The Meaning of December

The Meaning of December

 

It’s finally December and NaNoWriMo is over. For those who missed it, I managed to make it to the 50,000 words and I am still working on it.

 

 

I’ve come to realize December means many things:

It’s the last month of the old year.
The holidays have arrived.
We celebrate the returning of the light.
And, for many of us, it is a chance to say goodbye to the old year and say hello to the new year, including setting intentions for how that year will go.

By now, most of us know what to expect from the holidays. Preparations may not be complete but a plan is in place. It’s a matter of checking off the list and hopefully, you will find some time to enjoy the season.

December also means a return to the light. A time when each day brings a few more seconds of light.

December is also a time when we look back on the old year, taking note of what worked and what didn’t. Most of all it is a time to set your intention for the year.

Take a look back:

The focus of this post is to take a look at the previous year, evaluating your growth, successes and even your failures.

1. Did you set goals for 2017? If you did, how did that go? Did you reach your goal? Did you give up? Complete failure?
First of all, regardless of the outcome, I want you to forgive yourself. Forgive any flaws or failures you may have had. Forgive the perceived weakness and that life got in the way.
Secondly, look at the goals you set. For the ones you accomplished, where do you go from here. Is there a next step? Was that one finished? What about the ones that didn’t work quite so well, what kept you from reaching the goal? Was it too broad, not specific enough? Or, did life simply get in the way?

2. If you didn’t set goals, did you have any expectations for the year? Expectations are much more difficult to pin down but we all have them. Did you expect to change your life? Or, expect that things would stay the same? The new year always brings the expectation of hope.

3. What about an intention? I often set a word for the year. I’ve even written about it a few times. Word of the year is a wonderful way to welcome something positive into your life. One year my word was enough. I thought I meant that I am enough but no, the universe took that invitation to see exactly how much enough meant. It was an interesting year.

My favorite way to look back over the past year is to see where you succeeded, regardless of whether or not you set a goal, and where you want to improve.

The Invitation:

The ending of the old year and beginning of the new year is an invitation. An invitation to dream big once again.

Where do you want your life to go?
What do you hope to accomplish?
Who do you want to be at the end of the new year?
How do you want to get there?
Why do you want to go there? Asking about your why is another post.

In the midst of the craziness of this season, I hope you can take a few moments to think over the past year. And, to look forward to the new year. It is a time for hope and intentions. You can make the decision to make this your best year yet. The possibilities are endless.

Until next time,
Angela

A Final Thought on the Close of November

 

One final quote for November:

“Each day provides its own gifts.”
Marcus Aurelius

As with gratitude, I often forget to look for the good things in each day. I have come to believe in the ordinary moments of life becoming the most important. Therein lies the gifts.

I hope you can see the gifts in your own life.

Angela

P.S. NaNoWriMo ended successfully. I was able to validate a couple of days ago. Thank you for your thoughts and support.

Time for an Attitude of Gratitude

Practice Gratefulness

If you are anything like me, Thanksgiving is a reminder to be grateful for the life you have. I also find myself reflecting on the ups and downs of life. One quote has kept me going through this past year, with its ups and downs, and is one I try to remember when I’m on one of the downturns:

“The best way out is always through.”

Robert Frost

 

Another way to get through the ups and downs of life is to be grateful. Grateful for the happy times and grateful for the difficult times, knowing that life wouldn’t be the same without both.

As I thought about Thanksgiving and my goal to post quotes, I found several that resonated with me. Hopefully, you will find meaning in words too.

Gratitude Quotes

William Arthur Ward

“Gratitude can turn common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joys, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

Melody Beattie

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

Brene Brown

“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – its right in front of me if I am paying attention and practicing gratitude.”

Kristen Armstrong

“When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in.”

Randy Pausch

“Never lose the childlike wonder. Show gratitude… Don’t complain; just work harder… Never give up.”

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and remember to take the good with the bad.

Yours,

Angela

 

A Life Affirming Quote

NaNoWriMo is always full of surprises and this year is no exception.

First of all, the writing has been hard.

Second of all, the story I’d planned didn’t come together.

Third, I stopped writing for a time.

 

None of these things are normal for me in November and I started to panic. Would this be the year I didn’t finish my NaNoWriMo project?

Nope! Not even close.

I simply changed direction and I am back on track. Of course, I am being a rebel and working on a previous project, however, I am only counting the words written in November. (I’m not that much of a rebel.)

I found the following quote and realized its amazing truth:

“I can’t change the direction of the wind,

but I can adjust my sails to always

reach my destination.” By Jimmy Dean

I’ve adjusted my sails and am moving forward.

I hope these words give you encouragement too.

Yours,

Angela

Warning: The Holidays Are Fast Approaching

The holidays are coming.

At times, these four words fill me with dread, and yet this is supposed to be a happy time. All the cards and commercials say so.

And yet, it’s not. For so many reasons, the holidays are filled with angst and heartache. More often they are filled with the need to do more and have more, be everywhere.

As this is often the case, one of the struggles we tend to have is that we are a blended family and trying to keep everyone happy is a juggling act that defies reason.

I wrote about this last year in my post, Slow Down and Breathe. The steps I wrote then are absolutely still valid, so I am giving them to you again. I hope you find them helpful this year.

Life is about creating balance, and the following thoughts may help you find balance and achieve holiday peace.

Thoughts to Holiday Peace

1. Plan Ahead: Keep your calendar updated so you can see what is coming. Know what needs to happen and is expected at each event to reduce the surprises. For example, if you must make a dish-to-pass for every party, you will need to find the recipes (or several, as is my case) then you can plan and pick up all the ingredients for the recipe ahead of time.

2. Reduce the “Events”: Not every holiday party or even is a “must” attend. Decide which ones are the most important and go only to these. Not everyone will understand, but you must take care of you. Attempting to attend every event is a recipe for exhaustion.

3. Reduce Gifting: Although there seems to be a competition for the biggest, better than last year, gift-giving season, this can create pressure, stress, and, of course, debt. For the most part, we have what we need – for some, we have too much. Do we really need that next gadget? Do my kids really need that “must have” toy?

4. Take Time for Yourself: Do things for yourself like long baths, nights out with your partner, or alone time. Have fun. It’s so difficult to give and give, without taking the time to recharge yourself. The exhaustion and burnout can make for an unpleasant holiday season.

5. Breathe: Just 5 minutes each morning of deep breathing can set the tone for the entire day. Breathing can detoxify your system, lower your stress and help you sleep better at night.

Other Thoughts

I will be talking about creating balance in your life in the following weeks. Balance isn’t something you achieve all at once; some say one can never find balance. In a sense that may be true, however, being aware of when and where your life gets thrown out of balance is powerful. Once you can see where that imbalance is in your life, you can make choices to improve.

Choice is important when seeking balance. Without it, each of us is subject to the whims of life. Not that things still won’t come up, by actively seeking a balance and making the best choices for that present moment will help you move through whatever bump in the road you may encounter.

I hope you have the Holiday season you are seeking. In whatever form that takes.

Angela

www.achoekwater.com

A Perfectly, Imperfect Wedding and The Return to Writing

It’s been a while. The summer flew by so quickly it is difficult to believe that we are officially into fall. Yet, here we are.

A Perfectly, Imperfect Wedding

Much of the past few months have been focused on my daughter’s wedding. I’d forgotten how much work planning a wedding can be. Even when you attempt to plan for every contingency, something always happens. Like, wardrobe malfunctions and insane weather.

Wardrobe Malfunctions

Turns out I forgot one of the main items to have on hand for weddings: Safety pins.

Really?

Yes, one of the zippers broke on one of the bridesmaids’ dresses and she had to be sewn into it.

Safety pins would have saved the day.

Insane Weather

Now, if you live in Michigan, September generally means some seriously beautiful weather. The days tend to be warm, but not too warm and the nights cool enough for sweatshirts. September and October days tend to be the gift just before winter hits and reminds us that we should all move south.

But, not this year.

No, this year we have had insane weather and not just in Michigan. At the time of this writing, a hurricane is barreling toward North Carolina. Marie is her name and she is the 4th or 5th one to hit the US and it’s territories.

Hurricanes tend to change the weather in other parts of the country and when there are so many in a row, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we, here in Michigan would be affected too.

I must confess I didn’t really look at the weather forecast much in the week before the wedding. I worried mostly about rain as our contingency plan would have to be implemented.

A couple of days before the wedding, temps began to climb. By Thursday before the big day, we were seeing highs in the 80’s. On Friday, the thermometer reached 90 degrees.

A fun fact: on Friday, September 22, the 2nd hottest place in the United States was Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, about an hour away from where the wedding would be held.

Needless to say, on the day of the wedding, temps hovered around 94 or 95 degrees, with humidity.

We didn’t plan for the heat and it affected so much.

The show must go on and so it did.

In spite of the heat, the wedding was beautiful. Everyone seemed to have a good time.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not happy that it is over. I’m just so ready to get back to real life.

A Return to Writing

I’ve been absent from my writing for some time. I’m not even sure when I posted the last time. Apparently, it’s difficult to stay focused on goals when planning a wedding.

But I am back and slowly building my writing habits again, which includes publishing blog posts regularly.

Slow is a relative term.

As we have reached the fall season, I am not surprised that NaNoWriMo is coming. That means I have deadlines to meet and a novel to plan.

I need to spend October planning or something close to it. All I have is a character in mind. Not much else. This should be fun.

So, there you have it. My life in less than 600 words. I am grateful for all of my readers and the chance to share these words with you.

As I close, I leave you with this cuteness:

Abel refused to take his hat off.



The Simplest Form of Radical Self-Care

The term Radical Self-Care has been rattling around in my brain for a couple of weeks. I listened to a TED talk given by Anne Lamont called 12 truths I learned from life and writing and since then I can’t get the words out of my head. Even though I often think about how to incorporate self-care into my life, attaching the word radical has taken on new meaning.

Self-care is one of those buzz words that gets thrown around a lot. We receive so many messages every day including: eat better, sleep better, daily exercise, and learn to meditate. The amount of information can be overwhelming but there is a simple way to radical self-care.

Consider the following:

When we take a flight, one of the first of the safety instructions is that if the oxygen masks come down, be sure to put your own on first before helping any others, including your own children.

The reason to put your own mask on first is that if you wait and help everyone else, you may not survive.
I think this is the very definition of radical self-care: You must take care of yourself first or you won’t survive.

Not surviving comes in many forms. Exhaustion, depression and anxiety, medicating either through established avenues such as your doctor or through self-medicating, and whole host of other things that numb us to our true feelings.

Who loses when you don’t take care of yourself?

Just like in the airplane example: you, your children, anyone around you that could have been helped if only you would have taken the time to make sure you were okay first.

Your health and sanity are just a couple of things that you jeopardize by not taking care of yourself.

And, why don’t we take better care of ourselves?

I’m quite certain there are many reasons but the ones that resonate with me are the following:

Societal expectations – this is the one that simply says that everyone else must come first.

Guilt – because we’ve learned that everyone else comes first we feel guilty for even wanting to take care of ourselves and that is a powerful deterrent.

Time – though is an excuse, life gets busy and because you’ve put yourself last, you’ve become convinced that there is no time to take care of yourself.

Expectations – as a perfectionist, I struggle with doing everything the “right” way.

Hint: there is no right way.

What can we do?

Here comes the simplest way to radical self-care. Are you ready for it?

The simplest and, yet, most radical form of self-care is to say NO.

Saying yes to everything that presents itself to you saying no to you. I often tell friends and clients that no is a complete sentence. No explanations necessary. By saying yes to taking care of yourself and no to others, you are one step closer to that life you want.

Really!?!?

I said it was simple, I didn’t say it was easy. Saying no is one of the most difficult things to do but one of the most empowering.

I dare you to try it. Especially with those requests that you’ve said yes to and immediately wished you could have said no.

I dare you to take care of yourself first and see how much better you are for your family, friends, work and life.

I dare you!

Life At The Speed Of Sound

Life is going fast lately. Too fast. I feel as if I am out of breath most of the time.

Summer is just beginning here in Northern Michigan and, already, my calendar is filling up. Most days, I simply slide through until I go to sleep at night, only to do it all over again the next day.

Between work itself being incredibly busy, we have end of year things to do, a wedding to plan and home improvement projects to complete. In between are the four weddings, four open houses and several family reunions. Not to mention, in the middle of all of this I am working on a second draft of a novel. I am certain there is little cure for the busyness that comes with summer.

 

That means I need to change my focus. I’ve read recently an article by raptitude.com called ‘You Never Have Time, Only Intentions’. I would encourage you to check this one out.

Though I am still processing this particular article, the idea behind the article is that time isn’t tangible. Time isn’t something we “have”. The only thing we have is this moment.

Even when we believe we have lots of time, the only thing we truly have is the intention for that time. The time will move on regardless of any action on our parts.

Living in the moment is difficult for me on a good day. On a bad day, forget about it. I’m only holding on until it’s over and I can go to bed.

One of the ways that I have been attempting to live in the moment is through an exercise (thanks, Katey Schultz) I learned about through a recent class.

I tend only to do this particular exercise on those mornings when I have lots of time. Slowing down helps me to settle my mind and move through my day with a more open attitude.

In this particular exercise, I divide an hour into four sections of 15 minutes each. With music playing and a timer set, I can forget about how much time I have left.

The How To:

The first 15 minutes is light reading, non craft related. I’ve been reading Brene Brown and that has been interesting for anyone who has read her. Currently I am reading ‘Daring Greatly’.

The second 15 minutes is devoted to journaling. During these minutes, with the timer set, I write my morning pages.

The third 15 minute section is for to meditation or some kind of movement. My yoga teacher hands out a 10-15 minute yoga practice each month and those have been handy for me to spend some time focused on movement. I don’t sit still very well.

The last 15 minute section is about feeding your soul. This can take whatever form you prefer. It is during this time that I focus on some of the other creative areas I am interested in, such as photography.

Although each section can be shortened to 10 minutes, I haven’t worked through it in that manner. It is possible if you don’t have that entire hour to dedicate to this exercise.

Since time is so fluid, being mindful of my own intention for the time I have is one of my goals this year. Most of the time my goals are just dreams or wishes. I would rather have the intention of living moment by moment than a goal. I just may find more success.

Morning Nest Building

Morning Nest Building

This morning I watched a small bird strip bark off a cedar pole for its nest and was, once again, reminded of Wendell Berry’s poem, Peace of Wild Things. Here are his words:

 

Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

I hope you are enjoying the return of the sun and longer days. And, I hope you take the time to enjoy the peace found in nature.