Thriving

It’s been a month since I posted a blog. I never intend to go that long between posts, but life happens. The first two weeks of January were all travel, visiting family in the south and making the long trip between Alaska and the southeast, there and back again in a short stretch of time. Five states and three time zones…it was a marathon. But it couldn’t have gone more smoothly.

Two weeks back in Alaska, and I’m caught up with my day job…well, it’s contract work, so it’s not a full time position…but for the moment, I’m caught up and can breathe again.

That’s good, because that means I can turn my attention to the book I’m working on, a new site, the learning curve that never seems to end with digital products…oh, the list is long!

I love it. I never expected to become a road warrior, traveling as much as I do, but for now, that’s my life. It’s challenging in some ways…keeping up with time zones and living out of a suitcase…but it’s also energizing and keeps life interesting.

My word this year is “thrive.” Funny, I’ve noticed it in several posts and graphics. Maybe it’s like being pregnant: as soon as you are, the whole world is pregnant with you. Now that I’m focused on my word, I see it popping up all over the place.

So how do I know if I’m thriving? What’s the difference between thriving and just living a normal, healthy life?

The definition of the word is: to grow or develop vigorously; flourish. And that’s my goal: to flourish. To grow. To keep growing, vigorously.

And at this point in my life, the only kind of growth that’s acceptable is internal. (Sadly, I’m too old to expect growing in height, and pretty determined to keep from growing out.)

Self-improvement is a never ending job, it seems. Yes. Yes it is. We’re never done growing, learning, forgiving, trying, failing, trying some more.

Thank God for many chances to get it right.

Or do it better.

Or do it again.

When I chose the word “thrive” for this year, I was thinking of it as a state of being. But after giving it more thought, the beauty of the word is that it describes a state of becoming.

After all, we say a baby or a plant or a relationship is thriving…that means an ongoing process, not a snapshot of a single moment in time.

Thriving is a dynamic process, and maybe it’s as much about trying and failing as trying and succeeding. Regardless, I think it requires motion, action, intention and will.

I’ve got all of those lined up.

How about you?

I hope you’re thriving, one month in to 2016. And if you are, tell me about it? I’d love to know what you’re doing to thrive: to grow vigorously.

~ Sheila

 

 

 

 

Happy 2016!

I’m sitting in the Seattle airport, soon to be headed toward family down South for the next couple of weeks. I don’t think I’ve ever spent New Year’s Eve in an airport …or maybe I have. They’re beginning to run together.

But what is always new, always fresh, is the unknown a new year brings. I’ve chosen “thrive” as my word to define and inspire the coming year. I hope to help others find the ability to thrive also.

Here’s my wish for family, friends, and anyone who reads my words: may you stretch yourself to love, to give of yourself and to receive; may you feel the energy of joy and productivity; and may your life be a beacon to others.

Have a joyful year, my friends! It’s going to be a great one!

~Sheila

My word for 2016

A few years ago I started choosing a word…just one word…to frame my intentions and goals for the coming year. I got the idea from a blog post, and it was a challenge to distill my thoughts, to be succinct.

I think it’s been a useful exercise. My past words have been:

  • 2012: Revision
  • 2013: Momentum
  • 2014: Consistent
  • 2015: Hope

This year…well, what one word could encapsulate the coming year?

I look forward to an amazing year of growth, surprise, challenge, joy, making memories, launching projects, writing, travel, being still, family, friends, work.

I look forward to thriving.

Thrive.

Thrive is my word for the coming year.

I feel on the brink, on the cusp. The last four years have ushered in a sea change for me, bringing so many unforeseen experiences, circumstances…some wonderful, some beyond difficult. Some days I felt like I was flying, others have been a struggle I wasn’t sure I could survive.

Tonight, thinking about what my word would be, I see my life bearing fruit in new ways. This year, I will thrive.

Does that mean there won’t be challenges? I’m sure there will be. What life exists without challenge?

But that’s not the point. The point is, I’m ready for the adventure life has given me. I have grown; I am growing into it!

Join me, if you’d like. I love to hear what word you would choose to describe your hopes for the coming year. It can be enlightening to consider what one word speaks to you. And that’s really the point of the whole thing…evaluate, find a word that will resonate, will capture your essence, where and how you find yourself in this very moment.

Let’s begin, shall we? I’ve got my one word, I’m ready!

~ Sheila

 

 

 

Merry Christmas!

Beautiful!

Merry Christmas friends!

~ Sheila

He’s on the way!

Look who I found at the Seattle airport last night, headed north!

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We came down to be part of this:

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I told Riley and Jack Santa was making a last minute stop in Seattle to check on the kids here…see how they’re doing, before heading out on his Christmas Eve trip.

This morning we did a few last-minute errands…stocking stuffers, an impulse buy or two. This afternoon we’re cooking, and watching holiday movies, getting excited.

Oh, it’s the good stuff!

The boy is three, just this month, and the girl is five. Perfect ages to drink in the fun, the rituals, the excitement. Jack occupies himself with checking out the gifts under the tree, asking if it’s time to open yet, hearing (again) we have to wait until Christmas morning; he wonders which are for him. He shakes them and looks at them, identifies what belongs to who, makes stacks of his boxes.

It’s a hard thing to wait until the time is right, when you’re three.

Riley sings favorite songs, “Rudolph,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” She absorbs the traditions, knows we have to put out cookies tonight.

They’re ready. The adults are not quite. But we will be, before the littles get up tomorrow, bright and early.

Stockings wait to be filled, cinnamon rolls will be made tonight, ready to pop in the oven in the morning.

Is it perfect? No, it’s never perfect.

Is it magic? Yes.

They’re five and three. And that’s magic enough for me.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

~ Sheila

 

 

 

Cranberry relish on my table

In this season of holiday meals, of traditional foods, one of the debates that’s ongoing is over the delicate subject of cranberry sauce: do you have what you grew up with (for me it was the jellied sauce that pops out of the can, complete with the ringed indentions of said can) or do you go for something homemade?

To be honest, I have to have both…a nod to my past, and the sauce of my childhood. (I’m not sure fresh cranberries were even available in the market in my childhood years, so far did we live from the source.) And I love a berry-filled, sweet/tart version, simple and yet perfect to grace any table.

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe. Possibly that’s because I’ve been in the kitchen less in the past year than any time in my life.

But even I, living a couple of weeks here and there at a time, have to do some holiday prep. There are a few dishes I love, that are the essence of the winter holiday flavors for me.

One of these is the homemade cranberry relish that’s on the menu every Thanksgiving, and often at Christmas too. It’s so delicious and simple, and pairs beautifully with all sorts of savory dishes. But the important thing is that it tastes amazing. And it’s beautiful. And it’s easy, and keeps for weeks in the fridge. How perfect is that?

Baked Cranberry Nut Relish

  • 1 lb fresh whole cranberries, washed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups orange marmalade
  • Juice of one lemon

Combine cranberries and sugar in deep baking dish. Cover with foil and bake at 350° for one hour. Spread walnuts in a shallow pan and toast in oven during the last 10 minutes of baking time for cranberries, stirring walnuts a couple of times. Remove cranberries and walnuts from oven, combine in bowl with marmalade and lemon juice. You can serve warm or chilled. This will keep for several weeks in the fridge. Perfect for gift giving…fill jars and add the recipe for an easy and charming hostess gift or stocking stuffer.

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Foodies…and not

English: The logo of Food Network.My major TV indulgence is Food Network. Most of my TV time comes when we’re in Metlakatla. When Rob covers a weekend of call there, I use the time to catch up with online tasks, and usually have Food Network running in the background. I’ve learned a lot from programs over the years. But some are just painful to watch. The current episodes of the Worst Cooks in America are right up there. I mean, how can anyone be that bad in the kitchen? Really?

With all the websites, blogs, cookbooks, cooking shows etc., offering recipes and cooking how-to advice…to say nothing of friends and family who could mentor…is it really possible to be as clueless as these people are? I mean, get in the kitchen and try something…start banging around, learn by doing. There are YouTube videos that show how to cut veggies, how to bake, how to cook almost anything you can imagine. There’s literally an embarrassment of riches when it comes to resources for home cooks.

You could make that argument for a lot of things. But while I don’t have to know how to repair my plumbing or rebuild my car engine, I like to eat pretty regularly. That’s such a mystery to me…how could something as basic as food be unexplored?  I understand some people just aren’t fascinated with all things food (unlike me and most of the rest of the world). But even if it isn’t a consuming interest, everyone has to eat something. Wouldn’t it be better it the something was delicious?

Food games and adventures  for family and friends:

~Get to know a little more about your group’s food loves. Here are some questions to share around the table. Works best if you’re eating something delicious while you share! Work your way through the whole list, or pick just a couple of questions. I definitely recommend including the last one…always good to associate memory with food. You may be surprised by the responses.

  1. What is your favorite food?
  2. Favorite food/dish in a specific category (main dish, finger foods, comfort food, dessert, breakfast…whatever you want to choose)
  3. Favorite restaurant…fast food, local restaurants, chains, diners, etc…
  4. Favorite chef (well-known from TV or author, or someone you know in person)
  5. Who is your favorite home cook? In your family? Among your friends?
  6. What’s your favorite holiday food dish?
  7. Favorite grocery store food item (ice cream, cookies, chips, etc.)
  8. Favorite international cuisine?
  9. Worst thing you ever ate?
  10. Best thing you ever ate?
  11. Bonus question…best memory associated with food

~Family members cook!  Give each one in the family a night each week, or once a month (whatever works) to be the head chef.  Everyone else helps prep or clean up. Each person can showcase their favorite foods, type of cuisine, etc. Have breakfast for dinner, let a child experiment with flavors (that’s how my son invented cinnamon toast grilled ham and cheese…not a flavor combination I would repeat, but it was a learning experience for him); or choose dishes new to everyone to make and taste.

~Mystery food! Let everyone in your family choose a dish or ingredient or cooking method no one has tried. Try it! Have a mystery food dinner night once a month, or as often as you choose. Rotate through everyone’s choices, then start over. Have a prize for the food that is most unusual.

~Experiment with planting vegetables. If you have kids, lots of fun ahead with this! But even if you don’t, it’s great to learn a bit about gardening, and see what you can do, with or without a yard. No yard, no problem! Check out container gardening. Again, there’s a wealth of information and resources online.

~Check out CSAs…Community Supported Agriculture is another way to access fresh fruit, vegetables, and other items from local farmers and producers. Visit http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ to learn more.

~Visit your local Farmers’ Market. I love shopping at farmers’ markets and buying from local vendors showcasing their products. In addition to fresh produce, you can often find vendors selling breads, honey, cut flowers, herbal preparations, essential oils, simple breakfast or lunch fare, and a wide variety of crafts, jewelry. This is another wonderful way to support local agriculture and eat clean.

~Share the shopping! If you have kids at home, (and they’re old enough) have each one plan the shopping for the week, and participate in the actual marketing. Doing this will give them experience in budgeting, planning menus, checking food inventory, layout of markets, and familiarity with foods they may not know. There’s a lot of education waiting at the grocery!

~Have a cook-off event. I’ve seen this done with local restaurant chefs here in Ketchikan. Just copy your favorite food contest show…choose a set theme or have mystery ingredients; make it a one event evening or a multi-night contest. Have prizes, or do the whole thing just for the fun and glory of choosing a victor.

~Form a dinner / supper club. Make up the rules that work for the group. Meet once a month or once a quarter. Have the dinners revolve around seasons, or events: birthdays, sports, anything you choose. Each host can choose a menu, or put menus or types of cuisine in a dish and draw to see what each host will cook for the group. Or each dinner can be a joint effort, with everyone who attends bringing a portion of the planned menu; rotate the house for the event, and share the cooking duties.

~Plan a progressive dinner. These are retro, but so fun. Great for larger groups, but take some planning. If you’ve never done this, here’s how it works. You have a host for appetizers, a host for the main course, and a host for dessert. Or if you want to come up with more courses, add more hosts, but you need at least three. Guests move from house to house, (or venue to venue…doesn’t have to be hosted in a home setting). The host from each location moves with the group to the next stop, so everyone gets to enjoy the party. You can have an overall theme, or each course can stand alone. I think it’s best to have a theme, but do whatever works for the group. Decide on a budget for the event and have everyone chip in to cover expenses. Just another way to make food fun, and enjoy a night with family or friends. Go a step further and combine the food event with a fundraiser for your favorite charity, school program, youth activity, etc., Everyone wins!

Enjoy! And if you have variations…what food adventures do you share with family and friends?… I’d love to hear about them.

Best of Christmas

This is a most unusual Christmas season. But it’s already one of my best.

I don’t have a tree, or even a home for the tree I don’t have. I haven’t decorated anything, and don’t plan to. That just isn’t the focus this year.

But this is what I do have:

~ I’ve bought gifts and planned surprises, some on my own, some with the help of elves. From a kitchen faucet to movie passes to legos to all things Amazon…Brings a smile to my face to play Santa!

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~ I wrote cards to friends. For years I was a dedicated card-sender. And then a few years back, I just stopped. It was a difficult season for me, that year, and I didn’t do much of my usual holiday routine. Since then, I’ve mostly ignored that tradition. But this year, I wanted to do it again. It feels good to restore that custom.

~ I’ve listened to beautiful music…ah, the wonder of music! Thank you to Spotify and Pandora, companies that give me beautiful and beloved music to enjoy, courtesy of the wonder of internet radio.

~ I’ve read. Inspiring words of faith, insight, truth, mercy, sacrifice…how they move me to be a better person, a stronger person, a more generous and loving person! Thank you to the gifted writers and voices who remind me to cherish what is truly important in this life.

~ I’ve baked! Even the clinic housing apartments we stay in when we’re working have ovens (!), and I’ve baked gingerbread and treats that fill the air with Christmassy scents. It’s comforting to find myself in the kitchen, even if it’s not “my” kitchen. Food is one of the ways I connect with people, with memories, and with creativity. It soothes me and settles me, takes me to a feeling of home.

~ I look around and see joy. I sat in the Seattle airport Sunday afternoon, en route to work in Alaska for the ten days before Christmas, and I found magic, right there in the big center food court. A talented musician filled the air with holiday tunes, there was hustle and bustle all around, the light streamed in the huge window that looks out onto the runway, and I was grateful to be there, in the moment.

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~ I anticipate. I look forward to seeing and being seen. We’ll be with family for Christmas and New Years, and we’ll smile big, eat well, laugh, cry, be silly. We’ll look at one another and say, “this is the good stuff.”

Version 2

Life isn’t about perfection. It is about minding the minutes, seeing the good in the cheerfulness around, in the thoughtful words, the helpful acts of kindness. It is about love, and grace, forgiveness, and trying. Especially it is about the trying, for that’s really all we can do. We try, and sometimes we get it right.

I’ve never understood why some Christmas seasons are so beautiful, so perfect, even without perfection, while others can seem right, look right, but never really take root in my heart. Why is that? I don’t know, can’t put my finger on just what makes some years magical, and other years mechanical. I know it’s not for lack of heart, or desire. But there it is, just one of the realities of life.

Magic moments are mercurial, they don’t come with explanation or make sense; they’re shimmery things, like bubbles. You have to cherish them when you feel them.

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It’s a grace-filled time, this season, and I’m grateful. So grateful.

~ Sheila

Kindred spirits

The past month was amazing, full of sights and friendship, places and people I’ve loved, and still love.

Sometimes it’s painful to backtrack down memory lane. Sometimes it’s charming, and magical, and sweet.

I’m happy to say this trip was full of sweetness, full of joy.

Seeing friends and family who’ve been part of my life for decades was meaningful, more than I can say. Some I’ve seen more recently than others. But regardless of the frequency of visits, some bonds are destined to be life-long.

How does it happen, that some people just click? That something in one person instantly recognizes a similar spark in another?

I can’t begin to understand the whys, or hows. I just know it works. And I’m thankful for the kindred spirits in my life, those individuals who speak to my heart, and amazingly, I can speak to theirs.

In this last month of the year, gratitude fills my heart. I’m thankful for the many good things in my life: for safety, for health, for income.

But mostly, I’m thankful for family and friends. I’m grateful for the faces and names in my heart, those who know my face and name by heart.

It’s a two-way street, knowing, and being known, that makes the bond so strong.

Thank you to each of you…you know who you are. My life is rich and blessed because of relationships, kindred spirits who keep faith with my spirit, who offer love and friendship, the best part of life.

~ Sheila

 

 

Revise your story

I’ve written about finding myself in a hole, here, feeling the darkness, and climbing out, step by step. Some of the progress was circumstantial: my situation changed, and with those changes, my outlook looked up.

But it wasn’t all that tidy. Long before the big changes occurred, I began stepping toward righting myself. Why? Because at the time, I didn’t know how, or if, life would hand me the turnaround I wanted, needed.

And if not? Then what?

I couldn’t stay where I was. I began the trip back to normal without knowing what life would look like. I just knew I couldn’t stay in the hole, in the dark.

These are the next things I did, after recognizing I had to begin the climb on my own. If you find yourself in a similar hole, maybe some of these steps will help. Nothing here is magic, or ground-breaking. But when I’m struggling, it helps to have a path laid in front of me. That’s all I’m offering here…just outlining steps so you don’t have to do it yourself. No right, no wrong, just suggestions.

  • Make a plan, whether big or small. To come out of the darkest time, I had to have a plan. I couldn’t be sure what I would do eventually, but I had to start working toward next. And that’s what I would suggest for anyone trying to see daylight. Whether you’re between jobs, relationships, coming out of depression, trying to adjust to a new place or time in life…make a plan.

But be easy on yourself. Recognize that when you’re in flux, a lot of what you’re working with may change. Will change.

When I find myself in disarray, I need to rebuild structure and order in my life. I like to set goals for myself, targets that are reachable, but nothing that demands action tomorrow. Time pressure isn’t helpful in a vulnerable state.

There are reasons for this. Setting goals that are a few weeks, or even months, in the distance, gives me something to work toward and plan for. But if you’re in a fragile place, you don’t need the pressure of immediacy. I’ve found this type of medium-range goal planning is comforting.

By putting my goals a few weeks out…or even a little longer, if that’s feasible…I give myself something positive to work toward, without stressing myself in the moment.

This type of planning allows time for other events/forces to unfold.

The last time I found myself in limbo, I did exactly this. I put some targets on a calendar and made a tentative plan, based on what I would do if…

If certain things worked out this way, then….

If things worked out that way, then….

By thinking through options and possibilities, I worked through scenarios that helped me plan.

  • Share your plans with a person or two you trust. Ask for feedback. Having someone think with you is helpful…helps you see possibilities you may be missing, and can be a reality check. This is especially important if you’re in unfamiliar life territory.
  • Write your goals. Make lists, keep a journal. Writing is good therapy, and putting plans down on paper or on screen will help you focus. It’s also useful to be able to look back, to see progress, or to remind yourself of thoughts or plans you lose sight of.
  • Mark any significant dates for the next year on your calendar, and use those as sign posts for progress, for interaction, for incentive. When you see a date on your calendar a couple of months out for meeting family, for attending a special event, for something you can be excited about, the calendar gives you hope. Don’t discount this as reason to get through the day, week, or month. Let your calendar be a daily reminder that life is happening all around you, and you have a part to play.
  • Decide what you want to change, and what you can change. Is it location? Job? Habits? Name the goals, then put realistic dates on your calendar…when will you achieve your goals? Or what stages will you mark as advancements? Or achievements?
  • Learn a new skill. Nothing boosts the ego and wakes up the mind like a challenge. This is a great way, and a focused way, to work toward life goals. Learning a new skill can help you step toward your goals. Join a class if possible. Leaning with a group is a good way to connect with kindred spirits, and can give you new sources of support.
  • I am sold on the power of doing something for someone less fortunate, or for a good cause. Nothing makes you feel better than contributing. Again, this will work only if you’re healthy enough in mind and body to get out and connect with others. Take this slow. Don’t overcommit your time, money, or self. If you have healing/growing/recovering to do, you need to protect yourself.
  • Find outlets for creativity, and for physical activity. You need to nurture your body and your spirit. Don’t neglect your need to be active, and to exercise your creativity. Whether you’re inspired to create, or driven to release your energy, you’ll benefit from movement and stimulus. Nothing is more deadly than sitting still and drowning in despair.
  • Find someone to be accountable to. You could make this a mutual thing, or just ask someone to provide this for you. Knowing that you’ve committed to sharing your progress will give you another incentive to make progress. Decide how often you’ll connect, and any other parameters you want to set. Be serious about accountability; it can be a wonderful aid to get you through difficult tasks.
  • If you can afford it, work with a life coach. Life coaches are not therapists. The function of a life coach is to help you find your voice and motivation, and to hold you accountable to the goals you set. In my opinion, you want someone who will hold a mirror to your life, and be a voice of encouragement. I would stay away from the drill sergeant type. You want someone who will be honest and firm with you, but you don’t need someone who will use guilt or other negative styles of communication.

I didn’t suffer with clinical depression, and I can’t address that condition. Clearly, individuals with mental health issues need more than a list of helpful suggestions to right themselves. 

But you don’t have to be clinically depressed to struggle, to feel lost, to feel stuck, and sad, and down. That’s the mindset I’m addressing.

Even if you seek help from a coach or counselor, you have to begin with yourself. Recognizing you have to do something different, then taking the first small steps to begin…that’s the hardest part. Finding your resolve, getting off the sofa or out of the bed, beginning

You can do it. Only you can do it.

I’m not a counselor, but I’ve been there, in the hole. I know what it’s like to sleep poorly, waking up with thoughts racing every hour or two, to dread going to work or getting out of the house because you feel like you have to put on “the face” of normalcy. I know finding the desire to do anything can seem like a mountain.

It is a mountain. But you can climb it. If you can’t find the heart to do it for yourself, find someone else who inspires you, or choose someone you want to inspire. Do it for your spouse, your kids, your legacy, if you can’t do it for yourself.

Sooner or later, you will be doing it for yourself. You will be inspired, and inspiring. You’ll have a story to share, a success to celebrate, and a renewed life.

No one can predict your outcome. No one else can write your story. Find your brave, even if it scares you. Especially if it scares you. Open up to those you trust. Give others opportunity to help, to support and encourage you.

Hear my voice, if you can. That’s one of my goals…I want my voice to be an encouragement. Not because I have it all figured out, but because I know how hard this is. Eventually, you’ll know you can do it, because others have done it. You can be strong, you’ll find your way. And in turn, you will be a voice of encouragement.

Each of us has a place, each story has value. If your story has derailed, dig deep. Begin your revision. This is my time, and this is your time. ~ Sheila

Other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts. ~ Rick Warren