End of the Year To Do List

Damaged portrait of Elizabeth I of England, To...

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I should be freaking out.

It’s November 20th. Thanksgiving is in four days. Christmas comes in a little over a month. The New Year comes about a week after that.

Instead, I’m breathing.

At this point, I have ten days to finish NaNoWriMo and to break 50K, I have to pull in about 3,400 words daily. In the past, I’d have felt defeated.  Not this time. And on top of it all, I’m feeling encouraged to think about what else I’d like to do with the rest of my year.

My blogger friend Elizabeth at Mirth and Motivation posted her year-end-to-do list, and since I’d been thinking about what I’d like to accomplish before the end of the year so I can dive into 2012 without feeling like I’m trying to get caught up…I think I’ll join her in making it public.

1.  Finish National Novel Writing Month over 50K.  NaNoWriMo is going to end at 11:59 p.m. on November 30th whether I have 50,000 words under my belt or not. I’d like to chalk one up in the “win” column.

2.  Box up books and music I’m not reading or listening to and find a good home for them.  Odds are that book I bought 5 years ago that “sounded good” and yet never opened is not going to be opened any time soon.  Someone will enjoy it. And I’ll have room on my shelf for something new.

3.  Redesign and rebuild my web site and blog.  I’d originally planned to keep this blog separate from my business site, but I’m feeling more confident about merging the two. There will also be the addition of a business page on Facebook, and possibly even *gulp* a Twitter connection.

4. Post once a week during December with a Christmas story. I’ve loved Christmas as long as I can remember. All the shopping will be what it will be, but the Spirit of Christmas is infinite and beautiful.

5. Continue to cultivate the professional and creative relationships that began this year. I haven’t been as interactive as I would like with my fellow bloggers and creatives. Why wait till the new year to do better?

6.  Take my daughters out. Just out. Not sure where. Maybe the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art followed by lunch. Maybe I can get my mom to call in sick to work and join us.

7.  Develop new classes and a five-year plan for my freelance business.  I enjoy teaching as much as I enjoy learning.  Every class I’ve taught through Owens Community College’s Workforce and Community Services program has been so much fun and I’ve met some terrific people as a result. I want to construct more learning opportunities for writers and storytellers, and over the next five years, I want to add podcasting and webinars to my web site.

I’d add a general “declutter” to this list, but I don’t think I can get that done before year’s end.  Started, yes, but not completed.  But I can purge old catalogs and magazines; shred multiple copies of documents I no longer need; and, of course, the aforementioned book and music purge.

There are things that are totally out of my control. I have to give those over to God and let Him manage it for a while. There are things I can take care of.

I’m on it.

The Versatile Blogger Award: Showin’ the Love!

Gratitude going out to my blogosphere friend Isadora – poet, photographer, grower of orchids, and maker of jewelry – for presenting me with a Versatile Blogger Award.  I’m honored and I so appreciate her support, feedback, and inspiration!

As part of this honor I have three tasks:

  • Link back to the blog of the person who gave you the award (check! Please do visit Isadora’s blog, read her poetry and see her lovely orchids)
  • Tell seven things about yourself
  • Choose 15 bloggers to “pay it forward” and show some love!

Seven things about myself?  Well, I suppose the first thing I should say is…

  1. I dislike honking my own horn – which, as a solopreneur, does me no favors in terms of self-promotion! But I’m learning.
  2. I enjoy teaching, consulting, and leading writing conference sessions – and I think what I enjoy most is helping other writers grow and maintain their enthusiasm for the creative process.  Writing is a lonely business at times, and sometimes, writers just need an objective set of eyes and ears to give them honest, helpful feedback.
  3. I am a Biblical Storyteller – I’ve recently learned to tell stories of the Bible, not just read them aloud. The stories are not memorized, but told “from the heart.” It makes a huge difference in the emotional and spiritual impact of the stories.
  4. Surprising (perhaps) bucket list revelation: I want to learn to play the fiddle. I love Celtic fiddle music and American bluegrass.
  5. I’m a second degree black belt – I started martial arts when I was 36.  Proof positive it’s never too late to start anything. In fact, one of my most challenging partners is my friend Richard, a 65-year-old semi-retired pastor!
  6. Dream Vacation: four weeks on walkabout in Scotland, staying in self-cater crofters’ cottages. “Caledonia, you’re calling me…”
  7. My favorite place to be – anywhere outdoors. My backyard sanctuary, the Son Rise Garden, any of our local Metroparks. Even if it’s the middle of winter. I can dress for it.

Now comes the challenging part. I am a blogging newbie (I’ve been at this less than a year), but I’ve met, read, and learned from many talented bloggers who are creative and inspiring.  Do visit their blogs and see what they’re all about.

  1. Karen C.L. Anderson:  Karen’s a dear friend, and we’ll be meeting face to face for the first time this weekend (yes, expect a blog entry!).
  2. Joy Tanksley:  I found her blog via Karen.  Joy is great for a daily dose of Happy!  Ladies, check out Joy’s Moxie Academy.
  3. Dr. Brené Brown/Ordinary Courage:  Karen gifted me with Dr. Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection last winter, and it was like receiving permission to screw up – which I needed, otherwise I would never try.
  4. Tammy Strobel/Rowdy Kittens:  About the same time I was reading The Gifts of Imperfection, I read an article in the NY Times about Tammy and her husband’s downsizing efforts, living simply, and of course, her blog Rowdy Kittens.  The day I visited the blog the first time, she’d posted about the lessons she’d learned while developing her blog and books. She answered every concern I had in my  head about blogging – and it gave me the final push to start I Face the Sun.  Thanks, Tammy! You don’t know me, but thank you all the same.
  5. Angelia Sims Hardy:  “Living, Loving, Laughing” is chock full of Angelia’s stunning photography and optimistic juju!
  6. Liane Benedict, Steve Tryon, and The Walkabout Chronicles: Kind of a three-fer here. Liane and Steve created The Walkabout Chronicles: Journeys through Life.  They are passionate about life, living, and being part of the world around them. Not only is Walkabout a splendid blog and forum, but Liane and Steve are artists in their own rights.
  7. Elizabeth Obih-Frank: Mirth and Motivation: the name says it all! Elizabeth’s site is positive and powerful.
  8. Charles L. Mashburn: Marbles in my Pocket: I became acquainted with Charles and his writing through Bluebell Books and I wanted to say THANK YOU for his encouragement and feedback.
  9. James Hamilton: Geekstronomy – all things pop culture right at your fingertips. It takes courage and dedication to follow your passion.
  10. Bluebell Books: a great place for bloggers of all stripes to connect and stretch their creativity
  11. Morning: “Let the Caged Bird Sing” is the name of her blog. This bird sings in poetry and images.
  12. Mish/Writer-in-Transit: Mish is indeed a Versatile Blogger – there’s a whole rainbow, a whole treasure chest of creativity to be read!
  13. Jeanie McBain/All Kinds of Everything: a new blogging acquaintance, but I LOVE the optimism and love that radiates from her blog!
  14. Rox Linnell/Deadbook:  Props to my tall, cool friend Rox for writing while roping and riding the range. Read about her adventures in the slushpiles of publishers as she seeks a home for her novel, Deadbook.
  15. e.a.s. demers: “From the Inkwell, From the Vein” sums up the writing life. She is a lover of books, a reader of books, a writer of books, and purveyor of books. Thanks, e.a.s., for your feedback and encouragement here at IFTS.

As I compiled this list, I realized I know a helluva lot of bloggers!  It was hard to choose ONLY 15.  So go on out there and pay it forward. Read. Write. Encourage.

What Hope Looks Like

Children Walking on Trail

Image by vastateparksstaff via Flickr

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was on my way to work.  I dropped my daughter off at daycare before the first plane struck. I did not have the radio on in the car, so it was a day like any other as far as I was concerned…sunny and clear and perfect.

I arrived at work in downtown Toledo.  Our receptionist looked pale and upset.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

The upset changed to surprise. “You haven’t heard yet?  You’d better go to the Fishbowl (our glass enclosed conference room). Everyone’s in there.”

I dropped my belongings at my cubicle on my way down the hall, thoughts racing. I feared something had happened to one of my coworkers. It was a small company and we were all pretty close.

Everyone was packed into the conference room, staring at a small color television.  It took a moment for my brain to process what my eyes saw.  Smoke billowed from one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

Someone said a plane had struck the tower.

What a horrible accident, I thought.

Minutes later,  the second plane slipped along the backdrop of blue sky, and disappeared as smoke and flames shot out the windows of the second tower.

No one breathed for a moment. No one could comprehend.

Then…reports of the Pentagon attack…and another plane hijacked. Things became clearer.

We were under attack.

In our corner of the world, sun shone between the buildings with a clear September day taking hold. A few hundred miles away, the lives of thousands had just ended. The lives of thousands more were turning inside out.

I remember Dave, one of my coworkers, was standing next to me in the hall outside the Fishbowl as we watched in disbelief as the first tower fell, followed by the second.

My first thought was, “Oh, my God – the firefighters.” When reports started coming in about the devastation, the loss of life, and the chaos on the ground, my second thought was…

“What the hell kind of a world am I raising a child in?”

My oldest daughter was four when the Towers collapsed, and Flight 93 plowed into a field, and the Pentagon was attacked.  She remembers a bit about that day, and she’s learned more about in the years since.  What I remember most is how she responded to the events.

I sat in the living room of our apartment, watching entirely too much CNN, waiting for someone to rationalize the events of the day away or at least convince us it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Except it WAS as bad as it looked and no one was going to be able to rationalize anything.

My daughter asked, “Mama, what happened? Why are you sad?”

I tried to think of a way to explain this that wasn’t going to frighten her too much or plant seeds of distrust.

I said, “Well…some men stole some airplanes and used them to attack other people. A lot of people died.”

“Why did they do that?”

“I’m not really sure, sweetie. Maybe they just didn’t like us because we don’t think like they do, and rather than try to understand, they decided to fight with us. You know how on the playground two kids might not like each other and they’ll start a fight?  Sometimes it’s easier to fight than to listen. I’m not saying that’s right…it just is.”

She thought about this for a minute, then said, “But why can’t they just hold hands till the bad feelings go away?”

That’s what hope looks like.  That’s why we raise children in this “Post 9/11 World.”

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9

My youngest, who is eight, has been hearing “9/11…9/11…9/11” all week. She was born nearly two years after and has no understanding of the events of that day. But earlier in the week, we did watch Engineering Ground Zero on Nova, about the construction of the new skyscraper and the memorial at One World Trade Center. I thought Michael Arad’s memorial design – two deep fountains in the footprints of the fallen towers – perfectly symbolized the gallons of tears and sweat poured out in the last ten years.

“Mama, what’s nine-eleven?”

Similar to what I’d said ten years ago, I replied, “Terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York before you were born, and the buildings collapsed. Another plane hit the Pentagon in Washington, and the passengers of a fourth plane were very brave and kept the plane they were in from crashing into another building.”

I waited for the “why?” but instead she asked, “Did a lot of people die?”

“Yes.”

“Like, 40?”

Forty does sound like a lot.

“No, baby. Almost three-thousand.”  My heart hurt to have to say that, to inflict that kind of information on someone so kind-hearted and young.  This is the child who can go anywhere and have a friend within minutes. This is the child who will walk  up to anyone walking a dog and chat them up about the dog’s name and breed. This is the child who says hello to every baby and toddler in the supermarket.

But that’s what hope looks like.

Or as President William Jefferson Clinton once said, “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right with America.”

What is right are our children. But they need us to teach them to look at the world with both open hearts and open eyes. We cannot allow ourselves to forget the events of 9/11 because it is a teaching tool for resiliency, sacrifice, and the speed at which life passes. It is a teaching tool for being proactive with life and for loving our neighbor.

On 9/11/2011, it’s hard not to remember smoke and flames and debris and fear. But we can also remember support, encouragement, determination, bravery, solidarity, and the fact that we are still here. So much as changed in ten years, and not all of it for the better. It seems, at times, that we were strongest in our weakest moments.

Where will we be in 2021? What does hope look like? How do we teach our children to learn from our mistakes?