Quiet Saturday

   Today is a return to our new normal with both college kids safely back at their schools and only our youngest home.  I'm enjoying working with my weekly goal list and keeping up with things that way - it's been such a help in getting things accomplished and moving forward.

  I've also greatly enjoyed writing for this blog.  From what I've read (primarily through Nancy Dash  Greenspan's "Writing Down the Bones" and Stephen King's "On Writing", two tremendous books that every writer should read), writing is good practice for writing (just as reading is good practice for writing- which is another reason to cozy up by the fire with a book - I'll actually be getting something done!).  Before I get ahead of myself, let me back up a bit with where I'm going with this.

   When I started this blog almost a year ago, it was to record the journey towards publication of my picture book.  I have come to see that although my first attempt at a picture book was wholehearted and thorough, perhaps it was not the most riveting topic.  Yet, it was a start.  After I felt it was polished enough to leave the house (yes, I let it sit a while before I came back to edit it and yes, I had some non-family eyes read it and critique it), I researched submission policy and procedure, how to write cover letters and query letters, made myself a list of potential publishing houses that might consider it, and just learned a bucketful in the process.  It's been a great year of gaining knowledge in an area that I previously new nothing about, and I now feel equipped to continue moving foward as time goes on.

   But in amongst all of that researching and editing and learning and asking and blogging, I discovered something within me - a writer that I hadn't fully realized was there.  Indeed, I'd had glimpses of it in the past, but over this previous year I see that it came fully to the surface and now remains a substantial part of me.  I found I love to write, plain and simple, be it picture books (man, that is an art form and a difficult one at that- a whole story in under 1000 words...not easy, folks), retelling and creating stories from real life happenings in my little corner of the world, or blogging my thoughts to all of you about the Every Dayness of Life.

 I almost feel like I should apologize for this blog taking a very different direction than originally intended.  While I'm still very interested in one day writing a children's book and having it published, I realize I need to spend time finding my (writing) voice.  I shall find it by writing, and reading, and writing a whole lot more.  I'm learning to spot where I have a natural flow of how I write and what I write about.  I have learned to recognize writing's therapeutic qualities, its self-induced quiet time, and its naturally inward perspectiveness.  It speaks to the very heart of me and I'm glad, so very glad, that I found it.   Like a treasure buried in the sand, it's been fun to unearth it, recognize it, and welcome it home to my soul.

  For those of you who have been following this blog and read what I write- thank you so much!  There is no greater honor for me.  Please stick with it; go on this journey as I find my voice and continue writing, no matter what the format.  It is what I so very much love to do.

Ordinary Days

Since January 3rd, we haven't had as many ordinary days as I might have liked. Oh, there have been some, and they have been wonderfully simple and uncomplicated, and I'm learning to appreciate them more and more. But the days that have been un-ordinary have swung the pendulum all the way to hard, stressful, exceptionally difficult and taxing.

My new mantra seems to be "little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems". When our kids were small, I quickly learned that a kiss, a bandaid, a distraction, or a new Disney movie in the VCR did a world of good to solve whatever they had going on in their young life. Now that our children are older and are actually young adults, the scenarios they bring to our lives as parents are adult-sized problems, which is totally new territory for us and our children.

Since January 3rd, we have been through some major life events with our offspring - one struggling with a few bouts of depression that can go so deep it's frightening to all of us; one receiving a life-threatening voicemail on their cell phone prompted by a misled ex, and most recently a son caught in extremely hazardous snowy driving conditions on his way back to school. Having him stranded somewhere in mid-Indiana in the middle of the night thousands of miles from home with no ability on our end to be able to get to him was the most helpless (and harrowing) experience I have dealt with yet in my 48 years. It's like having your toddler lost at the mall times ten. Thank goodness for cell phones- I had mine practically clutched to my chest all that evening. Mixed in with this was the phone call with news from outside my immediate family that my sister's lymphoma had recurred; a condition that we hoped was gone for good. A crushing blow, to say the least.

This has been a difficult month; these have been trials that have stretched us and our faith in God to a degree we'd not known before. And through each specific instance, we've hunkered down and rode it out and handled what's come our way, involving all responsible parties and communicating love, care, concern and change where it may be necessary. I have sought God as my refuge, because I knew it was the right thing to do and also because there was simply no other place to go with what I was dealing with. These individual issues were so big that they were way beyond my realm of expertise; my husband and I were handling things we've never had to handle before. These were adult-sized dilemmas, yet they were affecting our children. It all felt out of balance.

I am blogging about our trying month so that I (we) don't forget what happened this January of 2010 - not that I believe any of us will need any reminding, but I'm wise enough now to realize that life goes on and what once seemed like a mountain will look only like an anthill in hindsight in a few months, years, or a decade from now. I fully believe that as a family who has gone through recent rough waters together we are stronger, more bonded, and more in love with each other now due to these shared experiences than we were in the past, even though these times were ones I would have preferred not come our way and take up residence.

I'm reading a book called "The Gift of an Ordinary Day" by Katrina Kenison. In it she talks about how so often we miss the gift of the day that is the ordinary-ness of our children's growing up- a Tuesday summer afternoon having freeze pops in the backyard when they're two, the spring Little League baseball game that messes up our dinnertime, the umpteenth school concert that had you panicked because you couldn't find their best white shirt. While we are going through those days, we think we'll remember them forever, and sometimes we actually can't wait til our children grow out of them so that we can get a little independence back; feel a little more like ourselves. But then we get to where I am now, looking back and longing for a regular, ordinary day where the biggest thing we needed to remember was to put sunblock on the baby and not burn the peas while checking on preschoolers in the backyard playing in the last minutes of sunlight before supper.

That's one meaning of the gift of an ordinary day. But I believe another take on the title is appreciating an ordinary day where your family, the ones you love, whether they're big or small, have 24 hours that hold no unwelcome surprises; a day that goes along pretty much as you had planned, a day that ends with everyone sleeping where you expect them to be - whether it's underneath your roof, in their college dorm, or someplace else they're supposed to be. A day that when you lay your head on your pillow, you know that for right then, things are calm and happy and all is well with the world. That doesn't happen often, my friend, so when it does, recognize it for what it is- the gift of an ordinary day.

God on Twitter

   I opened my email inbox yesterday to find that I had a message with the subject, "God is now following you on Twitter!"  Even at 7:00 in the morning, I found this funny.  I laughed out loud and couldn't wait to find out more.   I quickly opened the email, which read,

"God (GodTwitte) is now following your tweets on Twitter. A little information about God:


1 tweet

following 377 people ".

Hmm...He wasn't following as many people as I might have imagined the Creator of the Universe to be keeping tabs on, but it was a start, I guessed, even for God.  After all, it's going to take a while to tag onto millions of people.

The standard Twitter email went on to inform me:

"You may follow God as well by clicking on the "follow" button on their profile. If you believe God is engaging in abusive behavior on Twitter, you may report God for spam.

God may not appear in your follower list. God may have decided to stop following you, or the account may have been suspended for a Terms of Service violation. "

For those of you who have a Twitter account, you'll recognize the format of this email that goes out to all account holders when someone new follows them.  Putting God's name in just makes for a humorous read, and a real good blog post. 

There was one more piece to the puzzle though.  Assuming the real and triune God would protect me and my beloved laptop from any viruses if I clicked through to God's profile because I just had to know what it said, I clicked on His heavenly little icon and here's what I got -

"Sorry, the profile you were trying to view has been suspended due to strange activity."

That was the icing on the angel food cake.

Okay,  there's just a whole lot of fun I can have making parallels with an email like that.  So let's dive in, shall we? I thought I'd do an instant replay of the text and add my own comments as to the truth or lie of it all...

God (GodTwitte) is now following your tweets on Twitter. A little information about God:  -  Correction.  There's a whole lot of information about God you can get your hands on- it's called The Bible and you need to read it if you haven't yet.  It's a best seller.

2 followers - Well, there's 5 in my household alone so there goes that fact.

1 tweet - Oh my.  He's got thousands of tweets for you.  In the Bible they're notated as verses.

following 377 people. - Wrong again.  World population - 6979025452 and climbing.  He's following each one.

You may follow God as well by clicking on the "follow" button on their profile.  - No need to click on any button.  You can follow God quite easily by simply telling Him you accept His free gift of life given by His Son dying for you.  Then, let the following begin.....

If you believe God is engaging in abusive behavior on Twitter, you may report God for spam. - God will never, ever be involved in any kind of abusive behavior- He loves to give good gifts to His children.  Gotta give this one a big thumbs down and disregard it.

God may not appear in your follower list. - This statement reminds me of the times when we don't especially "feel" God near, or when we wonder if He's even listening.  Even though He may not appear to be following at times like that, rest assured He can't take His eyes off you.

God may have decided to stop following you, or the account may have been suspended for a Terms of Service violation. - Never.  God will never stop following you.  Furthermore, if you are really His child (see "accept free gift" above), you can never be suspended for a service violation.  Once His, always His.

And last, but not least (as a matter of fact, I think this one is the best yet) -
"Sorry, the profile you were trying to view has been suspended due to strange activity." - If you define strange activity as healing, raising from the dead, repairing broken relationships, miracles, and the like, then God may need to fit into the "suspended account" category for you.  God is not bound by the rules of this world, and realize that what may seem strange to some is hope and proof of God to others.  It all depends on who you're following, and where you're going.

I do not need God to follow me on Twitter.  I already am assured that He is with me every moment of every day because of a decision I made one night in February of 1981 to follow Him.  God had this "following" thing figured out way before now- as a matter of fact, He's been checking status updates since He put two people in a garden and communicated with them.  Now, that's Someone worth following.

A Great Day

  Today was just one of those days. It seemed to get better and better as it went along.  And there was nothing major happening, really; just the weaving together of small blessings and events and circumstances that made for an excellent ride on planet earth.

   There was no school today.  My daughter left for college yesterday, which meant just my boys would be home with me.  I was thankful for this chance to still have some of my children to tend to - even if they are both taller than I am.  They like me to brew them a pot of coffee, get their favorite foods at the store, and keep things humming along at home.  And I'm happy to do it.

   As I worked, my mind kept going back to my goals.  I had emailed Kristi (my accountability partner) my goals for the week, but a couple of them bugged me as being too vague, too immeasurable, and not broken down enough.  So as I went through my day, yearning for the chance to sit at my desk and hammer out these things knocking around in my brain, I had a chance to mull over what I was thinking about, and how best to flesh it out when I finally did get the chance to sit down with pen and paper.

   I knew I had to clean the bathroom.  I did not want to clean the bathroom.  But free time and a lack of any recollection of a previous cleaning forced me in there.  Knowing it was the last job I needed to tackle before I could do some goal prioritizing and planning sent me sailing through a usually arduous chore.  The sun was shining, the bathroom was now sparkling, and before I was through I had released over 15 stinkbugs from their cozy home behind the wooden sign hanging on my bathroom wall.  Shuddering as I vaccuumed them up, I hummed a little tune as I backed out of the now clean water closet and sat down to have a little me time.

   I was immediately overwhelmed.  The best laid plans of mice and men....where were all those organizational thoughts now that I needed them?  Seemed as if they'd flown out the bathroom window I'd just cleaned.  I tried not to panic and give up entirely, and slowly as I waded through this quickly sketched goal list and that one, I was able to make some semblance of importance and hierarchy out of the papers that lay before me.  As I was almost through, I realized I didn't like any of my organizational storage/filing systems.  After a glance at the clock I realized I had just enough time to run to Staples before heading out to dinner with friends.

 Eighteen dollars and nine cents later, I was a happily organized woman.  I now have a place for everything, and will spend the rest of the evening putting everything in its place.  I need to rework a couple of  my goals for this week, and I think after all I did today I met a goal I didn't even know I had.  My husband always says it's all about having the right tools for the job....and this proved to be true even in the job of organizing my life.  

Chipping Away

For three long years, Michelangelo chipped away at a block of stone that others had walked away from, and tap by tap, he transformed his dream into a reality.  In January 1504, he unveiled his statue of David.

He knew that long lasting success did not come quickly or easily, but rather, it was the result of patiently chipping away at his goal each and every day.

Many of us spend time to develop a grand vision for our life, but then we quickly become impatient to make our vision a reality. All too often we become frustrated with our lack of progress and eventually give up on our goal entirely.

It is a rare individual who can combine the ability to visualize their goal with the patience to take the small daily steps necessary to transform that vision into reality.

Approach your own goals in the same way that Michelangelo approached the creation of the statue of David.

Even though your current reality may resemble the worn out block of marble, challenge yourself to look deeper to find the hidden opportunity that is waiting to be realized.

Once you have identified your objective, resist the urge to become impatient. Instead, develop a mindset of quiet anticipation and chip away at your goal a little each day.

By combining vision with patience, nothing will stop you from creating your own masterpiece.

Taken from - http://www.anthonyfernando.com/2010/01/15/a-success-lesson-from-the-past

"The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one."- Mark Twain

Howdy, Pardner!

   This goal setting and working-towards is turning out to be more fun than a barrel of monkeys (or, at least more fun than I thought it was going to be).  I'm loving the direction it provides, and the ability to see the measurable amount of success I'm having.

    Of course, if my goal was to Eat More Chocolate, I'd be finding that a lot of fun and tremendously successful too.

  But, my goals are much more noble and austere than that.  And I've learned they need to be MAB - Measurable by me, Achievable by me, and Beneficial to me.  I can confidently say that my goals fit those requirements. 

   Through a blog linked to a blog linked to a blog (you know how that goes), I came across a gal who had also set some goals for 2010 and was looking for an accountability partner to work with to be sure she would be seeing the reality of meeting those goals. (See her one of her blogs here - http://critter-corner.blogspot.com/)  Yippee yahoo- JUST what I needed!  I glommed onto that faster than a monkey onto a banana (or me onto chocolate). 

   Do you see a recurring monkey/chocolate refrain going here?

  Kristi was willing to take me on as an accountability partner, and I'm so thankful.  I've already learned so much in the few days since we began.  Already we've exchanged yearly goals, and each week are breaking those larger hopes into smaller chunks that we can accomplish in seven days.  I found it very rewarding and refreshing to actually set some goals for myself for the week- I do not believe I have ever done that before.

   For the first time Monday morning, I had items down on paper that I wanted to be sure I paid attention to and finished by Sunday night.  This was more convicting than just ideas rolling around in my head that I hoped I'd remember to do sometime between now and July.  It helped tremendously to have a list- not of groceries, not of bills to pay, but of things that would move ME forward.  How fun is that???!!!

   I'm halfway through my list and still have a few days to go.  As a result of Kristi's wise suggestion (that came from her reading my week's goal list),  I ended up putting two sets of data on an Excel spreadsheet last night - something I didn't even realize needed doing. As I was sitting there working in Excel, another thing I've never done before, I felt quite productive (and it didn't even take all that long).  Having another pair of eyes see my weekly list of "to do's" was so helpful-she took two of my goals that were rather un-measurable (remember MAB from above?) and was able to shoot right back at me a way to make those goals measurable, attainable, and do-able.

   So, here's an idea for you, oh reader of my blog.  Grab yourself an accountability partner to make things happen in 2010 - no monkeying around; you'll be glad you did!

On My Way

  Today, finally, I began the online class that I signed up for on May 12, 2009.  That is 3 days shy of a full 8 months of procrastination.

   And as with most things, now that I've begun and realized that the coursework isn't so bad, I think, "Why did I wait so long to start?"   It's nice to have taken a stab at the workload before my self-imposed start date of January 18th.  The sooner I start, the sooner I can finish and move on to another course.  The sooner I finish my alloted number of courses and have 180 Act 48 hours required to reactivate my teaching certificate, the sooner I can move on to other goals that require an active certification.

   Even better, doing this today provides me with a boost of self confidence, knowing that I actually sat down and did something constructive and concrete about something I'm aiming to work at in 2010.  It's a much better feeling to not disappoint myself- to follow God's lead and be constructive and productive and busy, and actually move forward.

  And now that that's done, we're off to the movies to see Leap Year.  See?  There's always time for a little entertainment in my day.......

Goal Post

Perhaps it's just that time of year and that's why they've been so readily available, but during these past few days I've read some very good articles on planning and organizing for goals...and slowly a strategy is forming in my mind.  One of my friends has her goal-strategy down pat; she plans from the end result backward.  Using a spreadsheet, she can name the end goal, then work backwards to fill in the parts and pieces that need to happen in order for her to get to that goal.  Great idea- scares me to death.  But yet I can feel the "floaty-ness" starting already, just 6 days out from my epiphany on New Year's Eve.  The resolve already has a crack in the very outmost edge, and if I'm not careful, it'll make inroads faster than a run in my stocking on a Sunday morning in church. 

    The weight loss goal shouldn't be too difficult to plan for - it's just keeping my head in the game and paying attention every single moment of every single day to every single morsel that enters my mouth. That shouldn't be hard to remember.  My next biggest hurdle is the online classes I'd like to take.  Usually after working all day, the last thing I feel like doing in the evening is sitting down to concentrate on something with my undivided attention, but as I've discussed with myself in the not too distant past, if I don't invest something, I will get nothing.  Aim low and I'm sure to hit my mark every time.   So the way I see it is this- my daughter returns to college in two weeks, and once she's gone I can stake my claim to her room and set up evening school in there.  That takes the pressure off of trying to find the time to do it now with three kids still home and me just getting back into the swing of being back to work and juggling everything else. And I can know that come January 18th, I have a quiet space I can call my own (til she comes home for the weekend...) 

The writing non-goal is still floating around in my head.  How do I approach that this year?  Do I make goals for my writing, or do I just let it happen as it may?  (see above for "aim low" comment...)   I found a great blog post today about specifically making and carrying out writing goals.  You can find it at http://wannabepublished.blogspot.com/2009/12/writing-craft-set-meet-goals.html .
I am thinking that rather than having no writing goals at all or going to the other extreme of naming my goal as "I'll write 3 picture book manuscripts this year",  I'll take the post's idea of a daily/weekly word count goal and approach it that way. The manuscripts can be my secondary goal - what naturally flows out of the more general writing. But I realize that leaving it "out there" and ambiguous, I'll have no way to measure if I've really accomplished anything or not towards my craft.

So, there are a few ramblings about my New Year's endeavors.  I can say that I have three clear goals for 2010- weight loss, online classes, and writing.  Here's another great idea- you can email yourself your goals to be tucked safely away and emailed back to you on December 31st, 2010.  Think mini-time capsule.  Check it out here - http://www.anthonyfernando.com/2010/01/05/new-year-resolutions-with-a-twist/  .  I think I'll go write myself a letter.

An Honest Post for the New Year

I read this quote in an email yesterday in reference to the New Year-"May you find the perfect diet for your soul." It hit me like a ton of bricks and really resonated with me; along with finding the perfect diet (which I don't believe exists), I had been thinking a lot about what I'm looking for mentally - what my soul longs for - in this new year of 2010.

In my thinking- which was mostly done while driving a car, but that is where some of the best thinking is done - a light bulb went on in my head. I realized I don't set any goals for myself and actually achieve them. Or if I do set some, I tend to let them slip and never get around to finishing what I've started. I'm the queen of incompletion; I love to start with a big idea, make a couple of inroads, but often it doesn't go any further than that. Which brought me to my next point. I let myself down all the time; I am a constant disappointment to myself that I can't stick to something more than a few days, a few hours, a few weeks. Most of all this relates to the area of food, but there are some other things I also wish I could have done that I've not pursued.

I often look at others (with great disappointment in myself) who have achieved goals that I long for - those who have set out to lose weight and have really done it (and kept it off), teachers around me who have taken courses and completed them, gotten or furthered their degrees and gone to school after work and at night and at impossible times that with working all day and a family they shouldn't even be able to squeeze in the time for.

I wrote in my journal last night that I'm thinking I don't push myself very much. I want to see accomplishments in my life, but I don't carve out time to make them happen. I am determined that 2010 will be different, and this time I am convinced it can be because I've identified a root problem. I want results without putting any effort forth toward them. I cannot have it both ways.

Then, of course my mind gets all sorts of goals going, and I think whoa, slow down...if I take on 5 lofty things, I'll end up disappointing myself again because I'll have too much on my plate and won't accomplish any of them, either.

So I've narrowed it down to just one or two things I'd like to see happen in my life, and feel that I've been able to crystalize what I've been mulling over in my head instead of being mentally all over the place. God helped me to see clearly what's important to me and for me. And even tho a lot of my passion recently has been geared toward developing the craft of writing in my life, I don't feel the need to name "writing" as a goal, because it is something I love to do (like I'm doing now) and I don't need to remind myself to do it. Other goals- like losing weight and taking online classes- are going to need my full attention.

These are my thoughts on January 1, 2010. A couple of good quotes I saw online this morning that speak to these issues -

"When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life." Greg Anderson

"Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we should make up our minds to walk boldly through them."- Orison Swett Marden

December 31, 2010, will come in 364 days whether I've accomplished my goals or not. What would I like to be able to say I've done when that night comes around and I'm reflecting back on the year that I'm just about to start?