“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I am an office supply junkie. I love paper, pens, notebooks and organizers. I have a bit of a fetish for planners and would probably have one for every aspect of my life if it wasn’t so expensive and time consuming. I have never taken to using calendars on the computer no matter how many times or different layouts I’ve tried. There is just something about pen on a page and getting to be creative when doing something as commonplace as making to-do lists.
As much as I like planners and the simple thrill of checking off another thing on the list, I still manage to waste a great deal of time and procrastinate with the best of them. When looking through planners for the umpteenth time I realized that it wasn’t a different planner that I needed. What I really needed was something that would help me use my planner to my advantage and curb my bad habits of daydreaming or just making lists that never really got done. I needed something that gave me direction and helped me to dig beneath the surface and find out why I struggled so much to get to where I want to go. That’s when ironically enough I started seeing different planning options showing up in my Facebook feed and stumbled across Lara Casey’s Powersheets. What I love about it is that made me really focus on where I want to go and how best to get there but still understand that it’s okay to keep things simple and that the object is not perfection but progress.
Why do we find it so hard to spend time getting to know our own selves? Why are we so easily distracted and drawn away from thinking about and focusing on our purpose? A bit of an introvert, I never enjoy being in the spotlight, even when I’m the only one in the audience. So sitting down and writing about me, my failures and especially my successes was a great deal like white water rafting; both exhilarating and frightening while I hold tightly to the rope and hope I don’t get thrown in the drink. While I didn’t have any great epiphanies about myself I did find that I’m afraid of a great deal more than just spiders and that seeking others approval and permission limits me. When I was about 10 I had a boy tell me that I was homely. Thirty-seven years later I still think of myself as homely. Did he mean to hurt me in that way, of course not, and the reality is I’m the one who held on to that simple, hurtful moment and allowed it to become a part of my identity. A beauty queen I am not but letting a silly boys opinion determine my worth based on my looks will never allow me to see all the things I do have to offer.
Now, on the other side of all that digging I’m excited about the coming year and working to make progress on the goals that I’ve come up with. Part of the process included coming up with a word for the year. My word is: Intentreate. Yes, it’s completely made up. A combination of ‘create’ and ‘intentional’. The definition: Cause to happen on purpose as a result of one’s deliberate actions.
Here’s to a year full of cultivating what really matters!
This is an excerpt from a short story I wrote eons ago when I was in college. While it is just a story it is based on the first time I met and went to live my grandma in this house on May Street.
I was six-years-old when I met her. My brother, Ronnie, and I had somehow found ourselves standing in her living room on December 8, 1976. I only remember the date because it was my birthday.
Our mom had brought us there that early winter morning, leaving us with a hug and kiss and a promise to return as soon as she could. I didn’t believe her. Adults always seemed to be leaving us places, promising to come back, but they never did. Our dad had left us with our mom only a few months earlier saying he’d be back the next day. I had sat on the curb until midnight waiting for him and went in only when my mom threatened to beat me within an inch of my life. I believed she would. I had seen her do it to the dog once and since I was pretty sure she loved the dog more than me, I took her word for it. Dad…never did come back.
Now, here we were standing inside the front door where our mother had left us, staring at a woman we had never seen, or at least I couldn’t remember ever seeing her before and she’s really not the kind of person you would forget.
We were in her living room. A large space with more furniture than we had in our entire apartment. To my right was the funniest looking piano I had ever seen. It had two keyboards, one on top of the other and a long row of red and blue switches with letters on them. To our left, just on the other side of the door was a large pink birdcage with several small blue and yellow birds in constant motion and making such a fuss of twittering that I wished I had my ear muffs to block out the noise. In front of us was a long, ugly green rug with large red and orange flowers. She stood at the other end of the rug staring back at us, arms wrapped across her chest. She was so tall and she had red curly hair piled up like a bird nest accentuating her height and giving her an almost cartoonish look. She wore a bright red dress that matched her lipstick and high heals, and it all seemed a little much for so early in the morning.
“Do you think she’s pretty?” I whispered in my brothers ear. He was a year older than me so I figured he knew what pretty was.
“Be quiet!” he hissed back and elbowed me in the ribs, nearly pushing me back out the door. Suddenly the woman began to move closer, stopping when I slid behind my brother.
“Well, I suppose I should introduce myself. I am your grandmother. Your mother brought you here because she can’t handle you two and thought maybe I could straighten you out.” She stopped and folded her arms across her stomach. She wore a ring on each finger and had long, painted nails that matched her lipstick.
“You don’t look like no grandma I’ve ever seen,” said Ronnie. The only other grandma we knew was plump, short and wore large housecoats and slippers most of the time. I looked at this grandmas hair. It looked like plastic and I wondered if it would crack if I touched it?
“What I look like doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am your grandma and you will be staying with me so you might as well get use to it.” She stepped closer. “You should also get use to the rules around here.” Kneeling down in front of us she began listing off several things: no running, no bouncing on the furniture and stay away from the birds. I slowly moved out from behind my brother and was reaching up to touch her hair when she grabbed my hand and began to squeeze. “And do not touch what is not yours.” She pushed my hand away and stood up.
“Breakfast is at 7:00am and supper is at 6:00pm. If you are not in your seats at those times, you will not eat. You will eat what I cook with no complaints. No snacking between meals and bedtime is at 7:30pm. Is that understood?” I decided that she wasn’t pretty at all and wanted to tell her so but she was standing straight up now with her hands on her hips glaring down at me, so I just shook my head yes…
Believe it or not the story goes on to share about how she was able to keep my brother and I, and our sister together. When we first moved into this home with our grandma she really did seem scary but it turned out she would be the one who stayed with us and never left.
When I was about 5 or 6 and living with my mom and brother, we lived here. Well, sort of. We lived in the upstairs apartment of a home that use to be here. I have a very vague recollection of the apartment itself but vivid memories of my brother, our neighborhood friends, my mom, an irresponsible babysitter, and our dog Snoopy.
Located at the corner of N. 2nd Avenue and E. North Street, we were smack between Palmer school and Riverside Cemetery. Here I learned to ride the hills and curves of Riverside with no hands, while spending hours with my brother and our friends. Tag and hide-n-seek were played until the street lights would come on and we’d all have to say goodnight. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were a staple. I still remember how excited Ronnie and I were when we finally collected all of the Welch’s glass jars with Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Sylvester and Foghorn Leghorn. Saturday mornings were filled with cartoons and listening to our mom laugh when we would cluck like a chicken until Snoopy would howl as though in some sort of deep torment.
Discovering the house had been torn down left me feeling so sad that it took me several trips around the block before I was able to stop and take this quick shot out my window. Then I started going through all the great memories and realized that it wasn’t the walls we lived behind that mattered so much as the dear times spend with a mom, brother, lovable pet, and friends, that made this place special.
I only remember living in two homes with my dad and stepmom; the one from my previous post and this one. Admittedly my memory is a little muddled as to which one was first but this one definitely brings the most vivid memories of the two.
This picture was taken just recently and I’m still surprised at how little it has changed. It’s even still the same color but thankfully the house next door is no longer the disturbing shade of purple I remember.
That’s my window…second floor, center. My twin bed would have been to the right of the window, and a large white toy box full of Legos to the left. If you could look straight through that window you would see a door, just slightly to the right of center. On the other side of that door was my brothers room. Go further, through my brothers room, to the back of the house and there was another door to the stairs. So, just so it’s clear, I had three exits. The window, a large square vent that was inconveniently located smack in the middle of my floor (but did allow me an eagle eye view of the living room below), and, of course, my brothers room. On most days my choice was obvious but if ever my brother and I were fighting, well, he definitely had the upper-hand and would often resort to blockading my door and laughing as he suggested I use my Legos to build me a staircase through the vent.
Despite the fact that I recall very little of my dad or stepmom here, other memories are particularly vivid to me.
Standing on the sidewalk watching my brother fly a small black and white kite back and forth…back and forth…higher…back and forth…a little higher, then an unexpected twist and a sudden swoosh and a startling scream as it collided with stepmom, square in the eye! It took a few weeks before I could look at her because the parts of her eye that should have been white were blood red and gave her a freakish, evil, villain-like look.
A favorite was building snow forts in the massive piles of freshly plowed snow in a parking lot just down the street. Then battling for what seemed like hours and never really knowing who the real victor was. The best part of this memory…years later I would meet some of those kids again at a church youth group. People I’m happy to still call friends today. Unfortunately I’ve also saw those piles of snow many years later and was horrified to realize how dirty they were. Funny the things we don’t notice or ignore as kids.
Not far from our driveway there was a manhole cover that had at one time been covered with asphalt. While playing with the neighbor kids we noticed that it had started to break apart. I don’t know why, sheer boredom maybe, but we decided to stand around that stupid hole, in the middle of the street and pick up the chunks of asphalt and throw the back as hard as we could. What could possibly go wrong? Thankfully it was just my pinkie nail that was damaged that day. It was fascinating to watch it slowly turn completely black and then eventually just falling off.
My brother pushing me down the stairs after a particularly brutal fight in which I had bravely or naively (depending on your perspective) crossed over his imaginary line (the doorway) when he had not “given me permission” to do so.
Crashing my brothers bike after thinking I could possibly be big enough to ride it. Then watching in awe as he took it apart, piece by piece. The whole entire thing strewn out across the lawn; nuts and bolts, chain, pedals, frame, handle bars, seat and tires. Neither one of us ever rode it again.
Laying on the front lawn with my brother on a beautiful summer afternoon and calling out the different animals and creatures that we saw in the large puffs of clouds that drifted by lazily.
It’s funny how most of what I recollect seems like normal childhood memories but what I remember most is an overwhelming sadness. I’m finding it hard to understand completely and I’m not exactly sure if I want to. There also seems to be so much that I do not remember. I struggle to form a single memory of our dad beyond the sound of his voice and while I do recall little moments with my stepmom, even those are obscure and fuzzy.
When I was four-years-old I moved in with my dad and step-mom and I insisted that the training wheels be removed from my bicycle. I wanted nothing more than to be able to keep up with my brother, so once the training wheels were off, I promptly jumped on and took off down this very sidewalk, hit a rock, swerved toward the street and wiped out in fabulous fashion. In the crook of my left arm I have the scar to remind me that sometimes, practice and patience is necessary.
My brother and I became really close while living here. Driven together by the mutual dislike for a step-mother who tolerated us at best and fed us hot dogs every day for lunch and sometimes again for dinner, spending our days outdoors and out of her sight were a priority. Despite my initial mishap I learned to ride my bike quickly and since I could ride just as fast as any of the boys, I was allowed to tag along whenever I wanted.
I do remember my bedroom here but I have a much more vivid memory of my brothers room since that’s where we spent a majority of my time indoors. We both had blue shag carpet (it was the 70’s) but my brothers room was bigger and that’s where the toys were. And by toys, I’m talking matchbox cars and the Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots Game! My brother also had this little battery powered airplane that flew in circles and amazingly provided hours of entertainment until it met it’s untimely demise after being “accidentally” ran into step-mom’s shin.
Probably most unfortunate is that I have many more memories of my step-mother than I do of my dad in this home. I really only remember snippets of moments setting at the dinner table with him. When he wasn’t drinking he was a quiet man but prone to bursts of violence that left more scars than I care to discuss.
I still struggle with patience. I’m not a big fan of hot dogs. I do not miss the step-mother and was more than happy when she had a child of her own and sent us back to our own mom. I do miss being close to my brother and I’m sad that I never really got to know my dad.
In almost every home I ever lived in I can remember my bedroom. The only place I could go to and escape an annoying younger sister and a sometimes bully of an older brother, it was my sanctuary.
I lived here with my grandparents on my dads side. I’m guessing I somewhere around 3 or 4-years old and have absolutely no memory of my bedroom here. I have no idea how long I was here or why I left but it does hold one of my earliest and favorite memories.
I loved my grandpa Charles. Every morning he would take a walk around the block before heading off to work. Looking at this picture now I can still remember, quite vividly, standing on the top step and jumping into his arms, thrilled that he allowed me to tag along. I remember walking beside him and holding his hand and thinking he must be the tallest man in the world. On the walk back, just a block from home, I would always beg for him to lift me up so I could look over the edge of the bridge and watch the rushing water. I loved watching the water but I loved walking with my grandpa most and this always added a few extra minutes to our time together.
I know my parents loved me in their way but grandpa Charles was the first person that really seemed to see me. Sadly he passed away when I was only five and it would be years before I ever felt like someone really saw and cared about me again. Those walks will always be a precious gift to me and probably the reason I enjoy walks so much.
So, they say that you can never go back home and, that sometimes to find yourself you have to get a little lost. Well, I’ve gone back home many times over the last 30 years or so and parts of home have changed so much that I often get lost. What’s my point? Well, first off, you can go back home, physically but I think what they mean is that it’s never going to be the place you once knew it to be. I’m venturing into a new blog, maybe more appropriately, a journey blog to explore those two concepts. Going back home and finding yourself.
I’m not a huge fan of the term “find yourself.” I’m not lost. Not physically or mentally (depending on the day and who you ask). I know where I am. I’m just not always sure how I got here. I’m conscious of the fact that life, choices and maybe a little fate have brought me to this mid-forties, family with a dog, mostly responsible adult, but how exactly? I honestly am sometimes surprised at the outcome of my life so far. This is not the road I was on in my early twenties for sure, and looking at my childhood and statistics, I should probably be a homeless dropout with too many children and addicted to alcohol or drugs. I’m beyond grateful for where I am and the people and experiences that have brought me here. I’m not out to question if I deserve this, I know I don’t. I just want to take some time to look at where I’ve come from and truly appreciate the journey that has been my life so far.
I was born on December 8, 1970, the second child to a mother and father that by all accounts should not have had children. They tried but their own torments prevented them from being parents. They divorced when I was too young to remember and my brother and I bounced between them and grandparents until we finally landed with my mothers mother. I’m forever thankful that this allowed my brother and I to stay together along with a younger sister. We grew up in Marshalltown, Iowa. A quiet, not too large, not too small, midwest town.
This blog will follow as much of my childhood as I can piece together by the homes we lived in (and there are many), along with other places of significance to me. As I’ve grown older and people have moved away I don’t find myself visiting much but when I do I find that I miss the little girl that use to roam the alleys and streets on her bike in pursuit of her brother and his friends. The girl that believed angels were never far away. The girl that use to sit in her bedroom window watching the lights of town and listening to records (or vinyl for you millennials) dreaming of the boy that I knew was out there waiting just for me with no thought to what a broken heart was.
What do you love? What drives you? What gets you out of bed and out the door everyday? Go beyond the obvious. We all love and feel a passion for our family and loved ones, no question. I’m talking about that thing in your soul that is yours and yours alone. That one passion that has been given to you like a sweet and precious gift that lights your heart on your darkest days?
For me, it’s this. The beautiful, magical miracles that surround us in the landscapes of our daily lives. Rich colors, a multitude of textures, light, shadows, tones, soft curves and rigged lines. As a photographer I often hear that we should carry our cameras with us at all times but I’ve learned that I have to find a balance or I’d never make it to work or home for that matter. (Well, eventually I’d make it home.) I encounter scenes daily, sometimes several times an hour, that I desperately wish I could capture in a frame. In those moments, like this one, that I find myself fortunate enough to be blessed with the right equipment, the time and the perfect light, I am simply and joyously happy.
A pile of leaves in varying stages of yellowish decay. Some maple, some oak, maybe some linden and birch. Blending together into a menagerie of fall.
Today, as I’m skimming through a batch of photos I took at a local park I feel a great deal like one of these leaves. Just me in a pile of thousands of others. I don’t really stand out even though I may have qualities that are uniquely my own. I don’t feel or look much different despite the reassurance that there is only one me. Truth is, as a person, I’m okay with blending in. I don’t like to be in the spotlight. I prefer to cheer on those who are comfortable being front and center. However, when you’re trying to run a business, your success hinges on how you are different from all the others. How is your product going to stand out? So my goal is to figure out how do I overcome my fears? Not so I stand out but so my work does.
I often joke that I am “behind” the camera for good reasons. First, I simply do not like to have my picture taken. I am not a photogenic person and I know that. Second, I just prefer to be behind the scenes and let those who are photogenic, so-to-speak, have their moment in the limelight.
This year has been an incredible roller-coaster ride as I learn to navigate this new world. I’ve enjoyed some really exciting accomplishments and struggled through a few terrific failures. Some days I have wandered around completely lost and not really sure what I’m doing and where I’m suppose to go next but then by God’s grace someone calls or I get an email that encourages me to just keep showing up. I’m looking forward to a challenging year ahead and continuing to grow and learn. Even though I may blend in among all the other wonderfully colorful leaves, I feel confident that I am right where I’m suppose to be.
Today was a rare day off and an opportunity to get out and enjoy some of the fall color before it fades to the dull, brownish-gray of winter with no snow. Morning brought a fun little trip with a friend to look at barn wood that quickly turned into an hour of great conversation and a few moments of awe as I was introduced to a barn wood paradise only minutes from my house. The good vibes continued into a birthday lunch with my beautiful daughter and then back out to the gravel roads of Warren and Madison county where I feasted my eyes and my camera on the pure beauty of fall. A little run in with some escape cows and a small river blocking the road only added to the adventure of what was a simply fantastic day.