When Work is Pleasure

“Life is short, and it’s up to you to make it sweet.” – Sadie Delany

Am I going to change the world, or am I going to change me? Or maybe change the world a little bit, just by changing me? Sadie Delany

Recently I answered a short survey for writers that asked us to categorize our blogs. According to the categories listed, I am an “Up-and-comer” because I have more than 100 subscribers. The rest of the description of the Up-and-comer was, “You’re starting to see some traction but aren’t sure where to go from here.” This doesn’t seem true, but I don’t fit in the next levels, semi-pro and pro, because I’m not paid.

And when I told a friend that my blog has more than 3,000 subscribers, he responded, “But are you paid?”

Maybe I am overly sensitive, but I infer from these two occurrences that some people think I am not a successful blogger, because I am not paid.

I talked about this with a group of friends, who immediately jumped to my defense. “3,000 subscribers? That’s amazing.”

I then made self-deprecating remarks. “Not many people actually read all my posts.”

These friends then went on,

  • “It doesn’t matter if everyone reads your blog consistently. 3,000 subscribers is a lot.”
  • “You inspired me to start my own blog.”
  • “If you get one person thinking about her life, you’ve made a difference.”

After reflecting on this, I looked at the 2015 WordPress report for my blog. Women Making Strides received 3,600 views last year. That is not bad.  Thank you, dear reader, for your support. The report stated, “Some of your most popular posts were written before 2015. Your writing has staying power.” Suddenly I feel successful despite what others may think. Just as important, I enjoy writing the posts and reading your comments.


I also enjoy my work as a church librarian, although I am not paid for that either. I love books, so this ministry is a pleasure. My work has a purpose, and I like helping people. For example, I recently helped a man find resources for talking to a friend who has turned away from God.

However, work may not always be a pleasure. A few years ago, my daughter Katie was on track for being a teacher. She taught preschoolers and then taught English to children in South Korea. Unfortunately, Katie didn’t enjoy teaching because it sapped her energy. She decided to become a graphic designer.

After earning a second degree, Katie is now employed full-time at a small company, where she enjoys doing a variety of design work.

I’m glad Katie changed her career path, and that her work is now a pleasure.

What about you?

Is your work (paid or unpaid) a pleasure? Does your work have a purpose? How do you feel about that?


Posted in Intentional Living, personal leadership, Work | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

On the Brink of a New Year

“New Year’s Day. A fresh start. A new chapter in life waiting to be written. . . . Today carve out a quiet interlude for yourself in which to dream, pen in hand. Only dreams give birth to change.” –  Sarah Ban Breathnach

Lately I keep seeing articles and blog posts about preparing for 2016.

  • Releasing 2015
  • How to find your “One Word”
  • Deriving a theme for 2016
  • Making resolutions—or not

I’ve already derived my resolutions, and as usual, they are not much different than last year’s. I’ve decided not to beat myself up about this. It is good that I know what I want and that I keep trying.

I think this year my One Word will be “Create”. Because if I want my dream life, I need to create it. I need to create a sanctuary at home. I need to create a writer’s life—my writer’s life. I need to create written work. I need to create a more fit body so I can fully enjoy traveling with my husband.

To finish preparing for 2016, I asked myself, “What do I want to change in my life?” and “How will I do that?” Clues for answering this arose when I thought about recent experiences I’ve had and how they made me feel.

Early in December, my sister and I went on two holiday housewalks in one weekend. We enjoyed seeing beautiful houses all dressed up for the holidays, including the interiors. However, two days of this may have been too much, because I came home with house lust–a yearning to live in a bigger, custom home in a beautiful setting.

I could sit here and be envious, but it’s better to be inspired instead. After all, do I really want the indoor and outdoor maintenance needed for a home like that? Do I want to have to clean such a house or to pay someone to clean it?

Given the opportunity, I’d trade my house for one of these. But what I most like about them is the spaciousness. If I get rid of clutter, my house would feel serene and spacious, too. This is something I am inspired to work on in 2016.

Another thing I’ve noticed lately is that a couple of friends made derogatory remarks about women who are not employed. The remarks were said lightheartedly, not with malice, but I found them hurtful. I’m not employed for pay and such remarks are partly true about me—I’m not as productive as I could be.

And I’m guilty of occasionally making similar thoughtless remarks. A friend created a beautiful homemade Christmas card for my family, and I said, “She has too much time on her hands.”

Isn’t that true of me, with the time I spend on social media? With my collecting papers and constantly having to sort them and clear them out? These are timewasters I can cut back on this year. And the lovely woman who created those homemade cards is making art. By taking the time to create these cards, she is showing people she cares.

I am envious of another friend who has the ability to make her food look beautiful. This is a meal Rachell prepared for herself (skirt steak with black bean and avocado salad):

rachells skirt steak with black bean and avacado salad

Photo from Rachell Ross Kitchen, who blogs at http://www.levelup2thenextphase.com

And this is a dessert she prepared for herself (poached pear):

rachells poached pear

Photo from Rachell Ross Kitchen, who blogs at http://www.levelup2thenextphase.com

These also are works of art—and Rachell cooks like this even when eating alone. I can learn from her to savor my food and “eat with the eyes” as she says, rather than to gobble my food. I can be inspired by her to create beauty in my home. I can learn from Rachell to treat myself with care.

We need to learn from each other without envy. Being envious indicates that we think we couldn’t do what the other person is doing. But if we want to badly enough and have confidence in ourselves, we can. We need to decide what we want. Let’s live our lives the way we want to while being inspired by others.

Happy New Year to you!

What are your feelings about recent happenings in your life? What would you like to change in the new year? How will you do that?

Posted in Beauty, Goals, Inspiration, New Year, self-care | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Can We be Grateful?

“Most of us forget to take time for wonder, praise and gratitude until it is almost too late. Gratitude is a many-colored quality, reaching in all directions. It goes out for small things and for large; it is a God-ward going.” ― Faith Baldwin

Most of us know someone who seldom expresses gratitude. Perhaps she is a perfectionist. The weather is never just right—it’s too hot, too cold, or too windy. Their holiday gatherings? Either too many people attend or too few.

It can be hard to feel grateful in less-than-perfect circumstances.

If there’s a roof over our heads, we have a reason to be grateful. If there’s food on the table, we have a reason to be grateful. If we have our health, we have a reason to be grateful. If we have someone who cares for us, we have a reason to be grateful. If we have someone we care for, we have a reason to be grateful.

Sometimes we have legitimate reasons for not feeling grateful. Perhaps you have a life-threatening illness or have recently lost a loved one or you are unemployed. Circumstances like this can be wrenching, and it is natural to not feel grateful when we are going through tough times. I empathize, for I’ve faced tough times too. (See Dealing With the Doldrums). During such times, it is difficult to appreciate people who tell us to look at the bright side.

But what does it do for us if we stay in a position of feeling sorry for ourselves? When we’ve gotten through the initial trauma, is there something for which we can be grateful?

2015-10-11 18.16.26

I’ve mentioned my friend Tina in other blog posts. When she was near the end of her life due to cancer, she told me she wanted to write a book. It would be called The Gift of Cancer. I was incredulous and asked her how she could feel that way. She said cancer had brought her several gifts. She’d learned what was important in life. She’d learned to pamper herself now and then. She’d been the recipient of so much goodness from people who brought her food, came to visit, and prayed for her. She was reconciled to someone with whom she’d had a petty disagreement. She’d learned how much she meant to people. She’d developed a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.

Tina never got a chance to write that book. But I hope her way of thinking can still benefit someone. Tina accepted the biggest challenge of her life with grace. If she could be grateful for cancer, what can we be grateful for?

Another friend lost her son last spring while he was serving in the armed forces of the United States. Today she wrote, “I’m thankful for the tremendous support of family and friends especially this year.” I admire her ability to express gratitude while dealing with her sorrow.

My wish for you and me is simple. May we be grateful every day of our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

What are you grateful for? Is gratitude difficult for you right now?

Posted in Challenges, Gratitude | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Taking Sensible Risks

Last month, my husband and I enjoyed a vacation in Wisconsin and Michigan. Ken wanted to go biking in Peninsula State Park in Door County. I, however, have a fear of heights and was worried we’d be biking near the edge of cliffs. Also, I had only ridden my bike once all summer and didn’t know if I could keep up with him. So we didn’t bike.

We passed up the bike rental place and went inside the park, and I immediately felt like a stick-in-the-mud for saying no. Children and seniors biked past us on flat trails and appeared to be having a great time. We hiked a bit and eventually got to the Eagle Trail, which was marked “Difficult.” I could see that Ken wanted to hike it. So, to redeem myself for not biking, I agreed to try it. The path started out easy but soon was quite difficult. We climbed on sharp rocks, walked through mud, and slid down steep sections. I said, “I can’t do this,” but we completed the hike.

Sue on Eagle Trail

When we got back to the car, Ken said, “I’m glad we didn’t go on that bike ride or we wouldn’t have been able to hike the Eagle Trail!” I was happy I had taken this little risk.

Please know this was not dangerous, like technical mountain climbing. Women Making Strides is about taking care of ourselves, and I don’t advocate taking life-threatening risks.

A few weeks later, I took another little risk. I would either have to do without a car or I’d have to take our hybrid. We’ve had the car for over a year, and I had never driven it without Ken. The hybrid drives differently than our other cars, and I had convinced myself it was difficult to drive. However, after some thought, I realized I could drive that car. I just was fearful because it was different.

Driving the car turned out to be both easy and fun.

This success made me feel like taking other risks that day. I went into the nonprofit where I’d worked previously. This might not sound like much of a risk, but I’d been resisting going in. I still had bad feelings about being terminated shortly before my mother passed away three years ago. See Eyes of Faith.

I enjoyed seeing friends there who I hadn’t seen for a long time. One volunteer asked me what I knew many of them wondered about: “So Sue, why did you leave? Why didn’t you visit us?” I told her my side of the story with a previous director at the nonprofit, and she completely understood. Our conversation was healing for both of us.

That evening, I networked on behalf of my church at a chamber of commerce event. I would not have enjoyed such an event when I first started networking a few years ago. Also, I felt I didn’t belong there. The event was for chamber members, who typically own small businesses, and for church staff. I am fortunate to be treated like staff, but I am an unpaid volunteer.

However, it turns out I enjoyed good food, wine, and mingling with nice people. When talking with chamber members, we discussed their work first. Then I said “I’m the church librarian, but I’m really a volunteer.” They all responded kindly with statements like, “Don’t belittle yourself. What you’re doing is important,” “I really value libraries and books,” and “I like the displays you put in the window—they’re always pertinent.”

My overall feeling on that day was empowered. Maybe taking these little risks could help me write a book, which I feel is a bigger risk. Some people won’t like my book no matter what I write—and I don’t like being criticized. Also I have written very little fiction, and the book I want to write is a mystery related to the Women Making Strides theme.

Despite my fears, I plan to try NaNoWriMo this year. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. In order to succeed, I must write 50,000 words during November. Announcing this to you is a risk in itself because I’ve tried NaNoWriMo twice already—and failed. However, I am giving it another try. If I can establish a daily writing habit and make progress on my book, I will feel like a success.

Have you ever felt empowered by taking a risk? What risks have you been avoiding?  

Posted in Challenges, Empowerment | Tagged , | 7 Comments

A Tool to Shape A Life

“This pouring thoughts out on paper has relieved me. I feel better and full of confidence and resolution.” – Diet Eman

Journaling expert Dawn Herring invited me to write a blog post on life lessons that I’ve gained from journaling. The most important lesson I’ve learned from journaling is a way of living, which includes my efforts to be a Woman Making Strides.

Ironically, it was probably the example set by two men that planted the seeds for my desire to be proactive. Dad was a dedicated family man and had a great sense of humor. He would sit with a handkerchief on his head until my kids noticed and laughed. However, he was always overweight, and when he was elderly, he had diabetes and heart problems. I would bring him to doctors, and they would tell him to lose weight. Near the end of his life, he had intense pain due to a toe deadened by gangrene, but could not have surgery because of his high risk factors. He died in 2009 from a heart attack.

Then there was my friend Bob, who was the same age as Dad. Bob was passionate about his sports of running and triathlon. He competed in Ironman competitions (2½-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and a 26-mile run.) Bob was in his seventies when he coached my running group, and he ran back and forth between the slowest and fastest runners. I learned a lot from him and his enthusiasm.

Reflecting in my journal about these very different lifestyles made me realize that people have choices in how they live. I had choices in how to live. Would I keep running or would I be sedentary? Did I want to keep my weight in check? What else did I want in my life?

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Much as I admire Bob, who is now in his mid-eighties and still doing Ironmans, I didn’t want to live like him or my Dad. When Bob was working and raising his family, he woke up at 3:00 in the morning to get his long runs in. Fitness and preparing for races are a major focus in his life. He eats his favorite ice cream only after running a marathon.

When I sat down and journaled about these two nearly opposite ways of living, I realized that I wanted a balance somewhere between what these men demonstrated. I wanted to do what I could to have good health without it being a major focus of my life. After journaling more, I started to exercise a few hours a week and try to keep my weight within healthy guidelines, while allowing myself occasional treats. (OK, more than occasional.)

I’ve learned from both of these older men; for instance, from my Dad’s a sense of humor. I remember him joking, “Don’t be a chicken all your life!” He’d grin as he said this, but I remember his words, even when I debated whether or not to write this blog post.

Through journaling, I continued to shape my personal mission statement. I realized the need to take care of my mind and spirit to attain the balance that I want. We all have trials, so why not accept mine, rather than complain and act like a victim? And I wanted to make a difference in the world during my short time here. This statement below is what I came up with through journaling:

A woman who makes strides appreciates being alive and takes active steps to care for her body, mind, and spirit. She accepts challenges along her path and uses her God-given talents to better the world.”

At first, this mission statement was solely for me, but as I started blogging about it, other women expressed interest in this way of life. I’ve not been perfect, but I’m making progress. If you are a Woman Making Strides, please join in so we can learn from you.

What life lessons have you learned from journaling? Do you have a mission statement for your life?

Find journaling resources at Dawn Herring’s website at www.dawnherring.net.

Posted in journaling, Motivation, personal leadership, Proactive, Running, self-care, Weight | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Choices Matter in the Long Run

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

A few years ago, I signed up for a beginners’ running class at a local running store. It would be a great way to get back into running after several years off, and I hoped to meet someone to run with. The class lived up to my expectations on both counts. We began very gently: on the first day our workout consisted of 4 minutes walking, 1 minute running, five times. When the running class ended ten weeks later, we were well trained for a 5K Turkey Trot.

During the ten weeks, we ran once a week with the class and were given a schedule to follow on our own. Another runner, Chris, lived in my town, so we often ran together.

Although I followed the training plan for the most part, I was not as dedicated as Chris. She ran more often than I did, and it soon became apparent that she was more fit than me. Indeed, she ran the 5K race at a much better pace than I did.

I had a choice during this time. I could have stepped up my running so we could keep running together. Instead, after the 5K race, I essentially gave up. I had no one else to run with and didn’t have the ambition to run on my own as winter set in. Chris would have run with me, but I didn’t want to slow her down. My decision not to step up my running led to my not running at all.

Fast forward to about 15 months ago, when I again decided to get fit. I walked with another friend once or twice a week. Over time, the opposite of the above situation developed. I became more fit by running and walking, and my friend was busy with other activities. Some weeks, our walks were her only exercise. Although we walked up to 3 miles, it was at such a slow pace that it wasn’t a good workout for me. Eventually, we stopped walking together. My friend became too busy to meet, and I suspect she sensed my frustration. It’s been close to a year since we walked, and recently she told me she has gained twenty pounds.

In both of the above situations, different choices could have been made.

Now once again, I face a similar choice. My friend Muriel is a little faster than me and has more endurance. She runs more often than I do, and she often runs farther. Sometimes she runs twice a day. If I keep running only two to three times a week and if she keeps running half marathons, we will soon be mismatched for running together.

Will I push harder and rise to the challenge by running more often and working harder to stay fit? Or will I not?

The decision is up to me and so is the end result.

What choices have you made? What have been the outcomes? What decisions do you currently face? 


Posted in Challenges, personal leadership, Running | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Finding Beauty Wherever We Are

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.” – Ashley Smith

In my visits to a local arboretum, I often see people I know. During the past week, two of them said to me, “This is my church.” These people are churchgoers, but I knew what they meant. There is something about the beauty of nature that touches us and changes us if we pay attention.

A few months ago, I had finished shopping at Aldi’s and was putting away my shopping cart. A woman said to me, “Look at that sunset!” The sky was the most beautiful fluorescent pink with deep purple clouds. I drove home marveling at how beautiful the sunset was, and that I’d almost missed it.

We get in our routines and forget to look. Recently I was running at a forest preserve and was preoccupied with checking my I-phone for my mileage and running time. I also was looking at the path to ensure I didn’t step on a squished frog or in a pothole. What I wasn’t doing was noticing my surroundings. So I paused and looked around me. A beautiful, large blue heron stood among greenery at the edge of the nearby lake. As I watched, he lifted up and flew away. I’d almost missed seeing him.

blue heron at Danada

We go to art museums to see paintings of landscapes but we forget to look at the real thing. God is the master artist. How often do we stop at look at His paintings and sculptures? And do we reflect on them as we do with museum paintings?

Being in nature lifts my mood and often puts my worries in perspective. Even when I start a walk feeling irritated or stressed, I end it feeling soothed.

In my post Dealing with the Doldrums, I wrote about how a visit to the arboretum lifted my bad mood. A reader commented, “Wish I could afford to just go somewhere too.” But we can find the beauty of nature anywhere, even at a retention pond. We just have to stop and notice.

In the U.S., Queen Anne’s lace is thought of as a weed, and there is a lot of it at a retention pond two blocks from my home. Here is a picture:

qeen anne's lace for blog post

Is that not lovely? If you really look at a dandelion, it is pretty also.

I wrote a poem, which was published in the Prairie Light Review literary magazine, about that retention pond and the transformative beauty of nature. I’m sharing it with you:

Stormwater Pond
Wind shrieks,
Brushes my cheeks,
Clouds of slate slide
Across the dreary sky.
Daring the storm to strike
I beat a steady pulse
On the pavement

Ducks with emerald heads
And golden beaks
Strut past dry reeds
Into the glistening pond.
Tiny silver peaks
Ripple across
And diamonds
Cascade from a culvert

Wind screams again
Pulling my hair
Up and back and sideways.
I stand tall
Shoulders back
Head held high
And stride

What beauty have you seen in nature recently? Has nature, or God working through nature, ever transformed you?

Posted in Beauty, God, Gratitude, Nature | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments