This blog introduces you to my special brand of BIKE. I show you how to find your Best self, access your Inner strength, tune in to your Killer instincts, and use your Expressive voice. It's inspiring, spiritual, quirky, and it's all in your head. It's about ATTITUDE, not exercise, though that might be a side benefit.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Five reasons to pick a theme for your next blogathon


Now that the 2011 WordCount Blogathon is over -- as of today, I blogged for 31 days straight -- it's time to reflect on what I learned. Since I chose a theme to help me get through all 31 days, I thought I'd share with you why that's a good idea -- and why you may want to try this next year:

1)  It will give you a head start with the question: What should I write about?

2)  It will provide an instant list of sub-topics.

3)  It will help you find focus or explore an idea more thoroughly.  

4)  It will help you build momentum with a continuous thread of common thoughts.
5)  It will give your readers a reason to return. They will want to know: What's next? 

Now, to my fellow blogathoners, congratulations. We did it! We blogged for 31 days straight. We spent time with each other. We helped encourage each other. We learned together. And we realized the value of blogging isn't really about writing. It's about building community. I can't wait to see you all again next year when Michelle organizes in 2012. 

To celebrate my success this year, my plans in the next few days are to compile a few "best of" lists: favorite posts I read of yours, more favorite posts you read of mine, and the blogs I would have liked to have spent more time at but didn't. This will help remind me that we're in this together. So be sure to come back; I generally blog 3-5 days a week and would be happy to have your company.

Meanwhile, what are your plans now that the big event has ended? Will you continue blogging daily?

Monday, May 30, 2011

What a Wordle can teach you about yourself

It's Day 30 of the 2011 WordCount Blogathon. Tomorrow's our last day. We've almost made it. To celebrate the near end, we get a day to play. It's Wordle Day! With Wordles, you get to have fun with words, colors, fonts and more. If you haven't ever tried it, it's just silly fun -- something that definitely fits with my theme this month. It'll open up a world of exploration about your personal preferences, what you like and don't like, why something works for you or not, and whether you'll wind up naming your Wordles. I didn't. But here they are -- my Wordles. Hope you enjoy looking at them as much I enjoyed making them:

This one is based on my blog's URL. Funny how it seems to have captured mostly the words from the posts I wrote about collecting.

This one is based on the magazines and websites my articles have appeared in most recently. I typed in the words, changed the colors and fonts around, and this is what appeared.

And this one is based on a specific post I wrote in the early days of the Blogathon. I had to key the words in myself, however, to get the right words to show up. Inserting the URL for that page didn't work. Anyway, it's about the things that I enjoy doing.

Of all the Wordles I created for today's post, my favorite is the first one. It's larger in density, fills out the space better, and I like the color variation. Can you tell I like blues and greens? I also like the one in the middle, as it highlights my fondness for Arizona. The third one works for me as well, though, because of the colors -- they make me think of the desert where I live.

Did you create a Wordle today? If you did, did that action make you realize you have a preference for certain colors or fonts or patterns? What did you learn about yourself in the process?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The joy of eating breakfast foods for lunch or dinner

Maybe on a Sunday like today it wouldn't be as special, because you can have brunch. But give me breakfast for lunch or dinner on a weekday, and I'm in heaven.

I don't know what it is exactly (Breaking the rules? Taking it easy? Less dishes to clean?), but being able to grab a bowl of cereal for lunch or make pancakes for dinner has always seemed like a treat to me. It's easy. It's tasty. And it's like getting away with cheating on a test or something. Eating breakfast at any other time than first thing in the morning just always seems to taste better.

On Friday, I decided to pour myself a bowl of cereal -- a healthy kind (see picture above) -- and had the time of my life munching away on those little wheat squares for lunch. I'd already hiked the mountain. I'd already put in my time on the blog. I'd already had a meeting. Lunch was going to be my time. I picked light and loved every minute of it.

Have you ever gotten away with serving your family breakfast for dinner? In my circle of friends, this is not something you can get away with where men (husbands, dads) are concerned, but the moms I know love to simplify a meal like this. And kids are generally all in favor.

It's the simple things in life like this that sometimes take the edge off of a difficult day and put a smile on your face. I know I was grinning from ear to ear while eating what was in my bowl. I mean, a cereal called Island Vanilla. Who wouldn't like that?

If you were to choose the breakfast meal -- or the easiest meal -- you'd like to have for lunch or dinner after a challenging day, what would it be? How would it affect your state of mind?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The joy of bouncing back--a rant

It is not always easy to live a joyful life. Sometimes, life or people get in the way. Divorce. The death of a spouse. An illness. A setback of any kind can do you in -- at least, temporarily. And it's not just the big things that can threaten to take you down. More often than not, it's the little things. Maybe a dead battery in your car, your computer crashes, bad news in the mail.

You deal with it the best way you know how at the time, and it feels great when you notice, "Hey, I'm over that now."

I cannot count how many times that's happened to me. It just happened to me yesterday. A business coach called, wanting to discuss what she can do for me. By the end of our conversation, she literally said to me, "I don't think you're ready yet."

What she meant, or at least how I'm translating this was, You're not ready to pay me.

And she was right about that. I'm not. I'm actually working with a coach right now, someone who would not think to insult a potential client like that. And I'm certainly not going to pay someone who applies that kind of tactic on me to get business. I could tell it was a tactic by her next line: "I'll call you next week to see where you're at then." Oh really? Will I be ready then? That's what I was thinking at that point. And she went on -- too late -- to try to schmooze me.

How are you supposed to respond to a comment like that? I asked her, "What do you mean I'm not ready?" She replied something to the effect that I need to be willing to apply time and attention to the big picture. Was she kidding? Was she implying that I wasn't giving my own career enough thought? And she would know this how? She's not marketing my business, sending out the pitches, researching the ideas, reworking pitches that don't work, investigating new markets, contacting potential speaking venues, planning future workshops, meeting with designers about a new logo, vetting potential publishers for the new book, studying markets for the next assignment, following up on invoices, joining associations, volunteering for organizations, and on and on till I'm fretting over what's not working and reassessing everything to determine what does -- all of which is part of my big picture.

After that comment, she totally lost me. I mean, what had I just been telling her? I had shared my goals with her. I've written about them here several times. She gave me input that I already knew and had done. And yet, here she is, telling me I'm not applying time and attention to the process. And she was assessing this based on what? I think she could tell I wasn't willing to hire her on the spot; therefore, her response was to suggest I'm not ready.

When I finally got her off the phone, I called a friend to vent.

I told my friend that this woman (who she's aware of) spent so much time on the phone talking about herself and what she did with another client that I couldn't really get a word in edgewise. She kept talking over my attempt to question anything. I wrote down in my notebook the following word: LISTEN. In all caps. That's right. She wasn't listening. If someone wants to learn about you and your business and how they might be able to help, they need to listen. Instead, I just heard this woman spewing on about her work. I could tell she had no idea what I do or what my background is because the detail she was feeding me was stuff I'm aware of already. It was information I'd already determined for myself. It was information I've learned from my own associations and research and resourcefulness. Bored with her talk, I started to scroll through my emails.

As I've mentioned here, I am in the midst of re-branding. I've been working on the process on my own, and with someone I trust. It's exactly where I need to be right now. So why would I want to be ready to work with someone who has doesn't know me and yet is so quick to judge. At best, it's disconcerting. At worst, it's insulting.

Instead of waiting for her follow-up next week, I decided to let her know right away that we wouldn't make a good match. There's no need to follow up with that. It's best to move on. Maintaining joy in life also means you consciously decide to include people who support you in your efforts, and to get rid of the naysayers.

Now, tell me about a time someone underestimated or insulted you. How did you bounce back?

Friday, May 27, 2011

The joy of seeing upside down

What happens when you turn your world on its opposite end? By that I mean, what happens when you are about to create big change in your life? Do you:

a)  hesitate when it's time to make the final decisions?
b)  rush in and make the necessary changes?
c)  research the idea to death?
d)  make the changes when the timing feels right?

I pick d), though, I've been known to get stuck on a) before. And I've definitely chosen c). I've probably never been the b) type. I'm not a person who rushes herself. And that's clear based on changes that I'm undertaking right now.

In the midst of a career shift, I've been challenged by many things it will involve: cost, time and effort. Yet, the time has arrived. I'm ready. It's just a matter of finding the right people to help. I've begun that search already and am starting to work with one of them.

This is both exciting and scary at the same time. It feels like I'm writing my first book all over again. You want to do it, but since it's the first one, you're afraid to screw it up. Since I've experienced this dynamic before, I think that's a good place to be. It means I'm proceeding with caution, avoiding the most costly mistakes. Note that I didn't say avoiding all mistakes. There are never any guarantees where change is concerned. But I'm prepared and preparing myself so I'll be ready to tackle whatever awaits.

Plus, I've experienced enough change in my life that I'm well aware of the uncertainties and how to move past them. That's what the B.I.K.E. is all about. That won't be anything I dismiss in this new life. But I'm working on figuring out how to tie it in. That's also exciting, watching all the parts connect and removing the parts that don't. Stay tuned to see what happens next.

Meanwhile, when you've experienced change in your life, what did that feel like for you? Were you satisfied with the result? How do you see yourself handling change in the future? Post your thoughts below.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How and where to find content for a blogathon

As we count down to the last days of the blogathon, and as some of you may be having a difficult time wondering how to fill those last days out on your blogs, here is a list of ideas about how and where you can find content for 31 days of posts.

CHOOSE A THEME
Michelle Rafter incorporates theme days throughout the month to help make the event more interesting, and to help you come up with topic material. But it also helps to consider using a theme for the full month. I've done this several times. Choosing an overall theme that fits the focus of your blog will help you come up with material even on the days when you're not feeling particularly inspired. All you have to do is think about the word or the phrase you've chosen. My topic is "joy" or joyful living. It's a sure bet you could sit down and write out a list of 31 things that pertain to joy. I bet you could do the same about "fiction" or "breakfast foods" or "technology for dummies."
OPEN A BOOK
The reading material you have on your desk or on your bookshelves can be an excellent source of topic material to write about during the blogathon. You can even review a book for a blog post if you like. Perhaps you're reading a chapter right now that has you perplexed about an idea. You can write about that. If you use the right tags, you might even bring in new readers who are also curious about that same book. No matter what you find inside the pages of a book, you'll surely find content to comment about, and then that could lead to an interview with the author perhaps.
USE A QUOTE
Do you have favorite quotes that pertain to your blog topic? Post a quote for the day, followed by your thoughts on what it means to you and why. This will engage your readers to comment.
ASK A QUESTION
Pose a question to your audience. Make it as simple as that. You can take it a step further and use this as a weekly event, your own "Question of the Week" series the occasional "Question of the Day." That's what I've done, and it always makes for good conversation, which is the whole point of blogging. It's about interacting with your audience, engaging them about your topic, and furthering their knowledge, or having them further yours. 
POST A PICTURE
Of course you want to use graphics anyway, but if you're having a difficult time deciding what to write about, then just post a picture. An idea will generally stem from that alone. 
COMMENT ON THE NEWS
Use your Google Alerts to find news items worthy of discussion or editorializing. Dissect what you've read. Post an opinion. Add links to updates about a news item you covered earlier in your blog. Sharing an opinion on a controversial topic is a great way to pull in readers. Don't worry if they agree or disagree. Just be glad they'll come to your blog to discuss the matter with you.
HIGHLIGHT NEW RESEARCH
Perhaps your topic is getting a lot of press because of new research or surveys published. Find the links to this research, read about it, find out what other people are saying about the new developments, and add your two cents.
COMMENT ON OTHER BLOGS
Finally, let's end the list with something that's very helpful in building a bigger audience for your blog, and that is visiting other people's blogs. But don't just go there. Stop and stick around. Read what the bloggers have to say. Post comments. And if something really catches your eye, blog about it.
If you have additional thoughts about how to fill out 31 posts in a month, list your ideas here. It could help us when we regroup next year.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The joy of window shopping

Today has been one of those days when I'd rather be anywhere but in the office. We all have them. When I'm feeling antsy like this, I have a few things I'll do, depending on the time of day: go for a walk; go out to lunch; or -- a personal favorite -- go window shopping. I may or may not buy anything, but I do get inspired by what I might see or find. I can then head back to the office and get back to work.

What do you do when you need a change of scenery?

The joy of learning new things from a blogathon

For the last four years, I've participated in Michelle Rafter's blogathon. She started with a small group of FreelanceSuccess.com writers and authors. Maybe there were 30 of us. It's since grown beyond that--to more than 200 bloggers this year. There's good reason for the growth.

Every year, this event gives new bloggers a chance to learn why they're doing this, and it gives us veterans the opportunity to pick up yet another new or better way to blog and increase audience numbers. I don't always want to spend my time learning new technologies, because, well, in reality I'm a luddite. I'd rather not have to do technology. But I'm smart enough to know that living in the world we do now, it's necessary. So I acquiesce by doing it on my own time frame, that is, when I'm ready. That attitude probably doesn't serve me well, but it's my inner rebel at work, and she's a handful sometimes. The good girl inside of me avoids conflict by letting that girl have her way. 

That being said, I particpate in this blogathon because, aside from the fact that it is a lot of fun, my smarter side knows I'm going to learn something new that I can apply to my blog, whether I think I want to or not. This year, yesterday, in fact, I learned about Feedburner. It's not that I wasn't aware of this feature before, it's just that I thought I had it already and just didn't know how to use it. I did, after all, have the Plug-in that allowed you to subscribe to my blog. I just never took the time to figure out why it didn't work for me the way it worked for others, in terms of tracking subscribers. I had no idea where to find that information. And I didn't really want to ask, because then someone would tell me, and I'd have to act on it.

This year I decided it was time, and I popped the question. Sure enough! I got my answer. It only took a few minutes to search the Internet for the information I needed and apply what I'd learned. I'm not sure if this has interfered with my previous subscribers, as I believe I have changed the URL to my feed, but we'll see.

Nonetheless, this blogathon gives me the confidence I need to act on what I'm learning. That's why I keep coming back. It's never going to be the same old, same old, because there are always more of us who show up, there are always new voices involved, and there is always something new to learn. That's what keeps bringing me back.

As we near the end of the 2011 WordCount Blogathon, I'm ready to move on and take what I've learned with me into the rest of the year. It may sound silly, but I'll now have the ability to track the numbers of subscribers I have here at B.I.K.E WITH JACKIE. I haven't been able to do that until now. So that's another hurdle I've jumped. Next year I'll be back. And I'll be ready to learn another new--or old--trick.

So let me ask you: What have you taken away this year that you might not have learned without our blogging community working together? And while you're thinking about that, consider going to the top of my page here and adding your email address. You can now subscribe to my updates by email. How's that for something new?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Theme Day: My five favorite places to write

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor.
It's a gift to the world and every being in it.
Don't cheat us of your contribution.
Give us what you've got. 
          ~Steven Pressfield in The War of Art
Today, the Blogathon focuses on another theme day, discussing our five favorite places to write. Luckily for me, Rebecca Albrecht shot this photo above of me on our recent Grand Canyon trip doing what I love to do best -- write -- and so I can at least illustrate this post...I don't usually take pictures of myself while I'm writing, and I generally do it in only one place. So we'll start there:

ON MY CUSHY LEATHER CHAIR IN MY OFFICE
I enjoy writing at my desk. I'm most comfortable there. I like the sound of typing on the keyboard. It makes me feel so productive. I'm near my phone and files, so I can easily conduct interviews or follow up with sources on questions I may have, and I see the books on my shelves that provide inspiration. Magazines scattered or stacked on top of the desk provide good karma for potential sales. The view from my window allows me to see the restaurant on top of the hill or my neighbors as they cruise on by in car and on feet, and I can daydream at my desk. It's where the bulk of my work happens, so I'm used to it. The work flows easily here.

IN NATURE
Above, you can see me pictured sitting down on a Paco Pad. I'm there reading and taking notes for future essays I might want to write about after I return from my trip to the Grand Canyon. I did that in lieu of a hike that morning. I loved every minute of it. Being and writing in nature gives me the chance to step out of my comfort zone (my office). It allows thoughts to flow with more abandon. For me, writing outdoors, away from the desk, without technology around, is an exercise in free writing. Writing in nature allows me to brainstorm with myself. But I have to do it without the laptop. This is the place where I use the old-fashioned pen and paper. A whole different thought-process emerges, and I find I need that every now and then. And it works. I've been working on three essays since returning from this trip.

WITH FRIENDS WHO WRITE
I don't do this often, but I'm a fan and enjoy writing in a group setting. This could be in a classroom situation, at a coffee shop, at the library. It's another way to get creative and brainstorm. For the writer used to working alone at home, writing with other friends who write can pay off in the form of better ideas. It's about connection. We need it. What we take away will transfer onto the page later.

ON THE COUCH IN FRONT OF THE TV
Again, no laptop here, but I do love writing in my journals and notebooks on the couch in the front of the television, whether it's on or off. This is where I do most of my long-term planning. It's not anything formal. It's just getting words on paper, thoughts on paper, ideas on paper. Later, they'll become more concrete. This is a practice I've carried on for decades, and whatever goes inside those journals eventually turns into an idea I sell. It's always been that way.
  
AT A WRITER'S RETREAT
This is somewhat like writing with friends who write, except when you attend a formal retreat, you'll more likely be working with strangers, or writers you don't know. I like the challenge of working with people I don't know, learning from them, getting to know them. And I like the formality of the classroom setting or the informality of writing outdoors or the idea of writing in an unfamiliar place. I think it's good exercise for the mind to shake things up in this way as often as you can.

Do you know where you do your best work?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Why a blogathon and exploring the Grand Canyon are similar

This is me, hiking my way through a side canyon in Arizona's Grand Canyon. Lynn Etter took this photo of me as I was feeling my way through the water and cliffs. Exploring the "Big Ditch" with this group is similar to exploring the blogging world with you. As we make our way through, learning new tech skills, figuring out the maze that is social media, getting to know the extent of our abilities and that we're capable of so much more, it's good to know we're up for the challenge. It's also good to know we're not alone. None of us are when teamwork is involved.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Collection Plate--May 22, 2011

I decided to rename my collection of posts on Sundays the "Sunday Collection Plate." For those of you who drop coin in the collection plate at church on Sundays, you'll know what I mean about this play on words. This is the blogging version of that. Value to be determined by you, dependent on if you get a chuckle out of these posts, or if they make you think, or if you prefer to pass on clicking. It's up to you.

In keeping with this month's theme (blogging about joyful things, joyful living and whatever brings you/me joy), here are my five choices for the week of May 22, 2011:

_Julia Munroe Martin writes about small town gossip in "The Police Beat" post on her blog this week. The way she tells her story should give you something to talk about, too. For sure, it will put a smile on your face. Let me know if you like her side comments. They cracked me up.

_"Mood Music" at MamaCanDance reminded me of why I loved the 80s. Sorry if you don't. I lived it and loved it. And the music still makes me smile.

_This post about the remake of the 1960s/70s television show, "Dark Shadows," stirred up fond memories, too. I loved that show as a kid. And then, by chance, I met one of the characters in person later in life. We spent seven days and nights together in the same class at a writer's workshop in Ohio. You'll have to read my comment on Mena Grazie's post to find out who that person was. Hint: It wasn't Barnabas Collins.

_I enjoy hosting parties but don't get to do it very often. Mostly, because I'm an over planner, and that takes time, which I don't have extra of right now. But this week, because of the Blogathon, I discovered The Haute Host, a site that can help make party planning easier and more fun. From the food to the wine to the favors, Lisa Elliott writes about it all here.

_I won't say I laughed out loud when I read this post, nor did I jump up and do a happy dance, but I was happy to read Alison Law's post about using podcasting as an alternative to cold calling. It's creative, something I've wanted to learn more about, and she provides justification for me right there at her Lawcenticity Blog. I need to add this one to my "favorites."

I hope you find something here that you can use. I know I did.

Enjoy the rest of your day!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The joy of collecting matchbooks

By now you can tell I'm a collector. I like more than one thing in a series, and I prefer things grouped. I'm also a fan of symmetry, but that's probably something for another post, another time. For now, let's talk matchbooks, matchboxes, matchbook covers. There's a name for what I do. It's called phillumeny, and there's even an organization devoted to the hobby. But I'm not that serious about it and do not consider myself a phillumenist. I simply collect matchbooks for one reason: because I can.

But not for long, or at least not for much longer. Maybe. Laws against smoking inside buildings has deterred my hobby. Companies are not as swift to order the matchbooks for their marketing efforts any longer. But when I first started sneaking them as a young child (12 maybe?), I could always find matches or matchbooks in restaurants, hotels, resorts, and gas stations. I'd make it a point to look for them. 

And I'm enough of a fan of matchbooks that I was one of those women who ordered matchbooks for my wedding, the kind with the names of the bride and groom printed on them, along with the date. Of course, that marriage ended, and I think I allowed myself to toss the extras I'd been saving for who knows what purpose soon after. But I did keep a few of them, just for posterity's sake. They're still part of my collection.

For the longest time, I've stored them in jars and open-faced boxes on my bookshelves. The ones I might use to light a candle or the fireplace I've kept in a bronze bowl in the living room. I also framed a whole collection. But last week I bought a glass vase, two glass vases actually. They stand about two feet tall. I've wanted to do this for quite some time but didn't think I should pay too much for the glass. I finally relented when I found the item I was searching for and thinking about for years at Fry's. So I've started to dump my collection in these vases, these jars. They will allow me to more easily pull my collection out if I care to take a look and reminisce about a place I've been. And I can more easily share the collection this way as well.

These matchbooks represent special dinners I've had, fun dates, girlfriend getaways, and overnight stays. They represent good times, quarrels and lovely feasts. They represent birthdays, anniversaries, time with my kids, vacations. They also represent places I've been and places that have long since closed.

I also found a bottle of wine by the name of Matchbook. I have no idea how good it will taste, but I liked the name and bought it. It made me happy to think of the idea there's a bottle of wine or a company that still celebrates the matchbook as much I do. It's another example of how you can glean pleasure from the simple things in life. After all, matchbooks don't cost anything. They're just there for the taking. And so I have. I've taken hundreds of them. Each one represents a moment to remember.

Do you have a collection of memories like this?


Friday, May 20, 2011

How Elin Hilderbrand furthers my goal to own a cottage in Maine

I'm getting a headstart on my summer reading this year. My first pick: The Island by Elin Hilderbrand.

I've not read this author before, but I was drawn to the cover--something publishers like to hear. The chairs remind me of the summer cottage I long to own in Maine. This is not a pipe dream. It is an actual future plan that is, for now, only in my mind, though I have written it down in various places and discuss it frequently with friends. "When I'm in my summer cottage in Camden, Me.," I'll say, because I'm a big believer in stating what you want, visual cues or reminders--and also of specifics.

Which is why I bought this book on a recent errand run. I meant to buy bread but made the mistake of going down the magazine aisle, instead. That's where they also stock books and greeting cards. I picked up a few of each. This book among them.

The only reason I chose it was because of the cover. It reminds me of the beach cottage I will own in Maine, possibly within the next 10 or 15 years. In Hilderbrand's book, the setting is Nantucket. Still New England. Still close enough. And the cottage the main characters visit is on an island, not the sea. But still. Close enough. It allows me to further my vision.

And I'm enjoying the story as well. It's about four women, all related, who wind up at this cottage on an island, a cottage owned by the family for generations. They're all there one summer to heal from personal tragedies, and there will be interesting dramatic spins. I'm only in the first few chapters, and already I've read about a breakup or two, a death or two, and a budding romance, with another one in the works. It's not something I normally read, but I was obviously in need of a novel on which to rest my mind, and this one fit the bill. For those of you looking for your own summer reading, I recommend it so far. It's light reading and fun. I expect to finish before the weekend's over.

You may be asking what does this have to do with joy? To which I say this: Because joy comes from within, you'll see you are drawn to certain things naturally. You'll gravitate exactly where you need to go. The key is to pay attention to the cues. Watch for them. Soon you'll recognize why you wind up, as I did, going down the magazine aisle when you thought you were looking for the whole wheat buns. You'll let yourself be drawn elsewhere momentarily. You'll follow your eyes and let your hands pick up the book you know you don't really need. But you won't question yourself at the check-out line. And you'll go home with a smile on your face.

In turn, you'll be better able to articulate your dreams and goals and also be in a better position to attain them. Getting a head start on your summer reading? Well, that's the bonus, thanks to Hilderbrand and her publisher who created a cover I couldn't resist.


When was the last time you used a visual to further your goals?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The joy of collecting--coffee mugs!

As if paper weren't enough, I also collect coffee mugs. I buy one from each place I visit, generally. And my boyfriend and I have an agreement. When he goes somewhere, he'll get me one, and vice versa. Not always, but generally. And that means I have way more cups than my cupboards will bear. Luckily, when he comes over to my house for coffee after a run, he takes one home with him -- coffee for the road. Eventually, he'll return them. But it helps keep my cupboards clean. Otherwise, the extras stay stored in the dishwasher.

Once, I interviewed a man who also collects coffee mugs. A school administrator, he had his stored in his office, on hooks that covered the perimeter of the room. They were on the wall, above his head, so it's not likely he actually used any of them. But I use mine.

In fact, I use them to play a game. Every morning before I make the coffee, I choose a mug. Since they're from the many places I've been (many small towns in Arizona, hotels, big cities, various attractions) I ask myself, "Where do I want to go today?" If it's Hawaii, I choose the mug I got for free after spending more than $100 at a souvenir shop in Waikiki. I love that mug. It was free. And it fits my hand so well. If I want to spend the night at a B&B, I mght pick the mug featured in the photo above. That one was from the weekend I spent at Casa de San Pedroa bed & breakfast located in the Arizona border town called Hereford, just south of Sierra Vista. Sometimes I want to spend imaginary time in the Grand Canyon, so I grab the mug my boyfriend bought for me there when he visited. And some mornings, I want to head back to Greer, a lovely forested village in Arizona's White Mountains. I have a few mugs from my visits there.

I enjoy playing this game. It's something I started when I moved into my house in 2004. I'm not sure why. I just started asking myself that question and have never stopped. Each morning here, it's the same question. The only time I drop the ritual is if I drink tea or am having coffee elsewhere. 

For me, a ritual like this one helps start my day off in a positive light. To head off someplace I've been to before -- even if only in my mind this time -- reminds me that I live a full live, that I have many things to be grateful for, and that I like to enjoy my coffee in other ways than just taste. The question always puts a smile on my face: Where do I want to go to today? So many places. So many mugs. So many opportunities. And I'm sure I'll make room for more.

Do you have a morning ritual you entertain? If so, post a comment below telling us what it is.

**EXTRA!** A list of other people online who collect coffee mugs:

_This guy is into Starbucks mugs. If you like them and want to buy, he'll sell.

_A woman after my own heart--her spontaneous mug collection.

_And this woman weaned her collection down to 25.

_This so-called boring site is really fascinating, and so is the coffee mug post.

_Of course, you can get a little quirky and collect the lids, instead.

Enjoy the rest of your day!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The joy of collecting--paper!

Clearly, this is just a way for me to rationalize my obvious hoarding, but I love to collect brochures, maps, posters, postcards, greeting cards, bumper stickers, stickers, bookmarks, and other notes and paper things I find in my travels or that people give to me.

Tossing this stuff out? Rarely happens. I always wonder if it could be useful some day, just as it was that very moment when I first laid hands on it.

Then, one day, on a trip to Bisbee, Ariz., I came upon the name for what all this paper is that I collect: ephemera. Fancy, yes? Indeed! I discovered the name for it at a vintage bicycle shop, and I've since adopted the name to use for my own purposes. I now collect "old paper," or, ephemera! An elevation of reality, to be sure, but it works for me.

Whenever I pick up a new travel brochure, for example, because I think I might write or want to write about whatever's printed on the glossy pages, I say it's ephemera. I absolutely glorify the printed page. And my boyfriend plays along. When we stay in hotels and he spies the travel brochure case before I do, he points it out to me, "Ephemera," he'll say, knowing I'll head right over and pick through this goldmine of information.

And today I discovered I'm not alone. I found this website via The Candy Wrapper Museum. How lucky can I get?! Now, I have a place to learn more. The owner writes about old photographs, celebrities, collectors, collections, eBay purchases, and many other things that are related to ephemera, most of which I hadn't even thought about. It'll give me a chance to explore how I can further make my own "collection" make sense--or just have more fun with it.

Do you have an obsession, er, collection that you enjoy? What is it and how long have you been storing the old stuff?

(Photo above, taken by me last year in Flagstaff, illustrates an artist's collection of postcard art. Boy, would I love to have that!)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

BEST OF BIKE WITH JACKIE: Part 1

We're just past mid-way through the Blogathon, and I thought I'd post a few favorite posts, the top five you seemed to like best, based on page views, versus the top five I hope you got a chance to read (actually, it's my top 3 and then two others from last year's Blogathon):

YOUR TOP FIVE

1) Haiku Day! These were fun to write, collect and read and most of you seemed to enjoy them. 
2) My post about the Grand Canyon trip, with a video of me commenting on Lava Falls. Too funny.
3) My first post about my Grand Canyon trip, no video, after I returned
4) The Mother's Day post
5) The Twitter experiment, where I shared links I found on Twitter about joy, my May theme

 MY TOP FIVE

1) 25 Things That Bring You Joy
2) Five Posts of Joy
3) Birdwatching
4) Inspired by Visuals (something from last year's Blogathon you might enjoy)
5) Something from Haiku Day 2010 (ditto)

If you're participating in this year's WordCount Blogathon, posting lists like these offers three benefits, and the three benefits of posting lists are:
  • It gives you a chance to breathe, or take a break, in between reading and commenting on other people's blogs and trying to maintain your own, especially if you're trying to share your time between hundreds of blogs as we are.
  • It presents a good opportunity to remind people of your focus, especially you're theme-minded like me. Readers can get a sense of the greater purpose when they see how your blogs fit together as a group.
  • You can get additional page views for a minimal amount of work. 
So do try this at home on your blog!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Guest Post Day: Gardening with Wonder

Meet Joan Lambert Bailey. She's my Guest Post Day partner for today. Joan writes about her adventures getting dirty on an urban organic farm in Tokyo and exploring all the glorious food options Japan has to offer at Popcorn Homestead. That's where you'll find me today, writing about my inability to garden but still experience the joy of nature through others who do, such as Joan. Visit me there some time today when you get the chance. Meanwhile, enjoy Joan's take here on gardening and why she likes it so much:

Gardening is inherently full of wonder. There is no choice but to be filled with a sense of awe as the seed works it's miracle in the soil to push it's little green shoulders up out of the mucky soil to the sunlight.

Without fail at the start of each season I am skeptical this miracle will occur. The risks are high that the seed will be too deep or too shallow, the weather too cold, too hot, too wet, too dry. I worry each day through until I see the first bit of green emerge. To know a similar push with fibers seemingly even more delicate is occurring below boggles my mind. Together, the farmers and I watch daily as the first leaves (futaba in Japanese) are followed by the first true leaves -- chubby ones for basil and fancy serrated ones for marigolds -- take shape and multiply. We point out to each other with excitement the tiniest blueberries forming behind the blossoms or the mikan shaping themselves on the tree near the farmhouse.

In the garden, wonder comes in the obscure as well as the obvious. Under the blooms and fruit is an astoundingly alive and diverse world. I can't even begin to describe the joy I feel when I find a ginormous toad sheltering in my accidental mint forest or that I still feel when I think of all of the worms and critters I found when turning the compost bin earlier this spring. The abundant life moving about among the tattered remains of my popcorn, banana peels, and eggshells filled me with such pleasure that I literally gave a squeal of joy and did a little dance. The handiwork such creatures created since first building the bin last fall -- a rich hummousy soil that I liberally added to the areas being prepared for spring planting and plan to steep in water for a heady summer plant beverage -- means healthy soil, plants and increased odds for a good harvest of my Brandywines, edamame, green beans, squash, and chilli peppers.

I marvel, too, at the tenacity of other things. I grudgingly respect mint's ability to spread like a slow green fire through my beds, and to the bamboo that continues to erupt in the most unlikely and unwanted places despite my best efforts to eradicate it. (Organic efforts only as chemicals would destroy the animals and bacteria that create the soil structure my garden needs.) Annoyed and dismayed as I might be, I admire their pushiness and persistence. The bamboo, after all, arrived first and will most likely be here long after I'm gone, after the farm is perhaps eaten by an apartment building or parking lot. Given half a chance, I imagine plants such as mint, bamboo, and purslane will joyfully in turn eat up the building and parking lot.

It is the sheer miracle of life that the garden and farm contain that touches me even on the most miserably hot days or when I feel despair at the site of aphids sucking the life out of my beloved zucchini. It is the presence of such small miracles -- worms, bees, butterflies, blooms, ripening fruit, the crunch of the green bean, brilliant white ice crystals pushing black soil up early on a winter morning -- that rejuvenates me even as the season's work exhausts me. While Shinjuku's skyscrapers or Nikko's intricately carved temples amaze, for my heart and soul it is the web of life forging together the elements that turn seed to stem to blossom to fruit to harvest that fill me with awe. It's not my green thumb or particular culinary skill that made the blueberry jam or yuzu marmalade a reality, but rather a compendium of friends that make up the neighborhood of my garden. At best I am a groundskeeper who thankfully gets to sneak a few bits for herself now and again. 

Joan merely calls herself a groundskeeper, but after reading her thoughts on gardening here, I'd say both her words and her work suggest to me she's a miracle maker of joy-filled beauty. She's one of the reasons I can appreciate gardening from the spectator's side. So what's your place in the world of gardening? Are you the green thumb or are you like me, just green?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Five Posts of Joy

For this Sunday's Blogathon collection of five posts (gotta have a limit), I chose the following. They best represent some very creative ways you can fill your own life with joy. Some are just thoughts that will make you laugh. There should never be too much laughter in a life:

_How about an UNbirthday celebration? Anjuli tells us how and it doesn't take much.

_Who doesn't enjoy singing a song they know all the words to?! Mark Stratton with his 30-day music challenge sure does, proving it with a video. Go ahead. Sing along. Or make up your own words. I know I have to do that a lot.

_This post and interview with J.L. Wilson from Caroline Clemmons' blog on May 9 took me back to my high school years, when I was into romance books. I read Harlequin Romance novels with a girlfriend during our lunch hour the first half of our sophomore year. We had so much fun. Sometimes, we'd be embarrassed, though, and would hurry to the girls' locker room inside the gym and read on the benches in front of the lockers. We laughed as we read passages to each other out loud. It was all a nice break from our regular school work and schedule. Pure silliness, really. But this post took me right back there, putting a smile on my face. Joy will do that to you.

_Billie Noakes story yesterday cracked me up. You'll have to click and read to see why. (And to think, I almost didn't read blog posts on Saturday because I was trying to take a break, but someone on the Blogathon listserv said we had to read it. So I did. Glad!)

_Michelle Rafter's round-up of Haiku Day post put a smile on my face as well, because she included me in her list of favorite posts for the week. It's always fun to be recognized.

Looking forward to reading more this coming week.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Birdwatching or watching a bird in Scottsdale, Arizona

Last year, a friend invited me to participate in a golf tournament with her and two other ladies in Scottsdale. I'm no golfer, but I have clubs. So I'll play when asked or when I have time. This was one of those times. The photo above was taken at the golf course, and I'm certain my ball is still in that lake. Regardless, this photo also shows you where my mind really was--and it wasn't on golf.

I'm just not that good to be that competitive. Besides, it had been so long since I'd played I couldn't even remember how to put my gloves on. When they didn't seem to fit right, I asked the pro that helped us get started, and he says to me, "Well, that's because you have them on backwards."

You know, I would have been embarrassed by that remark, but instead I just busted out laughing and showed my friends what I'd done. Who does that!? We all got a good laugh at my mistake, and then teed off to start the game.

And I couldn't help but think thank goodness my friend's dad had paid for the tournament.  

There were prizes for any player who got a hole in one and other such feats, but every time we turned around, there was another cart driving up to us, offering something to drink--no charge! Margaritas, beers, margaritas, some other kind of cocktail that my fuzzy brain no longer remembers. Needless to say, we laughed a lot at this tournament, hit balls in all different directions save for straight ahead, drove the cart recklessly on and off the path, and didn't stand a chance at winning anything.

So you can imagine three hours into this, when I spied the great blue heron, my mind was ready to be mesmerized by something I could actually see. It was challenging trying to track my ball all the way into the rough on the left and then the right and then the left again, before we'd even hit the green. I was zig-zagging my way through the course, hole after hole. My mind needed a new focus, and this bird did the trick.

Did you know herons like this one have a very slow walk? It's very precise, even lyrical I'd say. I told my golf mates, "She's looks as if she's walking down the church aisle at her wedding." I could even hear the wedding march in my head as I watched the bird move gracefully across the shallow pond. I forgot about the game for a while when I decided to get a picture of her. So I moved in closer and closer. But my camera doesn't have a particularly powerful zoom, and I didn't want to scare the bird off, so I snapped several photos, getting the closest of close-ups I could get with my cell phone's camera.

This picture above is the best I could do with my Android. A video would have been perfect so I could have captured the walk, but I can still see it fresh in my mind as if it were happening right now.

And so I challenge you: The next time you're out in nature, be on the lookout for that which mesmerizes you. There's joy to be found in nature. It doesn't have to be a bird. It can be a garden, a specific flower, a bug, a mountain view, or a sunset. No matter. Just remember to take the time to observe and enjoy the detail. Then take what you see home with you, in the form of a picture or a memory. If you've done this recently already, tell us what you saw and why it captured your attention. Post your comments here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday the 13th--Blogger's Down and Now Back Up!

Wouldn't you know it? Right in the midst of a blogathon, where participants must blog 31 days for the month of May, my blogging platform shuts down for maintenance. Not only that, but it loses my last post, the one I wrote on May 12. I just checked; it's still missing, not even in the draft form. Wondering if I'll be able to find it on my Twitter page. But then, I'm not sure if I posted the link on Twitter yesterday.

Okay, well, I'm not deterred. I posted my post on Facebook, and just now transfered that over here, back on Blogger, now that it's fixed. Figured that would be any minute now.

Yeah, well, I didn't wait. I took action on my own. Someone suggested starting up a new blog on a different platform, but I didn't want to take that route. It seemed too drastic and distrusting of Blogger, and since I've been using Blogger since 2007 with nary a challenge (save for this one), I put my trust in the program. And it worked. Expect for that missing post. But now I'm back to writing about joyful living, and all will be well.

Positive thinking and all that.

So here's my Friday the 13th post--and a message to you. It's short. It's sweet. It's to the point:

If things look bleak in front of you, look elsewhere--because sometimes we need to be sidetracked.


When we change things up, that's what keeps us on our toes. It's all good. Don't you think?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Day 12-the remaking of a blog post

Blogger crashed, and with the crash went my post for May 12. What was on it? It was a critique of five tips offered by a life coach I discovered online. The tips were about how to capture joy in life. I thought some of the advice offered was empty, empty in such a way that she told you to "find" certain things but no hint on how. I'm a bigger fan of sharing tips on how to accomplish something. If you are given insight into how you can "find" this whatever it is you're looking for, I think you'll have a better chance of success. So that's what my post was about. But, you know, some things are not meant to be, and I guess that was one of them. I'm okay with that. Probably because I'm a fan of that Doris Day tune, "Que Sera, Sera," whatever will be, will be.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Life coaching advice that can use a spring cleaning

This month, I've been focused on the subject of joyful living. To find new ways to discuss the topic, I ran a quick Google search and found the website for a life coach. I won't name her, because I'm going to critique her advice, and she might not like what I have to say about her TOOLS TO INCREASE JOY AND MAINTAIN IT, but here's what she wrote:
1. Think of a positive experience from your past.  Imagine it as if you were really there.  How do you feel, 
who are you talking to, what are you thinking,  what are you doing, what does it look like around you?  
Do this once a day.
 
2. Have a day of random acts of kindness. 

3. Find a career, business or project that is meaningful to you. 

4. Find something that creates passion and joy where you feel you are making an impact beyond 
yourself.

5. Notice the good things that are happening to you each day; write them down or tell others about 
them.  
What do you think about her 5 Tools? Here's what I think:

1. This is a good exercise. I've tried it. It can work. But you have to be consistent for several weeks in a row to see positive results. And, unless you have a lot of free time, that's hard to commit to doing on a daily basis.

2. I believe it's a good practice to focus on other people when your life seems less than joyful.

3. This is the step I was disappointed in reading. It tells you to find something meaningful but with no advice on how to do that. This, in my opinion, is empty advice. If you're stuck, having someone tell you to find something meaningful in your life isn't going to help. It's only going to make matters worse, because, after all, that's your problem. You don't know the answer to that. That's why you've come to the coach in the first place. So, if I were this coach, I'd work on Tool #3 a bit more. I'd include the "how" here, instead. In fact, this would be a whole other article or tip sheet.

4. Same as above. This is empty advice. It does nothing to motivate you. Rather, it may work to deflate you. If you were receiving coaching from this woman, you'd leave her office or the call would end with you possibly feeling less than you did at the start. You'd want to know: How does one go about finding this meaningful whatever?

It can take months and months of introspection and journaling and workshopping and practice and playing and discovery. It is not something you just FIND overnight. I'm sure she realizes that. But she may not realize how empty this advice can be, and how unhelpful it is at the same time. Instead, she might consider suggesting things her coaching clients could actually DO to discover what is meaningful to them. That is the advice that will lead to joyful living.

Learning to live in joy or to live a joyful life is about DISCOVERY. You don't do that by accident. You do that through EXPLORATION. And that's where her Tool #5 will come in handy. She should place her focus on that one. Here's why:

5. Notice the good things that are happening to you each day; write them down or tell others about them. Now, this is good advice! It's what we talk about here at B.I.K.E. WITH JACKIE. When you're looking for joy, you may be in a place of anxiety or confusion. You may not realize joy is right there within you. You're not seeing it, not just yet. Writing what you allow yourself to notice will begin to change your mindset. Over time. Lots of time. Here's how it can work for you:

Imagine taking a walk down the street in front of your house. Your neighbors' gardens are blooming. One of your neighbor's children are playing hopscotch on the street. Another is walking his dog. Still others are packing up the car to go away for the weekend. If your mind is not in the right place, that is, you're feeling depressed or somehow distracted by what's NOT going on in your life that you WANT going on, you could walk right by all of this and not notice a thing.

BUT, when you literally force yourself to stop and take notice (by writing things down right then and there, or sharing your thoughts about what you see with others openly), that's when you start to see things. There are times in our life where we have to practice noticing before we can begin seeing. When you force yourself to see life as it really is beyond your own personal troubles or concerns, that's when you'll be able to put a smile on your face and appreciate the joyful things in life.

That's when you'll lift your arm and wave hello to neighbors picking up the mail or taking out the trash. You'll stop in front of the neighbor's house with the blooming garden and pay attention to the yellow tulips or the potted geraniums. Maybe you'll pull out your cell phone take a photograph. You'll actually notice the color of the pot. You'll see that it's painted green with yellow stripes. And you'll say to yourself, "I'd like to paint a pot like that." You'll smell the soap from the bucket of suds your next door neighbor is using to wash her dirty car. You'll see the smoke rise up from behind the home with burgers on the grill. You'll see the mountain view across the street--and think about hiking there tomorrow.

When you begin to stop and take note of your surroundings, you will want to be a part of it, and that is where joyful living begins--with observation, with hope, and then with embrace, meaning you've decided to play along.

Noticing takes practice, so here's something you can do that might make sense:

Tonight, when you turn on the TV to watch a show, note what channels you turn to on the television instantly. You have your favorites. You know which ones you'll skip over quickly. What shows interest you more than others? Note the color of the furniture in the room, the dishes in your cubboard when you get up to make that popcorn or open a can of soda. What is that you like to drink? Are you buying it, or are you just making do with what's available now? What about your clothes? Is your closet filled with solids, prints, a combination? Do you like what's in there? Are you pining away for something else?

Within these personal choices you've already made are clues to who you are and what naturally brings you joy. That's where you can look to begin your hunt for a joyful life. You have access to it. But to use it, to take full advantage of it, means you need to decide to use what you already know about yourself and then explore that which you don't yet know.

Do this for a few weeks and see what happens to your attitude then? Maybe you'll start buying the fresh flowers you've always wanted to buy but didn't dare spend the extra money on. Maybe you'll light that candle when you take your next bath. Maybe you'll go for a walk in your neighborhood and notice the sunset or the sunrise like you've never noticed it before. And maybe you'll come back home and write all this down in a journal, so you can take note of that which brings you small pleasures. When you notice that you can appreciate the small things, that's when you'll begin to want to do the bigger things--like set aside time for a 15-day vacation, just because you'd like to do it. Not because you allow your internal editor to warn you away from your desires.

What do you think? Have you ever been offered empty advice? How did it help or hinder your progress? 

Playing with names and faces

Thanks to Julie Sturgeon's post at Knowledgewebb, I learned how to turn my name into a face and had a little fun with it. But don't try this at home; it could get ugly. Here's what I mean:

This is what happened when I used JACKIE DISHNER, and from the link above, you'll see Julie and I bear a striking resemblance. But why do I have chin hair? Isn't that a goatee?
This is what happened when I used BIKE LADY, which kind of looks like me--when I was in kindergarten oh so many years ago.
But this is what happened when I used JUST JACKIE--another nickname I sometimes use. Aw, c'mon! My ears don't stick out like that, and I do have some hair.
So I think I'll keep my own face. Even in my Rough Rider moments like the one you see below, I don't look that bad. LOL.
Can you think of a time when you felt like you were just a caricature in your own life? Share your story here.
(Photo above taken by Lynn Etter at the Grand Canyon, 2011.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Haiku Day! Celebrating the joy of bikes and biking

In celebration of the bike, and to follow today's WordCount Blogathon theme to share a Haiku Day, I went in search of the three-lined poems on Twitter. I looked for biking and cycling enthusiasts to share what they had to say in verse. There's actually a community of poets, if you will, who specialize in the subject, and they call it baiku. I love that! I don't think folks give cyclists, bike riders, and the biking community the creative credit they so deserve. So, in honor of Haiku Day, I'm doling out the credit here, sharing with you what this special community can do with just a few words when they're writing about something they love.

Drumroll please...and let the haiku begin, starting with mine:

The Trek of my dreams
takes me places on two wheels--
a land of freedom
     ~by Jackie Dishner (@bikelady on Twitter)

Joyful May weather!
Birds and flowers celebrate
Cyclists enjoy spring.
     ~by Richard Masoner (@cyclelicious on Twitter) 

Cool breeze on my face
Wind chimes calming melodies
crickets sing along 
     ~by Martha A. Boyd (@twittyboyd on Twitter) 

Bike tires deflated
The frame gathers cobwebs, dust
TLC a must!
     ~by Jennifer Derryberry Man (@mamahhhjenni on Twitter)

You can find more of these #haiku on Twitter at #baiku. The photo above, by the way, was taken by me in Portland, Me., last summer at Brad's, a bike rental shop on Peak's Island, after I returned my rental. And for another look inside the world of #baiku, here's a screen shot of one, sent to me by @bikerly. Thanks, Jim!



Monday, May 9, 2011

The Colorado River's Lava Falls and one silly moment on video

video

On April 18, I set off with my boyfriend's family for what would be the trip of a lifetime. On the way, I made myself sick to my stomach with worry. We were headed to the Grand Canyon for 15 days of white water rapid-filled fun on the Colorado River. Only, I was freakin' out, petrified that I'd fall into the water and drown. Doesn't sound like fun, does it?
On the entire 4.5 hour-drive from Phoenix to Marble Canyon, near the put-in spot, the place we'd begin our river raft tour, I wasn't thinking of the professional guides we'd be with, the life preservers we'd be wearing for safety, nor the fact that thousands of visitors take this same trip year after year. All I was thinking about was that my boyfriend, who was supposed to be my hero, couldn't go, and I was going to have to save myself should the need arise. I wasn't sure I could do that. I knew I'd panic. I wanted my security blanket, in this case, my boyfriend. So as the only couple in our family outing without my partner, I was feeling sunk--and my toes hadn't even touched water yet.

Whoa! I know that's a lot of anxiety--and unrealistic--for anyone, but especially for a person who thrives on turning obstacles into opportunities. But I just wasn't sure I knew how to fix this challenge. I wasn't sure I had the ability to relax and really have fun. I could only hope that it would happen. And that's why I still wanted to go. I had that hope I could overcome this inner battle. Obviously, I had something to prove to myself and knew this trip was something I needed to do. I knew my hero was really me. I just didn't know what tool I would use to find her.

I should have known it would be humor.

By Day 12, we hit the rapid of all rapids, Lave Falls. It was the one we most anticipated. It was the one we were told was the Big Kahuna. It was the one I really feared. I'd survived all the others. No one had flipped a raft. There'd been no passenger fall-ins. We'd moved past all the earlier rapids, even the ones that required scouting, with relative ease--and lots of laughs. But this one still daunted me. It was the one the guides talked about in whispers. It was the one my friends back home worried about. It was the one I thought might do me in.

And then a funny thing happened. Despite the anxiety that bubbled up in the pit of my stomach when I first heard the rapid about a 1/4 mile away...despite the fact that I could see Lava's rapids shooting up into the air, reaching out her liquid arches like fingers, ready to pull you in...when we finally stopped to get out and get close enough for the big scouting adventure, all I could see was the right way into it. As we made our way through the trails up the hill to look down below at the river and what awaited us there, I could see for myself that Lava Falls didn't look so bad. She looked no worse than the rapids we'd already been through before. And we'd made it through all of those just fine. I started to relax.

Thus, the video above. By the time this moment arrived, I'd resigned myself to the knowledge that our guides would get us through this one without incident. By this time, laughter and relaxation had taken over my days-long fear. And Lynn Etter, the videographer, decided we'd pretend to be the scouts. So join us as we relive this moment, just before we enter the throes of Lava Falls Rapid. With a rating as high as a 10, the highest rating for a rapid, a rapid that should offer all the challenge the raging waters can bring on, this one acted more like an 8, maybe a 7. Whatever she was on the ratings meter, for us, she was a lot of fun. And I definitely enjoyed riding her up, up and up--and then back down into calm waters again. Take a look and see what I mean. Then...

Tell me about a time when something scared you silly, to the point that you would have turned back if given the choice? What happened? How did you conquer that fear?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day with Blogathon wishes and a contest winner

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!

This year's Blogathon may tend to intimidate some of the new folks. With the number of participants now (I haven't counted) topping 200 (Really?), that's a lot of bloggers uniting to improve, learn and connect. That's also a lot of bloggers to meet. That can be a tough job. So I've decided to go about it the alphabet way. That is, I'm visiting groups of blogs by letter. Michelle Rafter has the entire list organized by the alphabet at WordCount, so I'm just using her list. And let me tell you, I've not gotten too far, especially since I'm visiting the bloggers who visit here as well. Thus, the intimidation. New participants can be swayed to the dark side, if not careful. By that, I mean, they could get so overwhelmed they give up early.

To discourage that, I've decided to veer off the alphabet plan and post links to some of the new participants (or new to me) in this year's Blogathon for today's post on Mother's Day. On Sundays, I'll be running a list of favorite posts, blogs, bloggers and such that focus on joyful things, anyway, so figured I'd start this way, sharing with you what they're saying about this special day and the joyful spirit enriched by our moms. I hope they--and you--will appreciate that.

Take a look a five of them (click on the link above to visit more of us):

Billie Noakes writes her "momoir," with a simple and sweet memory of her mother who died of cancer in 1991.

Don A. Gonzalez gabs about one of his mother's greatest gifts to him.

Melissa Oakes offers a tribute to her mom about the shared love they have for gardening.

On the Bach blog, mother and daughter share equal tributes. How fascinating to know that these two women wrote a novel together. You can learn more about this by clicking on the earlier link.

At The Writing Well, you'll find a tribute to a favorite mom author that most of us know, Erma Bombeck. The famous author's no longer with us, but the tribute is touching and funny. Enjoy.

BONUS! 
Jennifer Derryberry Man was going to post her "mammahhhaiku" (creative for haiku verses written by mothers on mothering) but I haven't seen those yet. Maybe they'll show up on May 10, when we are all asked to participate in a special Haiku Day. Visit her anyway; her blog includes fun stuff for moms. 

And Happy Mother's Day to the best mom I know at the moment--my daughter--on her first Mother's Day with her first baby. See you at noon! I'd also like to send a big thank-you to both my daughter and my son for the Mother's Day gifts they sent to me: two dozen roses (multicolored) and a lovely necklace with pendants engraved with the months you were both born. It makes me want to sing out, "Oh, happy day!" 


NOW FOR THE NEWS YOU'VE BEEN WAITING FOR...Who won the copy of my book from last week's contest--and which logo did I choose? Drumroll please...

The winner of a signed copy of my Arizona travel guide, Backroads & Byways of Arizona, is Ms. Panda. You have till Friday, May 13, to claim your prize. I'll need your your address, please.

Oh, and I chose the logo with the rounded corners (but had to use the taller version to fit) I prefer the soft side of life whenever I can get it. ;-) Thanks to all who participated! Now go have a Happy Mother's Day with your families.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A raft, some family and jazz hands

Yep, that's me in the middle, with my jazz hands all open and free. It was my first full day in the front of the raft. Day 12 (maybe) of my recent Grand Canyon River Raft tour with Outdoors Unlimited. And this one turned out to be family day. Luckily, I'd finally found my mojo on the river by then and was willing to face the rapids head on. Without ducking.

Up to that point, I was only halfway there. I still feared the big ones. Thankfully, because the river level was high during the two weeks plus we spent on the Colorado, we weren't really facing "big ones." Even the Big Kahuna of rapids in the 280 miles we'd float, the one called Lava Falls, just wasn't that horrendous. Of course, our guides fought them mightily anyway. Just in case. The rapids were still bubbly enough to pull you in, flip you over, and send you slamming into deep schist if you didn't hold on tight enough. Trust me, I held on. And those gloves I'm wearing have the rips and broken seams to prove it.

The strength of our guides (I've never seen bigger muscles underneath someone's forearms before) is the very reason you see that big smile on my face. They pushed and pulled us through high-rated rapids and drops of 30 feet, more and less, as if we were simply part of a parade. They made it look easy. And because we were smart enough to raft the entire length of the Grand Canyon, the time allowed them to ease in the chickens like me. The rapids got rougher as we made our way down river. So that, even though I was scared out of my mind at first, by the time we reached the rapids that required scouting, I was feeling secure enough when that rush of water came barreling down on heads, neck and feet. Even when it knocked me up off the raft, by then, I knew my hold on the ropes would keep me safe and dunk-free. I'd had enough experience behind me to see for myself. Yeah, the death grip really works. So I held on. Good and tight.

What a trip! You can expect to see more photos like this one in the days ahead. This one, by the way, was taken by Rebecca Albrecht. She was part of the "family" tour I was on for this 15-day excursion. I add those quote marks, because I'm not the actual family member. I am the girlfriend of the boyfriend who couldn't go. And the boyfriend is the family member. I was the fifth-wheel. But they let me play anyway, and I have never had so much fun before in my life.

So let me send props to the raft, family and jazz hands. All three made this a trip filled with more joy than sand on the beach. And let me tell you, there's a lot of sand on the shore of the Colorado. I should know, since I brought extra home with me--in my shoes, my socks, my hair, my ears, my clothes...

Can you tell me about a time you spent with family that left you reeling in laughter-filled memories long past the event? Post it in a comment below. Or just share your thoughts about what it would take for you to give yourself two weeks of carefree fun.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Twitter Experiment--10 joy-filled tweets



For the fun of it, I searched the word "joy"on Twitter today to see what would come up. I thought I'd post what I gleaned to be the more interesting tweets, links and tweeps that popped up. So here they are, in no particular order. Maybe you'll find something that interests you here. And maybe it'll spawn a new post on your blog:

~A Bible passage tweet by @SidMohede~
The LORD is my strength & my shield; my heart trusts in Him, & I am helped. My heart leaps 4 joy & I will give thanks to Him in song.
~A quote tweeted by @jeremymriddle~
Know what you carry; the unique gift, expression and heart God has placed in you. Take joy in releasing that sound. 
~An affirmation tweeted by @SweetlyInspired~
I envision a life filled with love, joy, ease, prosperity and health.
~Another Bible passage tweeted by @CastingCrumbs~
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. 3 John 1:4
~@KurtJacobs tweeted a comment about his day~
Mountain of receipts sorted now. Now have to put damn things into 24 plastic wallets and individual Excel sheets. Joy of self-employment
~@KenKenM is obviously having a good day~
I DID IT! I ACHIEVED MY GOAL THIS SEMESTER :) *tears of joy* Thank you Lord God, with God all things are truly possible
~@Tinkatoonk celebrates a simple pleasure~
Cafe con leche = joy

~Someone started a new business! Congrats @JoyMalone~
Joy Malone Photography is officially official... I am a certified business owner.. :)

~A tweet by @DewiLheea inspired by another~
RT @LOVE_THE TRUTH: Everything in life isn't about winning. You have to find joy in the process. You have to love what you do.
~A book review tweeted by @keithdoyle9~
Read The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charles Papazian
BONUS!
~I'll end with this tweet from @PositivelyZen because it promotes my monthly theme the best~
Begin today. Declare outloud to the universe that you are willing to let go of struggle & eager to learn through joy. [A quote by] Sarah Ban Breathnach
Where are you finding joy in life today? Post a comment below and let me know what you think about these tweets. Is there anything that jumps out at you--what is it and why?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

A quick post while I catch up from an out of town trip...I just learned we have more than 180 bloggers in this year's WordCount Blogathon. So many participants this year. I'm impressed and hope you will be as well.

Why not click on the link above and visit a few of us? Post comments. Add us to your blogrolls. Subscribe. Help the blogging community grow. And at the same time, enjoy each other's stories.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!