Posted in Self-Improvement, Writing

Success for the Future

One of my hobbies – Orchids! 5th time blooming since I brought it home!

Good morning all,

It’s been a while since I posted anything.  I have been focusing on a lot of new things which have taken most of my time.  This entry is the beginning of developing additional focus on my writing.  I’m excited to share with you what’s been keeping me from a regular blogging routine.

In 2015 I decided not to make any “New Years Resolutions” again, EVER!  I thought, it’s too much of a commitment to say on one day that I’ll do or be something for an entire year!  Right away, I knew I’d be setting myself up for failure.  In my day job, I’m always thinking about how we can set ourselves up for success.  So, after a bit of journaling, I decided that I could commit to anything for thirty days!

In 2015 I chose to start one good thing and stop one bad thing every month.  Each month would have a single focus area for positive improvements, and efforts to eliminate something not so good.  Whatever worked for me I would choose to continue just as a part of my new way of life.  During 2015, I stopped chewing my fingernails, I started a fitness program, I went for a whole month without coffee (only water for all fluid intake), another month I eliminated all “fat pills” (cookies, cake, ice cream, basically anything with sugar–or all the good stuff :-))  Needless to say, I was so pleased with the success of my self-improvement approach to 2015, I decided to take it up a notch for 2016.

In November of last year, I spent a good deal of time journaling about “who am I?”  What is it I have always believed about myself that I wanted to be true…not just a wish, not a something I’ll get around to…but no kidding, I wanted there to be observable evidence of truth to the things I believed about myself.  Who is the person I say that I am?  I always wanted to play an instrument, speak another language, be better at personal relationships, stay in shape/be healthy, write a book, etc.  So I came up with a new way to organize my life so that I could set myself up for success.

I created a notebook with eight tabs.  The first tab is the Activity/Progress Tracker which is nothing more than a blank month calendar template.  At the bottom is a legend with alpha characters that match the first letter of the word for each of the following 7 tabs.  Seven tabs, seven days in a week.  So, here are my tabs:

  1. Activity/Progress Tracker20160806_084828
  2. Guitar Practice
  3. Spanish Lessons
  4. Fitness
  5. Writing Studies
  6. Reading
  7. Personal Relationships
  8. Hobbies

Each of the tabs 2-8 are filled with blank notebook pages for me to write short journal entries about progress I’m making in each of those areas.  Every day, I track my progress on my activity tracker like this:

  • H – Gardening 1hr
  • G – 5 min Timed Chord Changes
  • F – 4 miles walk/run intervals

Just like last year, I decided that I’d give it a month and if it seemed like too much work or I could not consistently keep it up to date, I’d try another way.  However, after my first month, I was amazed at how little time it consumed to keep up with my progress and for the first time was able to track real progress.  My objective was to make sure that in any given week, I would have at least three of each letter in my tracker.  If I can’t find time three times a week to focus on Spanish, I’m not going to achieve a conversational fluency by the end of the year (okay, maybe that’s ambitious–but that’s the kind of goal setting that works for me).

The nice thing about this project is that my binder is my affirmation.  I don’t need anyone to pat me on the back.  Also, if I ever start to doubt myself in any of these areas, I just look at the tracker or the log entries behind each of the tabs to see that I have dedicated serious time and energy to the things I believe are important for me to achieve.  So far, it has worked very well.  I have seven completed months of tracking/logging.  I can now play a Spanish love song on the acoustic guitar.  I have a lot of Spanish practice under my belt and have basic (read, write, speak, listen/comprehend) skills.  I am only 14 pounds heavier than I was when I completed technical school in the Air Force at the age of 18–30 yrs ago.  I am improving my personal relationships.  I joined the Nebraska Writer’s Workshop (a three hour weekly commitment) Jan 2015 and am an active weekly member–I wrote my first novel!  I have read 12 and a half books since January–all while holding a full-time job and enjoying the most awesome gardening season ever.

The results speak for themselves and I now have a way to hold myself accountable to the things I say are important to me.  I hope that everyone who reads this is able to glean an idea or two that will help them with their goals.  One of my Writing goals is to blog more regularly.  I haven’t decided upon a rhythm yet, but I’ll share what my plans are soon.


Posted in Business, Education, Relationships, Uncategorized, Writing

2012 Accomplishments

I have begun a new tradition…starting the end of year in recap mode and planning for the next!   I really have much to be thankful for…its sometimes hard to remember that on Mondays!

This has been a year of accomplishments:

  • Completed Bachelors Degree in Business (made Dean’s List w/4.0 average)
  • Received a promotion & a new job
  • Found reliable renters for our small farm
  • Sold old farm truck
  • Updated our family photo (1st in 7 years!)
  • Twin daughters started driving and completed 1st college level course
  • Participated in #NaNoWriMo with my children (Megan was only one to complete hers, but at least we all got started on writing a novel!)

I turn 46 in January!  I seriously don’t feel that old, except when Mondays roll around 🙂 Did I make it clear that I don’t like Mondays?

So, what I am shooting for in 2013?  Do It Yourself (DIY) home repairs; foodscaping my yard; building a close-knit community of dads who want to be better dads, husbands, and friends; becoming more involved in the education process of my mostly home-schooled children; and brushing up on my sign language skills.

Do you have an annual ritual for setting goals and holding yourself accountable to them?

Posted in Relationships, Writing

Blogger’s/Writer’s Block or Thought Tornado

My personal journey with writer’s paralysis…mood, motivation, prioritization, and other obstacles.

Temporary Actors in the Cast of Spring
Fading and Temporary Beauty

The choice to move from one location to another causes great upheaval and conflicts of priorities.  Its difficult enough to contemplate major life changes for yourself; its especially challenging when you add the duties of family and a full-time job.  How/where/when you choose to split your energies can be exhausting.  With a house finally selected, and the majority of projects completed at our existing residence, we see the light at the end of the stress tunnel.  However, all the actions required to get to this point has derailed my goals of writing a blog post every week in 2011.

I am finding that getting back into the groove/routine and feeling motivated in coming up with original material that isn’t cliche is daunting.  During day-to-day conversations at work or with family and friends, we’ll engage in conversation that makes me think–“Oh that’s a great blog topic–I’ll have to explore that!”   Later, I end up either forgetting (because I didn’t write down a teaser note) the topic/scenario, or I’ll discount it as not being a read-worthy entry.

So, I have to stop making excuses about what I write, why I’m writing and just “Do it!”  Each day I am learning something new about myself, others, or the world around me.  I enjoy sharing how I see the world.  Here’s a perspective that makes me very melancholy:

With twin daughters approaching sweet sixteen and a son who will turn 12 in November, I’m feeling the train of time rapidly bearing down upon me.  I look at the irises just outside the fence of the orchard and notice they are at the end of their season.  Their light purple blossoms once vibrant, strong and scented, have surrendered to the beating sun and fatiguing winds…bent over, shriveled, now brown husks.  A few final perky blooms persist like little kids who aren’t quite ready to go to bed.  They were beautiful at the beginning of their glory, and served valiantly their role in the cast of spring characters.  It is time now for the peonies and the roses to take center stage.  As a 44 year old man, with teen daughters, I see that just like the irises, I too am entering the end of my season as a main character in the cast of their story.  Like the roses, my girls are entering their bloom and taking center stage.

So, back to my writing…the act of preparations for moving both at work and at home has created quite an emotional storm.  My observations both entertain and distract me; taking me on mental trips reflecting upon the past or visualizing into the future.  I tend to marinate in my meditations…in hopes of finding what I’m supposed to learn from each situation. Some might say I overthink or read too much into a situation.  I am working on trying to achieve a healthy balance between critical thinking and letting it be.  I guess NOT carrying around my blogging palette (a small notebook) lately to record all the ideas that I have causes me to feel like a lot of objects swirling around in a tornado of thoughts.

Reading other people’s blogs helps me to see “other ways” of sharing views and perspectives.  I’ve really enjoyed the simplicity of the “10 Ways to…______(fill in the blank)” types of blog entries.  I also deeply appreciate those who share their vacations, research and experiences with relationships (either people or animals.) So, I’ll try to get back to my regular writing routine in spite of the hectic pace of life.  It really doesn’t take me very long to wring out the texts of my mind and I find it very therapeutic.

I thank you all for taking a few minutes to read my post.  Feel free to leave your thoughts, observations, or questions.  Have a great week!

Posted in SocialMedia, Writing

Grumpy Old Man Predicts Demise of USPS

As he harrumphed out of the Post Office I thought to myself–now this is worth a blog entry!

I took a short break from work today to mail a care package to a friend overseas.  Not having mailed a package over the ocean blue before, I arrived at the counter and was promptly asked for my customs form.  She read my raised eyebrow and upturned “huh?” expression like a seasoned customer service rep!  She handed a blank form to me with a smile, and I stepped aside.  “Now press hard” the clerk said, “it has to go through all seven copies hon!”

I was about to “press hard” when I heard the door open and looked up just in time to see a short older man with a baseball cap shuffle into the room.  As he approached the counter, he stopped with a grunt when he noticed me.  “Go ahead sir, I have to fill out a  form.”  I offered.

USPS service delivery truck in a residential a...
Image via Wikipedia

With his three legal-sized letters in hand he slowly approached the clerk.  His chin hovered maybe four inches above the counter.  “How do I make sure these are going to get where they need to go?” he asked.  Teresa (her name tag advertised) said, “Most people just send those certified,”  noticing two were addressed to the IRS.  As she handed him two blank certified receipts, he asked “What am I supposed to do with those?”  “Well….you’ll need to put the addresses on them?” she patiently replied with a slightly bemused expression.  “I already wrote it on the G_ _ Da_ _ envelope!  That’s why the USPS is going to fail and other companies are going to take business away from you!  Ya hafta make things so difficult!”  He looked in my direction with a swaggered expression, non-verbally fishing for support from the customer side of the counter.  I released an audible chuckle, and went back to filling out my form.  After taking his receipt, he lumbered back outside.  Now ready with my completed form, I withheld the urge to commiserate with Teresa and applaud her patience.  I paid the $22.90 fee to ship my eight pound, nine ounce package to my friend, thanked Teresa and went back out to my vehicle.  The grumpy old man was still getting into his vehicle.  Reflecting with fondness and humor on his perspectives, I found shelter from the wind and snow in my van and returned to work.

Later in the afternoon on a break I posted the following tweet on Twitter:

“2remain relevant @USPS shld consider automating its in-person forms processing. Scan handwritten addresses for Cert/Regist form data! #tip

I am so thankful for the discovering yet another coping mechanism for irritating and frustrating situations!  As a writer, every event is a writing opportunity.  Viewing life through the eyes of a storyteller turns every annoyance into raw material for the keyboard or journal.  I’ve always enjoyed people-watching!  Now I have another facet to this hobby I can explore.  It also allows me to step back and use an analytical eye to see if there’s an easy way to resolve an issue, or turn a challenge into opportunity.

Thank you for reading!  Follow me on Twitter @justasked

Posted in SocialMedia, Writing

Things I do for Inspiration

Good Morning All,

I don’t have a newsy research paper to share or some crafty idea to write about this morning.  But in an effort to hold true to my own commitment to blog MUCH more than I did last year I’ll write down a few thoughts about how the week is going.

Today is a great day because it’s Friday!  Beyond that, so far the best part of my week has been having the opportunity at work to hear author Simon Sinek (follow him on Twitter @simonsinek come and talk about his philosophies captured in his book “Start With Why!”  Fascinating concepts about how the primitive/older part of our brain is where decisions (gut feelings) are made.  The newer part of our brains, the neocortex, is where we give life to those feelings through the gift of language.  I personally believe that those that are best articulating feeling have some special connection between these two parts of the brain or perhaps it is a muscle that gets stronger with exercise–i.e. my passion for writing.  Anyway, if you haven’t read the book, or have seen it and passed it by–you might want to give it a read.  You’ll learn a lot about yourself that might surprise you.  Here’s a link to the book for sale at Amazon Paperback starts at $8.16, hardcover from $13.98

Anyway, back to my thesis–things I do for inspiration.  Depending upon my perspective and what it is I want or need to do, look at the following

Want/Need: Inspiration Activity

Write/Journal: Read or listen to music
Clean/do laundry: Listen to music or think about some project I want to start
Creative Time w/kids: Read about parenting, watch a short “HowTo” clip on YouTube
Go to Work: Take a shower/review my calendar printed from previous day
Do Admin Project: Sharpen Pencils, Get out stack of blank paper, organize my research data

Anyway, you get the idea.  I try to align my motivational/inspiration activity prior to engaging in the chore with something that is either aligned with my focus/purpose–or, something that completely takes my mind off the task entirely.  If creativity is where my passion lies–I’m one of those strange people who really get inspired/enthused by the smell of freshly sharpened pencils or a bag filled with new office supplies (I know, sounds a little strange).  Seriously you should try just walking through the isles at Michaels or Hobby Lobby, Office Depot or Office Max…tell me you don’t get a hankering to sit down and start writing!

As an extrovert, I really prefer group activities and find it more fun to do inspirational rallying with others.  When it comes to writing, I really enjoy getting up before everyone in the house–browsing Twitter, my favorite news sites, or reviewing my blog subscriptions to feel like I’m connecting with all the other bloggers out there who write knowing that there may be one, 50, or none who read my ramblings.

So, in parting, before I motivate myself off of this couch to head into work, let me just share that I am grateful to have been able to wake up and under my own power (mobility) get up out of bed and have the freedom to translate to you through my neocortex, the passion that flows from my limbic (primitive brain) system.

Good day everyone and thanks for reading!  Tell me, how do you inspire or motivate yourself?

Ed (follow me on Twitter @justasked)