Planning Your Solo Journey: 3 Tips

Now that it’s mid-February, I’m well into daydreaming about where I’m going on my Solo Journey this year. I started at the end of December, when the Christmas tree was down and the holiday busyness was transitioning to the quiet gray days of January. I was feeling that pull to strike out on my own.

Over the years, people have asked me, “Why go alone?”

What I’ve found is that whether you go away by yourself for a day, a weekend, or a week, traveling alone is a way of reviving yourself without the constant conversations and interaction of traveling with others. You can choose to get lost, in a good way, as an act of letting go, wandering about in a sort of timelessness. You’re able to leave behind daily responsibilities and see your life with fresh eyes—from a distance. For me, it’s also a time of listening for what God is saying to me while I’m in a place of quiet.

After the question about why go it alone, the next question people ask is how do I choose  where to go. This gets at factors for how I plan my trip.

There are 3 things I’d recommend to keep in mind as you plan your journey.

 First, I consider what is calling me. What type of environment do I need this year to be renewed? Do I want a natural setting or to be absorbed in the culture and activity of a city? This takes into consideration my personality as well as what type of year I’ve had.

When I took my life coaching course, one of the things that was new for me was paying attention to my energy. I learned to look at my energetic response in making decisions about what I really wanted.

While your head may be slow to recognize your desires, your body holds the truth.

If I feel my heart quicken with a certain idea, I know I’m on the right track—as it makes me feel my energy increase. If it seems more like drudgery to think about that destination, the planning involved, the logistics once I’m there– then I don’t have the right place in mind. For me, I most often feel my energy increase with going to any place around a body of water. If you ask the question, “Are you a mountain or a beach person?” my answer is always the beach.

While my first journey to Sedona was a serendipitous one, a happy accident, and I was at a small body of water– Oak Creek, the following journey that was intentional was to Jekyll Island, Georgia. I wanted to be at the ocean and feel the power of the surf and the possibility of vastness looking out to the horizon.

fullsizeoutput_2b2

Looking out on the Atlantic from a Driftwood beach. Jekyll Island, Georgia

Secondly, when I’m cosidering where to go on a Solo Journey, I look at the circumstances of my life and what plan would fit– especially time and money. When I started taking yearly journeys, my sons were in college and I didn’t have a lot of money to spend–but that didn’t stop me. I stayed in hostels including one managed by Hostelling International on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Where on that island, besides a hostel, could you stay for $28.00 a night in a thriving international community of travelers?

Three years ago when I was still working as a school nurse and had two months off in summer, I spent two weeks at Artcroft in Kentucky. That writer’s residency was truly a gift and I paid a donation which wasn’t nearly what those 14 nights were worth. I knew that I should go then before I retired because my schedule may change and the summer wouldn’t be so open.

IMG_1625

Quiet house at Kentucky Writing Residency, Artcroft

That was the right plan that year but wouldn’t work now with my year-round part-time research nurse job and caring for my grandson. So this year, it makes for a more doable plan to go closer and for not as many days—but still, a time away, alone, a time for renewal.

Third, I’ll go ahead and make my plan now, months ahead so the decision is settled. That will assure I have the time and place reserved, and will give me time to anticipate my trip.

Anticipation of a trip can bring as much joy as actually taking it.

I like having time to look up places in the area and narrow down activities I would like to do. It’s important to not go on a solo journey in typical vacation style—doing everything you can so you don’t miss anything. Drawing away for a while, is to have time for quiet, for contemplation, or for letting your mind, not think, just to be present in that new setting and see what happens.

When I go on my Solo Journeys, I start the day with a prayer that God will “Bless me and the people in my path” and then I watch to see how the day unfolds. Without the preoccupation of a schedule, to-do lists, usual routine, familial and friend conversations, there is time and space opened for the people around you.

Those are the ways I prepare for my Solo Journey. I’ll tell you in an upcoming post what place I’ve reserved and have been anticipating with growing excitement.

I hope you’ll make a plan of your own to draw away for a while and renew your soul.

IMG_2188

Anticipating my Solo Journey for this year

How About You?

Have you or Would you take a Solo Journey?

What destination would make your heart quicken?

What will you do now to make that happen?

 

Reframing: Giveaway to Gift

You see it everywhere– Free stuff in exchange for something. Audiences on The Ellen Show jump up and down with excitement as she gives one thing away then another to her raving fans. Dr. Phil gives a book by a professional that’s under the audiences’ chairs.

Giveaways also come in meager forms like raffles at the local Swing dances for a free admission or for the potted plant on the table at a women’s luncheon. I used to cringe when there were raffles at our school staff and our regional school nurses’ meetings, thinking to myself, Aren’t we supposed to just do this because we’re professionals?

Those giveaways seemed gimmicky to me.

But apparently, I’m in the minority and that’s an older way of thinking, because that’s not how our world is now. Every business offers something to engage their audience and writers are no exception. Listening to many Indie author podcasts over the past year, the importance of connecting with readers via email has been emphasized. I’ve been slow to engage in this, not because I don’t want to connect, but because it’s been hard to figure out what kind of ‘giveaway’ I would offer that wouldn’t feel gimmicky.

Recently, my friend who has done this before with his writing business, suggested I form a collection of my blog posts into an Ebook. He felt that would ‘offer value,’ another catch phrase, to have a representative sample all in one place. So, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve crafted 9 posts from three categories—cancer, family, and solo journeys into my first book with 41 of my photos. I’ve named the book, Saturday Posts: Inspirational Essays and it will be offered exclusively to subscribers. The cover picture is of Tibbett’s Point Lighthouse in Cape Vincent, New York where I took my seventh solo journey.

cover

I think of the hours of learning then loading the pictures and text into Vellum—a formatting software, and creating the cover with Canva—a graphic-design tool, and loading the files and setting up technical support with BookFunnel. Today, I spent over an hour in a chat with tech support at WordPress to put that Giveaway button on this blogsite.

And can you believe, after all that back-and-forth with them, that neither of us saw we’d misspelled Giveaway as Givway ?! Correcting that will have to be put off until another day.

As I think about the time and care I’ve put into this Ebook, it feels like the same kind of attention I pay to creating a homemade gift. I thought about the recipient, my readers, and what stories to include. I scrolled through hundreds of pictures for the ones that helped to tell the story and made it more visually attractive. The accompanying card is the “Letter to My Readers” at the beginning of the book.

While I want to grow my email list and give my readers updates on publication of my memoir, I also want to provide something they’ll enjoy– a gift to say “Thank You.” They’ve trusted me with their email, having faith that I won’t misuse it or load up their inbox in an annoying way.

So, please accept my Gift, that is a Giveaway since it’s FREE if you provide your email and become part of my mailing list. I hope you’ll enjoy my first book and share my site with others.

fullsizeoutput_461

Solo Journey, June 2010

 

How about You?

Have you ever had to design a ‘Giveaway’ to attact people to your business or event?

What did you create and how did people respond?

The People in our Path: Unlikely Friends

Ten years ago, I gave myself a birthday gift of attending a writing conference in Greensboro—about forty minutes from my home. I didn’t know anyone going to the conference and decided to approach it like my solo journeys—praying that God would bless me and the people in my path, trusting that things would unfold as they should.

I arrived late, and had to sit at the back of the meeting room of the hotel. I don’t remember what that particular session was about, just that the focus of the conference was finding faith-based publications for our writing. I hadn’t published any of my creative non-fiction at that point, so it seemed to be the right next-step for me. They closed that session with a Q and A and I remember that a woman who sat at the front table seemed to have a lot to say.

Later, when we took our lunch break, they instructed us, “Sit anywhere.”

There were tables for four and I planted myself at one and was joined by a mother and her eighteen-year-old daughter. The woman who’d sat at the front of the room and was so vocal in that Q and A, joined us. Her name was Erika.

We talked about where we were from and what we were writing. While Erika was originally from New Jersey, she had moved to North Carolina to attend Duke University, then later, she and her husband settled in the area.

No wonder she sounded forceful, I thought. She’s a Northerner, from New Jersey and had gone to Duke. As a native North Carolinian, a graduate of UNC, our most fierce rivalry is with Duke, especially in basketball.

fullsizeoutput_1189

At lunch last week with Erika

While eating together, Erika seemed more relaxed, smiling and laughing easily. The mother and daughter finished and left to join some folks they knew. Erika and I became engrossed in conversation. I learned that she lived within eight miles of me and had grown children who were close in age to mine. She’d been caring for her father with dementia while I was doing the same for my mother. Erika talked about how her father coming to live with her had changed things.

“Now, since I have to be home with Dad, I’ve found time to write. I can easily pen my essays and take care of him.”

She’d taught English for years and had that spirit of a teacher, wanting to help the curious student, offering suggestions for places I could publish my essays. Sometimes other writers can be competitive and don’t share publishing sites, but Erika freely told me the places she’d been published and encouraged me to send them my work.

When we left that day, we exchanged emails and made plans to meet for coffee. Our cars were parked across from each other. The political sticker on the back of her Cadillac was as polar opposite to the one on my Camry as our universities!

Since that meeting at the conference, we’ve had many afternoons of coffee at Starbucks and lunches at local restaurants, sharing about writing, and lately, our new roles as grandmothers. We’ve attended several writing conferences together. Erika’s been supportive of my memoir and I’ve supported her writings.

She’s been very prolific in publishing her essays in anthologies such as Chicken Soup for the Soul and regional magazines like Sasee of Myrtle Beach. Her advice on writing humor has been published in The Writer, and her essays on craft published in the online Funds for Writers Magazine and the Writers Digest website. She’s used her talent for teaching with her adult education course for Olli at Duke University on composing the personal essay. These are just some of her accomplishments and now she’s getting ready to publish her mystery. She’s generously given to me over the years and now I want you to know my friend and fellow author:

 

Erika Hoffman’s mystery, Why Mama will be published by Library Press Partners of Wake Forest University this April.

Unknown

Erika Hoffman

Why Mama emits a gothic southern, nostalgic aura.  The story revolves around Fancy, a fifteen- year- old figuring out who killed her parents in 1974.  Three narrators tell the mystery.  One is Fancy, an upper -class teen who becomes orphaned on a summer day with gusting hurricane winds. Forced to live with her 19 -year- old sister Eve and sis’s lecherous husband in a duplex way off the wrong side of the tracks, Fancy begins her quest.  The mission is clear: to discover the identity of her parents’ killers despite the sheriff’s ruling it was a murder/suicide and despite doubts expressed by many townsfolks regarding her sanity. People, Fancy assumes, are allies betray her. Others, viewed as enemies, help. Another narrator is her sister Eve, whose judgment isn’t sound and who’s subject to panic attacks. Fancy’s best friend Judy is the most objective reporter of the murder and ensuing action.  During it all, Fancy follows leads provided by an albino doe whose soulful eyes remind her of her mother and make the teen question the idea of reincarnation. Because of her mother’s strong Christian faith, Fancy believes her mother could never have committed the crimes she’s accused of. Fancy has many questions she’d like to ask her deceased mama, but the main question is: “Why? Why did this happen to us?”

(Watch for Why Mama on Amazon and wherever you purchase books)

 

You never know who you’ll meet in your path or how they’ll impact your life.

I didn’t have any idea that the greatest thing I’d walk away with from that conference was meeting Erika, my mentor and friend.

Now, all these years later, we’re still unlikely friends who’ve navigated our relationship around university and political party affiliations, and the regional differences of our backgrounds. Instead, we’ve focused on the things we share, building our friendship one conversation at the time, one writing success at the time–as we cheer each other on.

How About You?

Have you had a chance meeting with someone in your path that turned into a long-term friendship?

What ways have you shared support of each other’s dreams over the years of your friendship?

 

Taking New Risks: The Sound of My Voice

This week I did something I’ve never done before; I recorded the Preface and Epilogue of my memoir for an audio book. I’m comfortable with public speaking, but recording in my friend, Melanie’s studio was different. Unlike the speaking I’ve done, this recording will live on, captured in audio files for people who aren’t in front of me. In the past, when I’ve heard my voice on a recording, I’d say to myself, “That doesn’t sound like me,”  (I thought it sounded like my cousin, but I won’t say which one!)

Melanie’s husband, Jeff, who worked at the controls and is a veteran sound editor, told me that nobody likes to hear their voice recorded. I didn’t give him my particular defense of why I have felt self-conscious, about the comments people have made about my Southern accent (see post-Southern Drawl). Even with feeling on edge, part of me wishing I didn’t need to do the recording, I relaxed some knowing that I was in the company of friends. I’ve known Melanie for over twenty years and when I’ve been around Jeff, he has a quiet kindness that puts me at ease.

Melanie’s a voice over-talent and the leader of our Triangle Writers Group. I’m delighted that she’s doing the narration of my memoir, He Heard My Voice. She’s been with me through the life-changing events described in my book and has critiqued every chapter. I feel so fortunate to have my talented friend work with me on this project and I didn’t want to disappoint her with my performance.

Before I started recording, Melanie helped me to understand the set up– where I’d stand, how I’d pause between pages, directions she’d give me from behind the door. There was baffling, or materials to deflect extranous noises in my recording area: foam where I spoke into the microphone, curtains and rugs on the walls and floor. All of this was new for me but everyday for Melanie.

img_2685

 

We worked our way through my recording in the hour that we’d scheduled. I felt satisfied when I left that I’d done my best. I remembered back to my solo journey to Iona, Scotland. There, I’d vowed to let go of some of my self-consciousness in order to move forward and be all I was created to be.

Our retreat leader had stood with us on the shore of Iona Sound and directed us to pick a rock that represented a weight we carried. After considering the burden of what we carried, we were to throw it into the water. My burden had been my self-consciousness, my perfectionism and I remember the “thunk” of my rock hitting the water. Soon after that, I had the opportunity to test out my new self and it had to do with not worrying about how I looked or sounded. (see post- Things You Leave Behind)

img_1214

Iona Sound where I’d left that rock

Now, I think that I’m making progress by letting go, following through with the audio recording in spite of my discomfort.

The point of me reading the Preface and Epilogue is to introduce my readers/listeners to my Southern voice, while Melanie’s trained voice does the majority of the work. I practiced before our recording session and decided to share with you a portion of the Preface.

Since I’m letting go of my self-consciousness, I’m not going to worry that this was done after a day of keeping my grandson, when like the recording of me at Iona, I hadn’t had time to “brush my hair or freshen up.”

I’m taking a risk, putting it out there, and praying in this–as in all things, that God will bless my efforts and the desires of my heart. May it be so for you, too!

 

 

How About You?

What do you need to let go of in order to be all you were created to be?

What risk do you need to take?

Referenced posts:

Things You Leave Behind

Southern Drawl

Steps Toward the Goal: New Routines

We’re now 19 days into 2019 and I’m trying to implement steps that will help me reach my goal: publishing my memoir. In last week’s post, I said that I needed to work ‘smarter’ because I can’t work any harder. I found two television shows that I’ve hung onto over the years that have partially been background noise and also have me watching to see how the writers progress the story line. (Well, actually that sounds better than it is; the two shows are soap operas and I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I watch them!)

When I looked at both more closely, the 90 minute shows take more of my energy than first appears; my mind has to keep up with when they come on since I’ve chosen not to record them; after each show I’m processing what happened, whether I think the writers did a good job with that episode and images that linger of scenes and situations. (I’m also saying, “That’s stupid. He was just married to her sister last year!”)

That 90 minutes+ could have been spent distraction-free, working on my list of tasks to produce the memoir, doing just one thing at the time. Since I took those two shows out of my daily schedule last Tuesday, I’ve been thinking about routines.

Years ago, I went through treatment for triple-negative breast cancer. At that time, I was working as a Research Coordinator with clinical trials—or pharmaceutical research. When I finished the 6 rounds of chemo and it was time to schedule the 32 radiation treatments, I was overwhelmed.

“How am I going to do that and go to work every day?” I asked myself. I knew I could take time off to rest as needed, but I really wanted and needed to maintain my job. Considering my energy level and the daily work flow at our office, I decided I would request the first radiation appointment of the day—the 8:15 slot. While that seemed to be the best, I had enough trouble making it to my office by 8:30 so how would I manage to get to UNC Hospital fifteen minutes earlier, every day for over 6 weeks?

Thinking about the days ahead, adding radiation treatments to my already full schedule, it came to me: Make it more normal by making it routine.

 I would have to get up earlier in order to still have time for my morning walk, at least as long as I felt up to it. Walking at sunrise had been my practice and was the favorite part of my day; I wouldn’t give that up.

img_2562

Morning Walk

I had to make sure that my clothes were ready and my lunch was packed the night before—just like we’d tried to have our sons do over the years of school mornings. But still, I dreaded driving the 10 miles to the UNC parking lot to my space marked “Radiation Oncology Patient.” I hated being reminded of cancer every morning, unlike my chemo every third week that gave me a break from any announcement of being a cancer patient.

What if I pair the bitter with the sweet, I thought, remembering that practice I started during the numerous medical visits early on in the cancer process; after something bitter– like a procedure I’d give myself something sweet– like a shopping trip.

If I got to my appointment 15 minutes earlier, I could write while waiting, using the time when I felt the best to work on a new short story. I’d bring my mug of coffee and savor those minutes instead of thinking about what was in front of me.

I followed through with my new routine and when I was pulling out of my drive, I added music to make me feel better.  I put a contemporary Christian CD in the player, Hymns of Worship and Praise. My favorite portion of the road crossed over Jordan Lake, and when I reached the section where I could see the broadest expanse of water, my favorite song, “God of Wonders” played. Looking out over the beauty of boats in morning fog, I felt lifted up above my circumstances and empowered for the day ahead.

img_1636

January on Jordan Lake

Making that my daily routine for those 32 days helped me to cope with the treatments and the cumulative fatigue.

That was eighteen years ago and I still remember that following that routine made the experience feel more familiar. Now, as I think of ways to streamline how I use my time, I see a way to apply what I learned during those radiation treatments. Instead of having to set a new wake-up time each weekday morning depending on whether I’m going to my UNC job, keeping my grandson, or writing, I’ll stick with one. If I go with the earliest time that I need for babysitting, I won’t have to think about it each night and it’ll be easier for my body to adjust.

And on those dark mornings driving to my grandson’s house, I’ll have the sweet reward when I arrive of holding him in those cuddly footed pajamas while I fix myself a second cup of French Roast.

img_2608

 

How About You?

How are you progressing toward your 2019 goal?

Are there changes in your routine that could open up time to work on your goal?

Steps Toward the Goal: Cutting Clutter

Two weeks ago, in my post “Looking Back Looking Forward,” I invited readers to join me in considering our successes and mistakes of 2018 and our goal for 2019. I shared my goal of Indie publishing my memoir, He Heard My Voice. I asked the following question and gave my answer:

What do I/you need to reach your goal?

I need to remain steadfast and focused, balancing my life and cutting out any clutter that gets in the way of reaching this goal.

IMG_1464

A New Year’s Eve on the Carolina coast

Now, almost two weeks into the new year, I’m focusing on how to cut out clutter and ways that relates to balancing my life—all in service of reaching my goal.

Over the years, I’ve mostly thought of clutter as physical things that litter my surroundings. As a self-diagnosed ADHD adult, I can easily create this litter from papers, bills, correspondence, the things of daily life and my creative pursuits. But as I’ve gotten older, I see clutter also as non-physical things like excessive noise, overly scheduled time, stored emotional hurts, unreasonable standards, and ways of doing things that are no longer useful. My new definition of clutter is:

Clutter is anything that takes up space in my mind, my emotions, or my physical surroundings and drains energy from me.

What areas of clutter do I need to cut in order to have more energy to focus on my goal?

I need every source of energy possible to do all the tasks that are required to independently publish my book. As I wrote about in the post “Not What I Expected,”I didn’t know that when I would be in the process of publishing my book I would also be taking care of my grandson and maintaining my part-time research nurse job. I need to work smarter because I don’t think I can work any harder. That means being very intentional about how I spend my time.

img_2661

My grandson, Baker

I’ve identified several areas that I can cut out.

First of all, there’s unnecessary stimuli that is both auditory and visual and keeps my mind engaged, working at a continual level. I watch some television shows out of habit, and while I half watch them, my brain does engage. I often multi-task and half-watch while writing, cooking or folding clothes—not fully focused on any one task. My friend since first grade, Donna, recently told me that now that she’s older, she’s decided she’s just going to do one thing at the time. How much cleaner that is than trying to juggle multiple things.

I remember that when I was a school nurse and had students return after concussions, they had strict guidelines on having periods of rest for their brains in order for them to heal from their injury. Sometimes my mind requires rest from overstimulation so that when I need to focus on what matters like my book, then I’ll have the reserves available.

Secondly, some of the clutter in my life is sticking to old patterns of doing things that no longer serve me. I used to feel like I had to personally respond to needs in my community in the same fashion as my mother. For example, if there was someone who was sick, she would take that person a homemade meal. Now, I have to realize that times have changed and I have to look closely at the decisions I make. It may be enough to send a card or a gift certificate to a restaurant, in order to balance my life, my precious time.

A third area of clutter is the lingering perfectionist ideas that are rigid and keep me bound to old ways of thinking. When I keep my grandson, Baker, I think of all the things he’s learning now that he’s 8 months old. I want the days with “Grammy”to be rich in helping him to grow and develop. But I realize that I don’t have to be reading to him the best books for children all the time. He is nurtured by hearing my voice reading anything, by our time together, and watching me valuing books.

Yesterday, when thinking about an upcoming recording session for my audio book, I practiced reading to Baker while he ate his teething crackers. I think he was just as entertained as when I read Winnie the Pooh!

img_2676

Listening to Grammy read from her memoir

These are my first steps in 2019 toward cutting clutter from my life so I can work smarter to publish my book. Each step is made in faith that I’m moving closer toward balancing my life and accomplishing the work I feel God has given me to do.

Blessings to You in the week ahead as you step closer to your goal.

Referenced Posts:

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Not What I Expected

 

How About You?

What is the clutter in your life?

How do you see it impacting your goals?

What steps can you take now to cut the clutter?

 

Step Forward in 2019

Over the past year since I’ve been on Twitter, I’ve often used the hashtag #stepforwardfromcancer. That phrase came to me when I was planning a group for breast cancer survivors. I was using my Life Coaching knowledge to help those participants move toward a better place in their lives. When I remembered back to my treatment, I thought of how the meaning of ‘stepping forward’ was relative to where I was in the process. (You could substitute another illness, #stepforwardfrom_____ if it stopped you in your tracks and changed your life).

IMG_1491

path up Mt Constitution overlooking Puget Sound, Washington State

In the early days when decisions needed to be made about my cancer treatment, a step forward could be making a choice that gave me more control: whether to take an aggressive approach, what location I’d go to for my infusions, what time each day to have my radiation appointment. When I was further along and feeling the impact of treatment, stepping forward could be pushing myself a little harder to get out of bed and walk outside. Sometimes it was choosing to participate in activities in spite of my nausea, taking my aide of a ‘nausea cocktail’ of cranberry juice and Diet Sprite on crushed ice. And once I was done with treatment, stepping forward was about moving toward the things that I’d put on hold, trying to let go of the fear of the cancer returning in order to enjoy life.

Sometimes with my hashtag I’ll go further and add #stepforwardfromcancer or whatever holds you back. While a physical illness is an obvious block to moving forward in the way we’d planned, sometimes the things that hold us back are not visible. For me one of those things is feeling inadequate, doubting myself. I’ve experienced this in various areas of my life, but the one that comes to mind that I’ve learned most about over the years is having the confidence to take solo journeys.

Taking solo journeys started by accident when I had that serendipitous trip to Sedona, Arizona in spring of 2001—right after I finished my 8 months of cancer treatment. I had the chance to travel for a few days between 2 business trips out West—but I had to do that alone. At first, I thought, “How can I go by myself to an unfamiliar place so far away?” That seemed like something other women might have the confidence to do, but not me. Taking those first awkward steps was rewarded by discovering the freedom of time alone without the distractions of fellow travelers. For me, it was a time of spiritual renewal in the presence of God, and eventually, after years of journeys, helped me to discover more of myself.

Each year when I approached planning that journey, I dealt with some level of doubt: Why are you going to that destination instead of another? How are you going to fit in with that group of people? Will you have the physical ability to carry out your plan?

What I’ve found is that those voices of doubt sound pretty familiar over time. They pick on the same vulnerable spots where they know they’ll get a reaction out of me, those areas of pride that will quickly defend themselves when they’re accused. By taking risks and not letting that thing hold you back, whatever it is for you, the more times you do it anyway, the more routine, the less of a hold it has on you.

fullsizeoutput_671

At the top of Mt Constitution, Washington State

So now, as we’re into the first week of 2019, I hope that you can start this new year by stepping forward from whatever has had a grip on you, whether it’s a physical illness or an emotional thorn in your side that keeps you from living the life you desire. Each small step leads to another to make the journey down your path the best it can be.

 Blessings to You!

pexels-photo-297977

What about You?

Are there physical or emotional things that you need to #stepforwardfrom in 2019?

What first step will you take? Are there supports that would help you?

Related Post

Sedona: A Serendipitous Journey

 

 

 

 

Looking Back, Looking Forward

We’re in that period of the year that feels like suspended time, hanging between the current year and approaching the new one, taking those uncertain steps toward the future. The constant t.v. and radio reminders of the year in review—whether it’s political changes, deaths of famous people, sports records– keep us focused on what feels like a blur that happened too fast to take in, leaving me asking, “What day is it? What year is it?”

IMG_1842

Searching heron on Gulf Coast of Florida #solojourney2018

When I steady myself and look back at 2018, one of my new activities was becoming a Podcast listener. Less than two years ago, when my coworker told me about a podcast he produced, I thought that’s for ‘younger people’ the Gen Xers like my coworker, or the younger, Millennials. But once I got hooked on the true-crime podcast, “Up and Vanished,” I was in. When I decided after my writing conference in May to go Indie with publishing my memoir, a friend recommended podcasts focused on non-traditional publishing. Now, at the end of the year, I listen to many and consider that content as part of my self-education in publishing. I am one of ‘them’ who listens regularly to podcasts.

Last week on my fifty-minute drive home from visiting Mama at the nursing home, I heard an episode by Christina Canters, a business and communications coach out of Australia. In her show, “Stand Out Get Noticed,” she was looking at what she’d accomplished in 2018, what mistakes she’d made and how she learned from them, and what her goals are for 2019. Besides her lovely Aussie accent and feeling connected to her international community, it helped to hear someone else’s perspective of how to sort through the past and prepare for the future.

IMG_1826

Since listening to her podcast three days ago, I’ve been going through the areas she covered, thinking about my life. Join me as I tell you what I came up with and consider these questions for yourself—Reflective Questions coming during the post instead of at the end.

What did I/you accomplish in 2018?

For me, the thing I accomplished was completion of my memoir. At first, incorporating the professional edits and corrections felt like more than I could do. When I received my 210 pages marked with track changes from my developmental editor, I thought, “How in the world am I going to go back (after so many times of rewriting already) and make all those changes?”

I had to step back for a few days to build up my energy and resolve for that task. There was no way but through. Like I do with all my writing, I prayed that God would give me what I needed to complete the task. There were ‘people in my path’ to support me along the way.

What were the mistakes I/you made in 2018 and how did I/you learn from them?

Well, this one would take a while to cover, more than the usual word count for my posts! Of course some of the mistakes were private ones, usually ways I came up short in relationships—that ongoing thread of life of learning through each interaction and making corrections as you go. But as far as my writing business, I made the mistake of focusing on increasing social media numbers with Twitter when I should have been more focused on my email subscriber list. I know this won’t make sense to those who aren’t working on ‘building a platform’ as they say an author should do—especially before that book is published.

My action was based on the direction of a Literary Agent that I was hoping to get a contract with that ultimately didn’t work out. While I have received benefits from engaging on Twitter, I listened closely when one podcaster said she had 10K Twitter followers and that had made minimal impact on her book discoverability and sales. Now I’m working on following the advice of Indie publishing podcasters for engaging in what is best for me.

IMG_1805

What is my/your goal for 2019 and what will you need to reach that goal?

Well, I guess mine’s pretty obvious—publish my memoir, He Heard My Voice: A Midlife Mom’s Journey through Cancer and Stress and Her Unexpected Arrival at Healing and Wholeness. I know that subtitle is a mouthful, but it really does describe the content of the book and was the gracious gift of that Literary Agent from Denver. I wrote about him in the post, “Unless You’re Famous.” I have been working on this book for around ten years and have been praying about the timing for publication. I do believe the time is now and my prayer is for it to be published in Spring of 2019.

What do I/you need to reach your goal?

I need to remain steadfast and focused, balancing my life and cutting out any clutter that gets in the way of reaching this goal. But I can’t do it alone; I need you. My readers help me by keeping me going when I want to stop. They encourage me to stay the course with their prayers and their comments that let me know my writing has made a difference in their lives. My readers help when they tell others about my writing and they discover me.

When I make public my goal I’m taking a risk and if I don’t reach it, I could feel embarrassed, like I’m a failure. But by letting you know that I need your help to realize my goal, I feel that I have a team of support.

IMG_1830

Bike ride at Coquina Beach, March 2018

How about you? Are you willing to let others know your goal and ask them for their support? Will you allow yourself to be vulnerable and trust that you can count on them to be on your team?

My prayer for you as you are suspended in this transition time between 2018 and 2019, is that you are listening to the desires of your heart, making a goal that is truly what you want to accomplish, and asking others for what you need.

May you look back on 2018 with gratefulness and humility and look forward to 2019 with hope and fullness of heart, knowing that you will have what you need to accomplish your goal.

IMG_1779

Gulf Coast Sunrise #solojourneyFlorida

 

Referenced Post

Unless You’re Famous

All is Calm

It’s just two days until Christmas. This year will be quieter than past years, since our dinner will be postponed until our son and his family return from spending the holiday with his in-laws. We used to have gatherings with larger numbers of  relatives, but now we’re in that phase of life where our children have married and cousins have new traditions and shorter visits due to their adult work schedules that replaced long college breaks.

Besides the decrease in the numbers of gatherings, I haven’t baked a single Christmas confection since the adults in the family are on diets and our seven-month-old grandson isn’t eating cookies—not yet. There’s no need to keep working to perfect Christmas—the foods, the decorations, the magical memories because we’ve all moved on to a different place. Part of me feels like something’s missing, but a bigger part of me says, “This is the quieter holiday you’ve been wanting.”

There are still things to be done but I don’t feel the push to keep doing more. What I want this year is time for quiet. This reminds me that my favorite Christmas carol is “Silent Night.” I think the focus on a quiet night in a stable has a settling effect on me, partially because of my childhood growing up on a farm.  I love the “all is calm all is bright” because so many times in the past the hype and intensity of holiday preparations have worn me down and I didn’t feel calm.

Over the years, I’ve attended many Christmas programs, worship services, and cantatas.  Of all of them, the one that had the most lasting impression was the simplest. It was back when our sons were very young and we were trying to manage the busyness of the holiday while working in our professions. Our small Presbyterian church had a mid-week vesper-type service. The contemporary building had lots of windows that provided a great view of nature during Sunday morning worship but were a blackout of darkness on a December night.

We sat with little inside light and one lone, dark blue candle burning — the focal point of the altar. We sang a few quiet carols to the simple accompaniment of the piano, which was in sharp contrast to the continuous playing of Christmas songs on the radio. The minister gave a homily about our season of Epiphany—waiting with an expectant heart. Inside that room, gathered in that drafty church, the glitzy lights and holiday fanfare of shiny reds and greens that screamed out Christmas was far away. We sat together and watched the flicker of that dark blue candle. I left feeling settled and strengthened, ready to disregard the overstimulation of the holiday and follow the call into the long, hibernating nights of winter.

IMG_2621

This year, when our family is not gathered like before at Christmas, I hope to draw into the silence of a blue candle, experience the calm, and breathe in deeply the quiet of the winter night. I want to exhale any trapped expectations from bygone holidays and accept with joy what is.

Whether you’re like me and having a more quiet, slimmed-down holiday or you’re in the bustle of many celebrations, may you take the time to feel the warmth of the flame of that blue candle, calling you to calm and making your Spirit bright.

Peace and Blessings to You All.

 

How About You?

How have your holidays changed over the years?

What are the things you miss? What are the new opportunities afforded by having time opened in your holiday schedule?

Three Great Gifts

One of the surprises for me of Going Social are the connections I’ve made with people and organizations around the world. After one of my post concerning my journey with breast cancer, an organization in the United Kingdom, Cancer Care Parcel messaged me and invited me to do a guest blog post. Looking at their site, I saw they offered a service for people wanting to buy just the right present for someone going through treatment. Cancer Care Parcel provided a community of support beyond the gifts they were selling. What a great service.

In thinking about what I’d write for them, I considered all the gifts I was given over my eight months of cancer treatment that is now eighteen years ago. How could I represent so many kindnesses in one blog post?

IMG_2568

After pondering this for a while, it came down to three types of gifts that represented the whole: the gift of time and being present during a difficult day, permission and the means to purchase myself a gift, written words in cards that were just enough hope for the moment.

I hope you’ll read about those specific gifts at the link posted below, and spend some time browsing the resources of Cancer Care Parcel. Perhaps it will help you with what to get someone special on your list.

Also, please know that my readers are a gift to me, providing support and encouragement that keeps me writing, that keeps me crafting stories.

Blessings to all of you at this special time of year.

https://cancercareparcel.co.uk/breast-cancer-suhrvivor-gifts/

 

How About You?

What are some of the gifts you’ve received that made an impact on your life?

Who needs a gift from you at this difficult time in their life?

Related Blog post

Surprised by #GoingSocial