Fresh Step Forward

I always enjoy this time of year. Granted, it comes earlier here in Florida, but back-to-school time is ripe with fresh starts. As a kid I loved buying new clothes and school supplies. As a writing instructor I stocked up on pens, pencils, markers, highlighters, and paper for my own use as well as to offer to my students who needed them. As a freelance writer I find uses for quirky and unusual office supplies.

InsectPaperClipsMore important than these things is the mindset for a fresh start. This year I prepared by refilling my creative well during a week during which I “retreated” from social media and distractions. My intent was to give myself time to create new routines, but I now realize it allowed me to take a fresh step forward.

Like a true retreat, my aim was to quiet my mind so I could make decisions on which direction to take my coaching/teaching business as well as my writing career. To quiet my mind and refill my creative well, I spent time:

Devour books!

Devour books!

Reading. Not only did I devour books from one of my favorite services, Book Bub, but I discovered Overdrive, the service my local library system uses for ebook borrowing. I read so much there were a few days I only ate, slept, and read. When the stories began to merge together, I knew I needed to slow down–and work on some of my other goals for the week.

A coloring page from my Weekly Bloom e-mail.

A coloring page from my Weekly Bloom e-mail.

Reorganizing & Planning. This was another key goal for my “retreat” and an important step toward creating new routines. (Not to mention releasing the clutter so I could make decisions to move forward, which I blogged about earlier.) I also returned to diligently using my planner. This year I bought it from May You  Bloom and love the quotes and petals on the “life wheel.”

Fun with watercolors.

Fun with watercolors.

Tapping into my inner child. I love the May You Bloom site and weekly Blooms I receive by email. One of the best parts about this site is the “permission to be playful” and do something for ourselves every day. So, I embraced that idea and pulled out paints, colored pencils, and markers. I colored as if I were still a kid. Then I painted quick and simple quirky angels to place around my office. They inspire me.

Meditating and relaxing. You can’t “retreat” without tapping into the quiet. One of my favorite guided meditation coaches is Max Highstein. I love the Healing Waterfalls and others, which I used during my downtime. It helped me find calm center from which to make these important decisions and to work toward goals.

Two weeks later I’ve maintained a balance of work and relaxation that is both creative and energizing. Though I’ve cut back on all my teaching (dropped the college level altogether), I still keep my hand in through local workshops. So, technically, I’m not facing a new school year. Still, it’s gratifying to to put a fresh foot forward toward new goals. And my “retreat” helped make it happen. What are you doing to create a #freshforward this autumn?

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Fresh Season–Happy Autumn!

It’s here! The autumn equinox today heralds the next season. While we won’t see the transition clearly here in Florida (just more rain and humidity with the added adventure of flash flooding), I’m glad for the “change” in season. 

It’s perfect timing for a “fresh” start, something I feel a bigger need for this year after losing my father. Also, I like my routines. I’m a creature of habit—to a point. I do like shifting things around and creating new routines. New seasons are a natural time to do this. They’re a natural transition with the hope for something better in the coming months. And during autumn, I’m also looking forward to the holidays. So, as I prepare for what’s ahead, I plan with the same eagerness as I do a vacation.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t do my new year’s sort and toss. Or maybe because I didn’t have a chance to “spring clean,” or maybe it was triggered by sorting and packing my father’s house. Whatever the reason, I’ve been itching to make some changes. This month I’ve been reorganizing my home and office, sorting, tossing, and giving away. I feel I’m lightening my load and files.

Egrets at the pond.

Egrets at the pond.

Not only have I been captivated by memories, I’ve found projects ideas that got buried during moves. Several are intriguing. One is a middle grade novel for Christian girls that I started for my niece when she was 8 or 9. (She’s just celebrated her 32nd birthday. But, the basic plot is still feasible, and the ideas are churning for updating the characters and events.) Another is a proposal for an elementary nonfiction book on swans. Hmm. I’ve certainly spent plenty of time photographing them in the past. I now spend mornings watching egrets and ibis in my backyard. Perhaps it’s time to act on a “bird” book.

Swan on Higgins Lake, Michigan

Swan on Higgins Lake, Michigan

I’ve spent time in the past few weeks reading words I wrote nearly a decade ago (sometimes longer) and I’m amazed that “I wrote that!” It’s even fun to see comments from my first critique group on some of the manuscripts, too. Then there are the handouts and promo pieces I used during the first school visits I ever did. Fun to reminisce but also viable ideas for future articles.

So, I’m excited that autumn has arrived. I recall how much I always loved the bright, sunny days and crisp nights for hay rides and hot cider when I lived in the north. Now, I know I have only a few weeks more of rainy season to suffer through. In the meantime, I’ll make fresh plans for new projects and ride the excitement of change; this autumn heralds a change in season as well as a transition in my life.

What are your plans for autumn? Do you set goals? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts: Subtle Seasons; Good Morning Season

Subtle Seasons

It’s been more than a decade since I swapped peninsulas to move from Michigan to Florida. When I did, everyone told me, “You’ll miss the seasons. Florida only has two: hot and rainy or warm and dry.” They were right – and wrong.

They were right because I loved autumn with the crisp nights and sunny days, the bonfires and hay rides at the orchards, and the fresh apple cider from the local mills. I also loved the vivid colors of fall foliage; a weekend pastime was to drive Edward Hines from end to end to soak in the beauty. I missed autumn. I also missed winter–more accurately, the beauty of winter. It was the endless dirty piles of snow and ice from plowed parking and roads that I disliked. It was clearing the car in frigid temperatures that caused me to move away. And because spring stopped making all that bearable. I used to love spring and seeing the fresh light green of budding trees and tender grass sprinkled with the white and yellow and pink and purple of new spring flowers.

But they were wrong, too. When I settled in Florida, I felt the joy I felt for northern summers with their deepening and varied shades of green and their bursts of vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. Day lilies and tiger lilies were a staple around my patio in Michigan. Though I couldn’t get them to grow here, I have fallen in love with the creamy white flowers and glossy green-black leaves of the Frangipani trees and the sprinkles of white, star-shaped fragrant jasmine flowers on hedge-like bushes. These plants herald summer and the coming rains. Our season to “suffer through,” just like the winters of Michigan.

Autumn emerges with vivid greens after all the summer rains. It is a subtle transition, one likely to be overlooked except by the very observant. Another herald is the noise of congested beaches and numerous cars, including more honking (something about southern drivers limits their use of horns, even in near-accident situations or car horns are usually northerners). The arrival of the Snow Birds is a true indicator of autumn when overnight travel time will double no matter how sort the distance.

The coming of winter is marked by the dropping of humidity and cool, zephyr-like breezes. Tension in the air also drops as locals give thanks for “paradise weather.” Leaves of the Ficus trees fall and walkways crunch with the hard brown leaves. For about three weeks we experience cool nights when sweaters are needed and sometimes frost advisories cause citrus grove owners to scramble to protect their delicate crops.

Spring arrives around March with the orange blossoms delivering their heady, sweet scent for miles on the breeze. The scent is citrus-y in the dewy mornings, but the sun-warmed fragrance in the afternoons reminds me of the lilacs I miss from my northern home.

So the seasons here are subtle just as the seasons of our lives creep up on us, yet they exist all the same. Someone tuned into her surroundings will notice the patterns emerge that transition one season to the next. And just as when I lived in the north, I look forward to the next season, the next stage in the progressing year, and my heart is content.

What transitions suggest season’s change where you live? Note those details for your next story or essay draft. Happy observing–and writing!