Sunday, July 16, 2017

Week in Review: July 16, 2017

How can it be that we are already in the middle of July?! I suppose Mom was right... the older we get, the faster time flies.


Currently reading The Chaperone by Laura Moriarity. I decided to read this book first from the stack I showcased last week because...
1) I like the historical time period: New York City in the mid-1920s
2) I like books that fluidly flow back and forth between the story of the past and the narrative of the present
3) the author is a local Kansas girl

The story centers around two women from Wichita: fifteen-year-old Louise who wants to escape the boredom of the Midwest in order to find fame and fortune in the New York entertainment world... and Cora, the 30-something year old housewife who acts as the young lady's chaperone, but really desires to return to her roots and discover her hidden past.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Week in Review: July 9, 2017

Summer has officially arrived. We are looking at temperatures in the 90s with triple-digit heat index. I can't complain though... I have a cool house and plenty of time to read and write.


I will finish A Piece of The World by the end of today. The story is based on the Andrew Wyeth's 1948 painting, Christine's World. I've enjoyed this leisurely read after last week's high intensity read of Into the Water. I had hoped the story would focus more on the relationship between Christine and the artist rather than detailing her backstory, but I've enjoyed it nonetheless.

While I'm not sure which book I will pick up next, I'm comfortable in knowing I have plenty of choices.

June was a great book-bargain month. The local library held its annual book sale, where I scored a number of novels in my TBR pile in great condition.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Week in Review: July 2, 2017

I know it's been a while since I've participated in my favorite weekly meme... but I did not realize it had been nearly five months! How does time pass so quickly?!

My lack of participation does not mean a lack of reading or writing, which I will detail below.


My GoodReads Challenge is well-ahead of schedule.

I set the goal to read a book-a-week, and currently, I've read 47 books. Now, many of these are Kindle Unlimited books on writing and self-publishing (more about that below...) and a few have focused on Middle-Grade historical fiction focusing on 19th immigrants (research for a new writing project). But I've also read several notable works of contemporary fiction.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Latest European Tour

2017 Group of 38 Travelers
Photo credit: D. Shiner
Last week I concluded my six-week series on how and why I lead student trips to Europe. I started the series about a month before I was to take my fourth tour: March 10-21, 2017.

Since I am (mostly) retired, this was probably the last time I will have the opportunity to introduce students to international travel. Of course, I would never refuse a request... but my contacts are dwindling, and perhaps it is time to pass the baton.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

How I Nourish Myself While Traveling

Prior to the April Blogging Challenge, where I focused on Journaling A-Z, I wrote a six post series on Leading a Student Tour to Europe. This series coordinated with my fourth trip, where I took 38 students and adults on a whirlwind tour of London, Paris, Florence, Rome, and Sorrento. We traveled from March 10-21, 2017, and had a fantastic time!

This post will conclude that series and then segue into the highlights of each of the visited cities.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017: Wrap-Up

Well, that was a quick month! Anyone else feel the same?

The A-Z Blogging Challenge of 2017 has officially ended, and once again I am simultaneously relieved and disappointed.

While the pace of writing a blog post per day can be overwhelming, with a bit of forethought and pre-planning, it is doable. And crossing that finish line makes the effort all worthwhile!

In this wrap-up post, I thought I'd share what I love most about this challenge, a few tips I've learned along the way, some new friends I met this month, and my excitement to participate again in 2018.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Journaling: Z = ZZzzz

A bit of a stretch for the letter Z but hey... it's the last day of the challenge, and it works for today's topic: Dreams.

Journaling our dreams can take two distinct forms.

One way is to keep a notebook and pen by your bedside. As you transition out of REM sleep and vaguely recall a nighttime dream, jot down a few notes. Reading even unintelligible scribble the next morning may help you recall the dream in detail. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Journaling: Y = Yearly Word

For several years now I have participated in the Word of the Year movement.

The concept is fairly simple. Select one word you wish to focus on to help with personal and spiritual growth. Typically I try to choose a word that helps to combat or overcome certain deficiencies in my life.

Brainstorming which word has been the subject of many journaling sessions.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Journaling: X = eXercise

I've mentioned Julia Cameron before with regards to Morning Pages. Another routine she is adamant to maintain is the weekly walk

This is not the cardiovascular exercise walk to increase heart rate, but rather a long, slow meander to increase mental observation and emotional well-being.

When I go for these kinds of walks, I try to clear my head before heading out the door. I want the walk to inform my thoughts, not the other way around. I don’t set out with a pre-determined question I need to answer, or problem I need to resolve. Rather, I allow my mind to be free from life’s distractions so I can enjoy the peace and beauty of God’s creation.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Journaling: W = Wellness Wheel

The Wellness Wheel is not a new concept.

The idea is to review the various components of our lives - the roles we play and the work we do - and align them in perfect harmony. Everything is moderation would be the motto of the Wellness Wheel.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Journaling: V = Values and Beliefs

Core values (definition): fundamental beliefs and guiding principles that dictate behavior and action. Core Values help people know right from wrong, and determine whether choices and decisions are in line with our true beliefs. 

Understanding your core values is essential to an authentic life. Rather than making decisions based on popular opinion, you make decisions based on who you are - at the core. Knowing your core values is essential to finding peace and joy with yourself.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Journaling: U = Underlying Themes

Once you've been journaling a while, several months or perhaps years, you will begin to notice recurring themes in life.

At this point, you are ready to begin what Dave Fox refers to as Reflective Journaling.

Reflective journaling is a thought-filled process. Rather than rushing to get the words on paper, reflective journaling reads the words you've already written. It combines those written accounts with other life experiences, which allows you to discover patterns that were not so obvious before: Underlying Themes.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Journaling: S = Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones are what I consider the defining moments of life - moments of great significance and/or transformation.

Each life experience helps us become closer to the person we are intended to be. And each prepares us for the next logical step in life.

What do your Stepping Stones look like?
Think of the milestone moments in life first - watershed moments that you never forget. Place those on the timeline of your life. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Journaling: R = Retreat

Retreat has two distinct meanings.

One is more negative in nature: to withdraw from a situation, possibly for safety reasons. I imagine an army retreating from the enemy.

The other is more positive: a place of refuge. In this instance, I think of taking a writing retreat to a small cabin in the mountains by the lake.

Journaling can incorporate both of these definitions - at different times, depending on the circumstance.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Journaling: Q = Quotes (as prompts)

Yesterday I talked about using the Visual Arts, specifically photographs, as journaling prompts. Today I will focus on using the Literary Arts to prompt our journaling efforts.

Using the words of others to inspire our own writing is a valid method of brainstorming. It isn’t plagiarism if we don’t publish it. Since journaling is for our eyes only, there is no risk.

Music especially has a way of transporting us back to a different place in time. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Journaling: P = Prompts (visual)

Some people have no problem sitting down to journal. They write whatever pops into their mind. Others struggle with the blank page. 

Prompts provide the reluctant writer a  bit of structure.

A simple Google or Pinterest search will yield more than enough writing prompts to last two lifetimes. But it is easy enough to develop prompts on your own. 

Today I will discuss how to use the Visual Arts as journal prompts. Tomorrow I will focus on Literary Arts.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Journaling: O = Organize

While the primary purpose of journaling is to get thoughts and emotions out of our head and onto paper, there may be times when you desire to re-read entries.

For this reason, it is a good idea to give some thought to organization before you delve into a deep journaling practice.

I personally subscribe to two different organizational methods. One is to maintain a different journal for each particular subject matter. The other is to journal all thoughts into one notebook.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Journaling: N = Nine Writing Tips

I’ve spent quite a bit of time these last few days telling you to ignore the inner editor. She is detrimental to self-discovery. Organized rational thought is of little consequence at this point in the writing process.

When you journal to explore your thoughts, feelings or anxieties, there is no concern for proper grammar, spelling or punctuation. Getting words on the page is the priority. After all, this writing is for your eyes only.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Journaling: M = Morning Pages

In her book, The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron talks about the value of "morning pages" for the creative artist in all of us.  

Cameron teaches that dumping our thoughts on the page first thing in the morning - 3 pages worth of dumping - will eventually clear the mind and make room for creative inspiration to take a foothold.

Stream of consciousness is key; do not try to make sense out of these seemingly random thoughts. The idea is to empty your mind of whatever clutter remains.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Journaling: L = Love

Love: for self and others.

Let's first discuss how to show love to self.

If you are a perfectionist like myself... self-love is a difficult concept. We are constantly finding areas in which we fall short of the mark, rather than rejoicing in our victories.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Journaling K = Kick Out the Inner Editor

The inner editor is often alive and active during journaling sessions. This is the voice in our heads that constantly offers harsh criticism. 

Sometimes that voice takes on the characteristics of an old English teacher, reprimanding incorrect spelling or misplaced commas. 

Other times the voice is another authoritative adult telling us to stop whining and simply pick up the broken pieces of our lives and move on. 

Still other voices shout that our feelings are not significant, not accurate, not worthy to be shared.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Journaling: J = Journey

For the purposes of this blogging challenge... Journey is a substitute for Travel Journaling.

I love to travel. Since the age of eight when I started French lessons and discovered the beauty of another language, I have desired to see the world.

But travel writing is far more than recounting a vacation. In his fabulous book, Globejotting,  Dave Fox talks about various times we can journal about travel: before the trip, on the trip, and post trip

Similarly, I think we can utilize these same journaling concepts when writing about our life journeys.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Journaling I = Intuition

Intuition: direct perception of truth or fact independent of any reasoning process; an immediate apprehension; a keen and quick insight.

Rabbit Trail: veering off subject or off the point of conversation.

Perhaps not exactly synonyms, but when it comes to journaling, these terms are definitely related.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Journaling: H = Healing

Journaling on a regular basis is beneficial to physical health, mental well-being, and social relationships.

Giving voice to our thoughts and emotions, rather than repressing them, reduces stress and anxiety. 

By writing down our feelings, we legitimize them, accept them as real, and begin to  deal with them in a positive, healthy way. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Journaling: G = Gratitude

Another way to ease into a journaling routine is to begin with a Gratitude Journal.

The benefits of gratitude journaling are well-documented. By focusing on the blessings of life rather than troubles and strife, we develop peace of mind, a sense of joy, and lowered blood pressure.

Some prefer to begin the day on a positive note. Focusing on thanksgiving first thing in the morning jump starts the mind to look for blessings throughout the day.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Journaling: F = Five Year Journal

The past few posts have delved into longer, more emotional journaling methods - like the Spiritual Compass and Expressive Journaling.

Today I thought I would showcase a short simple style of journaling: The Five Year Journal (also known as the line-a-day diary).

For those who worry they don't have the time for more extensive journaling, or fear they don’t have enough content to write about, I highly recommend starting with a Five Year Diary / Journal. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Journaling E = Expressive Journaling

Expressive journaling is the brainchild of Dr. James Pennebaker, Chairman of Psychology at the University of Texas, Austin.

About twenty-five years ago, Dr. Pennebaker researched the connection between focused writing and corresponding health benefits. The key, he discovered, is to write about an emotional upheaval in life. Don’t just recount the facts, but delve into the personal emotions.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Journaling: D = Develop a Routine

I happen to enjoy routine. If I designate a particular time and place to a certain activity, I am more likely to develop healthy habits.

The beauty of routine is its ability to keep me on task without much thought. If you desire to journal on a regular basis, then I suggest developing a simple routine.

Of course, it will take some experimentation to find what time and place works best for you - but eventually you will find your groove.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Journaling: C = Compass

Spiritual Compass, that is.

While the Spiritual Compass is not an original idea, I have used this method of journaling for several years.

I was first introduced to the compass in 2012, when I took a weekend spiritual journaling class at the University of Iowa. The instructor, Linda Bendorf, used this concept for an afternoon of self-discovery.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Journaling: B is for Brainstorming

The greatest hindrance I hear to starting a journaling habit is not knowing what to write.

Flannery O’Conner once penned: “Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.” 

I don’t think the problem is as much we don’t what to write, but we don’t know how to access it.

Brainstorming is a great way to access those hidden topics. 

Brainstorming allows the ideas to flow without the inner critic’s interference. Forget about writing complete sentences with perfect grammar and flawless handwriting. All that matters is putting words on a page.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Journaling: A = A List of Supplies

Welcome to the first post of the A-Z Blogging Challenge!

My theme this year is Journaling A-Z ... and I feel as though I am already cheating with the title of this first article.

However, I thought reviewing supplies at the beginning of the month was essential to those who are interested in starting a Journaling routine.

One note before we begin: This blog series is based on my newest book, Journaling towards Wholeness, due to be released mid-May, 2017. If interested, please stay tuned for further details.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Worst Experiences Make the Best Stories

For the past month or so, I've shared my passion for introducing students to the world of international travel. I've discussed my primary role as Group Leader (keeping tabs on students, ensuring all are safe, and managing expectations), how to make the most of your travel time, and how to best utilize limited suitcase space.

This week I want to talk about inevitable unpleasantries.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How to Maximize Personal Item Space

Last week I discussed how to pack for a 12-day multi-city international trip in a single carryon. Not an easy feat, but entirely possible and quite liberating: no worries about lost luggage; no lifting heavy bags up several flights of stairs; no waiting in long lines at the baggage claim area.

This week I will share how I maximize the space in my personal item, and what I choose to carry with me on a daily basis.

Most airlines allow passengers to bring two items onto the plane for an international flight: a carryon, which will fit in the overhead compartment, and a personal item, which must fit under the seat in front of you.

While most travelers choose a backpack for their personal item, I must confess, I am not of that generation. I prefer to bring a book bag. One is not more "right" than the other ... it is entirely personal preference.

Monday, March 20, 2017

2017 A-Z Blogging Challenge: Theme Reveal

While the A-Z Blogging Challenge has been around for several years, this is my second time to participate - and I am thrilled!

For those who are unfamiliar with this annual event, the challenge runs from April 1-30 and encourages bloggers to write a post a day (except for Sundays) - each day focusing on a different letter of the alphabet.

Last year my theme was Paris A-Z - to tie in with a middle grade novel I was writing that focused on the French Impressionists. (As an addendum... I did complete the first draft and am now working on revisions).

This year I will focus on another personal passion: Journaling.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How to Pack for 12 Days in a Carry-On

The first time I led a multi-country tour, I cringed at the suggestion to pack for twelve days in a single carryon. Is that even possible?!

But the rationale was solid. What if your luggage is lost? By the time the airline locates the luggage, the tour has moved to a different city, and the chances of you reuniting with your suitcase is low.

Since I believe in leading by example... I vowed to give it a try.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

How to Make the Most of Your Travel Time

These past two weeks I've focused on traveling with a tour group.

The good news/bad news about group travel is the pre-planned itinerary. For the most part, you are told when to wake up, when to eat, when to board the bus, and what you will see. All tours are pre-scheduled with a professional guide and tickets to major attractions are pre-purchased, which means you may avoid some long lines.

This is a lot of group activity. Fortunately, a bit of individual free time is typically scheduled in each city. This week I thought I would share a few of my travel tips to get the most out of those free-time hours.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Why I am a Group Leader

In last week's post I shared my excitement about leading my fourth group tour to Europe. I have help, of course, by teaming up with EF Tours, which specializes in organizing student trips to a variety of countries throughout the world.

This week I thought I would share why I do this.

Sure, I love to travel, but quite frankly, being a tour leader is not a personal vacation. I take the responsibility quite seriously, and then there's the inevitable interpersonal drama that takes place when traveling in close quarters, 24-hours a day, with a variety of personality types.

So what are the pros and cons of leading such a tour?

I'm not sure there are any cons, if you are truly invested in the experience ... but the responsibilities are worth noting.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Week in Review: February 26, 2017

I typically talk about weather in this intro to the Sunday Salon. And truly, the weather has been spectacular lately. We reached a high of 80 degrees on Wednesday... In Kansas... In February.

But the record high temperatures was not the major news story of the week.

I'm sure many of you heard of the hate crime that occurred in Olathe, Kansas. A 51-year-old man, for no apparent reason, shot two men of a different race, and then shot another who tried to stop his escape.

That episode occurred two blocks from my home. Our neighborhood was on lockdown for several hours because they thought the suspect escaped on foot. I was home alone with my trusty, albeit lethargic, basset. The constant whir of helicopters circling  overhead added to the tension. I was locked in an upstairs room, watching the story unfold via FaceBook posts.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Leading a Student Tour to Europe

In a few weeks I will be leading my fourth student tour to Europe.

Since this will most likely be my last such trip, I thought I would share my experiences - what I've learned as well as a few travel trips - with others who might consider such an endeavor.

I first had this idea in 2006 - the first year I taught British Literature. I knew I was unqualified (I majored in French and Political Science) and I felt completely inadequate. I reasoned if I visited the birthplace of the authors and their stories, the literature would come to life. And if this would be true for me, wouldn't it also be helpful for students?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Week in Review: February 19, 2017

I did not mean to take a month long break. It's not that I haven't been busy reading or writing, or focusing on Nourish - my word of the year. But I'm newly resolved to get back into the blogging routine. I've missed this community.

I have read a total of seventeen books since the first of the year (a record for me). While there is a certain theme to my reading, I did cross several genres.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Week in Review: January 15, 2017

We've spent the last 48 hours bracing for the ice storm. I bought plenty of groceries to hunker down for the long weekend. I prepared a Thanksgiving dinner on Friday so we could eat leftovers the remaining days, just in case we lost power.

As is typical with Kansas weather, the storm took a slightly different route. We were completely dry on Friday. Totally dry on Saturday. And barely a glaze on the road surface this morning. By this afternoon, temperatures will rise and all will turn to rain.

But I'm not complaining. Friday night's dinner (with wine tasting) was delightful, and the dreary forecast provided the perfect excuse to stay inside to read and write for four straight days!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Welcome 2017!!

It is the first day of 2017 - a day filled with new hopes, new goals, and new intentions.

I've taken quite a break from blogging. My last regular post was mid-November, and I have not participated in the Sunday Salon since August! This was not a planned break, but apparently one I needed to take.

While I do not believe in making resolutions (why set myself up for failure?), I have made a list of intentions to focus on this year: intentions for mental health, physical well-being, and vocational growth. To that end, I want to be more intentional with my blogging in 2017. I hope to adopt the mindset of a "serious" writer, and regular blogging is key.

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