Walking Away Money

 

Several years ago, I left a job that I mostly enjoyed, planning to take a one-year sabbatical to sort out what my next move would be. I was a development officer, also known as a fundraiser, for a large midwestern university with national name recognition. I believed in the programs for which I fundraised, the visual and performing arts, scholarships, endowments, and I met amazing benefactors, many of whom I still maintain friendships with. But I knew I needed a change, wanted to explore some of the stories that I carried in my head and heart. I had been able to spend time with highly creative people—artists, musicians, sculptors, actors, and writers, while in that position. When we had time, I asked about their processes, how they studied, when they found the time to practice and create. Continue reading

Winter Walking through Grief

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This afternoon I did something I seldom do when it is cold outside—I went for a walk in my neighborhood. The snow crept in overnight, and when I got up this morning the lawn was blanket of white, and the intersection near my house had the fresh tire tracks of the early risers on their way to work.

I had planned to walk today but when I first saw the snow, I was resistant and did not want to go through the routine of bundling up so that I could walk. So I put it off, one hour, then another, until it was noon. And then I remembered what I learned during my retreat last month. Continue reading

Superheroes and Simplepowers

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We live in an age fascinated by the notion of superheroes and super heroines. It seems as if half of the movies and TV shows are based on comic book characters. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, after all, we like to see people use their special powers to prevent disaster and save the world. Even I am excited about the release of the Black Panther movie this weekend, enthralled with the representation of black and brown characters who display superior intellectual and physical prowess that they use for good.

What is your superpower? What is the skill you possess that can change the world for the better, or the attribute you tap into to get ahead? This is a question I often see in social media, where people refer to their gift as their “superpower.”

I am less interested in the idea of a superpower—I’d rather tap into my simplepower. What do I mean by that? A simplepower is your unique skill, which can be used at will, makes you better simply because you share it with others, and can be harnessed in circumstances calling for compassion and bravery. Even better, unlike the heroes in the movies and comics, you don’t have to hide it. Quite often people know you have this power and seek you out for it. A simplepower doesn’t require a costume change, a life-threatening situation, or a villain. A simplepower can be an act of kindness when someone needs it, good advice for the searching, or a quirky sense of humor that helps a sad person laugh.

Everyone has a simplepower.

My simplepower is encouragement—I like to encourage people, to help them see the magnificent possibilities in their lives. Decades ago, after I knew I was an encourager, I came across a verse in the bible, I Thessalonians 5:11—Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

After I read this, something in my spirit said, “Yes. That is who I am and who I want to be.” I wrote it down, tucked it away in my brown leather planner, and although the days of paper planners have been replaced by smartphone calendars, I still refer to it from time to time when I need a reminder of one reason why I am on this planet.

I love a snazzy outfit and admit that clothing and the right boots can alter my mood. But I don’t want to depend on a cape or a superpower when a quiet reminder will do. We all have a unique gift, some of us are blessed with multiple gifts, that we can share to uplift, encourage, or help another person.

What is your simplepower?

 

Summer Hiatus

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Hasn’t this summer been beautiful? It occurred to me that while some say it is half over, I still have several weeks to enjoy this season. I am going to take August off from blogging, and devote more time to my other writing and getting to the stack of books I want to read.

I’ll return after Labor Day, refreshed and ready to start the new (school) year. I’m not enrolled in school but August has always been my favorite planning season and feels like nearly back-to-school time for me.

Savor summer; I don’t want to hear any fussing about how much you miss it once winter rolls in.

Ramona

 

Simplicity

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Eden Park, Cincinnati, Ohio – May 2017

I have been clearing my closets—of clothes I don’t wear, or outfits that represent a life I no longer live. I didn’t need so many white blouses; I am convinced that those many years of wearing uniforms in grade school could be part of the problem. There is something about the crispness of a starched white blouse that says I am ready to work, whether it is cotton, eyelet, or linen, long-sleeved or sleeveless. But I had accumulated more than I needed.

I walked around my home, rummaging through shelves, opening doors, and looking for items I kept but no longer appreciated. Anything that was in good condition became a candidate for donation, to Goodwill, the women’s shelter, or the homeless center. I want to streamline my life, prune it of the extraneous and unnecessary, so I can focus on the activities that matter to me, like my writing and wellbeing.

You might think that clearing clutter means that I no longer shop. To the contrary. In fact, my style of simplicity is informed by the notion that I am more thoughtful about what I purchase and would rather save more and wait to get what I really want and treasure, rather than buy something that I will tire after one wear or use. It means that because I don’t eat meat, I willingly pay a bit more for a luscious piece of fruit, maybe organic, because that is how I would rather spend my money. I saved for a new dresser recently and I am eagerly awaiting its delivery today, because it is the first one I have picked out for myself, even though I love the midcentury piece I inherited from my grandfather and have used it for decades. I chose this dresser, waiting for years until I found one I wanted, and that makes it special. My other dresser will find a place in another room; I will not give it away, not yet.

As I release some of my possessions I am also examining my use of time. I said no to a couple of projects and resigned from a board, and I decided that for this summer, I really want to have my family and friends here for visits, so I put these dates on the calendar first, rather than squeezing them in among obligations.

Curating my commitments has also led to more time for writing, which has become my priority after my relationships. Writing is also on my calendar; I schedule a block of time to write each day, Monday-Friday, leaving the weekends a bit more fluid. It is not a rigid schedule, of course I’ll change as things come up, but one way I honor my writing is by making time to do it. I will not finish the essays, blog posts or the book that are in me if I treat my writing with a “get in where you fit in” attitude.

It is a process of asking myself, almost daily, if what I am doing is going to lead me where I want to be—in writing, with relationships, wellbeing, etc. By pruning my life of excess, in my closets, unhealthy eating, junk news, I create a more open, expansive world, one that I hope is suited to helping me focus on my values, dreams, and goals.

Dominique Loreau, in her book, L’art de la Simplicite´, addresses this issue of examining our possessions and use of time to determine what we would discard, keep, or add to our lives. It is not about deprivation, but rather about being mindful of what we choose to own, do and focus on.

She writes, “It is better to live with high aspirations than mediocre realities.” Consider what inspires you to create a more positive life and surroundings, what assists you in the pursuit of your dreams. For me, it began with clearing my closets and my calendar.

 

 

 

New Book-Family Stories from the Attic

I am excited about the arrival of a new anthology that features one of my essays. Family Stories from the Attic, published by Hidden Timber Books, was released this month. My essay, Without Words, appears in this wonderful anthology that holds stories about what we learn from the items our loved ones once cherished enough to hold onto. My story is about a different way of coming to learn more about someone when they are no longer able to talk with you. Through the words of the 22 writers in this book, you will come away with what it means to be in family, and how many questions are left unanswered if we don’t seek the deeper meaning in these artifacts. If you are blessed enough to have family members around whose stories you do not yet know, spend a little time with them, ask them about their favorite memories, lessons learned, or people they loved growing up. Then be prepared to sit and listen.

I hope that you will consider picking up a copy of Family Stories from the Attic; it is available from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and some independent bookstores will soon be carrying it. I’d love to hear from you if you read it, and let me know how conversations with your family members are going.

Peace and blessings,

Ramona

My Encounter with an Owl

This weekend we change our clocks, and in less than two weeks it will officially be spring. If you have ever had that feeling that someone is following you, tiptoeing to catch you by surprise, that is how I feel about the coming of spring. It is windy today and the first daffodils are in bloom. I am visualizing how my yard will be in full bloom midsummer, mentally plotting where I will plant the three hydrangea bushes I ordered, and considering how I can spruce up my screened-in porch. I have decided to not wait until it gets warm to sit out there; all I need is a good chair and a blanket. A peaceful way to start my day.

Last week I looked outside and saw something moving in a corner near a large urn that sits on the porch. It was grayish, not the brown of the dried hydrangea blossoms that I placed in a bundle in a wooden bucket last fall. Continue reading

Inspiration-Women

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I just finished Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, and although I have read many of her other works, this was the first time that I read this book. When I was done, I felt like something in me had cracked open.

Her words are beautiful even when the lives described are not. But there was one section that insisted I read it again and again, and it captured something I know to be true. Continue reading

NaNoWriMo – I Finished!

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 I did it! I wrote over 50,000 words for my novel during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In NaNoWriMo, you are declared a winner by finishing 50,000 words, but I felt like a winner after the first week. As I said in my first NaNoWriMo post at the beginning of the month, this was a challenge to find out what I could accomplish with focused effort. I know that my novel needs more work and lots of revision, but it feels great to have started.

Some of the lessons I learned are: Continue reading