What I’ve Learned from NaBloPoMo

This month seems to have flown by. It doesn’t seem like 30 days ago I was committing to the goal of blogging every day in November. Did I miss a week somewhere?

Although I said I was glad it was ending because I’m having a hard time coming up with ideas for posts, I will miss this. I’m hoping to keep posting regularly, just not every day!

I’ve learned a few things along the way, some of which I shared in this post. The 21 days since then have only emphasized these lessons. Posting every day is hard, and an editorial calendar would help. I still haven’t gotten around to creating one but I would like to. It calls to the organized freak inside of me. Maybe this is something I can do in the last few days of my holiday so I’ll have some kind of schedule for December.

Sometimes, you just need to type. You just need to do it. You can’t be paralyzed by the fear of producing something of a lesser quality. This is something I have struggled with as a perfectionist. I want the post to be of the highest quality but without planning ahead, this isn’t possible. So balancing my busy life and this goal has been a challenge and I’ve had to learn to let go the expectation of perfection. At least when it comes to the blog!

This relates to all of the aforementioned lessons: planning ahead increases the quality of posts. Not planning doesn’t!

It’s hard to sit down and type up several posts in advance. And it takes a lot of time! I don’t think I realized just how much of a time commitment this was going to be. Sure, there were days when I typed something out quickly. Sometimes the ideas for posts came easily, the words just flowing out onto the page. But more frequently they didn’t and I had to search for something to talk about. And when I did have time, it took several hours to have two or three posts to schedule for future days. Even when I did have ideas, the timing didn’t always work out right. The posts I typed in advance may not have made sense to post on the days I needed to have something scheduled.

The things I learned can be boiled down into just a few things: planning, time, and flexibility. All of these things are important when trying to post daily.

National Blog Posting Month has been a great experience for me, something I might try again in the future. Thank you for sticking with me through this adventure!

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Friday Favorites

There are many things on the way to Friday that are worth celebrating – some big, some little – and they deserve their own time. I’m taking some time again this week to highlight some of my favorite things and to be thankful for more than just the fact that it’s Friday.

This week, some of my favorite things were:

  • Dinner with friends to celebrate the holidays
  • Celebrating my roommate’s engagement to a wonderful man. Time to plan a wedding!
  • Friends with a shared sense of humor… and strangers who make hilarious comments at movie theatre trailers!
  • God’s sheltering presence in the storms of life. That he is my ultimate confidant and wants to hear everything I’m feeling and thinking.
  • The iPhone’s Do Not Disturb function
  • Work holidays that give us a chance to rest, relax, and catch up on things. Like studying. Because that’s what I’m doing right now…
  • Family and friends who support my dreams, encourage me, and kick my butt when I need it.
  • The smell of Christmas trees permeating my house
  • Christmas music!
  • Second and third jobs that give me the opportunity to pay down debt and save money to make my dreams a reality.
  • Online shopping… for Christmas, so I can have things shipped directly to California, and so I can make wish lists when my move date seems so far away.
  • Bar Method for kicking always kicking my butt and making me feel good about myself! I don’t think I’ve ever looked or felt better physically and it’s entirely because of this class.
  • That we’re approaching the end of NaBloPoMo because I’m running out of ideas for daily posts….
  • Starbucks Peppermint Mochas on days when I really need caffeine
  • Successfully executed corporate Thanksgiving celebrations planned by yours truly. Glad that one’s out of the way!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I’ve been thinking a lot about the stages we go through in life and how things change. For some of us, that means family growing larger, smaller, or growing apart. Or perhaps it’s the same as always and it’s you who have changed.

Reflecting on the familiar changes in my life today has reminded me that we can choose how we view situations. We can look at them negatively or positively. I can’t lie and say that I consistently view things positive. I don’t. I tend to take the negative view. So today, I’m going to be thankful for the fact that, while I am celebrating alone, I am not far from my family. In fact, they are texting me on the phone that is inches from my hand as I type this. And the alone time isn’t unwanted. Life has been crazy for the last few months and I’m savoring the quiet, the music I’m playing, the wine in my glass, the laundry that’s getting washed, and the pumpkin pie baking in the oven and filling the house with its spicy aroma. I’m thankful that I have a job to have a holiday from, when so many either don’t have jobs or are working today anyway.

And I pray for each of you. That wherever you are, whatever your situation, that you would find joy today. That some little event or blessing would touch you exactly where you need it. That God would speak to you today.

Happy Thanksgiving to each of you. May the next year be a blessed one!

Thanksgiving Memories

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Christmas is my favorite, but I like them each for different reasons. I love the magic and the meaning behind Christmas and the time I get to spend with my nuclear family. But what I love about Thanksgiving are the memories of time spent with my extended family.

The memories of Thanksgiving 2007 are my favorite. It was a smaller group of family but the time spent together was filled with laughter and crazy family stories (the best kind!).

We spent the day at my uncle’s home, getting there fairly early in the day. There was much drinking over many hours. My uncle was harassed for putting fruit in the turkey (according to my mom, his little sister, you’re not supposed to do that), my grandparents told never-before-heard stories about smoking marijuana and playing cards with their friends, and we just enjoyed each other. The meal itself doesn’t factor into these memories at all, just the love and the laughter. The pictures my sister and I took that day show the enjoyment.

No other Thanksgiving has been quite as much fun as that one, although they are special for other reasons. This is the one that sets the bar for fun family time for me. The last few years have had considerably fewer people involved as they’ve scattered across the country, but Skype has helped to keep the spirit alive. Technology can be a wonderful thing!

What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory?

I hope you have a wonderful and special day with your friends and/or family. Take some time to relax, get away from the stress of work, and laugh with those closest to you. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Book Review – Kisses from Katie

Kisses from Katie was the first book I listened to as I started my job as a shelver. What an intense way to start!

This book – essentially a biography – tells the story of Katie Davis, a high schooler from Tennessee who goes to Uganda on a missions trip and feels God calling her there. She serves as a teacher; starts Amazima, a non-profit to pay for students to go to school; feeds children; adopts them; loves them; and feels the intense call to live out her life as a mother to many little girls, showing them God’s love. All before the age of 21.

The book is based on many of Katie’s personal diary entries, giving it an intensely personal feeling. God’s call on her life and her reactions come through in such an emotional way, I was fighting tears standing in the stacks while listening. Her willingness to give up everything familiar, every comfort, to do God’s will and to love his children is incredible. You can feel his love and provision, the intense love and desire Katie has for her Lord. It’s moving and it’s challenging. So much of what she says may not have been meant this way, but it is a challenge to my overly comfortable way of life. It’s something that has stuck with me and months later, I’m still mulling over the truths exemplified in Katie’s life.

Hearing these stories told vocally may have made a difference in my emotional response; I don’t know if I would have reacted the same way to reading them, but something tells me I would have. It feels somewhat wrong to call this a book review because Kisses from Katie seems like so much more than a book to me. It taught me so many things, softened my heart to God’s will for my life, more than nearly anything else I’ve read.

What a powerful testament of how our lives can reach others – around us and far away from us – when we truly submit to his will.

Aquaphobia

Everyone should be used to my not following the daily prompts closely. When I need help with a topic, I’ll peruse the past week’s topics and see if something sounds interesting.

Somehow, I missed this one from November 19: What’s the thing you’re most scared to do? What would it take to get you to do it?

Now, this isn’t asking what I’m most scared of, just what I’m most scared to do. If I thought long and hard about it, I might come up with something else, but this is the one that came to mind first: SCUBA diving.

Here’s the thing: I’m not afraid of water per se, but I am afraid of water over my head especially if I’m not wearing a life preserver or using some other type of floatation device. Yes, I know how to swim, but I’m not a strong swimmer. And yes, I can date this fear back to a specific event which I’m not going to get into today, since the question was about the fear, not what created it.

People who know me might point out that I’ve been snorkeling.

Snorkeling

Do you know what my poor roommate put up with to get me to that point? Near panic attacks as we practiced on the beach, that’s what. We’ve been twice, once in the Bahamas and once in Australia, and I’m glad I went. Both times I also had a floatation device AND someone with me and I was still nervous. It was amazing to see everything, particularly on the Great Barrier Reef, but I was also very relieved to get out of the water.

And that’s just snorkeling.

I cannot imagine willingly removing the floatation device and putting all of my trust into a regulator and tank and diving down that far, with pounds of water pressing on me. The thought alone makes my pulse race (not in a good way). SCUBA divers are highly trained and go through drills in a safe environment before they are ever able to go out into open water – all of my parents have been divers at some point – but even that doesn’t comfort me.

Honestly, I don’t know if anything could get me to go SCUBA diving. It would have to be a LOT of money. And it would take a lot of time. I would want to spend time learning to be a better swimmer, something I’d like to do anyway, and would probably have to learn to be desensitized to not being able to stand up in the water.

There are times in life when this fear bothers me more than others. Right now, in landlocked Chicago, I’m not too bothered. After all, it’s not keeping me from doing anything I want to do right now. But I might want to learn to surf some day and the fact that this would keep me from doing so does bother me. I made myself overcome the fear to go snorkeling on vacation, but I had floatation devices that helped. Someday, I think I’ll find a YMCA that teaches adult swim lessons and take some. Maybe surfing could be in my future. Who knows?

Do Not Disturb

As an introvert, down time is very important to me. I need quiet and/or alone time to recharge from expending social energy. The amount of time depends on the situations I’ve been in lately – large, boisterous groups of people who all want to talk drain me more than large groups where I can be relatively anonymous. Smaller groups of people I know closely don’t drain me nearly as much.

This isn’t anything new. People have talked about this frequently. But today I realized for the first time that this can extend to electronic communication too.

We had lots of people over to our house this weekend to celebrate Friendsgiving, which is exactly what it sounds like: Thanksgiving with friends. It was a great time with great food and lots of laughs and celebration. Since I knew nearly everyone, I didn’t think it was going to be as exhausting as it was. Even after a good night’s sleep, my attitude this morning was very poor. I chalked it up to other things until the many text messages I was getting had me tempted to send some not-so-nice responses. That’s when I realized that I needed to unplug.

In response to BlogHer’s prompt from November 19, unplugging isn’t something I usually plan consciously. I don’t deliberately schedule down time. I do try to ignore work email in the evenings and on weekends, usually because I’m working a second or third job, or I’m busy doing something else that doesn’t really give me time to work, but even if I’m free, I try not to respond. Responding to work email during what is supposed to be down time just trains people that you are available and will respond. If it’s important, I’ll respond. But otherwise, I’ll wait to regular business hours.

Personal communications are another matter. I try to respond immediately because if something is marked as read, I’ll forget to respond altogether which leads people to believe that I’m ignoring them when in reality I forgot that I owed them a response. If I’ve done that to you, don’t take it personally.

Usually, people don’t text or call me very often. A few text messages a day are about normal for me. It seemed that everyone decided this morning was a great time to text me and I had my fill.

A very deep thank you to whoever at Apple decided the Do Not Disturb function on the iPhone was important. That is a life saver! When I arrived at the library for work today, I gratefully decided to put everything on hold. I ignored my life for four hours; completely unplugged from everything but shelving books and listening to an audio book. What a difference that made! First, my shift seemed to fly by when I wasn’t trying to figure out plans for the evening or work out issues in my head. Second, my attitude improved significantly because I wasn’t brooding over things I couldn’t change or feeling guilty over my reactions or responses. And finally, when I got off of work, I was ready to play nicely.

While I may not do so regularly, I’m thinking a little pre-planned down time is in my future. I’ve learned the importance of unplugging and just letting myself be for a little while.

What about you? Do you unplug from the world occasionally?