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!

Work Hard and Rest Well

CAN DO knows when to take a break…like I have for the last few weeks from The Can Do Chronicles marketing and this blog.  With Ned back in the job hunt, my grant writing work for the National Head Start Association and Girls Inc. of Dallas has become my primary focus. Because I work for myself, I don’t have paid time off and that becomes its own incentive. Staying healthy is my BIG priority. Even though I am in remission from leukemia, my immune system is not the strongest. I have the hardest time at the change of the seasons, like now, and have already had a couple of cough-y days.

So, my spare time has been dedicated to relaxing: watching movies, taking walks, playingcatnap with the dog, taking naps and reading.

Do I feel guilty?  A little bit!

Am I going to change what I am doing?  NO! 

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I am going to let the ideas and plans for the next phase of CAN DO simmer and percolate while I relax and rejuvenate.

See you in my dreams!

 

Over the Shock and Hard at Work!

It has been almost two weeks since my husband, Ned, was told his job was eliminated. That first week was a rough one… worse for him than for me, but still, no fun for me at all. I was frustrated and unsettled for a whole host of reasons: after several years of financial uncertainty, I had started to make plans – for a vacation with friends next fall, to pay off some bills and purchase a new chair for my office. I was working hard on the next round of marketing for The Can Do Chronicles, and seriously considering publishing it in hard copy. But first I Poofwanted to take a few days off because I had been working so many hours for weeks, between projects for my clients and the launch of the book!  POOF – all of those things disappeared in an instant!  Mostly, I just felt so badly for Ned that this had happened to him AGAIN. That he was not treated fairly or well when he had been so loyal to his employer. And, that his reality for the next months will be the ups and downs of looking for a job. YUCK!

At the end of last week, I was feeling more than a little depressed – those pesky black clouds started crowding in, and I could not blow them away. I know that “living the CAN DO life” does not make it a walk in the park to get through life’s crises, but it does give me tools. So, on Sunday afternoon I intentionally asked the first CAN DO Question: What Can I Do? I made lists of things I want to get done before Christmas, cleaned my office, went to the Home Goods store opening in my area and entered to win a $1,000 shopping spree (which, sadly, I did not win!), called some friends and got out of my own way.

And, I am happy to report the CAN DO strategy worked. I got past feeling shaky and blue, and I feel solid and whole again. With a clearer head, I was able to figure out my plan for what I CAN DO to support Ned and myself through the next few months. The first and Aerobicsmost important, with only my income, I need to stay in great mental and physical shape so that I can do my work well, without feeling pushed, anxious or pressured. I remind myself that I only started working full time again in July and I need to be careful not to get run down and/or sick. So, I will keep going to aerobics two or three times a week – it feels so good (when I stop!) and I know how much stronger I am since I started in July.

And, I will have to put some of the plans for marketing The Can Do Chronicles on hold -not an easy decision to be sure.  I will continue write in this blog at least twice a week and have a couple of holiday shopping specials that I will advertise on Facebook and Linked In, but I will not be able to invest the energy to write the magazine article and guest blog posts or push for media attention that was in the plan, and the hard copy of the book will be delayed. I will do those things next year – and, anyway, look how much more “CAN DO” experience I am getting in the meantime.

The Best Part of Being an Author – So Far!

Juvenile-Alice-in-Wonderland-White-rabbit1This whole experience of “being an author” has been a bit surreal.  When I was in 6th grade, I was Alice in the play put on at the local library in Cleveland Heights. The last two weeks have been a bit of a reprise of the Alice role.

It is so easy for me to “market and promote” the blazes out of kids’ programs and worthy causes related to children and families in need. It is a “whole ‘nuther” experience to market and promote this book where my personal story and my candid perceptions of the world form the core of its message. It does not come easy… and I am just learning the ins and the outs, making it feel even more awkward. As someone who is an introvert, not surprisingly I have had several “walking around naked” dreams in the last two weeks.

I asked friends and colleagues from across the years, in person and through Facebook, to post a review after they read the book. In the amazon.com world, those reviews prime the pump and help drive traffic to the book’s page.  Once someone is there, the reviews give shoppers some enticement (or not, depending on the review!) to purchase the book.

coverThe reviews so far have been Triple A: Amazing – Affirming – Awesome. There are 14 reviews on The Can Do Chronicles amazon.com page as I write this blog, and they are the best part, so far, about being an author. These readers’ words motivate me to push past my anxieties and find new ways to share the message of CAN DO with the wider world.

What I love about this book is that it is not only a testament to Cathi’s courage through some of life’s toughest battles (i.e. job loss, leukemia,…), it is a amazing narrative on how God is faithful and works out things in a perfect, intricate, undetectable design. Cathi (and all of us) “can do” because God does the major prep for us. I also enjoy how she is unafraid to peer deeply into her own experiences and apply the wisdom gained to the next step in her journey. 

Everyone can benefit from reading the Chronicles. It’s both inspiring and motivating.

Represents a provocation in its simplicity to pause before reacting. The author could have gone for a series of cliches, but avoids this and, therefore, her product is eminently more readable.

I would give this a five star rating for its clarity. Cathy has touched on so many questions that I have wrestled with for most of my adult life. She offers a direct path to significant growth that is uphill and most inviting. I look forward to to reading her blog, but most of all to keep this little treasure nearby as companion and guide.

“Can Do Chronicles” follows the author’s personal journey through very difficult times and how by utilizing a rather simple series of actionable questions, she uncovers a unique and effective way to bring balance and peace back into your life, no matter how great the obstacles.

Tonight is the night that, at least temporarily, the government was re-opened for business. Going forward, we all need as much CAN DO as we can get to move our little corner of the world forward with Hope + Gratitude, believing that it will make a difference.

I commit to doing my part by keeping the CAN DO messaging and marketing moving forward, in spite of the anxiety dreams and competing priorities.

REMEMBER:

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Malala: The Ultimate CAN DO Kind of Girl

malalaWOW.  Malala Yousafzai is courage in action.  A 16 year old young woman who is willing to tell the President of the United States “that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”  She said it with respect.  She said it with poise few 50 year-olds possess.  And she said it with conviction.

Last Friday, Malala told an audience at the World Bank that her career goal is to be a politician. I think she needs to teach a thing or two to the current cohort of politicos in Washington. When asked why she wanted to become a politician, she responded, “because a doctor can only help someone who has been shot.” she said. “If I become a politician, I can help make a tomorrow where there are no more cases of people being shot.”

I have not yet read her book, but it is next on my list. In the meantime, when I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with having put my own story out there, I will think about her courage to put her whole self out there, after being shot and with death threats ever present.

When I wonder if it is worth the energy of this one woman to keep writing and talking about CAN DO and the critical importance of Head Start and Girls Inc., even when not many are listening (yet), I will remember this:

“If a terrorist can change someone’s mind and convince them to become a suicide bomber, we can also change their minds and tell them education is the only way to bring humanity and peace.”

 

Can Do Reflections on a Rainy Morning:

rainy leavesAs I sit here this October morning listening to the steady rain, I am reflecting on the comments that people have made to me in the last week after they have read The Can Do Chronicles

I had lunch with a colleague yesterday who called the book a “page turner” because of all the problems we had before we moved. Others have remarked about how taken they are with the number of serious challenges we faced during these last three years. They speak as if – and sometimes I think as if – those months were a time apart from my current life, and that that time is over.

My CAN DO reflection for today is: The Journey Never Ends. And things do not go back to “normal.”  As I used to tell my counseling clients, Normal is a small town in North Central Illinois.  I need my CAN DO outlook and approach to life as much today as I did when I started chemo; as much as I did when Ned’s job evaporated.

It is not over.  

It is never over. The scenery changes… the seasons change… and companions on the journey can come and go. My CAN DO outlook helps keep me ready for the ups and downs and ins and outs that are inevitable because I have no idea what is going to happen today or next week on my life’s journey. My remission did not come with a guarantee. My Dad’s declining health is of increasing concern to the whole family. My car and our roof are both OLD. Then, there are the larger, systemic threats to my world over which I have absolutely no control, such as the government shut down and the debt ceiling.

smiling-heartOn this rainy day, I renew my commitment to keep the smile in my heart. To find, and share, a bite or two of inspirational nourishment through the day. To stay in good spiritual shape and continue to get in good physical shape. To say thank you to God for the blessings that I have.

So, I went looking for a bite of inspiration on the Pope’s Facebook page… it does not get much better than this: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”  Matthew 7:7-8

shutterstock_126333485It’s what I CAN DO to make the journey as life giving as possible on a very rainy fall day.

What CAN you DO?

How can I help?

The shutdown brings back memories – and a message of hope!

govt shutdownBecause I live in the Washington, DC area, the news of the current government shutdown is everywhere I go. While the shutdown does not impact my family directly, the stories that I hear on line, on the news, in conversations with neighbors, colleagues and in the grocery store aisles remind me of how I felt three years ago last summer when my husband’s job was eliminated two weeks before my (planned) last day of work. We went from having two upper management incomes to NOTHING.  Zip, zap, zero!

O.M.G. The uncertainties associated with not having income can quickly become overwhelming. I had plans for starting my grant writing business, but no clients! There were moments of doubting my decision to quit my job, even though I had done so for very good reasons. There were doubts about how the mortgage will get paid on time and we became hyper aware of the cost of gas and groceries. We even had a garage sale to bring in some extra cash.

Over those next weeks, whenever one of us got discouraged or anxious, we reminded theno whining other that we did not have any other option but to keep moving forward and doing the next right thing. There was no time for negative; no time for whining; no time for feeling sorry for ourselves. It was in those weeks in the summer of 2010 that I began to take seriously the need to find and keep an attitude of gratitude at the core of my life.

June 2010 was the starting point of my CAN DO world view. I was determined to work with what I had, and not concern myself with what I did not have at the time – like a big savings account or a trust fund! I started to ask simple questions as I made each decision: WHAT CAN I DO? If that won’t work, WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?  When I stayed focused on the possible, I was able to move forward, away from my fears and into action.

Ned and I worked hard during that difficult time to keep our focus on the positive, stay connected with our friends and family for support; and we reminded ourselves every day how grateful we were for what we had. Within weeks, Ned negotiated a part time transition plan with his former employer and found some part time contract work that, in time, led to a full time job. With determined actions, my “plan” to start a grant writing business quickly became a reality. This was not the end of the story in terms of the struggles – but it set us on a CAN DO course that guided and sustained us through some more very challenging times. A CAN DO course that changed our lives.

coverThis weekend as I launch my new e-book, The CAN DO Chronicles, I think of the thousands of families in my community who are struggling with many of those same challenges, fears and uncertainties in the wake of the shutdown. Part of why I wrote the book was to help people get through tough times like these. My prayer for them is that they not lose faith, and that during this difficult time they can find within themselves the start of a Can Do world view and approach to life.

A CAN DO life is not an easy life, but it is easier than living in doubt and fear.

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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The Water is Wonderful!

coverI am an ambivalent author no more!  In fact, I am getting very psyched for the launch of The Can Do Chronicles next Friday, October 4. The journey getting here has been a bit like trying to decide whether to jump into the chilly water after driving for hours to get to the lake…  I have jumped in and the water is great!  Or, perhaps a more appropriate metaphor is the fishbowl… I am in the fishbowl, in oh-so-many ways.  The water is great and I am swimming like a proverbial fish.

As my friends and colleagues are learning that I have written and am publishing the e-book, I am getting calls and questions asking “so, what’s it about?”  It is the story of the last three years of my life, and my husband Ned’s life by association. But, more than the ups and downs and ins and outs of his job loss, my hip replacement and chemo and our 400 mile move, it is the story about what changed inside of me during these months and years – and how I went from having a semi-permanent chip on my shoulder to a pretty permanent song in my heart.

It is also a guide to taking the “but” out of “yes, but” for those who want to use it that way. I introduce the three central questions that now guide all of my decision making. The questions seem so deceptively easy to ask, yet the answers are not always easy to hear – a conundrum to be sure!  But those tricky little questions work.  Yes, they work wonders.

shutterstock_94875910The Can Do Chronicles will be available on amazon.com as an e-book, but the good news is that you don’t actually have to own a Kindle to read the book. You can read it on any computer, smart phone, or tablet using Amazon’s free Kindle software available at: http://amzn.to/175GXrj.

To celebrate the launch, for the first three days the book will cost only $2.99. That’s less than a coffee at Starbucks. After that, the price goes up to $4.99 – less than a good glass of Pinot Gris. For under $5 you can change your life.  That’s quite a deal.

Please help me pass the word as the launch gets closer!  Follow and share The Can Do Chronicles on Facebook. You will be glad you did.

Thanks and always remember

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