Category Archives: Quirky Life Lessons

Takeaways and “learning moments” from attempting to live life before the lottery

Wrong Question.

You don’t have to look very far to be offended, see injustice, or experience something that seems unfair or hurts the heart. Sometimes it feels that there are more things happening out there that are wrong than right. Lately, as some big fat question marks plaster my world, I’m slowly realizing that there is a possibility that I may be asking all the wrong questions.

The Real Question

When stuff like this happens, when there is a loss, when the unfair and unjust occurs–the question is not, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” If this is the question being asked, then the answers we come up with (if any) will never be satisfactory or come close to satisfying our souls. There are things that happen that we may never know the “why.” How could this have happened to her? Why did that happen to him? Why me? Wrong questions. Instead the question perhaps needs to be asked this way, “What happens to good people when bad things happen?”

Really, what happens to good people when bad things happen?

The answers to this question make far more sense and are far more satisfying, if given a chance.

1. They become stronger.

Junk happens to us all. There’s no getting around it. Whether we consider ourselves good, bad, or somewhere in-between on the deserve-it-scale, there’s no escaping it. Being a “good person” does not excuse us away from being dealt life’s problems or from having bad things happen. There’s no “I’m sorry, that can’t happen to me, I’m a good person” card that blocks us from the hard stuff.

There’s no rule that bad stuff can only happen to bad people, or that good stuff can only happen to good people. But it’s interesting how our minds want to make things work out that way, and when it doesn’t, it’s labeled unfair.

Even more interesting are how the reactions and results of the exact same scenario can be drastically different depending on how one chooses to respond to the inescapable junk tossed their way. The exact same thing can happen to two different people, yet the outcomes can be completely different…and it’s not based on how “good” or “bad” they are or whether or not they deserve it.  No one is immune. No matter how good the heart or how caring the person, something (or even many somethings) is going to happen to try and take them out. We cannot escape the tough stuff, but we can have a say in how we react when it does and who we turn to, which is very much so linked to the end result. We can choose to keep going, give our hurts to the One who does know, and let it make us stronger.

The only way to build muscle is to challenge it. Strength is not built through inaction. We cannot become stronger if we never have to deal with anything, work through problems, or choose to always take the easy road. And if we’re not getting stronger and we try and avoid challenges we’ll atrophy,  become weaker, and eventually not be able to handle even the simplest issues. When bad things happen to good people, it doesn’t take them out, they get stronger.

2. They help others.

When the heartbreak comes or when the hurt happens, it’s the ones who flip it and somehow figure out a way to benefit someone else that are the victors. There’s nothing better than hearing a story of how someone came back from a knockdown or a failure only to use it to help someone else. It’s that much sweeter when despite the wrong, despite the wound, and despite the hurt, something good and loving soars through the dust and the rubble and positively touches others.

There is no better way to combat the darkness in our lives than by helping someone else while we are hurting. We may  not be able to solve our own problems or heal our own hurts, but there is something we can do to help someone else…and chances are they need it more than we’ll ever know. We may not have the ability to help ourselves or fix our own issues, but we definitely have the ability and capability to reach out to someone else who needs it. It’s in showing kindness in the midst of our pain where the breakthrough, the healing, and the triumph takes place. When the bad stuff happens, they help others and that’s when doors can open up for the really good things to happen.

3. They spread hope.

Despite the pain, despite the injustice, and in spite of how wrong it feels–those that survive and come back from the ashes are people that give hope and are examples of God’s goodness triumphing over evil. We need that. We need to know that no matter how bad it looks or how wrong it feels or how deep the injustice, there is hope that something good can come out of it. We need to know that failure is not final. Hope is free. It does not cost anything to hope…but it can cost us everything if we don’t.

Nope. The question is not why do bad things happen to good people. The real answers we need may not necessarily lie in the why, but perhaps may be found in the what…or Who.

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A City Girl’s Take On Country Bumpkin Life

Lessons from a greenhouse
Although a city girl at heart, I’ve had the unique opportunity to experience country bumpkin life. I’ve lived in big cities and small towns and been happy in both, each having their different types of blessings and opportunities and lessons to be learned. (I’m on the “bloom where you’re planted” program.) I can see why people can thrive or tank in either setting.

Recently, in my country bumpkin life I’ve thoroughly enjoyed going through an entire cycle of growing food in a garden and all the lessons that go with that — lessons from a greenhouse to be precise. As a city girl I never thought I’d be the type to enjoy playing in the dirt, wrangling hoses and watering systems, or battling bugs. Correction, I do not enjoy battling bugs. Ever.

But as I carried a basket of fresh vegetables picked from said greenhouse, I started realizing all that I’ve learned in the short time I’ve had the opportunity to be a garden girl.  There are valuable lessons to be learned from a greenhouse.

1. Prep work is never fun, but oh so necessary.

Making the decision to grow something—be it flowers, herbs, vegetables or something else is just the initial step–but there’s a lot to be done between the planting and picking of a garden. Besides doing research and gaining knowledge on what grows best when and where, there is effort involved in making the investment to order seeds and equipment and do the dirty work to prepare the ground and soil for planting. You can’t just put seeds in the ground and expect something to grow. I wish.

First the soil must be cleared of all the junk and hindrances of past use. This includes getting rid of rocks, breaking up hard soil, getting rid of any weeds, and then replacing it and replenishing it with fertilizer and filler. Things won’t grow in hard crusty ground. New life and growth happens in soft, rich soil. It must be prepped and tended well before anything goes in it. Just as in real life, if we want good things to happen in our future, we must prep our present and clear it of the junk from our past that will prevent any kind of new growth. We are in charge of creating and prepping the environment in which we want to see growth and change. This requires a conscious decision, can get a little dirty, is not all that fun, but is oh so necessary.  Doing this is the key to getting what we want later on.

2. There are no instant results.

Wouldn’t it be fabulous to just drop some seeds in the dirt and come back the next day and have strawberries and blooms? Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works in the gardening world and that’s not the way it works in real life. I knew this going into this greenhouse endeavor, but I’ll admit it can be a little demotivating to go in every day  and all you’re watering is dirt. For months there are no signs of life or change whatsoever. Without the hope of a future harvest, it can feel pointless. But what we don’t always realize is what’s going on under the surface. In gardening, the seed goes into the soil, has to die, and then it slowly starts the process of germination and growth as it’s watered, tended, and cared for.

When it comes to our dreams and future, it’s very much the same. There may be months if not years of effort in doing the right thing, making choices and sacrifices without seeing one shred of improvement or movement. If we don’t understand this process it can be all too easy to give up when we don’t see instant results. Resist the urge to base progress on current circumstances. Keep watering your dirt.

Just as the farmer and gardener sow seeds in the ground of the kind of product that they want, having to wait and trust that the process will lead to a harvest, we have to sow into our dreams and our futures and be willing to wait and “water” them before we ever even see any progress or results. There are sunny days and rainy days, both are needed for results. Just because it looks dry and dull does not mean good stuff is not happening behind the scenes. Good things take time. Good things are worth the wait.

3. Tend and protect.

It’s so exciting to see the first leaves pop through the dirt. Green on brown is a beautiful combination. The first signs of life are something to smile about and can be extremely encouraging. Yet the work is far from over…but at least after all this time and waiting you can see that something’s happening.  Signs of life!

I almost screamed the first time I saw holes in the leaves of the beloved plants in that greenhouse. Ok, who let the aphids and slugs in? This is where I learned that pests and other attacks will come and you’re not the only one who wants to enjoy the goodies. If these issues are not addressed, they will kill what you’ve been growing and waiting for. Bugs are awful, but they cannot be ignored. In the gardening world, did you know you can put empty tuna cans full of beer that attracts slugs and drowns the little buggars? I didn’t, but now I know. Or that sometimes you have to sacrifice one infected plant and pull it out in order to save the rest of the patch? Sad, but it works. Greenhouse - growth! It should come as no surprise that when going after our dreams and desires and making the effort to cross off our lists and go after what we really want, there will be setbacks and things that come to attack and derail our efforts. There are other parasites out there that are more than willing to enjoy our labor and devour what we’ve been waiting for. If ignored and left unaddressed, they will. It is so important to pay attention and protect our dreams. Stay focused, and be prepared to fend off discouraging words of others, distractions, and counterfeits that are like weeds to our wants. Have no mercy for slugs.

4. When harvest comes, pick!

It’s actually not my greenhouse, I’m just in charge of it and have the pleasure of working it. I’m a worker bee with consumption benefits. I may do the daily watering and weeding, but the ultimate decisions and future of the greenhouse is not mine. The authority to harvest and decision to enjoy the goodies belong to another, but I do get to enjoy the benefits and all that goes with it.

It surprised me though that the owner of the greenhouse did not do anything once notified that the flowers were in bloom and the crops were ready. They were too busy. I thought they’d be excited for the news, isn’t this what all this work and waiting has been for? Instead, they were weary and not ready for what it takes to bring it all in. Here was all this time and effort spent on creating this amazing produce and beautiful flowers, and I watched in disbelief as it was ignored and started to pass its peak. All these delicious vegetables and flowers were saying, “I’m ready. Time to enjoy!” Sadly there was no one but myself to enjoy and delight in them…and I certainly can’t consume all of them myself!

It seems like this should come as a no-brainer, but I find that in real life this can happen too. Sometimes we can become so focused on the fight and the project itself that we don’t realize it’s time to enjoy the rewards. If we’re not careful and paying attention, we can miss our harvest. Don’t miss the moment. Or we’re too tired or exhausted when it’s all done and aren’t up for harvest season when it arrives.

It can be difficult sometimes to slow down and truly recognize the moment and enjoy it when it comes, or believe we’re worth the celebration or reward. I am a big believer in celebrating the work and accomplishments of others. Celebrate birthdays, go to graduations, dance at weddings, coo at babies, and take time to acknowledge and love on those that have worked so hard for that moment. There’s too much in this life that pulls us down, don’t ignore the moments or the big (and little) wins that make us smile!

Just like in the greenhouse, often times our harvest and blessings in life can be more than we can use or enjoy by ourselves. I don’t think this is an accident. We are meant to be funnels and channels to get good things to others. Gardening, sowing and reaping are about multiplication–one little seed with the proper care can turn into an entire harvest that many others can enjoy and benefit from.

With the owner’s permission, I took my basket out to that little greenhouse and filled it with greens and goodies to distribute and give away. It was time. The harvest was ready even if the owner wasn’t. If I didn’t do it, it would just all rot and go to waste. How awful would that be? There was plenty for me, the owner of course, and even enough left over to drop off the neighbor’s house and to use as thank you gifts. I loved seeing their faces light up when I came bearing beets, tomatoes, garlic, mint, chives, onions, basil, and kale. There was so much more than I could ever use.

The best part is, it doesn’t stop here. This is a season. One of many. There is a specific season for each task and opportunity and soon it’s going to be time to start the cycle all over again and enter another season. It doesn’t stop with the crops and harvest I have right now, there’s so much more future growth. There will be new dreams to plant, new ideas to cultivate, and new things to enjoy with reasons to celebrate.

Who knew there could be so many lessons from a simple greenhouse? Far from any type of green thumb, yep, this city girl has a lot to learn from country bumpkin life…and is still growing!

30x30 lessons
Harvest – round #7. Plenty to share. Can you believe this is in November?!

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

 

March to the beat … F-R-E-E-D-O-M

With the July 4th holiday come and gone and the parades over and pie eaten, I can’t help but think about the concept of freedom and what it really means year-round. And what it doesn’t. We all know that “freedom isn’t free” and this particular holiday is a celebration with roots reflecting the price paid by those that sacrificed and had a vision of freedom, but what exactly is freedom anyway? And are we enjoying it to it’s fullest extent the way it was designed?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, freedom is a noun and “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”

Freedom to me isn’t just fireworks, the right to vote, and rights given in a document. To me, freedom is in and of itself having a choice. If there is no choice and there are no options, then there’s an absence of freedom.

It’s called prison.

I love living in a country where there are choices and freedoms in almost everything we do and I never want to forget that the freedoms we have are not enjoyed everywhere. We are exceptionally blessed to have choices. What we have is truly unique. We have the freedom to live and work where we choose–there is not a preset caste system that determines what we can do and where. If I want to, I can be on a flight tomorrow and fly anywhere within the 50 states by only flashing a driver’s license. No visas, no proof of purpose, no waiting needed. That’s amazing.

There is an enormous freedom and amount of choices available in what I eat, consume, and spend my money on. I can go to different grocery stores, buy different brands of items, eat them at my leisure, or even throw them away. The choices out there in style and fashion alone on how I choose to represent myself is staggering. Is it a sweatshirt and yoga pants day? Or maybe some cute capris and a tank? Or is more of a business suit needed for what I’m doing? In one outfit choice I can change my entire appearance and choose to look chic, hippy, hipster, professional, preppy, athletic, casual, country, foo foo formal, or something in-between. I have the freedom to choose who to speak to, date, marry, and be in relationship with. No prearranged pragmatic marriages here. I may value their opinion, but my parents or family members don’t have the ultimate say in who I’m legally joined to. In today’s culture I have the choice in who I give my heart to and who to experience life with. (Thankfully!) That’s not the case in a lot of cultures. I have the choice of when, who, how, how fast, and how long to have connections with people–and thank God for that! Even the choices and options available in how we maintain those connections and communicate with one another is breathtaking. Dinners, dates, phone calls, email, text, Skype, Face Time, Facebook, social media, snail mail, pillow talk, or whatever kind of talk…there is an incredible amount of options to enjoy our “freedom of speech” in how we connect with others.

I have the choice in what I believe, what I worship, who I worship with, and where and in what I put my heart. Or what I don’t. Precious blood has been shed for this. Many have died to give and maintain this ultimate freedom. I will never fully know all the incredible sacrifices made for me to have and keep this freedom. That is probably one of the greatest freedoms of choice we have. We were wired for freedom, we were designed to make choices. From the very beginning our Maker gave us the power to choose–He did not make robots–He made free-will. The simplistic beauty of choice is so vital to our human spirit and seems so natural that it’s almost too easy to take it for granted.

But sometimes we go amiss in our freedoms. Freedom may be “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint,” but that doesn’t mean that freedom doesn’t have consequences or results in what we act, speak, and think. Freedom is not independent of consequences. Although freedom entails and is directly connected with choice, it does not mean that those choices don’t have direct or indirect consequences. Freedom is not free. Freedom is directly entangled and intertwined with responsibility. We can have the freedom to choose poorly.

There is such a thing as a wrong choice. It doesn’t take long to see evidence of that. In some given scenarios, some options are better than others or more or less desirable. Sometimes we choose to not choose, and even that in and of itself is a choice. We can choose not to exercise our freedoms at all and in doing so, lose them. We are a byproduct of our choices. Big choices, little choices, everyday choices. Good, bad, and everything in between…our choices shape us and the world around us. Our choices and freedoms are not solitary, they very much so affect those around us.

The best part is, we have the freedom to recognize this and continue making choices to move ourselves in the direction we want to go. Choose to make a list, choose to write it down, choose to catch a vision. We can intentionally make choices to change our situation, or even maintain and keep the situation we’re in. No, we don’t have control over final outcomes or the choices of other people, but the sheer fact that we even have options to begin with is something to value in the highest degree. There is power in choice. There is power in freedom.

July 4th may be over and gone, but our freedoms are not. Be powerful, be free. Make good choices. Make bad choices. Enjoy it! QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN MYSELF:

 

Go Ahead. Let The Inner Princess Out.

Recently I experienced one thing that every little girl dreams about…pretty pretty princess hair. (Okay, girls dream about a lot of things, but I’m referring specifically to pretty princess hair.)

A friend conned me into attending a festival that in order to feel legit, one should really have a child under 10 years old with them. That apparently did not matter to us. Instead, we decided to make a day of it and I was treated to an entire afternoon of  full on “kid fun.” This included riding an elephant, chowing down on a fair-style turkey leg, enjoying a deliciously dripping ice cream cookie, waving at a parade, seeing a magic show, and getting my hair professionally braided (complete with flowers AND glitter.) For those who have not fulfilled this childhood dream, I highly recommend it.

Pretty Pretty Princess Hair
Pretty Pretty Princess Hair

Although not officially on the Next List, there were several events that day that got crossed off an unofficial “mini-list.” (C’mon, not everything can make the official next list. There are however, bonus items that can be enjoyed as opportunities crop up. Actually, now that I think about it. I just might add it to the Next List just so I can cross it off! *te he*)

Little Back Story:
Years ago as a little girl I remember going to this same fair with wide eyes and wonderment wanting to experience all of this. I don’t know if it was the no-frills attitude of my mom or maybe possibly due to parental budget reasons, but for some reason I have good memories of the fair itself but I just never got to have the “whole” experience. There was left a longing for the hair flowers, the exotic elephant ride, and the overall princess treatment.

Fast forward years later and I found myself laughing as we flitted through the festival in the hot summer sun with a checklist in hand. We were on a mission. Giggling, we paid the $4 and rode the floppy eared gentle giant, staked out the perfect spot for the parade, and I tried so desperately to sit still for the intricate hair magic. I may be well into adulthood, but there’s definitely a little girl heart that wants to enjoy every bit of moments like these. That’s the beauty of being a full grown adult — should you choose to release the “inner child”, you have the power to make childhood dreams come true with your very own adult resources. The only thing you need to get is permission from yourself.  It’s important to play. Always remember to play.

Who knows, maybe there are childhood desires that seem so menial but somehow deserve a spot on your list. Put them on there! Maybe it’s a museum, an art class, or a certain kind of animal that needs to be petted or hugged. Maybe it’s touching a slimy sting ray, swimming with dolphins, or getting your face painted.  Ever want to ride in a parade? Meet Mickey Mouse? Win at tether ball? See a shuttle launch? Get a baseball signed at a game? Maybe it’s time to do it.

It doesn’t matter what the childhood dream is, don’t bury it. Resurrect those buried childlike desires. Create that list and let that inner geek out. Go play.

Seriously, go play!

 

 

 

How To Mess With A Three-Year-Old

How to mess with a three-year-old: Put the princesses in all the wrong dresses.

I sat on the floor and watched how with one simple action–putting Belle in Cinderella’s dress–caused upheaval and confusion in the big blue eyes of the wee one with the blond curls. So without her looking, I switched them all.

Oh so wrong!
Oh so wrong!

It starts young. The need to play by the rules.  For the boxes to be drawn and the need to fit inside them. Even at a young age there is a need for organization, security, “correct beauty”, and for our world to be right. For a three-year-old, this is especially true in princess world. Belle wears yellow, Aurora pink, Cinderella blue, and Snow White…well, we all know the poofy sleeves and headband she’s famous for. We learn there is a right way for a young lady to act and look, and the not-right-way. Do not, under any circumstance, do it differently. Do not change it.

Then somewhere along the way, someone messes up our dresses. They mess with our order, our routine, and our expectations. On the one hand, it can be extremely freeing and can open up a whole new world. In this case, I managed to sell her little mind on the idea that the princesses were going to have a fashion show and needed to wear each others’ dresses. I explained that’s just what girls do, they borrow clothes and it’s okay for them to wear different dresses. They like it. I could tell that deep down she wasn’t quite sure about this new concept, but didn’t at the moment have any argument to refute my adult logic. I figured I just opened up a whole new world for her….or probably wouldn’t be invited back to the playroom any time soon.

I sat among the tea sets, ponies, and princess costumes and couldn’t help but smile. How often does God, just to mess with us, switch something up. Not to be mean, not to make us cry–but just to be playful and give us new options and help us grow in our own little world of make-believe. Something that we never even thought possible and that seems completely ridiculous is suddenly set in front of us as an option. Maybe in the same way we can either choose to roll with the new scenario and expand our world of play…or kick Him out and not invite Him back.

Either way, it still makes me smile.

 

 

The Green Monster Fight

“Looks like fun. Must be nice,” they said in such a tone that didn’t make me feel so nice.

I didn’t quite know exactly what to say. They know how hard I’ve worked, I thought they’d be happy for me in crossing off a long-time dream. What do you do when someone asks about something you’ve been working towards and before you can answer, you can tell they don’t really want to hear about it? They asked, but they don’t really want to know. The jealousy is palpable.

I’d like to say that this has been a one-time occurrence and a one-time wound, but I cannot.

I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on an interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed in making progress on my 30×30 list. In choosing to go after goals and enjoy the life and the journey along the way, there will be some that will not smile or cheer you on. No matter how happy some may want to be for you, how much some may love and support you, how big the sacrifices you’ve made, or how hard you’ve worked…on occasion the little green monster will make an appearance and can turn things weird. Sometimes it can come from some very unexpected sources.

It’s true, misery does love company. If someone is not enjoying the same success or enjoyable moments in their own lives that you are being blessed with, sometimes deep down there’s a part of them that, uh, rathers you didn’t. That’s human nature. (Think about it–jealousy and envy go back to the beginning of time. It lead to the first murder between two brothers over sibling rivalry and a fruit basket when Cain killed Abel…and has been going strong ever since.)

Actually, it may not necessarily be that they don’t want good things for you…it may just be that there’s a wee bit of jealousy that it’s not happening for them too. It’s not so much that you “do”, it’s that they “don’t.”

Be prepared that not everyone is going to have the best attitude or be as supportive as you would like them to be once you seriously start seeing success or make any kind of progress on your list or in your life. You’re going to have to make the choice to keep moving forward, or not. It may even be the people you love most or that are closest to you. A husband may not support his wife in her weight loss efforts, gossip may surround the purchase of a new car or dream home, family members may criticize you as you go back to school, some may not support your efforts to get back out there and scope out the dating scene, or a friend may not attend your baby shower. Ouch.

No one sees the years of loneliness or the bad breakups  and heartbreak before the happy wedding day. They’re not witness to the years of sleepless nights, mountains of homework, lack of a social life, or the student loans taken on in order to finish a degree. They can’t always see all the hours at the gym, the 6:30am workouts every Saturday for over four months, and the self-discipline needed while training for a 26.2 mile marathon. There’s no parade while you’re eating in, canceling cable, and shopping garage sales in order to get out of debt. No one sees the endless prayers and countless tears shed in secret. It’s easy to want what someone else has but not be willing to do the work or make the sacrifices that they did to get it.

It's easy to want what someone else has but not be willing to do the work or make the sacrifices that they did to get it.

They may attend the celebration party or see the smiling pictures, but they weren’t around for the difficult decisions, the sacrifices, the hard work, the tears and the effort that came before it. They weren’t there for the fight. They can’t see the surrounding circumstances that lead up to the reason and the need to celebrate in the first place. All they can see is the fun part or the season of celebration…and hate it.

Or maybe they were around for the fight, yet the monster surfaces.

This can be confusing. And hurtful. At no point in my life, or especially on this entire 30×30 journey, have I ever intended for someone to feel bad about themselves or inferior in any way. And if I have caused someone to feel that way, I am very sorry. My intentions in sharing my story are just the opposite. My goal and the desire of my heart is to encourage, inspire, elevate, and motivate into passionate action. In fact, when asked to write this book and publish the 30×30 story,  I had extreme reservations about being labeled as vain, to be seen as bragging, or having anyone think that I was selfish or “better than” anyone. It took me years before I could ever even let someone else read it.

It was an incredibly personal decision to make the choice to publish my story and put myself out there. Honestly, I didn’t want to do it. I avoided the call as long as I could, but in the end had to succumb to the nagging pull on my heart. Nothing in me desires to go through the self-promotion, scrutiny, judgment, and “look at me” or “lookie at what I did” marketing mentality that seems to be required in doing this. How unattractive and ugly. The attention that can go with that type of success makes me squirm. *nose crinkle*

Sometimes I don’t even want to talk about my list at all, that I was blessed to have crossed off 29 of my 30 items, or let anyone know when I cross something off of the Next List. I don’t ever want someone to feel bad because of something I’m doing or have done. Ever. That’s the thing about progress and success–it’s admired, encouraged, and applauded…yet hated and despised at the same time. Success, no matter how small, is tricky.

That's the thing about progress and success--it's admired, encouraged, and applauded...yet hated and despised at the same time. Success, no matter how small, is tricky.

Is that a reason to not move forward, to not change, to not go after the dreams placed in your heart or take steps of faith in pursuit of progress? I hope not. But it is a reason to pause for a moment and be sensitive to situations that others may be going through. Everyone’s story and journey is different. Just like they don’t know the difficulties that you’ve walked through, you also don’t know the internal and external struggles they may be dealing with. We’re all dealing with something.

Don’t worry, in time it will be their season to shine and you may be the one having to fight off the mean green envy beast.

 

Fake Smiling. Know When It’s Needed…And When It’s Not.

Fake Smiling. Know When It’s Needed…And When It’s Not.

There are times that come when it is time to celebrate. C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-E! Admittedly, we’re not always ready or in the mood to party. Sometimes those celebrations have the most inconvenient timing and come when we do NOT want to and have no intention of celebrating…at all. This  can come in the form of a best friend’s wedding, a friend’s graduation, the birth of a baby, or even a loved one’s birthday. I knew a friend who miscarried her baby the morning of her son’s birthday party and still put on a smile and helped blow out the candles that evening with no one ever knowing. Those momentous occasions don’t really care if we feel like celebrating or not, they still come. They still deserve to be celebrated.

It can be a struggle to celebrate and be happy for someone else when we are in the midst of our own pain and in the middle of our own struggles. Part of us wants to stay in and attend our own pity parties, not go to their real ones. But the other part of us in our heart of hearts is truly excited for them, but that doesn’t change our own situation or make it any easier to attend their party or celebrate with them.

We may drag our feet when it comes to attending and celebrating, but be damned if we ever show it, lest we take away from their special moment. But I am so glad for those situations that come along that force us to smile. Sometimes when we’re forced to fake a smile, we actually end up smiling for real.

Although I am not an actress in any sense of the word, I can still put on a good show. Doesn’t take much more than a flash of pearly whites and a flirty giggle to convince most people that things are dandy. My insides may be screaming but for the most part you’ll probably never be the wiser. There is an art in knowing when we need to step up our performance for the benefit or protection of someone else and in knowing when to let down our guard and show our raw and real emotions. There is a balance in taking one for the team and pushing through, and in being vulnerable enough to not always have to put on a show.

There is an art in knowing when we need to step up our performance for the benefit or protection of someone else and in knowing when to let down our guard and show our raw and real emotions.

I recently had a moment where in the midst of celebrating my best friend’s wedding to the amazing man in her life I had to sneak away and step out of the reception for a few moments to collect myself. As much as it’s a privilege and honor to stand next to her and be a part of this wonderful moment, weddings still sting for me.

I know myself well enough that I am the type of person that needs to fall apart in private and then be able to put myself back together in solitude. I thought I had done a good job in using the “I need to go to the bathroom” ruse, but unfortunately a friend totally busted me when she came into the house to use the lou herself. Good friends are hard to find. I may have fooled a dance floor full of people but I had to laugh when she called me out and said, “Your lying lips are telling me you’re fine but your eyes give you away and tell me you’re not.” 

Wordlessly she let me have my moment, handed me a tissue, sweetly cleaned me up and led me through the hallway and back outside to the dance floor just in time for the happy couple’s first dance. I am so glad she did and I am so thankful for her understanding, her strength, and her discretion. I finished the evening bouncing and vogue-ing with the best of ’em. Besides, I didn’t wear smokin’ hot pink shoes for nothing! Did I have fun? Yes. Was it tough? Absolutely. But it was completely worth it. I wouldn’t have missed this celebration for the world.

Sometimes we have to take one for the team and go to the party, fake smile and all. The celebrations and our loved ones deserve it…they deserve both our support and our smiles. Who knows? If we let ourselves, we might even enjoy it and smile for real.

Real or Fake? Can you tell?

 

 

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

 

Hooker Make-Up & Pasta Rejection

When’s the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone?

No really, when was the last time? Was it something significant, like starting a business, moving to a new city, starting a new relationship, or maybe ending one? Or maybe something a bit smaller and not so scary, like trying a new type of food, taking a different route home from work, saying hello to that cute girl in class, or even a new haircut?

 

Where The Magic Happens (Hint: Outside The Comfort Zone)
Where The Magic Happens (Hint: It’s Always Outside The Comfort Zone)

There’s just something about stepping out and trying something different that gives a little spark to the soul. It’s always outside the comfort zone where the magic happens.

I had to laugh at myself as I walked into a Noodles & Company this afternoon with my heart set on the penne rosa and allowed myself to be talked into trying one of their new entrees by the clerk behind the counter. It wasn’t just about the pasta. I laughed because I had literally walked in to the restaurant after figuratively stepping out of my own comfort zone earlier in the afternoon to get professional portraits taken for the bio of the “Life Before the Lottery” book being published later this summer.

As a wedding photographer, I am so used to being on the other side of the camera that I couldn’t help but squirm as I was on the wrong side of the lens. I did not enjoy the thought of being the center of attention and having a zoom lens in my face. Apparently I can dish it but I can’t take it. I thought about going about the cheap route and tossing a friend or family member my camera to take the required snapshot. That would have been comfortable…and cheaper. But then I decided to suck it up, buckle down, and actually book professional portraits. I obviously haven’t gotten them back yet, but I’m sure they’ll be worth the squirm.

So there I was, in full professional make-up that looked like hooker-wear and bigger-than-life fluffy hair ordering penne rosa at 3:30 in the afternoon. Fabulous. As I took the first bite of the new entree I immediately regretted caving. Dang it! The clerk was nice enough to see me struggling with my new choice and brought out my original go-to. No harm, no foul. Don’t worry, I didn’t go hungry.

As I sat there starving and sitting alone full make-up and all at the corner table, I decided to pat myself on the back. It’s not every day that one gets the opportunity to step out of their comfort zone on multiple levels. So go ahead, make a left instead of the usual right. Get that new haircut. Apply for that promotion. Call the girl. You never know what may happen. No matter what, chances are it won’t happen in the comfort zone.

It may not have worked out with the new pasta–and who knows, it may not work out with the pictures either–but life is way too short to not take risks. Even if it’s only pasta.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

30 Things To Stop Doing To Yourself

30 Things To Stop Doing To Yourself

I read this post yesterday and  absolutely loved it! Not one to often share the work of others on the blog but this post was definitely “share-worthy”. Creating a bucket list lifestyle and living life before the lottery encompasses treating yourself right and learning from your mistakes. This post is a great reflection of those lessons. Thank you to the original contributors!

Written By Marc and Angel
Shared By Lesley Carter, Bucket List Publications

Seriously, stop.
Seriously, stop.

“When you stop chasing the wrong things you give
the right things a chance to catch you.”

As Maria Robinson once said, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”  Nothing could be closer to the truth.  But before you can begin this process of transformation you have to stop doing the things that have been holding you back.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Stop spending time with the wrong people. – Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you.  If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you.  You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot.  Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth.  And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.
  2. Stop running from your problems. – Face them head on.  No, it won’t be easy.  There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them.  We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems.  That’s not how we’re made.  In fact, we’re made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall.  Because that’s the whole purpose of living – to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time.  This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.
  3. Stop lying to yourself. – You can lie to anyone else in the world, but you can’t lie to yourself.  Our lives improve only when we take chances, and the first and most difficult chance we can take is to be honest with ourselves.  Read The Road Less Traveled.
  4. Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. – The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.  Yes, help others; but help yourself too.  If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.
  5. Stop trying to be someone you’re not. – One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else.  Someone will always be prettier, someone will always be smarter, someone will always be younger, but they will never be you.  Don’t change so people will like you.  Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.
  6. Stop trying to hold onto the past. – You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.
  7. Stop being scared to make a mistake. – Doing something and getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing nothing.  Every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every failure is leading towards success.  You end up regretting the things you did NOT do far more than the things you did.
  8. Stop berating yourself for old mistakes. – We may love the wrong person and cry about the wrong things, but no matter how things go wrong, one thing is for sure, mistakes help us find the person and things that are right for us.  We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past.  But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.  Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.
  9. Stop trying to buy happiness. – Many of the things we desire are expensive.  But the truth is, the things that really satisfy us are totally free – love, laughter and working on our passions.
  10. Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness. – If you’re not happy with who you are on the inside, you won’t be happy in a long-term relationship with anyone else either.  You have to create stability in your own life first before you can share it with someone else.  Read Stumbling on Happiness.
  11. Stop being idle. – Don’t think too much or you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place.  Evaluate situations and take decisive action.  You cannot change what you refuse to confront.  Making progress involves risk.  Period!  You can’t make it to second base with your foot on first.
  12. Stop thinking you’re not ready. – Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises.  Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won’t feel totally comfortable at first.
  13. Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong reasons. – Relationships must be chosen wisely.  It’s better to be alone than to be in bad company.  There’s no need to rush.  If something is meant to be, it will happen – in the right time, with the right person, and for the best reason. Fall in love when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.
  14. Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn’t work. – In life you’ll realize that there is a purpose for everyone you meet.  Some will test you, some will use you and some will teach you.  But most importantly, some will bring out the best in you.
  15. Stop trying to compete against everyone else. – Don’t worry about what others are doing better than you.  Concentrate on beating your own records every day.  Success is a battle between YOU and YOURSELF only.
  16. Stop being jealous of others. – Jealousy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own.  Ask yourself this:  “What’s something I have that everyone wants?”
  17. Stop complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. – Life’s curveballs are thrown for a reason – to shift your path in a direction that is meant for you.  You may not see or understand everything the moment it happens, and it may be tough.  But reflect back on those negative curveballs thrown at you in the past.  You’ll often see that eventually they led you to a better place, person, state of mind, or situation.  So smile!  Let everyone know that today you are a lot stronger than you were yesterday, and you will be.
  18. Stop holding grudges. – Don’t live your life with hate in your heart.  You will end up hurting yourself more than the people you hate.  Forgiveness is not saying, “What you did to me is okay.”  It is saying, “I’m not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever.”  Forgiveness is the answer… let go, find peace, liberate yourself!  And remember, forgiveness is not just for other people, it’s for you too.  If you must, forgive yourself, move on and try to do better next time.
  19. Stop letting others bring you down to their level. – Refuse to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise theirs.
  20. Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others. – Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it anyway.  Just do what you know in your heart is right.
  21. Stop doing the same things over and over without taking a break. – The time to take a deep breath is when you don’t have time for it.  If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.  Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things clearly.
  22. Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments. – Enjoy the little things, because one day you may look back and discover they were the big things.  The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters to you.
  23. Stop trying to make things perfect. – The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done.  Read Getting Things Done.
  24. Stop following the path of least resistance. – Life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile.  Don’t take the easy way out.  Do something extraordinary.
  25. Stop acting like everything is fine if it isn’t. – It’s okay to fall apart for a little while.  You don’t always have to pretend to be strong, and there is no need to constantly prove that everything is going well.  You shouldn’t be concerned with what other people are thinking either – cry if you need to – it’s healthy to shed your tears.  The sooner you do, the sooner you will be able to smile again.
  26. Stop blaming others for your troubles. – The extent to which you can achieve your dreams depends on the extent to which you take responsibility for your life.  When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – you give others power over that part of your life.
  27. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. – Doing so is impossible, and trying will only burn you out.  But making one person smile CAN change the world.  Maybe not the whole world, but their world.  So narrow your focus.
  28. Stop worrying so much. – Worry will not strip tomorrow of its burdens, it will strip today of its joy.  One way to check if something is worth mulling over is to ask yourself this question: “Will this matter in one year’s time?  Three years?  Five years?”  If not, then it’s not worth worrying about.
  29. Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen. – Focus on what you do want to happen.  Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story.  If you awake every morning with the thought that something wonderful will happen in your life today, and you pay close attention, you’ll often find that you’re right.
  30. Stop being ungrateful. – No matter how good or bad you have it, wake up each day thankful for your life.  Someone somewhere else is desperately fighting for theirs.  Instead of thinking about what you’re missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.

In Honor Of…

In Honor Of…

I read an article the other day about a family who is continuing to cross off items on the bucket list of their daughter who was killed by a 20-year old drunk driver. I teared up as I thought what a wonderful way to honor a loved one and how difficult it must be for her friends and family to do that.

Her parents found her list folded and tucked inside a make-up bag with only a handful of items checked off in her short 21 years. Most recently, her parents took her ashes up in a plane during a flying lesson, checking just one of the many things off of her list. They may not be able to “fall in love” for her, but they can run through a poppy field, tour Niagara Falls, drive Route 66, and visit the Smithsonian.

In Honor Of Cristina Chesterman
In Honor Of Kristina Chesterman

There are so many things in life that just seem unfair. Losing a loved one to a drunk driver, the death of a child, a loss to cancer, a school shooting, natural disasters and so many other things that break our hearts and cause us to ask the big question. Why? The injustice of it can lead us through feelings of anger, loneliness, heartbreak, depression, more anger, and often times hopelessness. No matter the cycle of swirling emotions, the big question still lingers. Why?

Questions. So many questions. Where’s God? Why didn’t he come through? Why did He allow this to happen? How come this isn’t happening to anybody else? How come that person is not suffering any kind of consequence? Why?

The haunting part of this young girl’s story is the item on her list to “save a life.” I’m sure as a student going to nursing school she had different thoughts as to what this may look like. Little did she know that her unexpected death would save 5 lives through her choice to be an organ donor. A nine-month old infant, a 55 year-old man in San Francisco, a 64 year-old grandma…and even a family friend received one of her kidneys.

Personally, when I find myself asking these burning questions that just won’t seem to go away the only answer I seem to come to is the gaping reality that I don’t have any answers at all. I am not the answer holder. But just because I don’t have an answer doesn’t mean that there’s not an answer. It just means that I don’t know it…yet. All I can see and all I can focus on is the finite point in time of the pain and the loss, the bigger picture is lost on me. The only thing that seems to help is to know that there is a bigger picture.

In this season where spring is springing and so many are about to celebrate the Easter holiday, I can’t help but think of the pain that went with those individuals surrounding the Easter story. Whatever you choose to believe or not believe, this particular holiday is a marker of new beginnings and fresh starts, forgiveness, and a symbol of ultimate love and sacrifice. The key players in that crucifixion saga I’m sure could not see the bigger picture either. They did not know the lives that would be saved through the tears and the innocent blood shed. There were no bunnies or chocolates in that story, but violence, betrayal, confusion, pain, injustice, and death. Not all that different to what we feel when going through our own losses.

But in that story, the bigger picture is just that. Bigger.

There is a comfort in knowing that there is a bigger picture, a bigger plan, and a broader tale than what can be seen at the moment. Some questions will never be answered, but that does not mean that there is not a bigger picture. We can ask those questions–especially that ugly big one. Pretty sure our Maker can handle our tough questions. But the answer may not come in the form that we expect. We’re not the author of the bigger Story. We’re not even the author of our little story within the bigger Story. Sometimes our piece of the tale is to continue on in the journey even when we don’t know how the story will end or even what the next chapter may entail.

Maybe our part is to continue on through a poppy field, the Smithsonian, or even Route 66.

 

Susan Vieira: 64 year-old organ donor recipient
Susan Vieira: 64 year-old organ donor recipient

 

To read more about Kristina Chesterman, please click here.Kristina Chesterman Memorial Foundation

Kristina’s bucket list:

  • Be in four places at once
  • Go to Venice
  • Learn to play chess
  • Beat someone at chess
  • Save someone’s life
  • Own two pieces of property (one with livestock)
  • Manage or own my own business
  • Get married
  • Have kids
  • Learn to fly a plane
  • Go to four (out of seven) wonders of the world
  • Fly first class on a plane
  • Visit the 50 states
  • Ride in a hot-air balloon
  • Go parachuting
  • Go sky diving
  • Ride a camel
  • Travel to all the continents
  • Be remembered as “the smiley girl”
  • Break up a fight between two guys over me
  • Be in homecoming court
  • Run through a poppy field
  • Tour Niagara Falls
  • Go to the Smithsonian
  • Drive Route 66

A Tale To Be Told…The Whole Story

What’s the story you want to tell?

It happens to everyone. We all go through something tough, something challenging, something that takes us by surprise or something heartbreaking and we have a decision to make. Usually these are decisions we were never planning to have to make in the first place. When it’s all said and done, years later, what’s the story you want to tell?

There's a tale to be told...

No matter what difficult situation you’re in right now or what tough moments you’re currently going through, breathe. Later on it’s going to be a story to tell. This incredibly difficult thing and these tough decisions are just another part of your tale and in time, the thing that you are going through right now is just another chapter and another addition to your story. It will be a part of your overall story that you’ll be able to look back and say, “I remember when….” The good thing is, we all have a choice in what that story looks like. Not in what happened or the circumstances given–that part we have no control over–but in how we handle it and what we do.

I know a friend whose wife left him and his three small kids for their realtor after they just relocated to a new state. How he handled that situation, how he treated her, how he acted during and after the divorce is part of the story that he has to tell his kids…and tell his future wife later on. I know multiple friends who lost their houses during the housing bust. Financially devastated. What they did, the choices they made, and how they handled those losses and how they picked up the pieces and moved forward is now a part of their story. What happens when a family member suddenly passes away, or when a natural disaster takes out everything you’ve ever loved or known? Job losses and how unemployment, job hunting, and maintaining communication and relationships with family during that time frame is part of the story.

Tragedy happens. Difficulties happen. Unfair things happen. That part is out of our control. But what is in our control is our reactions and how we handle those moments. It’s not just about the “getting through” and the “going through” process, but about what we want our story to look like years down the road as we tell it in the other chapters of our lives to the other people in our lives. The struggle is part of the story.

When I flunked out of college I…  When I lost my job I…  When I got cancer I… When my kid went south and became pregnant I… When he got deployed I… When he passed away I… Or when she left me I…    These are the things that combine into the overall story of our lives. These defining moments and surprise decisions are what create our individual and personal story. There’s always a story to tell.

http://blog.whitneyenglish.com/the-struggle-is-part-of-the-story/

Even every day living is part of our tale. When we’re single, how we act and what we do becomes our backstory for when we meet that significant someone. What’s really fun to hear are how two single people’s stories collide and become one tale. At weddings and engagements we always want to know how two people met. We want to know the love story. Oh, how the choices we make determine the type of tale we can tell! When we don’t even know it, we are writing our own story.  (And maybe even the story of someone else!)

The question is–are we doing things that we want to be a part of our story and tell about? Are we creating the type of story that we even want to tell at all? Or are we brave enough to ask ourselves if we’re making choices that later on we won’t want to talk about? Hide that part of the story. In light of our past experiences, our present circumstances and our future hopes and dreams, are we making the choices and decisions that are creating a story we want to tell? There’s always that one moment, that one decision, that one chance that can take the story in a completely different direction. The funny thing, sometimes we know when those moments are and sometimes we don’t.

Who knows? Right now, there may be a decision that needs to be made or a choice that can take you in one direction or another. The question is not necessarily what should you do, the question may be what story is it that you want to tell?

Whatever it is, make it a story you want to tell. Go ahead, make it a good one!

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

  • The struggle is part of the story.” – Whitney English
  • If you don’t want anyone to find out, don’t do it.” – Chinese Proverb
  • Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.” – Bill Cosby
  • May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela

The Going Through Process

Life is a process. Boom–that was deep. After going to a recent author’s conference and soaking in tips from the experts like a sponge, I have been thinking a lot about the processes of writing and publishing. Then that got me thinking about processes in general.

The Going Through Process
The Going Through Process

In an age where practically everything is instant and on demand–90 second microwave dinners, instant upload and streaming, instant messaging, even instant degrees–we rarely have to wait for anything anymore. This has lead to the misconception that waiting, for anything, is bad. Waiting is not bad. It may be uncomfortable at times, but it is in the process of waiting that character  or something equally amazing is developed. It’s in the “going through” that we become stronger, wiser, better, and more prepared. Learning to wait well is priceless.

Just like how pregnancy is  a process–a 9 month waiting process where a lot is going on and good things are happening–there’s a waiting period that is needed in order for things to develop and go well. It does not turn out well if that waiting period is fast forwarded, shortened or skipped in any way. But the end product is totally worth it. That’s what I’ve told myself…I’m birthing a book.

In developing the game plan for the book and walking out the steps to go from a document on my computer to a quality book in print I have discovered several things. There’s a reason for the process. True, there are websites out there where in just a couple clicks one can upload a file and have it in print the next week. The trouble with that is that it looks like it. There is a quality that is only developed when the time is taken to go through the actual process of anything that is worth having or doing.

I can choose to skip the process, but then I’d end up with a watered down crap book. That’s not the story I want to tell. I can also choose to do nothing. (I actually did that for awhile. It wasn’t until this last year that I decided that that wasn’t an option and made the effort to dust off the dream.) Funny how we try to do everything other than the actual work. We want to press fast forward or skip button or bail out altogether in order to avoid the actual process of going through.

This book deserves my patience. It is worth the process. It is worth the research, the meetings, the waiting, the edits, the cost, and the time. It is worth the effort. It deserves far more than vanity press or print-on-demand and the crapola quality that goes with it. As much as I would like to fast forward to summer and physically hold it in my hot little hands, I am going to do this right and I am going to wait.

Now whether or not I wait well is the question. *laughing*

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Incident Warning! Uh oh, it happened again.

I had another incident. I hate it when this happens. It had been awhile since the last occurrence so when I found myself living it yet again it had caught me off guard and I had forgotten how big of a problem I have.

Incident Warning
Incident Warning

I am directionally challenged. To the point where it’s beyond funny and just plain annoying. I can get lost in a hallway if given the chance. Although in this most recent case I found myself driving the completely wrong direction on I-25 (a highway in Denver I should be very familiar with by now) and didn’t realize it for about three exits as I was driving past the new giant Cabellas and apparently heading towards Colorado Springs. Great. Then I had to figure out how to redirect myself to where I really wanted to go. *sigh* I have issues.

I am very grateful to have friends and loved ones who thankfully don’t share this problem and keep me out of trouble most of the time, but when I’m by myself, look out! (Thankfully God tends to pair the lost with the un-lost! It’s a beautiful thing.) I feel reasonably intelligent in so many other areas but for some reason am missing the gene for this and am quite flawed in this department. Not one of my redeeming qualities!

The thing with being lost is that when you’re lost you don’t really know you’re lost until much, much later. One never really knows they’re lost at the moment they become lost, it takes time to figure out and usually by that point one has been lost for quite awhile. And because one has been lost for awhile it’s usually not that easy to just back up and get “un-lost” quickly.

I guess that’s why I like the idea of the 30×30 list so much, or the “bucket list/life list” concept. It’s an overall game plan or road map that keeps you on track to where you really want to go. Once the list is created and actually in writing (yes, put pen to paper and make it official), it’s a whole lot easier to recognize an opportunity in disguise when it comes up and then make the necessary choices to go down the path to crossing it off. It’s like pulling out the map to make sure you’re headed in the right direction. There may be different roads or options with varying factors, but the overall destination is the same.

My 30×30 list was like a map that kept me going in the direction I ultimately wanted to go, and for that I am so grateful. Surprisingly, I didn’t always recognize an opportunity to cross an item on the list because it didn’t look like what I had originally planned. Opportunities so often come disguised as something we never even considered an option. So often a random opportunity would come up that would need an intentional “turn” at that particular moment or I’d miss it altogether. Multiple times I remember thinking, “Is this it, is this my chance? Do I do it now or do I wait for a  ‘better’ time?”

It’s like coming to a fork in the road–you can continue in the direction you were headed or you can make an intentional choice to go down a different path. Route changers. The destination may remain the same, but the route or the way you take to get there is adjusted. Highway verses back roads. A route change is very different than a destination change. These “route change” opportunities could be sneaky and if I didn’t have a list then I wouldn’t know that now was the time to act. (I can think of 3-4 items on my 30×30 list that wouldn’t have happened at all if I hadn’t jumped on the random opportunity that arose to take a different path. Just because the current opportunity didn’t look like how I originally thought it did not mean that it wasn’t my opportunity to do it now.) There’s just something gratifying about crossing an item off a list. It’s like arriving at your intended destination on time and in one piece. The scenery along the way may not be what was initially expected or there may be a few more U-turns than one would like, but the arrival is oh-so-sweet. It feels good.

You’ll be glad to know that I did figure out how to turn around that day on the highway and I did make it to my intended destination (a dinner at a friend’s house. It was lovely.) At the time I was pulling a U-ie I had to roll my eyes at my own silly mistake and I swore I would tell no one. This little incident just reminded me how much I need GPS and navigational instructions to keep me on track.

Life is always better when you can recognize an opportunity in disguise and know you’re headed in the right direction.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

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.)

What Happens When The Dream Dies

Dreams. We all have them. As children we dream of being doctors, firefighters, astronauts, teachers, moms, and dads. We dream of our wedding day. Of throwing the winning touchdown. Of performing in front of thousands. But then somewhere along the way something happens. Somewhere in the process of growing up, we quit dreaming. It happens to everyone. Security and safety took the place of risk and reward. It happens to everyone.

It happened to me. It’s easy to give up. Sometimes we even pretend we don’t even want it anymore. We lie to ourselves. It happens to everyone.

I’ve started and stopped writing the 30×30 book multiple times. Even now with 30,000 words written and a game plan in place, I find myself wanting to pretend I don’t care about whether it happens anymore. To protect myself just in case it doesn’t happen. When I don’t know what to do next, when it looks like it won’t happen, when each step forward turns out to be two steps back, or when my efforts seem utterly fruitless…it’s tempting to give up on the dream. It happens to everyone.

But what if God is asking you to dream again? What if your heart’s desires are planted there by God Himself? He is the ultimate dream giver. What if it’s not for your glory, but for His? To inspire others. Feed the hungry. Help the poor. Start a business. Lead a group. Help someone else. It’s never too late. Ever. The world is waiting.

That’s part of what’s behind my 30×30 Kickstarter campaign. I have a dream to publish the 30×30 stories and the concept of living life before the lottery–living out your dreams…and I have 15 days left (or until February 6th) to fundraise and see it happen. It’s an all-or-nothing campaign where the entire $8,500 is pledged and raised or I get nothing. Zilch. Nada. In some ways it seems totally doable. That’s only 242 $35 pledges–and if I think about it, with 254 Facebook friends, I can wrap my mind around it. Completely and totally possible when the goal is broken down and thought about it like that. But then on the other hand when I look at the overall $8,500 goal, sometimes it can seem so far away and completely overwhelming. But that’s the beauty of dreams. There’s a side of them that’s overwhelming, and there’s a side of dreams that can be tangible and real.

I should know. I’ve lived it. The whole story behind the 30×30 list is that I lived out and saw 29 of the 30 things on my 30×30 list actually happen! I am a living breathing example that dreams really can and do come true. Against all odds, we truly can see the impossible become possible. And I am also a living breathing example that we need to keep dreaming. Always keep dreaming.

To Be A $35 Pledger:
Kickstarter.com

 

Dream it.
Go ahead. Let yourself dream.

MERRY NEW YEAR! Uh oh, New Year’s Resolution Time.

There may be more truth to this than not!
There may be more truth to this than not!

MERRY NEW YEAR!

Uh oh, resolution time. For someone who is all about goal setting and knocking out items on the 30×30/Next List/Decade List/Bucket List or whatever title it’s given, I actually am not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions.

Whaaaaaaaaaat? Shocker, I know. I think it’s mostly because I, like many others out there, don’t keep them. Quite frankly I don’t even remember any of the New Year’s resolutions I made last year…or the year before that, or the year before that. Boo. I guess that goes to show just how important they were. On the other hand, I absolutely love fresh starts and clean slates and for that very reason I love putting a bow on the old year, blowing a kiss (or possibly flipping the bird, depending on what type of year it was) and waving hello to a new one. For me, New Year’s resolutions have always seemed empty and hollow. Even when I do make them and put effort into actually making good ones, I still can’t seem to maintain them. And when I don’t I feel bad.  I don’t particularly like doing things that make me feel bad. Resolution guilt, no thanks. There’s enough in this world that tears us down and gives us reasons to fall apart, I don’t need to do anything to help that.

Although I may be cynical and a bah-humbug about New Year’s resolutions, I am a firm believer in the power of setting goals (both big and little) and then putting the work and effort behind it in order to meet those goals. I don’t know exactly why, but I almost think that putting the resolution label on a goal almost dooms it to fail. It’s the kiss of death. That’s why I loooooooved the concept of the decade/bucket/30×30 list. Just making my 30×30 list was empowering, let alone actually completing 29 of them. Yes, the 30×30 list had a definite expiration date, but it allowed me to have goals for multiple areas of my life in a time frame that also allowed the freedom to be able to pursue them as the opportunities arose.

Looking back at the last six months makes me smile when I realize that not only did I set a vision and create the 39 items for my “Next List,” but in that short six month time frame I’ve actually already crossed off 10 of them! I definitely can’t boast a similar success rate for any of my New Year’s resolutions. Maybe the trick is not to make resolutions for just this year, but to take the time to sit down and to seriously make a wide array of positive goals for the next few years or even the next decade and then see just how many can be crossed off in a year. That way whether it’s one thing crossed off or ten, you’re still making improvements and not berating yourself for the other 10 that you didn’t do. If your goals can be turned into a game or a challenge to see how many can be accomplished instead of the “I will do these five things or else,” you will have a much better chance of success than if you don’t do them or you can’t get them all done and you feel like a failure.

Who knows, I may not get to cross off all the items on my “Next List” like I crossed off 29 items on the 30×30 list, but with 10 checks already under my belt so far I think I’m off to a really good start. So maybe this year my only New Year’s resolution will be to keep going after my Next List. I can’t wait to look back a year from now and see how many Next List items can be attributed to 2014. I do believe this is going to be a very exciting year. Cheers to 2014 and all the good things to come!

Hello Fresh Start.
Hello Fresh Start.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I: 

 

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.

Saying Yes to Loonies n’ Toonies

Saying Yes to Loonies n’ Toonies

Canada invited me up to visit…and I said yes.

Ok, that’s not exactly what happened. What really occurred was an out-of-the-blue invite from a long-time friend to join her for a long weekend up in Vancouver after she saw “Canadian Passport Stamp” on my Next List blog. What a pleasant surprise! I could’ve come up with a million reasons why I shouldn’t and couldn’t go. Instead, I dusted off my documents, set the date, and before I knew it we were giggling on the plane.

This reminds me of a lesson learned from my original 30×30 list…when given the opportunity, jump. Some things go in the “just because I can” category, and this particular cross-off is one of them. More than one item on my 30×30 list was crossed off simply by saying yes when it was time to say yes.  The funny thing is, once my list was officially created, written down, and communicated and not just some idea in my head, opportunities started coming out of the woodwork to actually do them. The thing is, you just never know if and when the opportunity will arise again. Some of the best things in life happen when you choose to say yes when you could’ve said no.

“Some of the best things in life happen when you choose to say yes when you could’ve said no.”

In this particular case, my friend’s parents were temporarily stationed in the heart of Vancouver for a project for the next 6 months and were open for a visit from their lovable daughter…and apparently her friend. (That would be me. Growing up I was kind of the Kimmie Gibler of this family, and I guess even in adulthood nothing really changed. Maybe I’ll expand more on that some other time!) What it ultimately boiled down to was the fact that more than likely I would never have an opportunity to experience Canada quite like this ever again. The excuses had to go.

And I am so glad they did. Over the course of the trip I can now say that I’ve added a Canadian stamp to my passport (little mini lesson: you have to actually ask the customs agent for this…and hope you get a nice one), managed to purchase a Canadian lotto ticket, had a coffee in Whistler and waved to the Olympic rings, have officially eaten a Timbit, experienced a Canadian aquabus, molested some nice Canadian statues, walked over 14 miles in one day while playing tourist at the breathtakingly beautiful Stanley Park, and now know what loonies and toonies are. (For those of you who don’t know, loonies and toonies are Canadian money. Yeah, I didn’t know that either and quite honestly find the money titles a little amusing too.)

More than anything this was an opportunity to take a breath, nab a passport stamp, bust out my camera, say hello to some long-time friends, and enjoy a different part of the world I’ve never been to before in a way I will probably never get to experience again.

And all because I said yes.

True Loonies and Toonies. No joke.
True Loonies and Toonies. No joke.
View from the apartment - hello Vancouver.
View from the apartment – hello Vancouver.
Whistler - Olympic Plaza
Whistler – Olympic Plaza
Timbits - and they come in pumpkin!
Timbits – and they come in pumpkin!
Don't ask. No comment.
Don’t ask. No comment.
Welcome back. Why thank you!
Welcome back. Why thank you!

 

The Suckee Part of Crossing Off East Coast Fall

The Suckee Part of Crossing Off The List

If there’s one thing I can pass along to those creating their own lists, it’s that random check-off opportunities will arise and when they do, no matter how ridiculous, scary, or ill-fit the timing…take them. This is something I am re-learning as I create my “Next List” and am watching unexpected check-off opportunities unfold.

Celebrating crossing off “East Coast Fall” by taking a selfie with the nation’s capitol.

Today I am officially unpacking from a journey that included almost four weeks, 7 cities, 6 flights, 4 states, 2 bus rides, 2 countries and ending in the overall culmination in the crossing off of 3.5 “Next List” items. (The .5 goes to the addition of 3 more states to my “visit all 50 states” goal. Pennsylvania, Washington, and if I really choose to count it–technically Delaware.) I must say, after all that I have an intense date with a stack of mail and a rather overwhelming laundry pile in my future. But that can wait–for now, I write.

This particular adventure, as exciting as it sounds on paper, was an emotionally charged and at times rather draining and challenging experience. As difficult and heart breaking as some parts were, I would not trade them for anything.

You see, not everything on my list is about good times and fun adventures. Whaaaaaaaaaaat? True story.

Due to some ex-boyfriend issues and some painful memories from the past, there are parts of the country and some specific places that I personally made off-limits and have chosen to avoid up until this point. It wasn’t until just recently that I was able to have the opportunity–and the courage–to face some of them head on. Ever dread a high school reunion, an encounter with a past love, or drive past an old childhood house and have to process both good and bad memories and feelings that go with them? Yeah, this trip was kind of like that.

When I put “East Coast Fall” and “Annapolis” on my Next List, they were items that were fully loaded with behind-the-scenes reasons as to why they made the list. I knew crossing them off would mean facing some ghosts from the past as I replaced them with new experiences in the present. Thankfully I was armed with some phenomenal support from friends and family as I did that. Fighting emotional battles like that unarmed is not a wise idea…gather your army and bring your own weapons.

Go ahead, let your freedom flag fly
Go ahead, let your freedom flag fly (Old Glory in Church Falls, VA)

I am a firm believer that we are designed and meant to live in freedom, but that does not come easily and we have to intentionally make an effort and fight for it. Some people choose not to fight, and their world becomes increasingly limited, restricted, and eventually stifling. Avoidance and procrastination can only last for so long until the very method we use to protect ourselves causes problems and hinders opportunities for good things in the future. Fighting for it comes in drumming up the courage and finding reasons to face the tough stuff. And as tough as it is, the rewards are worth it. They are so worth it.

Holy cow Batman! They get a little out of control here on the East Coast, don't they?
Holy cow Batman! They get a little out of control here on the East Coast, don’t they?

If I wasn’t willing to make myself (and sometimes those around me) uncomfortable while facing some of those less-than-pleasant memories, I wouldn’t have been able to create and add new ones to the mix. Like photographing the Washington Monument on the last night it was lit in full scaffolding, getting lost while driving at night in less-than-stellar parts of D.C., running off eleven miles of tears through autumn leaves and cobblestone bridges, wine tasting at a friend’s winery in the afternoon sun in the hills of Virginia, trying three different versions of bad clam chowder, eating world famous crab cakes overlooking the Chesapeake bay, or waiting in line to get your picture taken (and sneak a touch when the guards aren’t looking) with the Liberty Bell.

Construction on the Washington Monument after the earthquake left a unique look among the scaffolding. This was the last night the scaffolding would be lit, never to be seen like this again. (Hopefully.)
Construction on the Washington Monument after the earthquake left a unique look among the scaffolding. This was the last night the scaffolding would be lit, never to be seen like this again. (Hopefully.)

Construction on the Washington Monument after the earthquake left a unique look among the scaffolding. This was the last night the scaffolding would be lit, never to be seen like this again. (Hopefully.)

Freedom  and liberty often comes with cracks
Freedom and liberty often comes with cracks
Cheers from Hillsborough Winery
Cheers from Hillsborough Winery, VA

None of these would have been possible if I was not willing to be uncomfortable for a moment. It’s in moments like these where growth happens. It’s in choosing to take a stand and fight through the tough stuff where freedom and life and new beginnings are found. So cheers to the “tough stuff” items and those who take a chance in order to move forward. And on that note, it’s time for me to move forward on that laundry and mail pile.

This is Mojo's way of welcoming me back after being gone almost 4 weeks...by knocking off the counter and dancing in the mail pile. Thanks buddy.
Mojo’s way of welcoming me back after being gone almost 4 weeks…knocking off the counter and dancing in the mail pile. Thanks buddy.
Walking (the very rainy) streets of Philidelphia
Walking (the very rainy) streets of Philadelphia

*Ding* You are now free to move about the country.

Sliding through the airport at 6:00am on a random Tuesday morning sans coffee, I noticed far more than I probably should have at that hour. As we were going through the standard stripping of shoes, belts, coats, jewelry and metals, I couldn’t help but notice the woman behind me becoming more and more agitated and riled  up. Riled up is an understatement. Close to causing a scene would be a more appropriate way to describe the situation. Those she was talking to were not helping.

The scene of the crime
The scene of the crime

As one who was bitten by the travel bug long ago and had a good chunk of my 30×30 list heavily weighted in the travel bucket, I am no stranger to the airline industry. And as one who had a job requiring over 80% travel, over the years I’ve been stripped down, detained, missed flights, had luggage lost, and have all around been inconvenienced in all the standard ways travelers can be delayed and inconvenienced. Clearly she was upset at the inconvenience of the traveling policies in place at the airport and she was more than willing to voice them to anyone who would listen.

As I slid my trays through the x-ray, I decided I couldn’t keep quiet any longer. I calmly turned around to her and shrugged my shoulders as I said with a smile how grateful I was to be able to have the freedom to fly at a moment’s notice. Slightly louder I voiced how I loved living in a country where we have access to 50 states without visas, green cards, or months of paperwork and  how I couldn’t believe how easily I can go from one end of the country to the other simply on a whim. And with the sweetest smile I could flash, I finished my little speech by saying that if all I had to do for that freedom is take off my shoes and prove my identity with a simple state driver’s license…I was more than willing to do that.

Needless to say that shut her up.

Does the 3 oz plastic baggie liquid rule make sense to most people? Or the shoe stripping and computer check? Maybe not to the average traveler. Can we ask questions and make snide comments regarding the ridiculousness of the inconvenience? Sure. Are there reasons these rules and policies are in place? Two towers and multiple non-disclosed prevented incidences that we’ll never ever know about say otherwise.

Yes, there are a lot of problems in our country. There are a lot of other blogs that can get into that. But if you want to complain about the travel troubles of our country, I highly recommend taking a trip to any other continent and country and attempt to jump through their hoops and abide by their travel policies and then tell me how awful the United States is. I dare you.

I double dare you to do it before I’ve had my coffee.

The tack board that saved the day.

LESSONS LEARNED From Creating The List:
Tell the world and put it in writing. And pictures.

I kept my 30×30 list to myself for a while. For a long while. I’m a fairly private person, and although I can charm a room and engage almost anyone in conversation, I keep my personal life and thoughts locked away. After all, it was just a bunch of ideas created while having a bad day and playing hookie from work at a coffee shop. Honestly, I didn’t really think I’d ever be able to do all 30 items, let alone in such a short time frame. I thought it was a list just for me that no one really needed to know about, but I quickly realized that to do some of the stuff on my list I couldn’t do it alone. Who wants to go on a cruise or go skydiving by themselves? I personally believe that we are not meant to do life alone. Maybe that’s why I was so miserable, I was trying to do life alone to avoid the pain of being disappointed and judged by others.

So I crossed off some things on my list without ever telling anyone what I was really doing. After several of the “easier” items got checked off my list and I was on a roll, I began to tentatively tell more people about my list. I was surprised to learn that people were actually intrigued and interested on what I wanted to do. And the more I talked about it and the different stuff on it, the more others lit up and said, “I’ve always wanted to do that too!” I soon discovered that I was not crazy and that things I wanted to do were actually common dreams and desires for other people. Why not cross things off together? After all, it’s harder to quit when someone else is involved and counting on you.

As I became more and more excited about my 30×30 list and actually brave enough to tell people, a friend let me in on a winning secret of her own–a vision board.

What on earth is a vision board? I had to ask her more about it.

Basically, her vision board was a tack board decorated with important pictures, lists, and her hopes and visions for the future. At first I thought it was a juvenile and cheesy idea–I hadn’t had a tack board since I was an awkward teenage girl and thought I gave up the cut-and-paste décor look when I moved out of dorm life in college. But a vision board is a silly concept with a very serious purpose. Accountability and hope.

Vision Board Example

First I had to choose to actually create it. Vision boards do not create themselves. I’d already created my list. In fact, I posted my list on my fridge, e-mailed it to my family, and I even e-mailed it to myself so it would be in my inbox every time I check my e-mail. But my friend told me that there was just something magical that happens when you create a way to see your goals in picture form with tangible images, and it hits home when created with your own hands and with your own style. She was right.

I remember the night I made my vision board. I still couldn’t believe I was doing it. I bought a tack board with a thick black frame that looked like a picture frame for art, a booklet of colorful photo album paper, and some nice pens. I turned down offers to go out on a Friday night and chose instead to stay home, have a date with myself, bust out my scissors and arts and crafts supplies, and watch my favorite movie as I cut and paste my vision board into being.

As I printed up countless clipart images to represent the various items on my list, I began to organize them into categories. I dedicated a section of my board to travel with an “I heart NY” pin, a picture of the leaning tower of Pisa and a picture of the Italian flag to represent my dream of traveling overseas. In the financial section of my board I put a picture of a cap and gown and an icon of a backpack with dollars flowing out of it to represent school loans and financial provision for my master’s degree. I printed out pictures of beautiful homes to represent my dream to own a home. I raided clipart pictures of dumbbells and skis for my fitness goals, and even created a section devoted to romance. After all, what’s life without love? If I was going to put in the effort of creating a cheesy vision board, I was going to go all out!

There have been a lot of Friday nights in my life, but that is definitely one for the memory books. Something so simple as decorating a tack board and hanging it in my bedroom made my dreams seem tangible and attainable. It literally took the ideas in my head and in my heart and allowed me to see and touch them on a daily basis. I took a picture of my work of art and e-mailed it to my family and friends living out of state so they could see it. When my sister came out to visit a few months later, I asked her to write my list in calligraphy. My chicken scratch handwriting just wasn’t worthy enough for my board. By that point I had crossed off about 10 items and it was fun to literally put a check mark and date next to each one that had been accomplished so far.

My vision board was a way of bringing my dreams floating around in my head and heart into a tangible world where I could see them. To step it up a notch, I found inspirational quotes and scriptures and put them all around the frame. I committed to God my dreams and asked Him for His help. Uh oh, now I committed to God—I better do my part and make an effort! I asked Him to take away anything that needed to not be on the list and then asked Him for His help on just how to go about doing this.

Fast forward several years and I am very thankful I did. Twenty-nine down. Can’t call that silly. Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it. Cheers to tack boards, vision boards, and dreams that come in clipart!

My Question To You:

What is your vision board going to have on it?

If you were to have a date with yourself, what would that look like?

What’s stopping you from creating your own vision board?

What are you going to do about it?

Someone's Dreams

Quotable Quotes From Those Much Smarter Than I:

  • 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)
  • God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” – Ephesians 3:20
  • “God has not called us to stay the same and be stagnant, but to abound more and more.” –Psalms 115:12
  • “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. It gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” –Hebrews 11:1

 

Tick Tock. Outrun the clock…

Lesson Learned: I Am An Excuse Maker…and I Am Out Of Balance

This is where time belongs...in your hands.
This is where time belongs…in your hands.

After I made my list I quickly discovered that there were multiple items that could be grouped into categories. In honor of the movie “The Bucket List”, I called them category buckets. I had a financial bucket, a travel bucket, a fitness bucket, a romance bucket, and a “just because” bucket. But some things on my list conflicted with other things on my list. My travel bucket conflicted with my financial bucket and my quest for adventure conflicted with my need for peace and stability. Right there I had a reason to give up, I couldn’t even agree with myself on what I really wanted! But I’ve dealt with a lot scarier things than conflicting interests, so I continued the balancing act and kept attempting to squish all the excuses that kept popping up. And I was full of excuses. But one of the ones that kept rising to the surface was the issue of time.

Little known secret I discovered…I have been given the same amount of time as everyone else. My day has the same 24 hours in it as the person sitting next to me. We’ve all been given 24 hours to our day, seven days to our week, and twelve months to our year. No one has been given any more or any less time. Period. Time is the great equalizer. No matter what your age, salary, occupation, background, childhood experience, family size, or gender…we all have the same 24 hours in a day. It’s how we use it that makes all the difference.

Time is an extremely valuable commodity. Just like money, we spend it. The things, reasons, and amounts that we spend our time on vary from person to person and situation to situation. We spend our time in a similar way we spend money—we spend it on necessities, pleasures and entertainment. (And we probably waste it on unimportant things more often than we’d like to think or admit.) Some of us are very good time managers, while others are not. Just because you are good with your money does not necessarily mean you are good at handling your time, and visa versa. And very often if we have a lot of one, we tend not to have a lot of the other.
Image
I am not an expert in money management, nor time management. But they both play significant roles in the ultimate outcome of successfully achieving any type of goal. For example, I am admittedly a travel junkie and my 30×30 list was heavily skewed towards travel and adventure activities. With credit card waving wildly in hand I could’ve had half my list accomplished in 60 days if I wanted to (and trust me, I thought about it.) But I would’ve been in debt up to my eyeballs and that would not have helped me with the other items on my list in my financial and health buckets. Debt creates stress and stress creates health problems.  I may have won in one bucket but completely tanked in the other two. If I went completely out of balance in one category, I would’ve jeopardized the success of my other goals in other categories. After creating my list I saw that I my financial bucket was quite full. I had umpteen # of travel related items, a desire for more education that would probably come with a hefty price tag and student loans, and goals of having my car loan and credit cards paid off.

I remember staring at my list and thinking that I had just written an impossible list of conflicting goals. On the one hand I had some very expensive dreams, and on the other hand I wanted to be financially more responsible and debt free. This required a bit of strategy.

I needed a game plan. I needed to get a handle on my financial bucket before I went out and played and crossed off things in my adventure bucket. Initially I sat down and had to figure out the ugly truth on where I stood financially in order to know exactly how big of a hurdle I had in order to meet my goals of becoming debt free. Not very fun but extremely necessary. So I spent the first few months and years focusing on my financial goals and paying off my credit cards and developing a game plan on how to pay for a master’s degree. Then later on I couldn’t stop laughing as things fell into place to pursue some of the travel items on my list. I was able to truly enjoy them since accomplishing one item in one bucket wasn’t burying me in another.

It may not be very fun, and possibly a bit humbling, but learning to crawl before you run is far better than tripping and falling on your face because you never mastered the fundamental basics of moving forward. If I had not been financially healthy first, I would have been forced to decline the opportunities that arose to go rafting in the Grand Canyon, cruise the Mediterranean, or see a Broadway play in New York because I would not have been able to afford them…or anything else for that matter.

So my question is this–what are you spending your time on? It would be interesting for just one week to record or take special note of exactly how much time we spend on the various activities throughout our day.

Answer Me This:

What is the average time you spend getting ready in the morning?
What is the average time you spend commuting to work or school?
What is the average number of hours you spend working?
What is the average number of hours you spend watching TV?
What is the average number of hours you spend on the internet or playing video games?
What is the biggest time sucker in your day?

Ok, so what needs to change?

The feeling of invisibility. Not being seen, not being heard. Being ignored. Being forgotten.

I walked through the hallways of the nursing home my Ginnymom has been living in since January after a series of strokes left her unable to stay in her home, and I realized part of what makes visiting her so difficult is walking by all the lives and wrinkly faces far past their prime. (I realize not everyone has a Ginnymom. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what a Ginnymom is…my adorable eighty-nine year-old grandma.)

It is human nature to want to connect, to be heard, to be loved, and to be valued. What do you do when someone seemingly is unable to do that? Is unable to respond? When there is no interaction and no way to communicate, it is far too easy to become invisible and fade into the background. Nursing homes seem to be a collection of people and lives who have faded into the background of a young and bustling society that has left them behind. The thing is, their value as a human being hasn’t changed, just their physical ability.

You don’t have to be old and in a nursing home to feel invisible though.

I had the opportunity to go to California a few weeks ago and visit and reconnect with friends. I drove past my old apartment, waved to my church, and had the chance to eat at some of my favorite restaurants. But the best part of the trip was seeing my friends and getting updates on each of their lives since I had left. I was quite surprised to find each of them in their own way and situation admitting their struggles with loneliness.

Some were married, some had gotten new jobs, others had recently become new moms. Each one in a different situation and life stage, but surprisingly all going through their own version of invisibility and loneliness. Not at all what I was expecting, but real nonetheless.

I remember how miserable and alone I felt during the time I created the 30×30 list. I felt invisible. Even though it was my list, it got me to focus on something other than myself. It created vision, reasons to interact, and it gave opportunities to move forward. The list created a connection to others around me in ways I never could have imagined.

Feeling invisible, forgotten, or left behind? You’re not the only one. Take a moment to look around and it won’t be hard to find someone else facing the same thing.  We have the power and the ability to reach out and help others in ways we cannot help ourselves. So do. Find a way to be kind. Step outside your comfort zone and get beyond yourself. Go be good to someone. You’ll be surprised at who really needs it.

kindness

Ever had the feeling of being left out? I’m having it right now.


Ever had the feeling of being left out? I’m having it right now.

Who chooses to be left behind and left out on purpose? This girl. At this very moment my two best friends who I’ve both known for over two decades are in San Francisco right now…and I am not. I love girls’ trips. I just like them better when I’m actually on them. And as I’m sitting at home on the couch watching TLC’s last episode of “What Not To Wear” on a Friday night, I can’t help but think that I was supposed to be on that trip.

Little background: A few years ago when I created this 30×30 list, one of these two fabulous ladies conned me into training for a full 26.2 mile marathon…and I was dumb enough to do it. (See previous blog post on that whole crazy experience!) I had never run more than two miles in my life, so you can only imagine my reaction when given the push and challenged to run 26.2.

After hooking into Team In Training (an organization whose mission is to find a cure for Leukemia and blood cancers), I reluctantly committed to going to 6:30am workouts every Saturday morning for over four months, wearing through multiple pairs of sneakers, fundraising over $5,000, and choking down more Gu and salt packets than I’d care to admit. The friend that convinced me and supported me to take on that experience also trained for her first full marathon as well. We picked a race, trained in two different states for it (her in CO, moi in CA), and then met up in Florida to cross the finish line together. Ok, I’m super slow, so she actually crossed before me, but it was still pretty fantastic. This was an experience I will never forget, nor will ever be able to truly express to her how special it was. And the best part? The other friend flew out to support us! I thank God for friends like that.

The short one...I blame her.
The short one…I blame her.

Fast forward several years later, and the other friend who flew in and supported us on the sidelines trained this year for her own race, fundraising and having her own Team in Training experience after watching her father fight and survive his own battle with blood cancer. I am so proud of her and have seen what her and her family have been through, so you can only imagine how excited I was to join both of them in San Francisco and support her as she crossed that fabulous, hard-earned, finish line. This was a girls’ trip, a celebration of life, and a way to support amazing friends as they go after their own dreams.

But I’m not there. I’m here.

In life there are disappointments and detours that take us in a different direction than what was originally planned. In life, there are moments that require the tough choices and for us to do things that are not enjoyable at all and sometimes downright uncomfortable, but ultimately for our benefit. I fully admit this is one of them.

Due to some family needs and obligations I am having to wave from afar and cheer them on from my home in Colorado. Don’t feel sorry for me. This was a choice. A hard, difficult, and not-so-fun choice, but a choice nonetheless. You see, my parents are celebrating their 40th anniversary with a looooooong awaited trip to visit wine country in California. In order for them to be able to do that, I had to stay and hold down their business, keep an eye on the funny farm (three dogs, two cats, a horse and 5 acres of property), and be around to take care of my elderly grandmother.

Am I sad that I’m not in California too? The brat in me says “absolutely!” I should be wine tasting with my two best friends, “cheersing” their hard earned accomplishments on their own lists. Would I make the same decision again if given the opportunity? *Pausing only slightly* You bet. I am so blessed to have parents who love each other and have fought to stay together through the tough stuff, who actually want to celebrate their 40 years together, and have worked hard enough to have a life that needs to be looked after and cared for. Since we were all evacuated for 8 days due to the fires this summer during their actual anniversary (I remember the morning my dad wished my mom happy 40th on the way to a Red Cross meeting with the smoke plume looming in the air), I am honored to do my part in order for them to be able to get away. There is no way I would even dream of taking that away from them.

What it really comes down to is this–in order to be able to support my family and give back to them I had to swallow my selfishness and temporarily put my own wants and needs on the back burner and choose to support my friends from far away. The best thing about friends like that–they love me enough to not have it any other way either.

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 1: Continuing the cross-off…

It’s time to celebrate in my world. Yesterday the 30 day self-imposed blog challenge was completed, which was a big win in and of itself, but that’s not the only reason to smile and do the dance of joy. Today I crossed off an item on the next list–one that I thought would take awhile to do due to the nature and difficulty of the endeavor. No, not hiking a fourteener (I attempted that the day before and failed. Big bust. More to come on that amusing story later.) Today is about Wheeler.

Wheeler Geologic Area - Near South Fork, CO
Wheeler Geologic Area – Near South Fork, CO

Wheeler Geologic Area. This natural wonder of rugged terrain and beautiful geologic formations is hidden in the 1.86 million-acres of the Rio Grande National Forest and is only accessed through 28 miles on a difficult to expert level ATV 4×4 trail or a 14 mile hike. For the past 1 1/2 years I’ve lived in Southern Colorado just minutes from the highway turnoff to Pool Table and Hanson’s Mill–the access trails that lead to the trailhead–and I just couldn’t quite seem to ever make it happen. Wheeler Geologic Area has called my name and beckoned to me and yet at the same time eluded and evaded me, somehow remaining just out of reach. Until today.

Let me take a second to brag on God and the mysterious way He sometimes works. For the last 1 1/2 years my office at the South Fork Visitor Center flooded with tourists who I’ve pointed in various directions, telling them where to go to enjoy the best parts of the area. Ironically some of the very places I would send people with such authority and confidence I had actually never been. Wheeler in particular. I have an unofficial list of places I want to visit and experience in the area while I have the opportunity and geographic incentive to do so–a secret list. Although not everything I want to do has made the official “next list,” Wheeler was a big enough gem to officially make #25. But I don’t own an ATV or know of very many people that are physically capable or willing to hike 14 miles on a whim.

So imagine my surprise just one day after miserably failing in the attempt to hike a fourteener (#26 on the list) of getting a 7:00am phone call with an opportunity to go to Wheeler that day. The local ATV group (aptly named the Silverthreaders Outdoor Club with most members of the retiree 65+ variety) was heading out at 9:00am and one of the riders had an extra seat! Whaaaaaaaaat? After almost two years of trying to beg, borrow, bully, and bribe my way to Wheeler I had an immediate and surprise invitation to go in less than two hours. I love it when God opens doors!

Two hours later as I sat on the back of a roaring and rumbling ATV trekking the 28 miles to the coveted destination, I had to laugh. When I put Wheeler on the list I had envisioned hiking in and experiencing this wonderment with a group of good friends, celebrating our athletic journey and determination–maybe even on a camping trip with s’mores and stars and good beer. Instead I found myself sharing the adventure with a group of generous and well-seasoned outdoor lovers with more wrinkles, grey hair, and good stories than an AARP convention. Today’s reality was completely different than the vision I had in my head when putting it on the list. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

It reminded me of the lesson I learned when completing #29 on my 30×30 list…hot air ballooning. As a twenty-something putting “hot air balloon ride” on the list I had envisioned more of a romantic experience with a special someone, maybe in wine country or an exotic vacation location, and not what really happened.

For the hot air balloon experience I had always envisioned an incredibly romantic date with champagne and kisses and lots of bright colors and flames. (Can you tell I’m a hopeless romantic?) Reality was, at the time I was just months away from turning the big 3-0 and so stinkin’ close to crossing off the final items on the list, but had chosen to enter back into singlehood with no special someone to fulfill  the romantic balloon dream in my head. (That’s a whole other story.)

I had a decision to make. Was I just going to let that item slip by because in my dreams I had hoped someone would surprise me with it? Was I willing to risk not crossing off one of the very last items on the 30×30 list that I had been working on for years just because it wouldn’t be how I envisioned it when I penned the idea years ago?

I had to make a decision. I could wish and hope for someone to plan my balloon adventure and run the risk of being disappointed when it didn’t happen, or I could choose to face the current disappointment of doing it differently than how I originally imagined. Face it, there are things within our control that we have the power to manipulate and change, and there are things that are out of our realm of influence and we just have to make do with what we have been given. I realized that I had been given an incredibly fabulous set of friends who had enjoyed the 30×30 journey with me and had been extremely supportive throughout the years—why would I not want to include them in one of the last items on my list? No doubt some of them had lived their dreams vicariously through me as they encouraged me to keep ticking them off the list. Why would I want to disappoint them by giving up on the last item and not finishing what they helped me start? I had wanted the balloon ride to be a special, romantic, and a private moment when in reality I had the power to make it a memorable event to share with lots of people I cared about.

As I kept thinking about it the more I got excited. I had the power to turn a disappointment into a celebration. It was then I decided for my 30th birthday I wanted to celebrate it with all my friends in a hot air balloon. Why stop there? Why just make it about me when we could celebrate the birthdays of all my friends who were also born in the Fall? We could all have a big balloon for our birthdays! To my surprise, as the save the dates went out an overwhelming response of support flooded back in. There were people who had no intention of going up in a balloon themselves but wanted to come anyways and help celebrate with both feet firmly planted on the ground. I lovingly nicknamed our non-flyers “cooler jockeys.” One friend said she was so excited to help cross off one of the last 30×30 items and she couldn’t wait to find out what was on my next list! And so what began as a rather disappointing goal started turning into an opportunity to not only celebrate the end of an era with loved ones, but to literally look towards the sky and kick off the next set of adventures, along with the next decade! Yes, we even made t-shirts.

A fellow 30x30 balloon participant...and fall birthday baby
A fellow 30×30 balloon participant…and fall birthday baby
30x30 hot air balloon celebration
30×30 hot air balloon celebration
30x30 Celebration T-shirts
30×30 Celebration T-shirts

So today I sat on the back of an ATV for 28 miles crossing off a much desired item on my list in a not-so-desired way and couldn’t help but laugh. Had I not learned my lesson from my balloon experience? It won’t always look like the picture in my head. Again, it won’t always look like the picture in my head. I thought that I learned long ago that God will fulfill the desires of my heart…but it doesn’t mean that He’ll do it like how I pictured. Actually, more often than not He won’t. God is way too big and way too amazing to be put in a box and limited to my small imagination. Maybe one day I’ll finally learn that for good.

Waving to Wheeler
Waving to Wheeler
Fellow Wheeler participant
Fellow Wheeler participant
Cow parade on the way to Wheeler
Cow parade on the way to Wheeler
Wonderful Wheeler Participants
Wonderful Wheeler Participants28 miles on one of these

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 30: Navigating through the fog…

Thirty-one days ago I took on a self-imposed 30 day blog challenge to get moving in the right direction on finishing the unfinished project of writing a book on my 30×30 experience started years ago. It all began with a bad attitude in a California coffee shop, turned into a list of 30 things I set out to do before turning 30, and ended with 29 of the 30 items being checked off…and one very happy, very blessed girl. Fast forward two years later and I was in a fog on where to go next–both on the book and on the next chapter in my life adventures. Stuck and not knowing exactly how to move forward on the 30,000 word book monster, I was inspired by a friend who had taken on the 30 day blog challenge and thought I’d join the ranks of those who blog. Thirty-one days later, it’s time to take a brief look back over this online journey.

Let’s see–several stories were told about memories and lessons of items on the completed 30×30 list, along with a few painful flashbacks, followed with some personal victories and wins in my current situation, and finishing with some admitted challenges along the way. Throughout the last thirty-one days of this blog challenge my next list grew from ideas in my head, to eight items written on a sheet of paper, to thirty-four items publicly posted in the blog…and it’s still growing. This is a really  big win. So how does that work into the ultimate goal of falling back in love with writing and finishing the 30,000 word book monster? It’s currently off to an editor for round one editing and I have a standing appointment on the calendar in September to discuss the next steps in the editing process…and there’s currently talks in the works for the book cover. I do however still need to connect and follow up with some other bookie items and contacts that I’ve been avoiding and procrastinating on. That will come. But more than anything, I am closer to the overall goal than I was thirty-one days ago. That is a big win.

Interestingly, I headed out to walk the pooch the other morning and found myself in the most beautiful cloud of fog that engulfed the canyon that I walk almost every morning. Everything but the steps right in front of me remained hidden. The cliffs, the river, the familiar pastures  and fence lines that I know are there, and even the road ahead. I smiled as I realized that sometimes in life when the fog settles in you can lose sight of the big picture and what’s ahead. This is not always a bad thing. There are times when it’s okay to slow down and focus just on the steps in front of you and not necessarily on the distance you need to go. Sometimes you need to stop altogether and dig your heels in just not to lose any ground. This is the time to breathe deep. Eventually the fog will lift. It always does.

The foggy view

I realized I was in a fog with my book project. I had been too concerned with the big picture and all that needed to happen that I was distracted with the overall view and the end result. The “I don’t know what to do” fog forced me to slow down and focus on the smaller tasks right ahead. It’s okay to feel lost and a bit disoriented, but all will right itself when the fog lifts. And the fog will lift. Fog is always temporary. When it does eventually lift, it usually leaves things refreshed, hydrated, and glistening when the sun comes out.

I look forward to the sun coming out and shining on this project. Keep checking in to find out how it’s all coming along. This isn’t just about the 30,000 word book monster anymore. This is about the next list and the journey of progress towards shaping the next chapter. Cheers to the next list, the next chapter, and all that goes with it!

Day 29: Authenticity and the real deal

Those with a good eye may or may not have noticed the absence of a posting yesterday. This was on purpose, sort of. With two postings left to do in this 30 day blog challenge there seems to be the need to finish strong and have the last official postings be profound and full of wisdom. I had no wisdom yesterday.

Not exactly sure I have any today, but I’m willing to take a stab at it. I sat at my keyboard last night ready to post something just to be able to say I did and to “complete the challenge.” And then I stopped. There are times that this really has been a challenge. Opening up about personal experiences and private thoughts is not an easy thing for me. Posting them on the internet for anyone and everyone is even harder. I didn’t know what I was doing when I started but I knew I had to start somewhere. Then I realized that there are times in life when you have to start somewhere and boldly move forward and to do something just to get started. Sometimes that’s what’s needed to become unfrozen and to take that first step, otherwise we’ll never take it and we’ll never move forward.

And then there are other times to take a step back, take time to pause, and to carefully and with purpose process and negotiate the next steps. This can loosely be called planning and forethought. Some things need to be handled with care and with thought, moving rashly or quickly just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t seem right.

So last night I went to bed without a blog post on the official day 29. I could’ve chosen to complete this self-imposed 30 day blog challenge flawlessly with technically no hiccups in the days. Could have. Probably would’ve felt better if I had (my ego could’ve used a little pat on the back). But I would have known that it really wasn’t flawless–I would’ve known that my heart wasn’t in it and that I was just going through the motions. Honestly, I think you would’ve felt it and known it too, and that’s not fair to those reading this.

Looking back at my original 30×30 list I can tell that there are items on there that fell in that first get-it-done and just-do-it categories, and then there were the items on the list that needed a little more TLC and effort behind them. Some items took a lot of effort and planning and time. More than anything it’s about balance. Sliding too far on one end of the spectrum or another can be detrimental if not downright dangerous. The good news is that I care enough to notice and have the abilities to make corrections and tweaks where needed. And when it comes to the next list, this blog, and finishing the 30,000 word book monster…I care. They’re worth it.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I: 

Day 28: If I should die before I wake….

Not everything on my list is “fun.” A few items on the 30×30 list actually weren’t enjoyable at all. Like creating a will/living trust and paying off my credit cards and bachelor loans. Yucka yucka. Skydiving and swimming with dolphins are way more exciting, why would I put things on the list that I really didn’t want to do? Because the benefit of doing them far outweighs the yucka feelings that go with them. That’s called growth.

I remember sitting in the lawyer’s office practically in tears as I had to sign paperwork and make decisions having to do with my death. Depressing doesn’t even begin to describe it. Who really wants to think about death, let alone their own death? There I was, a twenty-something planning my own funeral arrangements and last wishes. It felt so unnatural. Why was I doing this? It wasn’t like I had a lot of assets at such a young age. Because I loved my family enough to fight through the hard stuff in order for them not to have to later on. If I didn’t choose to be the big girl now and deal with the ugly, it would hurt those I love later on. This was no one else’s responsibility but my own.  I could choose to tackle it or I could choose to procrastinate and avoid it. By putting those items on the list I forced myself to face them.

My list was a better list because of it. I was better because of it.

There were side effects to the 30×30 list and what I put on it. As the 30×30 list became a bigger and bigger part of my life, I noticed the effects went far beyond just me. When I sent my own documents to my family, it forced them to look at some of the tough stuff they’d been avoiding too. My parents, who hadn’t adjusted their will since my sister and I were toddlers, finally updated their documents too. (It was really funny to be in my mid-twenties and still being willed off to my eighty-something grandma should anything happen.) It’s not the kind of thing you think about on a daily basis. It’s not the kind of thing you want to think about at all. But just like eating veggies, it’s good for you and makes you stronger. You have to train yourself to be able to handle the tough stuff. The consequences of avoidance and not doing so are far more painful than the temporary discomfort of going through it.

These are the type of items I call the “non-sexy” items. Skydiving and dolphins–exiting, fun and sexy. Death and wills–definitely not sexy. Running a marathon and crossing the finish line–sexy. Going to 6:30am Saturday practices and choking down Gu packets, not sexy. At all.  But if there’s going to be balance and there’s going to be growth and health, there’s going to be both. There’s freedom in tackling the tough stuff. Who doesn’t want to feel freedom? Unfortunately, freedom isn’t free. We have to be willing to pay the price to get it.

More than anything, it’s my list and I am in control of it.  At the end of the day I will be better for it if I recognize and face the tough stuff head on. And when I do…it’s okay to celebrate! And who knows? Maybe there will be good side effects and it’ll help someone else out along the way.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 26: Run, walk, limp or crawl to the finish line…

Four more days until I cross the finish line of this 30 day blog challenge! I know you can’t see it, but I just did the dance of joy. It’s exciting when you get to a point of being so close to finishing a goal or something you’ve worked hard on. Pretty sure that’s how I became addicted to running and completed a full marathon and three half marathons in one year.

I lied. Truth be told I have never been addicted to running. I don’t even like it. At all. Still don’t. But that feeling and the rush of crossing the finish line is what is addicting, and in 2007 I begrudgingly caught the running bug. After being relocated in California for the third time for a job and a promotion, I had to start all over again as the new girl in a new city. I was struggling. Pretty sure my friends were tired of my complaining, as evidenced when one of them got sick of it and asked me if I had thought about joining a running club and training for a marathon. Funny girl. I had never run more than 2 miles in my entire life, so the possibility of running 26.2 miles was far beyond comprehension.

She’s a good friend and quite convincing. Before I knew it I had signed up to join a running team and was going to make the attempt to train for a full marathon through Team in Training–an organization that fundraises for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by training people to run or walk long distance events. Twenty-six point two miles…yeah, I’d call that long distance.

She thought it would be fun to challenge me to train out here in California while she trained back in Colorado, and then pick a race to run together. Not only would it be a healthy and stress-relieving activity, but it would also link me to a group of other active individuals with similar passions while being a part of a bigger picture and promoting a great cause. Sounded like a good plan. One problem, I hated running and had never run more than two miles in my entire life!  It’s not that I wasn’t athletic or pathetically out of shape, I just hated running. I admire people who do it, but I personally found it excruciatingly painful and boring. Apparently this meant nothing to my dear friend in Colorado because she signed me up to go to an information meeting at my local library that following Saturday, and sent me the address and meeting time. I got the hint.

Unsure of exactly what I was committing myself to, I took the challenge. When I told my family that I was going to run a 26.2 mile marathon and fundraise over $3,500 in five months to benefit blood cancers, they practically laughed in my face and patted me on the head. It’s not so much that they were unsupportive as much as they knew how much I hated running, let alone running 26.2 miles. But this organization and program was designed to help people just like me to do exactly that, begin a goal with no experience from ground zero. The coaches and mentors gave advice from what kind of shoes and athletic wear to buy to what to eat.  They even organized us into pace groups and gave us tailored training schedules so we would be with other people of the same skill levels. And to my surprise, there were people as slow and even slower than I was and having just as much fun. We met twice a week for training workouts that built up our endurance in slow and manageable increments, as well as gave us tools and tips for successful fundraising to meet our financial goals while at the same time hitting our fitness goals. Want to talk about commitment? Four months of 6:30am practice runs every Saturday. That’s commitment.

When I joined the running team I didn’t know anyone who had ever completed a full marathon, and now I was surrounded by people who were training to do just that! Each week after our Saturday workouts I would call my family back in Colorado and tell them how many miles I ran that morning and what it was like. They’re skepticism eventually turned into cheerleading as I entered into  the fitness level of being able to run double digits. The day that I ran ten miles I thought to myself, “It really looks like I might go through with this!” Although I don’t think anyone really believed me until I actually crossed the finish line and had the picture to prove it.

On January 7, 2007 my Colorado friend and I met in Orlando, Florida and crossed the finish line at the Disney World Marathon with our arms in the air, sweat in our eyes, and smiles on our faces. We were joined at the finish line by her husband, a friend who flew in to support us, and another of my Colorado friends who trained through Team and Training and ran the Disney  ½ marathon the day before. A first for all of us. I caught the race bug and ended up running four more races that year.

Crossing that finish line after 26.2 miles shifted something in me. Through that experience I learned several things: 1)  that it is possible to set big, hairy, audacious goals; 2) that I need the help of others to achieve them and I can’t do it all on my own;  3) that there is planning and preparation involved in order to achieve success and the desired results; 4) and that there will be obstacles to push through and many,  many temptations to quit. And most of all, that the effort is worth it. Running a 26.2 mile marathon is not normal. Less than .02% of the world’s population ever attempts to do it. But I found a group of amazing people who encouraged, motivated, and trained with me to achieve a goal I thought was unachievable. And in meeting my fundraising goal to benefit those with blood cancers I was actually able to help others in the process! Some of my dearest friendships in California came out of this experience. And several other friends have since trained and completed their first marathons as well. They looked at me and figured if I can do it—the very slow anti-runner—then anyone can do it. This one event set me on fire and gave me the momentum to cross off more than twelve items on my 30×30 list over the next two years.

Realizing it's actually going to happen--26.2 or bust baby!
Realizing it’s actually going to happen–26.2 or bust baby!

It’s okay to set goals that seem impossible. In fact, I dare you. And the best feeling is when  you reach the point where you’re almost there. Ok, the best feeling is actually crossing the finish line, but there is a magic moment and a tipping point when you realize how hard you’ve worked and that you are almost there and are going to make it. Don’t quit. And if you have, re-start. You may be just around the corner from the finish line. Crossing the finish line is worth all the sweat, tears, pain, and effort…it is.

Run towards your finish line even if you can’t see it yet. Don’t let it elude you. It’s there. Go get it.

Yep, we started in the dark.
Yep, we started in the dark. The short one, she’s the culprit–I blame her.
The beginning of the 26.2 mile journey...
The beginning of the 26.2 mile journey…
The hardest I've ever worked for a kiss!
The hardest I’ve ever worked for a kiss!

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

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 24: The creepy part of traveling…

Noticing that the next list is heavily weighted in the travel department, I just can’t get away from the fact that I am a travel junkie. I admit it. I am. Whether it’s a long passport-sized trip or a quick adventure four towns over, I thoroughly enjoy traveling. Bitten by the travel bug long ago I just can’t help myself. I’m completely addicted and have zero desire to quit.

Traveling alone.

Somehow I’ve always been connected to the travel industry. Straight out of college I worked for an internet marketing company specifically devoted to lodging and bed & breakfast websites. Working for Coors I traveled all over the country, and even more so working for an event management company several years after that. I remember when there was a four month period when I didn’t sleep in the same bed for more than 5 nights at a time. I also remember counting up on my calendar in the month of September sleeping in my own bed 7 nights that month. Yowser. Really, what do you expect from someone who had “fly somewhere and back in one day” on the list? Don’t worry, that one’s been checked off.

I was totally that girl.

Things have slowed down considerably since then, but with my connections to a certain bed & breakfast in Southern Colorado, I now get the privilege of witnessing travel habits of other people that roll through. Each couple and each guest bring their own unique spin to the property during the time they’re there. The lodging industry is in itself a whole other world. You can tell a lot about a person or a couple just by their travel habits. How long they stay, who they’re traveling with (if anyone), what type of excursions they go on, if they make their bed or leave it messy, how they store their luggage and toiletries, what type of TV channels they leave on, what type of medications they leave out on the counter, what brands of make-up or toiletries are used, if they tip, and even what’s in the trash can leaves clues to what people are like. It’s fascinating. And kind of creepy. Makes me think twice about what messages I’m sending and how I’m representing myself next time I step into a hotel room.

Even more so on how I maintain and keep my house. I used to think about this all the time when I was traveling so much. There was no way I could leave my apartment messy when I left for a work trip–I hated doing that. My apartment wasn’t a functioning household when I left, unlike most households–no spouse, kids or room mates–so I couldn’t blame anything on them. Bed would be made, dishes done, fridge and counters cleaned and trash out. Partly because I enjoyed coming home to a clean house after a long work trip and the last thing I wanted to do was walk into a pit, and partly because in the back of my mind was the thought of “What if something happened and I didn’t come home–like a plane crash, car accident, or the boogeyman got me–who would be in my house and what will they see? The last thing I want is for police, paramedics, relatives, friends or anyone else discovering what a pig I am. They don’t want that and neither do I.” These are the types of things I think about on long plane rides. Maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t travel as much anymore.

Am I a little bit crazy? Absolutely. But it works for me. I’ve come to terms with a lot of my quirks. Who knows what the future may hold, but as long as I’m able to swing it, I will always enjoy traveling and experiencing the world and the great beyond. Good thing, because over half of what’s on the next list is travel related. I really have a problem. And quite frankly, I have no desire to change.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 22: Make me happy. Your turn.

Happy happy happy. There’s all this talk about being happy. The pursuit of happiness, the happiness project, the happy movie, and on and on and on. And really, who doesn’t want to be happy? Happiness is not a bad thing. We’re wired to want it. We’re built to experience it. But it seems to be so fleeting, so temporary, and sometimes so unattainable.

I had an interesting moment yesterday observing my mom. Little background–she owns and operates a bed & breakfat and the tasks to maintain and keep the place functioning are endless. She has always been a motivated, hard-working, and creative woman who has never been afraid of rolling up her sleeves and tackling a project. These are the characteristics that have lead to the success and transformation of a run-down barn house that had 7 different colors of shag carpeting and 70’s paneling to what is now a beautiful and successful bed & breakfast. I admire her in that respect.

But what I observed yesterday was a woman who fourteen years later has not taken the time to enjoy the very dream she created. Ok, this observation was not just a one-time event that occured yesterday, but a conversation and a confrontation in the laundry room opened my eyes to something that will hang with me for a long time.

I love her with all my heart, but my mom is a “Martha Martyr.” Work for her will never be done. Never. As soon as one project or task is completed, there is no time to enjoy or take it in before the focus is shifted to the next 1,000 tasks. She not only works hard, but she thrives on creating projects and doing them in front of people…and then gets upset and miffed that they aren’t working as hard as she is. No one works as hard as she does. She will not ask for help, will not accept help, but she will be quite upset if help is not offered. This is a woman who will not even take the time to feed herself or feels guilty for stopping to drink a glass of water, which is a rare occurance. She does not sit. Needless to say, my mom is not happy.

But more importantly, she is not at peace. Happiness is a feeling, peace is a state of being and a place where your heart can rest. You can be at peace with something without necessarily being happy with it. Is that really what we’re all seeking after anyways, not happiness but true peace? There is a difference.

Peace comes when we take the time to slow down, take a breath, and listen to what God has for our lives. Both big picture and little details. He’ll be involved with both if we ask Him to. If we are constantly in motion, how on earth are we ever to hear that still small voice that has all the answers? Some of us probably don’t want anything to do with that. And if we don’t slow down, how are we ever going to catch those magic mini-moments that are so special? And then we wonder why we’re not “happy.” I know, I’ve been there. I’ve chased and pursued the things they say are supposed to make us happy. I’ve gotten a lot of them. But the ever elusive happiness factor seems to fade far quicker than it should. Those thoughts of “I’ll be happy when…” or “If I only had XYZ I’d be happy” or “When this happens, then I’ll be happy” are peace killers and joy suckers.

I remember a moment just this past May that has stuck with me in regards to this subject matter of happiness. For one weekend my mom shuts down the B&B and invites friends and family over to work on maintenance projects–think slave labor with lots of good food, sweat and smiles. It must not be all that bad because people keep coming back year after year. It was at this year’s work weekend that my 3-year-old nephew was a part of a secret project to surprise grandma “Lolly” and left his mark and little boy artwork in the newly cemented stone steps. It was precious, she was going to love it. The time came for the big reveal and the entire group was marching across the lawn with 3-year-old Calvin in the lead, chattering away and telling us to “hurry up.” I watched as my mom turned around halfway there and headed back into the house to switch one more load of laundry that just couldn’t wait ten minutes. My heart sank as she later re-emerged and said “Ok, I’m ready. Show me.” But the moment had passed. Everyone had already dispersed and was loading into their cars to go home. She had missed it.

It was that moment that I wondered just how many moments over the years she had missed because something like laundry couldn’t wait. How many moments have I missed? If I dwell on that too long that thought will haunt me. It’s not my job to change her. It’s not my job to judge or criticize her.   Yes, we need to work hard. Yes, we need drive and motivation and focus in order to get things done and accomplished. But we also need balance. We need those little moments. We need to take the time to slow down and take it all in. Because they don’t wait.  Those magical little moments–the ones that make us smile and create the mini moments of happiness–they don’t wait for anyone.

I’m personally asking that as I go throughout my day and do the things and tasks that I need to do that my eyes will be opened and to have a special awareness of those magic mini-moments. I know they’re out there. I don’t want to miss one. Not a single one.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 20: Slap a number on it and call it good…

I like this concept of 30. The 30×30 list in and of itself was challenging and rewarding, but even in applying the number to this blog challenge has been quite entertaining. I have a very different feeling about this blog challenge sitting on day 20 than I did while writing on day 3. At some point during a goal there is a shift from “I wonder if I have what it takes to do this?” or “Is this ever really going to happen?” to “We’re not there yet, but this is really going to happen!”

I’ve noticed a change in my attitude and perspective from the old 30×30 list and the next list. After seeing the blessings and the accomplishments through the experiences of the 30×30 list, the next list seems a lot less intimidating for some reason. What’s different about this list than my last one? Do I have less demanding goals on this next list? Am I not challenging myself enough or taking the easy way out? Actually, those are all the wrong questions.  

I’m a numbers girl, I like being able to set goals and track something. Numbers allow you to do that. Saying, “I want to get healthier” is a far different goal than saying, “I want to reduce my cholesterol by 30 points,” or “I want to drink 80 ounces of water every day for the next twenty days.”  Or another example, saying, “I want to be rich” is harder to define than saying, “I would like $XXX,XXX in the bank by the time I’m age XX.” Defining what rich looks like to you is far more important than just using a generic term to set a goal. (Personally, the term “rich” to me is far more than a dollar sign and includes healthy relationships, peace of mind, fulfilling accomplishments or callings and more. But enough on that.)

I noticed on my next list that I left some items general and some are quite specific. That was on purpose. For example, some travel destinations I just want to check out, fulfill a curiosity, and be able to say I’ve been there–like Lake City or Telluride. Other destinations I have a specific activity in mind that I want to do while I’m there, like photographing Niagara Falls or scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. For me, it’s not enough to just go and get the postcard, but I want to feel the mist, capture the beauty on camera, and experience the sea life of that part of the world. I did this on the 30×30 list too. I didn’t just want to see the Statue of Liberty, I wanted a picture with her. (I owe an apology to my girlfriends–we took 2 ferries and battled fog for half a day in order to check this one off the list. Thanks ladies.)

I have found that while creating this next list the questions that have helped me are more along the lines of  the following:

  • In ten years, what would I look back and regret not doing if given the opportunity to do so?
  • What specifically in my situation do I want to change?
  • What specifically do I want to experience?
  • What am I called to do?
  • How do I fulfill what I’m called to do?
  • What is scary to me?
  • What do I think will never happen?
  • What do I want to tackle right away and what is part of the long-term vision?
  • What am I going to look back and smile about?

The thing is, my list is mine. It’s not going to look like anybody else’s list. Sure, I have similar desires and dreams as a lot of other people, as human beings we’re wired that way. But the specifics are unique to me. And that’s why it’s important to be detailed on some items and to leave other items vague. Some goals I am focused on the “how” where other items need to have flexibility and room to breathe. All have faith involved. Years from now will the final list with dates and checkmarks look anything like the list today? No. But that’s half the fun.

One of the largest lessons I learned from my 30×30 list is what life looks like when we’re drifting vs what life looks like when there are goals and a plan. I don’t like drifting. I don’t mind relaxing or changing course, but I want to know there’s a destination. And what better way to put down on paper (or on a blog) what that destination looks like to you. The biggest lesson learned is that no matter what, learn to enjoy the journey…every step and detour along the way. Cheers to the goals attained, goals already in place, and the goals that are yet to be.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

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 16: Giggles and a blast from the past

Almost didn’t go. A bout with food poisoning or some type of bug that makes you worship the porcelain god tried to take me out and detain me from a night with the girls, but I muscled through the nausea and found myself walking through the restaurant doors anyway. This wasn’t just dinner with any girls, this was dinner with ladies I hadn’t seen in ten years. This was a reunion dinner with my past.

Admittedly, bug or no bug, I was hesitant to go anyways. Meeting up with a gaggle full of sorority girls ten years later to compare rings, houses, and re-hash crazy college stories didn’t quite float my boat. Not really my cup of tea. But the thought of missing out on this very rare opportunity and not seeing them for perhaps another ten years made me leave my porcelain praying position and fight for parking among the Denver Friday fun-finders.

I entered the room and was shocked to see so many lovely and familiar faces. Eighteen had officially RSVP’d through Facebook and probably fought the same type of hesitations I did when deciding on whether or not to attend. (Ok, maybe not the same hesitations since I’m sure not everyone had been living on a diet consisting of saltines and sprite the last 24 hours.) But I’m sure I’m not the only one who had mixed feelings or girl anxieties on this impromptu fete.

To my surprise, any anxious feelings melted away with each and every hug and smile as new girls entered into the mix. No matter what, it’s always awkward connecting again after a decade of distance, but the hugs were genuine and the laughter throughout the table was enough to raise eyebrows from the rest of the room. With eighteen thirty-somethings, how could we not? (Funny flashback of causing a car accident on Shields while we were taking an official group photo outside the sorority house made me just grin right now.) So it wasn’t surprising when the twenty-five year old birthday boy celebrating across the room came and sprawled across our table for a group photo. We laughed, waved, and then told Mr. Jailbate and his friends to have a good night and move along. I’m sure somewhere we’re on Facebook right now. Great.

As I migrated from one end of the table to the other in order to play catch-up with as many as I could, stories and memories kept flooding back and upping the laugh factor even more. Who remembers being twenty-one and still having flip flops and shower caddies? And although we lived together for two years in the house on Shields street, it was really difficult to remember what we were all there for academically. That was a fun game–name that major. There were a few language majors, physical therapy, several PR and journalism junkies, a music major, and a few more business majors to boot. I personally was the only one in speech communication. That I do remember! So it was fun to find out that many of the girls were now teachers, stay at home moms, nurses and therapists in the medical profession. There was also a fire-fighter and personal trainer, a PR marketer for a college, and a finance gal as well. I was the only photographer. (And no, I did not bring my camera…I was off duty and did not want to be that girl.)

The evening came to a close and it was time to take my sickee self home. I still can’t believe it’s been ten years since college. College. Just a reminder how time really does fly and stands still for no one. All the more reason to get crackin’ on that next list. I don’t know why I expected it, but there was no comparing, no “I’m doing better than you,” and no “Oh, that’s what you’re doing?” At least not on my end. There were a few missing in action who were definitely missed that I’ll have to be sure to follow up with, but it was fun to wave to those who were able to make it. I just hope it’s not another ten years until the next one.

KKG
Picture 25 girls in black cocktail dresses getting a formal photo taken on the front steps–now imagine metal crunching and a rear-ending on the street right in front of the house. (Yeah, we’re laughing too.)

Day 15: Life Before the Lottery

Life before the lottery

Most of us are not living lottery lives. Mostly this is because the majority of us have never won the lottery. And statistics show that most of us never will. But what exactly is a lottery life, and do you really need to win the lotto jackpot in order to live the life you’ve always wanted?

One of my favorite road trip games to pass the time is to ask my fellow road-trippers what they would do and how they would live if they won the lottery. The fun is in hearing the different responses and dreams and the creativity behind a mind not cluttered with financial restrictions.

You hear of lottery winners going broke and becoming destitute, spending every penny they have on lotto tickets or developing a gambling problem. So very sad. They have missed the point completely. Buying a lotto ticket, at least for me, is not so much about winning the money as it is about truly allowing myself to dream—if just for a minute—about a life without restrictions where I could truly live my dreams. Of course actual lottery winners find themselves dealing with a whole other set of problems involving taxes, scams, strains on relationships and unknown addictions. But you can actually play the “lottery life” game and get the benefits of dreaming without ever playing the lottery…it’s called visualizing.

Occasionally when playing the lottery life game I’ll run across a person with the response, “That will never happen so why even think about it?” Or, “That’s a waste of time and money.” The question is not really, “What would you do with the money?” as much as what do those dreams really look like if you were given a chance to truly live them? Some people just aren’t willing to allow themselves to ask that question.

That’s a scary thought. The lottery question makes some people uncomfortable because they don’t know the answer to that question. Our current lives can be so far buried in responsibilities, pressures, and debt that it can almost be too painful to even think about. Or the idea of actually winning the lottery (because after all, we’ve all seen the astronomical odds of hitting the jackpot) is so out of reach that we don’t even want to think about it or get our hopes up.

For a lot of us in our minds, money equals freedom, and freedom equals happiness. Therefore in the American mindset money equals happiness. So if we don’t have a lot of money than think we can’t be happy. We think if we could just get X amount in the bank account we would be liberated from our problems and be that much happier.  So if we don’t have X amount of money, what does that mean? That we will never be happy until that happens? I beg to differ.

I believe we all have passions, dreams, talents and giftings but I think very few of us have the courage to figure out what they are and how to develop them, let alone actually use them. I am not advocating playing the lotto or endorsing gambling, but I wholeheartedly encourage anyone to allow themselves the freedom to dream and think about what it is in detail they really want and then having the courage to take action towards that and go get it.

It’s very scary to admit your dreams and true desires because what if they don’t come true? Then we’re left with unfulfilled dreams, feelings of failure, and broken hearts—and who really wants that? It’s easy to think the thought, “If I never allow myself to think about it or talk about it then I won’t be disappointed.” Unfortunately that won’t work. We are wired to have hopes and dreams, life is unfulfilling and miserable when we don’t–both for us and the people around us. I believe we can live out our “lottery lives” and feel fulfilled even if we never ever win the lottery.

What do you first think when I tell you that you can live your dreams and experience the happiness of a lottery life without ever winning the lottery? Is your first gut reaction, yeah right? Or are you intrigued?  Can you actually let yourself, just for a moment, believe that there are good things out there that are beyond your wildest dreams? We so often get crushed and trampled down by the monotonous routines and commitments of our everyday lives that we forget that there is adventure and beauty just waiting for us to discover.

More than anything, my 30×30 list was an avenue that allowed me to speak out loud the desires and dreams of my heart and go after them on purpose. It breaks my heart that most people forget to dream. Maybe more people should buy lotto tickets–not to actually win, but to allow themselves to have vision and dream big. I think I’ll go get one tonight.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

I’ve done the calculation and your chances of winning the lottery are identical whether you play or not.” – Fran Lebowitz

Forget the lottery. Bet on yourself instead. – Brian Koslow

Day 14: The days that leave scars…

Today the plan was to tackle the ugly and confront my procrastination. I always have good intentions to do that but always seem to find a reason to postpone it another time. *smiling* But today was the day. For reals this time.

This last April I was sideswiped by an unexpected loss through suicide which shattered my world and broke my heart in too many ways to count. For anyone who has gone through this kind of loss, you’ll understand me when I say that I went numb. Completely and absolutely numb. This of course is a part of the body’s emotional protection–and thank goodness for it, because if we were allowed to feel the depth and the entirety of the loss all at once it would be absolutely crushing beyond repair. In time, different forms of pain come through and emerge in layers later on as the shock starts to wear off, but the initial trauma just made everything freeze and stand still in my world. This particular pain will always leave a mark and a scar, forever leaving you changed.

So what happens in April for everyone else that didn’t happen in my world? Taxes. Thankfully I was able to file for an extension and push that onto the back burner to be dealt with later. But sooner or later, “later” comes and today it came for me. Technically I have until this October to file, but I do not like having stuff like that hang over my head. I am an excellent procrastinator, but even I will only allow certain things to go so far. Things like that are a nagging to-do that tend to hang in the shadows and zap the enjoyment of any type of free time or pleasant activities. I want to be thought of as a good little law abiding tax-paying citizen. (We will not get into a political discussion on taxes, but no matter where you personally lie on the matter, I have chosen to take the perspective to be very grateful to live in this country and enjoy the freedoms that come with calling America home. Freedom isn’t free. Although not enjoyable, I will be grateful. Ok, enough on that.)

I would have tackled this task a wee bit sooner, but while I had everything laid out in my home office as I was getting it all organized, the fire evacuation happened and every bit of paper ended up in one big pile in a gym bag as I rushed to pack my car. (See day 2 blog posting for more on that experience.) So today was “tackle taxes” day. And guess what? I did! That in and of itself was a big win. Although not on the official “next list”, it still was one of the bigger to-do items on my personal daily list that required a bit of celebration.

To celebrate today’s victory over procrastination, I went to Clement’s Park in Littleton, Colorado (where I grew up) for a walk around the lake and to enjoy the fresh air. The 1.4 mile pathway around the lake just called my name and begged me to come play. I haven’t lived in Littleton since I was eighteen and I hadn’t been to visit this area in years. It was fun to see how things had changed and how strangely they seemed the same. What I did not expect was to trade one heartbreak for another.

As I was walking along the path I found myself taking a detour up toward’s familiar territory and old stomping grounds from my past, Columbine High School, and soon found myself at the edge of something I was unprepared to handle today. As my flip flops flopped closer I could already feel the tears welling up under my sunglasses. I was at the edge of the Columbine Memorial commemorating the 13 lives loved and lost during the shooting at the high school on April 20, 1999. Senior year. The memories flooded back–there was no numbness this time.

I stood by the stone memorial that seemed so peaceful and in such stark contrast to the hatred and violence that created it. Knowing this was going to sting, I just stood there, taking deep breaths as I read the quotes and commemorative comments etched in stone under each name. Touching each name, I remembered being shattered then too. Families were torn apart, the quiet community rocked, and innocence was lost that day. Over a dozen of us were crammed in a room glued to the television with a list of names being checked off in the “safe” column as we saw them on the newsfeed or heard word through the teenage grapevine. Not everyone was accounted for. Thankfully, the water feature at the entrance broke the silence, keeping a continual background ambiance that otherwise would have been eerily silent.

http://www.brentpix.com/Colorado/Columbine-Memorial/22659878_FZ2p5x/1815725820_LphtQr8#!i=1815725820&k=LphtQr8

It’s in moments like these that reflection on life and the briefness of it invade reality in the most unexpected and uninvited way. Whether we choose to recognize it or not, life is a gift…and it is short. Very very short. Some are shorter than others and some are cut short in ways that will never ever make sense this side of heaven. I have learned that it is okay to ask our Maker the tough questions and take our heartbreak and tears to Him, but He  lovingly doesn’t always answer those questions in the way we expect. He promises healing, but the pieces very rarely get put back together the way they were before or the way we think they should. And some questions will never have answers to them at all. I believe that sometimes that is part of a protection mechanism too, much like numbness. In time, some answers do come–and in time, some answers don’t need to come anymore. That’s part of the beauty of the healing process. Either way, time seems to be involved.

I think that is partly why I have clung so tightly to the concept of the 30×30 list and the importance of goals and setting plans in place. The time we have here on earth is limited and valuable and I want to be a good steward of that precious resource. Time is one of the most valuable resources we have. Even when tragedy tears through our world, there is a hope that in time there will eventually be healing. And no matter the type of wound or how big and ugly the scar, it is a reminder that we are still alive.

And as long as I am still alive, I have been given the opportunity to cross one more thing off the list…and I’m going to take it.

Image
ImageImage

Photo by David Keyzer
“Never Forgotten” – Photo by David Keyzer

http://www.brentpix.com/Colorado/Columbine-Memorial/22659878_FZ2p5x/1815725820_LphtQr8#!i=1815725820&k=LphtQr8

Day 13: When you don’t know what you’re doing, do something.


Image

Yesterday was an interesting day. I had the opportunity to meet with an editor regarding the next steps on this 30×30 book. Have I ever published a book? No. Do I have any clue what I’m doing? No. But there I was sitting across from her at the coffee shop trying to answer questions on what I was doing and where we needed to go with this. Thankfully, she knows what she’s doing even if I don’t. (Mini lesson: when you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t be afraid to bring in reinforcements that do.)

I’ve had the majority of the book written for awhile, but then like all writers I hit the slump. Actually, it was a little more than just writer’s block. I was at full on war with it. So there the file sat on the computer, all sad and lonely and unopened for over a year. My friends knew better than to ask me about it. Without realizing it, I had just come to the point where I had done my part and it was time to turn it over to someone else. That’s probably the part I was having a hard time with…letting someone else read the entire enchilada all at once knowing that it’s not anywhere close to peak condition. As a fairly private person, it’s been interesting taking on a project that requires me to be not so private. When I was working on it I shared bits and pieces here and there with close friends, but it never felt done and I didn’t think it was ready to be read in its entirety. It’s a rough draft, not meant to be perfect–but I just couldn’t bring myself to let anyone see it with all its flaws. Ewwwww. But since I didn’t know what to do with it to make it ready, I just set it down and ignored it. And ignored it. And ignored it.

Until now. I am now proud to say that I have not only opened up the file, but I am sending it on to be reviewed, chewed up, and spit back out…and that is a very good thing. Progress doesn’t have to be big in order to be positive. I’ll take the little wins! So after a year of procrastination there is finally movement on pushing this book down the pipeline, red pen and all. Yay me. So although I don’t have all the answers or what this whole book publishing thing looks like, I look forward to more meetings with more people who know what they’re doing. And when I finally see it in print, I’m throwing a party.

TABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” ― Douglas AdamsThe Salmon of Doubt

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” ― Henry David Thoreau

Day 11: “A photographer I am not”…a phrase I need to delete from my vocabulary

Ashography Event & Portrait Photography
Ashography Event & Portrait Photography

Today I was reminded of one of the items on my list and why I like it so much–photography. Some clients vacationing in Breckenridge hired me to document an afternoon out by the lake with their extended clan. I love seeing families interact and play with each other. Each shoot is so different. It’s in the capturing of genuine smiles, laughter, and even tears that I find enjoyment. (When photographing toddlers, there is almost always a good shot of waterworks. I love it.)

With the digital era and the art of photography so easily accessible to the general public (and anyone with a smart phone), I almost feel guilty even remotely calling myself a photographer. I feel like a phony at times. But I get paid for it, so apparently I’ve done something right somewhere along the way. But that didn’t “just happen.” There was effort involved. A lot of effort.

Ashography - Vail Wedding
Ashography – Vail Wedding

First and foremost, my apologies to all the “real” photographers out there for all those like myself who poach on the art. I do not have $10,000 lenses or have an official press pass at sporting events, but I am extremely grateful that technology has allowed me to be able to pursue a passion and do what I love (and make a little extra dough while snapping those smiles.)

But it wasn’t easy to bust into the industry. No one likes wannabes.  Especially “real” or professional photographers. But how do you learn unless you start somewhere? Do not despise small beginnings. Thankfully, I had a professional California wedding photographer take me under his wing and who was kind enough to show me the ropes over the course of several years. I had to hunt him down, throw in some bribery and begging, and have divine favor to get my foot in the door, but it was well worth the effort! I learned more from interning under two wedding photographers getting hands on experience than I did during the photography course through the Ansel Adams gallery in Yosemite. (Don’t get me wrong, I loved that course! I almost didn’t take it because I was intimidated by it, but that’s another story for another time.)

Family Portraits - Baby Sam
Family Portraits – Baby Sam

I admit, there are times when I see someone else’s work or fancy equipment and have an extreme case of photog insecurity or jealousy. But then I have to remind myself that I may not be at their level but I’ve worked hard, have definitely come a long way, there is a reason why clients hire me…and I love what I do. I started from scratch on this one.  I look back at some of the work from my earlier shoots and cringe, but I have to remind myself that I am a work in progress and that I do have something to offer my clients. I do–otherwise I wouldn’t have any!

Ashography Wedding - Boobie Bride
Ashography Wedding – Boobie Bride

The best part about crossing off photography from the 30×30 list is that it’s actually never really going to be fully crossed off. When I put it on the list, I didn’t even own a DSLR camera. I had to research, learn, and save up for what I thought at the time was “photographer equipment.” Turns out, I bought all the wrong stuff. Oops. Don’t worry, my photographer mentor set me straight. But the beauty of photography is there is always room to upgrade…I mean grow.

The year 2009 was when I started making efforts to cross this off my list. Fast forward five years, two internships, several equipment upgrades, multiple classes, two websites, one logo creation, one business EIN, multiple trade shows and conferences, and roughly 30 weddings later and I have Ashography Event & Portrait Photography! Honestly, I can probably put it on my list again. And again. And again.

Ashography - Fitness Studio Shoot
Ashography – Fitness Studio Shoot
Ashography - Family Portraits
Ashography – Family Portraits
Ashography - Family Portraits
Ashography – Family Portraits

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I: 

Karl Lagerfeld “What i like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.” ― Karl Lagerfeld

Ansel Adams “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” ― Ansel Adams
Abraham Lincoln “There are no bad pictures; that’s just how your face looks sometimes.” ― Abraham Lincoln
Ansel Adams “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”  ― Ansel Adams
Eudora Welty“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.” ― Eudora Welty
Leaving the City of Regret
Leaving the City of Regret

Today is officially a travel day for me, meaning not a whole lot of time to spend on the keyboard. So in lieu of a lengthy thought bubble blog today, I have decided to re-quote something that I heard while driving in the car. I’ve definitely made a few trips to this city–not my favorite destination. Enjoy, and I’ll be back tomorrow. Ciao!

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The City Of Regret

By Larry Harp

I had not really planned on taking a trip this time of year, and yet I found myself packing rather hurriedly. This trip was going to be unpleasant and I knew in advance that no real good would come of it. I’m talking about my annual “Guilt Trip.”

I got tickets to fly there on Wish I Had airlines. It was an extremely short flight. I got my baggage, which I could not check. I chose to carry it myself all the way. It was weighted down with a thousand memories of what might have been. No one greeted me as I entered the terminal to the Regret City International Airport. I say international because people from all over the world come to this dismal town.

As I checked into the Last Resort Hotel, I noticed that they would be hosting the year’s most important event, the Annual Pity Party. I wasn’t going to miss that great social occasion. Many of the towns leading citizens would be there.

First, there would be the Done family, you know, Should Have, Would Have and Could Have. Then came the I Had family. You probably know ol’ Wish and his clan. Of course, the Opportunities would be present, Missed and Lost. The biggest family would be the Yesterday’s. There are far too many of them to count, but each one would have a very sad story to share.

Then Shattered Dreams would surely make and appearance. And It’s Their Fault would regale us with stories (excuses) about how things had failed in his life, and each story would be loudly applauded by Don’t Blame Me and I Couldn’t Help It.

Well, to make a long story short, I went to this depressing party knowing that there would be no real benefit in doing so. And, as usual, I became very depressed. But as I thought about all of the stories of failures brought back from the past, it occurred to me that all of this trip and subsequent “pity party” could be canceled by ME! I started to truly realize that I did not have to be there. I didn’t have to be depressed. One thing kept going through my mind, I CAN’T CHANGE YESTERDAY, BUT I DO HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE TODAY A WONDERFUL DAY. I can be happy, joyous, fulfilled, encouraged, as well as encouraging. Knowing this, I left the City of Regret immediately and left no forwarding address. Am I sorry for mistakes I’ve made in the past? YES! But there is no physical way to undo them.

So, if you’re planning a trip back to the City of Regret, please cancel all your reservations now. Instead, take a trip to a place called, Starting Again. I liked it so much that I have now taken up permanent residence there. My neighbors, the I Forgive Myselfs and the New Starts are so very helpful. By the way, you don’t have to carry around heavy baggage, because the load is lifted from your shoulders upon arrival. God bless you in finding this great town. If you can find it — it’s in your own heart — please look me up. I live on I Can Do It Street.

Day 9: Don’t judge me by my golf game

Girlie goofy golf...my kind of game
Girlie goofy golf…my kind of game

Let’s talk about golf…and how I can’t. I was reminded of this recently when out on the range at the local golf club and found myself explaining to my golf partner why he was suddenly and unexpectedly playing best ball. (For all you non-golfers out there, best ball is when you play off of whoever’s ball is in the best location for the next shot. I kind of like to call it “free for all” golf. My favorite.)

Part of what has been so enjoyable about this 30 day blog challenge is going back through the old list and recounting the steps taken on each item. Ahhhhh, memories. I have to laugh when I come across “learn to golf” on the list because, really, at what point do you consider yourself “learned”? Golf is a lot like math or a foreign language–if you don’t use it you lose it. And since I pretty much now only go out for the annual Father’s day round with my dad, any skills I did have I have pretty much kissed goodbye. So how can I claim to have crossed “learn to golf” off of my list when obviously the only way I play is goofy golf? That’s simple. It was never about golf to begin with.

Golf, like photography, is one of those things that is a constant work in progress. The more you do it, the better you become. When I slapped that particular item on the list I was working in an industry where a lot of business is done out on the golf course. Being that I was one of the few women in a heavily dominated male industry–and I wasn’t a golfer–I was at a slight disadvantage. Golf intimidated me. I am totally ok with business meetings being held out on the green, I just don’t like not being invited to them.

On one of my business trips, some of my fabulous co-workers signed me up for a golf tournament as a joke, fully knowing that the only kind of golf I had ever played was putt-putt. A wise and kind soul took pity on me and gave me a heads up, secretly setting me up with two lessons at his country club. Friends, you cannot learn how to golf in two lessons.

I seriously thought about calling in sick, because quite honestly, I felt sick. The last thing I wanted to do was be the butt of all golf jokes with a bunch of executives. I was prepared to be mortified and dreaded the embarrassment I knew was to come. What I did learn and was not expecting at all, was that the joke was on them.

Although my two lessons did not make me a golf superstar, what they did do is impress the boys that I even made an effort to learn their game at all. Apparently they liked the fact that I even made the attempt and that I wanted to get out and play with them. And that day, in that particular tournament, I got a whole 18 rounds of golf lessons with some very intelligent and likable businessmen. Instead of making me feel like the annoying little sister tagging along on the course, they made golf fun for me and officially introduced me to the game. (And they even taught me how to cheat. Yesssssss!)

Over the next couple years I played in many many golf tournaments, learning the art of shmoozing on the course, and I now know the difference between an iron, driver, and pitching wedge. I can see why guys like the sport so much. There is nothing not to like about getting out and enjoying the outdoors for a few hours, partaking in a little smack talk, losing a bet or two, and of course, making skid marks in a golf cart.

Although my golf game will never probably look like a “real” golf game, I have to say I do like to make the attempt every now and then. The whole point of putting it on the 30×30 list was to not be intimidated by the game any more. Golf, and the fact that I knew nothing about it, intimidated me. I hate being intimidated. Especially by something as silly as a little white golf ball. Although I will never be the next Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, I can cross “learn to golf” off my list in good conscience because I am no longer intimidated to throw on my golf shoes, hit the green, or be bossed around by a little ball. Much. I do not need to have mastered the game to be the master of my list. (Although I need to make sure that those I play with know that we’re more than likely going to be playing goofy golf. I’ve even had a game of golf turn into croquet. Be forewarned.)

It's time to enjoy the journey
It’s time to enjoy the journey

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 8: Good intentions mean squat

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Ever missed a deadline or been late meeting someone? I hate being late, and yet somehow it happens more often than I would like. I’m the squeeze-in-just-in-the-nick-of-time, or more often the five minutes late girl. I have a friend who is always on time. I don’t know if I’ve ever gone out to meet her and I was the one waiting for her. Even when I’m early, she’s earlier. I can’t win. That’s kind of annoying when you’re trying to improve your timely habits. She makes me look bad. *nose crinkle*

I never intend to be late. Who really does? I don’t think my estimation of how long it takes to get somewhere is way off, I think I just have a personal problem of actually getting out the door by the time I intended to get out the door. There’s always the last minute to-do’s that I think don’t take much time but apparently take more time than I think–like filling the water bottle, grabbing  the right jacket or shoes, finding the phone…and of course, the pre-trip potty. See, about five minutes worth. Why don’t I account for this? Don’t worry, this is not a mystery I am going to try and solve today.

After creating my 30×30 list at the coffee shop while playing hookie from work that day, I walked away inspired and with a plan. I quickly realized that without any action behind it, all I had was a list of good intentions. Boo. That will get me nowhere–no one is inspired by a list of good intentions. It wasn’t until I had checked off several items on the list that friends started realizing that I really meant to do what was on the list. It wasn’t just a wish-list, this was really happening. After awhile, things clicked and people really started getting on board with it. The 30×30 list started gaining a lot of momentum.

There was roughly a two year period of time where quite a bit of the 30×30  items were checked off. The list seemed to gain momentum–the more I did the more I wanted to do, and the more others wanted to help me. I’m usually on the more the merrier program, so that was really fun! I remember coming back from our girls camping trip in Yosemite and one friend yelled out over the music to me in the back seat, “What else is on the list? So what are we doing next?!” Unfortunately, there were only two things left on the list at that point and one of them was buying a house. Don’t think she’d be much help on that one. I was kind of surprised at the disappointed look on her face. Just because my list was almost done didn’t mean the good times would end. (I think some of my friends lived vicariously through my list–it was kind of funny to watch. I really don’t mind sharing, but get your own list!)

It’s a rare thing to find people who do what they say they’re going to do. Most people have a believe-it-when-they-see-it mentality. And can you blame them? We live in a society where it’s completely normal to have empty promises flying around. We almost expect to be let down. It doesn’t take much to announce you’re going to do something. Not a whole lot of effort involved in that. Until it’s actually in process or done, words don’t mean much. But when you actually do the things you say you’re going to do, it’s amazing how refreshing and uplifting it is for everyone involved.  See it. Say it. Do it. (And then really do it.) I’m definitely a work in progress on this subject, but I want to be the kind of person who is known for doing what I say I’m going to do. I don’t want to be known for being unreliable. Or always being late. Yuck. I don’t just want to have good intentions…I want to have great actions behind them.

And on that note, I’m going to be late meeting my friend if I don’t leave right now. I know she’s waiting–gotta go!

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 7: Time to celebrate commitment. Yes, I said commitment.

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Sometimes we just need to create reasons to celebrate. Today is one of them.  I am choosing to pat myself on the back for making it through to day 7. Yay! And when we hit day 30, we’ll think of some way to celebrate that too. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.

I read a quote that struck me and thought today may be an appropriate day to share it. “Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.” (author unknown)

This is true in all kinds of matters–from bigger stuff like marriage and vows to littler things like showing up to your volunteer commitments or making good on the flippant promises to your kids. It’s easy to say, “I’ll do it” when we’re in the moment and it’s exciting to see the reactions of those right in front of us. It’s a whole other ball game when it comes time to doing the deed and getting it done. A little less fun for sure. But it’s in the showing up and the getting it done part that the real reward happens. And when it does, it is a reason to celebrate.

That is definitely one lesson learned throughout the 30×30 experience. Actually two lessons. The first was actually figuring out a way to do what I said I would do, even when it wasn’t so enjoyable (like going to 6:30am practices every Saturday when training for my marathon, or let’s face it–two years of classes and homework for that pesky master’s degree). There are definitely times that will come when you just have to suck it up and push through in order to cross off an item. Not everything or every part of an experience is “fun.” But it’s worth it. It’s true–if it were easy, everyone would do it.

The second lesson learned is how important it is to really truly celebrate when it’s time to celebrate–and recognizing when those moments are. Or creating them, if needed. When I graduated from my MBA program I almost didn’t go to my graduation. Then I decided, “No, I worked over two years on this sucker, it’s time to play!”  Admittedly, it’s a little weird planning your own party, but I got over it and decided to do it anyways. So invitations went out, family flew in, and the real celebration was everyone piling in a limo and going wine tasting that weekend. (Side lesson: it helps to make it fun for others to celebrate. I find wine usually works.) And those are the memories that I’ll take with me. Absolutely worth it.

Another side lesson is that not everything has to be a full-blown party (although life would be way more fun if it were, right?) I have found that creating little reasons to celebrate makes task-tackling a lot easier. Met a deadline? Time for a pedicure. Finally cleaned the house from top to bottom? Maybe a glass of sweet tea in the freshly dusted room. Or whatever is enjoyable to you. The everyday to-do tasks will always be there, but it is important to recognize when progress has been made and even more essential to take time to enjoy it. And the big stuff? Even more so! I hate it when I hear of people forgetting anniversaries or poo-pooing birthdays. No, no, no. If we can’t take the time to celebrate important relationships and all the hard work that goes into maintaining them, then something is just not right. It is okay to play! (And even more so if you’re married to them!) Ok, enough on that.

So today is day 7. Mini win. And I think that there might be a yummy carnitas lunch out with a friend or a glass of wine in my future. Who knows, maybe both. I’ll take it. *big smile*

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Day 6: Getting old is not for the faint of heart

Joyriding
Joyriding

No one wants to be old–there’s a multi-billion dollar industry built around avoiding it. But why all the hoopla and stigma around being or becoming old? If you are blessed to get to the point where you are considered old, congratulations–that means you were given the chance to live life. Maybe we don’t like even the hint of getting old because we don’t want to think about all the things we’ve missed out on, didn’t do, or even about the dumb things we did do. We don’t like to think about the chances missed or come to grips with the fact we may not be able to do the same things we used to. Maybe that’s why we don’t like change either. (That’s a whole other subject to blog about!) Maybe if we admit that we’re getting old we have to face our regrets…or even the possiblity of death. (And really, who wants to do that?)

Why all the talk on becoming old? Maybe because it’s on my brain after today’s events. Today my mom and I went to visit my grandmother for the quarterly “state of the Ginnymom” address from the nursing home. It’s where we meet with the home director and her main nurses to go over her current care and address any future needs or concerns. Nothing about it is fun. Nothing. Actually, not true. Today was one of the first meetings where a positive report was given on the improvement made in physical therapy and weight gain, and that was something to cheer for. Yay Ginnymom! But navigating through the sea of wheelchairs and wrinkles and weird smells is not always the most enjoyable of experiences. I don’t think anyone ever really wants to get to a point where they need a nursing home, no matter how good of a facility it is. But, if we’re blessed enough to live long enough, I’m glad there are places out there that will provide those services…this particular one has an ice cream machine. Makes visiting her twice a week a wee bit yummier.

I have been around the “old” much more than I ever anticipated. I live and work in a little mountain town that is a retirement community and an outdoor playground for active seniors …the average age is over 60, no joke. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very active and lovable community with some of the fanciest RV’s and ATV’s I’ve ever seen, but I definitely cut the average age in half if I go to happy hour at the country club. It’s kinda funny, really. The personalities and experiences that reside in this community definitely make for some entertaining conversations when hanging with the locals! For the last year I had been living with Ginnymom in her home as a type of in-home caretaker to help my mom out with her increasing need for care. (Try explaining that one to a random stranger or a first date–who wants to admit being a 30-something living at home with grandma? *laughing*) At the time I had just moved back to Colorado and had the means and the opportunity to help out in that department, so the plan was to avoid the nursing home situation for as long as possible…meaning I would be the “assisted living” for as long as the opportunity and her health allowed.  (I’ve got some funny stories of catching her washing her dishes with Comet, cleaning out year-old eggs from the fridge, and becoming really creative on throwing out garbage. Little hoarder.)

But when a series of strokes took her out this past January, we were no longer able to care for her in the way she needed.  We actually almost lost her. I will never forget the day I found her half-naked on the floor in her bedroom, shivering and unable to speak. We are very lucky to still have her. But the image of her and how sick and frail she was when we finally had to admit her to the nursing home is part of what made today’s good report that much sweeter–there is always hope and room for improvement even when you’re old. I am so grateful for facilities like the one she’s in and cannot thank the nurses and staff enough for caring for her and those like her. It’s not easy being old–and getting old is not for the faint of heart either. I believe it’s important to respect those that are already there, they’ve earned it.

And maybe that’s why I’m not all that afraid to get old. Don’t get me wrong, I do not want to be the kind of old where I’m mean, crotchety, and full of regrets. On the contrary–I want to be the kind of old where I can rock out in my rocking chair, tell tall tales to my grandkids, and cheers those around me with Ensure. Although it wasn’t easy living with an 89 year-old, I also don’t regret any of the time that I got to spend with such a wonderful kind-hearted family member. I firmly believe that we reap what we sow. Living with her was my way of sowing good seeds into her world so that one day when I’m in that stage of life someone will be kind enough to be there and do the same for me. (And if I don’t live to be that old, I want to go out with a bang!) If I’m going to have wrinkles, I want them to be smile and laugh lines. Each day truly is a gift and I do not want to waste even a single one. That’s part of what the whole 30×30 list is about–putting down on paper and then making efforts to bring to life the kinds of things that will allow me later in life to look back and be able to say, “Bring on the wrinkles…I’ve earned it.” Cheers to that!

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Robert Frost
“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” ― Robert Frost

Douglas Coupland

“When you’re young, you always feel that life hasn’t yet begun — that “life” is always scheduled to begin next week, next month, next year, after the holidays — whenever. But then suddenly you’re old and the scheduled life didn’t arrive. You find yourself asking, ‘Well then, exactly what was it I was having — that interlude — the scrambly madness — all that time I had before?”  ― Douglas CouplandLife After God

Sophia Loren

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” ― Sophia Loren
Jarod Kintz

“I’m willing to die for the woman I love. I just want to take 75 years to do it.”― Jarod KintzWho Moved My Choose?: An Amazing Way to Deal With Change by Deciding to Let Indecision Into Your Life
Marilyn Monroe

“I want to grow old without facelifts… I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I’ve made. Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die young, but then you’d never complete your life, would you? You’d never wholly know you.” ― Marilyn Monroe
Yoko Ono

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”
― Yoko Ono

Day 5: Excuse me, that wasn’t on the list…

School of fear...I mean bungee jumping
The post-jump meltdown. Having a moment.

I have been to the school of fear. Some people call it bungee jumping, but I call it the school of fear. And I got schooled. Several friends in my master’s program were able to witness my journey as I crossed several things off my list over the years that we were together, and some of them actually created 30×30 lists of their own. (Side lesson: the 30×30 list can be contagious.)

Bungee jumping was never on my list, but when a friend wanted to cross the activity off of her own list the adrenaline junkie in me just couldn’t say no. As I was standing on the bridge I wish I had. I was more terrified to bungee jump and leap off the bridge than I was to go skydiving.  I know, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. I was excited and nervous to go skydiving, but I did not have the paralyzing fear that I experienced during my bungee adventure. I was downright terrified—and this wasn’t even on my list!

Maybe in the back of my mind I thought that if something goes wrong while skydiving, life just ends with a really fantastic view. That, and I will have gone crossing something off my list, making me one happy girl. But if something goes wrong bungee jumping, the survival rate and the probability to receive injuries that can last a lifetime are much greater. These are the thoughts that went through my head. Completely rational, right? But I stared fear right in the face, screamed, and leapt off the ledge like only a crazy person would. And kept on screaming…I think there might have been a few expletives in there as well. Oops.

Jumping off a bridge is not normal.  But as I stared at the group of us that were lined up to do so, I realized there were a lot of us that weren’t normal. This just reaffirmed that although I am not normal in any sense of the word, I am not alone. I may be crazy, but I am not the only one. (I might as well have a good time and enjoy my lunacy, right?)

Actually, I did it twice. I jumped off a bridge of my own volition not just once, but two times. That’s not normal either. But I learned a lesson about myself that I may not have figured out as quickly if it weren’t for this experience. My first jump was a forward leap where I saw what I was doing and where I was heading (which was straight toward the rocks and the river below) and yet chose to make my body do something my brain didn’t want to do.

Crazies in jump school
The crazies in jump school. The pre-jump jump practice.

The second jump was a backwards leap where I had to make a conscious decision to let go of what was safe and fall backwards not knowing or being able to see where I was going, trusting the rope and harness to do its job and protect me. That was so much scarier! It took two countdowns and extra sweet talk from the bungee instructor before I could let go and just fall. This really surprised me. I didn’t think I would have such a hard time, especially after I had already jumped once. But there I stood on the bridge platform, paralyzed with fear. I couldn’t fall backwards.

"I'm sorry, you want me to do whaaaaat?"
“I’m sorry, you want me to do whaaaaat?”

Afterwards when our group of fifteen jumpers went to dinner to celebrate, I was even more surprised to discover that most people had an easier time falling backwards than jumping forward. I couldn’t help but think, “Maybe I’m not as normal as I thought. Oh great, I’m not even normal among crazies!” Then it occurred to me that even in life there’s not only a fear of moving forward into what we perceive as scary, but there’s also a very real fear of letting go and trusting that it will be okay no matter what happens.  Both are very different fears and very different kinds of trust, and both are also very, very real. It’s not that one is any better or worse than the other, but whether it’s moving forward or letting go, letting the fear paralyze us into inaction is never a good thing.

Doing nothing is still a choice. Inaction is still a choice. Even if I chose not to move or to freeze, the fact still remained that I was on the edge and I would continue to be afraid until I either jumped off or moved back over the railing to where I was before. Either way there were consequences. If I chose to jump I had to get over all the fear that entailed, but if I chose not to jump and get back onto the safe side of the bridge I would have to be okay with missing out on the experience and the adventure. I hate missing out on adventure. Ultimately I was not okay with that option and chose to move past my fear and make the leap, and I am so glad I did! Honestly, I don’t ever want to do that again, but I am very thankful that I took the opportunity when I had it and I know that I would have regretted not doing it. That’s the beauty and the power of choice—I can make the choice to do something and take the risk, and also have the power to choose not to experience that again. My personal philosophy is to try it once, and if I don’t like it, I don’t have to do it again!

Zero fun, can you tell?

So thank you bungee jumping, for making me realize that I have more trouble letting go and more fear of moving backwards than I do pushing forward. Good to know. And thank you to the crazies–I’m glad I’m not the only one. And thank you to my friend, for inviting me to be a part of her adventure. I had so many people support me as I was checking things off my list, it was really a treat to be on the other side and be able to do that for someone else. That’s the funny thing about lists, sometimes the best things aren’t even on them.

Post jump smiles
Post jump smiles

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I: 

Woody Allen

“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
― Woody Allen
Eleanor Roosevelt

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

John Lennon

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
― John Lennon
Dan Brown

“Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire.”
― Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code

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

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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

Day 2: When under fire….life of an evacuee.

The view before evacuation…

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Earlier this summer I had the unique experience of going through an emergency evacuation as the West Fork Fire ripped through beetle kill trees in the Rio Grande National Forest in Southern Colorado, heading straight towards the town of South Fork. Straight for home.

The reverse 911 call went out and in just a matter of hours South Fork became a ghost town. Not having been through anything like this before, I learned several things throughout this experience.

First and foremost I learned that I am a bizarre packer. Looking back, and not knowing exactly how much time I had to pack, I pretty much packed my car in three phases. Phase I: basic essentials. This consisted of the typical things one might first pack–like files, pictures, computer, pets, etc. Phase II: things that make you feel more prepared–like dog food and tennis shoes. Phase III: completely ridiculous things that make no sense but somehow make it into the car–like my pillow, and a bunch of new bras I had just ordered from Victoria’s Secret. I call these creature comforts. Things that make no sense whatsoever, but somehow end up in the car anyways. I can’t explain it, but it made it quite entertaining to rediscover what made it into the suitcase over the next 8 days that we were “homeless.” Each day I felt like I’d find one more thing that would make me scratch my head. Things that make you go hmmmmm.

Another thing I learned while being evacuated is that an evacuee has a lot of time to just sit, and wait, and wait…and think. Each day started with an evacuee meeting at the Red Cross shelter, getting updates on containment (or lack thereof), and learning that today was not the day you were going to get to go back home.

Honestly, that put a lot of things in perspective. Thankfully, we were able to evacuate and stay at a relative’s house in the next town just 17 miles away. Three dogs, two cats, and three adults in a charming little house with one bathroom. No one complained. At one point, we just cracked open a bottle of wine and sat on the porch of our temporary home and watched the 30,000 foot smoke plume invade the sky, completely helpless. There was absolutely nothing we could do, and the moment you realize that is very sobering.

When we left South Fork with cars loaded, I drove out of the driveway not expecting to return. At all. We were wheels up at 10:00am, and with the fire burning through beetle kill fuel at over a mile an hour, it was estimated the fire would reach town center by 2:00pm that afternoon. When we left, I said goodbye…and I said goodbye for good. Honestly, if the town was going to go, we did not want to be the only structure left. Lord, save all of it or none of it, but please don’t leave us in-between. God saved us all.

Probably the most important thing I learned is how to say goodbye. When something is completely out of your control, it’s actually quite freeing when you realize it and let it go. It’s amazing when you truly release something and let it go how it somehow finds its way back. After 8 days and 110,000 acres later, we drove back in to find not one thing harmed, not one structure burned, and not one life lost. When walking back into the house for the first time, I was shocked to discover we didn’t even smell like smoke. Now that is a God-wink.

Now that we’ve been back for a bit, the danger has waned, and we’ve been able to settle back into a “normal” routine–things aren’t really that normal. The river sounds better, the grass smells sweeter, and the bugs aren’t very “buggy.” I feel like I’ve been granted a fresh perspective and a new reason to enjoy even the littlest chores and tasks. Because just a few short weeks ago we were very close to losing it all. And for that, I am very grateful. I have no doubt this experience will come into play as I continue to create my next decade list of goals. Things shifted with this experience–and that is more than okay.

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QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.” – Eliza Tabor

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King Jr.