Feeling Stuck? Clean a Toilet!

Sometimes we feel stuck.

This can be particularly true in retirement, when our 9 to 5 work, with its built-in sense of purpose, is behind us.

We may wake up and wonder, “What is my purpose today?”

Yoga classes and lunch dates do not a purpose-filled life make.  And that to-do list may vacillate between over busy-ness that has us frazzled and boredom that has us opening the refrigerator door way too often.

How to get unstuck?

The self-help books have many good and practical suggestions.

But what if we are too overwhelmed to make a gratitude list, or take a walk, or even say a prayer?

Look no farther than the bathroom.  There lies a toilet.

The seemingly insignificant act of cleaning a toilet can offer a sense of accomplishment, albeit small.  And this toilet-time may just propel us to do a push-up, make a phone call, or name something we are grateful for.

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, advocates starting small – doing something eminently doable that guarantees success and evokes healthy habits.  He tells the story of one man who “resets his room” —

“When he finishes watching television, he places the remote back on the TV stand, arranges the pillows on the couch, and folds the blanket. When he leaves his car, he throws any trash away. Whenever he takes a shower, he wipes down the toilet while the shower is warming up.

This might sound like he’s just “cleaning up” but there is a key insight that makes his approach different. The purpose of resetting each room is not simply to clean up after the last action, but to prepare for the next action.”


So, feeling stuck?  Unmotivated?  Overwhelmed?  Start small.  Grab that clorox and clean a toilet.

This may not be the day you write a novel, complete a marathon, or even vacuum up the dog hair that’s rolling like sage brush across your rugs – but hey, you will will have a clean toilet!  And that’s something!


Today’s Takeaway –

-Think small.  And do SOMEthing.   Don’t answer the refrigerator when it beckons you.

-Play loud, joy-filled music during your toilet-time.  Why not?

-Codie is chiding me now.  Get off your butt and take me for a walk.  She is right.  And Codie never feels stuck!


Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

Screen Shot 2019-05-07 at 1.19.26 PM

Making a Difference

In 2002 Jack Nicholson starred in a movie called About Schmidt.

Nicholson played Warren Schmidt, a grumpy curmudgeon retiring from his actuarial career  – facing the fact he’s no longer needed. His wife annoys him, his daughter’s about to marry a “nincompoop”; their new Winnebago bodes travel plans that he dreads.

Then his wife drops dead and he’s alone. Sounds uplifting, right?  Bet you can’t wait to find this on Netflix.

So let’s zoom to the redemption part.

Schmidt responds to an ad and sponsors a boy from an African village.  He starts writing letters to this boy – chronicling his Winnebago misadventures traveling cross-country to his daughter’s wedding.

At the very end, having endured perky campers and wedding weirdness, Schmidt reflects, has his life made a difference?

Now for the good part.  Finally.

Once at home he discovers an envelope  from Tanzania. A nun from an African orphanage tells him that his sponsored child, Ndugu, is only 6 and can’t read or write.  But Ndugu has enjoyed Schmidt’s letters and thinks of him everyday. Ndugu wishes for Schmidt’s health and happiness. He has made a picture for Schmidt which he hopes he likes.

 Schmidt starts crying as he realizes he HAS made a difference in his life.  Click redemption. to see Nicholson at his best. 

Enough about Schmidt.  Now About Us.  

We do NOT want to be remotely curmudgeonly.  And we DON’T want to wait for our final years to be reflecting, have we made a difference?

Each day we can make a difference in small ways.  Anonymous giving is the best!

Last summer Brett and I were sipping wine at a Wisconsin bar.  The bartender told us he was saving money to visit his young son.  After we signed the bill and the bartender had turned his back, Brett snuck a $100 bill under the napkin.  We scurried out. Unfortunately, the bartender, being young, sprinted after us to shake Brett’s hand. At least we tried to be anonymous!

My friend Donna once dropped off a delightful book at my front door and was mute about it for a full year.  She giggled when I finally figured out that she was the gift-giver.

And what’s retirement for, if not more giggling?


Today’s Takeaway –


  • Small things are big things.  Pay someone a sincere compliment – one  that the person can live on for the next month. 


  • Let’s do our best NOT to over-share about those arthritis aches or upcoming bunion surgeries.  Even Schmidt would lose interest!



Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

Stepping Off the Treadmill

“Back on the treadmill!” my colleague would announce every Monday morning,

A classroom teacher’s treadmill is set to sprint-mode. No warm-up.  There are staff development sessions that threaten to never end, lesson plans that look great on paper, new initiatives that appear suspiciously recycled, parent-teacher conferences, and 25-plus kids to manage every minute of every day.

Have you seen those Said-No-Teacher-Ever quotes?

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 9.07.34 AM.pngScreen Shot 2018-02-25 at 9.07.12 AM.png

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 9.08.20 AM.png

Even the most dedicated, passionate, beloved classroom teacher looks forward to life beyond the treadmill.  Ah, to read a novel, take a walk, have an adult beverage on a Sunday night. Monday night.  Tuesday night.

But stepping off that treadmill is not as easy as it sounds.

Joy and I are in our first post-work year.  And we’re trying to find life-balance beyond the treadmill.  Retirement, we’re thinking is a misnomer.

Whether you’re in the work force or not, there is a human need for productivity.  We are wired to work (just not to be consumed by it.  “If only I had put in more hours at the job” said no person ever at the end of his/her days.)

But working encompasses more than a paycheck. You’ve no doubt heard of the 5 basic human needs in the workplace.

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 8.22.05 AM.png

These human needs are still present in retirement.

In one  fascinating study.  participants sat in an empty room for 15 minutes, alone with their thoughts.  The majority actually chose to give themselves an electrical shock to avoid boredom.  Boredom is unhealthy for the human spirit.

The BBC recently reported that being bored can “push people to harm themselves; a proneness to boredom was linked to a tendency to smoke, drink too much, and take drugs.”

And who has not lingered at the refrigerator door looking for something, anything, to consume – out of sheer boredom?

So, may we ignore that beckoning couch where season 3 of The Crown awaits alongside a Costco size bag of Skinnypop.  (Well, just not that often!)

Retirement means finding the interval setting on our treadmill  — taking naps but also embracing productivity (sports, volunteer opportunities, teaching or taking a class) — activities that would put our couch and refrigerator to shame.

And then and only then do we get to open that Skinnypop bag!

And maybe eat the whole thing.

Today’s Takeaway:

  • Find activities where you matter. There’s a people group somewhere waiting for YOU.  They may be yearning to be read to or waiting for their house to be built.
  • Seek life-balance.  There’s nothing wrong with binging on The Crown, the Bachelorette, or The Voice — which I am recording even now!

Enjoy the ride!

xox, Barclay and Joy

P.S  Check out this video of people falling off treadmills! This will be me someday!