Happy New Year 2015!

January 1, and we’re off! Turning the page, starting a new round of resolutions, finding hope all over again. That’s the plan, isn’t it? A new year to motivate and sort out all the things that didn’t go as planned in 2014. Didn’t go right, didn’t go well, didn’t go at all.

Hope is my one word for 2015.

Hope is broad and generic…it covers anything and everything.

Hope is specific…detailed as my smallest dream, my simplest goal.

Hope is the secret ingredient in life that brings a smile to my face, even when reality isn’t yet the stuff of my dreams.

Hope tells me: I can change the future by how I approach today.

Hope reminds me: You never know how life will work itself out. Expect the unexpected.

Hope reassures me: There are always forces at work in life that I don’t see and can’t control, forces that result in good things that I couldn’t have forecast. Control doesn’t equal a good outcome, and lack of control doesn’t equal a bad outcome.

Hope sings its song to me, a song that only I can hear. I can hear it in the dark, and in times of storm.

I can see hope at work when nothing is visible to anyone else.

I can feel hope carrying me when I need the boost of encouragement.

Hope is as big as life, as strong as my challenges, as bright as the stars, as personal as my heart’s desires, and my word for 2015.

May each of you find your word for the coming year, and may you find the inspiration to carry you all the way to next December 31. Here’s hope for your year, your success, and the meaning that comes from life well lived!  ~ Sheila

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Hard days

It’s December 4th and I’ve not been able to raise any Christmas spirit to welcome the month. Too much disruption of life, too many unanswered questions fill my thoughts.

These are hard days.

I’ve had some of these in the past, but mostly I’ve lived a life of joy and simplicity, and I’ve been grateful for what I’ve had.

But I’m learning…still, or again, I’m never sure which it is…I’m learning that hard days have a way of making life worthwhile when you let them do their work.

The hard days make you stop, help you know what is important and what is irrelevant.

I just want to go shopping for presents under the tree, stop for a coffee and enjoy the Christmas lights, sing the old favorites, and snap photos of everyone. I want that, but that isn’t the rhythm for this year.

This is a year of digging deep. I ask myself every morning: what good thing will happen today? What’s already happened that I didn’t notice because I was too busy feeling anxious?

Wouldn’t it be nice if the anxieties of life took the month off, and just let us have the holidays in peace?

But there’s something important happening, even when it doesn’t feel fun, doesn’t feel right.

I am growing, and changing, not because I’m focused on myself, but because the time is right, the student is ready, and the teacher has appeared. The teacher is experience, and the knowledge that comes from hard days.

Something tells me I needed to get to this place…a place without the noise of decorating a house or getting caught up in the usual round of holiday traditions…I needed to stand without my props around me. I need to face my challenges, and without the distractions, it’s easier to do that.

Meditation teaches me to be still, to find balance, to accept. Experience teaches me that life will sort itself, right itself, and that there will be richness I can’t begin to imagine that will come from my uncertainty.

Uncertainty is where the answers of tomorrow are forged. When you’re in the in between, the options are all before you. You can’t see the way things will work out, but you know they will.

Like an adventurer, I try to tell myself…I’m like an adventurer, wondering what amazing thing is around the corner.

I’m learning that uncertainty can be a fuel to help me look for possibilities. If I knew the answers, I wouldn’t be searching. And if I didn’t search, I would accept life just as it’s been…no opportunity for the new, the exciting, the beautiful that will come out of the questions.

If this seems like a philosophy to comfort myself…it is that. But I’ve seen it work in the past, so I know that it will work in the future.

This is a time to trust: life will work itself out. I have a role to play in that, but for now, my role is to be open, to be a student of the process, to be expectant, and to keep faith.

Aahh, I feel better already. I feed myself the words of hope, the words of expectation, and those little seeds flower as soon as they touch.

Yes, it will be a quiet season this year…family and a few traditions. But this is not a year for all my usual festivities. It will be a season of quiet, and a season of gracious expectation. And that is a good place to find myself.

I get to…

Some days I need a re-set. Most of the time I’m on the up side of life, and I feel it. I have a smile, and a spring in my step. I see the positive, I hear the music.

But sometimes…just sometimes…I can’t remember. I can’t remember why I live this crazy life, bouncing around for work, and traveling, living a few days here and a few days there. How did I come to choose this way of living? Sometimes I lose sight of the water, so blue beneath the wings of the float plane. I don’t see the sunshine, making the waves sparkle. I don’t feel the romance of going to a small island and working in a beautiful little clinic, knowing that we, Rob and I, are living an amazing adventure. Sometimes my world is about have to.

When I have to, nothing feels right. I’m lost in frustration. Whatever I have, I don’t want. And I only want what I used to have, or hope to have, or should have. You know that game, don’t you? Of course; what human doesn’t? It’s part of the human condition, to feel all the negatives piling up, even when I can take those very same circumstances on a different day, a better day, and see everything that’s perfect.

I can’t always change it at will…I wish it was that easy! But here’s a little trick I’ve learned to use. Instead of saying “I have to…” I say “I get to…” I get to travel. I get to have a job. I get to make dinner. I get to, I get to, I get to….

When I find myself in the hole of wishing, and wondering why, I start listening to my words. I re-frame, and look for ways to say, “I get to.”

Unbelievable, how changing one little word can change my mood, change my outlook. It doesn’t change the circumstances I’m in, it changes me. Get to; have to.

Which will it be tomorrow?

Next

Chasing rainbows in the Caribbean

Periodically, for various reasons, life needs a reset. We are in one of those times now, and have been for a while. We began our Alaska adventure in 2006, and through ups and downs, good and bad, it has been an adventure. But now we find ourselves ready for a new address, one that is drier, warmer, and has potential to be a long-term home for us. We started this process last year, but a slow housing market and our own indecision derailed us a bit. We’re ramping up to try again this spring.

Most people (I think) make the decision of where to live based on job, family, or some combination of likes and life needs that help to narrow the focus and direction. We did too, in the past. We moved for training and jobs, and we looked for opportunities in regions of the country that we wanted to explore. Family is important, but with family spread far and wide, from east to west and across time zones, it is difficult to use family, at this point, as a filter. We find ourselves without a lot of anchors. We certainly know what states and regions draw us, interest us, and there is temptation to re-visit the places we lived in the past that we enjoyed. But we also know that it is important to make a good decision, and that means taking time, doing our homework, and looking beyond the most obvious options.

To complicate the process, we still have a house to sell in Ketchikan, where the market in our price range is not robust. And we will likely continue to work there for the foreseeable future. We are networked, and known entities, which is important when you work like we do. We can search without the house being sold. And as we have an episodic work style, we can structure time to travel and investigate in our time off. The downside to not working is that we don’t get paid. There is no paid leave in our work structure. But the upside is that we can put together significant blocks of time for exploring our options.

There are all sorts of online tools to help you. There are lists for every type of filter you can think of…low tax rate, health care facilities, climate, population, amenities, recreation, mountains, beach, schools, organizations…choose your priorities and you can find a list of places that will accommodate your must-haves and your wish-fors. One of these is Find Your Spot. There are lists from any number of periodicals and organizations. You can also find a plethora of information on any community online by going to resources like the local Chamber of Commerce page or the website for specific cities. Information is not the problem. Filtering it appropriately is the difficulty.

Aside from doing online research, another resource we have is a Class C RV, which is large enough that we can live in it for extended periods of time without going crazy or coming to blows. Our plan is to use it to do some in-depth exploration of various regions of interest, to use it as our mobile hub. We tried this once before, and it was working quite nicely, when we sidetracked ourselves by accepting a job offer. This time, we’ve agreed: we’re not looking for full-time work, and we are choosing the location we want. We’ll make jobs work around our choice.

Dinner on board: the wanderers

So, with all that said, I’d be interested in hearing ideas from anyone reading this post. We like the west, the not-too-cold mountain west, the southeast, and the mid-Atlantic. We like small to medium size communities…no big cities for us, although it is desirable to have a city within a reasonable driving distance for airports, shopping, etc. We like ocean, mountains, and lakes, but realistically, would probably not choose to pay for an ocean front view. This choice needs to be sustainable in every way. So ultimately, we are looking for a place that offers a variety of amenities, a cost of living that is not extreme, and a place that feels like home. Any ideas out there? We’re open to suggestion!

Rob’s philosophy

From a discussion last weekend…my philosopher at large, aka my husband, Rob…

The goal of life is hope.

The pathway to the goal is love.

The gate that obstructs the path is pride.

The key to the gate is forgiveness.