Three Simple Steps To Avoid Clutter

by Christine

I was standing in the middle of my mother’s living room faced with the task of deciding which of my parent’s possessions I wanted to keep. My mother’s style of decorating was eclectic but leaned towards the traditional. I am a fan of Mid-Century Modern. Mom collected many lovely antiques as well as indigenous and folk art. I gravitate towards watercolors, glass and graphic designs. She had good taste and I appreciated each piece individually but they weren't necessarily my style.

I knew walking into the house the decisions were going to be emotional but I did not want the result of my feelings to be clutter in my home. I developed a list of criteria that would help me kept those items which fit into my life.

Here is my list:

1.    The article must be beautiful or useful or both.
2.    It must fit with the style of my home.
3.    It cannot be damaged or broken.

I tested each item I thought I wanted against my criteria and found that the decisions became easier. Yes, it was sad to say goodbye to some objects but today I am okay with my choices. The things I did take fit into our life and I do smile when I use them. I have no guilt or second thoughts about what I let go. As I went through the process I reminded myself that the belongings in my parent’s house represented their life and while I would take some things, I needed to craft my own home.

Let me know what criteria you used when saying goodbye to the possessions in your parent’s home. What would you add to this list of criteria when deciding on what items you wanted to keep?



Guidelines that Work When Closing Down the Family Home

by Christine

We sat at the dining room table looking at all the jewelry my mother had collected over her lifetime. Several pieces evoked special memories that we shared with one another. Unbeknownst to us, Mom had saved our infant wristbands, blue for Ed and pink for Julia and me that we wore home from the hospital when we were born. It was a bittersweet afternoon as we decided what pieces each of us would keep. We were closing Mom’s house and this was part of the process.

Closing down the family home can be a minefield of emotional and financial tension. For most people their home is the most valuable asset in their “portfolio”; it can become a battleground if families allow that to happen. I know of one family of siblings who split into factions. One group changed the locks on the family home so that the other group could not get into the house. Even though each sibling is legally entitled to a “share” of the home, several have walked away. They do not want to engage in a battle but they also no longer talk to their sisters and brothers.  Three years later that house still stands, as it was when their mother died.

I am sure you can tell by now that I am a process person. So when we started to discuss how to handle Mom’s house and personal property, I had a plan. I cannot claim credit for the plan; I learned of it from my ex-husband’s family. They brought in a company that appraises everything, runs an estate/garage sale and arranges for anything not sold to be picked up by a charity such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill. This process was particularly helpful to Julia and me since we lived out of town and Mom had not moved or downsized in over 40 years. It was a big job and the professional were better equipped to handle it.

Our family added a couple of additional guidelines to this process. First, if we wanted anything that belonged to our parents, we had to put it on our list and “buy” it from the estate. That may strike you as odd at first, given that we were the sole heirs to our parent’s estate and that it was only a paper transaction. What this process avoids is the U-Haul effect. That is when one family member backs up a rental truck and clears out the house while others stand around in stunned disbelief. No one was allowed to take anything out of the house until it was agreed upon by all three of us.

When my brother declared he did not want any of the china, Julia and I paid him for it. We ended up at financial parity when the sorting process was complete and this procedure clearly revealed that fact. No one felt taken advantage of during what was a particularly difficult time to make decisions. Since we had already decided to bring in professionals to cost everything, this guideline was easy to implement.

It also helped us keep check on what we were taking home with us. We had furnished homes that had limited room for new “stuff”. While each of us had an emotional response to closing down Mom’s house, we needed to resist the urge to take her 1970’s macramé owl. Somehow knowing that we would have to “pay” $3.00 for it squelched the need to hang on to it.

I tease about the owl but I was surprised at my own response to letting go of my parent’s things. As I was walking out of the house the last time before the garage sale, I reached over and took a fruit platter off the wall. I was not particularly fond of the platter or even needed the platter but took it anyway. My sister has an identical story but she took a table. Thank goodness, I had no more room in car. I could see me shoving in the sofa in now.

The other guideline was no spouse or grandchildren were to be involved in the process. If they wanted something from the house, they were to discuss it with their spouse or parent who would then put the item on their list. Our goal was to avoid enlarging the group of potential negotiators. Plus we did not want comments such as “My husband thinks I should have this because I am the oldest, youngest, handsomest or smartest” to enter into the discussion. Those would be fighting words.

You and your family need a plan. I understand how ridged this sounds on the surface. Your first response is probably, “my family would never behave badly”.  But I have personally heard multiple people say their family would never fight over money or personal property only to end up in a bitter battle when closing down the family home. Siblings that were thought to be easy going became intractable over mom’s quilt or dad’s ratchet set. Others were surprised to find that things just “disappeared “ from the family home. Sisters stopped talking to one another because they couldn't’t agree on whom got mom’s wedding rings. This can be avoided with a little forethought and planning.

Intentional living means taking the time to think about a situation and plan to maximize the opportunity for a positive outcome. I would love to hear about your personal experience with closing down the family home; also about how you handled the emotion behind doing so.




Intentional Living Week Two: Asking the Right Questions

by Christine

"Sometimes questions are more important than answers." - Nancy Willard  

Or Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees.

Last Friday was the start of your commitment to intentional living. The first step, my dear friend, was to dedicate some time to being alone with your thoughts in a comfortable place. You also needed a tool to capture your thoughts whether through words or images. Were you able to make time? Did you find it comforting to spend time alone in thought or did it make you antsy? I am glad you are back for a second week because this week we will explore how to make the most of your "Think Time".

I was working hard to make the right decision but felt I did not have enough information. So I decided to go to the source. My ex-husband gave me permission to talk directly to his doctor and I immediately requested a meeting. My ex-husband's father, Hank, asked to join me. Larry (my ex-husband) was dying. His father wanted to hear that his son was not going to die and I wanted an exact date and time of his passing. The doctor was in a no win situation. Hank's questions were asked to illicit a positive response and mine were just the opposite. The doctor told Hank that medicine could not predict the end but when he looked at me, he said directly, "hospice has been called in." He answered us both truthfully but I did not understand the "code". 

I was gathering information so I could answer my daughter's one heartfelt question. "Will daddy be at my high school graduation in June?' On that grey November afternoon when I asked the doctor that question he replied, "hospice has been called in", I did not understand that mine was the wrong question. Too much emotion, too many personal and professional obligations and no time to sit with my thoughts and the information I was being given. Larry died less than two weeks later.

What was the question I should have been asking? Should I allow my son and daughter to spend the next couple of weeks with their father? I believe if I had asked that question, the doctor would have given me a simple yes but I could not see the forest for the trees. There was a little voice in the back of my mind that was trying to get my attention but I was bogged down in the details and could not see the bigger picture. While most life decisions aren't life and death questions they are important to our happiness and well-being. Unfortunately, many of us are making key decision on the fly without dedicating focused time on an issue. 

Think time is the commitment to taking the opportunity to ask the right questions. That is not always easy but it is possible if you want to improve the quality of your life and the life of those you love. So what are the right questions? Only you know your values and dreams but I will help you get started by setting up a few key questions that you can explore next week. 

Week 2 Assignment: Make a list of key life questions

There are three basic questions that you can build upon as you start this process:

1. Do you feel you are in control and/or gladdened by the way you are living?
2. Are you content and/or heartened by the way you treat other people including your significant other, children and other family members?
3. Do you sense that change is coming your way? 

These are open-ended questions for a reason. This is your opportunity to personalize your journey. If you feel in control in one area, explore why. If not in control in another area, do the same. The assignment is to help you examine what is important to you. The objective is to live an intentional life through conscious thought and action. Be as specific as you are able when answering these questions.  If you are not content with how you treat people, specify who and if so why. Now is the time to sit quietly and answer the above questions. 

As you examine these questions, be sure to capture your responses so that you can refer back to them as you progress. We will move forward next week with framing the answers. 


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Making Halloween Memories That Truly Matter

by Christine

The new favorite tag line of the Madison Avenue world of advertising seems to be "let's go make some memories". The camera follows a zealous 30 something Dad who is bounding out the door as he declares it is time to take the new car and go make some memories. Or better yet as a bunch of hyperactive kids put on their best I can't believe I just won the Miss America contest face as an announcer declares it is time to go to Disney to make some memories. The whole spectacle just annoys me. The scenes feel contrived and controlling, subliminally guilt inducing. We can no longer just head out the door to have a good time, our experiences now have to be memory worthy. It is a whole lot of pressure on Mom and Dad and the kids. If memories aren't made, did we fail?

Annually during summer break my grand kids come to visit for a week and Marty and I are always surprised at their reminiscences after each visit. They have yet to bring up the time we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge or went to Coney Island to have a hotdog at Nathan's. The moments they remember are the quieter times, odd snippets of life that at the time seem mundane. The books that we read together at bedtime, the fact that I made a "tasty" homemade chicken salad for lunch, or the first time they were allowed to take the canoe out on the lake alone are their memories of time with us. There favorite landmark in Manhattan is not the theater district or the Empire State Building but Hippo Park, a playground on the Upper Westside. 

Autumn signals the start of the holiday season, which can be a mixed blessing. It is fun to decorate our homes, prepare our favorite holiday meals and shop for the perfect Halloween costume for the kids. But it is also a time when the stress of each one of those activities strains an already packed life. I encourage you to take the time to find the balance between maintaining family holiday traditions and actually enjoying the holiday. As you head out with the kids to go Trick or Treating this evening, turn off your cell phones. Resist the urge to text your friends, check your email or talk to your BFF while walking with your kids; just be in the moment. I am not guaranteeing that you will create lasting memories. I am suggesting that you give yourself and those you care about a chance to have a good time.


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Inheritance: Your Place in the Family

by Christine

{the view from our lakehouse}

My father's philosophy was clear, inheritance was all about your place in the family. So it was no surprise that my parent's estate was split evenly between my brother, sister and me. My sister and I did joke that if my mother had her way all their worldly goods would go to the dog, her favorite in the family. But in the end, we knew that my parents were sending a message that we were all equally valuable to them. My parents could have taken one of several paths when it came to the final distribution of their property. They could have left it all to my brother, the only male in our family, left it to the oldest, me or included their grandchildren in the inheritance. They did not because dad believed it was our responsibility to take care of our children.

Dad had given this a lot of thought because of his experience with his own family. He was the oldest and was responsible for executing his parent's will. The added twist to my grandfather's will was that he had remarried late in life after my grandmother's death and he left the use of his home to his second wife. She could legally remain in the property until she chose to vacate or her death. Pretty standard stuff and my father and his siblings had no problem with this arrangement. They liked her and did not want to cause her any discomfort. They were surprised and more than a little annoyed that when she chose to vacate the property she took my grandmother's furniture. My father was the first to admit that the furniture was not wanted by any of the sibling but it felt like a stranger had come in and taken family property that did not belong to her. As my father stated, their response was solely emotional, without logic. But it reinforced that Blanche had unknowingly taken a place in the family that was not her to take. 

I have listened as many of my friends have shared their sadness and anger over the decisions their parents made about property distribution after their death. One friend listened as her parents explained that all their money was going to her brother and his grown children because she owns her home and has a good income and they do not. Her parents made her executor of their will so she will spend her time making sure that their last wishes will be carried out; wishes that exclude her. Another acquaintance's father started selling off valuable items even after he told his father how much he treasured the family grandfather clock. His father's response was clear, it belongs to me and I can do with it what I wish. Still another friend's parents shared with the family that they were leaving the bulk of their estate to the two younger boys because they were not as competent as the older two siblings. Even though all the money and property was gone by the time the will was executed, the intent of their parents remain a bone of contention between the siblings today.  

I recognize and honor the reality that each of us has the freedom and right to give our estate to whomever we wish at our death. But to avoid pain and contention between family members after your death, I encourage the following:

1. Don't punish competence. Doing so has multiple repercussions. It can cause dissension in the family as well as negatively label family members. The younger brothers I mentioned earlier, each reacted differently to their parents reasoning that they weren't as competent as their older siblings. The youngest laughed it off and built a million dollar business, the other brother who is also financially secure only has bitter words for his parents as he mentally defends his life choices against their vision of him. As for the older two, they have trapped both their brothers in a mental paradigm of incompetence that their parents created. 

2. Don't try to manage from the grave. Unless your wealth is along the lines of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett and you are trying to avoid your major heir being the state and federal government, give freely and without strings. I would even suggest give before your death particularly those items boxed up in the attic and closets. I am now lovingly using dishes and other household items that mom had packed away years old and forgotten. I would love to tell her how much pleasure her things are adding to my life and how they make me think of her.

3. Do take time to think about what your gift is saying to others. This goes along with the concept of unintended consequences.  As my father said, this is about each individual's place in the family. If you choose to single out one person over the other, remember others may assign their own reasoning for your actions. This could cause dissension in the family that you did not intend to create. Think about what you are trying to accomplish.

4. Do talk to your heirs. Once you are clear on your goals, share what you are thinking with others. The idea that the reading of the will is a Perry Mason moment where competing family members sit around in a conference room glaring at one another is a TV writer's fantasy. Keep in mind that your children may resist a serious conversation. My father tried to talk to me after his first heart attack and I couldn't bear to think about him dying. Candidly, it has all worked out fine but I wish I had given him the opportunity to share with me his thoughts. 

This is about taking time to think about your goals, putting in place your plans and sharing your vision with your heirs. I would love to hear your ideas on inheritance and what to do and what not to do. Let me know what you think.






Intentional Living Week One: The Importance of Taking Time To Think

by Christine

"Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it." Henry Ford

Last week I began a series about the art of an Intentional Life. Over the next year, my objective is to share with you the ups and downs of my journey as I developed the skills necessary to think about, design and live an intentional life.  Furthermore I will reveal techniques and practices that will guide you as you act to become more intentional in your life. While the path was not always clear or easy, it has been rewarding. But I didn't know that in the beginning.  

I was working a full time sales position, I was a single parent to a high school senior, I was volunteering as youth leader at my church, I lived 500 miles away from my family and my ex-husband was dying of a terminal disease. On 6 hours sleep a night I was racing from thing-to-thing all the while wondering why I was on the verge of tears when I wasn't in front of a client.  My life was a blur. I just kept saying, I don't know what is wrong with me. Today I look back on that earnest and hardworking woman with a great deal of sympathy and just a little humor. That was when I started to live an intentional life because that is when I said, stop!

I didn't just slow down or cut back, I literally stopped. I needed to take the time to think about my life and why it felt so burdensome. My silent promise declared that every day I would sit quietly for 30 minutes and think. For someone who was already sleep deprived, that was quite a commitment. Each morning, I woke to a silent house, made myself a cup of tea and curled up on the sofa to think. In the beginning it was a bit of a struggle. The Type A personality in me wanted to make a list of the things I needed to do that day or play the what if game. You know the what if game. What if my sales drop? What if Kathryn doesn't get into her college of choice? What if Larry dies before Kathryn graduates from high school? But after a few weeks, the questions I really needed to ask, came to the surface. How did I get here? I don't mean the cosmic, larger than life question but how did I end up on the sofa this morning question. What did I want my life to look like and what was I willing to do to realize my vision? I had always been goal oriented but I started asking whose goals were they? Mine or someone else's goals.

As I learned over time, the cornerstone of living an intentional life is to find the time to think. This is key. The kind of thinking I am describing does not occur when driving a carload of kids to school, when the TV or radio is blaring in the background or when trying to answer a ringing phone every 5 minutes. It is about being still and clearing out the clutter so you can hear your own thoughts. The time is reminiscent of when we were kids and our mom had had enough and would send us to our rooms to "think about what we had done". (This was in the days before kids had a TV and computer in their room.) We would always emerge calmer and more pleasant towards each other. Taking 30 minutes at the beginning of the day was the best solution for me. But it could be any time of the day as long as it is 30 uninterrupted minutes of quiet and solitude. 

Today my Morning 30 has become my most guarded time of the day. After Marty and I started living together, he wanted to get up in the morning to see what I was doing and be with me. Sitting silently was not a goal of his and his routine of answering emails, turning on the TV and grinding coffee contradicted my need for solitude and contemplation. Finally I explained to Marty my goals and asked that he respect my Morning 30. I was pleasantly surprised that he felt I had given him permission to stay in bed another 30 minutes. Confrontation avoided!  As you start down the path of international living, hold fast to the thought, it's about time! Honor it.

Week 1 Assignment: Spend 30 minutes a day in quiet thought.

To get started commit to a time of day that works best for you to spend time in quiet thought. You may find that the ideal time is after everyone has headed off to school or work for the day or maybe the end of day is best after everyone has settled in for the evening. I personally found that the early morning was the optimum time for me because I am a morning person but that may not work for you. This is your time and it must fit within the rhythm of your life. 

Next find a comfortable place in your home; a place you would enjoy spending 30 minutes of uninterrupted time. It could be the family room, the guest bedroom or your kitchen table. You don't want a space that beckons to be cleaned, rearranged or allows for napping. I found that I needed to be able to sit up straight and have the lights on or I might find myself dozing. 

Be prepared to capture some of your thoughts on paper. Again, I am not talking about creating a to-do list. It is about sorting through all the clutter that swirls around in your mind so that you can clarify what is important to you. When I started this process, I wrote in journal but today I use a computer. Sometimes I have a conversation with another person, compose a letter addressed to a real or imaginary person or just write down random thoughts. I put a process in place that helped me organize my thoughts in a way that allows me to take action. Writing is an effective tool but I have a friend who draws. When she is trying to quiet her mind she sits quietly and draws. Find what works for you. I will share more over the next couple of weeks about how to effectively use this time but for this week, commit to a time, find your space and start the process.

Two additional notes. If 30 minutes seems a like daunting commitment to you, start out with 15 minutes. We live in a time when constant motion and stimuli is the order of the day so that sitting quietly for 30 minutes may seem like an eternity. Nowadays I enjoy sitting quietly in my home for 30 or more uninterrupted minutes but I do remember how antsy I felt when I started this process. Start out slow and build up your time if needed.  

As for other family members or friends. This process is a solitary journey and others may be curious as to what you are doing. Just the action of you sitting quietly may unnerve those close to you. You may find a little explanation is needed to reassure key people in your life that you aren't plotting the takeover of the free world and get the support you need to work your process. I would encourage you to resist the urge to over explain. With young children I would say something like, "Mommy just needs a little quiet time." while with older kids and significant others it could be more along the lines, "I feel calmer and more in control if I spend a few minutes each day in quiet thought." I smile at this statement because Marty says it makes him nervous when I am "thinking" because he doesn't know what is going on in my mind. He has learned over time that my Morning 30 is not a time for thinking up things for him to do. 

Finally, enjoy this journey of exploration. You are giving yourself permission to take the time to learn what is important to you at this stage of life. Once you clarify your vision; it becomes easier to achieve.


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Pumpkins, Candy and Scary Costumes

by Christine

When I was a kid, Halloween was the ideal holiday. It was all about creativity and candy. My mom always made costumes for my brother and me. Her greatest design was the one-eyed one horned flying purple people eater based on the novelty song of the same name. Mom was so proud of her creation and our costume was the hit of the neighborhood. Each year we would decorate paper bags with scary pictures and talk about how much candy we gather going door-to-door. One Halloween when my brother was little, he dragged his bag until the bottom wore out and he lost all his candy. To my credit, I willingly allowed my candy to be split between my brother and me. I knew how sad he was to lose his candy. I guess it was one of my first lessons in empathy. Now that I am an adult I also know my parents raided our candy after we went to bed to make sure it was "safe".

Today, Halloween is a $6 billion business. Gone are the days of a single pumpkin on the front stoop. Now we have inflatable witches, black cats and mock grave yards. Orange lights, ghosts and spiders decorate front porches. Neighbors vie not only for the best docorations but the best candy. It is a party on a national scale. 

I am not one of those who lament a time gone by; I resist the urge to talk/complain to my children or grandchildren about walking to school up hill both ways during a blizzard while living in Florida. I love life today for many, many reasons but for me Halloween continues to be a holiday that demands homemade creativity. Unfortunately, giving out homemade treats or inviting in little ones so you can get a good look at their costumes is a tradition of a different era. 

So to maintain the creative spirit for Halloween this year, I made Zombie pumpkins. Zombies are kind of a theme at our house this year. This past summer my three grandsons came to spend a week with us at the lake and we made a movie. Zombie Lake is our first production so when I saw Martha Stewart's Zombie Pumpkins I knew I was in! I marvel at how creative some people can be when carving a Halloween pumpkin. It is pretty spectular some of the designs that show up in the various designer magazines. Historically I have been more of a traditonalist but this year I have ventured out. Creating Zombie pumpkins for the kids and polka dotted pumpkins for the adults has taken me out of my comfort zone. 

I have had fun planning and excuting the little touches that bring smiles to those I love. I work to make my home a place of good cheer and positive energy. Are you a person who finds joy in decorating? If so, what is your vision for Halloween?


Life's Paperwork: Living Will, Power of Attorney and Last Will & Testament

by Christine

In a previous post, I listed the legal documents everyone should have in place but since Mom's death I have real world reasons why these legal tools are necessary. Yeah, I know, nobody wants to think about illness and death and putting these documents in place acknowledges that we have an expiration date and nobody wants to think about that. But as I said before, if you get your paperwork in order those left behind will thank you plus you can take on an air of superiority. Very few Americans have a Living Will and only 45% have a Last Will and Testament.  

My father and mother were very good about getting their paperwork in order. They never spoke of what motivated them but I believe control was a big issue as well as avoiding conflict. I am grateful because for the most part, they accomplished what they set out to accomplish. The Living Will was the first document that went into effect when both Mom and Dad became ill. It spelled out clearly their wishes in the event of a major medical occurrence  and the medical profession welcomed the document. It guides thinking when emotions are high and decisions are difficult. But I am going to restate what many in the legal and the medical professionals say all the time. Once you put a Living Will in place, talk to the people involved about your wishes. 

I encourage this for two reasons. First, you want everyone to follow your plan. We ran into a snag not with family but with one of the paid full time caregivers. When Mom had what turned out to be her final stroke, key family members were out of town. Once we realized the seriousness of mom's condition, we instructed the caregiver to call in hospice. She refused. She had become emotionally attached to mom and could not bring herself to admit this was the end. It made for some tense times as we sat at the gate at the airport making multiple phone calls to hospice to get the help mom needed. 

The second reason is to help family members avoid guilt in the future. My father suffered a fatal stroke that put him into a coma. After three days in a coma, the doctors at the Mayo Clinic patiently explained to my mother the medical realities of my father's condition. They gently explained that my father was gone and that machines were keeping his heart pumping. For years afterwards, she would occasionally say that maybe we should have waited a "few" more days before taking dad off the machines. We reminded her that dad was very specific in his instructions about the end of life and that she had done the right thing in following his wishes. That gave her some peace. 

The Power of Attorney is a powerful tool. Bluntly it states that your designate can do anything you can do. They can sell or buy property, enter into agreements and make legal and financial decisions on your behalf. This document turned out to be a helpful tool to our mom and family. Once mom started stroking she could not balance her check book or remember to pay the light bill. It became necessary for someone to step in and help her. She had already put in place a Power of Attorney and chosen her designate. That was really the key. She chose my son, Matthew, because she trusted him, he lived locally and he had an MBA. An MBA is really not necessary but she was proud of her grandson and it gave her comfort to know he was balancing her checkbook.  Additionally the rest of the family trusted him and recognized that he would work to fulfill mom's wishes. The challenge here is choosing the right person at the right time. 

Lastly, the Last Will and Testament. I am so glad that Mom and Dad had this document in place. For the people left behind, death is not only an emotional time but requires a legal response. Everything from turning off mom's cell phone to selling her house required legal authority and documentation to do so. Yes, if you fail to put a will in place, the state will come in and dictate to your family and/or friends how to get this done. But it is cumbersome and slow going. Your will offers a framework for others to work under. It states who will be your executor, who will care for minor children and how to distribute property. It is not like in the old Perry Mason movies where family members come together for the reading of the will. Though I guess if you were into the drama of it all you could require that. It is more about creating a document that will help your family maneuver the legal process once you are gone. 

I am grateful to my parents for taking care of life's paperwork because losing your parents is difficult enough without the added burden of dealing with government bureaucracy without it. I had my paperwork put in place years ago. Yes there was some anxiety during the process but today, I rarely think about it. And do know my children will thank me once the time comes. When I talk about living an intentional life, this is an area that needs intentionality. It does require taking the time to think through what you believe and what you want from life even at the end, how you want to treat others and then putting a plan in place. Plus it means you could join the 45% and enjoy feeling just a little superior to the remaining 55%.



Living an Intentional Life Together

by Christine

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony
-Mahatma Gandhi

For the last few weeks I have been writing about my family, friends and bits and pieces of my life through the lens of intentional living but I've realized something is missing.  I was discussing my blog with my sister and that I was writing about living an intentional life. Julia asked some really good questions, starting with, "What does intentional living mean?" Then she wanted examples and how-tos. As I was sharing with her the meaning of an intentional life and some examples, I realized that I wanted to walk-the-walk as well as talk-the-talk. I have spent the last 15 years working to craft a life that brings joy to me and to those I love. I will not say that I have always been successful but I have more happy days than not and am blessed with loving family relationships and good friends. I want to teach you how to create and live that life, too.

For the next 52 weeks, I am going to write about my journey living an intentional life. Each Friday, I will write about a specific area of living intentionally, and then outline the steps you can take to infuse intention into that area of your life. We'll cover friendships, relationships, eating, exercising, taking time for oneself, happiness and everything in between.  But more importantly you will be developing skills that will help you define and reach your personal aspirations. I am here to share both my successes and failures. I would love for you to join me on this journey so we can do it together. It is always more fun to share an experience with a friend.

And better yet, be sure to subscribe to the Footsteps' newsletter so you can receive automatic and daily resources on how you can live a life filled with intention. It all begins here next Friday!



The Decision is Yours to Make

by Christine

When she put her head on the dinning room table, the entire family just stared at my mom. Finally, my son, Matthew said, “Grandmother are you okay?” No she wasn’t. My father had died three months earlier and this was her first holiday without him in over 50 years. She was struggling; we were all struggling. Dad’s funeral had been emotionally charged and strained my relationship with my brother and sister to the point of breaking. We all went home angry and unable to speak to one another for months. It was a sad and disappointing time.

I made the decision that when mom died it would be different. I know that sounds odd but it was absolutely necessary for me to think through what happened and consciously decide what my sister and brother meant to me. I guess that sounds even stranger. My father was the anchor of the family and held us together through sheer will. Even though we lived in different cities, lead different lives and at times didn’t have much in common, my father expected us to act as though we were still the same family unit we were growing.

I don’t agree with that philosophy. I believe family can have a special place but I also believe there has to be a mutual desire for a relationship and that relationship should be respectful. I have heard more than one of my friends long for a closer relationship with a sibling but just can’t get the other person to respond. That is unfortunate but both people need to be willing to engage.

With time I came to see that I did want a relationship with my sister and brother outside of my parents. I had to decide what I was willing to do to have the kind of relationship I wanted with them. I started with my sister. As adults, Julia and I have been closer than Ed and I. I shared with Julia my desire to maintain a positive relationship with her and my disappointment over what had happened at dad’s funeral. She too felt bad about the family breakdown and was eager to discuss some issues that could help us avoid another meltdown. It has been slower with my brother because we had a further distance to travel. But since mom’s death, I committed to calling him at least once a week and have been pleasantly surprised to receive chatty calls from him in return.

As we work to be intentional about our lives, our relationship with our family is a key element. We can craft unique and healthy relationships that bring out the best in one another. It is our choice. That is not say my sister is anymore organized than she was growing up or my brother will stick to the facts of a story just because he is an adult or that I will be any less bossy than I was when I was 10. It just means that we have chosen to honor our differences while finding common ground.