Morning Routine

bird at sunrise

I started a 30-day challenge to get up each morning at 5:18 a.m. Why? For the past few weeks I have felt a creeping discontent with my ability to stay on track with some of my priorities. Around three o’clock or so, I would consider my day and end up frustrated because I had not made progress in the areas I told myself were most important—writing and wellbeing. Maybe I would get a little writing done, but not enough movement, or I would be so determined to get in the Orangetheory workout that I would piddle (this means dawdle in southern Ohio speak) when I got home, never really working on the essays that swirl around in my head. 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

Superhero heart sticker

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?

 

Don’t Stop Now-Weight Loss Goals

Get Healthy Green Road Sign and Clouds

 

We are about three weeks into the new year and I hope you are off to an inspired start. This week I wrote a guest post for Don’t Stop Now and it is about losing weight after 50, although the tips can apply regardless of your age.

Don’t Stop Now: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life is a forthcoming book geared to the specific challenges of baby boomer women.The book helps women determine ways to continue to grow—bringing vital, creative contributions to the world. Topics include physical wellness, emotional health, finances, relationships, behaviors, appearance, learning something new, giving back, and leading a balanced life.

You can find my post here—it is called The ABCs of Setting a Weight Loss Goal. Let me know what you think and if you have tips to share that are helping you lead a healthier life.

 

 

 

A Snowy Day

A snowy day here in northern Indiana. Days like this are perfect for writing, and if it warms up, venturing outside, even if it’s only to open the front door and take it all in. Stay warm!

 

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Retreat

Bright Green Door

I’m back from a writing retreat, one that I scheduled and planned at a cottage near Lake Michigan. I spent the first day alone and then a friend who is also a writer joined me for the remainder; she is working on her book and an amazing project.

Writing has been hard the last few months. In August, my family learned that my mother’s illness was serious; she was very sick. Thirty days later, she passed on.

I cannot find the right words to tell you more about her at this time, other than to say I love her and I am so grateful to have been blessed with her as my mother and guide. I had no concept that grief would be so heavy, numbing, and unpredictable, but since her passing, I am learning more about the impact of loss  than I knew before, even though I have gone through other challenges. At the beginning, grief caused me to switch between two impulses—a total retreat, into myself, to deal with the hurt; and a persistent urge to open my front door, and walk and walk and walk, until I arrived…somewhere.

I felt my mother’s presence over the last few days, encouraging me, happy that I had found yet another place to visit, wanting to hear the details of how the cottage looked, how the rooms were arranged, if it was near water.

Alone at the dining room table, I began to write and feel happiness creep back into my life. I slept well, full of words and ideas for future writing. When it was time to leave and close the door to the cottage, I felt like I could walk through another door. One where I could grieve my loss and yet be happy, retreat for healing and come back renewed.

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on Friendship and the novel The Hate U Give

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I finished The Hate U Give, written by Angie Thomas, two days ago and I am still mulling over the many themes in this novel. The protagonist, Starr Carter, spends her days in two worlds, the poor neighborhood she calls home and the suburban high school she attends. Her life, already full of challenges by the time she is 16, is upended when she witnesses the murder of her best friend.

I immersed myself into her world and its characters and I did not want to leave until I was done. The conflicts Starr must face, internal and external, forced me to consider my experiences attending predominately white schools and my role in social justice activism.

There are many themes here but the one I want to focus on is central to The Hate U Give; it is friendship. On page 265, Starr talks to her mother about a friendship that has gone awry. I know the page number because this was the one page I bookmarked right away so that I could come back to it. Starr ponders her mother’s advice and the friend with whom she is at odds, and asks herself, “Our friendship is based on memories. What do we have now?”

That question stood out because I have wondered if memories are really enough to sustain a relationship, at least a close one. When I think of my deepest relationships outside of my family, there are some similarities. Some began because we went to the same school, church, or worked at the same company. One might say proximity played a role because the relationships began because we saw each other often, almost daily, if you think of school or work, and we got to know one another. But it takes more than proximity to become friends. I’ve always been a little amused by people who think that someone they work with is a friend just because they see them in the office every day. It reminds me of a story a friend told me a long time ago; there was someone he often shared a ride with but he later realized that they were not really close, they were simply going in the same direction.

If being in the same place does not make us friends, then what does? I believe shared experiences, an open heart, and a willingness to learn from each other are essential to becoming friends. I might connect with someone right away because I like something about him or her, but attraction is not friendship, or at least it might not be.

My deepest friendships have generally been a surprise; I seldom saw it coming at the first meeting. It is like a gumbo or a stew. In the beginning it seems to be a collection of ingredients, a mishmash of conversations, events, and revelations, with the occasional misunderstanding that needs to be sorted out. Only over time does the flavor deepen, getting richer and more nuanced as we let things warm up.

The murder of Starr’s friend makes her question what it means to be a friend, to be loyal, and to stand up for what you believe. Starr has a big decision to make—retreat and be silent about what she knows, or open her mouth and speak the truth despite the inevitable negative consequences and challenges to her safety and relationships. I have had one or two friendships made closer by how someone supported me in a difficult situation, but not all have required that for me to know that the friendship was special. Very often, it was because of experiences, now memories, which we share.

In the most longstanding friendships, we not only have the old memories to go back to, but we create new ones by going through life together, or talking about what we are going through—the good, the bad, and the crazy. A memory may not be enough to sustain a friendship that has gone sour, but it can be the roux in the pot that holds it together when we cannot see each other as often as we’d like.

This book made the 2017 National Book Award Longlist and is a New York Times bestseller. I hope you’ll read The Hate U Give, consider what it says about social justice and friendship, and share it with others. It’s a YA (young adult) novel, which might cause some to pass over it. Don’t—the writing is excellent and Thomas tells a great story full of characters you will recognize, if your world is as open as it could be. If not, then read it to understand another side to the many issues which are being debated and legislated these days.