Of all the advice from all the gurus of the world...

I just read the really interesting autobiography of Blase Bonpane, a peace activist who has worked on Central American human rights issues. He used to be a Maryknoll (Catholic) priest, but was part of that great upheaval of the late 1960s in which many priests and nuns left their vocations in the church and began enriching the world as laypeople. 

Shortly after leaving the priesthood, Bonpane met and married a woman who had just left religious life herself, as a Maryknoll sister (nun). He and Theresa Kileen Bonpane went on to have two children.

Bonpane's book is really about his life as an organizer, not his family life. In fact, a blurb from Noam Chomsky states that he tells young people who ask, "What can I do to make this sad world a better place?" to start by reading Blase Bonpane's autobiography. 

But in the midst of reading about his political and social ideas, I was heartened by Bonpane's assertion that having kids can develop your abilities to make a difference in the world. 

Children will teach you, challenge you, make you grow daily, as nothing else. 

Of all the advice from all the gurus of the world and all of the ways of perfection, I would suggest one which I consider the highest: raise children....

Once our own infants come along and we realize they will be with us twenty-four hours a day, we must make a choice. Are we going to follow our selfish ways or are we going to respond to their needs? In our case, we were further challenged by the need to balance our political work and the children...  
— Blase Bonpane

Bonpane goes on to share insights from his experience raising a family while being an activist. His observation that, "every child in the world has had either too much parenting or not enough" resonates with me. He notes that, "the younger they are, the more attention they need." Between the lines, it's clear that he and his wife were excellent parents, bringing as much care and intentionality to raising children as they did to their political work. 

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When it seems impossible to keep your house clean, start here

Recently, I was at my friend's house and noticed how clean her kitchen was. She has two kids and a very busy life. When I complimented her on the overall tidiness, she told me her secret... 

She read How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind by Dana White (the "Slob Comes Clean" blogger). 

My friend walked me through the basic technique, which is designed for people who love to dive into specific projects but have a hard time keeping up on day-to-day chores. 

This TOTALLY describes me and the book has been a breath of fresh air. 

If you start your every weekend with a pile of dirty dishes and a messy living room to clean before you can even start having fun, try the approach taught in How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind

It's working beautifully so far in our home... here's the cheat sheet (and if it sounds like what you need, I encourage you to read the book!)

1) Wash all your dishes every night before going to bed. 

2) Put away dry dishes when you get up in the morning. 

3) Sweep the kitchen floor every day (because as a result, you won't be able to have clutter underfoot any more). 

4) Spend 5 minutes every night putting random things away (the impact of this is very cumulative). 

If the list above sounds incredibly basic and wouldn't solve your problems, then the "Slob Comes Clean" world is not one that you need to visit. You are not a slob, and there are many other cleaning techniques for advanced people like you! 

But if taking these steps would represent a real shift in how you live at home, then by all means, walk this way! I am so grateful for my friend for being a fellow slob and telling me about How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind

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The Instant Pot = Your Instant Dinner (or Breakfast, or Lunch)!

Do you struggle to eat healthy meals, in part because you're working long hours? 

My gamechanger of the year is the Instant Pot

With this lovely counter-top device, I can grab a frozen organic chicken breast from the freezer and have it on the table ready to serve 30 minutes later. I can turn dried black beans into delicious Brazilian black beans in about the same time. And in fewer than ten minutes, I can turn a dozen eggs into perfectly cooked, easy to peel hardboiled eggs to add to my family's lunchbags all week long.

The Instant Pot is the great for working moms (and all working people) getting home from a long day with no food prepared for dinner. This appliance is a wonderful way to cook very wholesome ingredients in very little time. The flavors of food cooked in the Instant Pot, especially when you are combining ingredients, are divine!

Depending on the culture of your organization and your kitchen space at work, you could also use the Instant Pot at work. Because the Instant Pot plugs into the wall and doesn't make a lot of noise nor put off much heat, it could be a great addition to your workplace. 

I could see this setup working really well if you had an Instant Pot set up in the lunchroom, and you had a routine of prepping ingredients at home. When you need to eat at work, you could just throw everything into the Instant Pot, turn it on, walk away and come back when it's ready. Because most Instant Pot recipes call for high pressure cooking with the pot sealed up tight, there's no need (or ability) for you to stand there stirring the pot. 

Generally, pressure cookers can be super-intimidating, but the Instant Pot has a lot of safety features and isn't too hard to learn how to use. 

You can make many yummy things with your Instant Pot. One common use of the Instant Pot is for making rice. I happen to already own a rice cooker, so I haven't used it for rice yet.  Same goes for yogurt -- you can use it to make yogurt, but because I also own a yogurt maker (eeek, maybe I have a kitchen gadget problem), I haven't used it for that either. My brother uses his Instant Pot to make dog food for his sweet Lab. Many others use it to make bone broths. 

As the top review on Amazon says, "I didn't fully appreciate, until several days in, just how amazing this aspect of the Instant Pot is: you can start something cooking in it, and then *walk away* - even leave the house, and it will finish cooking just like you instructed, and be *perfectly done*, and then it will *keep it warm for up to 10 hours*! Not keep cooking it, just *keep it warm*. For up to 10 hours! You can put something in there in the morning, leave for the day, and come back to a perfectly cooked whatever, just waiting for you! Booyah!"

Some of my go-to recipes to get you started: 

- Hardboiled eggs

- Brazilian black beans

- Lentil and spinach soup 

- Vietnamese chicken pho (amazing and not hard to make, but requires a lot of ingredients! You can do it!) 

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The simple idea that can change your work life for good

There's a study making the rounds in organizational management circles this week. It's called "The buffering role of sportsmanship on the effects of daily negative events."

Bear with me. This is really interesting!

Researchers from the United States and Europe collaborated to discover that avoiding unnecessary complaints and criticism at work enhances your engagement and productivity on the job. 

Like so much good social science, the results are pretty intuitive and unsurprising. But it's nice to see the proof. And if you need to be reminded of something your mom may have told you all along... 

Complaining at work only hurts you. 

Here's the life-changing idea. 

“Discussing events immediately during or after they occur forces the brain to re-live or rehearse the negative emotional response. This creates a stronger association in memory, exaggerating the influence of the emotional episode.... When we engage in sportsmanship, we avoid complaining, and in this way block the formation of salient memory links between the event and our feelings.” 
— Evangelia Demerouti & Russell Cropanzano

This is a life lesson I've learned personally, more than once. 

When a work situation is bad, discussing it with coworkers only makes it worse. 

It's counterintuitive! We're taught to believe that talking about a problem makes it better. 

But in practice, once you open up to your coworkers about how and why a certain situation is bad, the floodgates of negativity are opened up, and those floodgates are really hard to close.

This is not to say that all bad situations should be tolerated in silence. Bullying, harassment, and unethical behavior of all stripes needs to be addressed, as high up the chain as possible. 

But complaining about other conditions to coworkers and even bosses usually doesn't accomplish much. Have you also found this to be true?