Category Archives: Tips On Goal Setting

Pointers, lessons, and tips on goal setting and going after what you really want.

AMAZON Online Party Sept 22 & 23

It’s officially happening! The “Life Before The Lottery: Living Beyond The Bucket” book is ready to go…and now it’s time to launch this thing. For those not able to attend one of the three launch events in Colorado (listed below), you have options!

Amazon likes a big boom, so we’re hosting an online launch party Sept 22nd & 23rd to see just how far up the rankings this can get. There’s a 24 hour window to do this, so we’re focusing on the 22nd & 23rd. Thank you for helping to get the word out. I’m believing that these words and these stories in this book will get into the right hands with the right hearts at exactly the right time. You can help that happen. Share, post, re-post, tweet and email away the amazon link and let’s see what happens. (http://tinyurl.com/amazonashleebratton)

Amazon Purchase Party Sept 22 & 23rd
Amazon Purchase Party Sept 22 & 23rd

(Kickstarter backers who participated in a package that included book perks can pick up their “thank you goodies” at one of the events. Or for our out-of-stater supporters, fill out the upcoming form coming to your inbox so we know where to send your goods!) This has been an amazing experience, thank you for being a part of this.

Let’s celebrate.

LAUNCH EVENTS

1) The Pre-Release Happier Happy Hour – South Fork
Friday, September 19th 4:00pm-6:00pm
Rio Grande Club in South Fork, CO

2) Official Launch Party – Denver
Friday, September 26th 5:30pm-7:30pm
The Book Bar: 4280 Tennyson Street, Denver, CO 80212

3) Book Release & Signing – Vail Valley
Friday, October 3rd 4:00-6:00pm
The Bookworm of Edwards: 295 Main St, Edwards, CO 81632

AMAZON Link to share:
http://tinyurl.com/amazonashleebratton

Thank you, I stand amazed.
Ashlee Bratton

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Are You Pursuing Something That’s Worth Pursuing?

You are a pursuer. The Declaration of Independence recognizes and declares the fact that we were endowed by our Creator for the pursuit of happiness. But what exactly is that? In pursuit of happiness, what are you pursuing?

There’s a lot of things in this world to pursue. Not everything can be caught. (Nor should it.) Every day when we wake up, we are going after something. What is your something? Is it more money? A promotion at work? A bigger house? New car? Better education? Something for the kids? A better bod? Healthier bank account? Better relationships? A new relationship? That cute girl? That amazing guy? Peace? A dream?

Are you pursuing something that's worth pursuing?

In pursuing the publication of this upcoming 30×30 book that’s now just weeks away from launching, I was asked that very question. What exactly am I pursuing and what does success look like to me in the book world? I had a really tough time answering that. It’s almost easier to tell what I’m not pursuing or not wanting than what I do. Sometimes it’s easier to identify what’s not right or not working than what is.

I do not want a ton of books sitting in a warehouse somewhere. I do not want to be the lonely author twiddling her thumbs at scheduled upcoming book signings because no one showed up or no one cared. I do not want to bug and bother friends and family and be a burden in this whole process in any way. I do not want to find a bunch of errors in the final edition after the major print run (although I’ve been told errors will surface no matter what or regardless of how many editor eyes have been through it. *sigh*) I do not want to be axed out of Amazon for a bad book. I really don’t want a chain of bad reviews. I do not want to be seen as arrogant, come off as vain, or become full of myself because of any type of success or self-promotion that’s required to do this. Yuck. I do not want the Kickstarter backers and supporters of this project to be disappointed in any way.

I do not want to fail.

Huh. That was easy to define. Even if every single one of the things mentioned above happened, I know in my heart of hearts this book was worth it. Had to be done. As with a lot of other things in life, it’s so easy to label and identify what I don’t want. But the question still lingers, what does success look like to me on this and what am I doing to pursue it? Because at the end of the day, if I don’t know what I’m pursuing, how will I know when I actually get it?

Is it a dollar amount that will be the signal of success? Is it a number of copies distributed? Is it getting on any certain best seller lists? Is it positive reviews or feedback from the readers? Is it a lead in for the next book? Is it being recognized publicly or attributed some type of “fame?” The answer to these for the moment, at least for me, is no. That is not in my pursuit of happiness.

After much thought, I decided what I really wanted out of this whole thing is change. I would like to see change in people’s lives. Change in their own pursuits. Change in their own directions, perspectives, and dreams. This of course can’t happen if the book never reaches people’s hands to begin with, so for the moment the immediate goal is to somehow get it out there and trust it will get into the right hands at the right moment, hitting the right hearts and producing the right results. I want to hear stories, letters, posts and tales of how this 30×30 project affected someone else. For me, that will be my success. (That, and not sitting on a pile of books in a warehouse. Even better, a second print run.)

...for the moment the immediate goal is to somehow get it out there and trust it will get into the right hands at the right moment, hitting the right hearts and producing the right results.

I’m also looking forward to seeing what type of change this brings to my own world. Writing this book unleashed a new list, new dreams, new desires, and a new beginning. Incredible sacrifices were made in pursuit of the 30×30 book dream. More than I ever care to admit. Something important hinges on this book and I can’t wait to find out what it is and what’s on the way. On that particular note, I really don’t know exactly what’s on the way or what I’m to pursue next…but I’m in motion and excited to go get it, whatever “it” is. So cheers to change, book launches, the pursuit of something that’s worth pursuing and all that goes with it!

Go ahead, pursue something that’s worth pursuing.

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN MYSELF

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!

 

 

 

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.

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:

30 Day Update On The 30×30 Publishing Project

30 Day Update: Life After Kickstarter

To all the backers of the 30x30 publishing project…THANK YOU!
To all the backers of the 30×30 publishing project…THANK YOU!

It’s been 30 days since I sat in the chair in my living room staring at the computer screen, pinching myself after hearing the news that the 30×30 publishing project on Kickstarter was fully funded. I could hardly breathe. I can still hardly breathe, but for different reasons.

Over 54 people joined forces in just 30 days to be a part of putting this dream in print. That’s a lot of thank you’s owed. Each one is an answer to prayer, and each one has a unique story as to why or how they got involved. For the moment, that’s for me to know and you to maybe someday find out. Right now my heart is still smiling and my head is overwhelmed with what is next. From my heart to yours, thank you.

So exactly what is next? Just to let you know, it takes roughly three weeks for all the Kickstarter funds to be processed and released–a lot of account verification and financial hoops to go through. To make sure everything’s legit, the funds are frozen and put on ice for a bit. Nothing too ridiculous, it just takes a little time, and for those of us (ahem) who are a little impatient to get started, it felt like three years.

Now that it’s official and the funding is in…it’s time to make a book.

It’s written–over 30,000 words to be exact–there are just a gazillion steps to actually getting it into a product and package that is worth putting in front of public eyes. This last week I met with the design team and we hashed out the preliminary plans including, artwork ideas, official book title, proposed timelines, estimated costs, and immediate next steps. The 30,000 word book monster is being sent to the editor next week and will be officially in que for the first round of slice-and-dice edits, and will then be sent back to me for approval of said slicing. It was fun and a bit overwhelming to talk possibilities on layout of what the pages and chapters will look like, artwork ideas, and what the book will actually look and feel like. If all goes well and according to plan (and everyone meets their proposed deadlines), it looks like this Life Before the Lottery dream will be in print this July! Part of me wants to snap my fingers and fast forward to the day when I see the dang thing in print while the other part of me is enjoying being jittery and the process of walking through the unknown. Weird, I know.

In the meantime, preliminary steps are being taken on the marketing side with things like domain name registrations for the website, launching the “official” Facebook page, and signing up for webinars and getting review lists organized. I’m learning about ISBN numbers, copyrights through the library of congress, and how to write official acknowledgments for the back of the book. All this is new to me and more than anything I pray that I can make these decisions wisely and efficiently. This book is not just about me. It never was…there’s a heavy responsibility to the 54 backers and many many others who supported this project before one ink splotch was ever made. It’s exciting, humbling, and sometimes downright terrifying. I love it!

So to all my backers, it’s really now a “hurry up and wait” process. I look forward to sharing more as we continue to reach new levels in this publishing project. Can you say summer book launch? *big grin*

P.S. The “Life Before the Lottery: 30×30 Project” Facebook page mentioned above can use all the help it can get during this building stage. Like it, share it, and even post your own two cents, pictures, or stories of your own bucket list accomplishments. If you’ve been a part of one of my 30×30 adventures, post it! I’m looking for shared pictures, adventures, and your own “I did it” stories. The more content on it the better. Currently it’s all sad and lonely, so the faster we get to 100 likes (or even 500) all the better…and the more legit we’ll look for the book launch! Thank you for being a part of this journey. Smooooooooch!

Become A Fan
Become A Fan

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: 

 

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

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?

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.

Busted Without A Blueprint

See it. Say it. Do it. Sounds like three easy concepts, but in reality doing them can be a bit trickier. But there is some truth and power behind those three phrases. If you can’t see it, or if there’s no vision, how are you ever going to be able to speak the words and do the actions in order to make it happen?

A man with a plan...I dig it.
A man with a plan…I dig it.

In order to build anything, you need a blueprint. Sitting down and creating your list (whatever you choose to call it), writing it down, and putting pen to paper is like creating a master blueprint of where you want your life to go. Drawing up a blueprint is sometimes a lengthy and detailed process, but oh-so-necessary. Blueprints are essential if you want to build anything lasting and worthwhile. (I should know–growing up in a household where my dad was a realtor and my mom was an interior designer, I’ve seen my fair share of blueprints!)

A contractor building a house needs to be able to first visualize and have a concept on what the house will look like, then create blueprints and write down the specifics regarding the dimensions and details of the house to be built. How big? How many bedrooms? What kind of style? What’s the purpose? Then the contractor has to speak and communicate to the other parties involved in order to share the vision, obtain the materials needed, and get the other workers on the same page so they’re all building the same house. If one construction worker buys materials for a Victorian home, another a log home, and another is trying to build a ranch style bungalow, there will be a mess.

Get the tools. Use them.
Get the tools. Use them.

And then finally there has to be action behind the blueprints, contracts, and purchased materials. Someone–or multiple “someones”–need to actually do the work in order for the house to be built and become a reality. If no one lifts a hammer, there will never be a home. Action cannot happen without proper communication, and communication never begins unless there’s a dream, a goal, or an objective. Without communication to keep everyone motivated and on track as they work, there will only be chaos. Without the combination of action, communication, and vision there will be no house, no finished product, no dream realized. It takes all three.

Ever driven by a neighborhood or a business that had been started but never completed? I’m always  sad when I see dilapidated or unfinished buildings. There’s always a story behind it, but somewhere along the way this process of visualizing, communicating, and doing at some point broke down. If that’s just a physical representation, how much more of our own dreams are abandoned and unfinished in our own lives?

Are there any unfinished properties in your own world or unfinished dreams in your own heart? Are there things that you started but then never completed because something didn’t align in one or more of these three areas? Your list is your blueprint.

Because you are...
Because you are…

Sometimes we don’t even want to look in the direction of our abandoned dreams because it’s too painful. But if we can take a breath and find the courage to dig deep, break ground, and begin the process of seeing the dream once again, new life and new resources and new encouragement will begin to breed. You can begin to reconstruct an abandoned dream, or begin construction on a brand new one. But we have to be the head contractor of our own dreams and begin the process. Your list is your blueprint. We have to draw the blueprints and communicate to others who need to be involved in the process.

No one else is going to build your dream for you…they can’t, they don’t know what it looks like. But you do. Figure out what it is you want and then set your mind to do three little things—see it, say it, do it!

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

When all your plans go to pot…

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

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

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

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

Ewwwwww.
Ewwwwww. No thanks.

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

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

QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I: 

Bonus Blog #3: At Some Point It’s Time to Put My Big Girl Pants On

At Some Point It’s Time to Put My Big Girl Pants On

When people ask me about what was on my list, the first things I rattle off tend to be some of my travel adventures. Swimming with dolphins, rafting the Grand Canyon, or being a jet setter and flying somewhere and back in one day just because I can. But what doesn’t usually come up in conversation are what I call my “non-sexy” items. The one’s on the list that are like vegetables–they’re good for me and I know they’ll make me stronger, but they don’t always taste good or are as much fun to talk about. So today I’m talking about finances.

On the original 30×30 list were a lot of travel items and adrenaline experiences, and honestly I could’ve decided to whip out a credit card and get almost all of them done in 3 months. That was one option. Not a good one though. Also on the list I had decided to put “be debt free.” Uh oh, now I was really in trouble. How on earth was I going to accomplish my 30×30 list (with some very expensive dreams) and also become debt free at the same time? Honestly, I couldn’t. But God could. I submitted my 30×30 list in prayer and asked for His help and wisdom in this whole process. I figured if He was the one giving me the dreams, He would be the one to give me the tools, wisdom, and resources to be able to do them…in His order and in His timing. And He did!

Boo
Boo

Setting out to pay off my credit cards and school loans was something that I wanted to accomplish but not something I was looking forward to actually doing. I sat down one morning with a spreadsheet and an internet connection and looked up what I owed on each loan and each credit card, and then used online calculators to determine various payments and payoff dates. I did not like staring those big numbers in the face. But if I didn’t know where I was currently at, how would I know how far I had to go? At the time I had a car loan, student loans from my bachelor’s degree, and about $3,500 in credit card debt. I first calculated how much extra it would be each month in order to pay off my car loan a year early. Surprisingly, it was only an extra $55 a month. Then I decided that a percentage of every extra bonus I received from work would go towards my other debt. To keep myself on track, every quarter I labeled the various debts and totaled them into “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.”  I would revisit that spreadsheet and update it with the new amounts every 3 months so I could see the progress I was making. The first time I was able to label a column “paid in full” I thought I was going to fly to the moon. There were many more columns to attack, but this kept me motivated to continue with my game plan. Some quarters were better than others, but by the time I was 27 years old I was completely debt free and had opened a 401K to boot. Not bad for a twenty-something little girl.

I remember how liberating and freeing it was to make that final payment. This lined me up to be able to accomplish some of the bigger ticket items on my list. I had a personal party and took myself to the nail salon to celebrate. I was officially debt free! Sadly, I was debt free and got to enjoy it for only 20 days. I decided to go back to school and get my master’s degree and signed the paperwork for my school loans less than three weeks after making my final payment. It wasn’t exactly how I had pictured it, but it was time to put my big girl pants on. By paying off my bachelor’s loan, my car, and all my credit cards I had lined myself up to be able to go back to school and get a master’s degree (one of the hairy scary goals on my 30×30 list.)

So was I surprised that I put “be debt free/pay off car & school loans” back on this next list? No. I don’t believe we’re meant to live in the bondage of debt. It causes stress, can hinder relationships, and can limit you from going and doing other things in your future. Admittedly I felt kind of dumb for getting in debt again and needing to put “pay off loans” on the list one more time.  If I can do it once, I could do it again. But managing money and being financially responsible is an ongoing thing and a constant work in process. Financial balance and freedom is an ongoing battle. But this debt I had now was different than the debt I had in my 20’s. I had taken it on with prayer and a plan in place, had set up healthy habits and started putting into practice things like automatic savings and tithing.

The thing about life lists is that when you get serious about doing something, set your mind and become determined about allocating your resources (time, energy, finances, prayers, etc), it’s amazing how things begin to line up and fall into place. When we give our plans to God He truly is faithful to give us the desires of our hearts and take care of us…He just usually does it in a way we would never expect. More than likely it won’t ever look like or happen how it’s pictured in your head. And that’s ok! Be determined, be flexible, and give God room to work. Do your part and He’ll do His. It’s a partnership–it takes both you and God. You can’t do His part and He won’t do your part.

A reason to smile
A reason to smile

Two weeks ago I made the final payment on my car and received the title in the mail yesterday (the big girl car that was on my 30×30 list). And yesterday I went online and made the final payment on my school loans from my master’s program (MBA–also on my original 30×30 list). Busting out the calculator I added up over $90,000+ in loans for the 3 cars and 3 degrees I bit off and had taken on over the last decade. That’s not including all the travel, rent, and daily expenses of living on my own in southern California for seven years. I may have taken on all that debt on my own, but I certainly didn’t get out on my own. Praise God–yesterday I paid it all off…again! It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t sexy. There have been a lot of bumps and derailments along the way,  but I decided to be debt free and to owe no man anything but love. *smiling* Now THAT is a good feeling. I have not only put my big girl pants on, but for the first time they actually feel like they fit.

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 21: I’m a habitual…

Happy three week anniversary. Three weeks. Twenty-one posts, twenty-one thought bubbles, twenty-one days of writing. It’s been said that it takes 21 days to develop and form a habit, for better or worse. So often we think of habits in terms of “bad habits” or even addictions. But it is the good habits we set in place that break the ties on the bad ones. What I have not highly advertised is that I also decided to invoke a few other challenges during this 30 day time frame involving habits, mostly out of sheer curiosity.

Running in the background of this 30 day blog challenge were goals of doing other things consistently for 30 days, some of which I have stuck to and others…well, not so much. I decided to track some of the little habits that in my mind I thought I had under control or in order, but found out that when actually tracking by tick marks and calendar dates discovered are not all that habitual. Little things, like taking my vitamins, flossing, drinking 60-80 ounces of water daily, and walking. The focus on walking was mostly to set aside time each day to relax and enjoy this wonderful mountain scenery I’m so blessed to live in for the moment–and to get my beefy dog Scottie out and in shape for a trail I want to tackle in a few weeks. The longest walk I’ve taken him on so far is 3 1/2 miles. We’ve got some work to do.

So how am I doing on my various challenges so far? Writing? Check. Walking. Check and check. (Although there was a two day period when I got sick with the Mexican blarney or some type of food poisoning where I was lucky to be able to walk to the park across the street and back. Blech blech.) Water consumption? Some days are better than others depending on my activities, but I’m a water junkie so I didn’t think this one would be that hard. Surprisingly, I wasn’t as consistent as I thought and found myself having to put a little more focus and effort behind raising a glass and not being parched. Vitamins? Ok, this is where I started falling apart. I forgot to pack them on my week-long adventure to Denver, so on that I can’t claim consistency on. And the flossing? I know how often I’m supposed to be doing it, and yet even when I try and make an effort towards it I’m good at avoiding that too. *sigh* Can’t win ’em all.

My point being, we all know the basics of good health and yet when it really comes down to it, how often are we really consistently practicing the good habits that we know to do? Before this little experiment I had in my head that I was better at doing these things than what I really was. Interesting. Good intentions don’t make good habits. As disappointing as it was to discover that part of myself, on a positive note, I do know that by consciously tracking these little habits I have become more aware and eventually more consistent at doing them.

Why put focus behind such little things like this? Because I believe that it is the little things that we do on a daily basis that create the building blocks for the bigger habits that affect us on a larger scale. If we are consistent and diligent on the little things, the bigger things will fall into place and be easier in the long run. Details do make a difference. Little things do matter. A lot.

For me, even something as little as making the bed in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. Something that takes as little as 90 seconds can change the entire demeanor of a room and make me feel like I did something productive to start the day. I laugh because my mom owns and runs a bed & breakfast–I think it’s in my DNA to desire a made bed with a million pillows. It’s been ingrained in me. This is not a habit I have to struggle with, but I do notice that if for some reason it doesn’t get done, something feels “off.” I read somewhere that people who make their bed in the morning tend to be more productive and successful in life. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I’ll take it!

So over the next 30 days I’m choosing to take notice of the little things, the little choices, and the little habits. I’m sure some I will develop and set into concrete as I continue to focus and put effort behind them, others I’m sure will fade into the background as I set other priorities. And that’s what it really boils down to anyways…priorities. When we take a little bit of time to notice where our priorities lie, we can adjust as necessary to start heading in the direction we really want to go. And there are two directions I want to go…positive and forward.

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QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:

Webster’s Dictionary Definition:

hab·it

1 /ˈhabɪt/ Show Spelled [hab-it] noun

1.) an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary: the habit of looking both ways before crossing the street.
2.) customary practice or use: Daily bathing is an American habit.
3.) a particular practice, custom, or usage: the habit of shaking hands.
4.) a dominant or regular disposition or tendency; prevailing character or quality: She has a habit of looking at the bright side of things.
5.) addiction, especially to narcotics

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


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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 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 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

30×30 List – More Than A Bucket

A few years ago I went through what I now call a quarter-life crisis around age 25 and decided to make a list of 30 things I wanted to do before I was 30 years old. To address this funk head on, I played hookie from work and took myself out to coffee to get my attitude in check and a fresh vision of where I wanted to go. And thus my dirty thirty list was born–the 30×30 list, if you will…and so far I have been incredibly blessed to have crossed off 29 of those 30 items! The most recent was celebrating my birthday with friends in a hot air balloon. Not bad, not bad at all.

This wasn’t just a list of lifelong goals, I’ll-do-it-someday, or “bucket list,” but something much much more than that. Bucket lists or lists of goals and dreams are certainly not a new concept, nor are lists with distinct timelines (think New Year’s resolutions), but this 30×30 list of highly defined goals jumped off the page into my every day life and became a reality in the journey of setting goals for the different “buckets” that are important in my life. There’s my education bucket, financial bucket, romance bucket, travel/adventure bucket, fitness bucket, and spiritual bucket. I had lots of buckets that needed to be filled with dreams and ideas, memories and friendships. I quickly realized that I was not the only one out there with empty buckets waiting to be filled, and soon discovered people not only wanted to help me cross off my own 30×30 list, but create and accomplish lists of their own. Game on!

Skydiving, acting in a play, rafting the Grand Canyon, swimming with dolphins, and getting my master’s degree were just a few of the items on the list. I love receiving e-mails and communication updates of 30×30 lists from those I’ve met along the way. I am a firm believer on the importance of setting goals for every season of life, regardless whether you’re 18, 28, or 58. And the list for this decade will probably not look anything like next decade’s dreams. If I can do it, anyone can do it. Really. We all have dreams–it’s whether we have the courage, perseverance, drive, gumption (and stupidity) to go after them. One of my favorite parts of this whole 30×30 experience was meeting others with dreams of their own and helping them fulfill their own buckets…and that is what having a 30×30 list is all about. So the question remains…what’s on your list? What have you done or are in the process of doing? Tell me your list and I’ll tell you mine!