50th Plans…And Then Came COVID

Celebrating My 50 While 50 – Update #1

Nearly two months ago, in mid-January, I celebrated the Big 5-0. Like many people do as a milestone birthday approaches, I’d begun pondering months earlier just how I would celebrate.

I was super excited about this birthday, because 2011 – the year I turned 40 – had also been a big year of a big change in my family dynamics. I spent the decade between then and now leaning into my new role as single, co-parenting mom of two adolescents, making sure they had the nurturing, the education and the extracurriculars that would help them thrive and be prepared to discover their purpose. The choices and sacrifices I made during that season were more than worth it; but I was looking forward to launching this new decade with a special trip somewhere in that world that would serve as a kick off for more opportunities to explore never-visited American cities and states, and places around the globe.  

Then came COVID. The world stopped, and along with having to help my son celebrate his high school graduation virtually and my daughter celebrate her college graduation without a formal ceremony, I had to abandon my looming 50th birthday plans. 

Trust me, I know how minor these and a few other very disappointing setbacks were, given the tumult and loss unfolding every single day. I couldn’t complain (then or now), and I continue to seek ways to offer help and encouragement to friends and many others who are in need.

My past 12 months of pandemic living have been graced with many blessings, including a new job filled with meaningful work; settling my son into a college where he gets to run track; watching my daughter practicing “adulting” in a way that has made me proud(er) to be her mom, and everyone in my immediate family remaining healthy.

I know this hasn’t been the case for many people, including some of my closest friends and loved ones, and I don’t take it for granted. So, being the optimistic person I am, I turned my attention to creating a Plan B. For me that is my 50 While 50 List – i.e., a list of 50 things to do while I’m enjoying my 50th year. 

I asked readers of my author newsletter to chime in with suggestions, and boy, did they answer. Between the 30 or so ideas I already had on the list and their wonderful ideas, I’ve now got a lineup of 67 things to do! Lol And if you know me, you know I’ll fit at least 50 things in during 2021 and “carryover” the other 17 into 2022, if necessary.

I promised my newsletter readers that I’d be sharing periodic updates on my progress in this space and this is my first 50 While 50 installment. 

I’ve spent January, February and some of March keeping promises that are fun, practical, fulfilling and maybe a bit uncomfortable enough to stretch me, including:

  • Treating myself to a few favorite “non-everyday” foods whenever the whim hits me, including calamari and German chocolate cake. I haven’t gone overboard, but I’ve enjoyed leaning into those “why not today?” urges when they’ve randomly occurred.
  • Getting a colonoscopy. Not a fun task, but not a necessary one! It was uneventful, and it gave me peace of mind to check this off my list of responsible things to do.
  • Sitting in silence more than usual. As a writer, I often ponder and create in silence; but these particular quiet times have been filled with more intentional journaling, meditating, letting my thoughts roam free, praying, and envisioning some of my goals and dreams as reality. The process has helped me refine my goals and know myself even better.
  • Buying two instead of one. I’ve bought myself a bouquet of fresh flowers every two weeks, just because, for years. Since January, I’ve sometimes made it two – one bouquet graces a vase on my dining room table and the other is placed where I choose – my living room or family room or bedroom.
  • Taking time away. I spent a few days on the Chesapeake Bay, leaning into long walks, prayer time and socially distant meals and laughter with two of my closest sisterfriends. The experience was fun and gave me the clarity and courage to say yes to a few new things. 
  • Spa-ing. I treated myself to a mid-week facial with a fun millennial esthetician, whose chatty style and excellent work left me refreshed and renewed.
  • I sat in on a virtual masterclass about the book-to-movie process, with goals of learning how to someday see my novels on the big screen.
  • I secured three sessions with a life coach to help me refine my short-term goals and to create an accountability plan. This has been a worthwhile investment!

These are just a few things, and it’s only mid-March. I’m enjoying this process and along the way asking myself a question that a professional acquaintance posed to me in a recent conversation: What will you do differently? 

I’ve been leaning into that query in every area of my life, to ensure that I’m not just going through the motions or simply checking things off the list to say I’ve gotten them done. Either I am leaning into doing things the same as always because there’s a reason this way is best, or doing them differently because making slight changes will get me closer to the joy, the journey and the results that I want to be most impactful and lasting.

What about you? How’s your start to 2021? What are you leaning into? What are you willing to do differently? Regardless of whether this is a milestone birthday year for you, this can be a year that you set and reach new milestones, just because you’re worth it.

Share your plans in the comment section, and thanks for reading and cheering me on. As we all move forward and evolve as best we can, may we also remember our simple and significant blessings and pay them forward as best we can.

When Not To Shift

Happy first day of March! As we prepare for more sunlight and warmer temps (in most parts of the U.S.), the promise of spring brings an opportunity to shift from how we ‘ve been living or to stay the course, in various ways.

We still find ourselves on a treadmill of not-quite-normal, pandemic-fueled living; and even with vaccines being distributed as quickly as possible, decisions have to be made about where to go or not, what to attend or avoid, and how to stay safe, day-to-day.

What remains certain amidst it all are our opportunities to be steadfast in never shifting from hope.

We can give in to impatience – who would have thought 12 months ago around this time that we’d soon be forced into mass quarantine and that masks would become the new fashion staple? And who would have thought that a year later, in March 2021, that we’d still be living this way? Or we can resolve to make hope our secret weapon – using it as a tool to help us win with class, fall with grace, work collaboratively, expect the best from others, give the best to others and lead with a servant’s heart.

The choice is ultimately up to us – to you.

Will you allow the promise of springtime to birth in you renewed motivation to hope more deeply and act on what you’re hoping for? Will you join me in embracing the shift into a higher gear of intentionality?

Let’s go for it, because…why not? When we become more consistent and persistent, what no longer serves us will inevitably fall away, leaving in its wake our stubborn hope.

In this way, we will honor the essence of who we are, so that our lives can continually yield light, render joy and dispense some measure of good, in the season to come and in the many seasons beyond.

 

Shine, Will You?

I’ve learned over the years that there’s a difference between humility and hiding.

When we hide our gifts, our talents and our offerings that could bless others, because we don’t want to seem “all that,” we’re actually hiding our light under a bushel. Yet, it is the glow from our light that touches others’ souls, and shows them their own path.

When we find the courage to own our positive, unselfish dreams and walk in our purpose, we open a space for everyone around us to do the same, and that is how DESTINY unfolds. 

So today, walk in your light – with grace, gratitude, joy and even some measure of fun! In the process, you’ll change your corner of the world for the better, and the ripple effect will change even more lives.

Trust Your Process

A reader friend of mine, Sarah Brooks, is a gifted artist who raises funds for World Vision each year.

About 10 years ago, she decided to solicit donations by designing a card that includes a quote from one of my novels – Nothing But The Right Thing.

I share this encouragement today with a reminder to have faith and trust the timing of your life.

Love Hard, Will You?

On this Valentine’s Day, join me on this worthy quest: Love yourself first so you can love others better.

Love all of your gifts and talents, but also all of your quirks and flaws. Love the ways and seasons within you that are both beautiful and less than stellar.

Love the innocent child you once were and the broken but blessed adult you’ve become. Love the “seasoned citizen” you’re growing into each day. 

When you love you like that, it’s so much easier to selflessly care for, lift up, stand with, fully embrace and give to others. 

So start anew, if necessary, to make sure you’re loving yourself, for yourself, just because. Doing so will allow the mutual love and respect that flows between you and others all the more special and all the more real. 

Enjoy your journey, and appreciate as “loving hard” becomes easier by the day.

Appreciate What Remains

Reflect for a moment where you were this time last year, about a month before the world plunged head first into a pandemic.

I’m sure that for each of us there have been losses and gains, and some wonderful milestones and not-so-great moments; but the beauty of reality is that you’re. still. here.

Trust the timing of your life. 

Take care of your heart. 

Lean into joy.

And as you look back over the year, do as a wise dear friend of mine recommends: Take the “meat from the bones” and be grateful for the goodness. That’s what should remain. 

Take A Chance On You

You can’t declare you want something different yet follow the same routine; or pour new wine into old wineskin, or never try a new path or lane.

Find the courage to push past your comfort zone. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Elevate a long-held dream by making it relevant for today.

This is how Amazon transformed from a bookseller into an everything-seller;

how some real estate investors started the Airbnb revolution;

how fashion designers have become bestselling mask-makers,

and plastic companies now distribute millions of window and desk shields, to keep us all safe. 

Hold true to your gifts, goals and integrity; but be willing to ideate and pivot, for such a time as this. 

Pursuits of Passion

A message I watched on YouTube this week reminded me that just because we’re pursuing our passion doesn’t mean we’ll coast. In fact, living out our passion often requires sacrifice, late nights, elbow grease, and fits and starts. But because we love it, it’s worth it, right? 

The story I’m writing these days is kinda like that – it requires digging deep, sitting in silence, answering the hard questions and embracing the authentic answers. 

Yep, I’m talking about the novel I’m penning, but real life, too. For isn’t this how it’s supposed to work? Fiction is a reflection of life that’s meant to help you better understand yourself, and others. I’m excited to be in this “creating magic” phase. 

Lean Into Joy

According to writer Leo Buscaglia: “Ancient Egyptians believed that upon death they would be asked two questions.

The first question was, ‘Did you bring joy?’

The second was, ‘Did you find joy?’ 

On this first day of February and throughout this month, choose to do both – bring joy to the lives of others in simple and profound ways, while gifting the same to yourself. 

Do this consistently and intentionally, and watch yourself, and those you touch, flourish.

Be Still, Yet Open

We live in a world that flits past the present moment while glorifying the future. Today, join me in choosing to buck that trend.

Lean into THIS moment, whether it is wonderful, amazing, challenging, scary or uncertain. Give thanks for it, knowing that if it has come into your existence, it has come for a reason – to teach you, heal you, strengthen you, reward you, prepare you or perhaps protect you.

Don’t be paralyzed by the noise in the world around you; focus inward.

Count it all joy and embrace your present, so that when you reach that place known as the future, you’ll be ready to experience, appreciate and celebrate all that it holds, too.