My 3 words and the goals that go with them

This year I was introduced to the concept of identifying 3 words to be the focus and guide for personal goals and development, rather than going through the exercise of creating resolutions that might fall to the wayside before the end of January. I wrote about how I came to my 3 words here.

For 2011, my words are: Prudence, Mercy, Humility

Prudence = the characteristic of exercising sound judgment in practical affairs; act justly.

Mercy = a disposition to be kind and forgiving; compassionate treatment of others; a blessing

Humility = the quality of being modest, reverential, never rude or self-abasing; temperance (restraint against inordinate desires or appetites).

As January nears its end I’m pleasantly surprised to realize these 3 words continue to resonate for me. But the real trick is to define SMART goals that support these words. SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. I’m sharing my goals here as an example and as a way to hold myself accountable.

  1. Exercise 4 hours per week
  2. Write a minimum of 4 blog posts per week (one each: Here, Here, Here &  Here)
  3. Read one leadership book per month, write a one-page summary for reference and share the content/learnings with my staff
  4. Save $5/week from my lunch allowance to give away in unexpected places in December
  5. Read/review one novel per month
I’m not off to a great start but I’m making progress and I’m not giving up.
Have you set goals or made resolutions for 2011? If so, how are you doing so far?

Confessions of a Workaholic

When I googled “Workaholics Anonymous” I was only half-joking. Last week was my first serious effort to break free from the pit that mires me. Like any addiction, she calls to me, tempting me with her siren song. I want to understand her better.

There have been times when I’ve succumbed to the addiction because work gives me a strong sense of job satisfaction. It feels good to work. It feels good to know I’m doing well at something. Elsewhere in my life I’m a puddle of incompetence and insecurity.

These days the compulsion seems to be driven by my need to conquer – “I. WILL. NOT. LET. THIS. GET. THE. BETTER. OF. ME.” And yet, in the battle I’m giving the best of me. As a result I’m depleted. Exhausted. Practically defeated.

I began to dream of retiring and writing full-time…but that’s impractical. Maybe a more realistic goal is to find a job that allows me to have balance in my life.

Although I’ve been diligent in my commitment to P90X (1-1.5 hrs per day) and the arrival of a new used piano in my living room has brought extreme pleasure and a commitment of 30 minutes practicing each day, my dream of writing finds me staring wordless at the screen. All of the brilliant posts I craft during my commute, run, shower, or boring meetings … all of those words evaporate when I sit down at my desk and position my hands on the keyboard.

So in the rare moments I claim for non-work-computer-time I surf, reading the blogs of the truly brilliant, the witty, the articulate, the creative, the popular. And I shrink further inside myself. The snarky voice in my head that tells me I’m a fool feeds on my discontent and my fear. And I slink away.

Welcome 2010, it’s going to be a good year.

Last year I began an exercise regimen that successfully stopped the horrific weight gain (20 pounds!) that plagued me during 2008. Although I was able to stop the trend, I’m still sporting the extra pounds. Other accomplishments of note include surviving the 1st year of employment in a start-up working for my old employer and, even better, writing a novel. I also read the Bible in its entirety.

I only have a couple of resolutions for this year: Exercise more, eat less, read more, write more. And by that, I intend to do a bit of each of those 4 activities every day.

On the exercise front: we’ve acquired the Wii Fit Plus and we’re 4 days in. My DH and I have completed 30 minutes per day and we plan to continue the trend. I also have an exercise ball and a heart rate monitor. I’m all in. 30 minutes a day, minimum. Walking, Wii-ing or a tryst with Richard Simmons – it doesn’t matter which. My goal is to “Work it, baby!”

On the eating less front… well, yeah, I’ve got room for improvement there. I’ve never been good at counting calories. The best I can hope for is some amount of self control. Eating smaller portions, taking smaller bites, eating more slowly. I’m imagining things that are yet to be achieved. But I’ve got time to work on it. I’d like for dinner to start taking 20 minutes to eat instead of 2 minutes.
On reading and writing, here are the stack of books I currently have queued up, ready to read:
Under the Dome, by Stephen King
The Principle of the Path, by Andy Stanley
Same Kind of Different as Me, by Ron Hall and Denver Moore
When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Harold S. Kushner
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
A Man For All Seasons, by Robert Bolt
Obstacles Welcome, by Ralph de la Vega
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt
How Not to Write a Novel, by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman
The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White
On Writing Well, by William Zinsser
A Twist at the End, by Steven Saylor
Reading Like a Writer, by Francine Prose
The Good, The Bad and the Lovely, by Fran Hart
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne & Dave King
The Chronological Study Bible (NKJV)
The Complete C.S.Lewis (Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Abolition of Man, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, Miracles, A Grief Observed), by C.S.Lewis
Adventuring Through the Bible, by Ray Stedman
The Marketing of Evil, by David Kupelian
Ten Things I Wish Jesus Never Said, by Victor Kuligin
The Eduction of Little Tree, by Forrest Carter
The Gospel According to Judas, by Benjamin Iscariot
Reading Judas, by Elain Pagels & Karen L. King
See Jane Lead, by Lois P. Frankel, PhD
The Christian Moral Life, by Timothy F. Sedgwick
Cure for the Common Life, by Max Lucado
If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, by John Ortberg
The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror (short stories)
bird by bird, by Anne Lamott
Writing Mysteries, a handbook by the Mystery Writers of America
And the books I won at the Women of Faith conference:
Guys Are Waffles, Girls Are Spaghetti by Chad Eastham
Redefining Beautiful by Jenna Lucado
Take Your Best Shot by AustinGutwein
Knockout Entrepreneur by George Foreman
Beautiful Mess The Story of Diamond Rio

So, I’m wondering….if it’s in my stack am I obliged to read it? I think not. My goal is to hone my writing skills. To read like a writer. To write like a reader. To do both like a critic. I plan to write reviews as often as possible (or reasonable).
On writing, I intend to finish “God the Father: What I’ve Learned about Parenting from God and about God from Parenting” and I plan to complete 4 more drafts of my first novel (and then find a publisher). And I will write my 2nd novel. And, God willing, I’ll write a book about my travels to Asia.
Yes, 2010. I’m glad to meet you. It’s going to be a good year.

"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.