2013 – A Year In Between

2013

What a year it has been!

It started with great hope and anticipation as I completed my chemo on January 5th.  I was totally unprepared for how lousy I felt all of January and February… it was the cumulative effects of six months of chemo, but it flattened my fantasy of chemo’s end and new life’s beginning.  You know what they say about assumptions…

All frustration faded in early March when Ned and I went on an awesome, wonderful 10 day cruise in the Caribbean.  With earbuds channeling my favorite tunes, I walked around and around the deck soaking the healing light of the sun’s rays into my blood.  Josh Groban, Susan Boyle, Peter Paul and Mary, Mozart, Beethoven, Simon and Garfunkel, Billy Joel, Andrea Bocelli, Mary Chapin Carpenter serenaded my blood and my brain back to health. The scenery was breathtaking – the Caribbean’Vacation 2013 066???????????????????????????????s forty shades of blue easily match Ireland’s forty shades of green.  I took hundreds of pictures on St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Antigua and Tortola – not so much in Martinique, with the beautiful name and so-so scenery.  I had read an article about the healing powers of swimming in salt water, so we went to two beaches so I could swim and bob about in the clear blue water.  We met and made new friends from California and Scotland.  It gets the rating of BEST CRUISE EVER!

Reality returned quickly – the furnace died and so did my work computer… followed by a leak in the water line.  Net: over $12K in under 90 days.  So much for getting ahead! SIGH!

By late April I was feeling great and began to look for full time work.  “Writing grants” is great, and I am very good at it.  But, now that I was feeling good, I was getting a little bit bored.  Working alone from home, while a comfort when I felt lousy, was making me stir-crazy.  I collage1spent some time pulling my thoughts about what was most important to me in my work and life, and developed an advocacy focus and business blog, but it was still not ticking all of my boxes. I applied for several senior development and CEO positions; a couple of them had interesting back stories, too! Most were for nonprofits with strong child-focused missions; one was not! Then I realized, I enjoy my contractor/consultant role and am fortunate and grateful create my own business – and it has the potential to grow and change with time.  I don’t have to stay at home and be bored – that is a state of mind that is easily changed as I make plans to get out and meet new people and research what I want my business to become. As I write this, the challenges and stresses of the work-a-day fade, and I realize how blessed I am to have good clients, interesting work and a whole world of opportunity ahead of me. I pause to let it sink in – and smile!

Through the summer and fall I wrote and edited, and re-edited!, and then finally published The cover.finalCan Do Chronicles, my little e-book that narrates the journey of the last four years.  The launch on October 4th was a frenzy of making sure the book got loaded correctly and on time onto the amazon.com site, marketing e-mails to friends and colleagues and just about everyone I had ever met, constant updating of the book’s very own Facebook page, and writing for the Can Do Blog, the book’s very own blog!  I had an awesome radio interview in the WOO (Worcester, MA) on Sunday the 20th, and pages of ideas for marketing. I started to believe I really was an author!

As a bizarre twist in a parallel universe to the story I tell in the book, on October 21st, Ned called to tell me that his job had been eliminated.  Fortunately, this time I am healthy and working full time, so we are not staring over the cliff into the black abyss like we were on June 18, 2010 when he called with similar news.  But, it has been a frustrating and challenging way to end the year. My attention immediately shifted from spending 6-10 hours a week marketing the book and developing the Can Do side of my business and life, to totally focusing on managing my stress level, getting my work done and staying healthy. As a contractor, I have no “paid time off,” and, while I am healthy again, I literally cannot afford a cold or the flu.  Ned’s attention is fully focused on getting a new job… his qualifications are fabulous, but his age is a challenge in the current job market.

Both of us continue to count our blessings.  Can Do remains at our core.  We discovered (again!) that Can Do is not always shiny and bright.  Sometimes, Can Do is about keeping on keeping on, even when you want to be doing ANYTHING else but what you are doing – for me, writing one more grant proposal instead of taking a day off; for Ned, not working!  I smiling-hearthave not written as many blogs as I had hoped, nor have I updated the book in preparation for hard copy publication.  I.have.not.had.the.energy.  But it is okay!  Every single day, I have done the best I could with what I have.  And, I have kept my smile – well, most of the time!

While frustrated in some minutes (or hours – or days!), we are not discouraged!  We thank God we have each other and our friends and family that are so close and caring on this interesting journey of life. Our life is simpler – when the debit card says stop, we do! Our Christmas gifts were modest. Our celebrations now center on spaghetti or chicken at our dining room table or at a friend’s table – not routine dinners out at nice restaurants.  And, going to a nice restaurant is a bigger treat and more appreciated!  As the t-shirts say: Life is Good!

images (6)When I woke up this morning, I knew I was ready to do some of “my writing” again as a way to reflect and renew and prepare for the days ahead.  I close 2013 with both a smile and a song in my heart. I am ready for 2014 and its journey of joys and challenges and new vistas.

God Bless Us Everyone!

Why I Wrote The Book…

coverThe CAN DO Chronicles narrates my journey through some significant life challenges and describes the transformation of a person with a semi-permanent chip on my shoulder to a life grounded in hope and gratitude. The last three years have been tough ones for me and my husband Ned, with an array of hiccups, challenges and “opportunities for growth” – ranging from job losses to a 400 mile move to hip surgery – then, from six months of chemo to my wonderful new life. During the months of ups and downs, I made a commitment to myself, Ned, my family and to God that my approach and attitude would be as completely CAN DO as possible. I crafted three simple “CAN DO Questions” that have guided my decision making, and helped me take the “but” out of “yes, but” the majority of the time. Several new, healthier habits help keep it that way. My new approach to life intentionally focuses on both possibilities and gratitude. CAN DO has taken on a life of its own and become far too important to me to risk losing it.

In deciding to write this e-book, I realized that The CAN DO Chronicles is about much more than my story. Every day I hear or read about individuals, couples and families whose lives have been turned upside down by cancer or some other disease, job loss and unemployment, foreclosure, divorce and other problems. The Great Recession has brought downsizing, outsourcing, layoffs and very slow job growth, with those lucky enough to have jobs repeatedly being told to “do more with less.” Important programs like Head Start have recently lost funding, reducing their capacity to make a difference for children and families in greatest need. Discussions I have with friends and colleagues in the helping professions often focus on the concern we share that the stresses of life are becoming more challenging, and people are feeling more stuck and less hopeful. We ask each other and ourselves, “What can I/we do to make a difference?”

In the midst of all the stresses and struggles of life, there are some individuals who shutterstock_114396031possess and are able to keep a positive attitude and outlook in spite of it all, and who, by example, encourage and teach the rest of us to have hope and do the same. I know many people like that, and I search in the wider world to learn the stories of more so that I can share them on this blog. I admire them, and I want to continue to grow to become more like them. Writing this book, by definition, has required me to own CAN DO fully, deeply and without hesitation. I have. And, I believe that I am called to share my story.

I am a strong believer in the power of stories because they open us up to understanding life, its mystery and its lessons more dynamically. My hope is that people who read my story and learn about how I was able to knock that well-worn chip off my shoulder will make a connection and find inspiration to focus their lives on what they CAN DO.  I want as many people as possible to discover the energy, joy and hope that an attitude of gratitude can bring in a world that is filled with struggles, fears and way too much CAN’T DO!

In my small way, I want to make a difference, and let others know that they can too.  It’s what I CAN DO – and so can you! Together, we can build a CAN DO world.

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