Pandemic Projects

Extended stay-at-home orders are a perfect time for self-improvement projects. Here’s what I’m working on:

  • My tan
  • Growing out my hair
  • Giving up make-up
  • Giving up my bra
  • Giving up my hair dryer

The results have been almost immediate.

Give it a try, so you can be happy and well. Like me.

And…another nine months goes by

T-9 months: June, 2019. I posted an article indicating that perhaps it was time for me to pick up this blogging thing again.

T-8 months: July, 2019. Very much in the fitness grove. Watching my macros and teaching myself how to do the four power lifts. I’m getting leaner and stronger—never felt so good in my body. Discovering the whole subculture of meatheads–men and women–online and in podcasts. No new posts.

T-7 months: August, 2019. Spent a week in New York with my husband, son, and best friend from childhood. No new posts.

T-6 months: September, 2019. Traveled to Oregon with my three sisters. Ocean view. Mountain forest trails. Beach combing. Bookstore combing. Orchard harvest bounty. Lessons from my sisters: tsunami preparedness;. accepting multiple navigation points; strength is the foundation of health. No new posts.

T-5 months: October, 2019. Wrap up another record-setting year for membership revenue. Goals met. Promotions made. Fully staffed. Digital transition. But…capital campaign is slow. Painfully slow. No lift to be found. Trudging on. No new posts.

T-4 months: November, 2019. Holy Moses, I have been removed from my job. Unexpected and unexplained; but not unplanned for. I’ll take this exit and thank the road that got me here while I figure out the next stage. No new posts.

T-3 months: December, 2019. London calling. Another trip with my husband and son, scoping a potential path for one or all of us. No new posts.

T-2 months: January 2020. Connecting with family and old friends. Nudging open doors for a creative practice. Don’t like how it feels. No new posts.

T-1 month: February 2020. Discovering how to value without ambition. More connecting with family and old friends. Commiting to walking the Camino Santiago next yesr. Learning how Credit Unions work. Walking, reading, watercolor painting.

T: March 2020. Pandemic. Coronaviris. Covid-19. Social distancing. Home schoolng. Zoom and Teams and Facetime with friends and family and colleagues. Credit Union role is a welcome, tempering filter by which to take in information. Grateful to be once-removed from the new work reality. Grateful to have a head start in global effort to dial down and recalibrate. One new post.

Let’s try this again

It has been over four years since I last posted.  Yipes.  Four years?

I started off with such ambition.  But after a couple of months I lost heart, or focus, or nerve.  I always had in mind to return to blogging one day–perhaps when I retire. Or after I have figured everything out. Then yesterday I came across my old posts, and I realize it might be time to blog again.

I was expecting to cringe reading my old posts, that they would be boring, or embarassingly personal, or sloppily written. But I didn’t cringe. These posts still represent me and how I want to connect with others. I think I can build on these posts.

In four years I’ve developed a lot of new habits, social connections and spiritual perspectives. This personal development has been intentional and the result of daily effort. Even though I haven’t been a productive writer, I don’t think this time has been wasted. The field is richly cultivated and it’s exciting to think of all the creative possibilities.

The same old stall tactics exist. I’m not at ease with the blog platform. I don’t know who will read my blog or even if I want to share it. Doubt, shame, and pride loom like a large shadow, threatening to throw a wet blanket on this effort. But I don’t have to oblige those fears.

When I read my posts from four years ago I feel connected to that person, not ashamed of her. It’s tremendously encouraging, and a bit surprising. Let’s try this again.

Six Month Checkup

Cancer check-ups: When you get breast cancer and you get past treatment, you get on a maintenance schedule with your doctors.  I’m 2 1/2 years out from surgery.  So every six months I get to see my cancer surgeon and my oncologist.  Depending on the rotation, I’ll also get a blood work-up or a bone scan. Hopefully, after the five year mark, they will deem me a survivor, and I won’t have to go for my six months checkups anymore.  Cancer will be just a thing that happened one time.

Looking good: I’m happy to report that I sailed through my check-up today. All scans and tests look great.  And all my caregivers raved at how good I look.  “Do you run?” asked one.  “I can tell you work out”, said another. “Your new job must really suit you”….

I realize that the typical patient at the breast center is really very sick.  Or scared.  Or sick and scared. So in comparison, my doctors must find it refreshing to see someone like me with my hair washed, my makeup on, and my reconstructed breasts that make my closes fit nice. Their kind words make me feel good, and grateful for being so healthy.

The last check-up: Six months ago, at my last check-up,  I was a mess.  Oh the cancer tests and scans and exams were all glowing.  But inside I was a mess.  My mom had just died and I was grieving.  I had also just given up alcohol, and was having a very tough time of it. I was having anxiety attacks at work, and I was feeling that my job was very insecure. I cried every day on my way home from the office, and sometimes I cried in the middle of the day.  Like I said…I was a mess.

It’s amazing to look back at that time, and to see where God was working in my life.  I couldn’t see his doings then, but I did pray and pray and pray to trust him. And by God, he delivered.

Grief six months later: I still grieve my mother, every day.  But it is a rich, touching grief that makes me feel closer to her, and to God, and to others.  I can feel my mom working in my life, and I am alert to her doings.  Sometimes it makes me cry.  Sometimes it feels like a tingling of my skin.  Sometimes it’s a pulsing surge from my heart to my head. When I feel it, I welcome it, and praise God and thank Mom for being my guide.

Sobriety six months later: I’m still not drinking!  I’m not craving alcohol anymore.  Well, occasionally I crave it, but it passes, and I now have confidence that the craving will pass.  I no longer come home after work to the automatic glass(es) of wine.  I do other things like drink tea, or read, or write, or walk.  I no longer get revved up about going out to meet friends, pre-drinking to get in the mood and drinking all night to feel connected.  Now I drink tea and fancy waters.  I actually find that I connect better sober.  And I laugh better.  And I don’t wake up regretting anything I said or drank the night before. Sobriety has been a bit of a buzz-kill in some of my circles, but in other circles no one even notices that I don’t drink.  And in my own little bubble, sobriety has been a very positive kick-in-the pants.  I should have done it long ago.

My job six months: I got a raise and a bonus, and a team to lead, and a new role and positions me for advancement.  Things are moving in such a nice direction! There’s a lot of hard parts to my job, and it feels like a positive challenge. Like trying a new workout or learning a new skill. I still have a tension about needing to prove myself.  But the encouraging voice in my head is louder than the doubting voice.  I attribute this to surrounding myself with good people, who support me with their prayers and words of encouragement. And a recent development I’ve got a couple of potential clients for my consulting side-gig.  God is good!

So tonight, for the record, I thank God for the good check-up.  I thank God for the path he’s given me, and for being with me along the way.  And I pray for the ability to trust and thank Him, even when things are a mess.

Gifts of Sobriety

2014 was the year I gave up drinking. One of the nice surprises about giving something up is how much I get in return.  In honor of my first (in a long time) hangover-free New Years Day, here are ten of the best things about not drinking:

  1. Waking up clear-headed to greet the day; no hangovers.
  2. Waking up with peaceful first-thoughts of God and gratitude
  3. Waking up confidently remembering what I said and what I did the night before.
  4. I don’t make any commitments that I regret the next morning.
  5. My days last so much longer. My weekends too.  When I don’t waste any mental energy thinking about drinking, I can expend that energy elsewhere.  I’m reading more.  Writing every day. Making plans for the house.  Making plans for my life.
  6. I’m fully present in my conversations with friends and family. I didn’t realize what a backdrop of noise was in my head when I was thinking about my drinking all of the time.
  7. I feel positive emotions more fully when I don’t drink. Which is funny because I used to drink when I wanted to feel things more.  As they say, it stopped working, and drinking started to have the opposite effect, dampening my good mood and then sending me into a dark mood through the next day or longer. Being sober when laughing, celebrating, connecting and enjoying is a surprising gift.
  8. I have clarity about my feelings, and confidence that bad feelings will pass. I used to drink to wind down from a stressful day or situation. But that just caused more stress.  Stress about how much I was drinking.  Stressful sleeping. Stressful waking. Stressful self-hatred and self-doubt the next day.  Now that I don’t drink, I can breathe through the stress and know that it will pass.  It feels great!
  9. The voice in my head that talks bad to me is so much quieter. After five months of sobriety, there are several days in a row where the voice doesn’t even show up.  And when the nagging voice does show up, I recognize it and call it out.  This has been tremendously empowering and I have a whole new respect for mental health.
  10. My nose is smaller. No kidding!


Turning Middle Age in 2014

When I look back on 2014, I will see it as the year I effectively settled into middle age.  At 46 years of age, it’s not unexpected that I should be transitioning into a new phase of life.  But for a long time, I unrealistically extended my self-identification with the youngest cadre of people in the room. My son is only twelve, so I’m still a young parent. I’m the youngest of nine siblings, so I’m still the baby. I was only 43 when I got breast cancer, so I’m a young survivor. I’m still learning how to be really good at my job, and so I’m a young leader.

This year, life happened.  Events occurred that placed me squarely in a new phase of life. Long after others have slotted me in the appropriate age bracket, I finally realized there is no generational buffer between me and professional success; between me and healthy family dynamics; between me and my own death.    And suddenly I have to figure out how to reconcile the person I was to the person I want to be for the rest of my life.

There were three events in 2014 that transitioned me to this new phase of life:

1. I shifted my career track.  I took a new job in a new field. And I also established a consulting company to generate supplemental income.  Both actions serve to re-calibrate my career, giving more immediate satisfaction and more options for my future livelihood.

2. I stopped drinking alcohol. The short story is that eliminating alcohol was essential for living my best life physically, mentally, and spiritually.  It has proven to be the best thing I could ever do for my overall happiness and contentment.

3. I lost my mother. My mother died at age 86, after a long, faith-filled life. My son and I had gone up to pay her a visit, and she had a stroke on the morning we were to return home.  She died three days later.

There’s so much that I can write about these events: how they happened; why they happened; what I felt before, during, after; what I’ve learned; what I’m struggling with; what would I do differently; what are my fears and hopes going forward.

There will be a time and day for me to fully unpack these events and share my observations in a way that might be helpful to others.

But for now, I want to focus on the gifts of these events.  For the next three days I will write about the good things that have come from these three events. I will list the gifts of a new career track; the gifts of sobriety; and the gifts of loss. My hope is that articulating the gifts will provide meaning to the events of 2014, and set the stage for continued growth in 2015.

Observations on my first 30 days of blogging

Thirty days ago I posted my first blog. Here are my observations so far:

I need to develop my daily writing habit. Writing daily in a journal helps me develop ideas for posting. It also helps reveal patterns and progress in my emotional, spiritual, and professional development. These patterns are often worth sharing. Daily journal writing, combined with carving out consistent blocks of time for developing posts, will help lead to a successful and meaningful blog.

Actionable item: Write in my journal every day for the next seven days.

Stall Tactic #1: Sometimes I balk at writing about personal topics. What if someone I know reads my post and learns something new about me? What if they start to develop an impression of me that I don’t like?  This is stall tactic.  One of the reasons I want to blog is to connect to people about the things that are important to me. Being a successful blogger means letting readers connect with me in whatever way they want to. I have to let go of the idea that I can control how I am perceived and my words are received. All writers and artists feel this way. If I am authentic in my desire to connect with people through blogging, then I need to reconcile vulnerability with faith and confidence in who I am.

Actionable item: In the next two weeks, post at least one post about a very personal topic: cancer, sobriety, or grief.

Stall Tactic #2:  The topic isn’t as well-developed as I want it to be. What if I post something that is not as crisp and moving as I know it can be? What if I waste a worthy topic with sloppy writing, missing my chance to get lots of likes and re-postings?

At this stage in my blogging career, the volume of output will get me a lot further along than perfecting each post. It’s the act of posting–not perfecting–that will lead to a better blog.

Actionable itempost eight times in the next 30 days.

Still an island: I get a bit of a thrill each time someone likes my post.  So far, I have about a dozen likes and no comments on my five posts.  Pretty meager.  I realize I need to pump out more posts to develop a community.  WordPress is launching a new Blogging 101 class next week.  I have signed up because I think it will help me be more consistent in posting new blogs, and it may help me develop a community of bloggers that motivate me to stick with it. One of my goals for this class is to provide the kind of feedback and encouragement to others that I would like to have. Be the friend you want to have…

Actionable items:  For each of my postings, like a posting by someone who has liked one of my postings. Start the WordPress Blogging 101 course.

No closer to Mom’s work: One of my priorities in writing a blog was to share some of Mom’s last writings with the world.  I have not touched the stack of papers that she gave to me before she died in August.  My sisters also have a supply of source materials for Mom’s blog, but I have yet to talk with them about how to take it forward.

Actionable item:  call my sister in the next two weeks and tell her I’m interested in sharing the task of Mom’s writing with her.

My Daily Practice

I’ve been following Trent Hamm’s blog, The Simple Dollar for years.  The blog is set out to be a personal finance blog.  It turns out that I read it more for the great, actionable advice to improve my mental, spiritual, and physical health than I do for improving my financial status.  He has several foundation blogs that I refer to time and time again.

Trent has come out with another great foundation blog called “Making a ‘Daily Practice’ Work for You.” A daily practice is something that you do each and every day to improve an area of your life.  Here’s my routine–some of which is already in practice; some of which is aspirational:

  1. Physical:
    1. Drink a green smoothie every morning to get a jumpstart on my five servings of fruits and veggies a day
    2. Lift and lunge: do a short routine with hand weights and a series of squats and lunges
    3. Walk 10,000 steps a day.  Most days, I won’t meet this goal unless I take my dog for a two-mile walk around our neighborhood lake.
  2. Spiritual
    1. Read a devotional prayer book everyday; preferable one with references to scripture.
    2. Read some scripture.
    3. Identify one thought or question or phrase to use as a centering point to keep God my priority throughout the day.
  3. Mental
    1. Write every day in my journal or on my blog
    2. Sleep seven good hours a night
    3. Listen to a stimulating book or podcast
  4. Emotional
    1. Reach out to a friend or family member every day. Call, text, write a note.
    2. Do something that’s purely fun (Trent’s words).  Play piano, read a book, daydream.
    3. Listen to music.

My parent wrote a book about when a parent dies

Twenty years ago, my mother published a book called “When Your Parent Dies: A concise and practical source of help and advice for adults grieving the death of a parent.”

I read the book when it first came out. Through the years I’ve picked it up on occasion, sometimes giving an extra copy to a friend who had lost their parent.

Today, the book sits on my nightstand.  Since she died this summer, I get pretty emotional when I try to read it.When your parent dies

My twelve-year-old son asked me the other day “Isn’t it kind of creepy that you’re reading a book that your parent wrote about when your parent dies?”

It’s not creepy; not at all. It’s some kind of wonderful.

My mother was prescient.  Although the book was written for another time, another audience, I benefit from her words as much as the scores of people who came to her for guidance in their grief. What a blessing it is to feel so connected to her.

Why Advent Myself?

Why did I name this blog Advent Myself?

  1. Because I started the blog on the first day of Advent.
  2. Advent (with a small a) means “coming into being”. I like the notion that I’m “coming into being” through my writing.
  3. Advent also means the arrival of something notable. A bit haughty for this exercise, but I’ll go with it.
  4. Advent is seasonal, with a beginning and an end. This makes blogging more of a doable test-run then a lifetime vow.
  5. “Advent” — as in “Advent calendar” has  an element of daily devotion and anticipation. That is how I want to approach my blog.
  6. Advent Myself sounds like the words “invent myself”, and that reminds me of George Foreman’s commercial for InventHelp.  I like George Foreman.  But this ad plays annoyingly about seven time in the 20 minutes my family has the tv on in the morning.  We make fund of it. It reminds me not to take this blogging stuff too seriously.