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.

Day 5 Open Write with Barb Edler and Glenda Funk

Yesterday was the last 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. I took a break yesterday to pause and give thanks for my daughter Mallory on her birthday.

Yesterday’s prompt was to write a Postcard Poem. Using a postcard or a blank index card, you draw a vertical line to separate the address and the poem on the writing side. Here’s my Haiku poem, prompted by a suspension bridge I crossed in December at Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee:

tracking feet

suspension bridges
crossable risk-taking feat
empowering treks

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

January 22 Open Write with Glenda Funk

Today is the second 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. Our group currently has two anthologies of our published work, and today there is a third invitation to be part of another collection from the host. Please join us! Here is the direct link, where you can read about one of this month’s hosts, Glenda Funk from Idaho, and the inspiration she brings in her prompt: https://www.ethicalela.com/connecting-with-school-communities-in-the-aftermath-of-shootings-and-lockdowns/

Today’s prompt is to write a poem about the aftermath of school shootings in any form we choose. I chose to blend three chained Haiku poems with an acrostic.

In Despair

In airports, guns banned!
Not in schools - no one searches.
Dear students: we failed! 
Empty nests: hearts grieve
Searching clouds for loved ones’ signs,
Parents pray for peace
As children take flight
Igniting grief eternal
Ripped souls in despair

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

Spirituality: Reverend Dr. Felix Haynes, Jr. on the Power of Books

Today’s guest writer is my father, Rev. Dr. Felix Haynes, Jr. , who shares his thoughts on the power of books to shape lives.

THE POWER OF BOOKS


In Little Letters to God, Margaret E. Sangster includes the following letter:


Dear God:
Three books came to me in this morning’s mail. They were messages from friends who wanted to share with me the pleasure of the printed word. One book was a love story, one was sparkling with inspiration, and one was a travel book that would transport me into far, forgotten places of the earth. As I unwrapped these books, I felt a sudden sense of reverence – reverence for you, God, who has given the authors a great expression. Through their eyes—and your wisdom—I shall be permitted to widen my vision.

Reading good books becomes a tool to widen our horizons and expand the depth of human experience. The poet Frances Thompson said books became to him “trumpet sounds from the hidden battlements of eternity.”

Books are forces to deepen our lives through spiritual and human development.
Well-selected books can push us towards a greater grasp of human maturity. Robert Browning wrote, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”


Christian growth is a process, an alluring quest – exciting and fulfilling. Delving into the spirit of reading and study prevents stagnation. Life is an adventure, when we dare to climb, with compelling vistas that beckon us to new heights of understanding. Books are rungs on the ladder.


I have frequently used the metaphor of Oliver Wendell Holmes’s poem The Chambered Nautilus as an example of an ever-maturing growth pattern. This beautiful seashell is gradually enlarging compartments in which the mollusk lives as it grows larger and larger. The snail-like creature that lives inside grows and moves into the next compartment, where further growth and development occurs. This process continues in ever-increasing sized chambers, until finally, in the largest compartment, it moves out. The shell it leaves is a thing of great beauty – a fascinating analogy of the human spirit, continually growing and expanding, building ever more stately mansions.


In life, we travel various avenues in the quest of expanding our fulfillment on the journey. The power of the printed page is one such avenue, and when you combine this tool with dialogue and discussion about a book, it becomes a significant life-shaping kind of experience.


Dr. E. Glenn Hinson was one of the most probing professors of my seminary experience. His book Seekers After a Mature Faith states in the Preface:

“I have written this book with a firm conviction that private devotion is essential to the life of the {Christian} and that devotional classics have much to contribute to that devotion. The Bible holds many expressions about the power of the printed page. In the oldest of all biblical documents, the Book of Job, Job says:

'Oh, that my words were now written! Oh, that they were printed in a book! That they were
graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever. For I know that my redeemer lived, and
He shall stand in the latter day upon the earth.” (Job 19:23-25).'


Job’s passion was to remind those who would suffer of the greatness of God. The best of books that convey life-messages are prompted by a deep desire to help others along their journey.”


Ralph Waldo Emerson commented in one of his essays that reading books molds an individual. Any casual reading of biography will confirm this truth of the value of books on one’s life. For example, Charles Colson in his biography Born Again attributes much of his conversion to Christianity to reading C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.

Samuel Miller of Harvard Divinity School has cited three things that a book may do to nurture faith. First, he says that a book can help “name” an experience. A book can help one see the reality of some experience in a manner that helps in some way to better deal with a situation. The “word is made flesh” and we weave the insight into character. A second benefit in the book’s nurturing of faith is that it can “resurrect certain levels or dimensions of our consciousness from a dormant condition.” In other words, self- understanding ~ in this respect, a book becomes the stimulus to an honest appraisal of one’s life. Authenticity emerges in a healthier manner. We can see ourselves in the pilgrimage of others. Another’s experience can bring about an awareness of some repressed areas which we many have neglected. The book leads to an understanding necessary to the revelation of a new vision. A third benefit is that a well selected book encourages productive reflection. We stretch and improve our spiritual posture.


A book that provides a good reading experience baffles and embraces us, inspires and challenges; and it can startle and unsettle. The values are inestimable intellectually and fuels the imagination causing one to reach for new heights. We should expect occasions in the reading of good books which cause us to rethink opinions and face new truths that change our path on the journey.


Charles Kingsley, a revered English writer says, “Except a living man, there is nothing more wonderful than a book.” I would be quick to add this observation, based on my Doctor of Ministry work: The two things that most affect a person’s life are the people we meet and the books we read. I think Thomas a Kempis said the most appropriate word about the power of Books:


"If he should not lose his reward who gives a cup of cold water to his thirsty
neighbor, what will not be the reward of those who by putting good books into the hands of those neighbors, open to them the fountains of eternal life?"


And Mark Twain, who always has a bold word, appropriately reminds us that “the man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.“

Literature: What are Your Writing Habits?

A springtime stay at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina convinced me that I needed a writer’s desk like F. Scott Fitzgerald had. I’d slept right across the hall from the two rooms he’d regularly occupied there, positioned strategically over the front doors so he could keep an eye on the comings and goings of folks. Downstairs, where his desk is on display, I’d taken pictures from every angle.

Oh, to have a writer’s desk like that, I thought, admiring the heaviness of the oak and its ample surface space.

I priced desks online. I looked in stores. I came home and made a makeshift writer’s desk from an antique dresser in our guest room, even buying a comfortable chair for my newly-crowned space until I found just the right big oak desk.

Every morning at my same pre-civilization hour, though, I returned to my favorite living room chair and perched up with my lap desk and Chromebook to write. I still do, 8 months after falling in love with Fitzgerald’s desk. I used the makeshift desk only once, and it was not my wave to ride. So instead, I ordered a bigger lap desk with more surface space – and after that fine-tuning step, my chair is my spot!

All this got me thinking: what were the habits of writing among the classical writers? Where do my contemporary writing friends and authors I follow write today? Learning about the writing habits of others is fascinating. I’ve included some links below for exploring. Happy writing!

https://writetodone.com/learn-from-the-greats-7-writing-habits-of-amazing-writers/

https://www.arts.gov/stories/blog/2015/peculiar-habits-7-writers

https://writetodone.com/20-weird-and-wonderful-habits-of-famous-writers/

Literature Goals: Reading Around the USA in 2023

"....no, there is not more beauty here than elsewhere....but there is much beauty here because there is much beauty everywhere."  

"....most people only get to know one corner of their room..." 
                                                             -Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Reading: About a month ago, I got a 6 a.m. Facebook Messenger post from a friend and co-worker who shares my love of reading. She wanted me to see the new challenge from a Facebook group called Read with the Book Girls ~ to Read Around the USA in 2023. The January Challenge includes the New England states of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont (Connecticut, they say, will be included later this year). The site administrators even provide a curated list of book recommendations, along with brief blurbs about the books for those who would like some suggestions. Each month, I’ll read a book from a different area of the United States throughout the year. Here are two links: here and here.

As a predominantly nonfiction reader, I’ve chosen Stephen King’s On Writing to read as my January book. Though I think the focus is more on the landscape and setting of place, I vividly see the King home as I read the words of his books. I see the roots of the thinking that goes into his writing. I have two other New England-setting recommendations if you’re contemplating this challenge and love nonfiction: Following Atticus by Tom Ryan (and the sequel, Will’s Red Coat) and The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery. Two of my favorite authors!

I’ll be reading around the USA this year for 2023, and my goal is to complete the 12-book trek over 12 months. I love the way the book challenge supports my experience goals – I’m taking a journey around the nation, but relaxing the pace through the power of books – it’s a peaceful endeavor.

I’ve also chosen a book for each category of my goals this year. For example, I’m rereading Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance as my gratitude guide, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic as my creativity guide, Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project as my self-improvement guide, Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet as my literature guide, Bhavana Gesota’s The Art of Slow Travel as my experience guide, Women of Faith Daily Devotional by the Women of Faith as my spiritual/inspirational guide, and a yet-to-be-decided book as my reflection guide. My One Little Word (Pray) guide is The Meaning of Prayer by Harry Emerson Fosdick, a gift from my father.

Writing: Every single day this year, I have written and posted on my blog.  On the last day of February 2023, I will celebrate two full years of daily blogging, and my blog celebrates its 10th birthday TODAY!  Here is a link to my very first post back in 2013. Again, my goal is to blog daily throughout 2023. I'll continue to participate in Open Write and #VerseLove at www.ethicalela.com, and also to share on Slice of Life at www.twowritingteachers.org.  I also hope to present at NCTE this November in Ohio as part of the speaking and listening parts of my Literature goals for the coming year.  A huge thank you to Glenda Funk for her gifts of time and talent in writing proposals! 

In 2023, I will continue to do what I started in the fall of 2022:  I’ll give away at least one book a day with a handwritten note to the recipient.  I’m paring down my collection, and my goal is to get down to two and a half bookcases by the end of the year. My current book hoarding number will remain my secret. If you’re reading this blog and would like to receive a book with a handwritten note from me tucked inside, please send me your name and mailing address on Facebook Messenger at Kim Haynes Johnson, along with some of your hobbies and reading preferences.  I can’t wait to share the gift of a book with you this year!

I'll also continue to send out postcards, as I started doing in 2022.  When I purchased some in the gift shop at Red Top Mountain State Park the last week of December, the clerk said, "I don't think in all my time here I've ever sold a postcard.  It's a dying thing.  I'm glad to see someone is still mailing them."  

Yes, ma'am, I thought to myself. Let me be the change I wish to see in the world. 

In 2022, I mostly wrote poetry.  This year, one of my goals is to vary my writing more.  I am a fan of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, and I love the structure of her book and all that she does to focus on establishing order to create happiness in her world.  I reread her book (again) and simmered my thinking down to seven blog categories, hoping to adopt a cycle of writing that will broaden my net and inspire me to listen and to share in some different ways.  My dad, Reverend Dr. Felix Haynes, Jr., will share as a guest blogger as he has done in the past, helping me to preserve family stories.  While I have loved working my way through two book studies in 2022, I plan to pull the wider angle lens out and take a broader perspective rather than a deeper one this year.  

I'm ready for writing through 2023!

Happy Epiphany!