Just Wait

“My mother always told me I wouldn’t amount to anything because I procrastinate. I said, ‘Just wait.”
― Judy Tenuta

I am a master procrastinator. So impressed am I by my great skill, I’ve actually researched this great art. In my search, I found this quote from one of my favorite authors:

“The scholar’s greatest weakness: calling procrastination research.”
― Stephen King, 11/22/63

Yes, that was not a good sign, I was now getting busted by my quotes.

I needed to find something to help me get something done. I’d become too proficient at finding ways to push things off until tomorrow.

What do I do and where do I start?

This is when I discovered MOOCs. What in the world are MOOCs? They are Massive Open Online Courses. They are free–unless you want a certificate of completion. There are many courses available on just about every subject imaginable. I began with a MOOC called Learning about Learning with Barbara Oakley, Ph.D.  This course was exactly what I needed. Each lesson taught me new methods of learning.  Not only that, this new way of learning gave me the opportunity to start something and successfully complete it. Completing something is a very big thing for a procrastinator. Because I found the entire course so interesting, I wanted to get all I could out of it.

One of the biggest things I was able to add to my brand new writer’s toolbox was the Pomodoro technique. By using this technique, I’ve been able to write and share my stories daily.

Let me share with you my Pomodoro technique.

Before putting my new tool into practice, I needed to totally commit to making my stories happen. I had to tell myself I was ready to step out of my own comfort zone. I was ready to put my writing out there and risk criticism. What made this work for me was the fact this was an investment in myself for myself. What anyone else thought was okay. If people read my stories and liked them, I’d been given an extra special bonus. If they did not, I was ready to let it go.

Using the Pomodoro technique has become my routine. When I sit down to write, whether it’s my morning pages or my stories, all electronic devices are off and out of reach. Any sounds that could disrupt me are silenced. As Professor Oakley points out in one of her lessons, music can be a good thing to have in the background. She cautions listening to music with lyrics. I’ve always studied with music. To prove or disprove this for myself, I did a quick experiment–playing music with and without lyrics. I was surprised. Within a few minutes of starting the playlist of songs with words, my thought process was distracted and I felt off, almost irritated. After switching to the instrumental playlist, my mind began to settle back down, I felt more at ease, my thoughts flowing smoothly along with the music. Maybe this was a reflection of my age. Whatever the reason, my background music is now instrumental, mostly classical or Celtic in nature.

Once I have all my distractions out-of-the-way, I set a timer for twenty to thirty minutes. If I am tired, I dial in twenty. If I’m feeling rested and ready, I dial in thirty. I’ve found a timer is important. Without that, I was always checking the time. Even with the timer set, it took time for me to trust that the timer was set and working. After a few days, my mind had trained itself to let go and work. For that twenty to thirty minutes, my focus is on working on my specific task–the ONLY goal is to work on this one thing for the designated amount of time. My focus is not on getting it done. My focus is on working.

Once the time has expired, it’s time for a reward. That reward is very important–take the reward you have set up for yourself. Whether it’s checking your email or your phone for text messages–do it. There have been times when I needed a big break in order to rest my mind so I can do a final proofread. These are the times when I go outside for a short walk around the yard or around the block. During these breaks, my subconscious mind is working away on the loose ends of my project. When I return for my next session, the words I’d been searching for are often right there for me.

If you’ve never tried this technique before, give it a try. It took me a good week to really get comfortable using it and adapting it to my specific way of working. Within a few days of continued success, I was sold. What surprised me was how each successful experience fostered more successful sessions. I am learning that nothing beats down procrastination faster than the sweet feeling of a job well DONE.

“Success is not obtained overnight. It comes in installments; you get a little bit today, a little bit tomorrow until the whole package is given out. The day you procrastinate, you lose that day’s success.”
― Israelmore Ayivor

I am…

B…simply being…

Sending you all love and prayers for many blessings.

Peace

 

 

Busyness

“Busyness is not a reason for not getting other things done. It is an excuse for not claiming your true priorities.”
― Alan Cohen

I seem to be sputtering in this new year.

Maybe it’s the cold weather? Just typing that sentence sounds lame. Honestly, I certainly have it very cushy here in Texas compared to my friends to the North.

What really is the deal?

My best guess is the holidays distracted me and took me off course. At the end of 2017, I was feeling comfortable at my desk. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year opened up easy stories to share. Now, I need to determine where I want to go from here and chart a course. Without a specific goal, I will continue to fumble. It’s time to think about where I go from here.

As I ask for guidance, I share this with you.

“As the old year retires and a new one is born, we commit into the hands of our Creator the happenings of the past year and ask for direction and guidance in the new one. May He grant us His grace, His tranquility, and His wisdom!”
― Peggy Toney Horton, Does God Want Us to Be Happy

I am…

B…simply being…

Sending you all my love.

~Peace~

 

 

Looking Ahead

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.”
― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Last week a co-worker and friend from my past visited us for a few days. Ellen Morris and her husband, Fred, stopped for a few days as they made their way to South Texas. It was a treat to get my Iowa fix and catch up on what was happening in my old hometown. Thank you, Ellen and Fred, for taking time to visit and help us celebrate the end of 2017. May 2018 be filled with adventures and discoveries as you both begin your first full year of retirement. I love you. God bless you.

In years past, I’ve had a long list of things to do in the year ahead–many items carried over from previous years.  This year, my list feels more fluid, shorter but more specific, less traditional but more personal, less formal but more realistic. I am now aware I am a work in progress. That realization is an amazing gift I can use as the cornerstone to build upon this year.

I’ve re-committed myself to writing, starting a reading/resource list as I re-organized books in my office and on my electrical devices. Learning to make the most of the amazing tools surrounding me is critical. By expanding and strengthening that knowledge, I can research and write more fully, efficiently, and quickly. Last, but far from least, I will continue to work and define my daily schedule. As my new passion grows and evolves, this will enable me to establish a better balance between writing and the rest of my day–helping me get back to and keep the easy and simple life.

“The point of simple living, for me has got to be:
A soft place to land
A wide margin of error
Room to breathe
Lots of places to find baseline happiness in each and every day”
Leo Babauta

I am…

B…simply being…

I love you.

Peace

 

 

 

Blue Velvet

“In the New Year, never forget to thank your past years because they enabled you to reach today! Without the stairs of the past, you cannot arrive at the future!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

I found this necklace a few years ago as we were packing to move. The memories that this little piece of jewelry brought to me were vivid and came with a soundtrack–Bobby Vinton singing Blue Velvet.

I’ve had this necklace since New Year’s Eve, 1966. If I did not have the necklace, I would have thought this memory was just some sort of dream.

1966 was a tough year for me. My Dad had remarried and I was pretty confused. That was not new. I’d been questioning many things for several years, from the time of my Mom’s difficult pregnancy which resulted in the loss of my little brother to her cancer diagnosis to her death. Having a “new mom” was uncomfortable–for lack of a better word.

I was twelve and lost. No one talked about my Mom. I think they were afraid talking about her would hurt me. I ached to talk about her and confess how sorry I was for not spending more time with her. When Dad told us he was getting married to Irene, I felt like he was slamming the door on the past, on every memory of my Mom.

I started to act out. Looking back with my adult eyes, I see classic acting out behavior. To my Dad and his new wife, I needed discipline. In my kid’s mind, I think I thought if I acted up enough, Irene would leave. The only thing my bad behavior did was create more tension in an already very tense household.

On this New Year’s Eve, I was still grounded for lying about having chorus practice so I could go and hang out with my friends. This was an incredibly stupid lie that marked the beginning of my year of rebellion. My home no longer felt like home so I needed my friends more than ever.

At dinner that night, Dad and Irene told us they were going out with friends. I was relieved to have them gone–it would be a night my sisters and I could do what we wanted.

Now’s when things get a little odd.

Later that evening, the phone rang. It was one of the boys from our group of friends. He wanted to know if he could come over–he had something for me.

What?

I kinda had a boyfriend–in an extremely broad definition of the word–and this was not that boy.

Well…I said yes. I knew Dad and Irene would be out until well after midnight–my sisters were asleep and both could sleep through just about anything.

Irene had a Hi-Fi system set up in our dining room so I had an album already playing when he got there. If nothing else, the music would cover up the sound of the front door opening just in case my sisters did wake up. I imagine we probably shared a pop and then we began to dance. I can’t remember if we played other albums. I remember we danced for hours to Bobby Vinton. If I really thought about it, I’m sure I could sing you every song on the side that played over and over that night–the song that brings me back immediately to our darkened living room is Blue Velvet.

The picture in my mind is so clear. We were two kids, really, holding each other–we did not talk or even look at each other. We danced–slowly, closely and innocently.

Shortly after midnight, he left for home. As he was heading out the door, he handed me a little box with this necklace inside. I think he said something like, “I got this for you. And no, I did not steal it.”

This little necklace is yet another thing that has survived many moves. It represents one of the sweetest evenings of my life. I don’t know why he came over, I don’t know why he bought me this present, and I don’t remember either one of us ever talking about being together that night. I don’t think I ever told anyone about this night and I doubt he did, either. It was yet another thing at this time of my life that seems like it just never happened.

Maybe he was an angel in disguise–sent to hold me at a time when I needed that simple act of kindness.

As I’ve written my stories these past few months, there are some memories that seem to have a life of their own–they continue to take me surprise by the depth of emotion they bring with them.  This is definitely one of the best and dearest.

Happy New Year, my friends. May God bless us all.

I am…

B…simply being…

I love you.

Peace

 

 

Looking Back While Looking Ahead

“I am grateful for all that this year has given me, including the lessons it has given to my soul.
This year I will be kinder and more compassionate to myself and to all beings.
I will stop being so hard on me.
I will laugh more.
I will unplug more.
I will shift into my heart more.
I will make the time to connect to the Divine and feed my spirit.
I will let go of the small stuff.
I will surround myself with uplifting people and activities.
This is my truth and so it is. Amen.”
― Eileen Anglin

Oh, the title of my story today sounds like I am multitasking. It has been pointed out to me that I am NOT good at doing more than one thing at a time. I am painfully aware this is true. Even with that knowledge, I continue to do so.

In June of this coming year, I will celebrate my third year of retirement. I’m not sure how that is possible, but it is true.

For those of you retiring in 2018, prepare yourself mentally. I was unprepared. It took me until this year to feel okay with myself and realize I needed to find a way to learn and grow. The hard part of this was, to do what I knew I MUST do, I needed to let go of the fear of failure.

As I hit the publish button on my first story, I was petrified. I’d proofed, re-read and re-written every single line several times. I finally listened to that little voice in my head. She said that there was no reason to be afraid. Those who loved me would read with love and stay with me as I learned and grew as a person and as a writer.

As 2017 comes to a close, I urge you to take risks this coming year. Be brave and confident in yourself and in those who love you. Those calendar pages will continue to fly off the wall. Please do not wait. Take a deep breath, listen, then believe what your soul is urging you to do–and do it.

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”
― Neil Gaiman

I am…

B…simply being…

I love you.

Peace

 

 

 

 

 

Remember

Remember is the last month,’ said Festival.
‘Remember’s not a month.’
‘Of course it is,’ said Festival. ‘There are twelve months thirty days long and the five days at the end of the year that are left over are called Remember. It’s when we all remember what happened in the past year, all the people who were born and all the people who died. You have to have Remember, otherwise you’d start the next year out of balance.”
― Colin Thompson, How to Live Forever

2017 is drawing to a close and we are all preparing to begin a new year. In years past, I’d be planning a big house party so we could gather together, enjoy great food, drink excellent wine, and enjoy each other’s company. Those were the days when we lived our lives, unknown to us at the time,  much more superficially. Looking back, it was so crazy. We had a very tight-knit group of friends, busy with our careers and life in general. We celebrated birthdays, watched football games, rang in the new year, christening new marriages and surprise babies.

Oh, that fickle finger of fate teamed up with the persistent ebb of time, wearing away at the edges of the grand illusions we’d all created. Kids left for school, soon graduating, and lives began to shift and evolve.  Before we realized it, our tightly knit group had already begun to unravel.

This is one more reason we need to find a way to have our own rituals of change. Change is often very personal–what is difficult for me is my friend’s cause for celebration. Our personal take on these events should not negate anything for either of us. It does, however, make it very difficult for us to join together in any type of mutual acknowledgment. Who of us have not been friends with couples who have divorced–now what? Can you be friends with both people from that fractured relationship? Rarely does that work for long.

My message today is as the year comes to a close, make your own rituals of closure. Take the time to think of those in your life who are important to you. Think of the joys, the challenges, and the losses you’ve all endured. Acknowledge and celebrate them fully so you can move on to the new year balanced and ready for every experience and opportunity.

I am…

B…simply being…

I love you.

Peace

 

Last Time for Everything

Using a fake ID at a college bar
Getting caught with a girl in the backseat of a car
Running out on the field for the senior game wearing number 17
There’s a last time for everything

Like a George Strait cassette in a Pontiac
Or telling Supercuts, “Let’s leave it long in the back”
Wearing a tux in a high school gym
And she’s wearing your class ring
There’s a last time for everything

Last call, last chance
Last song, last dance
Sometimes you just don’t know when that’s gonna be
Hold me baby, give me a kiss
Like tonight is all there is
‘Cause there’s the last time for everything

Throwing the ball with the first dog you ever had
Spending all day on the lake with your grandad
Watching Glenn Frey sing “Already Gone” at the Forum in LA
There’s the last time for everything

Last call, last chance
Last song, last dance
Sometimes you just don’t know when that’s gonna be
Hold me baby, give me a kiss
Like tonight is all there is
Cause there’s a last time for everything

Kissing goodbye on her porch and driving away
Introducing her as your fiancee
Getting woke up at 5 am to see if Santa came
There’s a last time for everything

Biscuits and gravy at your momma’s house
(Last time for everything)
Spring break on a fold out couch
(Last time for everything)
Little Jimmy on the Opry stage
(Last time for everything)
Hearing Prince sing “Purple Rain”
(Last time for everything)
(Last time for everything)Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

The first time I heard this song by Brad Paisley I was caught off guard by how much emotion it stirred up. I’ve talked about this song before. In case you are not a country fan, I thought I should share the lyrics. If you are like me, as you read the words that talk about so many universal life experiences, memories will flood into your mind. These flashes back to your past will not be just for today but will continue to pop into your head for many days to come.

The words have been on my mind a lot these past few days as I’ve thought back to many Christmas dinners spent with family over the years. How many times had I assumed those dear but sometimes annoying people would be sitting in their usual chairs telling their usual stories next year?

Sneakily, ready or not, there is a last time for everything.

As you put away those decorations, head out to the stores to make exchanges, or gear up for that walk, run, or aerobics class, take a moment to reflect on your holiday. Grab a pen and a piece of paper. Compose a handwritten note to those who shared their time with you yesterday.

Fate. She is fickle, relentless, unknown, and unpredictable. Yesterday may have been the last time for many precious things. Do not allow time to continue to steal minutes and opportunities from you. Tell those you love you love them. Do not rush it or make light of it. Tell them as if were the last time.

It may be…

I have talked about this expression of love a lot these past few months because it is important to me to share and make others aware. I have been blessed with so many things. One of the greatest has been the gift of time. This gift comes with a flip side–I realize the assumptions I’ve made over the years came with a price tag–regret. This lesson has been painful and costly. Use my stories as a type of study guide. Learn from my mistakes so you can test out and sidestep as much regret as possible.

I am…

B…simply being…

I love you.

Peace

 

 

 

Silent Night

Silent Night
On Christmas Eve in 1818
A blizzard stranded the tiny village of Ogledorf
Nestled in the Austrian mountains
That same day the people of St. Nicholas’ church found their organ broken
So the priest and organist began composing a song that could be sung without
An organ yet beautiful enough to express their Christmas joy
All day and all night long they worked
And at midnight the gentle carol Silent Night was born
The pure clear tones echoed through the hills
And the world has been captured by the beauty of that simple song ever since.
Silent Night
Holy Night
All is calm
All is bright
Round yon virgin
Mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
Silent Night
Holy Night
Shepards pray at the sight
Glory streams from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing hallelujah
Christ the Savior is born
Christ the Savior is born
Silent Night
Holy Night
All is calm
And all is bright
Round yon virgin
Mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
Silent Night
Holy Night
Sleep in heavenly peace
     Every time I sing this song, I cry. I guess it brings back the memories of all the times I’ve been able to sing it in my lifetime–from sitting beside my Mom at Midnight Mass to singing along with the radio just a few days ago.
     There was a time, in my previous life I’ve visited so often these past few months when this song was sung a lot. My co-workers and I followed a certain singer around the city of Waterloo for months. He was probably our age, sang a lot of John Denver, and tolerated our singing along while we drank and danced. As a group, we worked hard. We saw a lot of people in both mental and physical pain. Because of that, we partied hard. The experiences of our day were often carried around with us and it was not always easy to get those images and stories out of your mind. So, for a few hours, we escaped with Jim Miller, I think that was his name, and we began to forget.
     At the end of the night, after the last song, he would request we all stand and join hands. The first time I was there for this, I wondered what in the world was going on. We stood, took the hand of the person beside us, and listened. Regardless of the time of year, the guitar chords were unmistakable. We all sang–I would cry–Silent Night.
     Now, years and years later, I firmly believe that it was the singing of this song that alerted our guardian angels to the fact we were all headed home. God knows there were many of those nights I never ever should have been driving. By the grace of God, we all arrived home safe and more-or-less sound.
     On this Christmas Eve, I have a few things on my wish list. If they fit your needs, I wish them for you as well.
     I ask for the time to continue to read and learn so I can write and share. There is so much to learn I  often find myself overwhelmed. When that happens, I have to remind myself of Ann Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, and it one thing at a time.
 
     I ask that my teachers continue to appear–whether they are friends sharing their life stories or books I discover. I am beginning to see that lessons are not always taught in traditional ways. I pray I stay open and aware of each opportunity as it presents itself. Some days show me so many new things I feel like that kid who has only the very basic understanding of arithmetic and is handed a book about algebra. Where to start and when to stop are still big questions for me.
 
     With each lesson, I feel as though I am given new tools from an unknown tool chest. I pray for the patience to learn how to use these tools so I can share all this better and more easily. 
     May God give me the wisdom to see my own strength and to believe in the beauty and power of the Spirit I am. 
     May God’s love and grace surround me today and always. 
I am…
B…simply being…
Peace be with you.

Christmas Eve Eve

May you have the gift of faith, the blessing of hope and the peace of His love at Christmas and always. 

I simply ran out of time yesterday and something had to take a backseat. The easiest and least complicated thing to put on the back burner was my storytelling. I appeased myself by making the promise it would be done immediately after my morning were completed.

It was dogwash day yesterday which ended up taking much longer than I expected. Our three dogs are great for their baths but by the time dog number three is in the tub, my back and shoulders were protesting loudly. The reward is immediate and wonderful–all three dogs and our house smell so much better.

Time is running short for pre-Christmas activities. Today Michael and I get to go to the Walk of Lights here in Marble Falls. The picture is from last year’s visit. I am looking forward to spending time with our friends Dayne and Donna. This year, Sara, their oldest daughter and their grandson Evan are joining us. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything better than to have the opportunity to “see” Christmas through the innocent eyes of a child.

If you are searching for the last-minute gift, let me share a gift idea with you that friends of ours gave each other last year. I thought it was perfect.

Jim and Ann, have two adult children. Ann suggested they give each other the gift of time in 2017. Kevin, their son, went on a backpacking trip with Jim this past summer; Elizabeth and Ann went to New York City the first part of December. It was the priceless gift of time and adventure. We can all go to the store or go online in order to fulfill that gift requirement. Committing yourself and gifting your time is a present on an entirely different level. If you are stumped on what to get that very important person in your life, think about making your own gift certificate of time. Seems to me to be a true win/win situation.

“If you take Christmas to heart and get past the anxieties in arranging for gifts and parties, you will rediscover yourself every year at this time and experience a birth in yourself, just like the one so beautifully described in the Gospel stories. It will be a celebration of both the birth of Jesus and the birth of your soul”
― Thomas Moore

Enjoy this Christmas weekend and each other.

I am…

B…simply being…

God bless you all and keep you safe on your travels.

 

The Best Gift

“Someone once said: “We do not make friends, we recognize them.” And you’ll know who they are because they play according to the same rules that you do.”
― Ken Niimura, Gotham Academy #16

Someone once told me that he did not have many friends. I was just amazed at that statement. From my young point of view, it seemed he had many friends. He must have noticed my surprised look because he went on to explain to me that he had many acquaintances, but very few friends.

Because I was young, I did not and could not fully appreciate the difference he was trying to point out to me.  As I’ve aged and my life experiences have grown, I understand and I agree.

I have been very lucky in my life with the friends I have made along the way. This past summer I was able to spend some time with one of the best. Thank you, Mary Beth, for opening up your home to me and spending an evening like the old days, talking, eating, and sharing wine around the kitchen table. I love and cherish you.

Our lives were different but so similar. We both worked with the public. Over the years, she was in law enforcement in one capacity or another and I was in healthcare. We’d whine together when we were both on call and wine together when we were not. We loved our dogs and watched over each other’s pups whenever we needed that type of help. Mary Beth–MB–was mostly single and I was alone often because Michael traveled a lot for his job. Because of that being on call thing, there were times when we needed each other to take care of each other’s furry family. We were across the street neighbors for almost twenty years.

We grew older together and it was comforting to have another woman to talk with about how life and the world were changing. Our conversations were all over the board because of the type of work we both had done over the years. We’d both seen people at their worst and at their best. Living these types of experiences daily over many years gave us both a very unique viewpoint on life. Add into that equation the fact we were living in the Denver area, we had a wide array of alternative lifestyle information to discuss and teach each other. What a hoot to share what I knew about things and compare that with what MB knew–the cop vs the healthcare worker. We really could and should write a book.

Mary Beth moved from the hood a few years before we left. It was painful for me to see her go–but her new home in the foothills called to her too strongly. It is beautiful and I am so thankful she shares it with me whenever I get back to Denver to visit.

‘Tis the season to appreciate those who are important to you. I cannot imagine my life without her even though we are nearly a thousand miles away from each other now. Man, I miss those nights when we could just walk across the street to share the wine and stumble back across the street afterward.

Take a moment, my friends, to think about those who care for and about you. As I have learned, a real friend is rare and precious. Treasure them and let them know how important they are to you.

If there is anything this past year has tried to teach us all is the fact that life is precious. In a blink of an eye, that rock that makes up so much of the foundation of your life is built upon can tumble. Bolster it up and hold on to that and them for as long as you can.

“Friendships – and indeed most relationships – are measured in the closeness of hearts,
minds and soul ties… not in the distance of physical miles or even the passing of time.”
― Rasheed Ogunlaru

I am…

B…simply being…

Love and peace, my dear friends.