State of Things June

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you have been riding the struggle bus for a week. The bus is not your life. The troubles that plague you are not your life.

At the end of the day, your life is made up of so many moments. Good, bad and what the f**k? . This week has contained a lot of WTF moments. It seemed everywhere I turned there was they were happening. Staying in the moment seemed impossible. Then a few more bad things happen. Luke, my precious pit-bull, had a trash party while we were out at dinner because I had a no good nearly rotten day and not cooking seemed like a good idea.

The state of things June is a mixed nut bag where every other nut is the one you are allergic to and the next nut is the cure. You keep reaching into the bad hoping for something new; something better. Doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different is the definition of failure but is it failure when you only have that bag to choose from? It isn’t.

It is the twisted way of the world. It turns and we twist. It isn’t unfair but it seems that way. Things go on and sun rises and sets with its own accord. We, mere mortals, can not keep up with it. It doesn’t rob us of its beauty. It is just going about its own journey.

As corny as it sounds, I try to be grateful for the moments where I can see the sun’s journey and appreciate the beauty all around me. They aren’t my life either but they do make me smile all the way down to my soul.

Love

I saw a post about love.  A meme talking about unconditional love and it triggered my own thoughts on the subject. The gist was that if people can hate blindly then a person can love blindly.

As a child, I saw the damage that hate and anger could do to a person.   The details aren’t important.  Or maybe they are.   But, looking back at the those things right now would take me to a place I don’t want to be.

Today’s post is about love.  The things and people I love.

11154866_674372752668042_8297915621730049195_oI love my family, both my biological and my chosen family.  They keep me centered and going.  When the doctor told me this week that my knee issues weren’t going to get better. They were there.

I miss my Papa. His love. His unconditional love pushed me to go forward in life.

I love my furry baby, Luke, who has helped me though so much.  The phrase who rescued who really does apply here.

I love my boyfriend and the freedom he has given me to be myself. We don’t have a traditional relationship which works for both of us.  One thing he taught me in the last year was that it is important to clarify your words and asking for things is not a bad thing. He was direct with me.  And I was able to be direct with him as well.

I love my job as a Special Educator and the growth it fosters in myself. I love being a writer and creating new worlds with words.

I love the garden that my chosen family helped me to build, watching the plants grow day after day is wonderous.  I love that my enjoyment of gardening comes from my Pa (my mother’s father), my grandmother (my father’s mother) and my aunt.  They each had gardens and took pride in  them.  Pa grew vegetable that helped feed us.  The only thing I didn’t like was when Granny would take the tomatoes and can them. The smell of vinegar haunted me for years.

I love going for hikes in the near by mountains and my daily walks in the neighborhood and in the back field.  I love seeing the mist hug the mountain ridges that surround my home.  I love the mist that lingers in this valley. I love the cows that sometimes run through my yard even when they eat the ornamental grass.

I love music and books.  I love the smell of used books stories and wandering the stacks for treasures.  I love the conversations that come from talking with others about my finds.  I love that I have friends who I can plan and plot trips around going to see used books stores.

I love working out to music that was made decades ago but whose power hasn’t faded.

There is a lot more that I love about this world than I hate about it.  But all the things I love, I love with my eyes open.  I think about Papi and the love we had for each other.  Sometimes it was blind and full of burning passion, but the best times were when our eyes were wide open and we saw each other warts and all.

I think when we love with our eyes open, we see that no love is perfect.  We see that everything has flaws but those mark us all more beautiful and loveable than even we understand.

Remembering Papi

Yesterday, I kneel and reached into the back of the closet for a bag. One that I placed there when I first moved in. It contains items that I kept from my time with Papi. I found the business card that he gave me at our first lunch date. I didn’t know it was a date at the beginning but at the end, I was already falling in love with him.

The bag also holds the books he signed for me and three frame photos. Papi took the photos one summers day in my living room as I laid on the sofa before him. They are intimate pictures where my body was cast into a shadowy light by the blinds. Sometime later I framed them and put them in my bedroom. They have been in the closet since my move to Virginia three years ago.

Today, I took placed them on a table where I will be able to see them. It feels good to see them and remember how he saw me.

To remember that he loved me and I loved him.

I will remember Papi everyday that I am alive. I will never stop missing him or loving him.

I will remember Papi as a great man, but not a perfect man.

I will remember that we loved each other more than the other knew.

I will remember him every time a play or movie takes me on a journey.

I will remember him walking around Lake Eola with him.

I will remember seeing him smile the full intensity of his gaze melting me.

I will remember how he hated writing but was phenomenal at it.

I will remember how he took care of his partner and loved her like no other.

I will remember him whenever I think of New York or walk its streets.

I will remember him when the pain of his loss weighs on me until tears release it again.

I will remember him…as I loved him with each and every breath of my being.

State of Things May

Oh, lord, it is May and I’m a teacher. That alone would be enough to describe how I am doing this month. May is the time that all of the good little children begin to earn for freer days and all the rotten little children (the few that actually rotten) begin to fight against all authority. Schools struggle to keep children contained within the school walls and ground. This week, I had to get a child out of a tree twice. Same kiddo, he needed to climb and he did.

So professionally, the state of things is more chaotic than on average. State testing ends soon and then the days of waste. Days where learning had been dictated to continue by administration but everyone is so exhausted that the lessons are light and fun by design.

My tutoring gig ended abruptly. I’ll miss the kiddo and my interactions with his family. Our weekly tutoring sessions were a bright spot in my week. I have another side gig starting soon which won’t be as fun. It will however get my closer to my goals.

Writing has mostly been happening here on the blog. My other projects are either in research mode or caught in the Bermuda triangle of editing.

Mentally and Physically, I am on survival mode. Grief has a funny way of doing that to you. The only way I know to get through what I am feeling now is to keep moving forward that way I can get out before the devil knows I am here. I don’t think that I am moving fast enough.

It isn’t a perfect plan but it the one I’ve got. When Papi died, one of the people I hold most dear in the world, I poured my feelings into a blog and it touched people. Papi and I had a complicated relationship with good and bad moments, caring and cruelty- but at the end we had reached a better place because of all of that. My naked feelings touched someone in a way I hadn’t intended and a bridge was broken. Written words like spoken ones can’t be taken back.

I can’t undo the unintentional damage I caused and that bothers me. There is a part of me that just wants to find the perfect words to make it all better to explain myself and rebuild that bridge. And that is the part that has been waking me up in the middle of the night and draining my wine supply. It is also responsible for me putting a pen in the sink to be washed.

Did I see him as a villain? No, but there were times in our relationship when I held on to the hurt to the point when it was unhealthy.

Did I paint him as villain? Probably. Was it my intention? No, but intentions and results are often two different things. I can’t take back those words. The only thing I can do is honor the man I love.

In that light, let me tell you a story. Once a upon a time, I had lunch with Momma at the mall near where I worked. Things had been difficult between us for a couple of months so the lunch was a step in repairing our relationship. We talked about my paternal grandmother and that’s when Momma told me that my grandmother wasn’t part indigenous but that her father had been black. Suddenly a whole bunch of things in my life made sense. My sister’s comments about my body among other things and why we were discouraged from looking into genealogy.

Sometime soon after I told a friend who told another friend and that’s when the trouble started. I was excited about finding out more about my family’s history. The friend she told, unknown to me had feelings for me and the idea that I wasn’t white was too much for him. He ended our friendship with a nasty gram. My heart was crushed; nothing about me had changed beyond knowing more about my family. Papi called that day and when he found out he came right away and held me.

He didn’t try and console me by telling me that my friend had never really been my friend. He just held me in my grief and let me feel what I needed to feel. I will never forget that day or him.

I love you, Papi. And I always will.

The State of Things April

Oh goodness, where am I now?

Physically, I am sitting on a broken chair at my writing desk. My knees aren’t aching, but my hip hurts. Don’t know why, but it is. Getting older when you have lived an interesting life isn’t easy. It is hard to get old. It is hard to deal with a body that doesn’t work the way it once did or the way you hope it would. The doctor is happy that my knees haven’t worsen and so am I. This means that the big knee surgery has been pushed down the road and into my mid-fifties. It is also incredibly wonderful to have a doctor that believes me and works to get help instead of ignoring what is going on.

Mentally, exhaustion is taxing my brain. It is hard to keep on top of everything that I need to get done for work and home; let alone work on my writing. One thing that it hard for people who don’t deal with chronic pain to understand is that managing your pain doesn’t mean you aren’t in pain. The pain means that everything takes more energy. Managing pain doesn’t mean that the pain goes away. It is always there. It is like the difference between swimming in a calm lake versus the ocean. The water’s current is always there pushing against your body. In the lake, you feel it and work with it. In the ocean, you fight it and there is a greater chance it will knock you down or out. In short, it is your constant companion.

Adding to that companion, it appears that I am a COVID long-hauler. The brain fog is real as is the on going dizziness. Yesterday, I stayed home from work because the dizziness didn’t stop all day.

Financially, things are moving where they need to be. Debts are going down and thanks to tutoring and book sales, I’m bring in more than I spend. Two months ago, I went to see a Financial advisor. A step further into adulthood and moving my life to a place where I have choices. The kind of choices that a better credit score and savings can give me.

Dayjob Workwise, things are crazy and it is hard not perseverate on all the things that can and are going wrong. We are entering into the days of standardized testing where elementary kids are put through a ringer in order to gain data for the State. I don’t get why are the students are being made to take a test that doesn’t really test their knowledge. The State says it is only for data but come on there have to be ways to get the data without stressing kids out. On top of that, the COVID numbers among staff have decrease but each week more students are contracting the virus.

Side-gig. Tutoring has dropped to once a week. Good on one hand because it gives me more time to do my regular stuff. Bad because the money I earned goes towards my debt. I enjoy the gig and am grateful for the opportunity to work on mathematics again. Once upon a time, I was a math major so it is great to revive those skills.

Travel Plan: Now that I am fully vaccinated, I have those again. A trip to Florida is in my future. I’m overdue to see my family. Beyond that a trip to Richmond to see my beloved friends and give a few attack hugs as well as my favorite Virginia cemetery. One of my favorite humans has a new house in Maryland that I would love to see as well. Lots of ideas of where to go but no firm plans of yet.

Writing/Project-wise. Things have slowed down. They haven’t however stopped. The ideas keep coming and I am doing my best to stay on track with everything. The Devil’s Due is on its second draft. The non-fiction projects remain in research and outline mode. Time has been short supply, energy has been in even shorter supply. The ideas come and find there way into existence but they don’t feel right. There was no rhythm to them. They were my words but they feel flat and awkward like a ball without air.

Garden: The garden moved and expanded this year. We’ve spent three Sunday’s stripping turf. If we don’t get rain, we will finish this weekend. The weather has turned cold so it will be another two or three weeks before the plants can go in the ground. I am excited and nervous. There are a lot of seedlings in my dinning room. They are all going to need homes in the coming month.

Luke: My furry son turned 10 this year. We have been doing more off-lease time which has been great. He follows me when I go to the barn to work on things. As soon as I turned to go back to the house, he comes running like Momma don’t leave me. There is joy to his galloping that lightens my heart.

So that’s where I am right now? Where you are my friends?

Love,

Lu

Meds are not a Failure

Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com on Pexels.com

A little over year ago, I went back on medication for anxiety and depression. It wasn’t a hard decision. I was crying in my office, seeing a therapist and trying not to break down pretty much daily.

There was a lie I had committed myself to that I could no longer stomach. It was simple. I was coping with mental illness through diet and exercise only.

Here is what I wrote about it at the time.

I am in a good place.  There is a roof over my head. My relationships both familiar and romantic are going well. I have a steady day job.  There is food in my fridge.  I have health insurance.  There are even nights of the week where I am free to write.

I am in a bad place.  My steady day job has become a nightmare over the last couple months.  Dreading going to work has lead to anxiety attacks both at home and at work.  A couple of weeks ago, I closed my office door to cry.  I stopped wearing make-up to work because there was no point when tears were going to ruin at some point in the day.   Nights when I would have time to write are spend dealing with the aftermath of the day or going to bed early because I don't have the strength to anything else.

 I feel worn and mostly dead.

Looking back on it, I know that the biggest thing keeping me from medication was the mistaken believe that if I went back on it, I was failing. I didn’t put those thoughts into words until after I walked out of the building with a friend. She talked about her medication into a down to earth fashion. It wasn’t big deal to her. It was like taking medication for a cold. The conversation led to a lot of reflection.

Then my co-workers started talking about their own medication and how it was helping them handle things better along with therapy. Why was I denying myself another tool in my fight? Hadn’t I recommended medication to others? If I was physical ill, wouldn’t I be working with my doctor to find the proper treatment?

Because for years, I boosted to other (foolish so) of how I was control my mental health issues without medication. The problem was there were days that I was terrified to leave the house. Or drinking way too much from time to time to chase the blues way. Theses were acceptable to me: parts of everyday life.

I told myself there was nothing I could do about my crippling anxiety when it came to making even necessary and important phone calls. And I continued to tell myself that even after I missed an invitation to the White House in 2015 because I couldn’t get myself to listen to my messages.

Cascades -Pembrooke, VA – Now that my anxiety is being managed, I am able to go hiking again, Photo credit: Lucinda Rose

I lied to myself for years because the hassle of staying on medication along with the cost were the real reasons I stopped taking them.

I am not saying that medication is for everyone. Some people have a hard time finding what works for them or it doesn’t work.

Human beings are complex organisms. Our bodies react to everything from flowers to food differently. Some people do really well with therapy alone. Others do well with a combination of both. Therapy has really helped me break some of toxic patterns.

What I am saying is that medication can be helpful and if you need it then there is no shame in taking it.

Last December, I needed it. And now that I have it, I am able to see more clearly how the believe that medication was a failure kept me from being happy or working my way in that direction for way too long.

Be Well, Be Safe and Stay Spooky,

Lu

The Idea Machine

Where do you get your ideas?

Simple, I have a machine in my house built from spare parts found on the side of the road and at yard sales that I crank up whenever I am in need of an idea. The crank is the most important part. The ones from Victrola’s are the best.

Really?

Yes, it’s how I came up with this blog title. Ok, not really. Ideas don’t come from a machine or a store. Although a visit to the store or watching an intrici machine work might spark one. What gets me going on a story or even an essay is a thought that worms its way out of my head onto the page. I have to get it out.

Sometimes it is the beginning line. When I started writing Blood Child, I was standing on my front porch in Florida holding a glass of wine watching a car pulling in across the street. My ex-boyfriend was coming home with his new girlfriend. I said out loud to no one in particular “I am not drunk enough for this.” and that became “I am not drunk enough to talk about it now.” The first line of my novella.

The idea that there was something that needed to be done or dealt with and the person faced with choice reaches for liquid courage. My fascination with Elizabeth Bathory, the Blood Countness, and love of mysteries did the rest.

Other times, it is an image. When I started Shadow’s Tale, I had been looking over some old photos. Shadow was a real cat and finding his picture, I wondered what would happen if a cat came back as a ghost with unfinished business.

Cooking with the Dead, a work in progress came from talking with a friend about how I cook. Cooking for me invokes my grandmother and when I sat down to write that day I started to wonder what would happen if cooking called other loved ones the way a medium does.

I started one short story after I was annoyed at how I had been cut out of the retelling of a neighbor’s tragic accident. I wanted to tell what really happened. How when our neighbor Larry fell off the roof, it was myself and my boyfriend at the time who reached him first, not our landlord who was frozen by his car or others who heard the commotion. Really, it was LJ who sounded the alarm and directed people to call 911 as I tended to Larry. Of course, the story turned into something else by the time it was done.

This may sound like inspiration strikes often but it isn’t as mysterious as it may seem. For myself, it is really about uncovering the story once the idea get out. Something that Stephen King talked about his book On Writing.

To finish what I am writing, I continually asking myself what happens next and repeating until the story is done. Sometimes, I play a game for ten minutes or take a walk before I sit back down to write. But that is a topic for another blog.

There are a couple of other things I do that have helped me generate ideas more consistently.

Read Constantly

A book or three go with me everywhere. When I went to France in 2019, I took three books with me. When I go to work, I have a book. Car rides and housework is perfect for audiobooks. If I am caught without a book, there is the Kindle app on my home.

In 2020, I read 72 books according to Goodreads. It was probably more, but somewhere along the way I gave up recording them and I read some books twice.

Reading feeds my brain. And as I write more I have begun to take note of how the authors I enjoy structure their work. The things they tells us and the things that leave out. Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot is one of my favorite vampire novels. Yet, he doesn’t use the word vampire until the last part of the book. He doesn’t need to for his reader to understand the horrors unfolding in the town of Jerusalem’s Lot.

Make time for Learning

Listen to or watch the news as painful as it these days is important for understanding how the world works. If you pay attention you will learn a lot more about human nature than you think. Listen to a podcast on a topic that interests you. Sign up for a distance learning class, study another language through an app. Watch a documentary. Right now, I am hooked on the MasterClass lessons specially those by Ru Paul and Neil Gaimen.

Learning in my opinion always adds to life and is rarely a waste of time.

Keep a Journal

Last year, I finished A Handbook for the Productive Writer by Bryan Collins. Several of his suggestions include keeping an idea file and/or journaling. He actually suggests keeping different journals for different things. Something I do and I don’t do.

I have a daily journal which I write in … you guessed it daily and take nearly everywhere with me. It goes to work with me. It went hiking last weekend and is tucked into my bag everyday when I go to work. And just in case, I forget I have a small emergency journal. Since February of last year, I’ve only missed a few days and those were due to illness (Thanks Covid).

My daily journal records ideas, lines from books that I like and other thoughts. I keep all of my journals once they are finished by my desk so I can refer to him.

An Idea book lives in the top right hand drawer of my desk which I use to record ideas for blogs and videos.

Another journal is my class notebook. When I take a course writing or otherwise, I keep notes in this journal. I learned the hard way to keep all of the journals handy for reference. Thanks to my sweetheart, I also have a fabulous Tarot planner from Writual planners that use for reflection as well as planning.

It really isn’t as much work as it sounds. Although one thing I am constantly doing besides reading is tidying my office so everything can be found when I need it.

Write Daily

Isn’t that the same as journaling? No, journaling is my writing warm up: a free write if you will. Typically, I journal while I am letting my first cup of coffee do its thing. On weekdays, I write after dinner and on weekends as soon as I can after the morning dog walk.

Do I miss days? Yes, when I am sick or traveling it happens. And when it does, I don’t beat myself up about it. Stephen King reports writing everyday but two; his birthday and Christmas. Right now, I have finished dinner and turned on the latest episode of the Watch on Amazon Prime. (I love Terry Pratchett!) When I get in the groove, I pause the show.

The more you write the easier it is to write. Developing a daily practice of writing takes work and I will admit some days I struggle with it still. Other times when I am trying to take a break I feel compelled to write because my body and mind know what time it is. I keep working on being a better writer because I know in my heart the stories aren’t going to stop coming so I might as well get better at telling them.

Making Space

All of the above couldn’t be done if I hadn’t started making space for writing and reading. My daily to-do list (something I know isn’t everyone’s cup of tea) always includes writing and reading as well as journaling as task items. Why, because if I write it everyday I know that everyday it is important to me to get these things done. It also helps with my depression and anxiety to see have a visual of these things even if it is something I know I am going to do, crossing it off feels good.

Rising earlier than I need to gives me time to read and journal with fewer interruptions. I don’t linger downstairs on weeknights after dinner so I have at least 45 minutes before heading to bed to write or edit.

It means planning ahead when I know I have a busy day to set aside the time to do these things. It also means being flexible. If I know that a hectic day is approaching, I tend to lower my writing expectations for that day.

My friend and fellow author, Marshall Stephen, has encouraged me so often on those days to just write a hundred words that now often hear his voice when I am struggling pushing me to write a few more words. And it works. Sometimes I write the hundred, sometimes it is more. Either way it is a victory because you guessed it, I wrote.

Last Thoughts

Writing is art. The act of writing is my chosen form of art; an expression of which I could not live without. Generating ideas for art is never as hard or as simple as it sounds. It has taken me several years to put together what works for me and I am still working on it. It is like most of life a learning process.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the creative process and how you come with ideas for your own art whatever that may be.

Be Well, Be Safe and Stay Spooky,

Lu

Leaving

When I was a child, I sat on the edge of a single bed and listened as my father told me how he was going on a business trip. He never came back. He was, in fact, moving out.

The nuclear family I had been born into died that day. The funeral was the day all of us kids were seated around a lawyer’s conference table when the divorce was final. They gave us odd lemon cream cookies. The sweet stale taste cemented that day in mind.

There is a lot more I don’t remember from those days. Trauma sometimes bestows the gift of memory lost. I don’t remember yelling at my mother blaming her for his absence. Or how things changed. One day they were just different.

I don’t remember even fragments of the first time I met Papa. Pictures remind me of the day that he married my mother and how he took me to college, all of my things packed in the back of his truck. He came to get me in the same truck after graduation and took me to Florida and a new life.

I was there the day he sold that truck. He was so happy that the man who brought it told him what his plans were. His beloved truck was going on to be a farm truck. The truck that had moved our family time and time again would be working gain.

Papa came into my life when I was 14 years old. He gave my mother back to me. He gave me another big brother in Eric. He gave me the family I lost in my parent’s divorce. I understood living with him after college that family life while scared isn’t easy and as he taught me what it was like to have a dad, I taught him what it was like having a daughter.

I was his daughter. My sister’s children his grandchildren and he adored them.

Papa died today in 2018. His life ending in Orlando, Florida surrounded by Momma, my brother Eric and myself. Three years and my heart doesn’t ache any less.

It aches even more for Momma who lost the love of her life. For my nieces and nephews who lost a grandfather loved them unconditionally.

Papa, I love you. Thank you for being my dad and healing parts of me that I didn’t know where broken until you were gone.

Finishing

The best writing advice that I have taken from heart to practice is to finish what I start. Currently, that means finishing a second edition of my first book, Blood Child (with the help of a fabulous editor), working on the rewrites of another project and finishing many of the books I started to read but put down.

Why those books?

Well, the books on my list of to finish are good books. Books given to me by family for a reason or books of historical important. They are well written and I’ve enjoyed or learned something from reading them. I didn’t finish them either because I was distracted or in the case of Come Hell or High Water, the material in the book was too heavy during the pandemic and a mental break was needed.

I took up Come Hell or High Water by Michael Eric Dyson again this morning. I finished Chapter 6 “Follow the Leader?” and was struck by how some of the actions we felt were new to President Trump’s administration weren’t knew at all, but old political tricks. How many other administrations have played this games with us?

Come Hell or High Water is about the how the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was handled by officials on all levels. The full title of the book is Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of people were left to suffer in conditions we would equate as only existing in third world countries. The majority of the victims were the Black and nearly all were impoverished. Katrina was one of many events in our nation’s history that has caused long lasting trauma to communities of color.

The American attitude that people can pull themselves up from their boot straps breaks down time and time again in reality. Especially when the boots and all of your clothing has been washed away in flood waters. Or you had to sell the boots to pay for food. The fast paced cycle of news means that often we have moved on before the story is over.

This has happened again and again. The people of Flint, Michigan are still dealing with the water crises that dominated the news in 2015 and 2016. The people of Detroit continue to deal with high unemployment and poverty stemming from the lost of the auto manufacturing. Not to mention the victims of other natural disasters.

Maybe it is time that instead of moving on to the next flashy thing, we start finishing what we start as a country and help all of American thrive, not to live the American Dream which has only be available to a privileged few, but whole and meaningful lives of their own choosing.

At least that’s what I’ve gotten from reading it thus far.

Part of being a writer for me is being well read. I try and read a variety of material including things that challenge my worldview. This is not to say that everything I read is intellectually stimulating some things are just for fun.

So what are you reading? Is it something for fun, educational or a little of both?

No More Resolutions

Let’s stop pretending that they work for everyone. Or that they are a great idea to change our bad habits. Let’s start getting smart about the things we want to change or need to accomplish.

2020 threw everyone for a loop. Over 1.78 million people have died worldwide. The plans that we had for the year or even the spring were evaporated in a matter of days. As a society, we are processing grief not only over those we have lost, but for routines and traditions that had to be changed or were cancelled.

The world slowed down and sped up at the same time. We learned new ways to hold meeting and the importance of mental health for everyone.

The Death of Resolutions.

Somewhere in my office, there is a list of last year’s resolutions. They were practical and January that I believed I could accomplish. Things were going to get done. Even as the news of the pandemic spread, I felt confident that it would all be over by midsummer. It wasn’t. Still isn’t.

So the list and the idea that I had to wait for things to be just so to work on this or that disappeared. The list maybe in the trash to be honest. Looking back, while I felt they were practical, there were too many things to accomplish all at the same time.

The idea of setting resolutions for 2021 seems absurd. While a vaccine gives me hope that I will be able to visit my mother in Florida sooner rather than later; I am not sure that now is the time for long term planning.

What are you waiting to do? And how are you preparing to do it? Is it realistic?

The last two are questions that we tend to ignore when making resolutions. We make resolutions like we made birthday wishes when we were five. We close our eyes tight and press all of our imagination into the wish. The results are about the same.

So no more resolutions. No more annual pass or fail tests. Let’s start planning, really planning and get things going.

Smart Planning

Start with one thing not a list of things. Something you really want to do. If it is going to the gym, look at your schedule and find a couple of times a week you can go. If you live in a rural area like I do, your choices may be slim and the hours not great.

Next anticipate roadblocks to your plan. My biggest road blocks are work meetings and sunset. While the first is understandable especially if you work in education or know a teacher the second might seem odd. So why sunset? Our daily dog walk is an important part of my family’s life. We do it together nearly everyday and if I am not home before the sunset I miss it. This also means that someone is going to have to walk two dogs instead of one. Not a huge deal but if I can help it, I would rather be there. It is also

Now let’s circle back to the thing you want to do. The gym example is perfect. The goal of going to the gym more is really about getting healthier. So what do you need to be healthier? Eat right, drink less and excerise more. Since we started with the gym, exercise is the thing that you want to increase so what can you do without the gym. Make a plan and do it.

But, what if I…..

I think the word you are looking for is fail. What is you fail? What if on the day you start your new plan, things go off to heck in a handbasket? Then it is time to regroup.

If you get off track you haven’t failed, this isn’t an all or nothing game, get right back on track. Maybe look at what caused you to veer off course and work to avoid it. For example, I don’t plan to go to the gym on Mondays because those tend to be crazy days. Fridays are another day that I avoid because after a week of teaching, I am exhausted.

Visualize it.

Not only should you think about what it will look like when you accomplish your goal. You should also picture what it is going to look like doing it. It might also be helpful to write out what the day is going to look like with your new habit mixed in.

My gym workout plan looks something like this:

  • Wake up at 5:30
  • Stretch, take a shower and make the bed
  • Breakfast by 6:30
  • Morning walk at sunrise
  • Pack Lunch
  • Leave for work at 7:45
  • Leave work by 4:00 for gym
  • Finish workout by 5:00
  • Walk dogs when I get home.
  • Cook dinner
  • Writing time
  • Stretch before bed / sleep by 9:30

Weekends are a little different and this plan is for Tuesday and Thursdays for when I have arranged to leave work early. On the other days, I would come home and do a workout at home. Do I work out everyday? Yes, sometimes it is only a dog walk but everyday unless I am sick I do something for my physical health.

Start Small

Pick one thing and begin to work on that. Once you develop your new habit, choose something else and make it a continual cycle of renewal and improvement. You might be surprised at how much you accomplish in a year.

And above all, give yourself a break. We are living through a global pandemic.