100 Failures in One Year!

Heart's Desire 2I had a full, productive first day back at work, and though I have not completed the task list (unsurprisingly), I feel good about relaxing for the rest of the evening. I thought I’d drop in with a little inspiration for the new year.

I stopped formulating New Year’s goals and resolutions some time ago. I use my birthday (October), instead of January 1, to reflect on the past year and consider my goals for the next 365-day cycle. However, at the beginning of the year, I do take stock of my progress and consider methods I can use to achieve my goals.

One of my forever goals is to get things out of my head, onto paper, and into publications. My life is crazy-busy, but if I’m not writing, I’m dying inside. So I write a LOT! I have journals and notebooks full of writing. And last year, after attending Tara Gray’s Publish and Flourish workshop, I started writing every morning (for a minimum of 15 minutes). I took a break from the practice, because in just a few months, I had drafted several articles and needed to take the time to edit, integrate research where necessary, and consider publications. 

And that’s where many things get stuck. That’s the time-consuming part, and because of all my other responsibilities, those things get put on the back burner. But, I think it’s also the scary part. Finishing can be daunting because it means I have to put it out there and deal with the possibility of rejection.

That’s what I’d like to push through this year, and Kim Liao’s article on failing best, “Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year,” provides the antidote. In the Lit Hub article, Liao shared advice a writing friend she admired offered her:

Collect rejections. Set rejection goals. I know someone who shoots for one hundred rejections in a year, because if you work that hard to get so many rejections, you’re sure to get a few acceptances, too.

I read the article late last year and decided that starting January 1, 2022, I’m going for the goal—100 rejections in a year. Yes, this will be mortifying for my soul, but the goal is not really the rejections, of course. The goal is to keep writing and to keep submitting. Now, this doesn’t mean I’m writing and submitting subpar material just for the sake of rejection. If I go for 100 rejections, that means, I am getting good writing done, crafting proposals, putting my work out there, and not sitting on the fence waiting for the publishing gods to find me. 

I like the idea of pushing for the loss instead of the win. It removes the pressure and anxiety and frees me to write authentically. So, that’s my one “big” plan for the year. I’ll let you know by December 31, 2022 how it goes. 😉

You can use the same principle for your goals. Try your hand at 100 new recipes; create 100 new clothing designs; visit 100 new places; read 100 books; create 100 masterpieces, or even perform 100 random acts of kindness. Whatever it is, go for it!

For now, this is my prayer for you:

May God grant your heart’s desire and renew your plans. — Psalm 20:4

Just remember to put in the work!


About the Image: This is one of the 10 pieces of inspirational “doodle art” I created for the 30-Day Creative Art Gathering. I think another round starts next month.

Favorite Moments of 2021

This year showed us–no matter how much chaos is around us–life continues. The year was brutal. Countless losses, “too many funerals,” constant change, and far too much heartache. But, as I’ve pointed out on many occasions, there’s also been good. As we close out 2021, I’m reflecting as I did last year, on some of my favorite moments of the year–in no particular order.

clinton-row-couple

Clinton Row Color Walk

Street Art. Roaming with my guys anywhere is always a good moment, but when we roamed through downtown Huntsville and found the Clinton Row Art Walk, I was pleased as punch. I shared some of the photos here, but eventually, I’ll share others.

College Language Association (CLA) Annual Conference. This was the first fully virtual academic conference I’d attended. By the time it rolled around [in April], I was oh-so-tired of Zoom, but the conference provided such a rewarding, interactive experience that it didn’t feel virtual at all. I laughed, lauded, and learned.

Joe Wheeler State Park. This work retreat, thankfully, was more retreat than work. I wrote a little about it in Between Water and Trees. I rode the high of all that outdoors for quite some time.

Summer Road Trips! After sheltering-in-place for 16 months, the guys and I hit the road to visit our folks. We went to New Orleans to visit my parents and to Millers Creek, North Carolina to visit Hubby’s parents. Both trips were too short, but it was oh so good to lay eyes on our parents [and siblings] and make sure they’re okay.

English Garden. My in-laws have an amazing English-style garden. When we visited, I stole away often to spend time in the garden. The butterflies loved the garden too, and I have the photos to prove it. 😉

“A Garden Visitor.”

Thanksgiving Road Trip! By November, the benefits of the summer escapes had worn off and we were itching to get out of the bubble of Northern Alabama for just a moment. We took another short road trip to Atlanta to visit my sister and niece for Thanksgiving. Bonus! We also spent a little time with a bunch of nieces and nephews and one of my sisters-in-law! We won’t make mention of the macaroni and cheese that I was compelled to make with the “wrong kind” of pasta and cheese! :-/ [Everyone else thought it was good, but it was not my signature mac and cheese!].

Working with Lilith. I had the privilege of editing a book for one of the most pleasant individuals I’ve ever worked with. She has an incredible story. We were acquainted before, but through this endeavor, our friendship has been developing. Although we indeed completed the work, our meetings to review the edits were more like tea with a friend than work.

Dean. Among last year’s “favorite moments,” I listed that I had accepted the role of department chair. Who knew that less than a year later, I’d drop the chair to accept another role—Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences? I seriously resisted at first until I realized I had no logical explanations for not accepting the role. Of course, I am having a blast!

Tell It Slant. The Emily Dickinson Museum’s Tell It Slant Poetry Festival was everything my writing soul needed and more. I went to seminars, workshops, readings, and Q&A’s. I became acquainted with new poets, acquired new art and books, and most importantly, experimented with new writing techniques. I am certainly looking forward to next year’s event!

Tree Love for 30-Day Creative Gathering

30-Days Creative Gathering. Sheila Delgado’s Creative Challenge was the mental and creative break I needed daily throughout the month of September! This gift to myself offered so much joy!

World Watercolor Month:  Thankfully, my friend Sheila introduced me to this month-long art party. It was fun finding ways to transform my photography into “watercolor” art. If you’re interested, you can find the three #worldwatercolormonth posts by clicking the link.

Time with My Bestie. My bestie came into town to drop off her youngest daughter for college. After the very last minute, her daughter–bound for a university in California–switched course and chose our alma mater (where I now work). So in these “Corona Times” I got to see my bestie! She even bought a sparkling [non-alcoholic] beverage to toast my new role.

Write Together. Jennifer Belthoff’s “Write Together” sessions were among my favorite moments this year and last year. I don’t always get a chance to participate, but the “time out” for gathering, contemplating, and writing is always well-spent.

Birthday Fun. Despite getting horribly sick halfway through my birthday, that was actually one of the best days of the year. As part of my birthday festivities, the guys and I headed to Scott’s Orchard. Of course, anytime outdoors with my camera and my guys, surrounded by trees, is a perfect day!

A Moment with Dr. Garland. It’s always wonderful when the virtual world collides with the “real world,” so when my blogging friend K.E. Garland showed up as a presenter at the Mellon conference, I was thrilled. We run in similar academic circles, so our encounter “in real life” was just a matter of time. I invited her to present at my university, and we had a moment to connect after her awesome workshop which offered many wonderful tips for surviving the pandemic as an academician. I love her candor and her energy.

Tea Time!

Prayer Circle. Just before the academic year began, my colleague Kayla invited a very small group of women to her home for brunch and prayer over the year. After conversation and a good meal, we talked about our intentions and each prayed over the various facets of the university and the academic year. I recalled the good energy of our Prayer Circle when we hit rough spots in the semester.

Books & Tea. The Women’s Ministries Coordinators at my church organized a series of book talks on Chrystal Evans Hurst’s She’s Still There. The weekly virtual talks were soul-stirring, affirming, inspirational, and fun. The talks culminated with a three-day Women’s Empowerment Weekend and an in-person event featuring Hurst. For that event, we dressed in our best and headed to the church, the first in-person event held at our church since the pandemic began. Of course, we had to present negative COVID-19 test results, wear masks, and practice social distancing.

“Max Your Talent” Mini Women’s Retreat. This regional event, held a couple of weeks ago, was just what I needed as I headed into the Christmas holiday. It reinforced my understanding of my purpose, my humanity, and my identity in Christ.

Sunflower Encounters.  One of my friends recently marveled that “the sunflowers always seem to find [me].” I think she might be right. I typically have sunflower encounters in unexpected places and moments–like the mini sunflower field my guys found at the beginning of the school year. I shared some of the blooms in “The Gift of Sunflowers.”

Sunflowers from Hubby, Beginning to Wilt

Sneaky Sunflowers. I was in the middle of a meeting when my hubby attempted to sneak into my office with a glorious bouquet of sunflowers. He even purchased a vase and filled it with water. The blooms brought so much light and joy to the office and we won’t mention the hundreds of photos I shot as I attempted to recreate some of my favorite Van Gogh pieces with a camera.

Sunflower gifts. My family and friends enjoy surprising me with sunflower gifts, and this year was no different. You’ve seen the sunflower art and the sunflower gift basket from Kelli, but there were other gifts. My [former] student Raven sent a personalized acrylic nameplate for my desk with my new title. Of course, it was embellished with sunflower art. My son gave me a beautiful hand-designed sunflower keepsake box–my new fav! And there were so many more!

Van Gogh Immersive Experience. This! Oh, so much joy! I will talk about it in another post when I have time to manage my photo selection—and when I can avoid “spoiling” the experience for those who have not been yet. I’ll just say this: I waited and waited and waited for the Van Gogh Experience to reach my area. When it finally did, I purchased tickets right away. It did not disappoint!

There were many, many more moments of this year, and these “few” moments show that if we’re paying attention, in spite of a pandemic, we can still find so much good. I hope you this carry with you into 2022.

Happy 2022!

New Year: A Dialogue

“Cheers to the New Year.” Photo by Rebecca R.

Happy New Year, Friends!

Although I said I would, I changed my mind about sharing a Neruda poem this evening. Instead, I decided to drop in with a dialogue poem by late 19th/early 20th century poet, Ella Wheeler Wilcox. The dialogue speaks to this particular moment of transition. After the maddening year that’s just ended, some of us might be a little wary about our march into 2021. But the year awaits with all its gifts.

New Year: A Dialogue
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Mortal
“The night is cold, the hour is late, the world is bleak and drear;
Who is it knocking at my door?”

The New Year
“I am Good Cheer.”

Mortal
“Your voice is strange; I know you not; in shadows dark I grope.
What seek you here?”

The New Year
“Friend, let me in; my name is Hope.”

Mortal
“And mine is Failure; you but mock the life you seek to bless. Pass on.”

The New Year
“Nay, open wide the door; I am Success.”

Mortal
“But I am ill and spent with pain; too late has come your wealth. I cannot use it.”

The New Year
“Listen, friend; I am Good Health.”

Mortal
“Now, wide I fling my door. Come in, and your fair statements prove.”

The New Year
“But you must open, too, your heart, for I am Love.”

May you find in this year good cheer, hope, success, good health, and, of course, love.


About the image: The macro photo of a leaf with raindrops (or dew?) came from my friend, Rebecca R. She captured it during an autumn walk and sent it with best wishes for the new year.

Self-Kindness and the (Un)Written Plan

Interior of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC. Digitally altered, of course.

The publicly announced commitments to change and other goals [seem to] have increased significantly for 2020, perhaps, because most perceive the new year as the beginning rather than the end of a decade.

This morning, I had a brief discussion with Paula, an inspirational writer friend, following her (re)posting of a devotional thought she wrote at the beginning of 2018. She commented in our discussion that not much had changed in two years.

That gave me pause for two reasons: (1) From my point of view Paula has made serious strides in recent years. And (2) when I considered what I’d hoped to accomplish the past several years, I confronted the reality that I missed the mark many times, in many ways.

But before I allowed myself to sit in a stew of self-pity and regret, I decided to make a list of all the things I have accomplished over the decade. Sufficiently sated, I stopped at the end of the first long page–with plans to “complete” the list and refer to it whenever feelings of failure and defeat surface.

While writing the list, I focused on the things others can see, things I can list on my curriculum vitae or include in a professional biography. However, there are so many victories, so many successes that would not be included on a CV or in a bio.

By the grace of God, I’ve done some hard things, faced and overcome difficult obstacles. Things that took time. Energy. And left scars. Things no one else will see. Things most will never know. Things for which I will never be publicly honored, recognized, or applauded. Things that firmed up my soul and impacted the lives of others in ways I may never know.

I learned long ago my value does not come from a list of successes (or failures), a title, a bank account, or even the people around me. I also learned what I achieve through and for the Most High is far more critical than anything I do for myself.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to make plans and act on them, but I invite you to do so with a little more perspective and self-kindness. Even if you don’t check everything off [the probably overly ambitious] list within the time frame expected, take into consideration the ways in which you slay and conquer that aren’t written into the plan.

Happy 2020!

November.

Today was hard.

This year has been hard.

Though it has its incredible moments, 2019 has challenged me in more ways than I can count, so  when I read the words posted by S. C. Lourie [Butterflies and Pebbles] on Instagram a few moments ago, I felt her words deep. in. my. soul.

November.
It’s gotta be about staying or becoming true to you.
About not whispering when you want to shout.
About not turning when you really want to move forward.
November is the month of now or never.
Of let your voice shake but speak anyway.
And stumble as much as you do
but still go forth in the direction
of your dreams and of your peace,
like you deserve them,
like there is more meaning to your life
than just taking orders and fulfilling tasks.
November is nearing the end of the year.
November is live out what’s in your heart.
That it’s not too late to follow after what you really want.
These days, they matter.
You matter.
Finish this year with a bang,
so next year will begin with fireworks.  —S. C. Lourie, Butterflies and Pebbles

This is the kind of thing I needed to read on this first day of November when after one more “sucker punch,” I’m on the brink of throwing in the towel and “trying again” next year. It would be so much easier to kick back and wait for the year to end, but Lourie’s post reminds me there’s still so much possibility in the remainder of the year. There’s enough time to “take this year back […] and make something meaningful of it.”


Linking up with Dawn of The Day After in the Festival of Leaves photo challenge.

12 Days of Christmas Postcards | Day 8

Some things are prettier “in person.” Such is the case with the “Joyful Heart” watercolor Christmas card made by my Love Notes friend, Trang K.

Trang’s note mentioned the “joy” postcard I sent at the beginning of 2018, which encouraged family and friends to carry joy with them into the new year, “so it is fitting that I am sending you full circle at the closing of the year.” Instead of a book end, her card is a charge to continue to walk with joy.

Trang mused:

It is because of sorrow that we know joy, and so, in truth they are one and the same.

Her words reminded me of a brief journal entry I wrote almost 30 years ago (gasp!) in which I wrestled with James 1:2, 3:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. [NIV]

It’s so hard to cope with hardship–continuous suffering and tribulations that seem never ending. Yet, in Your Word, Lord, we are told to “count it all joy” when we are tested because this testing produces patience and develops and strengthens our faith. Joy, Lord? I can hardly make it through the night. […] But I want to be stronger in faith. Help me to trust You…Help me to accept this “joy” when I’m tired and tried.

Whereas I had questions those many, many moons ago, today I focus on joy as a discipline. I’m learning to practice a steadying joy no matter the circumstance. This does not mean I work on being perpetually happy; it means that when LIFE does its thing, instead of driving myself crazy with worry or lying down in defeat, I rest in God’s presence and stand firm as His strength carries me.

As you navigate 2019, may you walk with joy no matter what…

Happy New Year!


The WordPress bot just informed me that this is my 500th blog post! Another reason to celebrate!

Happy Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

“Freedom from Slavery.” This statue, celebrating the end of slavery, was gifted to Gorée Island as a symbol of friendship between Guadeloupe and Africa. Photo shot in 2004 with an Olympus Camedia, my first “real” digital camera. 🙂

Happy New Year! I realize today is January 1 and New Year’s greetings are resounding throughout the world. January 1 means a clean slate, a fresh start, a brand new year to get some things done and get some other things right.  In those various ventures, I “wish above all that you would prosper and be in good health” [3 John 2].

January 1 is significant for other reasons. Foremost in my mind is that on this date in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation put the United States of America on the road to truly becoming the “land of the free.” Of course, it was–and continues to be–a long, hard road to realizing what it means that “all [humans] are created equal” and are “endowed with certain inalienable rights.”

And yes, I’m aware there was an “earlier attempt” at issuing the Proclamation and that Lincoln’s signing of it had less to do with his concern about the plight of enslaved persons in the USA and more to do with using [newly] freed Blacks to help win the Civil War and thus save the Union. But here we are, 155 years later, with no sanctioned slavery–or owning of human chattel–in the USA.

Because I have little choice, I’ve been thinking a lot about race in the United States. More so, since an “innocent” post on my Facebook page a few months ago led to a  word-battle between one of my Euro-American friends and a couple of my African American friends. That “dialogue,” which I eventually shut down by closing comments on the post, underscored how little “mainstream” Americans know about African American life and history, but it also revealed how our thinking on all sides reduces the other to a “single story.”

One of the problems with race as a construct is that we think we know each other. We have ideas that black people are…red people are…white people are…brown people are…yellow people are…We believe we know what individuals are all about on first sight of skin tone. This hurts us as a [human] race inexplicably and explains for the most part why the world is in such shape.

When I was in graduate school, another student in the class told me that “African Americans should get their own culture” in response to my presentation of a project for a course on modern theory–a hypertext “rewriting” of James Joyces’ Ulysses that makes the book relatable to people of color. Imagine my chagrin when little more than a decade later I heard those words echoed in my own classroom–addressed to the African American students in my class–via teleconference with students from University of Colorado-Boulder.

That statement underscores not only how little these individuals know about African American contributions and influences but also how much as Americans we are told/taught/convinced that anything that’s white is American and everything else is subculture, subpar, and inessential to the American landscape and character.

So…I’ve made a decision about my blog for this year. In addition to getting caught up on the “to be blogged” list of 2017, continuing to do Microblog Mondays, and all the other snail mail and photography randomness, I’m going to post frequently on Black history, culture, life, and politics.

That starts with today…So if you didn’t know before, now you know…There’s a special reason why African Americans and all other Americans should celebrate January 1. In fact, I’m convinced this should be bigger than “the fourth of July.”

Happy Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation!

A Gracious Good-bye

It seems everywhere I turn people are saying “good riddance” to 2016.  I’m sure they have their reasons. In many ways, 2016 was a hard, hard year, and 2017 provides the opportunity to put it all behind us with the hope of a “clean slate,” a new start, and another “chance” to get things right.

But I hope as we are saying good-bye to 2016, we reflect on the good that came with the bad: For every death, there was a birth; for every loss, a victory; for every failure, a success.  Even if we feel none of these positives, there are always lessons and gifts–even in pain, disappointment, and loss.

I encourage you to part ways with the “old” graciously.  Eventually, there will be reasons to look back fondly.