his home without breaking the bank.

It's been invaluable to renovators such as Jeff Shoumaker, who remodels and rents homes as a hobby. "I've tried to fix things right to save time and money down the road. ReStore has an ever-changing supply of much of what I need to improve a property."

It was gold mine for Blue owner Jessica Benassi, who said, "We did buy our chandeliers at ReStore! We have 7 of them that we bought and spray painted in various shades of blue and silver. We're actually going back for more soon - we'd like to cover our ceiling in them. We also got all of our tile and mirror for our beautiful mosaic bar from ReStore and a chair that was only $4.00 that everybody absolutely loves. We also got our front door from them. I love ReStore. We re-did our bathroom at our house with tile and fixtures from them - and there's a ReStore chandelier in there, too! We send people there all of the time and I'm always surprised at the amount of people that don't seem to know that it's even there."

And it's been a blessing to people like me, who just need a "this and that" every once in awhile. I'm on a tight budget, but still trying to maintain and improve my home. ReStore items that now call my house a home include an upholstered chair, a filing cabinet, two doors, some cabinets, and a ceiling fan. And I'm always on the lookout for another great bargain.

I encourage you to check out one of Peoria's best-kept bargain secrets and support the Habitat for Humanity project. Visit their website HERE for their location, hours and list of items they do and don't accept. And if you're not in the Peoria area, check out Habitat for Humanity's ReStore page to find a ReStore near you.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"When life gives you dilemmas, make dilemonade"

I actually came up with this saying. Really.

It's the only way to get through life when it threatens to overwhelm you like a sea turtle in a tidal wave.

I don't know whether it's the time of year, the weather, or just the state of the world today, but many people I talk to seem overwhelmed with life right now. I'm no exception.

Now, some people are overwhelmed all the time. Maybe it's their makeup - they don't know what to do unless they have some drama in their lives - legitimate or otherwise. These folks can get a bit annoying over time.

Others really ARE overwhelmed. These are usually those amazing people that keep getting hit with one thing after the other and manage to be thankful for what they do have. These are the people you respect and admire for how they deal with their lives in the face of what seems like constant adversity.

Then there's the rest of us. Most of the time we go about our days, facing "normal" problems. Maybe it's a situation at work, or a spat with our significant other. Maybe it's a health issue, or the trials and tribulations of raising children. Maybe it's a temporary financial setback, or a decision that has to be made that is causing us to lose sleep.

The overwhelming part comes in, I think, when we are faced with more than one of these at a time. This is when I look to the heavens and say, "OK, God, enough!!!!"

I did just that last week. I had a laundry list of things that were overwhelming me, to the point where I had lost all focus on ANYTHING. So many things had "gone wrong" that I felt like I was just sitting around waiting for the other shoe to drop. And I felt guilty - guilty that I couldn't handle it. Guilty that I was allowing all this stuff to overwhelm me. Guilty that there were people dying in Haiti and I should count my lucky stars for what I had and quit bemoaning all my problems. But that didn't make them go away.

And no, I didn't exactly go and make dilemonade. But I did confide in a few trusted people in my life and asked for support - and received it. Note - I didn't tell EVERYBODY. This is when you become annoying. And I felt bad even confiding in those I did - for everyone has their problems. But they were willing to listen, and willing to offer encouragement and support, and I realized that if the tables were turned, I would have done the same thing for them. That's why they're in my life.

The other thing I did was try to take it one step at a time. It was very easy to tick off my list of things that were wrong, then throw up my hands and reach for the wine and wait for them to go away. Luckily, I have this new-found wisdom that I've said comes with reaching 40, and I knew I had to make headway with at least one of my demons or nothing was going to change. "If it is to be, it is up to me." It's kind of like being stuck in a traffic jam. You can sit there for an hour, or you can drive an hour and a half out of your way to get where you are going. I'd rather drive the hour and a half, just so I am at least moving - getting somewhere.

So if you are feeling overwhelmed, first of all, don't go it alone. Find someone to help you out, knowing that at some point you will be on the other end giving that help. Secondly, take some baby steps to try to do what you can to alleviate some of the issues. You may not solve them all, but at least you'll have that sense of accomplishment that you've made a little headway.

Life's going to throw you a lot of sour dilemmas that you're going to have to juggle. Know that whatever you are going through is just a pothole in the road. There's a lot of them this time of year, but eventually, they get repaired.

And "just keep swimming". No, I didn't come up with that. Dory did. :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hey! You look really nice today!

And those are great shoes. Really.

How hard is it for you to take a compliment? How about to give one?

Two students at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana are attempting to answer both those questions.

From a recent article in American Profile Magazine:

Dubbed "the compliment guys", Brett Wescott and Cameron Brown, both 20, station themselves for two hours each Wednesday afternoon in front of Purdue's Wetherhill chemistry building and, with rapid-fire repartee, shout compliments to passersby along a bustling sidewalk in the heart of campus.

"Hey, your beard is coming in nicely," shouts Brett, holding a "Free Compliments" sign.

"I just wanted to go out and do something nice for people," explains Westcott, a civil engineering student from Plainfield, IL, who came up with the idea last year at the beginning of his sophomore year. Holding a homemade poster, he handed out the first compliments one Wednesday during a long break between classes.

Within a few weeks, Brown, whom Westcott had met during their freshman year, joined him in the midweek ritual. "I'd noticed a lot of people were down and sad around campus with the economy so down," recalls Brown, a business management major from Sylvania, Ohio. "A lot of my friends were graduating without jobs, so I wanted to go out there and give them something to smile about."

"I like your curly hair," Brown tells a sandy-haired woman.

"Nice tennis shoes," Westcott shouts to a jogger.

"Giving a compliment is pretty easy, really," Brown explains. "Everybody has something to compliment. Everybody has something good in them. It just takes a second to find it."

Student Amanda Beering heard about the guys during her freshman year, and now makes it a point to walk by the chemistry building on Wednesday afternoons - just to see what Westcott and Brown will say. "They're the best part of my Wednesday," says Beering.

Chemistry department chair Paul Shepson praises Brown and Westcott for not only affirming people, but for teaching a life lesson to students, staff and faculty alike. "The world would be a better place if people routinely took the time to notice others around them and interact in a positive way. They've taught me to make eye contact, smile, be kind to others and show I care."

So as you head out - head down - into this wintry wonderland today, take a minute to look someone in the eye and say something nice. It's just that easy.

To see the compliment guys in action, click HERE.

Oh, and by the way, I love your shirt.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How to be growth minded in a fixed minded world

I don't read self-help books. Lord knows I probably should, but every time I see a title that promises to make me the person I've always wanted to be, it just seems full of common sense stuff that some great writer has made sound like psychological genius.

But this book is different. I'm not kidding.

If you are a parent, a teacher, a coach, an employee or a manager, you will gain SOMETHING from “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”.

Authored by Carol Dweck, Ph.D. (here is the place where I could list all her credential gobbldegook, but it really doesn't matter), the book starts out by explaining the two basic mindsets in our world: fixed and growth (though each of us can in fact be a little of both). What follows is an amazing exploration into nearly every facet of the human mind - easy to read, fascinating to follow, difficult to put down.

I first heard about this book from a friend of mine, Steve Jones. He sent me an excellent summary that I have yet to replicate in my explanations of the book to others, so with respect to him, I paraphrase his words now:

"In “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, Dweck says that the mindset we have about ourselves goes a long way toward determining the extent to which we reach our potential. Some of us have a "fixed" mindset, believing that our talents in a certain area are relatively fixed... they won't change. For instance, I might think I am a good critical thinker, but a lousy swimmer. Others have a more "incremental" mindset, believing that our talents in a certain area are fairly malleable. For instance, I might think that I am a slow runner, but I know that I can get faster if I work at it.

The intriguing part of Dweck's work is that she has shown that people's (to include kids') behavior is dependent upon their mindset. If we have a fixed mindset, we tend to seek out those things we are good at (because they are affirming) and run away from things that are challenging (because they threaten to "expose" us as not very talented). Because I think I am a good critical thinker, I spend all my time reading because it is rewarding. And, because I am convinced that I am a lousy swimmer, I never go swimming. (Notice how this is somewhat self-fulfilling... if I never go swimming, I never get good at it!) Challenges are viewed as threatening... things to be avoided.

On the other hand, if we have an incremental mindset, everything changes. Challenges are not things to be avoided... they just indicate those areas where I need to work harder. I know that I can get faster as a runner if I work at it, so I work at it until I get better. That is also self-fulfilling, as I act in ways that make my belief come true.

So, Dweck argues that we need to help our kids adopt an incremental mindset... especially about the challenges they face in school. One way she says we can do this is by praising our kids for their effort ("Wow, you put a lot of work into that timeline, and it really turned out great!") rather than for their talent ("Wow, you sure are smart... your timeline turned out great!"). That sounds trivial, but it is an important distinction. So often, our kids get messages that their talent is what makes them who they are."

Steve's explanation targets children only because that was the discussion we were having. But Dweck gives equal time to the mindsets of athletes, leaders, relationships, teachers and coaches. As a parent who has an athlete, works for a living, is in a relationship and deals with teachers and coaches, every chapter gave me new insights into the benefits of a growth mindset in every single aspect of my life.

And ironically, a few weeks after my discussion with Steve, a good friend of mine and teacher in District 150 mentioned in a casual discussion that he had just read a book that had changed his life. Yep, same book. He is definitely a growth-minded individual to begin with, and his goal is to teach Dweck's methods to his students in order to give them the tools to succeed in learning and life in a growth-minded way. However, he seems to be encountering much resistance from the District along the way. Go figure.

In addition to this book, Dweck is the mastermind behind the Brainology program, which helps middle school and high school students gain confidence and motivation to learn by teaching them about the brain, how to strengthen it, and how to apply brain-friendly study skills. When implemented in schools, it has completely transformed how kids think and has improved their mindsets tenfold. I believe this program would be invaluable to any school, but especially the floundering District 150, maybe via some sort of grant or perhaps divine intervention.

I urge you to check out the Brainology website, and for God's sake, buy “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”. I guarantee that not only will it change how YOU think, you will be hard pressed NOT to try to change other people's mindsets as well.