The Joys of Traveling

As I give my husband and son farewell hugs and finally tear myself away from the comfort of their presence, a cold knot of anxiety forms in my stomach. I smile bravely and wave from the rope-course that is security’s introduction to their world. Like snaking through a line at an amusement park, but there is no ride at the end of this exercise. Just a serious looking TSA agent who approaches their inspection with as much rigor and enthusiasm as a CSI agent. I know I’ve forgotten something but I don’t know what. Not because I’m prescient but because I always forget something. I’m not too worried about it because I’ve learned that just about anything I need can be bought once I’m on the ground again.

About then I realize that my cell phone charger is in the bag I checked, and somehow my phone appears to need a charge. Didn’t I charge it last night? I’m sure I did, yet the low-battery icon is showing in the upper right corner of the display and its presence is an inarguable indication that my minutes will be limited. No worries. I’m getting to LAX too late to be chatty with the folks living in CST. I’ll just make a quick call to my darling letting him know I’m safe in LA. By the time I get to the Taipei airport I won’t be interested in using my local AT&T minutes or the overpriced international minutes. We can rely on e-mail or Instant Messaging during the layover. By the time I get to Shanghai I’ll have my China Mobile phone activated. (Note to self: need to give hubby China Mobile phone #). When I get to Kunshan I can plug my AT&T phone in and recharge it so it’s ready for the trip home…and I have almost 2 weeks to take care of that triviality.

The anxiety in my belly is inevitable because I’ve turned into a homebody and these trips always force me to accept that I’m not in control. There are so many factors at play that defy my will it’s humbling. I kinda like living my life under the pretense that I have some modicum of influence – don’t we all? Fortunately, I’ve committed myself to a prayer challenge as part of Advent this year, and as part of AirPrayer (check it out – a great ministry offered by a friend). I began to pray for everyone around me – fellow travelers, agents, airport employees…no one is exempt. I’m a praying fool. I feel peaceful as I allow my focus to shift from personal concerns to a general sense of wellbeing. I imagine prayer dust surrounding me like a cloud, spreading as I walk and talk and project good will at everyone in sight.

The flight to LA was uneventful. I finished a paperback and started another book. My seatmate had his headphones on and read the newspaper. Eventually he put his paper aside and became engrossed in his own book. I considered interrupted his flight to explain AirPrayer but in the end, I just went on spreading prayer dust. “God, bless this young man next to me. He seems to have a bit of a cough. I pray that he is well soon.”

I will say that I charmed the flight attendant through nothing more than apparent good will. There’s something to be said for the spreading of prayerful blessings. “God, bless this flight attendant.”

At LAX I get to disembark and leave the main terminal, walking over to the International terminal. There are an overwhelming number of people and languages and cultures and luggage. It’s crowded no matter the hour. As I enter I paused to appreciate the sights and sounds, and to send out a cloud of prayer dust. An agent at the door asked if I needed help. Maybe because I was one of the few anglo faces. Maybe because I had a stupid beatific look on my face. Either way, I smiled and said, “No, I’m fine,” and went on with my business.

I maneuvered through all of this with my new carry-on luggage (one wheeled suitcase and an uber-bag which holds my purse and laptop). As I waited in line to get my boarding pass I chatted with the traveler in line behind me. While chatting, I turned my phone on. And the silly thing got hung up so I turned it off. And it got stuck on that. So I pulled the battery out and put the battery back in. And my fellow traveler interrupted my consternation to point out that the next ticket agent was open. At which point my bag dumped over. As he tried to retrieve it my purse and sunglasses fell out. And so, I got to juggle bag, suitcase, sunglasses, purse, and passport.

And all of this isn’t the point of the story! Once inside the International terminal I sought out food. It’s well past dinner time and I’m hungry. I end up in the same overpriced, crowded restaurant I enjoyed 2 months ago. Perfect. I pick out a salad and order a glass of wine. As I go to pay I realize I have my trusty Discover card. No problem. But…I remember that on the last trip I brought hubby’s VISA card because, well…China doesn’t really seem to know about Discover. They know about VISA. Ruh roh.


Making a list and checking it twice

I wonder whether I’m avoiding work by making a list or avoiding a list by doing things. I have a lot left to do before I leave for China tomorrow. One of the things I need to do is to make a list for my husband…so he doesn’t forget the things he needs to do while I’m gone. Like mulch the flower beds. And feed the fish. The flower beds will survive but it won’t be good for the fish if he neglects them for 2 weeks. The man will clearly benefit from a list, don’t you think?

Meanwhile my to do list for today is only a few entries long. “Pack for China” was one of the big items. Below that was “refill shampoo, conditioner and face wash bottles”. I’m reminded of a great tip I learned from a friend, but forgot to follow today: Break down the projects into each task to avoid getting lost in the details.
“Pack for China” is too big of a task. I’m still working on that task. I should have made a complete list of everything that needs to go in the suitcase. Then I would know what was lacking as of this moment. Instead, I can tell you that my bedroom looks like the suitcase exploded – clothes and toiletries are strewn across the bed and floor.
I never finished making the list because I started tackling the project. I know better, yet I fell into this common trap. As I began to build the list I began to get anxious about how much I needed to do. Jumping into action helped relieve the anxiety – but that relief was superficial.
Sitting down and writing this post has reminded me that it’s better to take the time to plan. If I have time to write a post, I surely have time to finish writing the list of things to pack!
So, I’m going to revise my list to reflect everything that needs to go into the suitcase. Below that I’ll highlight things I need to do in order to pack (like restock the travel kit). Below that I’ll list the loose ends that need to be tied up before I leave my day-to-day world for 2 weeks (like some e-mails that need to be sent). Finally, I’ll start a list of things I need to purchase before I go (Pringles – a must, Pepto, …) And then I’ll get busy packing.
Are you a list-maker? No? What works for you?

"I’m in Training"

Oh, the joy of being the new guy. New at a job? New at a hobby? Being new at something brings inherent forgiveness for the inevitable errors and omissions.

Last week I bought a new heart rate monitor. Yes, it’s a men’s version, but hey! I’m new at this.
The first one I bought didn’t have the chest strap and although it was for women, it was a complete PITA and I had to effectively slow down my workout to get a read on my heart rate. In case you don’t know this, when the workout slows down, the heart slows down. So my darling hubby went back to Academy and traded the women’s Mio for the men’s Timex and now I can wear a goofy chest strap but get a more accurate reading and – even better – a complete summary of the work out at the end of the workout period.
Now I’m in training. I’m all about the numbers. Measuring progress, capturing results. The heart rate monitor (HRM) reports average heart rate, highest heart rate, time spent in “the zone”, etc. So naturally I’m going to build a spreadsheet and start tracking my results. Doesn’t everyone build spreadsheets to track their progress?
I’m also in training for my new career. NaNoWriMo is behind me, but that was just the kick-off. Now begins the long process of turning a novel into a published work while creating more works of fiction and non-fiction … for future publication. For now, I’m in training. No sense in signing up for a marathon just because I’ve successfully completed a couple of workout sessions. Nope. I’m currently procrastinating my next work-out session. A short story. To be submitted to the Austin Chronicle’s 2009 Short Story contest. And after that, I’ll be back to work on a non-fiction project.
And after that? Who knows? But there will be an “after that” because, well…that’s what I’m training for. To keep doing what I’m doing. Whether it’s walking around my neighborhood with my heart rate between 105-122 bpm or writing 1500-2000 wpd, it’s about changing the behavior for the long term and making the new behavior a habit.
So, I’m going to have a spreadsheet for tracking my exercise routine and a spreadsheet for tracking my writing routine. I admit it. I’m much more motivated when I’m measuring progress.
How about you? Do you have a goal or a dream? Do you track progress towards that goal? Do you forgive yourself for the errors and omissions you’re bound to make as you push yourself in a new direction?
Cheers to all who step out in faith or try something new. It takes courage to be the new guy… “in training.”

A day to be truly thankful

Today, as people all across America pause in their busy lives to give thanks, I have blessings beyond measure and my thanks are lifted up as I praise God for all He’s done in my life this year.

I just took a quick peek at my post from last Thanksgiving. Last November I banged out a post every day as part of NaBloPoMo. On Thanksgiving day, my oldest daughter was barely communicating with us. Our 2nd oldest daughter was living in Pennsylvania with her husband and our grandson. Our 3rd oldest spent Thanksgiving in Del Rio with her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s family. Our youngest, my husband and I enjoyed a healthy, quiet meal at home. I spent some time reading. We worked on a puzzle. We were visited by a flock of cardinals.
This November I’ve banged away on the keyboard as part of NaNoWriMo. Today, I crossed the finish line – not the 50k word goal (I passed that last Friday) but the actual goal of finishing the novel. Yes, I did it. It took almost 69,000 words, but I can now proudly claim to have written a novel. What a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving! Giving thanks for the flow of words and the story I was able to tell.
But, better than that! (What, pray tell, could be better than that?) Last night at about 11pm our oldest daughter and her beau arrived. Today at 11am our 2nd oldest, her husband, his mother (the MIL) and our grandson arrived. They live across town so it wasn’t the journey that made their arrival remarkable. It was the drama leading up to today. She called Monday to say they weren’t coming (insert MIL drama here), then yesterday decided they were going to be here after all. At about 2:30pm our youngest daughter arrived with her girlfriend. We sat down to eat soon after 3pm. All eleven of us.
After a fantastic dinner, prepared by my wonderful husband, we settled down to watch “Up”. A very enjoyable movie (other than the occasional tear-jerk scenes that caused me to cry, which caused my husband to announce that I was crying much to the delight of all. Glad to be of service).
It’s been a good year for many reasons, but mostly because my faith has grown (continually seeking God’s guidance), my knowledge has grown (almost finished reading The Bible in a Year, huge awakening comes with the awareness and insight), my ambition has grown (well, “shifted” may be a better word – I’m no longer interested in the corporate ladder), my relationship with my children had improved dramatically (even in the absence of drama). I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been – physically, mentally and spiritually (given my history, that’s no small feat). I’m employed, yet able to pursue my passion (ahem, that would be “writing” in case you missed that subtlety).
I’m so happy I could dance. Or sing. Or fall on my knees, lift my arms and turn my face to sky and say “Thank you, God. You are awesome.” Or all of the above.
What are you thankful for?

Celebrating Life

This past year was awesome. There were many highs and many lows, but the highs were all higher than the lows. I’ve been through the dark valley before so I know how important it is to appreciate time spent on the mountaintop.

Today has been a day that marks a few personal accomplishments:
I’m celebrating life – I turn 45 today.
I’m celebrating my career – from stenographer to engineer to development manager to line director and now author. Today I crossed the 50,000 word target for #NaNoWriMo and I’m still going. Finishing my first novel is a major milestone. Additionally, Guidepost magazine is publishing my 2nd story (March issue). Today the editor called to clarify a few items. I’ll soon be receiving the final draft for my approval. Today I lift a glass to the good Lord who guides me, my loving shepherd.
I’m celebrating family – Thanksgiving is less than a week away. I’m praying that the entire clan will be together for Thanksgiving…for the first time since (I’d have marked the calendar if I’d realized it was going to be the last time) maybe 2003.
But I’m also humbled and reminded to be grateful for all that I have and to take none of it for granted. Twitter and the World of Blogcraft have been alive with prayers for a woman I’ve never met, Anissa Mayhew. There are a lot of people that I respect who have written posts or Tweets that have pulled at my heart and called me into the powerful circle of prayer in the on-line community. Anissa’s life has been filled with valleys and mountains. She’s proven to be strong and faithful (based on all that I’ve read I firmly believe this to be true). She and her family need our prayers. I gladly lift up my prayers and ask that you join in.
God, Please show Your strength, Your mercy and Your grace. Bless this woman again, as You’ve so richly blessed her during previous trials. Be with her. Be with her family. Infuse her with Your Spirit. Only You can help her recover from the strokes that threaten her. Through Your steadfast faithfulness I trust You to show us Your power & might. All glory is Yours. Amen.

Where did the words go?

I posted “Where did the time go?” on my other blog this morning. I was surprised to realize a month has elapsed since my last post there.

The sister question to “Where did the time go?” is “Where did the words go?”
It shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me that I am a woman of many words. I can blah, blah, blah with the best of ’em. As a means of expressing those many words I’ve dabbled in blogging, writing about 450 posts between the 2 blogs. Most of those posts have been written since September ’08. In April of this year I joined the Twitter-masses, posting musings and news of my life in 140-characters or less. Apparently I’ve found 1388 things to say there – Twitter counts my tweets, keeping track for me.
For the last 2+ weeks the words that I’ve been tracking, guarding closely, watching and nurturing are all going into the novel I’m writing as part of NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writers Month.

It’s been a completely different writing experience – nothing like Twitter, nothing like blogs, nothing like monthly articles for newsletters. In October I’d imagined that I’d write a mystery. At the last minute, for many reasons, I decided to write about three couples at various stages of relationship. I wanted to develop characters (6!) and write believable dialogue and effectively express a story (or stories) of interest in thoughts that expanded beyond 140 characters and in plot-lines that carried beyond a day or two of introspection. I also wanted to develop the habit of writing every day.
I wake up every morning and thank God for blessing me with the desire and the ability to act on that desire. I’ve written over 37,000 words and I hope to cross 50,000 (the goal-line) by the time I go to bed this Friday. By the end of the month I’ll be on a plane back to China for another 2-week business trip. I’m looking forward to the new adventures and writing opportunities I might find along the way. I have a non-fiction work on the back-burner already and I have ideas brewing for future fiction and non-fiction efforts.
They say it takes 30 days to change a habit and I’m definitely well on my way through the transition. I look forward to every opportunity to meet with my characters and follow them through their adventures and misadventures. When I cross the finish line, posting my first novel on the NaNoWriMo validator, I’m not finished! Nope. I’m just turning the page on the adventures and misadventures of my own life. In the absence of deadline pressure I’ll have to rely on self-discipline to continue the new habit of daily writing.
Three years ago I made the declaration that I wanted to be a writer. I’ve been writing – my blogs, Twitter, the Trumpet and Guideposts are evidence of that. By the end of the month, 50,000 words will allow me to declare myself a novelist. A novelist in search of a publisher, maybe, but still a novelist. The desire, discipline and the daily habit of writing will enable me to do more. This experience has already changed me and I’m not done yet.
Stay tuned, the best is yet to come.

Guest post – How to Stay Young!

This was forwarded to me. Given my intense focus on writing a novel as part of NaNoWriMo I’m going to “borrow” this as a way of blowing the dust off of this blog.

1. Throw out nonessential numbers. This includes age, weight and height. Let the doctors worry about them…that’s why you pay ‘them.’

Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down.

3. Keep learning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Never let the brain idle. ‘An idle mind is the devil’s workshop’…and the devil’s name is Alzheimer’s.

4. Enjoy the simple things.

5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.

6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person who is with us our entire life is ourselves. Be ALIVE while you are alive.

7. Surround yourself with what you love, whether it’s family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, conifers, hostas, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.

8. Cherish your health: If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

9. Don’t take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county; to a foreign country, but NOT to where the guilt is.

10. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away.

And if you don’t send this to at least 8 people
– who cares?
But do share this with someone… We all need to live life to its fullest each day!

Worry about nothing, pray about everything!