Category Archives: Failure

It happens.

Looking For Next Steps

For those that feel stuck….

I know what it's like to be so worried you'll either do the wrong thing or, just as bad, do nothing at all. I imagine you've experienced this feeling before too. It seems that we all have, at one time or another, stared at a roadblock in life and wondered, Is this it? Am I finished? Should I give up? What do I do now? But scripture tells us the Word of God is a "lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105). This means that no matter how dark your surroundings, you never lose your way. God will guide you to your destiny. It's never too late.

Here is the key: You have to take a step. New beginnings don't happen on an escalator, they happen along a path. In faith you make progress by taking one step at a time. If you are determined to succeed in life, God's grace will enable you to do what may seem impossible to your natural thinking. God has promised to do His part, but you have an important part to play as well. 

- Joyce Meyer, You Can Begin Again

Quotable Quotes From People Much Smarter Than Myself:

  • “Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.” – Fanny Crosby
  • “You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep rereading the last one.” – Anonymous
  • “The new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “Moses spent forty years in the king’s palace thinking he was somebody, then he lived forty years in the wilderness finding out that without God he was a nobody, finally he spent forty years discovering how  a nobody with God can be a somebody.” – Dwight L. Moody
  • “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William G.T. Shedd

 

Advertisements

Progress…and what to do when there seems to be a lack of it.

Let’s talk about progress…and what to do when there seems to be a lack of it.

Maybe it’s a job hunt that has gone nowhere. Maybe your kids are getting worse instead of better even after investing in expensive resources to help them. Maybe it’s an addiction that just seems to keep rearing it’s ugly head. Maybe it’s a project at work that you just can’t seem to make any headway on. Or maybe it’s a relationship with a family member or a marriage that just seems to be getting colder and more distant despite your efforts to turn it around.

There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a lack of progress in a situation that has been given so much time and effort and energy already. We are a people and live in a culture that likes to see results. Better yet, instant results. In school we’re taught that if we do the work and put in the effort we’ll get the good grade and move up. Unfortunately, that’s not always how it works in real life. It’s easy to look at a situation that’s not changing fast enough and want to give up on even trying anymore. Seeing a lack of progress often feels like failure…but it’s not.

It’s always the in-between phase that is the most difficult and quite frankly, sucks the most. That part where you’re already invested, you’ve already tried, you’ve already sacrificed…and nothing. The funny thing is, there’s always magic going on in the background that we can’t see. Secret progress that we’re not privy to. Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.

Sometimes deep down we know that change is happening, but if we can’t actually see it first hand, it feels like absolutely nothing is happening. That’s a little how I felt during the editing stages of this upcoming book. I sent the manuscript off to the editor knowing full well that it would be over a month or two before getting it back. But the fact that I couldn’t touch it, couldn’t look at it,  couldn’t work on it, and I couldn’t see who was or view the process or progress while they were working on it–felt like nothing was happening. But there was. There’s been progress on this project even when I couldn’t see it.

I believe God loves working behind the scenes. When our prayers go up and we invite Him in to work on our situation and give control over to Him, it often times feels like there’s way too much time and far too little progress than we’d like. The thoughts start coming–did He hear me? Am I doing something wrong? Why is nothing changing? Why am I even trying? Does He even exist?

And then there’s a suddenly. If we don’t give up, in a moment and in a way that we never could make happen ourselves, He moves. And if we’re lucky, maybe one day we can look back and see some of the behind-the-scenes divine manipulation only He could pull off. Our job is to never give up. Never quit. Even if it seems like absolutely nothing is happening, or especially if things seem to be getting worse rather than better. He is never late. How awful would it be to give up a day or even hours before our breakthrough happens? I cringe to think of how many times this happens.

So keep at it. Keep fighting. Keep on keeping on. Stand your ground and hang on to the tiniest glimmers of hope and smallest signs of progress. Sometimes an inch is far more meaningful in a journey than a giant leap. There will be progress and there will be results as long as you don’t give up.

Don’t give up. Never give up. Your suddenly is on the way.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

  • Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.” – Marilyn Vos Savant
  • Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time.” – Thomas A. Edison
  • Giving up is conceding that things will not get better. And that is just not true.” – Aimee Mullins
  • If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” – Frederick Douglas
  • We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road. In that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” – C.S. Lewis

 

Lessons from the Broncos

As a Bronco fan there was nothing more painful than watching the team in orange go down in flames against the Seattle Seahawks. (To all the non-football fans out there, the Denver Broncos lost in an 8 to 43 spanking in one of the most embarrassing Super Bowls this last Sunday.) Seattle’s defense was nothing short of amazing, and kudos to every player that touched the field. Their win and first Super Bowl title was well-earned. Bravo gentlemen, bravo.

Super Bowl 2014
What Defeat Looks Like

Today I wore orange.

Nothing is more natural than to want to hang a head in shame after an embarrassing crash and burn. To throw off and stamp out any hint that reminds us of the shameful failure. No one wants to talk about failure, let alone represent it. So I was not surprised when I got a few eyebrow raises and mocking comments thrown my way. All in jest–but their version of reminding me just in case I wasn’t aware, that my team lost. And lost big. Oh, I know. But I’m still wearing orange anyways.

In the sports world, there is an incredibly interesting trend of “bandwagon fans.” People who show up out of no where as super fans when the team is doing well, and then mysteriously disappear and are no where to be found as soon as the team does poorly or there is a loss. This does not just happen in sports. Sadly, it happens when it comes to a lot of things in life. Everyone wants to be your friend when you’re in the spotlight and viewed well by others, but we all know it can be very, very lonely when we’re in a pit and fall on hard times. It’s in those ugly moments when we find out who our true friends are…who our true fans are.

But what about the under dog? People also like seeing “overcoming stories” and cheering on those that rise above adversity. We need to see examples that real people with real problems can conquer the impossible and prevail over the tough stuff. We need it. We crave it. We long for it. We need to know it can be done. We need that encouragement. Sometimes it’s those stories that we remember and learn the most–not the big winners.

Here’s a little reminder from an article I read recently:

Unlike Carl Lewis and Daley Thompson, Derek Redmond is not a name that conjures up memories of Olympic gold medals. But it is Redmond who defines the essence of the human spirit. Redmond arrived at the 1992 Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona determined to win a medal in the 400. The color of the medal was meaningless; he just wanted to win one. Just one. Down the backstretch, only 175 meters away from finishing, Redmond is a shoo-in to make the finals. Suddenly, he heard a pop in his right hamstring. He pulls up lame, as if he had been shot. As the medical crew arrives, Redmond tells them, “I’m going to finish my race.” Then in a moment that will live forever in the minds of millions of people since then, Redmond lifted himself up, and started hobling down the track. His father raced out of the stands, and helped his son cross the finish line to the applause of 65,000 people. Redmond did not win a medal, but he won the hearts of people that day and thereafter. To this day, people, when asked about the race, mention Redmond, and can’t name the medal winners.

Now THAT is something to cheer for.

I have to remind myself of this as I am coming upon a situation that can either be an amazing reason to celebrate, or something that I’ll be tempted to tuck tail and run from. In three days I will either have fundraised the $8,500 needed for the publishing of the “Life Before the Lottery – 30×30” book I’ve been working for two years on, or not. It’s an all-or-nothing campaign on Kickstarter where I have 30 days to raise 100% of the project funds or absolutely no funds are exchanged. Zero. Zilch. Not even the $4,300 that’s already been raised. (That’s the beauty and the beast side of Kickstarter.) Victory or defeat comes in three days. I’m halfway to my pledge goal and well into the 4th quarter.

Deadline for pledges is February 7th at noon. It is then that I will be either celebrating my own personal Super Bowl or crying in my beer.

I know people are rooting for me, for this. There’s over $4,300 in pledges that says so! And it is because of that very thing that I am touched by the support and so grateful to the backers of this project. So no matter what happens on February 7th when the fundraising clock runs out…I will be wearing orange then too.

Thank you to all the fans out there pulling for me.

30×30 Publishing Dream Kickstarter.com Pledge Page
(If you want to be a part, feel free to pledge or help to get the word out–thank you for every forward, tweet, post, and link shared!)

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Olympian Derek Redmond’s heroic finish – video

Failure Hall of Fame

With 9 days left to go in the 30×30 Kickstarter publishing campaign, there’s a lot of questions on what is actually in the book. Let me be the first to say that it’s not just my stories. Here are some of my favorites profiled in the section on failure.

  • Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he succeeded with his motor company. He went on to revolutionize the assembly line and become one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time.
  • Beethoven’s teacher called him “hopeless” as a composer. He went on to write 9 symphonies, 32 piano sonatas, 5 piano concertos, and 1 opera.
  • Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade. He was defeated in every public office role he ran for. He then became British Prime Minister at the age of 62.
  • Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Edison also famously invented 1,000 light bulbs before creating one that worked.
  • Steven Spielberg was rejected from his dream school, the University of Southern California, three times. He sought education elsewhere and became a director of over 50 movies, producing over 111 films.
  • Harland David Sanders, the famous KFC “Colonel,” couldn’t sell his chicken. More than 1,000 restaurants rejected him. He went on to have over 600 KFC restaurant franchises throughout the country.
  • Vera Wang failed to make the U.S. Olympic figure-skating team. Then she became an editor at Vogue and was passed over for the editor-in-chief position. She began designing wedding gowns at 40 and today is the premier designer in the business, with a multi-billion dollar industry.
  • Walt Disney went bankrupt at age 22 and was fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He created 81 feature films with 48 Academy Awards.
  • Fred Astaire’s first screen test, the judges wrote: “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” Astaire went on to be the most famous dancer of all time and won the hearts of American women forever.
  • Dr. Seuss’ first book was rejected by 27 different publishers by age 33. He’s now the most popular children’s book author ever.
  • Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his entire life, to a friend. He sometimes starved in order to create the 800 paintings he’d eventually do. Today, his works are priceless.
  • Sir Isaac Newton was tasked with running the family farm but was a miserable failure. Newton was sent off to Cambridge University and became a physics scholar, discovering many of the laws and theories that not only furthered our understanding of the universe, but also gave future scientists the tools to discover how to enter space. He discovered gravitational force and established the three Universal Laws of Motion.
  • Abraham Lincoln failed in business in 1831, lost his job and couldn’t get into law school in 1832, was defeated for state legislature in 1832, defeated for Speaker in 1838, defeated for nomination of Congress in 1843, lost re-nomination in 1848, defeated for U.S. Senate in 1854, defeated for nomination for Vice President in 1856 and again defeated for U.S. Senate in 1858. In 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States, ending the Civil War and slavery during his presidency.

Every single one of these people failed. Multiple times. Every single one is a success story of someone rising up and overcoming hardship to influence the world around them and is an example of what can be done when failure is refused. Persistence pays off. Facing fear and refusing to give up is what defeats failure. Do not be afraid to fail. Do not be afraid of the tough stuff.

(Pledge on Kickstarter by Feb 6th to help get more of the story out.)

Phone Sensitivity – Guilty.

While at a Christmas cookie party I found myself barraged with questions which later led me on a journey of self-reflection. It’s funny how something that seems so simple on the surface can be so fully loaded underneath. There are several things on the “Next List” that fit into that category. Without knowing the backstory, they look pathetically easy and almost like a cheap check-off. This is the case with #13, “Kiss goodbye to the dreaded Blackberry.

Don't be jealous....
This is how I roll…don’t be jealous.

One fabulous and lovely girl at the party started innocently poking fun at my cell phone (as she should, it’s a sad beat-up little Blackberry from the ancient days), and I was quite amused and rather relieved when a long-time girlfriend stepped in and ever-so-sweetly yet protectively said, “Uh, uh. Ash is a little sensitive about her phone. Leave her alone.”

This goes far beyond new tech phone jealousy. Much deeper than affordability or upgrade eligibility. I’ve been eligible for a fancy phone upgrade for months. So why the delay? Why the sensitivity? Why not just cross that off the list and get it over with?

Because in my world, it’s not that easy. I wish it were.

Little backstory: First and foremost I had a Blackberry for work back in the day when it was still cool to do so. At the beginning of the year I had given up the yucka Blackberry when a loving and generous boyfriend bought me a new state-of-the-art fancy pants phone when he asked to merge phone plans. Cute. It was a random act of kindness that meant a lot to me. I wish the story stopped there. I’m not a tech person, and it took me a long time to succumb to the Apple bug when I bought a Mac for photo editing purposes. I loved that someone would see the need and step up and take care of it for me, not because I couldn’t do it myself, but because they were willing and wanting to do so. There is just something so beautiful when someone shows they are paying attention and that they care.

Fast forward several months and I am sitting front row at a funeral and later canceling the account and returning to the store the very gift that once made me smile and feel so cherished. Going back to the yucka Blackberry stung in so many ways that I can’t even describe without fighting back tears. And as painful a reminder it is and as desperately needed a new one may be, I somehow just can’t bring myself to purchase one for myself. I wish I could. I’ve even walked into the AT&T store multiple times telling myself that “this is the day,” and have walked out empty handed every time. Maybe some day I’ll be successful. Maybe a small part of me wishes that somebody, anybody else, will be kind enough to know me well enough to be strong–and care enough–to take that bullet for me (because I evidently am not strong enough to do it myself.) But today is not that day.

It does not make it any easier that just a few weeks ago I sat on a friend’s couch catching up with a bunch of giggling girls and looked around and saw that all three girls sitting around me had not just fancy new phones, but iPhones. Of course I would notice them. When I salivated and oogled their new toys like they were candy I couldn’t and shouldn’t touch, I winced to find out that each girl had been given the phone as a gift by their significant other. Random acts of kindness in action. The salt in the wound was when all three acted as if it weren’t a big deal at all. I heard multiple times, “I didn’t even really need one, he just did it. I don’t even know how to use it.” Ouch.

So at the cookie party when I awkwardly fell silent and turned red in the cheeks, I was grateful to not have to answer or defend my questionable taste in phones. The fact that I’m even able to talk about it now to the “public” is for me, a really big deal and a huge step in an attempt to hopefully someday be able to cross off #13 on the list. In my world, this is not just  simply “time to get a new phone,” it really is for so many reasons something I need to have the courage to kiss goodbye. Anyone can purchase a new phone. It’s not hard. But when it comes to supposedly “easy #13” on my Next List, it IS hard for me and I really do have to kiss it goodbye. And if I am the one that has to go in and make that big girl purchase, then quite honestly I’m just not ready to do that yet. For now, it stays on the list.

One Frustrated Cookie

Can You Identify?

Ever had a dream drop down in your heart that you know you were to do, to have, or to experience? It’s actually quite scary when it happens, because the excitement of living out the dream can drown in the very realistic possibility of it not happening. And who wants to live with an unfulfilled dream? Maybe that’s why some people crush it before it can even begin to take shape. Sometimes we think that it’s easier to not even start than to take the risk beginning something we don’t know how to finish.

Destiny and fate are words that don’t quite describe it accurately, but the feeling is something along those lines. It’s that nagging feeling of a dream that just won’t die, no matter how dyer the circumstances seem. The scary part happens when you just can’t see, reason, or figure out how it’ll happen, but you know deep down that it’s on its way and it’s for you.

That’s faith, my friend. Believing in something that you can’t see, feel, or touch…but believing nonetheless.

That’s how I feel about several things in my life, but mostly about this stinkin’ 30×30 book. More than anything I know, that I know, that I know I’m to write this 30×30 book and get it out there. There have been many many moments when I want to throw my hands up in the air in utter defeat. I’m not sure I even want to any more, but that deep down gut feeling that I’m to do this just won’t let me go. Barf!

The struggle lies not just in the writing, but in the actual producing and publishing processes that I know absolutely nothing about. I’m just me, who am I to write a book? Let alone how to publish it. And who am I to give any type of advice to other people…it’s not like my life’s in order or that I have everything figured out.

But when we’re given a dream and a vision, it’s in the pushing forward when we don’t have it all figured out that breakthroughs happen. It’s in doing what we can and trusting that God will come through in the things we cannot. And that’s where I sit right now with this book dream.

As I move forward in this book project my head spins with ISBN’s, layout, editing, websites, marketing plans, and of course…funding. All things I don’t have the slightest clue in. So as a little peek under the tent, I’m in the process of putting together a Kickstarter fundraising project to kickstart the final stages of what needs to happen to get this book dream out and in print. All I have to say is, I don’t know exactly how, but I know it’ll happen. Stay tuned for more on that as I put the pieces together. It’s coming…

I read something this week that hit home in my heart. “We often think receiving what we’ve been guaranteed ought to be a cakewalk, but Scripture shows the opposite is more often true. The most profound things God promised were often fulfilled against the greatest of odds and through the most difficult of hardships. To God, faith is often the point–God does nothing cheaply. Perhaps the divine nature of a promise fulfilled guarantees its expense. We may receive a hundred unexpected things from God with delightful ease while the fulfillment of some of the things we believe He promises us proves virtually impossible. You see, the impossibility is what makes the fulfillment of the promise fall under the God category. God makes promises man simply can’t keep.” — Beth Moore, The Patriarchs

So on that note, all I have to say is that I’m hanging on to this book dream…along with several others. Quite honestly I’ve had it for a while but I just didn’t, and don’t, know exactly what to do with it. I feel that God dropped this book idea into my heart for a reason and come hell or high water, it’ll happen! Who am I to let my fears and doubts stop God from doing His thing. There are some behind-the-scenes reasons why this book project seems impossible, but I am so glad to know that I am hooked up with the One who specializes in the impossible. Can’t wait to see how this whole thing plays out.

One day there will be a book in print. And then I am going to throw a party.

Thankful for random fortunes that make me smile. How did it know? Thanks cookie.
Thankful for random fortunes that make me smile. How did it know? Thanks cookie.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

When all your plans go to pot…

The derailment of plans and good intentions. It happens. Even after completing 29 of my 30 items on my original 30×30 list and creating and beginning the Next List, I still find myself getting derailed and disappointed. After taking on the self-imposed 30 day blog challenge to fall back in love with the list I seemed to have found a second wind to get crackin’ on the new Next List. During the blog challenge, not only did I create and pen the items on the Next List, I’ve been able to knock out a few fun things here and there, which has been quite encouraging.  So far I’ve crossed off 7+ of the new items on the Next List…and it’s been less than two months! People have been sending in their own lists, which I absolutely love! I even saw some light and movement on the book publishing front. Woo hoo! That my friends, is progress. And progress feels good.

But then in the course of one week there were a couple of setbacks that took me by surprise. Both on some upcoming plans for the Next List and on the headway made in moving forward with the book. One step forward and two steps back. Just when I think things are opening up–boom. Doors slam. Guess I need to start knocking on other doors.

A couple weeks ago I pulled the trigger and made plans to cross off “East Coast Fall” off the Next List, lining up a much needed trip with possibilities to cross off multiple Next List items all in this one trip. How can you not be excited about that? The plan was to stay with my aunt in DC and check off a few states on some day trips while out there for two weeks, heading up with her to Boston and/or Philadelphia during the weekdays to go see friends. I was excited at the possibility of visiting  and crossing off Delaware, Pennsylvania, Jersey and even good ol’ Massachusetts.  (I’m working on visiting all 50 states–so far I’ve got 30 down and will be on track if I cross off 2-3 a year. Any chance I get to cross another state off the list, I’m in!)

But as life would have it, it looks like my initial plans to play tourist are fading fast. Unbeknownst to me, apparently my aunt and tour guide has obligated and committed herself to dog sit for a high maintenance pooch pretty much the entire time I’m there, which puts the ki-bash on any travel trips and adventures that I had my heart set on. *sigh* Due to some other factors that have changed, I now have lost my connections to stay in Phili and Boston, along with having my wheels and planned mode of transportation yanked. The thought of renting a car and driving solo in an unknown city’s traffic just to cross off items by myself is completely unappealing and makes me scrunch my nose. And if you know anything about my sense of direction and driving skills (or lack thereof), it is not a good idea to turn me loose in any poor unsuspecting city.

Ewwwwww.
Ewwwwww. No thanks.

Look at me. Whining and pouting about something that in the grand scheme of things is not a real problem or worth worrying about. Who wants to hang out with the whiny girl? So I am choosing to make an attitude adjustment. Time to recalculate. Even if this trip is nothing like I originally planned and all I do is sit in a town home with yucka foo foo fido, I will still find a way to enjoy myself and redeem this trip. (Don’t get me wrong, I am a doggie love-ah, but not when one unexpectedly and unnecessarily wrecks my vacation and travel plans.) But I have decided to move past the pity party and am determined to be grateful for the opportunity to wave to our nation’s capitol (even if it is from a distance), and I will be open to whatever twists God has up His sleeve on this one.

When all is said and done, maybe this disappointing turn of events will give me a reason to re-visit someday and try again. Can’t complain about that.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I: 

Bonus Blog 4: I’m the reason GPS was invented

I am the reason GPS was invented.

As a thoroughly directionally challenged person, I am the reason why GPS was invented. It’s comical really. Whether driving or walking the streets of downtown, it’s not hard for me to get turned around. I’ve been in the middle of a city and had friends ask me which way back to the hotel, and when I point, they laugh in my face and start going the opposite direction. It’s that bad. I’ve come to realize that it’s just the way God made me and something I’ve learned to live with…and laugh at. I may have many talents and giftings, but I am missing the internal compass that I envy in so many others. I just want to hug and say thank you to the person that invented maps and GPS. The satellites in the sky know just how to boss me around and point me in the right direction, even when I make a wrong turn. Gotta love that recalculate button.

Really.

Although I am admittedly directionally disabled in that realm, I’ve always striven to be on the ball and put together going in the right direction in other areas of my life. Little miss goodie two-shoes always has a plan. Graduating from college suma cum laude and departmental scholar in the honor’s program, working for a fortune 500 company at age 23, starting my own business at 29, completing 29 of the 30 things on the 30×30 list, throw in four degrees and financial independence from the parental units for over a decade and I thought I was on track. Sounds good right?  Don’t pat me on the back or be impressed just yet.

Thanks--I need all the help I can get
Thanks–I need all the help I can get

One of the many takeaway gems I learned through my 30×30 list is the importance of being able to change directions and handle the detours. Life is full of things that can derail us from the original intended direction we were heading. Divorce, job loss, loss of a loved one, financial setbacks, natural disasters, loss of a home, health problems, disease, a miscarriage or loss of a child, a bad break-up and so many other things can knock the wind out from us and stop us in our tracks. Maybe some things are within our control and consequences of choices we make while others are not. Either way, life happens. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

But when it does, the real question is how do we handle it? How do we even begin to pick up the pieces of something so dearly shattered?

Six months ago today I got a phone call that did just that. One phone call changed everything. Six months ago today the voice on the other end of the line told me that they found my boyfriend dead in his own home. Nothing can ever erase the memories of that day. No amount of tears covers that kind of loss.  I was left without a goodbye and without answers. Those are the kind of days that change your course of direction.  Those are the kind of days that scatter pieces of your heart in every direction leaving you with the choice and decisions of how to gather them up and put them back together. Some people never do.

But there is hope and there is life after those kind of days. Most often it’s found literally one day at a time. And over time the wound begins to heal–and that is a process with its own kind of pain. Sometimes God answers our questions, but most often He keeps His mysteries closed. I am not smart enough to understand the why behind “those days,” at least not on this side of heaven. But I know that good can come out of any circumstance. Any circumstance. And it is in the pressing on and pressing forward that strength is built. And strength is needed to change directions. Sometimes a lot of strength.  Sometimes more strength than what we have. It takes strength and God’s grace to alter one’s course. But I have learned it is in the very movement and action of changing course that can make all the difference. That’s probably why I loved my 30×30 list and love my  Next List even more–it’s like a map that keeps me focused on where I want to head, yet can be changed and altered according to the needs of the map holder. Just like in real life I can get turned around and confused and need direction from above. But I can set it down and take a breather from the journey when rest and recalculation is needed and then pick it back up and get back on course later on.

Yep, I want to hug the person that invented maps and GPS. Without them I’d be lost.

Day 25: The wedding march

When I originally created my 30×30 list several years ago, I almost put “get married” on the list. Almost. A happy, healthy, long-term relationship–sounds like a normal thing for a twenty-something girl to want, right? So why isn’t it on the list? If it’s something I want someday in my future then that seems like a natural thing to put on the list, right? But as I thought about it, I wanted to put things on my list that were within my realm of control and my sphere of influence. I didn’t want to limit something so monumental and life-changing to a number and a check on the to-do list. Why would I want to set a deadline that would put undue and undeserved pressure on something that I was only 50% part of the equation? Getting married is not a “to-do” item. That is a season of life all its own that will come naturally and in its own time. Who am I to put a deadline on that?

There have been two times in my life that I have had to make some tough decisions regarding entering into that commitment and that season of life, and twice I chose not to. If it’s not right, it’s not right. It seems more acceptable to have been married and divorced at this age than to not have married at all. I don’t generally get accolades for choosing to not enter into something that wasn’t right and for not being a divorce statistic…typically no bravos for making good choices up to this point. Sometimes it takes more strength to walk away than to stay. Too many people get married just to get married, forcing something that deep down they know better. They do it because they think that’s what’s expected of them, or because that’s what’s supposed to be next, they don’t think there’s anyone better, or because they’re afraid to be alone. There are a lot of reasons why people get married, not everyone does it for the right reasons. We’ve all seen it. Heartbreaking.

I’m sure there are some people reading this right now that might admit to themselves, “That’s me, I’m in that category.” Refusing to settle for “right now” is not anti-marriage or being too picky…it’s being strong enough to know where you’re at and being stable enough to be selective about who is in the seat next to you throughout life’s journey. Choose poorly and the journey is going to be an extremely rough one.

So I left that little item off my list on purpose, and I am so glad I did. There is a spontaneous streak in me that can be dangerous at times.  I know this about myself. In order to avoid panicking and the temptation to do something rash–like wake up in Vegas or order a mail-order groom—I decided instead to leave that particular life’s desire off the official list and leave my heart up to my Maker and his timing…and not Vegas or the mailman. But just because I purposefully chose to take the pressure off myself and be released from that numerical deadline doesn’t mean everyone else is okay with my decision.

I’ve noticed that my singlehood can make people uncomfortable. They want to “figure it out.” I’ve even had a co-worker sincerely ask “Why hasn’t anyone scooped you up yet?” True story. Try answering that one. The look on his face and his puzzled expression was priceless. There’s this weird and unspoken underlying expectation in society that if I’m to be considered normal, by the time I turn 30 I’m to get a degree, get a career, get a car, get a husband, get kids, get a house and oh, by the way, look and feel the best in my entire life. Is anybody else’s head spinning from the pressure? What happens if all that doesn’t happen in that short ten year time frame? Ten years seems like such a wee amount of time to fit so many momentous things if I have over 80+ years to live. What if I don’t have all those things or do all those things in my twenties, am I a failure? I may want them or desire to someday have them, but if they don’t happen in the allotted time frame of my twenties, is there something wrong with me or did I not do something right? With all the amazing things and blessings I’ve experienced  in my life, why am I judged on that one thing?

Not everyone meets that special someone in college or within the first five years after high school. If you did and that’s your story, congratulations! I love my friends who did and I have had the honor of standing in many a wedding celebrating their next chapter. But if you didn’t find that special someone early on and you’re still waiting, trust me, you’re not the only one. God has an individual plan for each and every one of us and it does not look the same or like any body else’s personalized plan.

Growing up my mom used to smile at me and say, “You certainly break the mold!” I’ve heard this more times than I can count. I don’t know if I break any molds, but I certainly don’t fit into one. My story is not the standard stereotypical story. It never has been. Honestly, I would probably be disappointed if it were. Just because I’m okay and have peace with the twists and turns in my journey does not mean everyone else is.

People can get weird about this. Sometimes I dread the standard introductory questions when first meeting new people because I don’t have a standard introductory answer that’s comfortable. And since I work with the public, it happens a lot. “Are you married?” seems to surface almost every time. My standard answer usually falls somewhere along the lines of, “Not that I know of,” complete with a smile and a giggle to match theirs. Often times I can see it run across their face even if they don’t say the words. “Why not?” I can see them sizing me up, internally asking themselves “I wonder what’s wrong with her. She looks normal. Seems like a good catch. Pity.” This is not in my head. I’ve actually had a gentlman in a coffee shop sit down next to me and say that very thing after less than three minutes of conversation. No joke. I’ve also had a perfect stranger ask me if I’m gay right after asking me if I was married. People need to put me in a box, they need a label. I can’t blame them, they just don’t understand. I’ve become quite excellent at changing subjects.

Leaving that off the 30×30 list was intentional. Putting “a marriage more beautiful than the wedding” on the next list was too. God blessed me with the inspiration of the 30×30 list and then equipped me to accomplish 29 of the 30 items. (For more on the one thing that didn’t happen, see my previous post.) He’s even more involved with this Next List, because I’ve asked Him to be. As I create the Next List, I have a new trust and faith that I didn’t have before.

Will there be items on this Next List that are unanswered prayers? Maybe. But that’s a risk I’m going to need to be willing to take. Timing is everything and I trust that my steps are ordered and that God will keep me moving in the right direction. He’s got this whole thing covered. Eventually that direction will be down an aisle and into a happy, healthy relationship, but until that day comes I have a lot of other fabulous goals and adventures to keep me engaged until then. When it comes to the man in my life, I know he’s worth the wait. Extraordinary takes time. And if somehow he’s reading these words right now, he’s probably smiling. Cheers to the next list and all that comes with it!

Day 19: Learning to be happy homeless…

It’s party day. Summer’s winding down and before you know it, it won’t be campfire and s’mores weather anymore. So before the chill really settles into the Southern Colorado hills, it’s time to gather the troops and kick back by the river to celebrate what has thus far been an extremely interesting summer. And now that the fire ban has been lifted and things have settled down since the evacuations earlier this summer, we can finally enjoy stories around the fire pit again. (Relax.  We are pit professionals. It’s 10 feet off the river, has a metal cover, and meets all codes and regulations. We even have a permit. All is well.)

Parties and little shin digs like this are right up my alley. Love them. Who doesn’t like getting good friends together over brisket, coconut cream pie, and a beer or two? I have a new appreciation for mini social occasions like this because not too long ago I couldn’t have any. There was a time when I went over a year of not having anyone over. Very unlike me. Not for dinner, not for drinks, not even to watch a movie. I was on social lockdown.

No, this was not out of depression, a friend shortage, or tightening the budget. This was partially out of necessity and partially by choice. The whole point of moving to the little town of South Fork was to help out with an aging grandmother who, bless her heart, was starting to need more care from my mom than she could give her. It happens, that’s life. If blessed to live that long, we’ll all get there someday. I was just glad I was in a position and had the opportunity to be able to do so.

Little backstory–my parents own and operate a bed & breakfast by the river in a little mountain ski town called South Fork in Southern Colorado, roughly four hours from Denver. About seven years ago they built a little house on the property and moved my Ginnymom there in order for her to be closer as she needed more care. Well into her eighties, she had reached that stage in life that she just needed to be closer, and there she lived for the next several years in what we eventually deemed “the cottage.”

When I was home visiting for the holidays one fall, conversations took place on how things were shifting and it was time to look at other options. After just moving back to Colorado, I just happened to be in a place to be able to be the perfect option.  The goal was to keep her out of a nursing home and with us as long as possible. No in-home care tech here…I was the assisted living. And interestingly enough, there just happened to be a position in my field open and advertised in the local paper when I just happened to be in town for Thanksgiving. I just happened to apply two days before the deadline, just happened to make it through an 8 person panel interview and a rather amusing and rowdy voting session by the town board, and I just happened to get the job as the marketing director for the town. (God’s funny in arranging things like that.) So boom, before I knew it I was the newest (and probably youngest) resident of South Fork living in a cute little cottage by the river with an eighty-eight year old for a roommate. Not exactly where I had pictured myself at this stage in my life.

I look back and I find this situation somewhat amusing. See, of the 30 things on my 30×30 list, there was only one of them I was not able to accomplish…owning a home. I so desperately wanted one. Came close several times, but for one reason or another something would shift or change and it just never happened. Living in California during the whole housing bubble boom and bust, it is a huge blessing in disguise and God-wink that this never happened. It’s true, unanswered prayers sometimes are the best answers after all. But that didn’t stop my “homelessness” from being a touchy subject and something that continued to pull on my heartstrings well after the 30×30 list wrapped up.

Over the last 1 1/2 years I stayed tucked away with Ginnymom in the cottage, getting used to small town life. Admittedly, it took some adjusting. I’ve been financially independent since I was eighteen and had been a twenty-something living on my own in L.A. before my adventures took me to South Fork. Learning to live next door to my parents and I had to learn to live and adjust to an elderly grandmother. She’s a wonderful lady, and although quirky, I am the one who was blessed while taking care of her. I had to remind myself of that every now and then when we became two cranks in a cottage. If I ever needed to get out of small town life, Denver and a myriad of friends were just a car ride away and always waiting to play.

It wasn’t until Ginnymom had a series of strokes this last January that forced the decision to invoke nursing home care that I realized exactly what had happened. Besides the obvious, my life in California was very different than my life in South Fork. Trust me, I knew South Fork wasn’t L.A. when I chose to move there. That was not the shocker. I hadn’t thought much about it until she was no longer in the cottage–but it wasn’t my house, so I hadn’t had anyone over to enjoy it in the entire 1 1/2 years I had been living there. I hadn’t really watched much TV because it wasn’t my TV. I hadn’t had people over for dinner because it wasn’t my kitchen. I may have been living there, but it wasn’t my household–it wasn’t my home. Out of respect for her, I went out when I needed to play. The first time I finally did have friends over to make sushi one night, that’s when it finally hit me how long it had been. Funny how you don’t always recognize the strange until after it’s over.

Even though I’ve physically resided there almost two years this winter and it’s been over 6 months since she made her final departure from the cottage, I still have a hard time having people over. Even though I’m the only one living in the cottage now, in my mind I am still a guest and this is temporary–an absolutely wonderful and enjoyable right-on-the-river-temporary, but still temporary. As much as I love it here, it still doesn’t feel like home. I don’t think I want it to. But I know God placed me here on purpose with a purpose and while I am here I intend to enjoy every minute of it.

So it is with excitement and a smile that I continue to help make preparations for the brisket and bonfire endeavor tonight. Who knows how many more of these we’ll have before I am no longer here and can have them in a house of my own? Owning a home…don’t worry, it’s on the next list. *Big smile*

View from Camp Calvin (bonfire basecamp) Arbor House Inn Bed & Breakfast on the RiverView from the backyard...I cannot complain.

Day 4: Writing the vision…and how I didn’t.

Image

Okay, here we are in day 4. I have to be completely honest on why I’m doing this 30 day self-imposed blog challenge. When the last item on my 30×30 list was completed, I entered into a “now what?” mode, and I just put everything on pause and continued on with normal life. As in life, I was tossed some curveballs that kept even the slightest thought of getting back into list-making far far away. (A major break-up, a cross-country move, a new job, taking care of an elderly grandmother, death of a boyfriend…you know, life.)

But the entire time it had been put on my heart to write about my 30×30 experience. And like the good procrastinator I am, I ignored that thought and didn’t do anything for a long time and put that thought on the top shelf. And then people started asking me to write a book. And I did nothing. But after doing a photography shoot for an author’s conference creating bio portraits for author’s books…I got inspired. Over the course of a year I wrote sections and thought bubbles on the experiences and life lessons this 30×30 journey has taken me on–30,000 words worth–and then I did nothing.

I was stuck. The more I tried to get my act together on the final portions of the 30,000 word monster, the more I got frustrated and angry with it. So I set it down and left it there. And there it sat for over a year. Even though I knew the power of what the written word can accomplish–it was a key factor in completing the 30×30 list–I wouldn’t even look at it. The book, the unfinished product, the whole thing just made me feel like a failure. But the publishing siren kept calling and the feeling that I needed to do it just wouldn’t go away.

So here I am. This 30 day blog challenge is set to force me to re-visit the old list, re-open the rough draft, get going on the next steps in publishing, and to hopefully inspire me to begin setting the goals for the next list. What to call it yet, I’m not sure. But I do know that it has been laid on my heart to write, and so write I shall. I know this also means being diligent and disciplined to set aside the time to not only write in this blog challenge, but also to pick up where I left off on the actual book. It also means picking up the phone and making some very embarrassing phone calls to the publishing industry. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the financial side and costs of birthing a book! But before I get too ahead of myself and get caught up on the details, I will put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and continue to do what I was supposed to do a long time ago. Write write write. Cheers to the power of the pen. Here we go!

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

  • “Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish; but he who keeps the law [of God, which includes that of man] —blessed (happy, fortunate, and enviable) is he.” — Proverbs 29:18
  • And then God answered: Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision message is a witness pointing to what’s coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.” – Habakkuk 2:2-3 (Message Bible)
  • “To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.” – Herman Melville
  • A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.” – Sidney Sheldon
  • Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” – Henry David Thoreau
  •  “If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good productive day work—these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.” – David Brin
  •  “My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.” – Anton Chekhov