Gratitude for River on His Birthday

He’s a character, this grandson of mine. I knew it when he was born, but knew it for sure when I saw him zipping around on a Hoverboard at 2, his blond locks flowing in the breeze. We are so grateful for all of our grandchildren, and on this day we give thanks especially for River Dawson Meyer! What a blessing he is in our lives!

River Dawson Meyer

Remote control cars zip around:
Infectious laughter,
Vivacious smiles,
Eyes that talk ~
River Dawson Meyer

Don't hand him your phone - - (he's an
Amazon secret orderer)
Water lover
Swimmer 
Oh- and do 
NOT underestimate him near dolphin tanks!
 
My grandson
Ever so cleverly jumped in ~
Youngster gave new memories to the family picture -
Everyone Smile!  They did. Click. Then he dove. 
Real chaser of dreams, this one!  

My January Goals Update

Acknowledging, recognizing, and reordering our priorities so that they can give purpose to our days is a deeply personal task that we all need to do if we are to learn to live by our own lights. 
             - Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

On the last day of each month, I update my goal progress in the areas I chose for the year. Monthly goal updates that began a decade ago in 2013 in the Notes app on my phone are now kept in table form on my blog, giving me a way of remaining focused on my goals and holding myself accountable in actionable strides. Today, I’m sharing my first goal update of 2023. January is just the beginning of the year-long marathon, so I’ve been energetic and about all the new goals. Looking back at these early tables later in the year will give me the momentum to achieve most of my goals, if not all of them, at the notorious “mile 25” when the runner is beyond weary. I invite you to try this system if you’ve never tracked goals over the course of a year and you’re looking for a way to celebrate your successes along the journey.

CategoryGoalsMy Progress
Literature*Read Around the USA
*Give Away Books
*Send out Postcards
*Blog Daily
I read Stephen King’s On Writing for my Read Around the USA New England states with the Book Girls, and I decided on my February book: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan. I have ordered this book for our next group of states and can’t wait to start reading. I’ve blogged daily, given away 2 four-foot shelves of books, and sent postcards to my grandchildren and others during this month.
Creativity*Improve blog photos
*Indulge in photo excursions
*Create photo montage
I ordered favorite moment photos on canvas, and they arrived mid-January! They turned out beautifully, and each morning I begin the day seeing the joy of adventuring and living. I’ve been on several photography excursions this month. I still need to work on improving my blog photos.
Spirituality and One Little Word (Pray) *Tune in to church
*Pray! Keep OLW priority
Dad sent me a copy of Harry Emerson Fosdick’s The Meaning of Prayer, and I’m delving into this selection slowly. Although we are still between churches, we attend weekly on YouTube Live wherever Dad is guest preaching. My One Little Word is a daily priority – I pray in the shower and on my way to work (keeping my word in visible places helps tremendously).
Reflection*Write family stories
*Spend time tracking goals each month
I’m tracking my goal progress. I’ve copied and pasted this goal template into the last day of each month’s blog post already and scheduled it to post. I can update sections throughout the month as I reach goals or work toward them. I haven’t written any family stories this month, but instead I have asked Dad to guest blog twice on Sundays with reflection pieces on prayer.
Self-Improvement*Reach top of weight range
*Maintain Weight
*Give away clothes when they get baggy
My husband and I both cleaned out our closets and donated what we discarded that was still in good shape. The county north of us sustained severe tornado damage a couple weeks ago, so we know that the clothes and shoes will be used by those who lost their belongings and were displaced from their homes. We also cleaned out our pantry and refrigerator and donated food to families with immediate needs. “Starting over” feels great! Giving to those in need makes the process more meaningful. On the weight loss goal, I’m a pound and a half from my target, and I hope to reach my goal in the next couple of weeks.
Gratitude*Devote blog days to counting blessingsI celebrated my husband on his birthday and my firstborn daughter on hers. Those were the only birthdays this month. I’m reading Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance, which keeps me focused on feeling grateful each day. Birthdays seem like natural occasions to be intentional with written gratitude for others.
Experience*Embrace Slow Travel
*Focus on the Outdoors
We’re making conscious efforts to slow down our travel pace. For the past two Saturdays, we have savored the mornings, so I’m starting a new mindset practice: Savoring Saturdays. Each begins with coffee and includes books. I need to get outdoors more. I look forward to the lengthening days and the coming warmth ~I’m hoping the groundhog predicts an early spring.
Goal Table Update for January
Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers for giving writers space and voice.

Pet Rock Relationships

Have patience with everything that is unsolved in your heart and try to cherish the questions themselves. – Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

In 2006 when I was going through a divorce, I did a lot of self-help reading as I climbed out of the rubble to begin a new life. Somewhere in all of those books, I came across a line that still causes me to stop and reflect: Trust is more important than love.

Apparently, several different authors have used the line, because it’s attributed to a list of names on a Google search. For nearly 20 years now, I have wondered about ways that the trust vs. love question could be true.

The Aha! moment came in a conference on building community partnerships that are categorized as connecting, cooperating, and collaborative. The speaker said, “Collaboration is built at the speed of trust.”

I’d never really considered the foundational position of the trust factor. A roof is as important as a foundation of a house, but without the foundation, the roof cannot stand. The Faith, Hope, and Love Bible verse tells us the greatest of these is love. I’ve returned again and again to this thought-gnawing statement about trust and love. But being the greatest, being the most important, and being the most foundational are pivotal superlatives.

So when the speaker explained the development of community partner relationships, the importance of trust became clear all at once. Trust is foundational. It happens first. It’s the prerequisite for relationships to grow. If there is ever a chance for love to bloom, it must first be rooted in trust.

No marriage, no friendship, no partnership will ever be anything more than a pet rock relationship without trust.

Finally. Finally, I have chewed long enough to reach the marrow of truth. I’ve grappled long enough to be satisfied that trust is more foundational than love, but that love is in fact the greatest of these. And that the importance of each may simply remain a matter of perspective.

January 23 Open Write with Barb Edler

Today is the third day of five days of January’s Open Write at http://www.ethicalela.com. Each month, this writing group gathers to write and give positive feedback to at least three other writers. Please join us! Here is the direct link, where you can read about today’s host, Barb Edler of Iowa, and the inspiration she brings in her prompt: https://www.ethicalela.com/connecting-with-your-inner-self/

Today’s poem is about reflecting on our goals. I think this prompt was designed just for me! I’m reflecting on my goals the last day of each month in the areas of creativity, experience, literature, gratitude, reflection, self-improvement, and spirituality that I spent the first days of the year crafting and describing on my blog. Today, a Haiku is a great way to celebrate the journey:

I'm in No Hurry



praying for answers

wondering about outcomes

I'm in no hurry



seeking my weight range

closet-eating M&Ms

I'm in no hurry



Reading Around the

U.S.A - savoring words

I'm in no hurry



counting my blessings

focusing on gratitude

I'm in no hurry



Route 66 plans

dreams in the making: someday

I'm in no hurry



creative touches

camera-ready journeys

I'm in no hurry



family stories

capturing the past in ink

I'm in no hurry



slowing down the pace

seeing more of it ~ not more

I'm in no hurry

Reflections on a Slice of Pumpkin Bread with Coffee

“Today, make discovering those joyful simplicities that bring you personal comfort and a sense of well-being one of your highest priorities.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

Pumpkin Bread from Christmas 2022

At my bridal shower in 1985 given by the ladies of First Baptist Church of St. Simons Island, Georgia, I received a lot of cookbooks and tried-and-true recipe cards. The ladies in that church who had practically helped raise me were tremendous cooks, and I was over-the-moon thrilled to have a coveted collection of the recipes that gave me an inkling of hope of being like them in the kitchen.

Over the years, from the beginning of my young married life through raising children and even through divorce and remarriage, one recipe was an instant hit and remains a family favorite through it all. I make it only during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to keep it sacred and anticipated. When I visited one of our daughters who lives 6 hours away for Christmas 2022, she had already told many of her friends, “I hope my mom brings her pumpkin bread.” When she introduced me to them, I wasn’t surprised to hear that my pumpkin bread reputation had preceded me!

Times shared together when everyone has gathered during the carefree, unrushed holidays around a table or in small sitting areas with coffee and conversation, where candles flicker and the clinking of forks on tiny plates adds to the joy of togetherness against the backdrop of a football game on TV, where children play games and watch a parade, where family news is being shared and good books are being discussed and political views are not~ ~ ~ that’s pumpkin bread season. For anyone who pursues the Danish concept of hygge, pumpkin bread is at the top of the list. It works its comforting magic and hits the spot!

Today, I share the recipe for the pumpkin bread that has been our tradition for nearly 40 years. I’ll also add that it freezes well. Sometimes I split the loaf into two large loaves, but sometimes I make mini loaves so that my husband can take one to work for breakfast each day throughout the week. I fill pans about 2/3 full so that it gives room to rise, and I adjust my baking times for size. When there is one tiny bit of uncooked dough in the top of the rise, I remove it from the oven and allow it to finish cooking in its own heat during the cooling process. If freezing, I wrap in foil and place in a Ziploc bag once cooled.

Recipe for Pumpkin Bread II from the cookbook Frederica Fare:

One of my daughters likes her pumpkin bread with whipped cream cheese spread between two slices.

Reflection: Campfire Stories Game Cards

Anytime I see a new way of telling stories or writing, I get excited and buy stuff. That’s what happened when I was in Barnes and Noble in Atlanta recently and picked up a copy of Gathered Around the Campfire by Melody Carson and read a few pages of her real life stories about her experiences under the stars. That’s also what happened when I was walking through the Betty Dunn Nature Center at Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee and saw a deck of cards called Campfire Stories: Prompts for Igniting Stories by the Fire, published by Mountaineers Books (Ilyssa Kyu & Dave Kyu). There are 50 cards in the deck, complete with instructions and variations for storytelling.

As one who loves to camp, I look forward to using these to generate new conversations as I relax and spend time with others as we make s’mores and stargaze. That’s enough of a reason to love these prompts. My role as a Literacy Specialist and leader of small writing groups is a bonus reason. Cards like these help in getting to know students and inspiring them with new ideas for their writing. The game element adds to the thrill!

Immediately, I was transported to White Wharf at Bear Skin Neck in Rockport, Massachussetts when I selected the card that asked me to share an object I found and kept from my travels. I can still see clearly the tiny pair of angel wings resting along the shore as I ambled around near the water’s edge searching for sea glass. My mother, who often took me shell hunting on Sea Island, Georgia when I was a child, found several pairs of intact angel wings over the years and celebrated each rare discovery. Her sweet hello from Heaven was a reminder that no matter where I am on the face of this planet, she is right there with me. I wrote a poem about my experience here.

A Hello from Heaven….Mom sent a pair of angel wings to White Wharf for me to find!

Another time, I took a walk with my daughter while visiting her for the weekend and picked up a rock at the edge of the path. I brought it home to put on my computer at work so that whenever I see it, I think back to that afternoon I spent with her and know that a piece of our journey is still tangible. These objects inspire the memories, and the memories keep those we love close to us.

“I realize their trailer was pretty tiny, but it didn’t feel overly small back then….In fact, it felt perfect. And I know (my grandparents’) little trailer planted seeds in me…making me look forward to the day when I would get my own trailer. Even now, five trailers and one motor home later, I can still feel my grandparents’ influence.” -Melody Carson

….and to echo, with my own words that are not published in this book but are forever in my heart and on my blog…..

“As a child, I camped with my grandparents on Fernandina Beach in Florida. I can still smell the sulfur in the water and see the table that magically became my bed in their truck camper. When my grandparents left each of their grandchildren a small inheritance, I knew what I would do with part of their gift after camping for years with my own children. I bought a camper so we can honor their legacy and continue making memories with their great, great grandchildren.” -Kim Johnson

Remembering, Sharing, Meditating on the Past: My 2023 Reflection Goals

Dad shares 1950s football stories with Aidan as they play ball together, December 2023

In 2013, I abandoned the notion of New Year’s Resolutions when I realized that not one resolution I had ever made survived more than a few weeks. Instead, I began listing goals for the year in different areas and taking time to reflect each week or so to update what I had done in those areas. It began in the NOTES section on my phone. Today, I reflect back to 2013 and the goals I established. I copied and pasted the first two of my ten goals from that year:

2013 Goals

Physical Goal #1: lose 50 pounds in 5 months. 

Action Plan: join Weight Watchers for diet and add exercise plan of walking. Seek exercise bike in March when everyone else gives up and sells them. Drink only water in restaurants. 

I need to make myself a countdown reward system to Marshall and Selena's wedding in May.

1/3/13. * I began counting points on January 2 for Weight Watchers. I weighed on day 1 to mark my starting point. 

1/15/13 I am down 13 pounds from January 1. I can lose 37 pounds by the wedding day. 

1/21/13 now sixteen pounds down and I can lose 34 pounds by May 25! 

2/7/13 now down 22 pounds and I can lose 28 pounds by May 25!

3/5/13 down 23 pounds and I can lose 28 pounds by May 25!

7/25/13 back at it. Up ten from last weigh, but down 14 from start of year! Brushing off and getting back in the groove....starting my point counting system again today. 

Educational goal #2: enter a doctoral program in fall 2013. 

Action plan: research programs in the first quarter of the year and measure against Georgia PSC requirements. Take GRE in February or March. Apply to schools in March.  Make decisions in May or June. Enter a program in the summer or fall. 

* Beth gave me some research on Univ of Florida to be considered

I am rethinking Walden, since I already have the first course completed there but had to stop for divorce.

1/18/2013 I completed the application to Walden, faxed my certificate, emailed my résumé and requested my transcript from University of West Georgia. One school down. I need to work on financial aid. 

1/24/13 I submitted FAFSA and requested pin. 

1/29/13 I am accepted back and they will honor my existing credit. Awaiting financial aid decision.

2/7/13 they will let me resume my program and have me ready to start March 4! Waiting on financial aid information to be processed by Walden. 

3/5/2013 I began my second course in the program officially yesterday. I am on track.

7/25/13 I am a module ahead in my third course in the program. Also registered for my residency in December in Washington, DC. Things are going well and I am enjoying the challenges.

Back to 2023: I look back on these 2013 goals and smile because setting goals, establishing action steps, and adding a measure of accountability actually works – it’s the recipe for success when there is follow-through and intention. Today’s banner picture was taken at my son’s May 2013 wedding, and while I didn’t reach my goal in time for the wedding, I could at least fit in the dress. In all but one of my ten goal areas of that year, I am doing much better today than I was then. I’m within six pounds of the top of my goal range today, and I earned my Ed.D in Leadership in October 2016.

Being able to reflect not only on one year but across a decade of goals is powerful – I see how dynamics of situations have changed and how there are bumps in the road that at the time seem earth-shattering, but in the grand scheme were simply little speed bumps that slowed me down.

My 2023 Reflection goals include end-of-month consideration and tracking of progress in writing and for the first time ever: sharing my goals and progress with readers on this blog, reflecting on memories, and writing family stories (and getting other family members to do the same so that our stories are preserved for future generations to enjoy). By the end of 2023, I hope to have at least 25 family stories shared on my blog.

Happy weekend! Spend some time reflecting today!

Reflecting on that time in the corn maze with Andrew when we had to use the map to try to get out…………

My One Little Word for 2023

As we move toward the beginning of a brand new year starting at midnight, on this last day of the year I'm taking time to reflect on 2022 and all the living we’ve done in its 525,600 minutes.  My blessings far outweigh my challenges and setbacks.  

Last December, I chose listen as my One Little Word for 2022, which Ali Edwards has made popular since 2006.  I suppose it’s what daily writers do: we listen to the world around us.  We listen for what inspires us and what we can take from conversations, moments, lessons, experiences - and time we share with others - to make sense of our world.  

What we do with all the listening is what invites me to choose pray as my word for 2023.  It wasn’t my first serious consideration, or even my second.  My initial choice was believe.  During my week of Covid confinement in December, I almost prematurely announced believe and all my reasons for choosing it.  It’s the essence of my Christian faith, the verb of what we do with our faith to trust in God’s plan.  It’s what gets us through tough times.  Long moments of pondering all that I don’t want to be quick to believe led me to think more about the power of sharing.  Share was my second consideration. I share what I experience and what I believe as truth, often on my blog. 

Then I thought of my word listen this year, and all of the listening that happened through prayer.  I wondered:  what if I spent an entire year with the word pray as my guiding light word?  My little Caribbean blue Rav4 has been my twice-daily prayer chamber for years as I make my way to and from work.  I don't turn on the radio ~ I pray.  I believe fully in the power of prayer and the difference it makes.  I see miracles that have happened because of prayer, and I often wonder about the miracles that happen that we never see, also because God answers prayer.  

As we step into 2023, I've chosen an action verb again.  Pray.  What a blessing I feel already!  

If you’re taking a One Little Word as your guiding light this year, please share in the comments below or send me a Facebook message - - I love all the thinking that goes into OLW choices!  Cheers to you in 2023!  

Tomorrow, I will begin daily posts in the areas of my seven goal categories this year.  They are: Reflection, Inspiration/Spirituality, Self-Improvement, Creativity, Literature, Experience, and Gratitude.  I've never succeeded at keeping New Year's Resolutions, but what has worked for me for the past 12 years is establishing goals and adding an accountability measure in my writing through a month-end checkpoint.  More on this beginning tomorrow!