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?”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

 

 

 

Family Ties: Someone’s Favorite

I’ve been decorating my home for Christmas and I keep finding special things that remind me of my Aunt Polly: an engraved ornament, my blue porcelain angels, woodland birds. On Saturday evenings when my husband and I watch movies, I work on my crewel embroidery pillow and remember how she taught me the stitches when I was a senior in high school. Later she gave me the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Needlework and wrote in her artful script, “To Connie Riddle with lots, and lots of Love.”

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Polly in our farmhouse kitchen around 1966

While Polly never told me I was her favorite, as every child hopes they are, I always felt a connection to her because she ‘got me’ and I ‘got her.’ Her attention toward me made me feel special– a great thing when you’re growing up and going through the ups-and-downs of figuring out who you are. How reinforcing to feel that you have someone’s favor.

When I was a girl, Polly told me about visiting the Teton Mountains in Wyoming. I felt like I was there when she described the snow-capped mountains and the open space. I’d seen those vistas in Westerns and imagined myself as one of those cowgirls riding a horse. Years later, as a ‘girl’ of  fifty-six, I took my solo journey to Wyoming chasing that dream that had started with Polly. I rode a huge horse named Tequila on a trail ride in the Grand Teton National Park. How I felt Polly’s spirit with me in that place.

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Remembering Polly’s descripton of the Tetons and feeling her presence

My memories of Polly are strong, especially during the Christmas season. Last year, I was feeling the same way and wrote a post, Polly’s Gift. I’d love for you to read it and get to know more about her.  I’ll end this post early in hopes that you’ll read on about Polly and her painting that hangs on the wall in my kitchen every December.

Polly’s Gift

 

How About You?

Is there a family member or another person who has treated you as if you’re a favorite?

What were things they did that communicated that you had a special bond?

How did their favor on you impact your life?

Do you have that type of relationship with a  niece or nephew or some other person?

 

Taking Time to Play

For the past ten years, I’ve spent Veteran’s Day hiking with my favorite living veteran, my cousin, Danny. He’s eleven years older than me, so when I was young and we had our big family gatherings at our Grandma Smith’s, we didn’t hang out. I thought of him like an older brother. Since I only had two sisters, I’d always wanted a brother, especially one who could pave the way for me and help me understand life from a male perspective.

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photo from Nov 2017

When I was a girl, I loved for Danny to stop by our house on his way to Grandma’s. He had a great sense of humor and teased his younger cousins. I loved hearing him talk about being stationed on the USS Cacapon docked in California and serving areas of the South Pacific.

For our Veteran’s Day treks, we go to Raven Rock State Park that’s just a few miles from where Grandma lived. We choose a trail and hike for a while, then stop along the path, lean against our walking sticks and ponder some new tidbit of discovery. These conversations have given me a greater understanding of my family history since Danny’s been around longer than me.

This year we had to postpone our hike for two weeks. During that time of delay, it seemed the list of things I needed to do for my part-time job, for Indie publishing my memoir, and to manage my new role of taking care of my grandson on Wednesdays and Fridays, increased. Before this year’s hike, I felt ambivalent about taking an entire day off when I had so much to do.

But I wasn’t ambivalent about the importance of those hikes in building my relationship with Danny.

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As I considered what I should do, it was as if that still small voice of God, my inner guide said to me, “Just go and enjoy the day.”

It’ll all work out, I told myself. Honor what you know is important.

It was sunny and cold last Tuesday morning when I drove down that country road to the park. We met at 10:15 and took a new trail, knowing that the hurricane in September probably damaged our more familiar path by the Cape Fear River that bordered the park. Since it wasn’t a holiday, there were few hikers. We passed the Superintendent who told us about the extensive damage to the walkways and stairs in the direction we were headed.

Changing our plan, we ended up hiking to an overlook with a spectacular view of the river, one we’d never been to in all our years of hiking. While we were standing there, two men who appeared to be in their thirties, joined us. They were cousins, too and when I said we had a yearly Veteran’s Day hike, one told us he’d served in the Army. When Danny said he’d served in the Navy in the late sixties and had been to many countries in the South Pacific, the other guy told us he was part Filipino. I listened as they shared experiences of towns they’d visted and foods they’d tried, new discoveries for me of Danny’s time in the service.

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Overlook of the Cape Fear River, Central North Carolina

On my yearly solo journeys, I pray each morning that God will “bless me and the people in my path.” Our conversation with those people in our path in that place of beauty, was a highlight of our walk.

We finished hiking and Danny pulled out his charcoal grill and the food he packed for our lunch. This is always nice for me, being taken care of for a while. All I do is bring a bag of carrots–that’s what he assigns me. I watched him stack the coals, squirt them with lighter fluid, and then fan the coals until they were ashen. Sitting near the grill there was just enough warmth to offset the chill of the breeze and the sun moving further behind the trees. We ate our grilled turkey keilbasa, cornbread, and heated sauerkraut and talked of memories of our favorite Christmas foods at Grandma’s.

Stuffed from our meal, because the grilled cornbread with cheese and poppy seeds was too hard for me to resist, I helped him pack his van then hugged my cousin goodbye. I drove back down that country road feeling satisfied that we’d made it to another Veteran’s Day hike, and thought we should go twice a year since we’re both getting older and once just doesn’t seem often enough.

Later, I listened to an Indie publishing podcast at The Creative Penn from an October show. An Irish author and creative coach, Orna Ross, shared a statement that touched a chord with me:

“The creative process completely relies on rest and play; it is not about endless work.”

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That’s right. I needed to spend the day with Danny to honor our relationship, but also to have a day of play. I’d been working hard and I was in danger of my life becoming unbalanced. I remembered my solo journey to Jekyll Island where I felt I’d been drawn to relearn to play. My life had become out of balance back then when I was fifty, and now I was dealing with the same issue at sixty-three: different factors but the same issue.

It seems I keep needing this reminder to balance my work and play. And now my seven-month-old grandson can give me lessons on Wednesdays and Fridays as he discovers the world through play, and bears witness to the benefits with his smile and cackles of laughter.

 

Resource:

https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2018/10/26/self-publishing-3-0-and-how-to-build-success-as-an-indie-author-with-orna-ross/

How about You?

How could you increase your time playing to balance your life?

What are things that you would like to do? Can you schedule those in the week and month ahead?