Postcards From The Edge (Of Lake Michigan)

Postcards: the snail mail equivalent of texting. It doesn’t matter if they come from a vacation spot or your home town. Postcards are a quick, easy and fun way to let people know you’re thinking of them and to bring a smile to their day.

Having just moved a few blocks from Navy Pier, I find myself living in a tourist destination, complete with a souvenir shop down the block. Last night, I popped in and bought postcards to send to friends as a Random Act of Rainbow.

Is there someone you can surprise with a postcard today?

Lost and Found

This week, as I sort through and pack up my belongings to move to a smaller place, two things are happening: (1) I’m shedding boxes and bags full of stuff that’s no longer me (why in the world did I accumulate so many things relating to shoes??); and (2) I’m finding old beloved things that I had forgotten all about (so THAT’S where I put the watch my dad got when he retired!), and I’m bringing them back into my life. I’ve also been following T.D. Jakes’ advice to “move into a new room” that makes me “dream again, think again, read again, learn again, a room with people who make deposits and not just withdrawals in your life.” Part of moving into that new room is doing this blog. I’ve encountered some very kind and helpful people in this new room, including Kate MacNicol, who recently reminded me that I should be reading Writer’s Digest.

Writer’s Digest used to be a regular part of my life when I was working on my Masters in Editing and Publishing at the University of Cincinnati, back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth. (OK, there were no dinosaurs, but there were no iPhones or Kindles either.) I lost that part of me when I went to law school, like a cozy sweater I put in a storage box and lost track of. By directing me back to Writer’s Digest, Kate helped me remember how much I enjoyed focusing on the writing profession before I got sucked into the black hole of lawyerdom. Finding that part of me again feels pretty wonderful. So thanks, Kate, for being a rainbow in my moving clouds this week!

If you’re also in the midst of moving into a new room, keep at it! Your efforts will pay off if, like T.D. Jakes advises, you take baby steps, wait for the payback, and have courage to take risks. And if you see a chance to help someone who’s moving into the room where you already reside (like Kate did for me this week), seize the opportunity to be a rainbow in their clouds….

A Hug In An Envelope

June 17 is Father’s Day. The last time I heard from my dad was 12 years ago. He died the day after my birthday, and my flight from Chicago to Ohio didn’t make it in time to say goodbye. When I went back home, a birthday card was waiting for me, signed in his distinctive handwriting, “All my love, dad.”

I inherited dad’s love of cards.  Sending a card is a simple yet effective way to show that you care, and we all need to know someone out there cares about us. Cards are wonderful keepsakes. I have a folder full of cards from dad. When I’m really missing him, I pull out the folder and read some of his cards. It brings his upbeat attitude, crinkly-eyed smile and love back to life.

Sending a card can make someone’s day. It doesn’t have to be a special occasion: the best cards are unexpected! Many options exist today that make sending a card an easy thing to do.

New-Fangled Cards

E-cards only take a couple of minutes to find and send. For a list of web sites that offer free e-cards, click here. If you’re willing to pay a little bit more, you can get really beautiful e-cards from Blue Mountain. I like their cards so much that I paid $30 for a 2-year membership that allows me to send an unlimited number of e-cards. BlueMountain.com also has software that enables you to create and print cards, and it keep reminders for you of people’s birthdays and other special dates.

Of course, these days, there’s an app for that! The Cards app from Apple lets you create and mail cards with your own text and photos from your iPhone. Take a photo and with a few taps and swipes, a letterpress card is on its way to any address in the world. The app is free. Each card is $3, including postage, when sent in the U.S. ($5 if sent to or from anywhere else).

Old-Fashioned Cards

Most people love to get cards the old-fashioned way: via snail mail. Since it can be hard to find the right card when you need it, I shop for cards all the time and snap up good ones whenever I see them. Airports can be good places to shop for cards, as are Target, Papyrus and World Market. If you’re not inclined to build up a standby selection one card at a time, you can get great all-occasion greeting card assortments from UNICEF or Amazon.

Of course, handmade cards can be the best of all. Growing up, my brothers and sisters and I made cards while sitting around the kitchen table, using pictures cut from magazines, crayons, markers and construction paper. That must be why I love going into Paper Source stores so much. They have all the supplies you need to make beautiful cards, and Paper Source has card-making classes each month.

What to Say

If you have trouble coming up with just the right thing to say in a card, don’t despair. You can get help online at Messages For Cards or What To Write In A Card.

What Dad Said

If you’re wondering what my birthday card from dad said, here’s the last (and best) hug in an envelope that I got from him:

Don’t miss a DAY of your LIFE.

Find ways to make

EACH DAY matter –

to you, to another,

to the WORLD.

DEVELOP, LISTEN to, NURTURE

and TRUST your instincts.

You will compete in life,

but LIFE

is not a competition –

it is A GIFT TO BE SHARED…

Don’t be afraid to fall down.

Please, don’t be afraid

to GET BACK UP.

Be as proud

of WHO YOU ARE

as what you do.

Treasure the many SPECIAL PEOPLE

in your life …

…and KNOW that you are

one of them.

All my love,

dad

Connect to Source Part 2: Journaling

A more interactive way to “Connect to Source” than meditation (the subject of Connect to Source Part 1), journaling can be an extremely powerful tool to slow down and listen to your inner wisdom. I journal every Wednesday and Sunday morning, religiously. The answers that emerge when I take a pen in hand, ask hard questions, listen and let the thoughts flow in written form are often profound, and have helped steer my life in a positive direction. And let me tell you, it’s much cheaper than therapy!

In order to do justice to this important subject, I decided to see what others have written about journaling. That quest led me to two excellent books: Journalution by Sandy Grason, and Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Conner (who refers to what I call the Source as “the Voice”). Most of what follows is in their words, which are far more eloquent than mine.

Why Bother To Keep A Journal?

From Journalution:

“Remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy asks Glinda the Good Witch how to get back to Kansas? Glinda tells Dorothy, ‘My dear, you’ve always had the power.’ We all have the power to create a life we love. But often, like Dorothy, we look in faraway places for our answers when the real answers are in our own backyard. It’s tempting to look outside ourselves for answers to life’s big questions. After all, if we could just read a book or go to a seminar and discover our true purpose, it would make things so much easier. While the answers that others have found may inspire you, ultimately you have to answer life’s big questions for yourself, and your journal is the best place to begin figuring out your hopes, dreams and visions. Think of your journal as your very own pair of ruby slippers.”

What If I Don’t Have Time And Energy For Journaling?

From Writing Down Your Soul:

“Writing is not something you have to do; it’s a gift you give yourself—the gift of stopping. Stop for just a moment and step off the busy, go-go, do-do, get-get train that we all ride all day, all week, all year. Stop for just a few minutes and talk with the Voice. Don’t worry that the train will speed ahead without you. Not only will you have no trouble getting back on, but you’ll also reboard with new answers, new clarity, new energy, and a smattering of fresh, new hope.”

What If I’m Not A Good Writer?

From Writing Down Your Soul:

“The best way to push your editor aside is to write fast—really, really fast…. Don’t bother with endings or punctuation or quotation marks or anything that slows you down. Don’t worry about writing correctly—just focus on having a conversation. Because that’s what deep soul writing is—a conversation. It happens to take place in written form, but it doesn’t have to meet any of the criteria of teacher-approved ‘good’ writing. No one sees what you have written but you and the Voice, and the Voice doesn’t care about your grammar, punctuation or spelling.”

What Should I Write About?

Both Journalution and Writing Down Your Soul contain loads of ideas or “prompts” for journal entries. But once you start asking questions about your life and listening for answers, you’ll find an endless source of things to write about. In Grason’s words:

“Begin by asking, ‘What should I do?’ Tell this higher being everything that’s on your mind. Get your problems and concerns out on the page. Rant and rave and ask all the hard questions that are driving you mad. Get rid of them so that you can stop focusing on them. Then take a breath and listen. An answer will be there. Don’t judge it, just write it.”

How Do I Get Started?

From Journalution:

“You don’t have to wait for something big and wonderful to happen in your life in order to start writing. Just begin writing, right now.”

***

“Your journal will help you keep peace in your soul. It will be your guide. It will open your heart and reveal your dreams. You only have to pick up a pen and begin writing.”

While journaling is ultimately about sitting down and putting your thoughts and inner wisdom on paper (or in some electronic form of writing), reading Journalution or Writing Down Your Soul are excellent ways to get started. If you already journal, these books will make the experience even more rewarding. So pick up a pen and paper and create your own pair of beautiful and magical ruby slippers to take you on a journey to the answers to your life’s big questions!

Rainbow of the Week: Keep Showing Up, No Matter What

I love doing this blog and writing, which is why I’m writing this post at 5 AM when I had planned to be running. But I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever get to the point where I can have writing – which is my passion – as a full-time gig. I was having one of those moments of nagging doubts when I read a post in Kristen Lamb’s Blog that gave me just the kick in the pants that I needed. Kristen worked in sales before transitioning into a career as an author, freelance editor and speaker.

This is what Kristen wrote that I needed very much to hear:

“There is no easy way to success in what we do. Whether we traditionally publish or indie or self-publish, there are NO shortcuts. Publishing success is a lot of work. Those who will succeed are the ones who can do this writing thing day, after day, after day, after day, who can keep blogging and tweeting and writing books and more books and more books even when it looks like nothing is happening. I have been blogging for three and a half years and have almost 800,000 words invested into my career. But I keep showing up, and keep showing up, no matter what.

We have to have endurance to be successful at writing. Whether you listen to Barry Eisler, Joe Konrath, Bob Mayer, Amanda Hocking, H.P. Mallory, James Rollins or Sandra Brown, they will all tell you the same story. Success took work, years of it.”

Hard work. Persistence. Patience. Thank you, Kristen, for reminding me that those are necessary ingredients in the recipe of dream fulfillment. That’s true whether your dream is to be a writer, to lose ten pounds, or to find a new job. We may fantasize about winning the lottery, but (a) you’re about 100 times more likely to die of a flesh-eating bacteria than you are to win the lottery, and (b) lottery winners have some of the most tragic stories you’ll ever hear. If you really want to live your dream, keep showing up for it, and keep showing up for it, no matter what!

Rainbow Of The Week: It’s All GOOD

I was first drawn to GOOD magazine and website by a post about a high school student’s hysterical analysis of the dubious physics of his favorite animated series, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

Like the post says, watching this kid’s presentation on the You Tube video makes you love nerds even more, and it makes you nostalgic for the days when learning was the focus of your life.

Founded in 2006 by Ben Goldhirsch (then 26), GOOD is about much more than animated magical flying ponies. It’s a magazine and website dedicated to social causes, and loaded with well-written and interesting articles, in addition to videos and projects. In an interview with LAist, Goldhirsch explained that the focus of GOOD is not just to inform and inspire people, but to give people the tools to “live it and do it themselves.”

My favorite GOOD feature is called “People Are Awesome.” It recently told the story of a U.S. soldier (Dennis Weichel, Jr.) who sacrificed his life to save an Afghan boy. Are you a GOOD reader and, if so, what’s your favorite feature or article?

Rainbow of the Week: Something Beautiful Growing From The Basement

When I was little, the basement was a scary place where monsters and goblins might be dwelling in the dark nooks and crannies. Stacy Ratner made me think of basements in a totally different light. She used hers as a starting point for Open Books, an amazing non-profit organization that provides reading and writing programs for kids at more than 40 Chicago schools. About 50 percent of Open Books’ funding comes from a thriving, unique, 5,000-square-foot store with tens of thousands of used books on its colorful shelves.

It all started in 2006, when Stacy learned that more than half of Chicago’s adult population reads at or below a fourth-grade level. Instead of just “tsk-tsking” about that sad fact, Stacy started collecting book donations in her basement, with plans to sell them in a bookstore with classrooms above for literacy programs. That dream was realized in 2009, when Stacy opened Open Books at 213 West Institute Place in downtown Chicago.

In addition to spreading the love of reading and writing among Chicago school children, Stacy has created a wonderful opportunity for hundreds of Chicagoans to be Open Books volunteers. Whether it’s visiting classrooms for one-on-one reading mentorship, being a “virtual mentor” to a high school junior applying for college, or working in the bookstore (which I recently started to do), being an Open Books volunteer is a rewarding, worthwhile and fun experience. On my first shift alone, I had the memorable experiences of shelving (in the Biography section) Dean Martin next to Karl Marx, helping a bilingual toddler and her dad find the childrens’ foreign language books, and realizing that I may have been one of the few remaining people on Earth who didn’t know the author of The Hunger Games. (It’s Suzanne Collins if you, like me, didn’t already know that.)

So thank you, Stacy, for being a rainbow to all of the Open Books volunteers and, more importantly, to all of the school children who participate in Open Books’ reading and writing programs. And to think that so much goodness grew out of a basement….

Three Good Things

In Lisa Napoli’s book, Radio Shangri-La: What I Discovered on My Accidental Journey to the Happiest Kingdom on Earth, I learned of a very simple and surprisingly effective way to become a more positive, happy and content person. The book is about the author’s experiences living in Bhutan, and it’s interesting in that regard. But what really struck me is something the author learned from attending a “happiness” class. Ms Napoli describes it like this.

From Radio Shangri-La

“[The teacher] assigned an exercise that really started to bring the jumble in my brain to order. It was a simple nightly ritual, and it taught me how to appreciate life in the most basic terms.

“‘I want you to keep a notebook by your bed,’ he said. ‘And every night, before you go to sleep, I want you to review your day. Make a short list of three things that happened that were good.’”

“‘What if three good things didn’t happen?’ several of us asked in unison. Clearly, we weren’t wired with a positive way of looking at the world.

“‘Well, that’s the point,’ he said. ‘This exercise challenges you to find three good things in each day. They don’t have to be big things. In fact, most of the time, they’re not going to be big things. * * * The idea here is that little things have power. * * * I want you to see that every single day, three good things do happen. It will make you discover that goodness exists all around us, already.”

The teacher explained to them, “Over time, you’ll start to see which things make you the happiest. It probably isn’t what you think.”

My Experience

I started doing this “three good things” exercise last summer, basically as a lark. I figured I’d do it for a week, couldn’t hurt, but I didn’t really expect it to make a difference. Boy, was I wrong! Writing down three good things each day has made a tremendous difference and is now an important ritual in my life.

Ms. Napoli’s “happiness” class instructor was right that doing this simple thing helps you see what makes you happy. For me, it’s generally little things like a beautiful day, a good run, a good book, a phone conversation with my sister, dinner with friends, achieving a worthy goal, or feeling the breeze through the windows in my condo. Just as importantly, it focuses you on finding the positive in every day, even taking something negative and seeing the positive in it, like staying calm and not reacting when a co-worker sends me a nasty-gram/e-mail. Some days I have an abundance of good things to choose from. Every once in a while, I have to be creative to find three good things, but I always manage to do it.

Your Turn

Give it a try for a week or two. Put a notepad by your bed, or use the “notes” function on your smart phone. Every night before you go to bed (or any time during the day), take a few minutes and jot down three good things that happened that day. I’d love to hear about your experiences with this “happiness” exercise. Are you surprised by the types of “good things” that you write down? Does focusing on finding the “good things” in each day make you a more positive person in general, like it does for me?