Tag Archives: Time

Mid-Year Check In 1

Mid-Year Check In

Now that 2024 is just about half over, it’s a good time to take stock of my 24 in 24 goals. As you may recall, in January, I created a list of 24 goals I would like to accomplish this year. I got the idea from journalist Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft, who together host the Happier Podcast (which I highly recommend.)

Before I report on my progress, shout out to what is still holding on as my (perhaps) greatest achievement this year – getting thousands upon thousands of likes for my comments on the Frannie’s Fight Instagram account.

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For those of you who need a reminder, Frannie was an extremely obese golden retriever who lived her life on a concrete slab until Rover’s Retreat in California rescued her. Thanks to the love, hard work, and diligent medical care from her foster mom (now adopted mom), Frannie has lost a total of 46.6 pounds. She has about 13.5 pounds to go to reach her goal weight.

I find myself more invested in Frannie’s story than anything else in pop culture at the moment. It’s filled the Ted-Lasso-Sized hole in my heart. Even on days when I take a social media fast, I allow myself five seconds to open my Instagram app to see if there are any new Frannie posts. This essentially means that instead of social media fasting, it’s a no-social-media-scrolling type of diet. Which I’m okay with. Frannie is worth it!

Without further ado, here is my 24 in 24 progress report:

  1. Order a passport to replace my stolen one.
    1. Some progress: A replacement passport requires a certified birth certificate, which can be ordered online. However, the website requires the shipping address and billing address to be the same, so it wasn’t until two weeks ago that I felt confident enough that we were staying in Colorado to update my billing address to our PO Box in Boulder. The birth certificate has been ordered, and I’m waiting for delivery. Once I have that, I’ll take the next steps for a passport replacement.
  2. Move for at least 24 minutes a day.
    1. Gold star! I’ve only missed five days of intentional movement this year. Although some friends have argued that I should count the days I walk for transportation in this category, I don’t because that movement is a means to an end and not for the specific purpose of keeping my body fit and mobile.
  3. Meditate for at least 24 minutes a day.
    1. Gold star! I have only missed six days of meditation this year. These are not the same days as when I also missed my daily movement goal. Meditation and movement are two of the most important things for keeping me healthy and happy, so if I ever miss one day for one of them, I always make sure the other gets fit in.
  4. 2-4 minutes of breathwork, 2-4 times per week.
    1. Gold star! I missed one full week of breathwork in June, and the week of April 14th, I only did one breathwork session. However, for five weeks so far this year, I surpassed my goal of 2-4 sessions; for three weeks I did breathwork every day!
  5. 24-hour social media breaks every week.
    1. Silver star! As I mentioned above, because of Frannie, I’m not taking a full social media break at all. But I do limit my social media one day a week to just the Instagram peeks for Frannie content. On those days, I don’t partake of any other social media website or app.
  6. 24-hour game breaks every week.
    1. Platinum star! In addition to my weekly game breaks (Daily Wordle excluded), it has been 61 days since I’ve wasted any time playing Royal Match. I found myself consumed by the game this winter and early spring, and I decided to take a mental health break from it in May. Because I’ve been keeping track of days off the game, I didn’t want to break the chain and start up again. Unless something catastrophically stressful happens in my life, I hope I won’t need to open this game app ever again in my life.
  7. 2-4 months of news fasting.
    1. Gold star! So far, I’ve fasted in January and May. I plan to do another fast in August as a birthday gift to myself, and I’m contemplating July, as well. One of the downsides of a news fast is that I miss reading the NY Times Well newsletter where I learn cool psychology stuff, so perhaps what I’ll do is fast from political, climate, and war news and only read the NY Times Well Newsletter every week in July. For what it’s worth, I extended my January news fast into February. When I finally watched the news the second week of February to be social with some friends, 90% of the news stories were the same ones that were reported in December.
  8. Review 24 dog books for a new Instagram account.
    1. Minimal progress: I *FINALLY* got a library card here in Colorado! So now I’ll have a cost-effective way to obtain the books that I want to review. Not that I’m opposed to buying books. In fact, even though I’m a minimalist, I often buy children’s books because I have so many friends who are authors. Once I’m done reading them, I send them off via media mail to my friend, who just happens to be a school librarian. However, not having had a job for 13 months has reinforced the need to be cost-effective in as many aspects of my life as possible. So, library books it is for the time being.
  9. Create 24 dog posts for a new Instagram account (same new account mentioned in #8).
    1. Minimal progress: I’ve created 2 posts. Because this goal is tied to #8 and my lack of a library card impeded #8, I didn’t prioritize this goal. Now that things are moving along for #8, this goal should be more of a priority for these next six months.
  10. Eat 24 baby spinach leaves 2-4 times per week.
    1. Hit or miss! Having been plagued with gut issues since childhood, whenever I have an IBS flare-up, the first thing I do is cut way down on insoluble fiber. So even though I want to eat spinach or drink a green smoothie because I consider leafy greens to be the most energizing food, sometimes my body can’t handle it. Also, I didn’t start keeping track of this goal until the middle of February because I was moving around so much, and I didn’t have the luxury of being able to transport fresh produce from house to house. So gut flare-ups aside, of the 18 weeks this year I felt comfortable enough to eat leafy greens, I met this goal 13 of those weeks. I’m pretty pleased with my progress and here’s hoping the second half of the year is more gut-friendly.
  11. Revise 2-4 manuscripts I’ve already written.
    1. Silver star! I’m delighted to report that my revision of a middle-grade novel I wrote last year is completed, and I’m now working on a revision of a 97,000-word adult romcomantasy (ie, a romcom-fantasy for those of you not familiar with this word). Working on the romcomantasy is taking so much longer than I anticipated, although I can’t be too surprised because I knew that the manuscript needed a lot of revision. I only have six chapters left on this go around, but there are some new developmental issues I need to flesh out, so I’m going to have to take at least two more passes at it before it will be ready to share with beta readers. As you can imagine, 97,000 words is A LOT, and compared with the 37,000 words of my middle-grade novel, I find it impossible to remember all the little details, so I’m constantly highlighting points I need to double-check in later chapters that were first mentioned in earlier chapters. I drag my feet a lot on this manuscript simply because it is so daunting. Nevertheless, I’m going to get it done.
  12. Watch 24 sunrises outside.
    1. Platinum star! I have already watched 51 sunrises outside! However, I’m taking a hiatus from making any further progress on this goal because now that it’s summer, the sun rises so early.
  13. Do yoga 2-4 times per month.
    1. Gold star! After a slow start of squeezing in two yoga sessions at the end of January and February, I found a renewed sense of yoga vigor when my friend shared with me this 12-sequence series to help prevent bone loss. I now average yoga 2-4 times per week instead of monthly. YAY!
  14. Visit 2-4 friends out of state.
    1. I visited friends in Norfolk in February, and I’ll be back again in July. So consider this one accomplished!
  15. Go rucking 2-4 times per week.
    1. Hit or miss! I got off to a great start with rucking 2-4 times per week in January and February. Then I inflamed the insertional Achilles tendonitis in my left heel, and I still haven’t fully recovered. So, while I’m currently lifting lighter weights during workout sessions, the stress from climbing mountains with a weighted backpack was too much on my heel, and this goal is currently on hiatus for the foreseeable future.
  16. Meet 24 new dogs.
    1. Platinum star! Is anyone surprised I’ve already met 57 new dogs this year?
  17. Write and post 24 new blog posts.
    1. Bronze star! This goal was based on writing a new blog post every two weeks. Sometimes, I meet that deadline, and sometimes, it stretches to three or four weeks between posts. So we’ll see if I can course correct for the second half of the year.
  18. Listen to 2-4 Great Courses.
    1. No progress: I’ve been embracing podcasts this year, which I never have before, and so I’m reluctant to give up listening time for a Great Course. But there’s at least one course I would like to take, so this is another goal where we’ll see if I’m course correct, knowing I haven’t made any progress.
  19. Attend 24 cold-water plunges (assuming we stay in CO).
    1. Platinum star! So far, I’ve attended 16 cold-water plunges with a Meetup Group. The best part was that they asked me if I wanted to be a leader. I said YES!, and I’ve now led four meditations and one full group experience. Years ago, I listed all my life goals, hopes, and dreams, and meditation instructor made my list. How amazing for this dream to come true without any additional effort than showing up (and practicing meditation almost every day).
  20. Buy 2-4 outfits I genuinely like and that feel comfortable.
    1. No progress: But I’m optimistic that I’ll soon be making significant progress on this goal. It will help to have a steady paycheck again.
  21. Hike 2-4 times at Rocky Mountain National Park (assuming we stay in CO.)
    1. Some progress: I hiked at RMNP in January, and Heath and I visited in March, although we didn’t hike. I’m optimistic that I’ll make this goal in another 6 months.
  22. Sell my book, D Is for Doggo, at 2-4 events.
    1. No progress, and unlikely to happen in 2024. Despite my best intentions, I really didn’t think it would take me over 13 months to get a new job. This goal requires a steep financial investment upfront for me to purchase my book in bulk to sell at events, and I’m not in a position to do that right now. So unless something truly unexpected happens (and you never know because I once went from single to married in the course of three weeks), I’m not optimistic that this goal will be met (and I’m okay with that). There’s always 2025!
  23. Give 2-4 psychology presentations.
    1. Some progress: I’m delighted to report that I’m scheduled for two psychology presentations this year. Both will be in November. One is for Eco-Cycle, and I’ll be presenting on The Psychology of Stuff: Why We Have So Much and What We Can Do About It just in time for Black Friday, and the other is Today Is Not The Day: Procrastination Hacks for Writers for YA (Young Adult Writers) Connect of the Rocky Mountain Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrations. The latter presentation is like a procrastination presentation I gave on spring cleaning at some CT libraries in the spring of 2023, so I’m excited to revamp the presentation for my writer friends.
  24. Color 2-4 times per week.
    1. Bronze star! I like coloring as a wind-down/relaxation technique, and I was on quite the coloring roll for most of this year. But since I’ve been at three different housesits in June, I’ve fallen out of the habit. I started keeping track in February, and of the 22 weeks that have since elapsed, I met my target 13 times. Not bad, but there’s room for improvement.

All in all, it feels good to see how much progress I’ve made towards goals I deemed important for my life. Here’s hoping the next six months bring even more success! And many more dogs.

Mid-Year Check In 3

Help! I’ve Been Lassoed.

There’s a new man in my life and his name is Ted Lasso.

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I’m pretty sure Heath approves because he’s the one who introduced us.

I had heard of Ted Lasso before. Headlines, especially during awards seasons, gave me some indication he might be worth getting to know. But I have enough going in my life, thank you very much.

Then on Monday, May 2, Heath put on Episode 1, Season 1 for me. He left for Planet Fitness. By the time he returned, I was done with episode 3. By Friday we were on Episode 7, Season 2.  That’s approximately 500 minutes of television watching in four days. I say approximately because episodes are between 29 and 45 minutes.

Did I know at the start of last week I would be losing over 8 hours to Ted Lasso in 4 days?

No, I did not.

Do I regret what happened?

No.

But, also yes.

I’ll start with no.

This show is outstanding storytelling. From the first episode, a viewer understands the stakes – underdog coach set up for failure. Because Ted Lasso is so dang lovable, you can’t help but root for him.

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He’s also surrounded by a cast of characters that you either love or love to hate! They’re hilarious, infuriating, pathetic, and diabolical. Yet, they’re also complete characters with their own back stories that fully integrate into the world of Ted Lasso in compelling and nuanced ways.

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After we finish season 2 and I have no choice but to wait for season 3, I want to go back and watch some of the first episodes with a writer’s eye and mind to see if I can pinpoint the who/what/when/where/how/why this show hooks viewers from the get go and wins awards. In 2021, Ted Lasso was nominated for 20 Emmys and won 7.

Here’s the problem though: 8 hours of television over 4 days is too much for me. I am a person who values rest. I like long stretches of time where I simply exist, looking out a window or lounging on a couch with only my thoughts for company. I enjoy reading books and journaling. I have writing that needs revision and unpacking that needs to be done now that I’m back at my regular housesitting house.

None of that happened last week. By Saturday, I felt so off and unfocused that I had no choice but to stop everything and go back to bed for a few hours in the afternoon to simply rest. I should know better by now.

Hats off to you, Ted Lasso. You managed to crack my carefully cultivated sense of mindfulness and well-being. It’s always a good day when I realize I’m not quite there yet.

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P.S. – Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

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Patriotic Pups for the Fourth of July 9

Patriotic Pups for the Fourth of July

It’s the 4th of July! You know what that means?

The year is more than half over.

Ha! Bet you didn’t see that coming. Yes, it’s true. We are officially more than halfway through 2021.

Since my brain can’t seem to wrap around how fast time is moving, I decided to distract myself by creating some patriotic pups.

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This is Indie! She’s a young Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Heath and I both had the opportunity to babysit for her recently. But since Heath is 100% smitten with her, I magnanimously offered to step out of the way so the two of them could be together.

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Say hello to Zelda! She’s an old-timey Bedlington terrier. I recently got to take care of her and her baby sister, Sadie. This is the second time I had the privilege of taking care of Zelda. The first time was over four years ago, well before she had a baby sister. I remember enjoying the experience, as Zelda is as sweet as 4th of July apple pie.

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Sadie, however, made this time quite different as she is a HUMONGOUS goofball. She reminded me so much of my beloved Smudge, I simultaneously wanted to laugh and cry. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him.

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Next, we have Fergus. Wednesday at work I heard some jingling outside my office door. In flew Fergus! His human mom had brought him to the library and one of my colleagues/friends brought him up the stairs to visit me. Wednesday was the last day of the extremely hot temperatures we were having (think close to 100 with the heat index). Since the library is nice and cool with our abundant AC (not common in the NW corner of CT), Fergus’ mom wanted to get some work done in a cool and relaxing environment. I asked if I could take Fergus upstairs with me. For the rest of the afternoon, Fergus sat on my desk intermittently napping and watching the world go by on Rt. 44.

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Annie is clearly a 4-star dog! Even when she’s muddy. I think that adds to her charm. I recently had the opportunity to babysit Annie overnight. Is anyone surprised to learn she’s a bed hog?

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Last but not least, we have Yankee Doodle Dodger.

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If you’re thinking that Dodger looks different, well…There was an incident at the groomers where “summer cut” meant one thing to us and something else to the person grooming him. I can’t believe how small a dog Dodger actually is. I’d been calling him “Pork Chop Dodger” all winter and it became clear I needed to apologize once I saw his true size.  Dodger forgave me (mostly) and he seems to have (mostly) recovered from being shaven. The humans have yet to recover.

I hope you have a safe and happy 4th of July! And remember — we only have six months left in 2021. Let’s make them good ones!

 

 

Reverse Advent Calendar where each day of Advent gives a food to donate to a food pantry

Get into the Christmas Spirit with a Reverse Advent Calendar

2020 is a year of a lot of things — many of them are not good. However, 2020 is also the year I learned about something wonderful and uplifting — a reverse Advent calendar! With Advent fast approaching, this calendar is a great way to connect with the spirit of the season and do some good for your community.

Last year, I started working for a Congregational Church as the Director of Community and Creativity. One of the best parts of this job is I get paid to think of new ideas to engage people around town with the ministries of the church. With the pandemic severely limiting community engagement while at the same time making it more difficult for some people to meet their basic needs, I felt challenged to find something new and different for Advent, yet also meaningful for the congregation. Then I came across the idea of a reverse advent calendar and lo and behold — I found my solution!

A traditional Advent calendar provides individuals with a “door” or “window” to open on the calendar, inside of which a treat or inspirational quotation is found.

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With a reverse Advent Calendar, individuals give something on each day of Advent. The reverse advent calendar I came across on social media had a theme focused around food banks. Since the Norfolk Food Pantry is housed in the church where I work, it seemed like a perfect partnership.

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Photo courtesy of Lynn Deasy

A lot of people may not know this, but there are significant wealth disparities in Norfolk, CT. Yes, we have very wealthy families in Norfolk. To their credit, I have seen some jaw dropping displays of generosity in this town. At the same time, one-third of the students at the local elementary school are on free or reduced lunch, so we clearly have more work to.

The Norfolk Food Pantry has also seen their number of requests double in the last few weeks. They suspect the increase has to do with the discontinuation of supplemental employment assistance during the pandemic.

The reverse Advent calendar is a win-win situation. Participants get to do an act of kindness every day leading up to Christmas. People in need will have access to food.

Added bonus if you live in Norfolk: You can drop off your filled food box at Battell Chapel from 5:00-8:00pm on Christmas Eve and get to experience a drive through experience with luminaries, lessons, and carols.

If you don’t live in Norfolk, then I’m confident any local food bank would be grateful to get a box filled food.

If you want to hear more about how the reverse Advent calendar works, you can watch a video of the church’s online service here. I come in at about 6:36. You can also see my decorated reverse advent calendar box. Even though I am the Director of Community and Creativity, the creativity does not necessarily translate to arts and craftsy type projects.

Here’s a link to the Advent devotional I spoke of in the video. I made the devotional book myself and I think it’s one of my greatest creations in 2020. Okay, Canva helped. A lot. I don’t know what I would do without their templates because design and color combos are not my strengths. But I did find the quotes and choose the pictures featured each day. Anyway, I hope you like it! Here’s a sneak peak to entice you to click on the link!

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And just to be thorough and accommodating, here’s an easy-to-print calendar without the daily devotional:

A reverse advent calendar listing each day of Advent along with the food item to be doanted

May you find joy and gratitude this Advent season! If you have any questions or would like to use the reverse Advent calendar daily devotional I created for UCC (Congregational), Norfolk, feel free to reach out to me at genesis.potentia(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)gmail.com. A few simple edits and you can use it at any church, any where.

 

Hello, Daylight Savings Time! I Hate You.

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Welcome back, Daylight Savings Time! Except, you’re not really welcome here. In fact, I kind of hate you. Not that I mind the extra sunlight. It’s losing that hour of sleep. For a person with narcolepsy, daylight savings time can be especially challenging. Keeping a consistent sleep/wake cycle goes a long way towards managing my narcolepsy symptoms. With daylight savings time, there’s nothing I can do about it other than accept the loss of the hour and try to recover the best I can. Sometimes, it can take weeks.

Good thing I have an excellent napping companion with Smudge.

So, on that note, I give you my latest blog post: Pictures of yawning dogs (that I personally know and love) because I’m too tired to come up with anything else.

I hope you enjoy!

Love,
Kelly

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Hello, Daylight Savings Time! I Hate You. 24 Hello, Daylight Savings Time! I Hate You. 25

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Just Another Winter’s Day

Animal in the snow

Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

On the morning of January 20th, 2016, I stepped outside and headed to my car since I soon had to be at work. I stopped, however, to observe some animal tracks in the snow.

I was so taken with how the tracks crossed each other, I snapped a picture and posted it on Instagram.

Crossed Paths

At the time I took that picture, I had no idea on that same night, January 20th, 2016, I would cross paths with a stranger from Nashville while at a restaurant bar in Downtown Naperville.

I also had no idea that this stranger and I would elope three weeks later in Nashville on February 12th, 2016.

I had no idea that three years later, we would be living in Norfolk, CT, housesitting in a quaint New England town, and caring for two dogs that amuse and delight me nearly every moment of every day.

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I had no idea Heath would study Spanish in Guatemala.

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I had no idea that people would want to pay me to walk their dogs.

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I had no idea that Heath would become certified as an EMT.

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I had no idea that we would travel 11,500+ miles on an epic road trip to see bears and National Parks.Just Another Winter's Day 33

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I had no idea I would spend seven weeks in sub-Arctic Canada in the land of polar bears.

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On that morning of January 20th, 2016, I didn’t know any of the above (and more!) would happen. I was simply taken by the idea of how those tracks crossed each other.

When someone asks me if I believe in miracles, of course I say yes. Look at all that has happened in our lives because of where Heath and I were at one moment in time.

Heath and I could have missed each other.

I’m so glad we didn’t.

Heath Hughes, you are outstanding in so many ways. I couldn’t help but fall in love with you.

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I look forward to seeing where this next year (and beyond) takes us.

Setting an Intention for 2019

Setting an Intention for 2019

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

I recently read a quotation attributed to Aristotle that resonated with me:

Through discipline comes freedom.

The moment I read it, I knew this idea would be my intention for 2019.

After my death meditation last month, the biggest regret I’m taking with me into 2019 are the writing goals I have yet to achieve. Because some of these goals, like being traditionally published, require circumstances beyond my control, I recognize there is only so much I can do.

At the same time, I also recognize that I did not do my best in 2018 to achieve them.

That’s where discipline as a way to freedom comes in.

I want to be free of the nagging thoughts, the procrastination, the fear that what I’m doing is not enough. So I’m taking the time now to develop a disciplined plan for my writing that, at least on my end, means that by the time we’re celebrating 2020 I will feel more at peace with the work I’ve done.

Since this is a year-long process, I’m devoting January to the planning stage. I’m deciding on my specific goals, then working backwards from December 2019 to figure out what I have to do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to reach these goals.

For example, one of my goals is to write and submit 12 guest blog posts in 2019, like this one that got published in 2017. I only submitted two last year (one didn’t get published and the other is to be determined). I enjoy writing about minimalism, joy, dogs, libraries, traveling, etc., and I’d like to share my thoughts with a wider audience. This is easier writing for me, then say a novel, so I feel a nice sense of accomplishment when I crank out a blog post in a relatively short amount of time.

How this goal translates into activity, is that I can easily break it down into writing one a month, which means I need to schedule guest blog writing on my calendar for six hours each month, in two three-hour increments.

I was going to keep it at one three-hour increment, but then I recognized that I often underestimate how long it will take me to do something, and I made a change accordingly.

This one act of self-awareness made me feel pretty dang good, as if I really am more serious this time around about achieving my goals, and it’s not something I’m doing on a whim.

YAY for small wins!

I’m also feeling pretty good about my role in this process thanks to a comment made by one of my extended family members over the holidays as we were eating homemade cookies – “I’m awful at self-regulation,” this family member said.

Yes, me too! Although I’d never described my problem as being awful at “self-regulation,” before.

I’ve shared this story before, but I think it’s the best one I have to describe my limits at self-regulation. I was sitting in my therapist’s office, lamenting that I couldn’t keep my room neat and organized. “My clothes never make it into the hamper,” I complained.

My therapist started laughing. She said she was picturing my clothes marching around on the floor. Then she said something along the lines of “Kelly, who is the subject of that sentence?”

“My clothes.” I said this matter of fact, as if it was obvious.

My therapist gave me a look.

“Oh my God, MY CLOTHES.” My whole life came crashing to a halt as I realized I was the one not putting my clothes in my hamper.

I approach 2019 with a renewed sense of what I can do to reach my goals and how the choices I make either take me closer to reaching them or keep me from getting where I want to be.

My life is, and always will be, God and Kelly willing. I have complete confidence in God’s role in my life. Now, it’s time to act like I have confidence in my own.

Through discipline comes freedom.

Here I go!

Here I go!

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Thinking About Death During the Holidays

Christmas is coming

With Christmas fast approaching and only nine days left in 2017, it’s time for my yearly reflection entitled, “Even Though It’s Christmas, People Still Die.” And yes, I totally stole this idea from the late 1990’s sitcom Friends.

Because I know many of my friends and family who read my blog sometimes worry about me based on what I write, let me clarify that thinking about death during the holidays does not mean I’m depressed. Quite the opposite.

This has been one of the happiest, most joyful years of my life.  2017 also happened to be the year I read five different books on happiness (two of them I re-read for the second time):

ANtidote

Subtle art

Happiness Project

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joy

I recently told someone about all these books and she joked, “shouldn’t you be happy by now?”  Her point is excellent, except I read these types of books as someone who has a professional interest in psychology, science, and research, more than as an I need these books to improve my life mentality.

Although, I would be lying if I said these books haven’t improved how I live. Each one of them has contributed positively to some aspect of my life, most notably The Sweet Spot because I’m now exercising on a regular basis and it’s become an actual habit.

What I find most interesting about these books is that every single one of them included a chapter on death. They all claimed that to truly experience sustained and long-term joy, you have to keep your own death a central part of your life.

Last Christmas, death ended up being forefront in my mind because one of the dogs we were caring for had been diagnosed with a mass on his spleen. He didn’t have much longer in this world and sure enough, he died within a month.

moon-cropped

I also wrote last Christmas about my 43-year-old cousin Becky, who was diagnosed with cancer in December of 2013, and succumbed to the disease in April, 2014.

Those losses are still heavy in my heart today, just like all the other people and animals I’ve lost throughout my life. But like these books suggest, I don’t allow the losses to weigh me down.

Instead, I use their heaviness as reminders which ground me to my own life; they’ve become a rock on which I can stand and look around at our wonderful and marvelous world. These losses lift me up into the here and now because all of us could be one hour, one minute, or even one second away from death and I know it.

Our time is so precious and because I still have so much of it right now (God and Kelly willing), I don’t want to waste it. This reason is why death meditations can be so useful. If I knew 2018 would be my last year on Earth, what would I do differently?

Based on what I wrote last year – spend more time with family and friends, travel with my husband and/or niece to national parks, pet as many dogs along the way as we could, finish my first novel, publish my picture books, and see a bear in the wild – I’m tearing up with happiness right now because I’ve either done what I set out to do or I took major steps towards making these dreams a reality.

In addition to spending time with my parents in Pennsylvania,

Hawk Mountain

and my husband’s parents in Tennessee,

TN Sunset

we visited with various extended family members in North Carolina,

Kelly with Choco Lab

 

 

 

 

 

 

and my husband got to meet my oldest brother who lives in San Antonio, Texas, when we all met up at my parents’ house in Harrisburg.

Hersheypark

 

 

 

 

 

We brought my niece to visit us in Connecticut for a week in May,

Jori and Smudge

and I spent a few days with her in Washington, DC, this fall. We’ve also had friends come visit us in Connecticut and we’re making plans to see some friends in Illinois again this summer.

This past August, my husband and I visited the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio on one of our house-sitting road trips,

Cuyahoga Valley

and this coming June we’ll be in Glacier National Park as part 2 of our super secret summer plans (SURPRISE! This is how my husband is finding out about our trip to Glacier. He still doesn’t know part 1).

Anyone who reads this blog, knows I’ve wholeheartedly met my goal of petting as many dogs as I could along the way, and I even managed to befriend some cats, llamas, chickens, turkeys, a goat, and a pig.

And, although I have not yet seen a bear in the wild, this past July I applied to be a volunteer at the Churchill Northern Studies Center in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, for bear season (October and November). I had an interview a few months ago for fall 2018 and my prospects look good for being selected as a volunteer.

As for writing, not only did I finish my first novel, but I wrote another book, started two more, and outlined several more. Those don’t count the picture books I finished. I also submitted two stories to Highlights magazine (no word yet on their submission status) and I submitted a blog post to a major minimalism blog that featured the post in their weekly newsletter sent out to over 24,000 readers. Combined with getting an agent to represent my work, this has been a benchmark year for my writing.

So when I think about my life this past year, I can boil it down to one sentiment. I’m about to break a cardinal rule of writing right now (i.e., avoid clichés), but here goes: WOW! My cup runneth over.

I am so grateful to everyone who has supported me along the way, most notably God who gives me the courage to live life this way and my husband who is also my best friend.

The question still remains, though: if 2018 were my last year on Earth, what would I do differently?

My answer? Nothing. It is with delight and joy that I can say this and feel nothing but enthusiasm and hope for the coming year. I’m going to keep on keepin’ on! And maybe, just maybe, I’m finally going to see a bear in the wild.

119 portrait

Happy 21st Birthday to My Niece!

Happy Birthday BT

HB Now

Tomorrow marks an important milestone in my family’s genealogy – my niece turns 21! I can hardly believe it.  I remember when she was a little nubbins of a human being, super sweet and quiet, barely making a sound.

Little Nubbins 2

Since then she has grown into an extraordinary adult.  And although I can no longer pick her up, some of us still can because her nubbinsy-ways have carried forth.

Jori and Heath,

To celebrate this momentous occasion, here are 21 reasons why my niece is AWESOME, in no particular order.

#1.  Her nickname is Monster because she was so quiet and good-natured as a baby that I had to somehow create excitement for her; thus, an ironic nickname.Jori Baby

#2. She loves dogs nearly as much as I do (she’d probably argue that we are on equal footing when it comes to doggo love; however, as I’m older that means I’ve had more time to love them).

Jori and Faith

#3.  In the Harry Potter Universe, she’d totally be a Ravenclaw. That girl is SMART! and I’m not saying this because I’m biased (and I’d totally be in Hufflepuff, by the way).  She graduated from high school with the highest science GPA in her class, she got accepted into the Honors College at UT-Austin, she double majors in Chemistry and Economics, and she’s living right now in Washington DC as part of a prestigious fellowship program.

Harry Potter motorcycle

#4. Her motto is, “God made the dirt and dirt don’t hurt.”  Don’t we look GOOD in our detox mud masks?

DSCN2210

#5. She totally gets my narcolepsy frustrations because she has narcolepsy, too!

SNug as a bug in a rug

#6. Even though she has narcolepsy, she was totally on board with my let’s go watch the sunrise at the Grand Canyon plan during our 2016 southwest springbreak roadtrip extravaganza.  As she said when the sun started to rise, “Narcoleptics Prevail!”

Grand Canyon

#7. Speaking of roadtrips, she’s always up for one! So far we’ve gone from San Antonio, TX to Chapel Hill, NC, by way of Hot Springs, Arkansas, with stops in Austin, Murfreesboro, and Memphis; Phoenix to Las Vegas, with stops at the Petrified Forest, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon; and a mini-tour of CT ala the television show Gilmore Girls.

Jori on bridge

with dinosaur

Gazebo

#8. Together we created only one rule for our roadtrips – if you see a stone staircase, you have to take it!

Stone stair case

#9. You should always stop at botanical gardens, too, especially when they’re on a top 10 list.  That’s not an official roadtrip rule, but I think it’s good practice.  I almost didn’t stop because I thought the admission fee was too high.  That would have been silly, but she was okay with that. This glass chapel helped me see the error my ways.

Glass Chapel

#10. She’s enthusiastic about llamas, as we all should be!

Jori and Jack the Llama

#11. If you ask her to make a face like a tiger, she quickly obliges.

Tiger Face

#12. She also quickly obliges when you ask her to play games like Memory. I will never get tired of playing games like that, especially with someone as fun as she is.

DSCN2147

#13. Her advice is excellent. When I asked her how I should tell my parents my husband and I eloped in Nashville, she suggested I spell it out during a game of Scrabble since my mom and I play every time I visit home.

Married with Jori's picture

#14. Hamburger cakes are just weird, but because she wanted to try one I now know differently.

Harburger Cake edited

#15. She believes in reduce, reuse, and recycle. See these awesome sandals?  She wore them for a few seasons then passed them on to me when I needed a pair.

Sandals

#16. Even though she’s sleepy a lot of the time, she’s always willing to be a co-pilot. Even when we have to drive to the airport at 4:00am.

Copilot

#17. We both hate Las Vegas. That right there makes her an outstanding individual.

Las Vegas

#18. She always has a book to read.  And she takes it with her everywhere!

Jori Reading

Always book

Jori with Book 2

#19. My extreme sun safety protective measures – she always supports them.

At the beach

#20. Have you seen her smile?  Beautiful, always.

IMG_1388

#21. She is a bright light in this world. Literally and figuratively.

Inner beauty

Happy 21st birthday!  These last 21 years have been a true gift.  Thanks for being one of the best parts of my life.  You are amazing and I love you.

 

A Lesson in Time Management

Calendar Title

On Tuesday morning I met with a friend to discuss writing.  I shared with her how I seem to keep writing new material, while my older manuscripts hang in limbo waiting for me to edit and revise them.  I then told her about my plan for how I wanted to tackle this problem: on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, I was going to block out time specifically devoted to manuscript revision.

Why Tuesday and Thursday afternoons?  These were the times in my past life as a professor when I typically taught research writing.  I couldn’t just cancel class on a whim, though on really nice days I did sometimes move us outside to have class next to Lake Benedict.

cropped

As a self-proclaimed self-help junkie, I know that many experts recommend this approach for getting high-priority tasks done.  By scheduling time for them on your calendar, you are validating that, yes, this task is important to me.  I resolved to make editing and revision a recurring appointment on my calendar.

Then yesterday I received a text message from someone who wanted to meet with me to discuss a new writing project.  She asked about my availability next Thursday.  Funny thing is, I hadn’t actually blocked out Tuesday/Thursday afternoons for manuscript revision and editing on my calendar.  Since I like this person and find her writing project to be quite interesting, I typed out on my phone, “My schedule is wide open.”

I knew I was already breaking my commitment.  I can always start the next week, I said to myself.  Then I’ll definitely add it to my calendar. 

Just as I was about to hit SEND, I stopped myself and asked why was I so willing to break my plan.  Hadn’t I declared only a few days earlier my intention to prioritize editing and revision?  What was wrong with me that I was willing to put it off?

The deciding factor came down to other plans I had already made for the following week.  Next Tuesday, my writing friend and I were going to meet again to continue our discussion.  I somehow felt that if I didn’t follow through with my revision and editing commitment, I would have to admit that to someone other than myself.

You know what self-help advice also recommends for getting your work done?  Find a partner to make yourself accountable.  I’ve read that advice so many times, but I’ve never applied it to my writing. How interesting to see that it actually works.  Well, so far.  We’ll see what happens next Tuesday and Thursday afternoons (and beyond).

I ended up retyping my response text to say I was available to meet on Thursday until 1:30pm.  It felt quite good to honor my commitment and then I rewarded myself with a head nod and “way to go!”

Of course, I laughed at myself because self-help books also recommend recognizing your achievements with intrinsic rewards.  After 20+ years, it’s good to know the advice is finally sinking in.