Ten Things of Thankful – Before the Voyage

Looking back on the past week and a half, I have so much to be thankful for. Writing about my gratitude will tie together – quite nicely – all the different things going on in my life at the moment.

The Meditation Retreat

I continue to feel the effects of so many days of meditation. Being with 28 other folks who were from all walks of life and had all sorts of different beliefs, this validated for me how we can all coexist peacefully – if we but just understand that all we need is to love and have compassion for each other.

The quad area at the retreat center. Incredibly restful and peaceful.

The Last Day of Work

I finished the school year. It’s been stressful and tiring and, you know, sometimes I wondered if I was cut out for working in the academic world. Still, working with so many people – from elementary students to superintendents, to parents and church leaders – the experience has made me grow in ways that I can’t even describe. I have a level of confidence I had not known was possible in my existence. I can read and understand people on a different level now. Furthermore, I have a much deeper understanding of the idea of “the boss.” Where I used to question the decisions former principals and directors made, I now have utter sympathy for those in charge having to make unpopular decisions. You never really know what’s going on behind closed doors.

The Novel

This morning, I finished the final “content” edit. I’m going to do one more read-through to try to catch typos and other such errors, but otherwise, I’m going to send it to my editor – my ever-supportive husby – in the coming week. This being a first novel, I’m not looking for any high dollar investments as far as editors and book cover artists. I will publish on Kindle and we’ll just see how all this goes.

The Possibility of Publishing the Novel

I have now gotten further than I ever have on any novel I’ve worked on. Littering various hard drives and thumb drives, I have an assortment of unfinished novels in different genres. I figured out somewhere along the way that I love to write about scary things – ghosts, the unexplained, supernatural phenomena, and even superhero-type characters – and the possibility of FINALLY publishing has me really giddy. Honestly, I don’t expect much with this first one: the goal was to get over the hurdle of publishing. I’m still not there, but I see the hurdle itself coming up along the racetrack and I have the confidence to jump and clear it. So many times that hurdle came up on my running sprints and I stopped when I saw it. I’ve been training hard to focus on the success of not only jumping it, but briefly looking back to marvel at what I just did.

Discovering Chris Fox’s Books

These have helped me churn out a novel really quickly. Here’s what I’ve read while I’ve been working on my novel (these are affiliate links):

  1. 5,000 Words Per Hour
  2. Lifelong Writing Habit
  3. Write to Market
  4. Launch to Market

As a side note, I didn’t discover some of these books until this 3rd content edit, so some of the tips he talks about won’t apply until the next novel I start – which will be immediately, actually. But still. I can churn out 2,000+ words in half an hour if I don’t let myself edit and I have a clear plan of what I’m doing. I even emailed him to get clarification on something in one of his books and he emailed right back!

The Upcoming Epic Road Trip

So, school’s out and I have five weeks to have some fun. To be sure, I’ll continue writing while I’m on the road, but we’re planning on doing a road trip through Kentucky, Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming and then to Colorado. See, at least once, if not twice a year, I head out to Colorado to see family (starting out in North Carolina). But we often drive out there and then drive straight back and don’t have a lot of time to see other things. This year, starting in January, we started saving for an epic journey. We leave on Monday morning. We’ll check out the Badlands, Deadwood (remember the TV show?), The Devil’s Tower, Bighorn Medicine Wheel, Thermopolis (for the mineral waters) and then head on down to Colorado.

Close College Friends

There are people who have lots of acquaintances and then there are people who have a handful of lifelong close friends. The latter would be me. I made three friends – that I managed to not run off – from my days at Colorado College. At the risk of dating myself, I graduated in 2001. We live all over the US now but our friendship has transcended distance and time. We joke that we’ll be the scourge of some nursing home one day, throwing Oreos at staff and having wheelchair races. Hopefully those days are far, far off into the future.

Close Friends Who Graduate

So…out of the group of us college buddies, all of us have completed our Master’s degrees. One even completed her PhD. We run the gamut of people studying different things: I have my Master’s in Spanish. One has hers in Divinity. Another has hers in Psychology. The last just completed hers in Education at our alma mater, Colorado College. While I’m in visiting family and friends in Colorado, we’re also going to celebrate her graduation and accomplishments.

Age and Wisdom

My mom runs an assisted living center out of the house I grew up in. While it is unusual – I just love the look on people’s faces when I tell them I grew up in a nursing home – there are some really neat things about it. One of them is this patient who is turning 106. Yes, you read that right. She’s still pretty sharp and completely fluent in Spanish and English and my mom now takes care of her 85 year-old son. But, to celebrate 106 years of earthly living, my mom’s going to bring in a mariachi band to serenade her. We already have word that various news outlets will be there to witness this incredible milestone. Doctors told her she’d never live past 95. Just look at that miracle!

The Library

For our road trip, we have an assortment of books and CDs to keep us entertained. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been to Iowa and my perception of it is that it’ll be flat with no radio stations. It’s always good to be prepared but open to the possibility that there might be hills and pretty things there, and maybe even a good radio station or two as we pass through. And hopefully no dustbowls!

This has been part of the Ten Things of Thankful Blog Hop.

Learning to Just Be and #10Thankful


Find freedom in yourself.
Be free. Be as you are.

Personal Development Books on CD

I spend a lot of time in the car.

Therefore, I listen to a lot of radio. But not just any kind of radio…

I often find myself at the town library on Saturday mornings, stocking up on personal development CDs to listen to during the week. Because right now, my commute is one hour, ten minutes round-trip. Five days per week.

I listen to everything from Earl Nightingale to Wayne Dyer to Deepak Chopra to Karen Armstrong. I get so inspired to  be my best and I actually derive so much energy from listening to these people.

And well, maybe I don’t believe everything they say. But really, they want to make the world a better place as much as I do.

So, I listen to like-minded people to propel myself forward.

And that’s the thing.

Propelling myself forward.

Because I listen to personal development stuff for hours and hours each week, I think it’s literally changing my brain make-up or something. I get so many ideas and things I want to do and things I want to try….

But more recently, I was listening to a conversation between Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra. There was a strong message about acceptance: of the way things are and of who you are.

Which led me to thoughts of “just being.”

Your “To Be” List

Chopra reminded me that we’re human “beings,” not human “doings.”

A few years ago, a friend shared a book with me called, “Your To Be List.” (No affiliate link there.) I remember thinking, I have zillions of “to do” lists, but I never thought of a “to be” list.

And it stuck. I vowed to become more contemplative, more mindful.

Be mindful.

That has a certain ring to it.

And honestly, I am looking at how I revamped my blog a few months ago. All the categories here now fall into:

  • be a leader
  • be aware
  • be creative
  • be divine
  • be grateful
  • be knowledgeable
  • be motivated
  • be spiritual
  • be the change
  • be your light

I had unwittingly created my own “to be” list. I smiled that I already have been working on just being. For that, I am grateful.

But most of all, and one that I didn’t include was “be me.” To be as I am. Flaws, perfections, mess of thoughts and smiles and all.

Be me.

There’s a certain peace that comes with acceptance of the self. That we really don’t have to be better than exactly who we are.

Coaching Others

Which brings me to another item of “grateful.” Because I listen and get so inspired by personal development-type stuff, I feel this need to share it. To share in this special knowledge that I’ve acquired that has changed my life. Especially more recently.

I’m grateful I’ve discovered free life coach courses online that I want to take. I’m not sure when: my day job takes a lot of time and energy at the moment. But I hope to do these soon.

I’ll have to hit up all my blogging friends for free life coaching sessions to hone my skills. But I want to look into being a spiritual/personal development coach. I keep thinking and thinking about this.

Will I quit my day job? Only if it’s meant to be: I am working on accepting life as it is. And I accept (and rather like) my day job…though I’d prefer a little more free time…like most of us, anyways.

But coaching feels right: I can incorporate all sides of myself: the creative side, the mindful side, the listening side, the desire to make a difference…

Spiritual Development

And I’m grateful for the spiritual journey I’m on. It’s a trip, really.

I’ve started meditating every single day. I’m no pro at it: my thoughts swirl like marbled ice cream, but the act of sitting but trying to be consciously quiet, well…it really does change you. Slowly. Over a long period of time.

I feel it. I feel it in the way I respond to stressful situations now. I feel it in all my interactions with others. I feel it in the way that I listen to my own instincts. And it engenders compassion.

And no matter what walk of life we have: religious, spiritual, or no affiliation with anything, compassion is at the core of every major doctrine and it’s wired into our brains.

If the whole world cultivated more of it, we’d know peace.

12 Steps to a Compassionate Life

I’m grateful for the very interesting and very compelling Karen Armstrong recorded book I’m listening to called, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.” Wow. What a powerful piece she’s written. And so poignantly relevant in today’s polarized world.

Morning Yoga

I’m grateful to Melanie for introducing me to Yoga With Adrienne. I don’t do yoga every day, but when I have the extra energy in the morning, Adrienne has a few yoga morning sequences. After meditating, I do a session of yoga and feel completely and incredibly energized and ready to start my day.

Actually, it would be good to do this every single day, but that’s not always practical…

But still…learning to stretch and breathe and be kind to myself…ahh, yes.

The whole breathing thing that goes with yoga and meditation…I really am embracing it.

Daily Meditation

I usually do about 30 minutes of focused meditation per day.

But I have this wish to try it for 8 hours sometime.

30 minutes can be hard, to say nothing of 8 hours or more.

I read about people going on meditation retreats and that’s all they do for 10 days straight – or longer.

I think about that with hesitation. First because meditation seems to be such a personal thing and doing that with others around does sort of freak me out a bit. But second, my legs fall asleep after not too long…I’d need a meditation bench or something.

But I read story after story about how people emerge from long meditation sessions and they literally see the world differently and their level of compassion is at a maximum. I really want to try this sometime and then write about it.

Perhaps I should next week when I have a couple days off….it would be so interesting.

I have no idea how many gratefuls I talked about in this post. But I can say it’s so much fun being part of Ten Things of Thankful. 

How a Walk Can Lead to a Personal Philosophy

The other day it was my birthday and in honor of that, I did a few things to commemorate hitting my mid-30’s that filled my soul.

Fill my soul. 

I love those words. They make me think of Emily Dickinson poems that take the mundane and portray them in a whole new light such that when you realize she’s talking about a leaf, or nature, or even death, her words are at once understandable and extraordinary at the same time.

Many of my friends and family now know that I am beginning to work full time at a place that I love. Even though I’m a teacher, the work at my school will require my presence over the summer. I’m simultaneously gearing down the academic year while preparing to take on administrative tasks at the school.

What does this have to do with walking? Everything. Bear with me: I promise not to go on too many erudite ramblings that require knowledge of the 4th dimension.

I got to thinking about where I work.

I am so very lucky. I work in a place where there’s no backstabbing or gossip.

All religions and beliefs are respected.

The students and staff all cater to environmental sustainability, social justice and work for The Greater Good.

It makes me want to be a better person all-around. No, for the moment, I’m not thinking about engaging in any Salt Marches (and blessings to Gandhi), but I am feeling jazzed about creating my own little movement.

Here’s where my birthday walk comes in. I headed to south Asheville, to one of my favorite spots to unwind: Bent Creek. I headed out on a trail around the lake:

A little watering hole near the lake

I kept thinking about the Global Education program I’m going to coordinate next year. After much research for a recent graduate course, I’ve researched how to infuse it into my school’s curriculum.

The four focal points of it are: multiculturalism, intercultural relations, social justice and environmental sustainability.

Oh how all those things resound with my fluttering heart!

As I continued walking, I kept thinking of not only teaching, but expanding. By that I mean addressing my need to leave this planet in a better place than when I began.

I reached the lake. Suddenly I thought to snap a black and white photo in honor of timelessness.

bent creek
Lake Powhatan at Bent Creek, Asheville, NC

It was a Wednesday afternoon and the vacant beach was at once slightly haunting and inviting.

My mind began to race. It was supposed to be a relaxing walk, but my form of relaxation is contemplating all the possibilities.

I started thinking about preservation of this. Preserving plants and birds and lakes and mountains. Of replicating the peace and unity and love that I feel when I am at work. Yes, at work! I know how that sounds.

I also know that I am not nearly the first, thousandth, or millionth person to think these thoughts.

So many of us want to make a difference but we don’t always know how.

As my mind wandered through the paths of its own winding networks, forgetting to smell the flowers and taste the sunshine, I silently gazed at the burgeoning leaves that painted the landscape.

Lake Powhatan
A bridge near the lake.

I happened upon a bridge and still, the questions and thoughts kept bursting forth, like the drip from a faucet that is steady and doesn’t stop.

I kept thinking how I’m going spread the love, the peace, the tolerance, the trust, the justice, the hope, the goodness of what nature has to offer, but I hadn’t come up with a solution.

I took a moment from my meanderings and sat down with my dog. He was with me on this lovely hike, though I wasn’t completely present to him because deep in the recesses of my mind, my thoughts were wrapping around themselves in the same way a long coil of thread wraps around a spool, thickening layer by layer….

Lake at bent creek
Vinny, who stopped and sat on the bridge and soaked up the sun…

I breathed in the warm air, reminding me to slow down and feebly attempt to calm my mind. I continued on my afternoon journey until I came upon another watering hole.

bent creek
A rocky stream down from the lake.

Then I thought of it: I’m creating a personal philosophy to live by, to guide me as I wade through the river of life so that I stay afloat and hold in my palm all my values, morals, philosophies and hopes all wrapped together in a triangular water droplet that magically reflects the spectrum of the sun and breaks it down into the colors of the rainbow.

I’m still drafting it. I don’t even know what to call it. But I know one thing: it takes into account everything I’ve said here: respect for the Earth, social justice, harmony, tolerance for all people around the world.

When I finish it, this will be the first place to which I post.

Going on a Beach Retreat

Once a year, my husband and I head to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

It’s our beach retreat.

We always go camping.  We love to camp.

But yes, this week I’ll be blogging from the beach.  This is one of the reasons I love what I do: between teaching and blogging, I can go on retreat.  Though I will admit that this post and Wednesday’s post are pre-scheduled.  I thought I’d leave Friday or Saturday’s blog post up to whatever inspires me.

However, I consider myself to still be a budding entrepreneur, so I still plan on blogging, at least somewhat – you know, a “maintain the business” sort of thing.  Please forgive me ahead of time if I don’t return comments on your blog; I’ll catch up when I get home.

The Importance of Going on a Retreat

mountain retreat
A retreat center in western North Carolina

Just the act of getting away, and not scheduling events and having things to do up the wazoo, can be very uplifting.

It gives you a break from the routine.

Going on a retreat can help replenish your energy and can center you.

This is why my husband and I return to the Outer Banks every year.  Yes, it’s growing up, but it’s not very commercialized.  No chain stores, and if there’s a fast food restaurant, I think it’s just as you reach Manteo.  Once you’re on Highway 12, there’s stuff, but it’s unique, local, small-town stuff.  God, I love that.

It’s always a rather relaxing affair: we plan our meals, cook on the grill or the campstoves, have a large tent to spread out, a gazebo with a bug screen that pops up, an air mattress for some comfort and extra wood for sitting by the fire.  I love reducing our lives from the complexities of modern life to the simplicities of the laid-back beach life.

We go on beach walks, visit lighthouses, fly our kite that we got in Kill Devil Hills (in the Outer Banks) years ago, ride our bikes into town to the little store, check out a few local restaurants, play Frisbee on the beach, check out museums, read, write, sleep – basically, whatever we feel like doing.

Last year, we found a campground that is a step-up from the state campgrounds: it has warm showers, wi-fi, a recreation center and it’s next to a slow-moving waterway.  That means that it’s got a lot of algae and green matter sitting on the water.  That makes it especially appealing for turtles.  They sun on exposed tree logs or sandbars in large groups – five or ten at a time.  I have no idea what a group of turtles is called.  They’re not flocks, or schools, herds, or anything else I can think of.  Do you know?

We look forward to this every year.  Perhaps some day we’ll upgrade to some kind of camper, but I don’t know if we’ll ever rent a beach house.  It kind of takes the simplicity factor out of it.  At least for us it does.

black line

Going on a Spiritual Retreat

This last year has been one of such intense spiritual growth for me.

I think it’s only fitting that I incorporate elements of a spiritual retreat into this adventure.

I’m not exactly sure what it will all look like, but I can assure you that I will come back with TONS of ideas for future posts.  They’re already starting to sprout like dandelions in my head.

Some ideas I have to make this like a spiritual retreat:

  • going with my husband on silent walks 
  • studying the stars at night
  • taking time to write inspirational notes to each other
  • meditating on the beach (of COURSE when no one’s looking)
  • setting out intentions for the day, as in, having a “to be” list and not a “to do” list: being present, being peaceful, being gracious, being generous, etc.
  • reading inspirational books
  • taking time to do art (this is actually for work, but the act of doing art is a meditative practice)
  • engage in storytelling around the fire

Inspirational Books

This is a week-long retreat, so I can’t say I’m going to get TONS of reading done.  After all, I have to try to perfect my sunburn…er…suntan at the beach.  Haha.  Who am I kidding?  I did not inherit my mother’s darker olive skin; I’m the lucky benefactor of Spanish genes…those Europeans are so dang fair-skinned (historically speaking…you know…when thousands and thousands of years ago there were ice ages and they were figuring out how to hunt and gather for food, still).

Already, I have The Art of Happiness  by the Dalai Lama and Love in Action by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Oh and I have a dog-training book I’m reading over.  I want my Da Vinci to be the best well-behaved dog, ever.  So I can take him to work with me.  And so he can go to work with my husband.  Or anywhere dogs are allowed.

And of course, I really need to finish reading Melanie’s book, start Yvonne’s and Stacy’s books.

But all in good time.  I’m resolving to be okay with whatever happens this week: if I get a lot of reading done, great.  If not, then great.  Same with blogging.  Same with everything else.

I’m going to let my heart and soul guide me in my activities this week.

And I can’t wait to cook my famous vegetable soup in the Dutch Oven.

Are you planning a retreat?  Let me know in the comments.

I’m thinking it would be cool to host a mini-retreat as a Google hangout sometime.  Or, have people come up to the living retreat that is my house.  Or coordinate retreats elsewhere for women, or people wanting a spiritual retreat.  Now that is some interesting food for thought.