New Year’s Resolutions – Succeed by Keeping them Realistic

2020 goals
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I just googled “Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions” and found several that appeared on almost everyone’s list.

  1. Lose weight (on every list I checked)
  2. Get in shape (a/k/a exercise more)
  3. Get organized
  4. Spend less/save more
  5. Quit smoking
  6. Learn a new skill or hobby
  7. Spend more time with family and friends
  8. Travel more
  9. Enjoy/live life to the fullest
  10. Adopt a healthier lifestyle (i.e., reduce stress, sleep more, eat healthier)

These are all great goals. Unfortunately, for most people, they fall by the wayside pretty early in the year. (Strava, the social network for athletes, analyzed 31.5 million global activities online and found that January 12 is the date when most people report failing their resolution.)

To-do list
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

I’m more of a planner than a resolutions kind of girl. I live by to-do lists. We all hear that goals need to be S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). I’m great at goal-setting, but not so hot at the “attainable” and “realistic” parts of the formula. So I take my to-do lists a step further and put everything into daily schedules. Extreme, I know, but it works for me. I tend to be overly optimistic on what I can accomplish, and when I break the day or week down by hours, it becomes quite clear that I’ve got way more on my to-do list than can possibly be accomplished by one person (and still hope to get any sleep). I also find that some of the items on the resolutions list above, like exercise, spending time with family and friends and enjoying life to the fullest, don’t happen if I don’t consciously schedule them in.

My New Year’s routine starts with making a list of what I hope to accomplish during the year. I’m currently in the midst of three different writing projects. I’ve plotted and done research for a series for Love Inspired Suspense set in Pensacola, Florida. I’ve discussed it with my editor and was in the process of putting together the official proposal when I was asked to write a book for a K-9 search and rescue series (also Love Inspired Suspense). So the Pensacola one will be put on the back burner until I finish the SAR book. I also got my rights back to my first Love Inspired Suspense series and will be editing those books and writing two more, expanding the original three-book series into five books, then indie publishing them.

Here’s what my “Year at a Glance” tab looks like.

Yearly schedule

Three of the column headings are the projects I mentioned above. The others are social media/promo, business, and other engagements. During this initial planning process, I realize that about one third of what I hope to accomplish will have to be pushed into the following year.

When I finish a rough overview of each month, I move to the next stage. Using a calendar, I plug in appointments, speaking engagements, recreation, etc., then figure my daily output on my writing projects, allowing for knocking off at a reasonable time to go bike riding or hit the gym with hubby. This is the point at which I realize I’m still being overly optimistic and have to spread the tasks out a little further. I’m now finished with the first three months. I won’t complete the calendar for the second quarter until I see what has to be moved from the first.

Strategic planning, 1st quarter

So there you have it. I’m making it public. During 2020, I hope to complete two and a half books for Love Inspired Suspense. In my indie-pubbed series, I plan to finish revisions on two books and write one new book. That is all barring the unexpected. Unfortunately, there is ALWAYS the unexpected. That’s what the “cut and paste” function is for.

Event of a Lifetime (or at least a decade)

Last week, most of America tuned in for a spectacular celestial show. I don’t remember ever being this excited about an eclipse. Then again, I’ve never had the opportunity to experience a total one.

I was blessed to have family right in the path of totality. So the Saturday before the big event, hubby and I loaded up the cat and dog and our solar glasses and headed for Murphy, North Carolina. When we hit Atlanta, it looked like everyone else was doing the same thing.

 

 

The next day, the rest of the crew arrived—my daughter and son-in-law from Connecticut, my son-in-law’s parents from Louisiana, and my two critique partners from Florida. Karen, my one CP, bought T-shirts to commemorate the event, so the day of the eclipse, we three writers were decked out in our matching eclipse T-shirts.

By noon on Monday, the whole gang was ready with our lawn chairs and NASA-approved solar glasses. We’d even cut some of the extra glasses apart and used the filters for our cameras.

 

 

 

Then it started, the first bite out of the sun. It didn’t take long to notice an appreciable difference in temperature. When we were setting up the lawn chairs, it was blazing hot. It felt more like Florida than North Carolina. But once the eclipse started, the temperature became quite comfortable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sliver of sun got smaller and smaller. Then came totality, and we were able to take our glasses off. All that was visible was the corona around the sun, which can be viewed with the naked eye. It’s only visible during a total eclipse.

The difference between partial and total is like night and day. Literally. For almost two and a half minutes, it was dark. The cicadas even got confused and all started chirping. Then the sun started to reappear, and the glasses went back on.

In the seconds preceding and following totality, if you lay a white sheet on the ground, you can see light waves moving across it. While we were filming it, my daughter’s dog had to get in on the action.

I have to say, I didn’t stay outside for all of the last half of the eclipse. It was the same thing we had already witnessed, except in reverse. But that two and a half minutes of totality is something I’ll never forget. In fact, we’re already making plans for our next one, which will take place on April 8, 2024. Unfortunately, I don’t have family in the path of this one. But we’re thinking about Hot Springs, Arkansas…

Freedom is Never Free

 

All gave some; some gave all

Today, all over America people will honor the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. With a son-in-law who is in his 20th year with the Navy, a brother-in-law who retired from the Air Force, and a dear friend who finished 27 years with the Army, I am especially touched by the sacrifices our soldiers and their families make on a daily basis.

One especially poignant picture that gets posted frequently around this time of year makes me cry every time I see it. It depicts Katherine Cathey lying on an air mattress in front of her fallen Marine’s casket. She’s staring at her laptop screen, listening to songs that remind her of him. She had asked to sleep near him one last time before his burial the following day. The Marines made a bed for her and, at her request, stood watch through the night.

As we participate in our Memorial Day activities–cookouts, parades  and other commemorative events–let’s remember not only those who have fallen, but also those who are still serving. Pray for our soldiers.

Meanwhile, I hope you’ll grab a tissue and check out these seven heartwarming veterans stories in honor of Memorial Day.

Help for Rough Times

Whenever I’m going through rough times, I often think, “Will this even be an issue a year from now? Usually the answer is no. Oftentimes the things that worry me and so occupy my thoughts today have resolved themselves within six, two, even one month, and new concerns have taken their place.

Julie Jobe has a better question, which is represented by the acronym DIME–“Does it matter eternally?” Yesterday, on her blog, “Redeemed Hope Dweller,” she shared about one of those kinds of days we’ve all had, where everything seems to go wrong, and how a radio program unexpectedly put everything into perspective. It was a great post that really made me think. You can check it out here.

Coloring – Not Just for Kids

On Mother’s Day, I received the usual flowers and sweet card from my hubby.

But this time, he got me something different – an adult coloring book. It’s titled Color Me Fearless and is split into seven themed sections: Courage, Strength, Resilience, Confidence, Power, Adventure and Freedom. This desert scene with cacti represents resilience. Very fitting, wouldn’t you say?

 

 

 

 

 

 

These designs are in the “Freedom” section:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got my first coloring book (as an adult) and a set of 24 colored pencils this past Christmas. It was pretty cool, because I was visiting my sister in North Carolina, and she got one, too. We spent our evenings that week playing games and coloring. Two things we quickly discovered that had changed since we colored as children were the complexity of the designs and our visual acuity.

 

My sister, the ingenious person that she is, figured out a way around those obstacles – jeweler’s lenses. That’s what I call someone who is serious about her coloring!

I thought I had outgrown coloring by the time I reached my first double digit birthday, but in recent months, I’ve been hearing a lot about its benefits. I find it very relaxing and a great way to enhance creativity. But coloring isn’t just for creative people.  Researchers have recognized the benefits of coloring on the adult brain for over 100 years. Here’s a very informative post on the subject that Wellness Mama did a couple of weeks ago.

What about you? Have you gotten into the coloring craze? Gel pens or colored pencils? Any favorite books?

Writer Wednesday – My Best Day Ever

 

For our Writer Wednesday post this month, my Firebird friends and I are discussing, “What would your best day ever look like?” For me, my best day ever would probably involve a cruise ship and some exotic locale in the Mediterranean. But on a more practical note, any day that I can be in nature is a good day. And spending it with family just makes it that much more special.

I live in Central Florida, but my “second home” is at my sister’s place in North Carolina. I often go up just to get some uninterrupted writing time in. While there, I stay in the basement (which is really much nicer than it sounds). I have the whole bottom floor to myself and spend most of my time writing on one of the back patios overlooking the woods. Turkeys, deer, squirrels and a variety of birds often come to visit. After productive days writing, my mom, sister, brother-in-law and I play word games all evening. Boggle, Quiddler, Bananagrams and Scrabble are our favorites.

My retreat in the mountains, viewed from the back yard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My inspiration! Scenery sitting at my writing table
And we have visitors!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My daughters, sons-in-law and grandkids live in Connecticut and Rhode Island. My husband and I make it up there when we can, but not nearly as often as we’d like. Sometimes we all meet in North Carolina. Since my kids enjoy the outdoors as much as I do, we spend lots of time hiking, camping and going to parks. Having to leave them to come back home is always sad.

Hiking in Connecticut. We made it to the top of the waterfall. Then came the fun part–climbing down!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A picture-perfect photo spot. We each had to climb out onto the slick rocks and pose. Fortunately, no one ended up in the river. This shot is my husband and me.

 

 

My older daughter and me at a park in Rhode Island. It looks like we’re trying to solve the problems of the world, doesn’t it?

 

My younger daughter and son-in-law at the same park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what is your idea of a perfect day? Check out what my writer friends have to say about their perfect days by clicking on the links below.

Tamra Baumann – Priscilla Oliveras – Wendy LaCapra

 

 

My Latest Research Trip – The Appalachian Trail

I just got back from a research/writing trip to North Carolina. I’m starting a new series of romantic suspense books set in the Murphy area. This is always an exciting phase of the writing process for me–checking out new locations.

This time my research took me to the Appalachian Trail. But it couldn’t be just anywhere on the Trail. It had to be where the Nantahala River runs close enough to the Trail for my kayaking hero to come across my Trail-hiking, unconscious heroine. Studying Google Maps, I found I had two possibilities: near Highway 64, between Hayesville and Franklin, and Highway 74 at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

We tried 64 first, since it was the easiest drive from Murphy. There, I ran into two problems. First, there was nowhere for my hero to launch. A single-lane dirt road branched off 64 to run along the Nantahala River. It was narrow and steep, with the terrain on one side dropping sharply toward the water, and the ground on the other rising sharply upward. Anywhere that there was possible access to the river was marked “No Trespassing.” As soon as we turned onto the road, my sister (who was driving so I could take pictures) kept hoping we wouldn’t meet anyone. We didn’t. Instead, three law enforcement vehicles came up behind us, lights flashing. She moved as far to the right as she could, and they managed to squeeze past us without ending up in the river. A minute later, two more overtook us, these unmarked SUVs. I said, “Follow them. I might be able to get a story out of this!” In less than thirty seconds, they were out of sight. Now sure that this area wasn’t going to work for my story, and knowing our chances of witnessing anything exciting were nil, we did a 43-point turnaround and headed back toward the highway.

And thus problem number two presented itself. We’d crossed the river just after leaving 64. Right before the bridge, I asked my sister to stop so I could get out and take pictures of the water. The Nantahala is a big river. I’ve done whitewater rafting on it more than once. Not here. This stretch is little more than a mountain stream. It was really pretty, but as you can see, there’s no way someone would be able to canoe or kayak through there.

That meant it was time to check out the other location, about an hour away by car. This one was perfect. The Appalachian Trail crosses 74 at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, which is right on the Nantahala River. A few miles upstream is a nice launch area, with another one a few miles further upstream. The next task was to check out this section of the Trail itself. Heading north from the Nantahala Outdoor Center, it’s a pretty steep climb. With lots of rocks and roots to trip us up, and steep dropoffs to the side, I kept my eyes on the Trail. At one point, we came upon a huge outcropping of rock that would make a great place to wait out a storm. I just had to climb up there and pose. Coming back down was scarier than climbing up.

We met seven serious hikers along the way, all but one headed north, planning to hike all the way to Maine. Two of them looked like they might actually make it. The rest…not so much. The last guy was really huffing and puffing. He’d just refilled his pack with supplies, which included lots of beer. He got a really good lesson in planning that day. Next time he loads up his pack with beer, it’s going to be before a nice long downhill stretch.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail has been a long-time dream of mine. I doubt that I will ever do the whole 2,200 miles, but I would love to do a decent portion of it. I haven’t found anyone willing to do it with me. Until then, I guess I’ll have to leave the real hard-core hiking to my heroine.