New Year, New Retreat: How’d I Do?

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Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? How did I do this weekend?

I’ve reproduced the quixotic list I put on the New Year, New Retreat post. I think I knew as soon as I hit publish that the list was a bit grandiose for the amount of time I had left in the weekend. It was too much to get done in half a weekend. Half of the list has been on a list in some form or other for the past six months. I did get some of it done, though! And as I went back through my notes and thought about it, I did pretty well. Here are the results:

1. Set up editorial calendar for the next three months from my personal Book of Days.

DONE

2. Finish planning and research the rest of the tea series for January.

DIDN’T EVEN TOUCH IT

3. Plan out Election Connection through Leap Day.

TENTATIVELY PLANNED WITH PRIMARY DATES AND MOST RESOURCES

4. Write stories from Canada that I’ve been meaning to write since the summer.

I DID ONE.

5. Wales book outline.

STARTED A LIST, NOT NECESSARILY IN ORDER

6. Labyrinth book outline.

DONE-ISH

So, actually not bad with the admission that I did some finishing touches this afternoon between grocery shopping and a church activity. And I now have some things to concentrate on for the next few weeks.

Happy New Year!

New Year, New Retreat

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My first retreat of the year. A weekend devoted to writing memoir. I’m glad that it’s occuring at the end of the first full week of January. As you know from my previous writing and posts, I try to assess my life, goals, and writing at various times throughout the year and recalibrate. And coming at the traditional New Year, after all the major holidays are winding down and finished, January is always a good time to reassess nearly everything.

From past experiences, I know that this weekend’s retreat will be prayerful, but in addition to that it is primarily a writing weekend. This is the first retreat that I’ve brought my computer to, partly because it’s a newly acquired computer, and partly since it was offered as an option for our writing this weekend. I hesitated because despite my bringing my Kindle on retreats, I still try to unplug and get back to basics, but here I am: pad, pen, headphones, and computer.

I feel like this is an opportunity to jump start my commitment to writing, whether here on Griffins and Ginger Snaps or my ongoing book projects, journaling or what have you that I keep listing on assorted organizing apps. As I prepared for this weekend, I considered what I might want to accomplish before I returned home on Sunday afternoon. I don’t want to overwhelm myself with a to-do list or unrealistic expectations, but I also want to get things done. I’ve started a few ongoing series that I want to keep fresh and consistent. Talking about my Election Connection series on Twitter got me two likes (one from Alyssa Mastromonaco and one from Jon Favreau), and as you may remember, I collect likes just as I used to collect autographs when I was a kid. It was thrilling to get that small acknowledgement from two people I respect so much. But I digress.

As I thought about this weekend, made my packing lists, and prepared my mind, I really wanted to put a spotlight on my priorities and my intentions, and the three things that immediately came to me was

spiritual
political
writing.

This weekend allows me to remind myself that my writing is so many things for me. It is a creative outlet of course as it gives me space to express myself, my thoughts and beliefs. It lets me share with others and absorb new ideas. It is therapy. It is spiritual, prayerful even.

What do I want from this weekend and this ongoing year?

Do I really know?

Spiritually: Well, I definitely want to increase my spirituality and my faith. I want to use what I learned on my Cursillo weekend more consistently and routinely; pursuing persistently.

Politically: I want to encourage friends, family, and strangers that being political is life-saving. It is life-empowering. While politics can seem a far off, abstract, divisive, talking aimlessly without really listening, doesn’t affect me in real life, it actually affects our daily lives and trying to respond to that and protect ourselves from the current climate of racism, lies, and disinformation (propaganda) is all of our responsibilities; to ourselves and to each other. This is an election year. Well, they all are, but this presidential one has serious ramifications and consequences. The GOP is taking away Americans’ health care, women’s autonomous rights, LGBT+ rights, fair and free elections, and so much more that I can’t even get it all out without screaming into the void. I will not be silent.

Writing and Publishing: I want to write. Well. Constantly. Consistently. Be published. Finish a project and then start another one.

This retreat is one way, the first step to get that focus, write what I need to write, what I want to write, center on my personal priorities, set up my writing, schedule my goals and subjects, and just get shit done. And it’s only the start of what could be a great year.

I arrived here on Friday night in the dark amid a mixture of rain and sleet. It was cold, but I was pleasantly warm once I entered the building. I was greeted by familiar faces and the hushed tones of others settling into their rooms. I expected to be assigned my regular room, the one I had requested, and was taken aback and surprised to be given a different one. Simultaneously a short, internal struggle and confusion took place while outwardly, I took it in stride. As much as you read my rants, I’m not much of a complainer, and this new room was just as comfortable as my regular one, just as close to the bathroom, and included a recliner next to the window. I checked out this different recliner in this different room, which was mainly what I was looking forward to in the old one. This one was blue, rather than red, and slightly too close to the wall (which I rectified immediately), and it worked out just as well, just as comfortable, and after unpacking and settling in, I sat down, reclined, and got out my kindle. Before long, it was time to meet the group I’d be spending my weekend with. As an aside, after lunch, my intention to write was undermined by the comfort of the chair as it put me to sleep, easily for an hour. I was lucky that I set an alarm or I would have missed the next session.

Three things I noticed that were unusual for a retreat weekend: First, I made dinner (homemade chicken pot pie, and it was delicious) and ate before I left for the retreat center. We often grab something on the go or I eat in my room while my husband takes the kids to Sonic or McDonald’s. Second, I brought my computer, which made me feel odd at first. I’ll get used to it, but it’s such a different mindset to be in. And, third, I’m in a different room (which I may have mentioned), and that will take a little time to adjust to.

Morning brings bright sunshine to make up for the night rain, warm oatmeal, inspired daily readings, book recommendations for writing and for writing memoir, prompts, and then writing. What’s seemingly wonderful is the time given to write, think, pray, rest; whatever needs to be in order to get the mind in the writing place. There are no wrong answers. A bottle of soda, a handful of M&Ms, reading my devotional, listening to Saturday’s Lovett or Leave It, also the first for 2020, stepping out into the cold courtyard for a moment of fresh air. Inspiration is everywhere. Motivation, however…

How will I tackle two sessions before mass, and one after? Will lists be enough? Will focusing on three separate topics keep me going? And once this weekend is finished, how will I keep the momentum moving forward?

I’ll leave you with a list of what I plan for the rest of the weekend, and I’ll check in on Monday (another “New Year”) with what I actually got done, word counts, new words learned (thesaurus.com is a lifesaver), and other motivation that I hope you can use for your own writing or New Year’s goals.

1. Set up editorial calendar for the next three months from my personal Book of Days.

2. Finish planning and research the rest of the tea series for January.

3. Plan out Election Connection through Leap Day.

4. Write stories from Canada that I’ve been meaning to write since the summer.

5. Wales book outline.

6. Labyrinth book outline.

Mental Health Monday – What Are Your Go-To’s?

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If you search through my tags or have read me for some time, you may notice that my mental health go-to’s will sometimes change. That. Is. Normal. What helps you, what soothes you, what centers you will change over time. And if there is no change…well, that’s normal too. Not any one thing will work for every one person. That is why it is so important for us to talk, to eliminate the mental health stigma, and to share what works for each of us so that the rest can pick what might work for them and give it a try.

My top five go-to’s:

  1. Writing. I am currently in a memoir workshop but it will come to an end. My plan for the next two weeks is setting up a writing schedule and a list of topics so I always have something to go to with pen and paper or keyboard and kindle.
  2. Supernatural. As I’ve mentioned this is the last season for the long-running series, and it is my heart. It is comfort for me.
  3. Prayer. I’ve been studying labyrinths and having that focus is a positive thing for my mental health. I read a daily Thomas Merton devotional that starts my day. I’m searching for prayers, I’m writing prayers, and I’m praying in new ways. For me that means the labyrinth, the rosary, and upcoming retreats.
  4. Podcasts. Two in particular. Stay Tuned with Preet BhararaLovett or Leave It. I have several other podcasts (Pod Save AmericaPod Save the WorldAnn Kroeker – Writing Coach), but they aren’t mental health go-to’s for me.
  5. Reading. I have my public library on my kindle, and I am constantly borrowing e-books from my library. I have three on my kindle at the moment of all variety of genre.

    Please comment with your go-to’s and I’ll put together a future post with your responses.

    Crisis Intervention Resources Page has been Updated.

    Have a good week!

    Back to School Time

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    ​Another back to school season. I’ve been going or participating in back to school since before i was five years old. I did my time in preschool/nursery school, kindergarten, grades one through twelve, four years of undergraduate, two plus years of post graduate, and so far eighteen years of sending my kids back to school.

    This year felt different. I’m not sure why. My two younger children are still in public school. My daughter is in her last year of middle school. My son is in his second year of high school. We saw them off on their buses yesterday. Maybe it’s that we’re barely home from vacation. All the laundry’s not quite finished. The sink is full of dishes, and we’re actually using paper plates this week!

    I have my writing supplies. I’m mostly happy with my writing supplies, although that won’t keep me looking at new ones in the clearance aisles of Target and Staples.

    Part of my back to school ritual is bringing change to my website. While I am an essayist, I don’t feel as though I keep a blog per se. I write articles. I follow themes. I offer something.

    However, I’ve hit the block asking what is it that I actually offer? What more can I give? What can I do differently? And how can I incorporate my writing life into my children’s back to school life? Sometimes it flows, and other times, it really doesn’t. Today is one of those days. I’m going into the capital to see Dan Rather speak, and my daughter has a football game she’d like to go to, but doesn’t have a ride. This is one of the times where I give myself precedence. Normally, I’d acquiesce and change my plans. This can’t be one of those times.

    Back to School is also about priorities. Choices. As a Mom, I feel as though I give up so much. Most of it isn’t anything earth-shattering or heartbreaking. As a Mom, I choose my kids first even if as teenagers they’re hardwired to put themselves first as well.

    Overall, this week has been positive.

    And that’s great because next week is the first full week of school, the first full week back from vacation, the first full week of Suicide Prevention Awareness month – a serious subject to tackle, but also one that needs tackling, more and more often. Awareness is Prevention, and I’ll need all my energy to plan out useful posts and resources.

    I’ve been walking paths recently. All kinds of paths and roads and journeys. My six week memoir workshop is focused on paths this semester, but paths are always within my sight. We are all walking a path, sometimes like a tabletop game board. We’ve passed GO, we’ve collected something, probably not quite two hundred dollars, and we are on the square that says Back to School.

    Roll the dice, and see how far we go!

    Packing for a Trip Around the World…Or Around the…Town?

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    Author, Matthew Goodman was asked by Random House in the interview about his book, Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World:

    RHRC: Nellie Bly carried only a single handbag [KB: carpetbag, not handbag at least not by today’s definition  – think Mary Poppins] for her trip around the world. How would you pack for such a trip? What would you consider the essentials to be brought along?

    As a prompt, I posed the following question and promised an answer by July 10th: 

    How would you answer the question?

    I apologize for missing my self-imposed (but  publicly shared) deadline of July 10th by five days. In actuality, on July 10th, I was unpacking from a quick overnight for my niece’s graduation and then repacking for a retreat weekend that I am was enjoying this past weekend. However, here is my answer to Random House’s question of Mr. Goodman:

    Using modern standards, I’d take a carry-on size suitcase with wheels that turn in all directions. I think the carry-on size is about the same as Nellie Bly’s carpetbag.

    I would also need some kind of a small day bag or pocketbook with a crossbody strap to keep on my person with money and documents as well as my cell phone.

    Nelli Bly didn’t just jump on a steamer and go. While she may not have needed a passport or visa or vaccinations, she and her team gave her an itinerary. It was not exactly spontaneous.

    My carry-on suitcase is already an advantage over Nellie’s soft-sided carpetbag. It glides easily on its four roller blade wheels and because of that, I cn make it heavier than I might if it was in a carrying bag. However, since I’d still need ot lift it over curbs and into overhead bins, its weight needs to be reasonable; on the lower end even, especially if I want to buy things abroad. I’m partial to scarves, pins, and postcards, which are quite small and take up little space, but preparation is everything for any size journey, big or small, long or short.

    I’ve also planned this excursion based on unlimited fund, meaning that I’ll have access to some kind of communication device, smartphone or satellite, whichever proves most reliable. Internet access for information, Instagramming, and blogging, and writing, of course, in journals or as notes for my book. There’s always a book. My smartphone will have maps and itinerary confirmations, emergency contacts (backed up with paper copies), and whatever modern world information and resources are necessary.

    What are my essentials to pack?

    How long will I be away? Will I need to dress up? Are there any cultural dress codes that I need to be aware of? Is there anything I should avoid wearing?

    Let’s assume, instead of Nellie’s three months, I’ll travel for three weeks using a combination of plane, train, and public transportation. Since I don’t believe in disposable clothes, I’ll have to account for washing. Most hotels and hostels have washing facilities, and since this is 2019, I can buy washing supplies as I go, and if they’re too cumbersome to carry, I can leave them in the public space for the next person. I can also wear some items of clothing more than once between washings, but I will need a bag to keep the dirty laundry in while also keeping it away from the clean. I don’t normally go in for shoe bags, but if I have more than one pair of shoes to travel with, they will need a clean space to be packed in, so I’ll need one shoe bag per pair of shoes: dress shoes and sandals if needed; I’ll wear my sneakers daily (just like I do every day when I’m home).

    I think four or five days worth of clothes that can be mixed and matched and swapped out to create other different looking outfits. I’d bring about seven days of underwear and socks. For me, two bras would be enough plus one to wear. This of course, depends on how hot it gets. It may just necessitate more frequent washing. Layers are essential: cotton t-shirt, 3/4 or long sleeve overshirt, lightweight cardigan sweater, and a foldable jacket if needed. This can remain in the front pocket of the carry-on for when it’s needed. When we went to Ireland in 2017, my daughter packed all shorts since it was August despite my telling her it would not be the same 90 degree temperature it was in our home state. She was freezing when the rain came down and the wind blew. My advice: check out the average temperature and weather expectations of anywhere you’re planning on traveling to.

    For toiletries, the simpler, the better: Deodorant, q-tips, hairbrush (if I don’t bring it for my short short hair, I will need it desperately, and it doesn’t take up that much space), feminine hygiene products, hand lotion, Tylenol, and of course, my medications – enough for the entire trip (with copies of my prescriptions in my travel document case).

    Chargers for all of my electronics, including investing in a solar charger just in case I’m in a place that has no electricity. I wouldn’t be planning on it, but you never know. I’d also have international converters/adapters. My essential electronics include my smartphone, Kindle Fire, wireless earphones, camera. My essential non-electronics include a journal and supply of pens as well as my sketchbook and mechanical pencil. I don’t think I’d carry my colored pencils. I’ve found that when I’ve brought them, they sit in the bag. I can sketch without them and write down the colors to use later on, kind of like a paint by number.

    Definitely umbrella and sunglasses. A neck pillow (if there’s room enough) and an eye mask for sleeping on the train. I like to bring my own tea. Obviously some countries do tea extremely well (United Kingdom, Ireland, India, China), but for those other destinations and train station cafeterias, I prefer my own. I also like to have a scarf with me. It’s good for dressing up an outfit, covering a stain, rolling up as a pillow, and curling up under as a blanket if it’s too cold as all transports tend to be.

    As I come to the end, I feel as though I’ve forgotten something. I must have forgotten something. Please remind me in the comments of what I have forgotten or what you’d bring in place of my listings or in addition to – I’d love to update my plans!

    Journalism: Where Do We Go From Here?

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    ​In recent days, as the Democratic field grows exponentially each day, we’ve seen a return to 2016 coverage by the media: Trump takes over every news cycle with new crazy, Bernie is in the lead, Buttigeig speaks eight languages, Elizabeth Warren’s unlikable, Kamala Harris is too hard, Amy Klobucher is too mean, ranch dressing, fried chicken, infer vs implied! Are the women ready? Too emotional? That’s almost sounds like a joke considering who we have in the Oval Office right now.

    I saw a headline just this morning that Trump had a new nickname for Pete Buttigeig. How is that a headline for a news organization? Four reporters covered this story for the “news” organization! Have we learned nothing in the last two years?

    Not to  mention that news anchors and pundits continue to drown us in whataboutism, false equivalency, and but both sides.

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