Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Try Intentions instead of Resolutions

“In the new year, I’m gonna…”   Millions of people make New Year’s resolutions, putting themselves on challenge to either stop or start doing something.  Maybe it’s to lose weight, quit smoking, eat healthier, spend less money or spend more time on something or with someone.  Maybe it's all of these.

Millions of others don’t bother to make resolutions.  Why?  Because they always break them.  They don’t want to feel the guilt that comes with breaking promises to themselves or to appear weak to friends and family when they don’t follow through.

But intentions are different.  I can still hear the calm voice of my yoga instructor, Margaret Blanc, at the conclusion of our relaxation phase. “Now it’s time to create an intention for yourself; for this evening, for tomorrow, or for the week.”  In the silence that followed, each of us could create her personal intention and repeat it in her mind. It was a time when we were most open, relaxed, and receptive. 

I’d walk away with that intention in my head.  In those days, it was always the same: “I am building my own happy life.”  Living alone for the first time, I was responsible only for me and to me; some days it was tough going.  And in those inevitable moments when I’d reach a low point, the intention I’d created would pop into my head, flashing like a huge neon sign.  Almost instantly, I’d notice that I was standing a little taller, throwing my shoulders back, and smiling, moving on to my next task or thought. 

After awhile, I realized that I was fulfilling that intention. Then, it was time to summon another. 

They say, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”  But intentions coupled with mindfulness hold power. 
Each of us can reach inside and come up with an intention for ourselves so that we can lead happier, healthier lives. An intention becomes reality when we concentrate on it for our own personal growth and well-being, when we listen to it and let it guide us.

Focusing on one clear intention, constructing it as a positive statement in the present tense, as if you are doing it now, makes all the difference.

Follow this formula for creating intentions:
* Close your eyes and take a few moments to become fully relaxed. 
* Let your mind wander until it settles upon something that you want or need to do for yourself.
* Create your intention:  “I am _______ing ____________________________.
* See yourself doing it.
* Let your body feel the way you’ll feel when you are doing it.

What intention will you create for yourself -- for today, tomorrow, this week, or this year -- so that you can take a positive step for a successful and happy 2012? Just start with one.

May you create a happy and fulfilling 2012 for yourselves.

~ xoA ~

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Save Some Time for You

That time of the year is fast approaching.  We have way too many items on our “to do” lists and too little time.  Besides, it’s cold and gloomy outside, and the days are getting shorter. 

In order to get from Point A to Point B, we have to keep going.  There’s no way around it.  And, as we look forward to the holiday season, we bring in more and more “Point B’s” – places we have to get to, things we need to do.  Sometimes those crowd our usual habits and routines and eat up the time we’ve set aside for ourselves.

I remember a young friend from college days who dubbed her mother-in-law “Wonder Woman.”  It seems this lady was everywhere, doing everything -- and perfectly.  When my friend tried to emulate Mrs. S, she was always frazzled and felt like she was on the brink of disaster.  She had no down time. After her children were born, my friend realized she had to let that go of the idea of being Wonder Woman Jr. so she could dedicate time to take better care of herself.

A little quiet time
When additional stressors show up in our lives, we must carve out some precious time for ourselves and for the activities that relieve stress for us.  Maybe it’s time alone or a cup of tea with a friend.  Maybe it’s a walk in the park or a workout at the gym.  Whatever it is, for our own health and well-being, we must let nothing encroach on that time.  We must keep doing those things that buoy us up.

We might look to see how errands or other trips outside of home can be combined.  Plot our route before leaving the house, and take all of our coupons, lists, or paperwork with us.  This will save time, gasoline, and money and allow us to gather some “me time” during the day.

Delegating duties to other family members or allowing friends to help are good ways to free up some time.  When someone asks, “What can I bring?” or "How can I help?" be ready with an answer. Let them  stop at the cleaners or the grocery store, make a salad, or bring their favorite holiday side dish.  Most people really want to help if they knew what was needed.  We really don’t have to do it all.
How can you build in some time, just for you, during this busy holiday season?

~ xoA ~

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Room of Her Own

After 18 years of sharing, she finally has her own space. No more being pressed against the wall with zero wiggle room, trying to stay out of everyone’s way. 

She is Big Red, my candyapple red Gold Wing. She’s always been pinched up in that narrow space in front of the cars in our garage. Her front wheel fitting in at the end of the cabinets, but not too far in or her fairing would come to rest where the cabinet corners came together and rub her paint.

Maneuvering into position was a chore and a feat that required skill and patience. Move the cars out, drive in wide at just the correct angle. Then inch up and back, up and back aiming her into alignment without brushing against the wall or the items stored near the side door.

Difficulties came when she didn’t get into her allotted space just so. We had to negotiate around her like circus contortionists. And, surely, she must have feared having her trunk whacked!
Now she has a perfect home. The new bike shelter is reminiscent of silver pods I imagined as a kid contemplating outer space. She’s completely enclosed and snug in her Cycle Shell, which our friend Sylvia researched for me then came to help set up and get Big Red installed.

Syl screws down the sidestand plate
 It’s a straight shot from the gate into the Cycle Shell, which stands at the top of the RV pad in our back yard. All I need to do is to drive onto the pad, park, and pull the cover over the top and fasten it down. Quick and easy. 

I'm sure we’ll get out on the road more often come spring. That should make both Big Red and me pretty happy.
~ xoA ~

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why Wait?

One month to go in 2011. One month to get done what we’ve wanted to accomplish this year, to tie up loose ends. Or, one month to make a good start on something that remains on our “lists.”

This week I met a new woman in the dressing room after yoga class at Body XChange Fitness Spa. She was asking about different classes that are offered. Having spent this year working on my goal of keeping fit and maintaining my 35-lb. weight loss, I could tell her about the variety of classes in which I’d participated.

She had joined last week, right before Thanksgiving, and told me, “I need to do something, and I’m not waiting until the first of the year and New Year’s resolutions. I’m starting now.”

As I reflected on our conversation, I realized that many people normally think about starting something at a beginning mark like January 1st or Monday morning or the first day of the new month. What that does for me is to prolong the limbo period -- the in-between time. I am thinking about an action I want or need to take, but I haven’t committed to it yet. It’s a nagging, uncomfortable time in which I am treading water-- or I’m in denial.

I’m better off getting going on it. Like that afternoon I got up off the couch, put on my sneakers, and went for a walk after hearing Dr. Oz talk about the effects of Type 2 diabetes. That 45-minute walk was the start of my journey toward better health. Waiting wasn’t an option.

What’s still on your 2011 “to do” list? There’s one month left in this year. Why wait?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

When Friends Become Family

Families are like potlucks. We partake of whatever’s there. Some dishes we love and want more helpings, and others we take with a grain of salt or test a spoonful at a time. A few dishes, we may have sampled before and know that they are not to our particular taste so we leave them alone.

Gene & Elaine
The Women of Substance

Friends are different. Circumstances or the Universe bring us together, and before we know it, those folks have a home in our hearts. Often it happens when we’re lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, like I was when I ran into Elaine and Gene in Rooster’s, a little coffee shop in Medford, Oregon. Or, when I met those seven extraordinary women by merely walking into Counseling 101 at Cal State Bakersfield back in 1995.

After the initial contact, some of those friends draw even closer; they become like family. Unlike the days when people stayed put, biological families are often spread out across the country or the globe.  We’ve begun to enfold the folks whose lives intersect with ours on a regular basis, and regard them as family.
They become our “Family of Choice.”

The mutual love, respect, and caring that bind families of choice are every bit as present and strong as our best relationships with the family into which we were born. We are there to support and help in times of trouble and to celebrate the moments of joy. 

Sometimes it’s day-to-day contact. We’re helping each other with child-care, making a dinner to share, running an errand, working together on a project, or otherwise checking in. When miles separate us, the warm feeling we have from understanding our special relationship as part of each others’ family of choice lifts our spirits.

These past few years, I’ve been proud and grateful to witness and take part in countless examples of families of choice in action. I’ve seen friends take on the roles of sisters, brothers, parents, and kids, many handling responsibilities that had traditionally been up to family members.

It was the set of friends, the family of choice, who sat with one of my former colleagues in the hospital as she transitioned during her last hour of life when there was no way that her out-of-state siblings could get there.
Karen, Marilyn, Mary, and Annie
My Coos Bay, Oregon, family of choice cheered and celebrated with me and for me when my story in Chicken Soup for the Soul was published last summer. Two of them, Karen and Marilyn, were the catalysts for the gratifying book signing event that occurred there.

And, I can never adequately express my appreciation to “Mom Jane,” a retired nurse in Chapel Hill, NC, who accompanied my daughter Asila to numerous medical appointments. When we talk about Asila, we refer to her as “our daughter.”
As human beings, we have an innate need for love and belonging. Being part of a family unit is a prime factor in fulfilling that need, no matter the unit’s origin. Blood may be thicker than water, but it’s also friends who’ve become family who add depth, happiness, and richness to our lives.
Who are some of the people who are part of your family of choice?
~ xoA ~

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Art for MY Sake

Art uplifts me; it refreshes, heals, and inspires. Art makes me laugh, cry, and think. Sometimes it frightens me. It makes me see things with new eyes. I may be seated in the audience, immersed in making art, turning the pages of a novel, or traipsing through galleries or museums, but no matter my level of involvement, art changes me.

I marvel at the talented performers at our local Spotlight Theatre, where I saw the most recent offering, Sweeney Todd. It was amazing to watch as the actors brought their characters to life with mannerisms and body language that transformed them.  With a few changes in her posture and, I’m sure, attitude, a young actress became an aged bird vendor in one scene and a pregnant woman soon after.

A few days later, I was weaving my way through the crowd of fans to see the Bakersfield stop of the “So You Think You Can Dance” tour. Brother John had arranged for our tickets, and we found ourselves a mere six rows back on the floor level at Rabobank Arena. We could feel the music and see the dancers’ faces, able to note their expressions and subtle changes.  The troupe’s intricate precision moves, coupled with the pulsing rhythms of high-energy music, thrilled and enlivened the audience. We danced in our seats.

I’m no artist. But, my occasional forays into the world of creating visual art have been satisfying. One Saturday morning last spring, my friend Madeline and I tried out one of the many workshops offered by Mercy Hospital’s Art for Healing program, “Your Creative Muse.”  The facilitator helped us tap into our creativity in a relaxed, nonchalant atmosphere. As we scribbled color on a page, stress faded and thoughts just came and went, much akin to meditation.  Guided to close inspection of our finished pieces, we began to see shapes and patterns in the scribbles. That was just the warm-up. Soon, we were making abstract art greeting cards using the same method, proudly showing off our designs and complimenting classmates’ creations.

In October 2010, Judy and I gathered some scrapbooking supplies from home and drove down to Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles to take part their “Home, Sweet Home”  interactive art installation.  Their concept of creating a neighborhood from scratch encouraged  creativity and vision in constructing a miniature neighborhood in Los Angeles with participant-made buildings -- houses, apartments, and businesses of all kinds. Just as fascinating was how the visual art led to performance art as we got into character, playing the part of the fitness center owners and community members. We did a “radio interview”, gave a Zumba demo, talked with the “mail carrier” and got right into the game. Adults at play.

Art brings joy, beauty, ideas, fun, and sometimes a respite. Participating in the arts is something I do to help keep art available for everyone in our community, especially our youth. But, when I think about it, I realize, I’m doing it for me.

~ xoA ~

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Look for the Gift

Dawn, night, and taxes are three things that we can all count on as we go about our daily lives. And, we’ve heard of Murphy’s Law, where anything that can go wrong will go wrong. We need to roll with the punches – take it in and let it go. Make lemonade out of lemons. The clich├ęs are never-ending.

It’s also said, “It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to what happens to you.” Remaining calm and keeping a clear head when things don’t work out exactly as we’ve planned is key. Something better is probably in store for us. What feels like a missed opportunity or a dreadful situation usually brings a gift to our lives.

When the unexpected happens, we also need to look for the gift. What good thing is going to come out of these unplanned or unforeseen circumstances?  Sometimes it’s hard to believe there could be a gift while in the throes of a tough situation. But proving that “hindsight is 20-20,” taking time to reflect often reveals the gift.

How many of us, after being delayed from leaving home and later coming upon a traffic jam or accident have said, “If I’d left on time, I’d have been right in the middle of that mess!” The gift: we’ve been spared aggravation and possible injury.

Sometimes the gift is a heart gift. I can remember our friend Ruth saying that having cancer had brought her many gifts. A major one was the realization of how much people cared for her. The disease had rallied long-time friends and family around her and had brought new friends into her life. Having cancer led to fresh attitudes and learnings and a sense of freedom. These were not only gifts for Ruth, but also for those of us who were so fortunate to become close to her.

Knowing that there is a gift in every situation helps us get through it. Looking for the gift brings us opportunities for growth and happiness.

What gifts have you found, thanks to a tough situation you’ve faced?

~ xoA ~

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Gift of Life

Blood. It's not just for Halloween.

More than 20 years ago I became a blood donor -- something I’d never imagined I’d do. But, one thing that inspired me was a book I’d read,  Eric, by Doris Lund. It was a mother’s story about her vibrant, teenaged son who was diagnosed with leukemia and his and the family’s journey through the illness.

Lund educated her readers on the importance of giving blood. She painted a portrait of the blood donor as a hero. She portrayed the blood bank and hospital personnel as ever-so-cheery and appreciative, supplying donuts and other treats for donors. By the time I’d read the last page, she almost had me convinced to go down to our local blood bank and donate.
Then, something more personal happened. A teacher friend came to the house one day. Distraught and worried, she told about a friend of hers who needed blood transfusions. This woman had been diagnosed with breast cancer early in her pregnancy and had recently given birth. The pregnancy had exacerbated the cancer. Now there were some complications. If they could roust some blood donors, that would offset the cost to the family. Several of us began telephoning other friends and colleagues, and we were quickly mobilized.
That was the start of my relationship with the good folks at Houchin Community Blood Bank,, where I regularly donated blood for many years. Since 2001, my own health issues prohibited me from further blood donations, but today, my goal is to support the blood bank in whatever way I can. So, I am using this forum to make a pitch.

On October 20, from 5-8 p.m., my branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) is partnering with Houchin Blood Bank for a blood drive and evening social. We need donors to sign up in order to make this event a "go." If you, or your family members, friends, or neighbors, have thought about giving back to our community, donating blood is a great way. Who knows whose life your blood may save. 
Our blood drive and evening social is also a great time to become better acquainted with the AAUW mission and to learn about our work in Kern County, helping girls and women to have economic and educational opportunities.

This is an event for non-members as well as members. Light refreshments will be served. Gift cards from some favorite local eateries will be drawn as door prizes each half hour beginning at 5:30. Please call ahead to organizer Erin Hawkins at 661-706-9269 to inform her of your commitment to being there.

Come on over to Houchin Community Blood Bank on Truxtun Avenue between 5 and 8 on Thursday the 20th of October. What could be better than having a good time while helping to build up our county’s blood supply. Neighbors helping neighbors. If you reside outside of Bakersfield, maybe you’ll consider getting over to your local blood bank and donating. It’s a satisfying feeling to give the gift of life.

~ xoA ~

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Clearing the Clutter

From 1995 to 2000,  I was a grad student at  California State University, Bakersfield, in their counseling program. This week, I threw away my masters degree notes and papers. If they had been kids, some of those notes and papers would be old enough to drive a car.

I hadn’t intended to ditch my college notes, hadn’t even thought about them in several years. But, one thing does lead to another, and somehow I found myself doing the unexpected.

Observing that the encroaching clutter in the house was beginning to cause claustrophobia, Judy and I embarked on a marathon sort and purge campaign. I’d snatched long-neglected clothing off the hangers and out of bureau drawers and had taken them to the Discovery Shop, the local American Cancer Society resale store.

Clothing on its way to be recycled

Then, after hauling out everything in my office and three days of going through it, deciding what to keep and what to toss, I took a couple of boxes out to the garage, thinking I’d store them in the cupboard marked “Annis’s Stuff”. There was no place to put them. Every shelf was full. The next thing I knew, the dusty garaged boxes were strewn over the cement floor.  Lids off, or their four corner flaps untucked, the opened receptacles revealed yellowed loose-leaf and typewritten pages, ink-faded 3x5 cards, and rubber bands that had baked brick-hard.

I rolled our large brown garbage can into the garage and began following the “Clearing the Clutter” instructions that I’d written on a card for myself as a psych class assignment in 1996. (Every now and then, that card floats to the surface of my desk.) It reads like this:

* Remember to use the self-instructions while you’re working on those piles.
* Keep going. Don’t stop to READ the papers.
* Throw away or put away the stacks.
* ‘Atta girl! It’s coming.
* Great! That table (desk, floor, shelf) is cleaned off!
* Don’t worry. You’re getting there.

And, I did get there. Heaving and tugging and stacking, ruthlessly getting rid of Statistics 520 and other items that brought back memories of sweat and tears, failures and triumphs. Three hours later, there was space galore on the shelves, and I rolled the full, heavy, hard-to-steer garbage can to the back yard. I was glad I’d been working out at the gym.

Feeling a bit lighter myself when finished, I wondered, Why do we hold onto that stuff?  Sometimes out of necessity? Or comfort? Or just plain forgetfulness? Maybe all of the above.
Office closet -- everything in its place

One thing’s for sure: clearing the clutter feels good. Knowing that I’ve dealt with my stuff, and not left it for someone else to manage, is satisfying. There’s pride in accomplishment when I see the neatly-arranged treasures I’ve kept. Yes, there’s plenty more that needs to go. But, this week I’m on a roll and hitting par. 

How's your stuff? How do you keep it under control?

~ xoA

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Advice from a Redwood

The words leapt out at me from the heading on a tall, thin plastic bookmark on the shelf at the Visitors’ Center at Prairie Creek State and National Redwood Park. We’d spent the day hiking amidst these natural monuments and decided to take one last look around the gift shop.
“Advice from a REDWOOD.” Hmmm, I thought, reading the rest of the text. This is an excellent message for daily life. So, I’m sharing it here with all of you.
Stand Tall and Proud
Sink Your Roots into the Earth
Be Content with Your Natural Beauty
Drink Plenty of Water
Enjoy the View!
      ~ Ilan Shamir ~
Most of The Redwood’s recommendations ring true for me. Others, I will work on incorporating. For example, I definitely need to drink more water. Which ones are already a part of your attitude and habits?
~ xoA ~

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 11, 2001

They changed our lives -- the attacks of September 11, 2001. We witnessed the devastation, felt the sorrow, and suffered the losses as individuals and as a nation. Though watching from across the country, we west coast Americans felt the impact as surely as if it were in our own back yards. It wasn’t “them” who were attacked. It was “us.”

My friend and colleague, Bobbi Emel, featured her September 11th resiliency story on her blog this week. Reading it inspired me to share my story of that day.

The ringing telephone woke us. Our friend Karen had just heard of the attacks and called to let us know what was happening, "Are you listening to NPR? A plane flew into the World Trade Center!" Turning on the TV, we were stunned and horrified at that moment. Even more so when we saw the live shots of New York City. Then came the pictures from the Pentagon and the report of the crashed plane in Pennsylvania. 

We watched for a few hours -- as long as we could stand it. Then, we went out for a walk in a beautiful wooded area of Coos Bay called Empire Lakes. Being active and being in nature seemed to soothe our spirits, even though the attacks dominated our conversation.

Next, we drove to the Pony Village Mall, where Karen's cookware store, along with the espresso bar, was a favorite local hangout. Usually, each table in the mall promenade just outside the store entry held a small vase of fresh flowers from Karen's garden. On September 11, candles burned and their glow reflected from the tawny table tops. She had also set up a small TV so everyone could keep up with the latest news. And, yes, the locals had come to be with others and share their feelings and the experience. In disbelief, we spoke in hushed voices as we glanced toward the TV and talked about where we were when we heard the news. This would be a day when every person would vividly recall every detail.

Judy and I were scheduled for a vacation to Egypt the very next week. We'd been practicing our Arabic greetings and tourist phrases with the aid of language tapes and were practically packed to go. That morning of 9-11, the immediate calls from our family contained questions, pleas, and orders about the trip.

“You’re not going, are you?” 

“Please, don’t go. If you want to see the pyramids, you can rent the video.”

“You’re NOT going.”

To each person, we said, “Let’s just wait and see what happens.” But, before the end of the day, it was apparent that we would not make that trip. Ever.

Now it’s been ten years. I still have a dull ache in my heart for those lost -- the victims and the rescue workers who were doing their jobs, even when it threw them into peril.  I ache for their loved ones and for the survivors, whose lives were ruthlessly catapulted into an unimaginable track. My ache seems small, when I compare it to what theirs must be like. 

But, I remember.

Where were you, and how did you hear the news of September 11, 2001? None of us will ever forget.
~ xoA ~

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Book Signing

Last Saturday was a gorgeous day for riding my Goldwing over to Books by the Bay for my book signing of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for the Young at Heart. The sun glinted off the newly-polished bike, and the look of it hid the fact that it is a 1992 model with almost 144,000 miles on it. When I bought it in 1993, the odometer read around 2,000.

We had to do a bit of shifting around because of a large party in The Grounds Cafe, which is inside the bookstore. But that worked to our advantage as the folks who were there for the signing were able to find seats and gather around a nucleus of comfy chairs for a more cozy feel.

Judy and Karen helped get everything organized and arranged the book display in a more strategic location. Her tripod set up and camera ready, Judy began taking photos. Friend Diana introduced me, and I was off to a fine start.

There could not have been a more attentive, interested crowd. After I read my story, "Did You Ride that Thing?" the audience asked many great questions about my bike and about motorcycling. They listened and followed along in their own books as I read two humorous stories by other contributors. And, the books sold out. Bookstore owner Harold started a waiting list and ordered more copies.

It was such a gratifying and wonderful experience, reading a slice of my life that has been nationally published and having folks buy the book and want me to sign it for them.

Any of us can do this; we all have stories to tell of meaningful or weird or funny things that have happened in our lives. We just need to write them down and share them with the world. There are typically 101 stories in each volume of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Yours could be one of them, too. Go to and see what upcoming topics one of your life stories might fit. Then get started. See you in the Table of Contents.
~ xoA

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Coastal Mini-Vacation

Bridge over the Rogue River at Gold Beach
How many times had I breezed down Highway 101 on my way to “somewhere else” and wondered what was down a river road or how the beach looked at Nesika? How many times had I wished I’d been going slow enough to pull off at a viewpoint or could explore a waterfront area? Everytime. So, we decided that this time we would follow every nook and cranny, every pull-out, every road or trail that appealed to us. This was my birthday season mini-vacation.

We meandered south on a Sunday morning. Visiting with friends Elaine and Gene in Port Orford, hanging out at the harbor in Gold Beach, pausing for photos all along the coast, and stopping to eat our picnic lunch at a rest stop, we made the 107 miles to Brookings, Oregon, in about six hours.

Cape Sebastian Overlook

Our usual style is pretty frugal -- staying in hostels or mom-and-pop motels. But this time, we decided to splurge, to treat ourselves to a nice place, a real bed and breakfast. We chose a winner in Brookings’ charming South Coast Inn,, where friendly, knowledgeable innkeepers Michael and Cheryl Clines and mom Grace, showered us with hospitality and delicious food. 

 Their gorgeous gardens relaxed and delighted us, and the inn’s convenient location was great, serving as our base over the next two days.

On day one, we drove into Prairie Creek State and National Redwood Park, about sixty miles south, near the Klamath River, in California. We spent a beautiful, tranquil day hiking among the redwoods and taking photos. We ate our picnic lunch in the shadow of “Big Tree,” the largest tree in the park.  

The beginning of the trail

You can get a perspective on the size of the tree
Our second exploring day was for beaches around Brookings. Though there was a bit of fog when we stepped out at Lone Ranch Beach, we could see well and were pleased with our beach walk and the challenge of some of the rocky areas. At Harris Beach Park, the sun was out and the fog had lifted. We saw a large number of family groups out enjoying the water and sandy beach area.


After dinner at Pancho’s on 101 in Brookings, we headed up the Chetco North Bank road to Loeb Park and found it to be a lovely place with campgrounds, river access, and a myrtlewood grove. That was a pleasant and surprising find, and we wished we’d had more time to hike the well-marked trails.

Myrtlewood grove at Loeb Park


The morning of our departure, we had a lovely breakfast and conversation with B&B mates who were driving the coast and circling the Olympic peninsula.  Retracing our path north to Coos Bay, we took time to stop and see some things we'd missed on the way down. 

Arch Rock
It's amazing how a few days away, fairly close to home, can create a different sense of life and self. 

~ xoA

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sharing my Exciting News

The medium-sized mystery box, left by UPS, sat on the tiny wind porch. I hadn’t ordered anything. Examining the label didn’t give me any clues of the contents. Then, my eye fell on the blue illustration that encircled the bottom half of the box, and I read “Simon & Schuster.” Then, it computed. “My BOOKS!”

Last winter, I submitted a story to Chicken Soup for the Soul for their upcoming volume,
Inspiration for the Young at Heart. All stories in the Chicken Soup books are true -- slices of the authors’ lives. Mine is about my motorcycling in the second half of my life and is called “Did You Ride that Thing?”

My story had been accepted for publication, and now, here were my copies. Opening the box, I held my breath and dove through the excess packing paper to reveal the books. What a thrill!

But there was more to come. Our friends Karen and Marilyn, in their enthusiasm, jumped right in and approached Harold Midyette, the owner of Books by the Bay in North Bend, about the book, my story, and my connection to this community. Within the hour, I was meeting with Harold, and we were setting up a book signing for August 27, from 1-3 pm! Now, that’s exciting -- and more than I ever expected to happen. 

But there was more good news to come, this time from a different source. Owner, publisher, and editor of Bakersfield’s Wellness Quarterly, Jerri Neptune, had mailed my hard copy of the Summer Issue. Filled with excitement, I flipped through to page 10 to see my article, “Friendship -- Rx for a Better Life.” The Wellness Quarterly is available for free at various locations around Bakersfield, or you can see the entire magazine online at

It’s been a fabulous week, one of validation and inspiration. It’s also been a time of gratitude for the support and encouragement of my family and friends, my writing groups, and my fellow Writers of Kern members.
~ xoA ~
Chicken Soup for the Soul. Inspiration for the Young at Heart, available in bookstores August 23

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Turning my Goals into Action

Working to achieve a goal can be frustrating and downright discouraging if we're not making headway. For a goal to become more than a wish or a hope or a dream, I had to figure out what would best help me reach it.

The goal writing lessons that I used with seventh and eighth graders in my classroom  became the technique that would work for me. It's good for any goal, whether I'm working on a daily or a mid- or long-term goal.

Here are the writing steps I take:

1. Visualize the change I need to make. That becomes my goal.

2. Write the goal. Write it in the present tense - as if I am doing it now. I am getting my health under control with diet and exercise. I am clearing the clutter from my desk. I am finishing project A. 
Not “I’m going to...” or “I want to...” or “I will try to...”  But, “I am...”

3. Place the goal where I can see it. For a long-term goal, I might write it on three or four cards or Post-its and put them in prominent places.

4. Each day, I write the goal on my organizational sheet along with my to-do list.

Two action steps were huge in helping me accomplish my health goal this past year:

1. I shared my goal with my best friend and partner, Judy. Then with a few others.

2. Several times a day, I asked myself the crucial question:  “Does my behavior match my goal?”

The impact of that question is remarkable. Judy would invite me to go for a morning walk, and I’d almost decline, but I’d think, Does this behavior match my goal? Then I’d get up from my computer and be ready to go. Shopping for groceries and trying to create new eating habits, the question would come to mind, Does buying this match my goal? Yes to spinach, whole grains, and broccoli; no to ice cream and white rice.

Posing the question gets me back if I get sidetracked or lose focus when working on a project.

So, when you have a goal in mind and want to get off to a powerful start with it, write it in the present tense, and be sure to question your behavior and whether it's contributing to your success in reaching that goal. Before too long, the goal becomes a part of you.

What success have you had with recent goals? How did you put them into action?

How would you write the goal that you are ready to work toward?

~xo A ~

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Making Goals become Reality

Just like people, goals come in all sizes and flavors:  Personal, career, fitness, educational, spiritual, financial, and Olympic.   Bite-sized, baby-step goals, accomplished one after another, put us that much closer to our larger goal.

Taking stock of ourselves and looking toward where we want to be,
we visualize ourselves reaching that goal.  Next, we figure out the necessary steps for accomplishment.  Then, at each benchmark, we feel proud of our achievement and take the next step on our way to making our goal.

A mentor, trainer, friend, teammate, or coach can help us get there.  We need to seek out and find those who we can count on for support as we work toward our goals.  Those individuals are positive influences for success.  Why?  Because the likelihood of completing our goals increases hugely when we include others in our plans. 

If we:

  • Just hear an idea, it’s 10%

  • Consciously decide to adopt an idea - 25%

  • Decide when we will do it - 40%

  • Plan how we will do it - 50%

  • Commit to someone else that we’ll do it - 65%

  • And, when we have a specific accountability appointment with the person to whom we have committed, there’s a 95% chance that we will actually complete the goal.

Our job is to keep pushing toward our goals – whatever they may be.  What does it take?  Determination, vision, persistence, guts, and dedication – to our dream, our goal, and committing out loud to another person for accountability.

Set yourself up for making your goals become reality. Each step, no matter how small, gets you closer. Yes, even baby steps count. Now, what goal are you dreaming up?

~ xoA ~