Re-entry to the world of stuff

I wrote recently about the decision to re-settle ourselves in SE Alaska, ending a two-year roving lifestyle, working and living in temporary clinic housing when we weren’t out of the state traveling.

In the past month we ordered enough household items from Amazon to start life again…we’d sold almost everything when we sold the Ketchikan house in October, 2014, so we had some restocking to do. I have to admit, until now, I wouldn’t have associated Amazon with furniture. But it turns out you can order quite an array…everything you need, in fact. And though what we bought isn’t heirloom quality, it’s solid and looks good, and that’s sufficient for our needs at the moment. I’m not furnishing my dream home with this move.

So this is how you move to Alaska…SE Alaska, anyway. You talk with the barge lines that serve SE Alaska and sort out their timetable, and the various options for shipping. You can use an entire shipping container, 20 or 40 foot (or as many as you need), or you can ship up on pallets. If you ship on pallets, you’re charged by weight, and per hundred-weight, it works out to twice the cost of shipping an entire container. For a container, you pay a flat rate, and whatever you can put in goes for the same flat rate. So that’s the better way to ship, at least for larger volume.

It turns out we had exactly a 20-foot container’s worth of belongings. I think that’s pretty good, actually, for 35 years of marriage. We’ve thinned a lot along the way, so even after replacing furniture and adding the household items I had in storage, we still kept it to a manageable level.

At least, that’s what I thought, until the container was unloaded into the two-car garage at our new place. It was full, with boxes stacked on boxes, three or four levels deep. Suddenly, after a two-year break from possessions, it was overwhelming to look at everything at once.

I can’t deny I’ve done a happy dance or two at the thought of having my kitchen set up again, and it will be lovely to have all my clothes in one place, to see familiar and homey knickknacks again. It will be nice to actually fully unpack my roller bags, and live out of drawers and closets for a change.

But I also can’t deny…there’s a part of me that’s a little suffocated, a little weighed down just looking at all the stuff.

I’ve happily collected and kept my favorite things, and as I get older, I’m pickier about what meets that standard. What is worth holding on to, moving around, and ultimately keeping throughout my life? I think a bit more these days about how much stuff I’ve accumulated, and what I’ll leave to my kids to deal with (one day, far, far in the future!)

When you’ve had an opportunity to live stuff-free for a significant time, as we’ve done the past two years, you see it all a little differently. Yes, the convenience and the comfort of having my own things is enjoyable, and I’m excited to revel in nesting again.

But I also have a wee bit of a feeling that my wings are clipped, that I’ll be more tied down than I have been. And I didn’t expect to feel that. Didn’t expect to experience any negative side to setting up a home again.

Me, the ultimate nester, feeling overwhelmed by my twigs?!

Maybe I just need to clear a few boxes, and get cozy again. But it makes me think about how consumed Americans are with stuff, and getting more stuff, and maintaining stuff. And all this makes me determined to keep some perspective…to be a little less thing-oriented, and see it all for what it is…pleasant filler that makes my day-to-day convenient  and comfortable.

But stuff is not so important to me as it once was. And maybe that’s the lesson of the last two years: I can actually thrive without a lot of it, and as long as the really important elements of my life are in place…health, and family, and nurturing relationships…the other stuff is just that…stuff that fills my garage, and will soften my life. But it doesn’t make my life. I never thought that it did…but coming full circle through all of this brings that reality home to me.

We’re about to enter the season of giving, and getting. I’m thinking more about giving experiences, and the types of gifts that don’t accumulate to pile in the garage or basement, that don’t need sorting and caring for.

This isn’t meant to guilt anyone…we all need things…but just to say, how much is the right amount? And how can we have a healthy relationship with the stuff, instead of being overwhelmed by it?

It’s one of the ongoing conversations I have with myself…what about you? Got a handle on this? Any wisdom to share?

~ Sheila

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Hamilton

I finally got around to listening to this soundtrack...spent a good part of the weekend writing with this going in the background, and kept finding myself just listening. The music combines hip hop and R & B, amazing lyrics, and showcases the story of Alexander Hamilton, based on Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton. In his prologue, Chernow said, “In all probability, Alexander Hamilton is the foremost figure in American history who never attained the presidency, yet he probably had a much deeper and more lasting impact than many who did.”

The man behind this phenomenon (winner of 11 Tony Awards, including best musical, and 16 Tony nominations, the most nominations in Broadway history, and also a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Award) is Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda’s interest in Hamilton grew out of a paper he wrote in high school about the 1804 fatal duel between Hamilton and Aaron Burr, which reminded him of old-school rap rivalries.

I understand this production has really impacted Broadway with its unique music for that venue, and the outstanding cast. After listening to the soundtrack, I’m intrigued to read the book, and I’m already thinking about how I can see the play when it goes on national tour next year. It will be a hot ticket, no doubt about it.

If you haven’t heard this yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. You’ll need to really listen to the words. The songs tell the story, and there is so much craft in the way the lyrics are put together…to say that the words rhyme does not do justice to the artistry. Truly impressive! I’ll just add my personal enthusiasm to the overwhelming response this production has generated, and be ready to be amazed if I’m fortunate enough to see it in person.

You can stream the soundtrack via Spotify or Amazon.

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Be. Do. Have.

Priorities. Do you know yours?

Think about it.
It’s easy to live life turned upside down, to focus on the wrong things.

Culture tells us to have, have, have.
Or maybe the message that resonates is do, do, do.

Have the biggest and best, the most, the most talked about, the most envied.

Do the most exciting, the most unusual, the most adventurous, the most noteworthy.

It’s all about who is the most popular. We took the old competition from the playground to Instagram and Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest followers.

Do and have focus on the externals.
But it’s the internal that’s important.

Who are you? What are you? Do you know? Are you living in integrity with your values? Are you living up to your aspirations?

Have you done the work to BE?

Being is harder to do well than doing or having. You can experience (do) and accumulate things (have). But to really BE… aaahh…that’s inside work. You have to grow from within, and you have to do the work for yourself.

Of course you’re going to do and have as you develop, as you move through life. Impossible not to.

But I’m talking about priorities..where’s your focus? I’ll give you an example of what I mean.

On the adult path, it’s easy to get caught up in doing, and having.

You want to nurture a career, or you’re trying to be a successful entrepreneur. Maybe you’re busy with a family, or some other personal calling. It’s so easy to be enticed by having…having a nice home, a great car, all the things that say you’re successful, that you’re living the life you deserve.

The crazy thing is, it can take so much work to keep life going, when it’s consumed by the externals. You get lost in trying to get ahead, and staying current with the latest trends is often just a merry-go-round of keeping up.

Latest styles, newest apps, hot new phone, social media followings, kids in all the right groups, moving ahead with the job.

Exhausting.
Stop. Be still and listen.

Listen to yourself. Are you in there? We are human beings, not human doings.

Did you forget to be? Just be.
When I think of being, I sense stillness. I hear quiet.

There is self-talk. Reading. Growing.

When I let myself be, I sit with a cup of tea and nothing else. No phone. No laptop.

No distraction.

I am being.

When you give yourself time to be, you order your life from the inside out.

I can hear you now…all the busyness of living is crowding your thoughts. You’re thinking, even as you read, how impossible to carve out time for self, for quiet, for being.

My friend, I’ve been there.

Been so weary at night that just going to bed felt like winning the lottery, a prize to savor at the end of a long day of mothering. A long day of giving. A long day of othering.

I know what it’s like to need every last-minute of sleep, because there just aren’t enough to begin with, and getting up early to nurture self seems too hard, too much to face at the beginning of another day of living outside of self.

I know what it’s like to run so long and so hard that you finally feel like a shell, given out, needing to replenish but hardly knowing where to begin. Because there’s always more you need to give, even when you don’t have it yourself.

When I began to run dry, early in my years of mothering…it wasn’t a lack of love, but a lack of time to be…I had to learn the old wisdom.

You can’t give what you don’t have. You have to feed yourself first, in order to have strength to care for anyone else.

When I began to know this…not just intellectually, but deep within my spirit…I made some changes.

I started taking time to read again. How had I let that slip away?

I found time to write, a simple journal of thought, intention, hopes, and dreams.

I found time to play. I got intentional about saying yes to things that would take me out, would give me a change of pace.

It was slow at first.
But at last, I had a sense of being me again. I wasn’t just doing, or having.
I was being.

Rushing through life at the speed of busy, overwhelmed, always thinking of what’s next…that’s no way to live.

It’s counterintuitive to do less in order to be more.

But that’s what I needed to do…what I had to do.

Now, years later, I know the lesson well.

When I feel myself slipping back…getting caught up in the doing, and especially in the having, I reach for being.

Being quiet. Being still. Being myself.

There’s only so much of me to go around, and if I deplete my store of me, I won’t be able to be the wife I want to be, the mom, the daughter, friend, writer, doer.

When I overdo, I am undone.

The art of being doesn’t require lavish amounts of time or money.

It does require regular time. Sometimes money.

But mostly, being requires planning. Some thought, intentionality.

When my priorities are in order, life flows smoothly. I can do for others without losing myself.

I don’t need to have more stuff in my life to make up for not having a life.

Be. Do. Have.

In the right order, it all flows. As it should.

It’s great to do, and wonderful to have. But you need to be, first. You need your foundation…clarity of thought, rested spirit, values and priorities in order; enough reserve of yourself that you have something to give to others.

It’s a hard lesson to keep hold of. I have to right myself on a regular basis, reset, retrace my steps. But having done it now… oh, a few thousand times, over the years… I know when I’m off balance again, and how to restore order.

You can apply the same formula to many things. My new site, for instance, follows Be. Do. Have.

First, the mission of Story Revisioned is to be a resource and a lighthouse to others. (BE)

Second, the goal is to offer products that are valuable for anyone who wants to go beyond the wealth of free resources available for the taking. (DO)

Third, the dream is to create a community of readers and followers who share their stories of ups and downs, failures and successes, the how-tos and the nitty-gritty; and to build a platform that is transformative for participants. (HAVE)

The goal is to help: one person, a hundred, a thousand, or a million. And if that’s possible, it will grow out of being, before doing or having.

The Book…

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Like many, I struggled with questions of purpose for a long time. My epiphany…that I am in charge of choosing my purpose…was profoundly meaningful. Crafting a statement of purpose is rewarding and fulfilling. It can provide direction and insight for many life choices, and help us see ourselves more clearly.

As I worked through my process to find answers, I made notes, and from those notes, wrote a book, Choose Your Purpose, Love Your Life http://amzn.to/1sv2Wa3

You’ll find questions, answers, tools, stories, and more in the book. I invite you to read, and to choose purpose for yourself. You’ll never look back, I promise!

Design your life plan. Using the guidance and formula I share, you’ll be more than successful; you’ll be satisfied. And that’s a very fine thing, indeed.

Choose Your Purpose

My book posted on Amazon today. Big. Happy. Smile! Here’s the link:

Choose Your Purpose, Love Your Life

The paperback is the only version up at the moment; the Kindle edition will be up in a few days. I printed the book through Amazon’s CreateSpace print-on-demand service. It was a little slower than I expected, but overall it was a relatively simple process. Every step was digital, first uploading my manuscript and cover design, then downloading digital proofs and various elements of the book…cover, back cover and text, blurbs for Amazon’s page, interior proof.

I was able to speak with representatives for CreateSpace a few times during the process, and I had a project manager from the point of committing to print the book. (There was an initial phone conversation as well, when I had an opportunity to ask questions and clarify pricing.) Throughout the steps to publishing, CreateSpace offers an email or phone option for support and questions, and they were very prompt to reply or call when I contacted support. I particularly appreciated the phone option. I’m usually comfortable emailing or using chat to address my questions, but there were a few times it was helpful to actually speak to someone.

The whole process cost a few hundred dollars. Yes, this is a self-publishing venture, which means I didn’t go the route of finding a publisher and all that involves. I did purchase editing services, and the book was professionally designed. The digital files will be converted to Kindle format, and that’s a nice add-on to going this route. I uploaded and converted my earlier two books to Kindle myself, and in general it was also a simple step-by-step experience. However, there were a few spacing issues I couldn’t resolve, and I hope going this route will result in a more professional Kindle product.

My only concern tonight is the pricing for the paperback is higher than I listed. My set price is $12.99, and when I looked at the Amazon page earlier tonight the book was priced at $16.14. Now how did that happen? Looks like I’ll be calling support in the morning!

My next adventure is marketing…I’m sure I’m doing this backward, because I read that I should be creating an amazing launch for the book, which I haven’t done. This is a real-time experiment, learning on the job, seeing what happens. I’ll be launching the new site in a few days, and offering the book there as well. If nothing else, anyone out there planning to do their own book can watch and learn from my trial and error.

Have I mentioned one of my life roles is to be a cautionary tale?!

So this is both an announcement for the book, and a bit of a review of CreateSpace. I’ll follow up to share the experience as I progress…how the Kindle conversion goes, the marketing efforts, what I learn. Maybe this can be an informal lab for self-publishing…look over my shoulder as I learn by doing.

Hope you’ll come along!

~ Sheila

 

 

 

Summer’s here! (Today anyway)

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We’ll be back to rain soon, as early as tomorrow, but the past few days have been beautiful, warm, amazing for mid-May.

We went out fishing…didn’t catch anything, but we had a perfect after-work hour on the water.

We went to Anchorage on Tuesday for meetings, flew the “milk run,” Alaska Airlines’ trip that originates in Seattle, then stops in Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, and finally Anchorage. Flight seeing all the way!

We got on in Ketchikan. These were scenes on the way up:

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That’s a glacier carving it’s way to the ocean.

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This is the photo for the phrase, “pure as snow,” it’s blinding white. The snow and the clouds blend together.

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Look at the time the sun is setting in Anchorage tonight. (You can see the sunrise/sunset times in the screenshot of my phone weather profile above.) Makes for long days and restless nights. That’s the way I sleep this time of year, restlessly. Somehow your body registers the light and doesn’t settle. I think it’s the elongated days that don’t give you the normal cues to begin shutting down and prepping for the darkness. Just a geographical hazard of being this far north.

We saw a moose in the marshlands. Fortunately it was too busy eating to notice us. Moose are sometimes aggressive, but this one wasn’t a threat. We were clearly less interesting to him than he was to us, and he couldn’t be bothered to turn around for a really good portrait, so I had to make do with a profile shot.

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This is a view from the road heading south out of town toward Seward. Mountains and water are everywhere.

Today, on the way back down, I got this shot of Juneau’s famous glacier:

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Finally, back to Ketchikan, and a beautiful sunny afternoon. We actually ate lunch on the patio of the restaurant we chose. I didn’t even know they had a patio until today…it’s not often you can enjoy outdoor dining here!

And this is what I got in the mail:

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It’s the proof copy of my book. So fun to open and find a real book, not just a digital file, which is all I’ve seen until today. Now it will list on Amazon, and the Kindle version will be up in a couple of weeks. Ahhhh…I started this last July! Hard to believe it took this long to finish, but then, it wasn’t always a linear project. And I’ve learned, some things are best not rushed.

It’s not quite the beginning of summer, by the calendar. But in the north, where some years summer appears on a Tuesday and is gone by Thursday, and you often find yourself wearing jackets more than sunscreen, whatever the calendar says, an early start is a good thing!

A friend just called to say he’s dropping off some fresh salmon. Looks like we’re grilling out for dinner tomorrow!

What’s in a name?

So today I changed the name of my blog. It has been “Grace and Space” since I began it…see my “About” page for the story behind that name.

But today, in preparation to migrate the blog to the WordPress.org platform in a few months, I changed the name so it would align with my domain name. At the time I chose the domain name, graceandlife.com, graceandspace.com was already taken. So graceandlife was my substitute, and it has been fine. But it seemed right to have the blog name finally match the domain name. So a few quick clicks, and presto! All done!

I had a conference call with the company that’s going to do the custom design work for me, and it was fun to talk about what I want for the site, where it can go, and how I want to tie other digital efforts to it. initial consultation is free. Next I’ll receive an outline of the things we discussed, my wish list for the site, and line item pricing so I can decide what I include. We acknowledged there may be some elements that make sense down the road, but aren’t necessary in the near term.

I’m working on a couple of Etsy sites, working on finishing my meditation book, have another couple outlined, and hope to connect all the dots in the spring. Aaahhh…..well, there’s still a lot of work to do yet, but I think the blue print is in place.

And this week I worked out an arrangement to continue working in Alaska a couple of weeks each month to keep my “regular” income flowing. I’ll be transitioning to the Seattle area so it will be an easy bounce back and forth each month.

There’s a lot of big picture uncertainty yet. I wish I could say I see how all the pieces will work together. But some things take time to unfold, and to develop as they should.

I’ve learned to take my own advice, and as I’ve said here more than once, “let the story write itself.”

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m filling in the details as I can, but for the pieces that are still defining themselves…well, that will happen in time. And when it’s right, it will be right.

Finally, thanks to the magic of online shopping I’m done with gifting, and shipping.

Decembers are never predictable. I find that often they’re crazy, hectic, busy beyond belief. This year with so much in my life upside down, this one seems surreal. Not the most wonderful holiday season I’ve had, but some things are good. There is always, always something to be grateful for.

This year, I’m so grateful for family and friends that keep me rooted and sane.

I’m grateful to see some of the digital work I’ve babied along finally coming together. Maybe a few more months and I’ll have an amazing bundle of digital offerings to celebrate.

I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned this year, about myself and those near and dear to me. The past few months have been a journey, and a hard one. But any road worth traveling is going to have some unexpected twists and turns, and this one is no exception. I’m still waiting to see where it will eventually lead me, but I’m grateful for the good that has come of it.

I read a lot of posts about people trying to slow down, to cut back on the craziness, and to focus on what is important in this season. I’m trying to do that as well, and above all, to look around at all that has blessed my life this year. As you take stock of your life, I hope you will find yourself smiling, recognizing…there is good all around, even in the midst of the hard times. Celebrate the joys, and the hard times will take care of themselves. At least that’s what I like to think.

So…on to the next task, the next thing on my list. But first…a few Christmas carols, a fresh candle, some hot cider…aaaahhh…December peace, December quiet. Snow falling, looking forward to seeing family, looking forward to Christmas lights and magic. Life is not perfect. But life is good.

Checkbook surprise

A few months ago I published a little ebook on Kindle, (shameless plug) and then with the house listed and life turned upside down, I largely forgot about it. Not that I wasn’t interested. But I was overwhelmed, and preoccupied…too busy with craziness at the moment to focus on my budding self-publishing career.

So imagine my surprise when I was balancing my checkbook in September and noticed a deposit from Amazon. The first thought that flashed through my mind was that this was a refund for something I had bought from Amazon. But I immediately realized that didn’t make sense…I buy with my credit card, so anything that was refunded would show up on the card activity, not in my checking account.

It actually took me a couple of minutes to realize…this was a payment to me from Amazon! It was a royalty payment for my book sales!

And it was for a grand total of $20.24.

Alright, I’m not making a fortune here. But do you know what that represents?

And yes, I do understand that self-publishing in the digital world is not quite the milestone as say…having a book hit the New York Times best seller list.

But still…I actually made money from something I wrote, and something someone else bought.

And a few days ago, it happened again. This time the deposit was only for $16.74, but it was there.

And it whetted my appetite. If one little book generates two small deposits, maybe there’s opportunity for more.

Haven’t I been looking for ways to move my income stream to the digital world? And isn’t this income?

Well, so far I could do a couple of fast food meals, or a few rounds of morning coffee. It’s a modest beginning.

But it is a beginning.

Do you ever think about the end of the story? You know, the way movies often start…at the end, showing the outcome of the story, then taking you back to see how it all unfolded?

That’s the scene I play in my mind. I’m not forecasting that I’ll become a famous author, or even a wealthy one. I do have a fantasy that I’m self-funded, and looking back to how it all started…little by little, growing into a steady stream of deposits that support more than a coffee habit.

I’m thinking about other titles…what books do I have in me?

I’ve been curious about the Kindle publishing platform for a long time. I buy Kindle books on a regular basis, and I wanted to walk through the process to experience it…see how easy or difficult it was, see what it would be like to have a book on Amazon.

Well, now I know. It actually works!

Not that I was skeptical. I’ve certainly read enough from others who have published via Kindle to know that it is a legitimate publishing venue, to say nothing of having the powerhouse of Amazon behind it.

And let me say, just to be clear, that I am a hearty and staunch supporter of independent bookstores and printed books. But I am a realist, and I believe there is room for both digital and print books, for online retailers and the brick-and-mortar shop as well.

But there’s no doubt that for someone like me, digital publishing offers an opportunity that I would likely never have in the print world, at least not at this point, not with my approach.

So I’m grateful for the incentive that two little deposits in my account have given me.

And I’m doing a little daydreaming about the end of this story.

Here’s the other thing. I’m sharing this to say, if I could do this, so can anyone else. The digital world is amazing…levels the playing field in so many ways, and opens the door to creativity and determination and ambition. Like a little engine that could, I hear myself….I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!

And you can too! See you on the playground!