Tag Archives: new year

Effort

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Starting today, October 1st, I’m participating in “The Last 90 Days Challenge.” It’s one more self-improvement strategy cooked up by Rachel Hollis and her company. With best-selling books, wildly popular seminars, blogs and social media, her topics range from building a business to fitness to decorating napkins for a child’s lunch box. I’ve aged beyond the need for much of her advice, but I’m always drawn in by self-improvement.

The purpose of the “last 90 days” is to prepare to start the new year strong. Rather than ending the year on the downside of all the neglected plans and ignored resolutions that were made last January, this is a way to finish with a bang!

The plan has five basic requirements:

  • Hydrate! This one is hard for me, as I’m not much of a water-drinker, but it’s an area that I know I have to improve. Many days I only drink the water I need to take my pills and vitamins! This will be a good time to make an extra effort. They recommend drinking half your body-weight in ounces of water. My personal goal is to increase my intake, and keep track of it.
  • Wake up earlier. One extra hour in the morning, to read, exercise, write or meditate. It’s a good idea; it will be a big challenge.
  • Give up one category of food or drink. I’m doing this in 30-day increments because, you know, Thanksgiving and all. For October, it’s alcohol and candy. There are things that are bigger indulgences, and would do me more good to abstain from, but too bad, I’m starting this way.
  • Move your body at least thirty minutes a day, every day. That’s easy. I have dogs, and already have the habit of walking them morning and night. At least one of those walks is a combination of speed walking and intermittent jogging. I have a job that often requires quite a bit of physical activity, too. I’m going to try to be more regular about other exercise, especially strength training, for the rest of this year.
  • Practice active gratitude. They suggest writing ten things, each day, that you are thankful for. This is also something that I’ve been working to incorporate into my life. Time, now, to be more disciplined about it.

That’s it! In addition, I plan to keep up with my “Morning Pages” every day, and blog posts twice a week. I intend to get my studio organized so that it’s a pleasant place to work again. I have one window to repair before the cold weather sets in, and a couple house painting projects. Outside, the garden has to be readied for winter, and the lawn will need one last mowing. I could make a longer list of things I want to get done, but it would probably lead to disappointment and failure. At this stage, I prefer to keep my expectations in check, and plan for good results from my effort!

Beginning the Year with A, B, and C

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some books on my nightstand

A brand new year. New expectations; new promises to myself. A new journal to keep track of my life…or to keep my life on track, I’m not sure which. It will be filled, soon enough, with resolutions, plans and good intentions, and a number of graphs, lists and charts to record my progress…or lack thereof. I start by noting accomplishments and memorable things from the year just past.

For that, I page through last year’s journal. It is a wealth of information, often discouraging and sad. I can see, for instance, that, though I devoted lines each month in my “Habit and Activity Tracker” to “weights,” “yoga/pilates” and “walk,” I fulfilled those goals only a tiny fraction of the times planned. I did better in other areas. I rarely missed a scheduled work day. I posted a blog twice a week, occasionally more, almost without fail. I read every single day. From the pages I devoted to “Books I Read, 2018,” I see that I completed thirty-three books last year.

With that in mind, I’m going to start this year off on a positive note, focusing on the books I am reading right now. It just happens – coincidentally – that they begin with the first three letters of the alphabet.

Atomic Habits by James Clear is the perfect book to have first on my reading list at the start of a new year. So far, it has given me such confidence that change (improvement) is possible, that I have put off all my usual resolution-making until I finish this book. Clear suggests that it is not helpful to focus on goals; we should, instead, focus on “systems,” the behaviors that will help us get to the results we want. “Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.” Systems are the steps you take to get the desired outcome. This is a highly technical – i.e.: lots of graphs and studies – but very easy-to-read book. I’m thinking it just might change my life!

Becoming by Michelle Obama. My daughter and I were talking about this book just before Christmas. “Do you have it?” she asked. “No,” I told her, “I’ve seen so many good, in depth interviews with her, I feel kind of like I know how it goes. Maybe I don’t need to read it.” That wasn’t quite true. I had seen many wonderful interviews, and I was telling myself that it was unnecessary to invest in another freshly published hard cover book right now. However, when I received the book on Christmas Eve – a gift from that same wily daughter – I was thrilled! I’ve only just started it, but Michelle Obama is an extremely engaging writer, and I’m thoroughly enjoying her book!

Calypso by David Sedaris is the third book I’m reading right now. My two daughters and I met in Lansing last year, to see Sedaris at the Whiting Auditorium. I’ve loved his books, and his readings on NPR for years, and his talk there did not disappoint. To commemorate that special get-together, I got each of my daughters a David Sedaris book for Christmas. For Jen, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. I own that book, and re-read it whenever I need to improve my mood. I can’t get through the first essay in that book without tears of laughter running down my face! I hope Jen likes it as much as I have. For Kate, Calypso. Because I had not yet read that one, I bought it for myself as well…an early Christmas present for me. Unnecessary, gift-wise, as I was very generously inundated with all kinds of wonderful, thoughtful presents, but I appreciate this book anyway.

So, A, B and C. I’m sure reading – my biggest success – will continue through the year. I can’t say if it will continue to follow the alphabet!

Another List

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Remember 2016, when I posted a blog every single day? I remember, with lots of shaking of the head and thoughts like, “How the hell did I ever manage to do that???” One of the things that pulled me through was the “52 Lists Project.” One day a week – I chose Sunday – was devoted to making a list, possibly with a little explanation or side-chatter, based on the guidelines offered. Well, the author, Moorea Seal, has come out with a new book!

52 Lists for Happiness: Weekly Journaling Inspiration for Positivity, Balance and Joy has been on my bookshelf for a few weeks now, just waiting for the new year. Now that 2018 is here, I’m going to start, one day a week, working through the lists. Maybe it will move over to Sunday – that seems a good day to focus on these themes – but, because I’m anxious to get started, this week Tuesday is “list day.”

List #1: List what makes you happy right now

  • Rosa Parks: this little dog, who will ask to sit on my lap only rarely (she’s an independent little cuss), but makes me smile whenever she does. I like the weight of her on my lap, her two front legs resting on my left arm, and the way she seems truly interested in whatever I’m doing on the computer.
  • My bullet journal. I always enjoyed playing school as a child. I love to organize. I adore graph paper. New supplies always make me feel inspired. A new year gives me reasons for new plans. All of that energy comes together in my brand new journal with it’s sea foam green cover, two ribbon page markers, elastic band closure and back cover pocket!
  • Four boxes of new art supplies, delivered to the airport on New Year’s Eve.
  • Cozy slippers, a gift from my sister, Cheryl.
  • Homemade bread – whole wheat with dried cherries and walnuts – toasted and slathered with butter.
  • The new toaster, a gift from my sister Brenda and her husband, Keith. They knew I was without a toaster. Did they also know that the last three toasters I owned were Christmas gifts from my sweet Mom, who is no longer with us? And that that contributed to my dragging my feet about getting another? And that to receive one for Christmas as a gift was the best way to bring Mom back in to the celebration…and a toaster back in to my life?
  • Soft (and red!) pajamas, given to me on Christmas Eve by my friend, Linda. One Christmas tradition I started with my daughters was to always get new pajamas on Christmas Eve, so they were perfect on many levels. Right now, it makes me happy to see the bright red sleeves poking out of my robe as I type.
  • Other gifts: from my daughter Kate and her family, wonderful scents and smells in soap and lotions and candles that give me pleasure every single day in one way or another. From my sister Amy and her husband, Dennis, a packet of fifty-two fold-over letters and envelopes, one for every week of the year. Each one has a unique design, and a different message on the envelope flap. How did they know that I was planning to be better about correspondence this year? “Correspond” has it’s own space in my new Habit and Activity Tracker! From my sister Robin and her friend, Dick, a gift certificate that I used to purchase a recently released, hard-cover mystery novel: one of those decadent purchases that I totally enjoy, but would have never purchased otherwise. From my friends, Bob and Ed, a box of cheese (some of the best cheese I’ve ever tasted). From “Santa,” a big box of wonderful chocolates, delivered on Christmas Eve. Many other thoughtful presents that make me happy, knowing that the givers know me, and know what will make me smile.
  • Hot coffee with cream.
  • The balance of this day off, to do some things I have to, and anything else I want to. I’m going to get going on that right now…or just as soon as I finish this cup of coffee.

[The More Things]Change…

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Three days into the new year, and in my life things haven’t changed much. I spent the last two days in – mostly – slothful decadence, resolutions be damned.

I read – a lot. I finished two books and got halfway through a third. I caught up on the blogs that I follow, read through three months worth of saved magazines, and read the BBC news each day. I had long, enjoyable telephone conversations with friends and family. I watched movies: DoubtEverestMao’s Last Dancer. I watched two episodes of Chicago Code on Netflix, and That Sugar Film on Amazon. I played quite a few games of on-line Scrabble. I wrote and posted a blog on Sunday, and am doing it again today (yesterday, I missed writing, and found myself putting thoughts and events into workable sentences in my mind all day). I managed to accomplish – though minimally – a few things that were on my list to specifically work at this year.

I walked two miles each day. I kind of let that go when the weather turned bitter and the roads turned to ice at the same time that I came down with a cold. Winter is too long to indulge myself that way. It is still cold, and I still have a cough and a rattle in my chest, but I bundled up, put on my “ice-walkers” and got out there. My sore muscles tell me it was about time!

I started a new diet. I was planning to try the Whole 30 plan, which involves giving up all legumes, grains, sugar and dairy for 30 days. The more I read about it, the more I felt that – for me – it was a set-up for failure.  In the end I opted for a less drastic plan. I have given up sugar. That is drastic enough considering that most packaged foods contain it in some form, and that almost all grains (which convert to sugar) are out as well. That means no pasta, no bread, no rice, no oatmeal. No potatoes, except for sweet potatoes. No corn. No bottled salad dressing, even. So, even though it’s more do-able than the Whole 30 – which was going to eliminate just about every single thing in my diet – it is still a challenge.

I managed “Cleaning Time” every day, though I certainly did not get to any of the deep cleaning and clearing out projects that I’d intended. I kept the dishes and laundry moving through sink and washing machine, cleaned up other messes as they happened (mostly snow and ice brought in on boots and paws, and a spill or two) and scoured the bathroom fixtures. That’s it. In fact, I have a long list of things to finish up today, just to feel like I managed to accomplish my normal days-off cleaning projects.

My long list of things to do on this (three days in a row!) time off has all been saved for today. The last day. When I also have to get to the bank, the post office, the grocery store, the transfer station and Aunt Katie’s, to scrub her floors. In that way, life is the same now, in 2017, as it has been for the many years before.

I still make big plans, and I still feel disappointment when I don’t get everything done. I’ve had the conversation with myself, sure, that what I should actually work on changing is the disappointment. Accepting myself, mess that I am, would be a better thing to work on. I’m not quite there yet. For now, I continue to work toward becoming a better (read: more organized; neater; more accomplished) person. And, as usual, it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Onward, into the new year!

…on to the New Year

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I’ve been looking over my blog entries for January 1st. It’s amazing how little things have changed in my life over the last several years, when it comes to aspirations for the new year. From 2013:

“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’m sure I’ll have a list of new (old) goals and resolutions before the day is out. I’m big on fresh starts, turning over a new leaf, beginning again. As a child, I was the one – when things didn’t go as planned – crying, “Let’s start over!” Certainly there are encounters I wish I could re-do. Days that could have been better spent. Hell, there are entire chapters of my life I wish I could over-write! My list, I’m sure, will reflect all of that. More patience, organization,  devotion to heath  and heart and spirit, more letter writing…less sloth, mindlessness and temper.

For this moment, on this first morning of 2013, though, I want to sit here at peace with myself. I want to embrace this person that I am, with all of my short-comings and all of my flaws. I want to be comfortable with my mistakes, past, present and future. I want to love myself for the flawed, good-hearted being that I am, nothing more. Simple acceptance. May you find it, too!

Here I am, once again, at the desk. This will be my three hundred and sixty-eighth consecutive post. Whew! It has been quite a year. This has been quite a commitment, and one huge accomplishment in my life. I’m pretty proud of myself. Encouraged, too.

Though I try hard to give a different impression, I have always believed myself to be somewhat lazy, and kind of a quitter. Not so negative as it sounds, really, I just tend to have a lot of interests, am kind of scatter-brained, and spread myself way too thin. So, I don’t give things, generally, the time or attention they deserve, I get tired of doing things in a “half-assed” manner, so burn out, give up, or quit.

That wasn’t the case with this writing commitment. My goal was to put out an average of five hundred words a day. I worked at finding subject matter that would engage…me, mostly, so that I could write with honesty and feeling. It was a bonus when my topic struck a chord with others.

My “52 Lists Project” on Sundays, and “Timeout for Art” on Thursdays helped to project me through the week. Beyond those, I tried to stay away from the “cheats” of re-posting an old blog, or of posting just a poem or quote from another writer. I planned ahead for vacations, or times when I might not have access to a computer. I often sat down without a plan and struggled to get something written. At other times, I woke up with something to say, and couldn’t wait to get it down.

Daily writing did become a habit, over the course of the year. It got easier, as time went on. I got better at it, too. I’d like to think my writing skills improved, and maybe they did. Mostly, though, I got pretty good at just sitting down and doing it. The follow through, and successful completion of a commitment, is what I am most pleased with. It opens up a lot of other possibilities. I have more confidence in my ability to set a big goal, and finish it. It’s a good way to start this new year.

In order to give quality time to other things I want to pursue, I won’t be writing every day in 2017. However, I also don’t want to fall back into the “two or three times a week…or when I really feel like it” habit. To keep up the discipline of a writing habit, I’m going to commit to three days a week: Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Thursdays will still be devoted to art, and I’m planning to have new and exciting work to talk about. One day will be devoted to a memoir-writing project that author (and friend) Mary Blocksma is sponsoring. The third day will be devoted to my usual nonsense.

That’s it, though, for reflection, self-congratulation and plans for the future. Now, I want to take the advice of my 2013 self, as I look forward to 2017:

I want to sit here at peace with myself. I want to embrace this person that I am, with all of my short-comings and all of my flaws. I want to be comfortable with my mistakes, past, present and future. I want to love myself for the flawed, good-hearted being that I am, nothing more. Simple acceptance.

Happy New Year!

Looking Ahead

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Today is January 1, 2016.

Today, the new year begins.

Yesterday, it was all plans.

Yesterday, after work, I went to the grocery store. I chose items for meals based on the fact that I’ll be participating in my friend Carla’s “5 Day Clean Eating Challenge.” So, of course, I wanted foods that would not only taste good and be healthy, but that would photograph well, should the need arise. My plan is this: mostly oatmeal or yogurt and granola for breakfast; healthy homemade soups for lunch; for dinner, I’ll work my way around salmon, chicken breast, brown rice and the mound of vegetables and greens I brought home. Day before yesterday, I made a huge pot of bean and barley soup with a tomato base and lots of vegetables. I made so much, in fact, that if the 5 day challenge started today, I could eat soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week, and not have to think about another meal!

I ran to the airport yesterday afternoon when I learned I had packages waiting. More books to add to the stack. I have quite a collection of self-help books, waiting to start my new year off on the right foot. Every one, I am sure, will change my life. I do this every year. So far, my life has not been dramatically changed by any self-help book. Still, winter is here, books are nice companions…and I still hold out hope for life-changing advise. In the pile this year are:

the life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo

Art Before Breakfast by Danny Gregory

This Year I Will…by M.J.Ryan

do less by Rachel Jonat

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

F*ck Feelings by Michael I. Bennett, MD and Sarah Bennett

I was so impressed with that last one, I ordered one for each of my daughters as well. Yeah…those will probably have to go back. It doesn’t take a self-help book to know that self-help books, presented to others, carry the idea of judgment and even insult. Improving myself is job enough!

Yesterday I outlined plans for studio work this year, including a hundred small paintings, a few larger paintings and putting my printing press back in use. I also want to do some experimenting with encaustic painting, and I am tentatively thinking about a drawing class.

Yesterday, I committed to writing every day in 2016. What was I thinking? It’s even a leap year! It was a moment of weakness. My friend Joss, who writes poetry and does amazing and magical things, said she planned to write every day this year. She asked if any others wanted to join her in that commitment.

I am over-extended in every area of my life. I lay awake at night thinking how I will accomplish just the basic things that I need to do. I mourn the things I’ve had to let go. This time of year, though, makes me crazy. This whole idea of new, of starting fresh, of unlimited possibilities makes me think anything is possible.

I thought, “It was really hard just writing every day in November!” I thought, “Are you nuts?” I thought, “I have tomorrow off…I could do that.” And just like that, I have taken on a 366 day writing challenge.

So, if I’m going to succeed at this, I can’t plan a long post every day. I can’t spend a half-hour going through photos to pick the best illustration for my little writing. Most days, it will be whatever view I encounter when I take Rosa Parks out for her morning constitutional, in words and pictures. With that in mind, I brought my camera outside with me this morning. Snow is coming down; the view in every direction is a study in gray. On the way back to the house, I noticed my garden sculpture – a form I made of loose coils of clay, now topped with a gazing ball – was wearing a party hat of snow. Perfect!

Happy New Year!

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Six Days Into The New Year, How It’s Going So Far

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I want to be on top of it this year.

I don’t want to look back and wonder.

I know 2011 was a difficult year.

It wasn’t all bad, but it held some of the hardest times I’ve ever experienced.

Living through it, and being able to continue on, was the best part.

Going into 2012, I was filled with optimism. I was glad to put that old, sad year behind me. 2012 was going to be a good year!

Chinese New Year followed shortly after. The Year of the Dragon! I was born in the year of the dragon, considered the most powerful sign in the Chinese calendar. That had to be a good sign, right? The year of the dragon would be a wonderful year for me.

In August, I turned sixty. 60! I’ve always loved those round numbers! This has to be good…doesn’t it? “This year, aged sixty, will be my best year yet”, I told myself.

Over and over, as things seemed to turn from bad to worse, uglier and uglier, I said, with less and less enthusiasm, “My best year yet!”

I will not bother with the details. I experienced job troubles and money problems. There were difficult encounters and lost friendships. Illness and death, both human and canine. Car trouble and lawn mower trouble. A roof that was leaking buckets-full…through the new attic insulation…pouring out through the light fixture in the laundry room…ruining the floor. And on, and on.

I’ve thought, perhaps, I’m just focusing on the negative.

No, I think the opposite is actually true.

But I wasn’t wearing blinders, either. I experienced the bad as well as the good.

2012 is behind me. It wasn’t the worst, but it fell far short of my expectations for it.

February 10th will mark the beginning of the Year of the Snake in the Chinese calendar. The dragon was not particularly good to me.

Come August, I’ll be back in those other pesky numbers, with five years before another round number in my age. Sixty hasn’t been the worst, but so far it has quite a way to go before it could be considered my best year yet.

I’m not going to put so much pressure on 2013.

This doesn’t have to be the best.

This year, I will have no expectations.

The year will unfold.

I’ll deal with the rough times.

I’ll enjoy the good times.

I will laugh as much as possible.

Just like last year.

Six days in, it’s going okay so far.

…and On We Go

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“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’m sure I’ll have a list of new (old) goals and resolutions before the day is out.

I’m big on fresh starts, turning over a new leaf, beginning again.

As a child, I was the one – when things didn’t go as planned – crying, “Let’s start over!”

Certainly there are encounters I wish I could re-do. Days that could have been better spent.

Hell, there are entire chapters of my life I wish I could over-write!

My list, I’m sure, will reflect all of that. More patience, organization,  devotion to heath  and heart and spirit, more letter writing…less sloth, mindlessness and temper.

For this moment, on this first morning of 2013, though, I want to sit here at peace with myself.

I want to embrace this person that I am, with all of my short-comings and all of my flaws.

I want to be comfortable with my mistakes, past, present and future.

I want to love myself for the flawed, good-hearted being that I am, nothing more.

Simple acceptance.

May you find it, too!

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“Years end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.”
~Hal Borland

My plan for the new year is to keep going on…to keep on moving forward, to continue trying to  make every day the best it can be and to meet every challenge with the best I can offer.

My wish for all of you is the strength and determination to do the same.

Blessings and Best Wishes!

“Years end is n…

…And on to the New Year

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“Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one and precious life?”

~Mary Oliver

2012. I’m expecting big changes this year.

I’ve had quite a few ideas swimming around in my head…things I’d like to do or see or be a part of. I’ve entertained these thoughts without judgment and without action. I know it’s too soon after major life trauma to do anything drastic. But I’ve been entertaining some pretty monumental thoughts.

Life is short. That fact has come crystal clear to me in the last several months. In less than two years, I’ve lost two siblings. My brother, David, was ten years younger than me. My sister, Sheila, was four years younger. My mother, almost exactly twenty years older than me and so generally healthy that we fully expected to have her around ’til age 100, died last August. If  I am more fortunate than my brother and sister, and avoid premature death…if  I live as long as my mother did (though I daresay she took much better care of herself than I did for much of my life so far)…I have about 7000 days left. On top of all that, this is the year I will turn 60. So, as Mary Oliver suggests, I’m thinking of what I want to do with my life.   Perhaps that means a change in location or lifestyle or livelihood. Maybe it will just be a greater awareness of and appreciation for my life as it is: a change in perception. Either way, there will be changes.

I’m also planning for small changes this year.

My little dog, Rosa Parks, and I are both going to lose some weight.

I have several variations of my usual collages, paintings and collagraphs underway, and have plans for a series of charcoal drawings.

I intend to learn how to download photos, to improve this blog and so that I can showcase my artwork.

I plan to continue my writing practice. I will also write letters and notes of appreciation regularly.

I am going to organize my time so that I can accomplish what I want to in any given week.

Finally, I am going to live with intention rather than out of habit.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!