Books · Goals · Planning · Reflection · Uncategorized · Vision · Writing

Book Talk – Am I reading more?

Happy Friday! Yes, I’m sipping coffee and I’m wishing I could take the day off to read. It dawned on me that I have yet to share much about my Vision Board and my plans to read more. I used to be an avid reader. A couple of books a week was a typical average. Life got in the way. More like Igot in the way of reading!

I read an article earlier this year about how some of the world’s most successful leaders read every day. So if they can make time to read, why shouldn’t I? In all honesty, I love reading and once I started down this journey of rediscovery this year, I wanted to read more and more. Joining Brenda Novak’s book club and reading challenge was a great launching pad for me. And my “to be read” pile grows larger every day. The more I read, the more I find I want to read.

Let me share with you some (not all) of the books I’ve read so far this year. In each of the books, I will share an overall impression of the book and maybe even a link so that if you want to read it to you can. Full Disclosure: If I provide a link and you use it to purchase it via Amazon, you will be helping me sock away a bit of money to help support this site. I thank you for that.

Reading For a Better Me

<a href=”Shaping It All by Candace Cameron Bure is a great book that is packed full of motivation for physical and spiritual fitness. I love watching her in movies on the Hallmark Channel and I loved watching her grow up in Full House. This book was her way of sharing how she went from that chubby girl to a healthier and happier version of herself. I enjoyed this book because it wasn’t a diet book. It wasn’t a book that pointed out everything I do wrong. It was simply her view on how through faith and family and introspection she worked to make small changes over time that have been maintainable. As such an easy read, I keep it handy and actually pick it up every once in a while to look at end of chapters where she provides recipes and scriptures plus a little practical advice. It never hurts to reconnect. I really enjoyed it and hope you might too. Check it out.

OOLA: Find Balance in an Unbalance World by Troy and Dave the OOLA Masters. Now this book is not new to me. I got it a few years back and with my refocus using a Vision Board, I decided to pick this one back up because I wanted to revisit it. Everyone talks about work life balance and how important it is. I hear it all the time at the office. I preach it all the time to my colleagues. Does anyone really know what it means or how to do it? This book is full of how to put that into practice. I love that it even gives you an assessment to help you learn which of the 7 areas of a balance life may be needing more attention. The OOLA masters don’t tell you “how” to fix yourself. They share real stories and examples which allow you to reflect. Then they offer encouring nudges on how to find your action plan starting small and going bigger and bigger until you feel OOLA complete.

If you don’t get any other book this year, get this one! I have enjoyed reading it again and I’ve also enjoyed comparing my Vision Board for 2018 to their suggestions of an OOLA board and recognize that I have work to do to help me get balance. I also realized that I think reading this book in the past truly helped me subconciously as I was building my vision. My focus areas are closely aligned to the Seven Fs.

Reading for Joy

I have to be honest that I don’t always read books that show me “how I can do things better.” I have to read for the sheer joy of reading. It is my great escape. I love diving into other settings with fun characters and seeing what happens in their lives. Sometimes I have books that I really wanted to read but I struggle to find the time or just have a challenge connecting. Don’t you? Then there are times where I’m so engaged that I cannot put the book down and procrastinate everything else I should be doing. It is important to make time for this kind of joy. I think that even the world’s leaders have had books of fiction or non-fiction that really and truly were escapes into other settings. I learn from these characters and story lines too. So, I made sure I read from this “To Be Read” pile too. Here are some highlights on some of these other books I read in the past two months.

Edge of Darkness (The Cincinnati Series)

“>Edge of Darkness by Karen Rose was a great book. This was part of Brenda Novak’s Readers Book Club. Last night was the book club discussion where Brenda visited Karen and they hosted a Facebook Live discussion that allowed all of us to be part of the interview and discussion. I haven’t been much into mystery and supsense books but I’m a converted fan after reading this book. It is part of a series and I have added all of the other books in the series to by TBR pile because this book was that good. Her characters are real. Her settings were vivid in my imagination. And I didn’t know who did it for certain until she revealed it. I had a good guess, but I wasn’t 100 percent certain. In the discussion she let us know which of her characters in the series she has planned to “star” in upcoming books and I was very excited to know that I can look forward to some of my favorite secondary characters taking the front seat in future books. I learned a lot about how Karen manages her writing including how she keeps track of all of the characters in the series. As a writer myself insight to the writer’s life and learning tools and tips I might apply to my own work in progress and ideation process always gets me motivated and excited. She is a huge fan of Tami Hoag so I’ve decided I must prioritize some of my TBR list to ensure that I read one of those books this year instead of continuing to put it off. Funny, how an interaction with people can change your thinking in only an hour’s time.

Any Dream Will Do: A Novel

“>Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Macomber is probably my favorite of the books I’ve read recently. Do you watch Hallmark Channel Movies? I do. And Debbie is one of those writers who has had several novels made into movies. Her stories are just that captivating and full of real people and sweet outcomes that they lend so perfectly to the Hallmark lineup. I’ve watched so many and realized that I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book. So when I was taking up the challenge to read a book in February based on the look of the cover, this one stood out to me at the supermarket. And I’m so glad it did. I just loved Shay and Caden’s story. Shay is so imperfecttly perfect that she melts my heart. So much of her personality resonated with me. I felt a kinship of parts of me in my younger years when it comes to choices in trust and relationships. And much y favorite character really was probably Caden’s daughter, Sarah. She said it as she saw it as any youngster would but her insights and observations were just so simple and true. Perhaps she reminded me of my daughter at that age. Such wisdom from those so young! I hope you pick this book up and just dive into the characters and watch them grow personally and together to make a new heartwarming family unit. You will feel so good at the end. I assure you.

Her Secret Daughter (Grace Haven)

“>Her Secret Daughter by Ruth Logan Herne was a sweet “commercial” and I picked this book up so that I would have a quick read. I like the Harlequin series books for the short read. Often this is a book length that I can finish in an afternoon while sipping coffee. I enjoyed this book about Josie and I really fell in love with the characters from Grace Haven. Have you ever read a book where you love the secondary characters more than the main ones? This was definitely one of these books for me. Addie is the “secret daughter” and she was a little girl who could have been written so differently considering what she had been through in life. The author, Ruth, really had me cheering this sweet girl on because I just knew that she was surrounded by people who loved her and having a chance to know her biological mother would maybe confuse her but in the end could just be the thing to help bring her that much more joy. I was rooting for Addie more than I was rooting for Josie. And honestly, at first I wasn’t sure I liked Josie and wasn’t sure I wanted her for Jacob. In the end, Addie is who changed my mind about that. Check this book out one afternoon and enjoy it with your favorite beverage in a comfy chair.

I guess I was all about the kids in my books this month. And it proves to me that secondary characters are critcal to any story line and matter to readers. I am looking forward to the next few books on my pile. If you pick up and read any of these books, please come back and let me know what you thought of them. I’d love to hear. What else should I put on my list? Any suggestions?

Family · Holidays · Reflection

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I am sipping coffee and contemplating why I always have loved Valentine’s Day. I find it to be one that can evoke many feelings based on your personal season in life.

Many of us as children exchanged cards and candy with classmates. We all had those teachers that creatively guided us through many art projects made from the shape of a heart.

My mother (I miss her on holidays) never missed an opportunity on any holiday, even St. Patrick’s Day and 4th of July, to give gifts. When I woke up on these “little” holidays, I would make a beeline to the kitchen to see what might be waiting. There was always a card. Like many Valentine gifts, there was likely a heart shaped box with a few chocolates and a little something else with the theme of hearts: barrettes, bracelet, earrings, or a shirt. It was never anything fancy yet I loves it. I loved incorporating a gift I could wear into my outfits that day. My mom was my favorite Valentine every year. Even in later years with boyfriends, best friends, and crushes, her gifts were the highlight. I wonder if I ever told her that?

As a Single Mom, I continue this tradition with my family. I didn’t plan ahead this year, so after being out of town for two weeks, I made sure last Sunday that my errands included picking up something for my children. Yes, my son is 22, his girlfriend is 21, and my daughter is 13. Like my mother, my children are never too old to gift. And like my mother, anyone in my home is part of the tradition. As a parent, we are our children’s first and continuous Valentine. Don’t you think?

So, they have Skittles and Russell Stover chocolates waiting for them.

And like my mom, I made sure I wasn’t left out.

I have these candy hearts to play with and nibble on throughout the day. I love these and conversation hearts. Perhaps this was the origin of my love for words. Thanks to my first and continuous Valentine: Mom.

Do you have Valentine’s Day traditions? Anything special planned for today? Whatever you do, I hope it is special and in the years down the road provides happy memories. Life isn’t about things. It is definitely about shared memories. As you can see I don’t remember the “things” in detail but the memories, they are quite vivid.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

P.S. It is also Ash Wednesday. Are you doing anything special this Lenten Season?

Reflection · travel · vacation

Happy Mardi Gras! History, My First Krewe Parade

Growing up with a French speaking Grandmother, I always knew that Mardi Gras was French for Fat Tuesday. I also knew that it was the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. Being raised Catholic Grandma made sure that I remembered to eat a big “fat” dinner that Tuesday every year because Wednesday meant a day of fasting and giving up something for Lent.

Over the years, I saw images and scenes depicting Mardi Gras festivals in places around the world. Even in school we were briefed on its history.

Mardi Gras is a season every year that really starts as Carnival and climaxes on Fat Tuesday. In places like New Orleans it has a very long history and more meaning than just the crazy costumes, beads, revelry, drunkenness, flashing and parades.

Knowing I was going to be in New Orleans during Carnival my planning included web research to brush up on the facts and found this Mardi Gras history lesson to be pretty concise and informative. I got lost in web land and remembered reading a book a few years ago, Downfall of a Good Girl. This sweet romance really piqued my interest in this annual event. Every time I see an NCIS: New Orleans episode around the week of Mardi Gras my yearnings persist.

2018 is my year. The Tri-Centennial Year of the city of New Orleans. Me. And my friends. In the Big Easy for Carnival.

Comparing my itinerary with the official Mardi Gras 2018 calendar brought out giddy girl excitement. Why? Well, the moon and stars aligned for me because the first parade of the season in the French Quarter hosted by Krewe du Vieux was the Saturday I was going to be in town. Yahoo!

Fast Forward to my trip. We went.

We stood in the crowds.

We met new people.

We had a great time experiencing a satirical and quite traditional Krewe Parade.

Satirical? Really? Oh my! Yes! This was not a parade for the narrow-minded. Nor was it a parade I would take minor children to. (This is certainly a parental choice. I did see a few children there and I am certainly not judging.) This year’s theme, in my mind was a sufficient warning.

The Krewe’s satire was bawdy and suggestive all while poking fun, or not so fun, at the Local Water and Sewer Commission. Some Krewes in New Orleans now steer away from some of these traditional satirical themes. Many use modern ways of pulling the floats. Krewe du Vieux (wikipedia.com) still holds to tradition with horses and mules.

History of Krewe du Vieux

Krewe du Vieux is quite known for bringing along the best Brass Bands in New Orleans.

better parade images than mine (nola.com) warning…some of these images are graphic and may be deemed inappropriate.

I loved the entire experience and pretty sure my friends did too. The throws ran the gamut from pieces of candy and mini frisbees all the way to these raucous fans.

I captured a few videos I have uploaded to my YouTube channel, She Sips Coffee. Feel free to stop over and take a peek. You will find them here.

Knowing what I now know about Krewe history in New Orleans and seeing a parade, I have a whole new respect for the hard work done by these organizations. Not just during the Carnival season, because the work gets done year-round. Many work to raise awareness and many drive philanthropic agendas. They plan themes and floats probably almost as soon as they tear down the last one. As millions of people swarm the Bayou to party, I wonder how many know the history and honorable work of many of these men and women in these organizations? The annual parades and balls boost the local economy each year and lots of crazy stuff happens. I wanted to learn another side, or the why behind a theme. I watched for the message the Krewes were sending to the local politicians. Colorful images with creative puns and bawdy humor were prevalent from float to float tying to the theme and proving the hard work of the smaller Krewes that collectively form Krewe du Vieux. It wasn’t about the best Brass bands marching in between although they set the pace and gave us a party rhythm. We danced. We laughed. We were shocked. We were awed.

I wish I could have seen more parades and taken part in a Krewe Ball or two. Guess I just have to plan another visit to The Big Easy and soak more of it in.

The day after the parade, I saw this on a corner in the French Quarter. (It wasn’t raining.)

I immediately thought about why they chose their theme. Ten years after Katrina and essentially with NOLA being 300 years old, I believe there is work to be done to ensure a sound place to live. And don’t you want to believe New Orleans citizens want to offer a great city for you and me to visit? I appreciated the satire even more. Seems the opinion of the Krewe is that it is time for change.

Have you been to Mardi Gras or Carnival in New Orleans or other cities? Share your stories and memories in the comments below. Please!

lists · Planning · Reflection · travel · vacation

New Orleans-Day 1 Reflections

Are you ready to travel along with me and hear about my 2-week adventure? You helped me pack and plan. Now I am ready to explore.

I didn’t even sleep a wink like I suspected. I don’t know about you, even at 47 years old I still anticipate the trip and stay awake the night before my vacation. I tend to watch movies and triple check the packing list because the last things to pack are important: hygiene, health, and beauty items.

So with no sleep I headed to the airport with my bestie Trish. And on each flight our giddy inner-selves emerged. And we met fellow Rock Boaters along the way and made sure everyone in social media circles knew we were coming.

We skipped fruit juice with breakfast and opted for the adult version in-flight. Why not? And even better, they were free.

Southwest last minute repairs had us departing late and worried about our connections. Juggling passenger flight changes while we waited so lots of people, including my bestie, ended up on different flight which coincidentally was my connecting flight. We met up with our other friends in NOLA baggage claim and headed to the hotel together.

The first day was packed full of fun. We stopped in at Famous Door and listened to music.

We waited with anticipation for our first parade.

I will write a separate post about the parade. I promise. That experience was amazing.

We ended up visiting bars on Bourbon. We loved Ticklers the most. We spent about 8 hours there with the dueling piano guys. And ran into friend after friend who would be joining us on the cruise. Sing alongs and drinks and merriment make for a great day. We made our way to famous Pat O’Brien’s because you have to have a Hurricane from that place. You just have to! And ran into more friends. Such fun.

I found out the next morning I did a few shots and we are a late night breakfast close to the hotel. Ummm. I would say day One was amazing fun. Wouldn’t you?

Have you imbibed in New Orleans on Bourbon Street? What was your experience like?

More tomorrow…I am sipping coffee now.

Family · Goals · Planning · Reflection · Vision

Managing Mondays with Weekend Wisdom

“Six o’clock already…I was just in the middle of a dream.” Do you remember that song, “Manic Monday” by The Bangles? What about, “Rainy Days and Mondays” by The Carpenters? Why do we let Mondays or whatever day is the start of our week influence our moods such?

There are some Mondays when the unthinkable happens and it just seems that Murphy’s Law presides. The alarm clock didn’t go off or I slept through it. I am out of coffee! (Gasp!) The kids refuse to get up. My dog (any of the three) took off with one of the shoes I planned to wear hoping that keeps me from leaving. It is pouring rain. I can’t find my lunch box or my work I.D. Some Mondays just seem like the worst day ever before I step foot out of the house. Tell me I am not alone.

It always seems that Manic Mondays turns into a snowball of a week that continues to get bigger the next day and the next. On a week like that getting to Friday seems to be impossible and all I want to do is crawl under the covers each day in defeat asking if there is a “do over” button somewhere.

Here I am. Another Monday. It has a way of sneaking up on me. Today is not rainy. It is not manic. I am sipping coffee and I am enjoying my quiet time. I am working from home. There is no school because it is MLK Day. But not every Monday is so simple. I decided last year to do my best to take back Mondays from Murphy’s Law. To do that I had to find a way to manage the day. And step one for every Monday starts with some pre work over the weekend.

Weekend Wisdom

I am like many folks and I have certain tasks I plan to do every weekend. I run errands, launder clothes and complete other household chores. I used to feel accomplished but I also became annoyed because it didn’t feel like we were enjoying weekends as a family or with any rest.

My kids are older now and can share these responsibilities. Communicating expectations to everyone is important. So Sunday is my planning day. I plan menus, I set a cleaning schedule, and I batch cook ahead a few meals. I post these lists on the refrigerator and everyone knows what is for dinner and when I would like things to get done. We share the load. With work, school, activities and busy schedules deciding who does what when is something we each own our personal share. I also note important days to remember and post it on the fridge. Then, we can enjoy time together and I nag less. Who wants a nagging mom?!?

Here are this week’s beauties. (As you can see, I don’t make these pretty every time. I should use a pen that erases and I am sure a sticker or two with a splash of washi would be good. Depends on my day and how I am feeling. The kids don’t seem to notice or care.)

Visualize the Week Ahead

Sundays relax me. I love cooking and being in my kitchen. It gives me time ro meditate and start thinking about my upcoming week. I also love the thirty minutes or so I set aside on Sunday to create a visual for my week. Goals and lists. Planner crafting! These tools help me focus. Having a visual plan helps me Manage Mondays. I have more time to sip my coffee when I set my mind at ease knowing what to expect. I spend more time meditating which reduces my stress at the beginning of each day. Next Monday, I will share how I make my weekly visual, another secret weapon in my arsenal of managing Mondays.

Do you have secret weapons to help you plan and organize your days and weeks? Do you menu plan or have a cleaning list every week? How do you Manage Mondays? Please share below in the comments.

Reflection

Reflect and Reset

It is the last day of 2017 and I’m sipping my coffee. With each sip, I reflect on the good

and bad of 2017. It has been an interesting season of life. I look throughout my home and see the barren places that used to don holdiay decorations and think of the reset that happens at this time each year. Do you have this same imaginary button with the word “Reset” on it? Do you take time to reflect?

Reflect

In 2017, I did not take time to write out resolutions. The week before Christmas 2016 my maternal grandmother passed away. The passing of that 95 year-old powerhouse of a woman who stepped into my mother’s role for more than two decades really knocked the wind out of my sails blowing into 2017. She was always the first person I called on any holiday right after I poured my first cup of coffee. January 1, 2017, I remember sipping my coffee and tearfully meditating on her amazing life and the legacy she left for all of us. Her recipes, her creativity, her wisdom, her dignity, and strength are like pillars of support each and every day. As I reflect on 2017, I realize that she was the catalyst for many of the milestones and moments that mattered.

Musical Moments & Memories

I took my annual mom only vacation, The Rock Boat (2018 is coming soon). This really is a music lover’s ideal vacation. Being out on the ocean completely disconnected from every day life is a reset time full of the escapism that lets me recharge and come back refreshed. It gives me a chance to really miss my family.

I focused on more fun with my children this year. My son and I went to Vegas. My mother made sure that she took me when I turned 21. Traditions have to have a beginning. I look forward to repeating this with my daughter in 8 years. Music matters in our world, so we crossed the generational gap and enjoyed a Billy Idol VIP experience concert that included the meet and greet. I felt 16 again. My daughter, and future daughter-in-law joined me and friends in Isle of Palms, SC for Hazlenut Hang weekend where we explored history, beaches, and music. 2018 may see a return to Hang. I went with friends and my daughter to see U2. I supported Rock Boat artists that came to Phoenix while on tour: Sister Hazel, Carbon Leaf, Michael Franti, and Will Hoge. Spending this time immersed in music and surrounded by friends is memory making that never gets old to me.

T

The year ended with a bucket list item of major proportions for me. Carol Burnett. Ironically, her stop in Phoenix was on the one year anniversary of my grandmother’s passing. I watched that variety show every week with her and my mother as a little girl. What a tribute and way to honor all of the great women in my life than ending a year in a theater listening to her share stories, sing and answer audience questions. Spectacular.

Major Milestones

I bought a house! At age 47, this single mother bought a house. This is something my grandmother really wanted for me and for nearly all of 2016 we talked about these plans and how I thought I would have financial strength to make this bold step 2017. I’ve always rented. I wanted to do it earlier, but in 2013, I had a major setback with a house fire in a rental property and we had to reset priorities.

I found out I enjoy DIY and crafting. I love making wreaths for my new doors. And inside d├ęcor.

My grandmother and I would cook and craft together when I was younger. Over time, I didn’t think it was cool to craft. What may be more accurate is that I thought time was better spent on other pursuits. And sadly, I cannot tell you what I wasted time doing. I also reconnected with my joy of writing while sipping coffee. Each morning of quiet time, the only quiet time in my new home, is spent writing, reading, and meditating while I sip coffee.

I am celebrating a rare holiday feasting and eating season without gaining 10 pounds. I maintained. In 2017, I lost almost 30 pounds by making better choices. Yay!

Reset

I’m ready for January 1st. January is my reset time. I go back to work and hit the ground running on Tuesday. It is expected. Corporate America doesn’t have an “off switch” so we start right back where we left off with a fast and furious pace New Goals. New Priorities. More Changes. But personally and professionally, my reset button is already starting today. In my morning quiet, I’ve meditated and started thinking about my Vision of 2018. Instead of writing resolutions, I’m focusing on Proverb 31: 25. In that verse there are three key words that resonate to me: Strength, Dignity, and Laughs. This verse is much like the legacy my grandmother left me. She is Strong. Elle est forte.

Wednesday, is Vision Board day and I have been gathering images and words that will help me reset for 2018. My house will be filled with friends and crafts as I teach a workshop. All through the month of January, I will be goal setting for all the areas of my life, not just professionally. Watch for the posts as I share the steps I take to reset. I hope they will help you reset too.

Are you making resolutions? Do you make a vision board? What are your goals for 2018? I would love to hear how you reflect and reset in the comments below.