Category Archives: Writing

Little Nudges

IMG_5446You know how the universe sometimes conspires to send you a message?  Well, I’ve been pondering an issue for the last few days and the universe is busy throwing answers my way.

This weekend we hosted two artists who were displaying at our local art fair.  Listening to them talk about their art (both make jewelry) made me yearn to be more proactive about allotting time for my art, making cards.  I felt a little frustrated that even after focusing on card making during my 366 Somedays and again a couple of months ago, card making is still a “someday”, with the exception of the ones I make for friends and family.

Then, my second son read me a passage from The Fellowship of the Ring:

Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely House east of the Sea.  That house was, as Bilbo had long ago reported, ‘a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all’.  Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness.

My son clearly feels this describes our home, Toad Hall, but the quote made me feel a little sad.  That was how I felt the first summer I was here.  After a winter of intense work on our new house, I spent the summer luxuriating on the deck, reading and writing for hours and relishing the eclectic qualities of the house that brought me joy.  Since we didn’t yet actually live here, there weren’t the homeowner’s chores staring me in the face.  It felt like a summer-long vacation.  For the last two years we have actually lived in this house.  I still enjoy the beauty surrounding the house and the views on my daily walks never get old, but I’ve lost the feeling of relaxation and “just sitting and thinking best”.  I’ve let my priorities shift to the do, do, do.  I need (want) to sit and think.  I want to be creative with my cards.  I want to write and read.  I want to bring back those feelings of relaxation and bliss.  But how?

As I pondered this throughout the weekend, I began to feel even more sad and I knew I would need to address this situation and find an answer for myself.  Well, my pondering brought some answers.  I unpacked a bag from my last trip to Portland and discovered two books I’d bought at a garage sale while there.  Both are on the topic of women and creativity.  Then, I picked up a magazine that’s been sitting around for almost a year and I opened it to an article titled, Be Your Own Life Coach, with five steps to begin sorting out the needs, the must-dos, and the wants.  I had just been in the kitchen discussing my sadness with my husband and then, BAM, there were these books and there was this article.  I thought about this upcoming weekend when I will be out-of-town with my husband while he is working and I suddenly realized this is the perfect opportunity to do some thinking, to take stock of where I am and where I want to be.

And then yesterday morning I opened a gift bag I’d been given as a thank you for volunteering for an event.  Inside was a lovely little tea towel with the words, “Do what makes your soul happy!” emblazoned in gold.  I hung it in my bathroom where I will see it regularly.  I need to remember to make the time to let my soul be happy.

Little nudges, little reminders and I’m listening!  Yesterday I enjoyed my coffee out on the deck, I made cards, I took an evening walk, and I’m writing.  My soul is happy.

Just Try!

Here I am on the last day of my 366 Somedays and what have I learned?

I have learned not all “Somedays” are meant to be.  Once attention was finally given to some, they just didn’t fulfill the expectations.  The activity was not as fun as anticipated or the amount of work to accomplish the “Someday” was beyond what I was willing to expend.  Speaking Italian fell into this category.  I’ll still dream of living in Italy and conversing fluently with my neighbors, but the reality is I’ll never live in Italy and I’ll never speak Italian – fluently or otherwise.

I have learned goals can be achieved with steady and persistent effort.  My “Someday” to complete the physical challenge of walking or running 1200 miles in a year required me to focus on getting in miles almost daily.  There were times I would have preferred to sit out a workout due to rain, snow, heat, or just plain laziness, but I didn’t – I kept at it for twelve months and I achieved my goal.

I have learned that tackling some “Somedays” leads to the accomplishment of other “mini-Somedays”.  This month, as I’ve been working on restoring my carousel horse (no pictures yet – it isn’t done), I’ve also been painting (with the same paint) a decorative mirror which I’d planned on putting in a specific spot in our home, but which has been sitting in a garage closet for the last two years waiting to be painted and antiqued.

I have learned most “Somedays” cannot be completed within a month.  My very first “Someday” of writing a book in a month was way too ambitious!  The book still isn’t done and the reality is, that may not be the book I end up finishing.  I’ll still write and, eventually, a book will be completed, but it would be disheartening to chastise myself for not finishing in one month.  This has been the hardest lesson to accept.  So many of my “Somedays” aren’t finished and, at first, that bothered me, but all of the “Somedays” I tackled are started and that, in my opinion, is a win.

I have learned some “Somedays” resonate more than others and that is joyous.  Yoga, a “Someday” not chosen, but which I probably would not have attempted if I weren’t going through this journey, has quickly become part of my daily routine and I wonder why I didn’t open myself to it years ago.  Knitting also brings me joy and, while I don’t sit for hours and knit, when I do pick up my needles, I feel a calm wash over me.

So, with successes (1200 mile challenge), failures (speaking Italian), postponements (gardening – the space is finally ready and I’ll try planting this spring), and continuations (writing a book, restoring my carousel horse), perhaps the biggest lesson of this year has been that it’s okay to fail, to not enjoy, to set aside, but it isn’t okay to not even try.

Gold Stars & To Do Lists

In an attempt to accomplish all of my accumulating “Somedays” as well as the regular imagesday-to-day stuff that needs to be done (cleaning, bookkeeping, errands, cooking, etc.) I’ve been searching for little ways to improve my productivity and keep myself on track.  I’ve come up with two that seem to be working:  gold stars and a To-Do list.

Remember gold stars from grade school?  When you’d accomplished a task or exhibited a good behavior you got to put a gold star on the chart.  I specifically remember the reading chart.  Students names were listed down the left-hand side of a large paper and numbers were written across the top.  Each time a student finished a book and filled out a little form about the book, she got to place a gold star next to her name.  Some people didn’t read at all and had few gold stars.  I read voraciously and had stars across the page.  I loved the gold star system.  So, I made up my own little chart with a few of the daily activities I want to be doing:  writing, drumming, stretching, meditating, etc.  Every time I accomplish one of these activities, I get a gold star.  It sounds juvenile, but that’s okay.  I don’t mind acting like a kid now and then.

In addition to these daily activities, there’s also all the other stuff that must be done – bring in the To-Do list.  The list I found has two columns:  To Do Now and To Do Later.  I’m using the To Do Now list for the little things needing to be done around the house, like pay the bills, hang the mirror, finish the laundry, clean the whole frigging house (okay, some of the items aren’t “little”).  The To Do Later list has items that I want to remember to do at some point in time:  call a window cleaner, file papers, organize garage.

I’m getting gold stars on several lines, but not so many on some others.  I’m also checking off To-Do list items right and left (literally right and left, from both the “now” and “later” sides of the paper).  The problem is, I’m not really prioritizing what I’m doing.  There are some things that are not negotiable.  For instance, my daily walk/run has to happen or my four dogs become unruly, bills must be paid or my credit will suffer, grocery shopping must occur or we don’t eat.  However, other activities too easily get left to drift out of my awareness, if not off the list.

So, there you have it:  I love my gold stars, I’m crashing through my To-Do list, but I still need to prioritize!

“Someday” Report Card

Today is the last day of my first trimester of “somedays”.  I’ve finished four months and it’s time to grade my progress.

Month 1 – Write and publish a non-fiction book in 30 days.  Grade:  Incomplete

Even though I didn’t finish this project in the time allotted, I’m not going to give myself a failing grade.  I am still working on the project and it will get done, so “incomplete” seems a more fitting grade than “fail”.

Month 2 – Begin a meditation practice.  Grade:  B

I’m meditating almost daily, but most of my meditation practice is now walking meditation.  I like walking meditation, but I also think sitting meditation has its benefits.  In order to receive an “A” grade I need to work more sitting meditation into my practice.

Month 3 – Begin 1200-mile Club challenge.  Grade:  A+

The goal is to walk or run 1200 miles this calendar year.  I worked that out to 4 miles per day, 6 days per week.  As of yesterday I have walked and run 227 miles putting me 27 miles ahead of my goal pace.

Month 4 – Learn Italian.  Grade: F

I’m beginning to think there are some “somedays” which should remain a goal for some other day.  Or, perhaps, they should be set aside with the realization that it just ain’t gonna happen.  Italian may be that type of “someday” for me.  I struggled all month and I cannot even count to ten or carry on the simple get-to-know-you conversation I had set as my goal.  I’m not going to get rid of the Italian language books and tools I purchased, but I’m not going to say this will be an on-going project, like writing a book.  I may pick the books up again at some future date, but I will no longer say, “I’m going to learn Italian someday.”

My Loosey Goosey Goal

There’s a theory about setting and reaching goals that says to not only set your goal, but make it quantifiable and also chart out the path you’ll need to take to reach the goal.  As I lay in bed this morning thinking about the day ahead, I realized I have not charted a path for this month’s “someday” of learning Italian and I’m struggling to make any progress.

In November my “someday” was to write and publish a short non-fiction book.  I didn’t reach my goal, but it’s still in progress and, now that I think of it, I realize I didn’t have a charted plan for how to reach it – not even so much as “write for an hour a day”.  December my “someday” was to establish a meditation practice.  That in itself is a plan.  To establish the practice, you have to meditate – and I did (and still do).  On January 1st I began a 1200-mile walking/running challenge.  I calculated I would need to run/walk four miles per day, six days per week in order to reach 1200 miles by the end of the year.  I set up a spreadsheet to input my miles and to calculate how far ahead or behind I am (right now I’m 20 miles ahead of plan).  That’s a completely quantifiable plan.  Then I came to February and my “someday” is to “learn Italian”.  Really?  Learn Italian?  Obviously I’m not going to become fluent in a month, so what is my real goal for the month?  I didn’t set one!  I didn’t set a quantifiable goal and I didn’t set out a plan for how I would achieve my loosey goosey goal.

I had hoped I could “learn Italian” by listening to audiobooks during my many hours in the car.  That didn’t work, so I bought a book and some grammar aids, but I still didn’t set a plan of when and how I would use them (they’ve been sitting on the counter, untouched, for a week).  Now, here I am, right about halfway through the month and I realize I messed this up.  I need an actual goal and a plan.

So, here we go.  My goal for learning Italian will be to be able to count to ten and carry on a simple “get to know you” conversation.  My plan to get there will be to set a time period for studying Italian.  I’m a morning person, so I do my other practices first thing in the morning:  writing, meditating, walking/running.  Once I’m up and taking care of business during the day, it’s hard to stop.  However, just before I go to bed, I spend time browsing social media and playing Sudoku.  I can give up that routine and allocate the time to studying Italian and, research shows, sleep helps cement what you’ve learned right before bedtime.  I’m going to get my Italian book off the counter and put it on my nightstand right now.  I will now study Italian for at least a half-hour every weeknight.  And, who knows, not using an iPad before bed might help me sleep better.  Retain Italian and sleep better – this could be a double win.

New Month, New “Someday”

The calendar has flipped over to a new month which means it’s time to add a new “someday” to my journey.  This month I’m going to begin learning Italian in earnest.  I’ve piddled around with language in the past, but it’s not something that comes easily to my brain.  I’ve tried for a week or so (much like dieting), but I’ve always given up.  I love Italy.  I love the pace and the beauty of Italy.  I love traveling in Italy.  I would love to speak Italian so I can communicate better when I am there and also to keep a piece of Italy with me.

Reviewing the last three months, writing, for my blogs and in my journal, is moving along smoothly; writing my book (November’s “someday”) is lagging.  However, I have been giving the book’s content a lot of thought and my writing is usually done in my brain before I even begin to put words to screen.  I am meditating regularly (December’s “someday”) and feel the practice has taken hold as part of my daily routine.  I am walking and/or running daily and I am ahead of plan on the 1200-mile annual challenge I started last month (118.76 miles to date).  Now, it’s time to add language lessons and practice.

To begin this month’s “someday”, I’ve downloaded an Italian language program to listen to in my car.  I’m in my car a lot, so that seems the most reasonable way to get started.  I also joined an online language program I’ll use to supplement the audio program.

I’ll keep you posted.  For now, ciao!

12 Months of Somedays

As I think about my plan of tackling a “someday” every month for a year, I realize I’ve created something similar to the 12 Days of Christmas where each day something new is added and all become cumulative.  Day One:  Partridge in a Pear Tree.  Day Two:  Two Turtle Doves AND a Partridge in a Pear Tree.  For me it’s Month One:  Daily Writing Practice.  Month Two:  Daily Meditation Practice AND Daily Writing Practice.  Next month I’ll be adding in the physical challenge of a daily four mile walk/run and it goes on from there.  I see myself at the end of the year getting up in the morning and spending the first four hours writing, meditating, walking, playing the drums (I’ll need to save that until everyone else in the house is awake), practicing Italian, etc.  This could become crazy.

I have always said “Embrace the Crazy”.  Many have said my family and I lead crazy, busy lives.  But additional craziness isn’t really on my “someday” list.  Perhaps my 366 Somedays only seems a prescription for crazy.  Perhaps it is the route to sanity…wait, would that mean my life is already crazy?

Sigh.  What a year this is shaping up to be.

Voice of Fear


Month One’s goal was to write and publish a book in 30 days.  Failed to finish, but still working on the book.  It’s only a fail in terms of the timeframe.

Month Two’s goal is to develop a meditation practice.  I am meditating every morning, but don’t seem to be getting any better at keeping my mind reigned in.

Month Three’s goal (next month) is to set off on a challenge to walk or run 1200 exercise miles in 2016.  Thoughts on that?  Total fear!

I’ve been sick for two weeks and other than a short one-mile walk with the dogs a week ago, I haven’t exercised at all.  As the days pile up and I struggle to get through the basics of what has to be done each day, I’m beginning to feel a little panicky about the idea of trying to maintain an average four-mile/day, six days/week schedule starting January 1st.  I wrote about “resistance” early on and I now know to identify this type of fear as simply resistance, but I must admit to feeling discouraged about the amount of fear I’m able to generate.  I wake up in the morning with my head and chest congested, my body aching, and I think, What if I get sick after January 1st?  How would I maintain my running/walking schedule?  Two weeks of missed workouts is 48 missed miles!

Part of challenging myself to “366 Somedays” is the exploration of why we put off so many goals and desires to “someday”.  There’s the excuses of lack of time, limited resources, other commitments, but I have realized perhaps the biggest reason, excuse, rationalization, whatever you want to call it, is FEAR.  Fear of failing.  Fear of embarrassment.  Fear of “what if?”  FEAR.  I’ve also realized most of my FEAR comes from inside my head.  I’m beginning to think perhaps the most substantial growth I’ll experience this year is learning to quiet the Voice of Fear inside my head.  My goal can be summed up in a quote from Yanni:  I don’t have a You Can’t Do This voice in my head.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

This morning I woke up with Baby, It’s Cold Outside running through my head.  I got up and headed to the closet for my meditation session.  As I lit the candle and placed the chair cushion on the floor, the song was still going strong.  I turned off the overhead light, sat on the cushion, checked my posture, took a deep breath, pressed the start button on my meditation app, and then:  I really can’t stay – Baby, it’s cold outside

Unlike the racing thoroughbred thoughts I’ve had to reign in the last few days, this song wasn’t a thought running wild, it was just there in the background.  Like the music you hear while walking through a department store.  I tried to harness it, but I couldn’t even tell where it was coming from.  I managed to keep my other racing thoughts pretty well in check today as I focused on my breathing, but I could not stop the song.  I couldn’t even get it to pause.

When I started meditating earlier this week, I thought sitting still for even the five minutes I’d allotted would be horrific.  The time hasn’t been bad, but it has been harder than I expected to keep my thoughts focused and now, today, with this background music, I realize this practice goes deeper and is even harder, in surprising ways, than I had anticipated.  Last month it was writing a book – hard.  This month it’s keeping my mind still during meditation – hard.  Perhaps that’s why we put these practices off until “someday” – they’re hard.  Unlike the song running through my mind – At least I’m going to say that I tried – What’s the sense of hurting my pride – pride or no pride, I really am going to try.

Too Much Mr. Ed

People yak-it-ti-yak a streak
and waste your time of day,
but Mister Ed will never speak,
unless he has something to say.
“Mr. Ed” theme song
Written by Jay Livingston & Ray Evans

Today is the final day of my first “someday”. My goal was to write and publish a non-fiction book in 30 days. I’ve already acknowledged I didn’t make my goal, but I’m not calling it a failure. I will continue to work on my book and it will be published within 366 days of when I started. The month has not been a waste. I have learned two very important lessons this month, which is why I’m not calling this a failure.

First, as I’ve written about before, this challenge was a lot harder than I expected. That’s okay as long as I don’t let the difficulty completely derail me – and I won’t. Second, I’ve come to realize I am Mr. Ed in my writing practice. Mr. Ed was a 1960s sitcom featuring a talking horse. Crazy, I know, and not up to the standards of today’s “sophisticated” sitcoms, but I loved this show. As you can see from the theme song above, Mr. Ed only spoke when he had something to say. That’s how I write – only when I have something to say. I’m reading Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg; she recommends having a writing practice that includes regular writing of any type just for the sake of writing. She makes the analogy of a football team. Nobody would expect a team to run out on the field on game day and play a superlative game without prior practice. So, why expect to sit down and write with quality without practicing writing beforehand? I have trouble with writing for the sake of writing, but I’ve realized this month, I need to do more of that type of writing. Writing just for myself, whatever comes into my mind, just to get myself into the habit of regular writing.

So, my takeaways from this month are: stay the course, even though I’m behind schedule; and, unlike Mr. Ed, I need to write…and write…and write. I need to write more yak-it-ti-yak.