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IMG_2536As many of you know, every year, instead of creating a list of resolutions to make (and then shortly thereafter break) each January, I find a word of the year to focus on. I’ve been doing it maybe five or six years now – it’s not my original idea by any means; I’ve seen lots of people who embrace this tradition. It’s a powerful one so I encourage you to try it.

One of the reasons I like the word of the year concept so much is that it’s not much to remember. I really don’t have space in my brain for a new list of things to be mindful about every year. So I give myself one word. It becomes my mantra, my meditation, my touchstone. And even then, sometimes I go weeks without thinking about my word. But when I come back to it, I always find I have a deeper understanding of how that particular word plays out in its many forms in my life.

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Santa#

Twas the night before Christmas
The topic was stress
Two bloggers were writing
Their posts still a mess…

  

To: Karin@Let’sGrowLeaders
From: Regina@CreativelyConscious
Re: Christmas

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Hey Karin. Merry Christmas! Can I stop by and bring you some breakfast?

  

To: Regina@CreativelyConscious
From: Karin@Let’sGrowLeaders
Re: Christmas

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Thanks, but I’m on a deadline.  #toobusy #nostresseating

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True Gifts

gifts“The only true gift is a portion of thyself.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t know about you, but the holidays are such a peaceful, relaxing time for me. I find that I simplify my schedule, breathe deeply and appreciate all the amazing moments that happen this time of year.

OK, I just laughed so hard at that first paragraph that I spat water on my keyboard and fell out of my chair.

I know that for most of us, this time of year means more items on our to-do lists, additional deadlines and a frenetic pace that leaves us exhausted by the time January 1st rolls around.

Now I get that almost none of us can give up a certain amount of material gift-giving.  But I think we sometimes forget how much those intangible gifts really mean to the people around us.  So without trying to add to your obligations, here are a few true gifts I think we can all manage:

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keyboardSo my month of daily posting is over. For those of you who don’t know, I was participating in The National Blog Posting Month Challenge, otherwise known as NaBloPoMo. The challenge is to write and post a blog entry every day during the month of November. I made it 25 out of 30 days. Not bad for a first attempt.  It’s been a good month generally and it was definitely a learning experience.  Some were new lessons, some were reminders of things I already knew but could use some reinforcement. Here’s what I took away from the month: Continue Reading »

NaBloPoMo_November_small(For the first 12 and an intro to this post, go here)

13. Acupuncture. About three years after a year of physical therapy, pain medications, chiropractor appointments and conversations with surgeons, one session with my acupuncturist allowed me to lift my leg off the ground more than three inches for the first time in almost a year. My back only goes funky 1-2 times a year now because of her. I can’t tell you why it works,it just does.

14. Being a Continue Reading »

NaBloPoMo_November_smallWhen I was in college, I lived in an intentional spiritual community of 6 people, three men and three women. We committed to a number of things over the course of our year, including eating dinner together barring any occasional commitments, Sunday through Thursday. One of our traditions was to go around the table those nights with everyone mentioning at least one thing they were thankful for. Being a fairly well-adjusted bunch, we shared moments of gratitude for friends, good grades on tests, letters from home, that sort of thing. Occasionally, someone had a rough day and would be grateful they made it through the day without falling apart or killing anyone.

Then there was my housemate Amy, a lovely soul, truly. Sometimes she’d just be so filled with gratitude for her day, she’s speak for several minutes about the flowers or the squirrels or the way the sun shone through a window, completely reliving her bliss from the day. Most of the time we couldn’t help but get caught up in her joy. Although sometimes, we did just want her to finish up so we could get around to the meal.

What I learned from Amy though, is that the more specific your gratitude, the more profoundly you actually feel grateful. So I could tell you I’m grateful for fall. OK, I guess. But if I tell you I’m grateful for fall because of the way a specific section of my drive up I-97 looks when all the trees change and how it makes me remember fall as a child growing up in the woods of Maine, well, now that’s  visceral gratitude right there.

Being grateful and feeling gratitude are not the same thing. Feeling gratitude is always more powerful.

In some of my retreat work, I have people list 50-100 things they are grateful for over the course of the day. It’s interesting to see how as the day progresses, they really have to get more and more specific. They often realize they are grateful for more things than they realized on the outset. It’s an experience of feeling the true power of gratitude for many of them.

Over the next couple of days, I encourage you to do the same thing. Make a list, get very specific and pay attention to the mundane, everyday things that make you grateful, even for just a fleeting moment. By writing them down, you get to hold onto them for a little longer.

So here is the beginning of my abbreviated list:

I am grateful for:

1. Growing sweet potatoes this summer. Because, today in the rain, I went outside to dig some up for Thanksgiving. I looked ridiculous and at the same time felt like I was a total hardcore gardener.

2. My red-headed child who is clever and witty and loves to laugh. It’s amazing how you can feel when you are around joy incarnate.

3. My older daughter who is brilliant and thoughtful and empathetic, especially around children with disabilities. Her kindness and patience and unconditional acceptance makes me proud and filled with love for such an amazing presence in my life.

4. Going from a beginner guitar player to an intermediate-beginner guitar player (yes I made that term up). When you can play 10-12 chords without too much trouble, it’s amazing how many songs you can actually get through.

5. Finally getting the hang of knitting. Yes, I now understand the obsession and I see color and yarn and texture in a whole new light. I look forward to my active meditation time and appreciate the relaxed state it often affords me.

6. A spouse affected just so slightly with OCD. There are several projects around the house that happened this year because he could not just walk away – I appreciate the fact that he makes things happen that I would never make the time for because they are overwhelming to me in their scope and size.

7. The snores of a funny little sleeping dog plastered against my body who thinks I’m the moon and the stars. Everyone should have one living creature feel this much love about them.

8. One old 16 year-hound dog. She mostly sleeps, but every once in a while, she gets a twinkle in her eye and bounds off around the house. We almost lost her last year and that jolted me into remembering to appreciate her every day.

9. The wildlife in my neighborhood – foxes, deer, bald eagles, great blue herons, hawks – they all remind me of the wildness of the Universe.

10. The roof on my house not because it keeps the rain out, but specifically because it doesn’t. There are several places in my kitchen and dining room where my roof leaks. And with every major rain storm, I am acutely aware that I do have a roof when many don’t.

11. Reading books with my girls at bedtime. My nearly twelve-year-old will tell you she is too big for this tradition, but she still comes to bed early three times a week to listen to whatever book her younger sister and I are working through. I cherish every page.

12. Friends – Friends who laugh with me, cry with me, and get me out of my head when I’m over-thinking – friends who start inside jokes so funny my sides hurt – friends who know and give me what I need even when I can’t figure it out myself.

Tomorrow, I’ll share thirteen more. I’d love to hear something specific you are grateful for.

This is day 27 in the 30 day National Blog Posting Month Challenge.

NaBloPoMo_November_smallIn no particular order:

1. Stop over-thinking it.  Seriously. You want to write? Then just start. Don’t worry if you don’t know the ending to your novel. Don’t panic if you don’t know how to correctly format conversations. All of those things can be fixed later, provided you have something later to fix. And the only way to have that is to put those words on paper. Write. Then write some more.

2. Which brings me to maybe the most important thing I know. Writing and editing are not the same thing.  Let me say that again.  Writing and editing are not the same thing. Get your words down on paper. Don’t worry about subject/verb agreement or sentence fragments or anything until long after you get everything down on paper. If you want to enjoy writing, forget about editing it at the same time. There is plenty of time after you are done to rework. When I work with my youngest writers, the first thing I tell them is spelling counts, but only a little. Grammar counts, but only a little too. If you can spell well enough and construct a sentence that conveys what you want then a few misspellings or grammar mistakes aren’t that big a deal. That’s what spell check is for. And editors.

3. Keep moving forward. Say you’ve been writing about a middle-aged, male, insurance salesman. Then you get to page 100 and you suddenly realize that your main character is actually a 25-year-old female roller derby skater. You are going to want to go back to the beginning and start over. You’ll think, “I’ll just fix it quick and then it won’t drive me crazy. Plus I might forget later.”  Trust me, you won’t forget. And, again writing and editing are not the same thing. Keep moving forward.

4. You don’t have to create huge blocks of time in your schedule to write. This may be the biggest roadblock for many of the people I’ve worked with. Somehow their image of a “real writer” is a person who sits at their computer for hours at a time, hammering out pages and pages of material at one sitting. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are writers out there who have the luxury of time to create that sort of writing habit.  However, there are lots of writers who sneak in 15-30 minutes a day, sometimes while making dinner or for a few minutes after they put their kids to bed each evening. The key isn’t the amount of time you spend. The key is consistency. Write every day and you will complete the stories rattling around in your head.

5. Write what you like. I once took a children’s book writing class. The first thing the woman said was “Don’t write books about animals who act like people. Publishers don’t buy those books anymore.” That was the same time year Mo Willems exploded on the scene. He’s the author who writes such immensely popular books as  the Elephant and Piggy and the “Don’t Let the Pigeon…” series. Don’t chase after genres because something seems to be popular or you think it’s something you *should* write. If you love what you are writing, it will shine through.

Really.

 

This is day 24 in the 30 Day National Blog Posting Month Challenge.

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