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.

Travel Photographs on Canvas

“Creative living is stranger than other, more worldly pursuits. The usual rules do not apply.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

Eagle in Ketchikan, Alaska

Something about photographs takes me back to the memories I hold dear. That’s why one of my goals this year is having several of my favorite pictures made into 16×20 canvas wood-framed wallhangings. So far, I have had 6 of them created, and I’m loving the feelings that they bring at the start of each day.

The first is an eagle that we watched from a hovercraft in Ketchikan, Alaska swooping down for fish in June 2022. The spectacular show inspired hundreds of photos, and I chose my favorite fraction of a second to place on my bathroom wall so that every morning, I start the day with sheer splendor and the gratefulness to have witnessed the majestic wingspan and precision of these birds.

Another is of our White Christmas on a farm in Kentucky at sunset. The angle and shades of light were mesmerizing, and they blend into the orange pop of energy contained in my walls – chosen specifically to be like a burst of citrus at daybreak ~ awakening me and rejuvenating my senses.

Dowdell’s Knob, Pine Mountain, Georgia

One I haven’t hung yet was taken at Dowdell’s Knob in Pine Mountain, Georgia when my son and his family were visiting with us in one of F. D. Roosevelt’s favorite picnic spots near his home at the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia. We had our own picnic, made s’mores, and enjoyed the scenery from atop the mountain. And the hidden secret here is that the newest grandbaby is in the picture – – (arriving in July).

Each adventure brings its own special moments, and Canvas on the Cheap helped me turn these into beautifully preserved photographs that bring me joy and gratefulness!

Kentucky White Christmas

January 21 Open Write with Barb Edler

Today is the first 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, and the inspiration she brings in her prompt: https://www.ethicalela.com/connecting-with-others-or-things-through-a-personal-letter-poem/

We’re invited today to write Personal Letter poems that capture intimate moments. I think often of our old farm dog Archie, who lived under the porch of the Presbyterian Church over on Pedenville Road in Concord, Georgia and must have always been chased off with a broom by the cleaning crew. He had a dreadful fear every time I swept. In a thunderstorm, he chased a colleague’s car all the way home, looking for shelter from the storm and something to eat. Her twin girls, both veterinarians, nursed him back to health as best they could before their mother called me. This is the perfect dog for you, she urged. We’ve named him R.K. for Roadkill, which is what he’s gonna be if someone doesn’t give him a good home.

And so we brought R.K. to the Johnson Funny Farm, my husband holding him down in the bed of a Ford Ranger pickup truck as I drove us home (in a stick shift for the first time in many years), hurky-jerky all the way here, where we softened R.K. to Archie and came to love a dog who was as close to human as they get.

Good Ol’ Archie

whenever I clean the empty 
hardwood floor space
under the antique oak buffet
~your thunderstorm safe zone~
my heart goes thud-thumpy

I exhale
my eyes close
I think of you,
your eyebrows
raising back and forth
left, right, left…..
looking me full
in the face
searching for love
wanting
needing
my embrace
waiting for my concrete to crumble

this was your favorite game

you wanted love 
more than food

when I let your human eyes
pierce the stoic face 
I’d held as long as I could
and my smile cracked, turned to laughter….


your full goofy body wag 
erupted with joy
slathered me with sugary sweet love kisses
paws on my shoulders

loving me as you did
rescuing me as you did

* * *

and then came that morning. 
you hadn’t moved
I knew before your 
three tail thud-thumps
became my heartbeat

I’ve…….loved…….you

It…….is……time

Help…..me…..cross

thump……thump…..thump

your empty space remains, Good Ol’ Archie

For the Love of Mail

“…your life is short and rare and amazing and miraculous, and you want to do really interesting things and make really interesting things while you’re still here.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

Whenever I travel, I carry a Ziploc bag filled with pre-addressed mailing labels and postcard stamps. I want my grandchildren to experience the thrill of excitement I felt when I received mail as a child.

I think my passion was born when in fifth grade I wrote to every capital city’s Chamber of Commerce requesting brochures on the state for a school project on the United States, back in the days long before such a request would be met with a reference to a website. I smiled and skipped back inside from the mailbox with letters most days during the project time, ready to read about the states and cut and paste information from the brochures onto the notebook paper in my presentation book. I’d enjoyed the learning, and out of it was born a love of mail that arrives in envelopes, with stamps in the upper right hand corner and my name on the front. I don’t remember every state’s bird or tree or motto, but I do remember that when I needed resources, there were places to look and people to ask. I learned something about being resourceful – about how letters requesting information glean a response.

And that is why I take every opportunity to send a quick card, whether I’m five hours from home or one hour. My grandchildren may not fully appreciate all of the cards now, but one day I hope they will look back and realize that their Nana always wanted them to see the world and to enjoy the ride!

Happy travels!

Creativity: A Jar of Snow Memory Preserves

Daughter clicking her heels in the snows of Kentucky on Christmas Day

One of my creativity goals this year is taking more photographs. I’m not a talented artist who paints and draws, but I enjoy images and words. My daughters have always kept sketch pads and art projects going ~ they appreciate the spontaneity of lettering a Bible verse or sketching a face or landscape. I think “capturing the moment” is the artistic approach that appeals to me most. Life sometimes begs to be captured.

My daughters sometimes just doodle. They fill entire sketchbooks this way, savoring spontaneous bursts of creativity.

On a recent visit, my daughter asked me to share the photos we’d taken while we were out exploring in the snow. We’d worn our pajamas and snow shoes and had taken pictures of sunsets, snowdrifts, and squirrel statues. It’s the ultimate happiness for a mother, really, because pictures aren’t just pictures. They’re memories. That’s what she was really asking for ~ a jar of snow memory preserves. She wants to come back to our moments, just as I do. Score!

I’d given my daughter the camera and later looked back at all she had captured, like this birdhouse.

Something I hadn’t expected was the surprise of discovering photographs she had taken after I’d handed the camera over to her when I’d gone inside to thaw my toes. Scrolling back through these images, I found pictures I didn’t recognize. And then it hit me: these were images I was seeing through her eyes – the gift of glimpses that weren’t mine in the moment, but shared even now.

A favorite photo taken that day – sunset over the snow, and I think we photographed it at least three dozen times as it tucked itself into bed in the rolling hills.

And so I logged in to my photo processing account and ordered some snapshots on real photo paper. Over the next week, I plan to send her three or four each day to bring smiles and memories. She’ll make a photo collage that will keep this day, these special shared moments, forever etched in her heart.

I will, too.

Sunset over Burdoc Farms in Crofton, KY – White Christmas Evening
Assortment of photographs I’ll send this week – making my creativity goals happen through smiles!
The start of a snowball fight……..I passed the camera off to Briar and launched an invitation to fun….

Hunting Magic! My Creativity Goals for 2023

Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers at Slice of Life!
Q: What is creativity?
A: The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration. 

        -Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert asserts that the universe buries strange jewels deep within us all and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels is what she calls creative living, and the surprising results of the hunt are what she calls Big Magic.

During this first week of 2023, I’m spending time each day defining my goals – not resolutions – for the year, in seven broad categories that include reflection, spirituality/inspiration, self-improvement, literature, gratitude, experience, and creativity. Definitive goals for creativity would be in direct contrast to the open-ended creative spirit and energy that can only emerge organically within any given moment from the right slant of light at a particular vantage point, but I aim this year to spend more time on photography as a visual art form.

I have taken a couple of photography classes over the years, my most recent being through University of West Georgia. I had a friend taking the same course, and we would spontaneously go on “photography excursions,” jumping in the car and driving the rural countryside to look for images of beauty. I miss those days of creative adventuring and look forward to resurrecting the energy I felt on those outings. One goal is to improve the photos I share on my blog. I also want to create some photo displays of recent trips with favorite pictures from our travels, beginning with a few photos on canvas.

As a hobby, photography is relatively inexpensive – far more so today than in the 1980s, when I took my first photography course in college and had to purchase film and develop it in the dark room. Unlike my children, I don’t have the gifts of drawing and painting. But I’m often able to find a subject of beauty and click from several angles to find that certain slant of light that magically illuminates the shot and brings a dazzling luster.

The Big Magic ~ I’m hunting the jewels buried within in 2023!

One of my favorite photos taken recently – White Christmas at sunset at Burdoc Farms in Crofton, Kentucky