One Good Thing Leads to Another

Have you ever noticed that when you set out to take a positive action, you’re given a doubly positive reward?

A couple of weeks ago, when I saw my maternal cousin’s Facebook post about her fitness coaching business being offered online, I jumped at the chance.  I’ve been meaning to do more strength training to get stronger. And though we’ve been Facebook friends for a long time, I’ve met my cousin Kerstin in person only twice. She lives in the south. I live in Alaska.  Meeting online with her regularly sounded like a great way to muscle up and strengthen our connection.

Who knew that this one effort would lead me to a long-estranged uncle I’d been hoping to meet?

Much of my family is splintered, especially on my mom’s side. Her other siblings died, and I’d looked for this brother of hers without success. And yet here my cousin recently gotten in touch with him. My uncle told my cousin that he and his wife were doing their own search for family and had actually found and read my book!

I was floored. Soon, I was emailing back and forth with my uncle’s wife, who gave me a swath of pictures from the early 1900’s, and page after page of wonderfully told stories that my grandmother left behind as a legacy. It gave a whole lot of context about all of the different issues my grandmother had been contending with as she raised her children, often by herself, which couldn’t have made life easy for her children.

There are few things as important to me as putting all the pieces together of my jigsaw-puzzle family together, or at least, as many as possible.  Each connection makes me feel more grounded, more alive.

I’d set out to build muscle, and was linked to more of my foundation.

What a hopeful beginning to this new year!

I hope yours is off to a good start as well.

Thank you for joining me.  

If you’re interested in an online fitness coach, please meet my cousin here. She’s the cheerleader you need in the privacy of your own home.


Committing to Less to Enjoy More/My 2019 Resolution

Happy New Year.

It’s that time of year where we make promises of transformation that are too easily abandoned by the middle of the month.

I typically make a small list in a few categories, but this year I’m making different commitments.

Last year, I ran my legs off. If someone asked for a volunteer, I raised my hand. If a friend wanted to go to a dreadful performance of this or that, I said yes. Between too much work with the summer job and my fulltime job, over-volunteering and writing (and getting a number of essays published in various blogs and magazines and making bits of new book progress) I was left cranky and tired. And bewildered as to how I got so busy (and so cranky and tired.).

I knew I was in rough shape when my eye doctor hinted at giving me a referral to a psychiatrist.

So I’m ready for a new chapter.

I have a goal list still, but in addition to looking like a To Do List, it includes a To Don’t List.

I’m letting go of a few things, even good things and fun things. I’ve adopted author Marie Kondo’s way of thinking about clutter as a way to think about activities. If the extra activity or invitation doesn’t bring me joy, I’m saying no to it.

For example, I volunteered in a civic group filled with delightful women. I wanted out pretty early on, but kept talking myself in to continuing. I left last week. It was like taking off a girdle and breathing deeply. Then I cut my cable television. Finally. After talking about it for years. No more reality television or news channels or even Twilight Zone on the SciFi network. Just podcasts or audiobooks or the radio now. I’m saying no to invitations to social gatherings that don’t thrill me.

I like my home. I love being at home with my cats and my thoughts and my laptop after a very long work day. Leaving home is a sacrifice that I need to want to make. And as much as I enjoyed the camaraderie of working in tourism last summer, I won’t do it again while working full-time at my day job. I don’t have the energy.

But I’ve found some fun new resolutions, or To Do’s this year.

I enrolled in a Spanish class which has gone pretty poorly thus far. I took a salt water aerobics class right by my work for the first time, and loved it. I have an appointment to meet with a virtual personal trainer this weekend (who happens to be a cousin!). And I’ll be a grants administrator for the local writer’s guild, a very short-term commitment.

I was inspired by Zenhabits blog about The Rule of the Edge. I want to keep pushing myself toward growth, but for me, that means getting comfortable doing and being less. Leaving myself open for other surprises.

I also loved the Write-Minded podcast habout selfishness as it relates to writing and prioritizing completion of essays or books in order that there will be works of writing to share.

Sometimes what we don’t do is as important as what we commit to.  I’m looking forward to less commitments and more room for fun and writing and even sleep this year.

What about you?

Solo Travel to South America/Uruguay and Argentina

I was firm in my decision to delay a solo travel adventure since I’d financed long-awaited kitchen renovations. Yet solo travel, outside of bringing me joy and growth, is the subject of future writing projects. But I told myself that it was too time consuming, too expensive, too much work to squeeze in to 2018. I could do it the next year.

But losing a few close friends this year was a terrific reminder that the future is never certain. It inspired me to unclench my tight fists and spend over $1,500 on a round trip ticket to South America. Uruguay and Argentina, to be more specific. I’d start in Uruguay. A week or more after arriving there, I would take the ferry over to Buenos Aires, Argentina and enjoy the sites, and then wander back to Uruguay before returning home. In all, I’d be away from Alaska for three weeks. A long break from snow and work reorganization and routines and and all things familiar. Just me and my hostel(s).

The highlights?

People. Always the people. Plus walking often ten miles a day, thanking God that although I may be lost, I still had the capacity to move without pain, and found generous people who helped point me in the right direction.

Uruguay is a small and more affluent country. I felt safer walking the streets there than I do at home. Three million people, twelve million cows, according to our walking tour guide. From the beautiful museums in Montevideo to the beaches of LaPaloma and Punta del Este and Colonia del Sacramento, I saw more of it than I had originally hoped, hopping busses, wondering if I could understand Spanish well enough to know when to exit, and intermittently staying with a wonderful friend I’d met on an author Facebook group years before who let me use her casita as a home base. I appreciated that from the first day, our conversations were effortless and authentic, and I made a mental to list of things she’d suggested that I wanted to pursue.

Argentina was a little more challenging. Since I stayed in Buenos Aires exclusively, my love of the sights and the history was tempered with the noise and the crowds. And witnessing an attempted kidnapping. But I’ll write more of that in a later essay for publication.

The amazing Mafalda.

What I adored about shared housing was never knowing who I’d be in a room with. One morning-we were delegates from Israel, China, New Zealand, and America, sitting up in our beds, comparing and contrasting lives in our home countries as though we were representatives from the United Nations. Respectful yet real conversations that inspired more reading, more thinking, future travels.

Next continent- Antarctica. If you know of a way I can do it on budget, please let me know!

I find solo travel to be scary, lonely, and unsure. And character building, resilience increasing, and a stress reducer, at least once I return home.

Happy New Year to you. I hope you give yourself permission to do something you’ve always wanted to do.