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Showing posts from October, 2014

Five Minute Friday/31 Days Edition: Leave

Five Minute Friday is a writing event that has hundreds of writers spending five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing them at http://katemotaung.com/five-minute-friday/. This week's word is Leave.

Leave seems to always have a negative connotation. People leave and it hurts. You go on leave because of something you need a break from. Changes leave you wondering what God's plan is for your life. But what if we look at leave in a positive light.

Leave those past hurts behind and go on to a new life. Leave something for good that you need a break from and start fresh.  Leave the worrying to God and trust his plan.

Sometimes leaving is hard. Staying is safety, leaving is uncertainty. Leaving old hurts behind can feel like we are letting someone off the hook for the pain they have caused when in reality, we are releasing ourselves from the hold they have on us. It isn't always easy to see the reason for the leaving, but those steps forward can open doors for us …

31 Days: Do Just Do It

This year's 31 Days has been more like 31 posts but it has felt so good to push myself and get back into blogging regularly.

It has also been a great reminder for me that just do it isn't only for selling tennis shoes, it's an awesome way to live. Action is so much better than inaction. Nothing changes if you don't do at least a little something.

Life is like a swimming pool, sometimes you just have to jump in. The water is only cold for awhile and once you've acclimated to it, floating around is so much better than standing on the side wondering what it's like in the deep end. Yes, it can be scary, but so can doing nothing.

Do. Whether it's something as simple as writing a blog post every day for 31 days or taking a huge leap to a new career. Climb the high dive and plunge into the unknown. It may be the quickest way to get to the other side of what you are facing and to get to the life that is waiting for you.


31 Days: Do Make Your House Your Home

I don't think my house will ever be featured in House Beautiful but every room is full of items that make it feel like home. A majority of my furniture was my paternal grandparents. I have a secretary that was my maternal great-grandmother's, possibly even my great-great grandmother's. There are quirky things like a Spongebob rug in my bathroom and a Spongebob lamp in my bedroom. My guest room bed is covered by a duvet that I fell in love with in the Pottery Barn catalog, which seemed like such a splurge but it makes be smile every time I see it. And there are photos everywhere - of family, of friends, and of vacations.

Who can help but feel inadequate in the design department when there is Pinterest filling our computer screens with an endless supply of ideas for the perfect home. But really, the perfect home is the one that brings you happiness. I used to think that I wanted every room, not just my guest room, to be filled with things from the pages of the Pottery Barn …

31 Days: Do Not Compare Yourself To Anyone Else

Tonight is one of my favorite evenings of the month - book club. I love the women in my book club and how they have made me feel so welcome from day one. I think in all of the months since I joined the club, I have read one book but it doesn't matter. It is a great evening of good food, lots of laughter, and the fellowship I craved when I looked for a church.

The thing that I love about this club is that each one of us are so different. There is a soon-to-be retired laboratory manager, a school librarian, a law library director, a college professor, a kindergarten teacher, an accountant, an office manager, and a retired minister. Everyone is so diverse and I am inspired every time we gather together.

The one thing that has amazed me from the start is I've never found myself comparing my life to theirs. I've never been jealous or felt insecure when I've spent time with them. OK, I will admit that I am envious that their houses are suitable for such a gathering and that…

31 Days: Do Find People Living Your Dream

I recently saw a story on Shakespeare and Company, the small bookstore in Paris that has been inspiring writers for decades. People earn money by helping customers in the store downstairs while living upstairs and working on their literary masterpiece. My sister and I have been fantasizing about moving to Paris and living there ever since we saw the story. Until then, I will hone my craft on One Is Just A Number.

There are so many blogs that I follow that I often wonder how I'll ever catch up on all of the reading. I follow so many because I see them as people living my dream -  inspiring people with their words. Here are some of my favorite blogs, the ones that are the closest to my heart.

Alece Ronzino at Grit and Glory was the first blog I found that was written by a Christian going through a divorce.She made me feel like I wasn't alone and her words have been a salve on my wounds.

If I could write like anyone, it would be Holley Gerth. There are so many times that I h…

31 Days: Do Act Like You Are Awesome...Because You Are

I'm never more sure of myself than I am on Sundays. I have pretty effortlessly made friends at my new church and I've done it by being myself. I wasn't intimated by the "cool kids". I have made friends with good, genuine people who have allowed me to be genuine. I have even done things that have scared me, like being the liturgist for several services, and that has made me more sure of myself.

When I went to my friend's wedding in June, I spent a lot of time with people that I really didn't know very well. They were acquaintances who, for the most part, live in the same city as I do but I had only occasionally spent time with them socially. I was never self-conscious while talking to them. I just walked up to them, acted like I was awesome, and had a great time. Someone posted a photo of me with these women and I printed it off and framed it to remind me of what fun it can be to take a chance and be myself.

So the next time you are in a situation where …

31 Days: Do Make A Plan And Follow Through

I am awesome at making plans. I have sheets full of calculations for budgets. I have page after page of resolutions in order to plan a new life. I have purchased poster board and markers to make vision boards. I've even written down what I'm going to put on those boards. But I am HORRIBLE at follow through. By January 2 or day 2 of whatever day I chose to start on, I've forgotten the plan and gone back to my old ways. The Excel spreadsheets I printed off to keep track of expenses only have a few boxes filled in.The poster board is still in its plastic wrapper.

I want to change this. I want to make that vision board of how I want my house to be and I want to call my friend the carpenter and get him started on making those plans a reality. I want to stick to that budget in order to pay for those plans and to pay for more trips like the one I took to Europe last year. I want to follow through for once and live the life that is waiting for me.

Even the most extravagant plans …

Five Minute Friday/31 Days Edition: Dare

Five Minute Friday is a writing event that has hundreds of writers spending five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing them at http://katemotaung.com/five-minute-friday/. This week's word is Dare.

When I read this week's word "Dare", I instantly thought of the Switchfoot song "Dare You To Move" and I was reminded of how inspirational that song is. It could be a battle cry for shaking off what has happened and moving forward. I played it as loud as I could and shook my first in the air as I listened.

It is a great soundtrack to my Word of the Year and 31 Days theme Do. I picked Do to get me moving towards a better life. The songs lyrics are perfect for that:

The photo at the top of this post was taken from a gondola in Venice. I picked it because riding in that gondola was one of the biggest dares of my life. My sister and I traveled to Europe last summer and we didn't realize that the tour we had booked to take us from Florence to Venice …

31 Days: Do Take The First Step In Making Plans - Or Not

I'll admit, I am guilty of the opposite of the first advice. I wait for people to contact me. And when they don't, I feel like a loser with no friends. But what if everyone else is doing the same thing - waiting for me to make the call? What if everyone else is like me, going through life doing their best to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other. And what if someone calling them for a lunch date could give them the encouragement they need to realize they aren't in this alone.

I have a friend that I used to work with. Every Wednesday, we would go out to lunch together. Then I changed jobs and we would still have our Wednesday lunch dates but not as frequently. When she came to work at the same place as I did, the frequency of our dates increased again. But then she left the company and we tried for awhile to do our lunch dates but meetings or deadlines or life would get in the way. We would trade messages via Facebook posts talking about how we…

31 Days: Do Get Off The Couch

The first plan of action for my year of Do was DO go out and get the life I want. The life I want isn't going to come to me while I sit on the couch. It would have to be a divine intervention of epic proportion for me to have the life I want by sitting in my house. That's why I am forcing myself to say yes to leaving my house and getting out and getting involved. I've joined a book club, I go to almost every activity my church offers, and I accept all of my friends' invitations for lunch or dinner out. Sometimes it feels like a huge effort but, with the exception of one date I went on (that experience could be a blog post of its own), I rarely regret leaving my house to spend time with other people.

Just like getting up and moving is good for the body, getting out of the house is good for the mind. It takes you out of your head and into the lives of others. And if you get out and do good for others, it's double the benefit. Sometimes it is hard, it is the last thi…

31 Days: Do Get Back To What First Made You Realize Your Passion

When I was a kid, I would write scripts for my favorite shows. First it was The Big Valley and then it was Starsky and Hutch. This may be when I first caught the writing bug, but it wasn't until I started subscribing to House Beautiful and began reading the "Thoughts of Home" column on the back page that I figured out what kind of writer I wanted to be. I wanted to be the kind that made people recall their fond memories, to take them back to a happy time when life was simple, and to bring them comfort. I ripped out my favorite columns and saved them for inspiration. I was so excited to discover that the magazine published a compilation of these columns and asked for a copy for my next birthday.

I've taken that book off the shelf and plan to re-read these columns that inspired me. I'm also going to search for those favorites that I tore from the pages of the magazine. These 31 days are reminding me of that excitement in writing and my desire to bring comfort to p…

31 Days: Do Not Be Afraid To Ask

This summer, one of my favorite people on the planet got married in Maine. It would have been the first trip I took on my own. I've traveled alone on trips for business since my divorce but it would have been my first solo trip for pleasure. And once I got there, I would have been spending most of my time with three couples. My Tribe doesn't differentiate between couples and singles but it seemed a little lonely to go to a wedding without a plus one. I knew of another single person that was going to the wedding so I took a chance and asked her if I could travel with her. She had been to Maine several times and knew some of my friend's friends so I thought she'd be the perfect person to tag along with since my friend would be preoccupied with wedding prep and her visiting family. She graciously let me make my way to Maine with her, she even did a lot of the research on our flights and finding a bed and breakfast.

Could I have made the trip on my own, of course I could …

31 Days: Do Your Best, Even If You Hate Your Job

This one is very appropriate for a Sunday night. Dreading Monday morning is how I spend most of my last hours of the weekend. When I took my job 7 years ago, it seemed like my dream job. I was getting to be the editor of a national publication. It took me 6.5 years to actually get to be the editor. The person who was retiring and creating the vacancy I was hired to fill, stayed on and did the part of the job I was most looking forward to, putting red pen to papers and finding mistakes in their pages. And because of changes in her circumstance, she needed to stay on until a year ago. I spent a lot of that time hating my job - hating that I was editor in name only, doing all of the dirty work without any of the actually editing.

I wasn't always best at it, but I got to a point where I decided that even if the job wasn't exactly what I wanted, I was going to try to do my best. If nothing else, working harder made the day go by faster. And eventually, the job became what I had w…

31 Days: Do Keep A Clean House

Here's another post that I'm writing to remind myself. I wish I could say I missed my Saturday 31 Days post because I was cleaning house but, I was clearing off my DVR, like I am most Saturdays.

A month or so ago, my cousin spent the night at my house on her way from Houston to Boston for graduate school. Her email asking if she could stay in my guest room was what typically prompts my housecleaning - company coming. I've been known to throw parties just to motivate me to clean a house that is a few weeks away from being featured on "Hoarders".

What is so very frustrating to me is that I feel so much better when my house is clean. When I have put everything in its place, I can breathe. But when I am surrounded by the clutter, I feel like I'm being strangled. I just haven't figured out the motivator to spend a little time each week making sure my house isn't a price of admission away from being mistaken for a haunted house.

While messy floors are good…

Five Minute Friday/31 Days Edition: Long

Five Minute Friday is a writing event that has hundreds of writers spending five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing them at http://katemotaung.com/five-minute-friday/. This week's word is Long.

This has been a really long week so today's Five Minute Friday will be word association. My brain is that tired.

My hair is almost as long as my dress in the photo above (that's me on the right). Isn't my little sister cute?

This has been a very long week but I think I will make my deadline to get my 358 page journal to the printer on time. My long term goal of being better at my job seems closer with each journal successfully sent to the printer.

I long to spend time with friends. This weekend is my city's annual Oktoberfest, an outdoor festival that my "Tribe" attended together. Friends have moved away, life has taken some turns for others, I long for the days when life was simple for all of us and we had so few cares in the world.

Long is the li…

31 Days: Do Go Shopping In Your Own Home

Today marked the first day back in business attire at work. We have casual dress in the summer and it is extended past Labor Day based on the amount of money we raise for our Race for the Cure team. Digging out the slacks and blouses after a summer of comfortable capris and t-shirts can be a bit of a let down but this year I decided to make it a little fun by going shopping in my own home. I'm going to search my closet for shoes that I forgot I own and accessorize with jewelry I haven't worn in years. It will be like having a new wardrobe without spending any money.

Lucky for me, I never get rid of anything so I'm hoping that I have some pieces that are so old they're new again. I was watching a comedy yesterday and the lead actress was wearing a stick pin in her lapel. I got so excited because in the eighties when I was at the peak of worrying about what I wore, stick pins were popular so I have several to choose from in my jewelry box. I'm hoping that's the …

31 Days: Do Be A Tourist In Your Own City

I have had the opportunity to show several people around the place I call home. The first was my friend who lives in Houston. I didn't know if I could find anything that would impress her in my city, one that is roughly half the size of the one she lives in. But I was wrong. Tulsa wowed her - from its Art Deco architecture to its oil baron mansions, my friend left with a new respect for my hometown. And as I put her on the plane, I had a new respect for it too. Seeing it through her eyes gave me a unique view of it.

The second time I played tour guide was to friends visiting from Canada. Never having spent much time in Canada, except for a couple of hours on the last stop of an Alaskan cruise, I had no idea what to show them to give them a taste of what makes the United States different from their country. We had already visited Tulsa's two museums - one housed in a breathtaking1920s mansion surrounded by beautiful gardens and the other full of Western art in a setting with w…

31 Days: Do Put Your Records On

I don't know about you but music can have an amazing effect on my mood. The fury of an aggravating email can be diffused by a song with an awesome beat. A lonely moment can be eased with the right melody. I've even felt like I was receiving a message from God through iTunes. I have considered selling my car because the radio stopped working a couple of years ago. I miss the chance for mood improvement as I navigate traffic. Luckily my commute isn't very far and as soon as I cross my threshold, I turn my tv on to the Music Choice channels and tunes fill my home.

The next time you are having a bad day at work, put a CD in your computer and do some desk chair dancing. Or when you need to feel God's spirit, find your local Christian station on the radio. I bet just the right song will come on to give you the lift you need. Music is one of the easiest ways to improve any day. So put those records on.

 *My apologies to Corinne Bailey Rae but her song popped into my head whe…

31 Days: Do Get Moving

I had a really stressful day at work. I had to tell my boss that I was going to miss a deadline, the thought of which had me so upset that a stomach ache had me arriving 2 hours late to work. Add on top of that a day full of rain and cold wind and all I wanted to do was go home and crawl up into a ball on the couch. But it was one of my workout days with my sister and she's much more dedicated than I am so I ignored the rain and the stomach ache and went to the gym. I was so glad I did. After a mile around the track and some weights lifted, I could feel the weight of the day being lifted.

This isn't always easy to do. Sometimes lacing up those sneakers can seem like the hardness thing you've done all day. But it has been my experience that if you will make that effort and get moving, things will improve. You don't have to run a marathon, just a walk around the block will give you a feeling of accomplishment. Find a buddy who will motivate you and that you like spendin…

31 Days: Do Pray

This is another post for me - to remind me where my source of strength and comfort is. In prayer. This is easy to remember on Sunday. I spend an hour at church and it all becomes clear. Then the calendar reads Monday and all of the headaches of working full-time hit me head on and I forgot to pray. I talk to God but I'm usually complaining and doubting. How much difference would I feel if I praised and thanked instead?

In the midst of disappointment, it is so hard to trust. I have hours of recordings on my DVR of people who know far more than me about God who all say the same thing - trust and you'll see your breakthrough. But when you are in the trenches and you see no way that even an all-knowing God can turn something around, hope seems impossible.

I need to turn my brain off, turn off the complaining and doubting and turn to prayer. I know that is where I will find my strength and comfort to get through the disappointments and to find hope in the life waiting for me. In p…

31 Days: Do Cook For Yourself

It can be hard to adjust to cooking for just one person. At first I lived on frozen meals. They were good for the portion control needed for weight loss but they were bad for satisfaction and taste. I started collecting cookbooks and dreaming of good meals. Why should my taste buds suffer because I live alone?

Every Saturday, I give the microwave the night off and I cook up something. Sometimes I prepare the whole recipe and share. My sister takes her lunch to work every day and she has been a willing guinea pig for new recipes. This keeps me from eating the same thing several nights in a row and lessens the chance that food will spoil before I finish it. If the ingredients allow, I will half a recipe. I have even invented recipes on my own that allow me to control the amount, like Saturday Shrimp. It is just right for one and delicious.

I was so excited to read this article online that agreed with my line of thinking. Don't give up on your culinary skills and palate because you…

Five Minute Friday/31 Days Edition: Care

Five Minute Friday is a writing event that has hundreds of writers spending five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing them at http://katemotaung.com/five-minute-friday/. This week's word is Care.

I wish I was better at this word care. I do care about people but my follow through isn't what it should be. I think about people and I'll say a quick prayer for them but I'm not very good at doing care.

I should be better at it, it's in my DNA. My mother is the most caring person I know. I was just talking to her on the phone about her friend that passed away this week. She was telling me how glad she was that she had spent time with her friend while taking her to doctor's appointments and treatments. It was time that she valued. It wasn't a bother to her the miles she drove and the time it took, it was a privilege and an honor for her to help a friend in need. I remember when she made the offer to her friend to do what she could. My mother was so …

31 Days: Do Not Let It Make You Give Up On Your Dreams

Today should have been my 21st wedding anniversary. My thoughts all day were full of the things that never will be, of the life that I had planned when I took those vows that Saturday in October. I have struggled to push those thoughts to the back of my brain and push forward the ones that say I can still have a great life. It may not look like the one I thought I'd have back in 1993 but that doesn't mean it can't be good, maybe even better.

It is so hard to not let disappointments cause you to give up on your dreams. I fought against this as early as in the first weeks after my husband moved out. I bought two books from Amazon, "Lies at the Altar:  The Truth about Great Marriages" and "1,000 Places to See Before You Die." I don't think it was a conscious decision but I think it was my mind's way of having a foot in both possibilities. "Lies" could offer the keys to saving my marriage and "1,000 Places" could be the key to s…

31 Days: Do Not Let "I Have No One To Go With" Keep You at Home

OK, this one is for me. There are restaurants I want to try, plays I want to see, places I want to travel to, all kinds of things that I haven't done because I have used the excuse "I have no one to go with." I want to stop doing that. I've eaten meals alone when traveling for business but I've never gone out to eat by myself in my own hometown. What keeps me from doing that? Fear of people thinking I'm a loser? How silly is that?

So I'm going to be brave and start going out to eat by myself at least once a month. Then maybe I'll build up to seeing a play by myself, then my big dream is to take a trip all by myself. How much life am I missing out on by fearing the stigma of being a "party of one?"

After all, one is just a number.

31 Days: Do Be Kind

I read a saying once that said unkind words are like feathers blowing in the wind - they are impossible to get back. I lived this one morning at work. I was trying to get through a particularly tricky email and my co-workers insisted on preparing for an event that was 6 hours away. They kept interrupting me, asking me questions about what we had done the previous year. I finally lost it and yelled that I didn't care what they did. After the words left my mouth, I felt sick, especially when I realized that I had worn my cross necklace that day. Definitely not a WWJD moment for me. My co-workers graciously accepted my apology but I still wince when I think about that morning.

Since then, I've tried my best to count to 10 before I'm tempted to say something I'll regret. Sometimes it's taken counting to 10 several times but I feel so much better when I find a way to be kind. It's one of the best things I can do for others. And for myself.

31 Days: Do What Will Make You Feel Better About Yourself

We all have it - that thing that makes us dislike ourselves. For 10 years, I formulated plan after plan on how to lose weight. Being overweight made me hide. It made me skip my high school reunion because I was embarrassed by how I looked. It made me question my worth. Then, 3 years ago, my company brought in Weight Watchers to conduct weekly meetings onsite. They even paid for half of the membership fee. Something about that plan clicked for me and for the first time, I was putting my plan to lose weight into action. I set a goal of losing 50 pounds by my 50th birthday and I reached my goal. Other than getting a college degree, it was the first tangible goal I had achieved in my life.

For the first time in a long time, I bought clothes that I liked. And I felt good in those clothes. I was able to maintain the majority of that weight loss for about a year. Then I started to return to my old ways of turning to food for comfort and before I knew it, I couldn't fit into those clothe…

31 Days: Do What Scares You

Almost three years ago, I stepped foot into my church for the first time. I was terrified. Walking in there by myself seemed like the most daunting task. I don't know what was scarier - the thought that someone would talk to me or no one would talk to me. Someone did talk to me, someone who is my friend now. And after some initial jitters about the order of service and how to hand in the attendance form, I knew that I had found a church home.

That scary move was one of the best decisions of my life. I love my fellow members. I wrote about my church in a Five Minute Friday on worship. It is my refuge, it is my hope. I don't know where I would be right now if I didn't have my church. My scary move has even brought others to worship. After running into a friend and telling her I had joined my congregation, she started attending regularly and eventually joined too. Another friend saw on Facebook that I had joined the church that she grew up in and she started visiting during …

31 Days: Do Appreciate What You Have

I had lunch with some friends yesterday - women I have known for close to 20 years. None of us around that table would be considered "cool kids". Yes, we watch some of the most popular TV shows and listen to music far cooler than our age would imply but I doubt that the "in crowd" would clamor to spend time with us.

There was a time when that would have bothered me. I read Twitter feeds and wondered why I wasn't out doing the things that other people people tweeted about. I would get brain freeze trying to keep track of the cool restaurants to go to and envied the people who had already eaten there.

Then I realized that happiness can be found in the simple moments of spending time with friends. Friends who know you and your history. Friends who have suffered through the same challenging work experiences. Friends who bow their heads in prayer for other friends who are going through a difficult time. No one will tweet about those moments but that doesn't tak…

Five Minute Friday/31 Days Edition: New

 Five Minute Friday is a writing event that has hundreds of writers spending five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing them at http://katemotaung.com/five-minute-friday/. This week's word is New.

Isn't it funny how new changes meaning for us. When we are kids, new is exciting. A new toy, straight out of the box, is perfection. A new pair of shoes for the start of the school year, we can't wait for the first day to wear them. We count the days until graduation and we get to go to college where everything is new, that's where our grown-up life will begin. Nothing beats new when you are a kid.

But as we get older, we get scared of new. We get stuck in our ruts and we dread the new. We fear the new because it forces us out of our comfort zones and into unknown territory. New equals change and change is bad.

In this 31 Days challenge, I want to embrace new. I want to look at my life in a new way. Where I see scary, I want to see exhilarating. Where I see the…

31 Days: Do What You've Been Putting Off

The photo above is of my new roof. It has sat atop my house since January. It should have been there a lot longer but I keep putting it off and putting it off. I knew that it was going to be a big project because I had two layers of shingles on my house and state law did not allow a third to be added so the old layers had to be removed. And because my house was built in 1930, it did not have traditional decking, it had wood shingles nailed directly onto the joist of the roof. Those would have to come off as well. A roofer had told me once that it would cost $10,000 to do the whole project. I could think of so many other things I would like to spend that much money on. So, I decided to pray for rain. And wind. And hail. My hope was to be able to make an insurance claim and have at least some of the cost covered.

Finally a hail storm hit. I may have shrieked with joy when I went outside and found shingles on my porch. I called my insurance agent and received a check but I still waited …

31 Days: Do

I chose the word "Do" for my One Word of 2014 and I will admit, I wrote a post on my blog about my intentions and that's about as far as I got. I just re-read those intentions and while I haven't done a bad job with the list I created, I haven't done my best. Changes at my day job left me exhausted at the end of the day and a second job to pay for some fun in my life took up many of my evening hours. Always at the back of my mind was "I cannot forget about my blog."

Just when I was thinking that this year's word might be a lost cause, I read on Jon Acuff's Facebook page, "It's not too late to make 2014 awesome. The year isn't over. You have 25% left." That's when I pulled out the bracelet I bought last December and decided to make "Do" the theme of my 31 Days writing.

In preparing for the challenge, I rediscovered my passion for blogging. I have a notebook full of ideas for posts and the excitement tha…