Fifth Step: Always Do Your Best.

Imagine my surprise this morning, as I turned to The Fourth Agreement of the Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz: Always Do Your Best. We think we do, but we really don’t. My dad preached to all of us to do our best. Whatever we do, do it with every bit of our being; homework, building a science project, or as adults at work. Do it to the best of our ability. Why?

Ruiz says if we do our best, we live intensely. We’re more productive (I’m all for that!). You’ll be good to yourself as you give yourself to your family, friends, community and everyone else. It’s in the act you feel good. I can tell for myself, as I’ve rearranged my morning time spent, I’m creating more. I’m getting started on feeling accomplished. I’m getting things done. My stress is less. Yes, I can see the future I’ve been working so hard at for the past few years.

Most people have jobs instead of careers. They are miserable and can’t wait for whenever payday is, welcome the weekend with open arms, and dread Monday morning. During my single mom years, I suppose I was a bit of a workaholic. I’d work for the OT on Saturday mornings. My kids were old enough to stay alone, watch cartoons, and pour milk on their own cereal, while I worked 4 hours from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Once home, we’d start on cleaning, laundry, doing yard work, etc. I miss the energy but not the stress that came with it.

Yes, many people misuse those two days called the weekend. Chances are, deep down, we’re unhappy. The work is dull and boring but we need the benefits. When you’re unhappy, you try to escape; into more work, going to the bar, and the rest of the story isn’t pretty. Sure, I visited drinking establishments; I had to see what the hype was all about. It took about a year for the luster to wear off. I quit going out, looked forward to staying home with the kids on Friday nights, doing laundry, and being grateful.

Once we accept ourselves, learning from each mistake, we develop stronger personalities. We learn to stand up for ourselves. Things don’t bother us. We can say with total honesty of our word, “I did my best.” I can tell you, living a life with chronic pain and disability since 1995, many days, my best is disappointing. No one but me is judging, but I’m learning to know it’s nothing I’m doing on purpose, it’s simply the hand I was dealt at age 43. Yes I’m used to it; I know what to expect. About every five years, I become significantly worse. Part of it is aging, a lot of it is my condition. I remain grateful to God I can still walk, drive, see, and create beauty for my world.

Further, Ruiz tells us when we enjoy what we’re doing, it isn’t work, you’re doing it because you want to, not because you’re forced to do it. Sure, there are minor things required of us to live in society, living with others, we just do them. Laundry, cleaning, mowing the yard, they’re must do’s to live in a neighborhood with others. I consider them to be necessary evils. I thank God I have many nice clothes, a nice home, and we can see what we’ve worked for. The Babe helps a lot. It’s how his mom raised him. Thanks, Liz!

When we are in the process of action, we are living. We are experiencing living fully. Inaction is siting on the couch watching TV. Sure, I succumb to it now an then, but then realize how fruitless that is. I enjoy a good Netflix binge just as much as the next person. I just don’t allow it all day, every day. I can’t. If I would, I may as well cancel my website, my blog, my works in progress, give away all my fabric, art supplies . . .

Ruiz also says when you live, keep your word, never assume, don’t take anything personally, and do your best, your life will be happier, fuller, and reach further into the universe. Who could hope for more than that? What a great way to live.

Last summer, while our friend Lenny was experiencing declining health, I came upon the company, “Live a Great Story.” I have lots of their stickers, magnets, and shirts. It’s a motto I love, and it’s one that makes me remember Lenny. He was generous to a fault, and kept it hidden. He was somewhat of a curmudgeon until he saw a little kid. Then he lit up. At his funeral, I learned what a generous man he was. He lived a great story, that’s for sure. Dang, we miss you, Lenny. It’s so quiet at our table on Wednesday nights.

These four agreements are staying in a handy place. I will refer to this book often. It will certainly help me putting my kid book out and returning to my novel. I have grown to love my life, despite it’s areas of loss. We were not prepared how to live life older, less agile, and less energy. You cannot make a machine out of the human body, to defy it’s limits – whether the limits are age, accident, illness, disability.

We can conquer doubt and fear by learning to take risks – putting your art out there, your written word, your quilts, your creations. It is possible, and probably the best thing you can do for yourself. Art heals. Quilting heals. Writing heals. I believe it’s my purpose now. Write and help others heal.

My schedule is changed for today. The Babe called to meet for lunch. I’d adjust. It’s what you do when there are two of you. Someday, one of us will not be here. We need to enjoy each other now. No regrets. Have a beautiful afternoon, we’ll see each other tomorrow.

Dad with Grandpa Jewell. Had to have been after WWII.

It’s Not Too Late!

We all know people who wallow in the past. For every one who looks forward to adventures, there are at least a few who dwell on the past, bemoan loves lost, and make themselves be more miserable by refusing to move on. It’s a bummer to listen to the same dreadful story told with their faulty memories of what really happened. They accept no responsibility or blame for their destructive behavior. Over and over, they make themselves the victim. It’s very tiring listening. I have to separate myself from those types of people.

People suddenly become unaware they can still make some pretty significant contributions to life after retirement age. What? No. That isn’t true. Some of the most notable artists didn’t pick up a brush until after they were 70 years young. It’s all about timing. And confidence. And a great support group. Not your family and friends. The support of a group of like-minded people who can critique your creations and offer constructive comments to encourage greatness from you. Your family most likely will be “too nice,” and that’s good/bad.

As a woman who expected something totally different from this part of life, I can tell you, there is life after raising a family. I was not prepared for it at all. I thought I’d have a bunch of biological grandkids, and that didn’t come true until the last three years. My kids had kids later in life. My step kids have three between them, and I love them as much as the bio ones. Only two live in town, so although we’ve had the babysitting and fun times, and it was over too quick. Now they’re doing High School Dance Team and Flag Football. The three that live out of town, one is 8th grade, and the two others are in pre-school day care.

My daughter (in between chasing toddlers) encouraged me to write the kid’s book I always wanted to write. I cannot find a reason not to; I can find all sorts of excuses, but nothing valid. I lost my illustrator, and now I’m looking into using software on actual photos, turning them into my own cartoon-like photos. It should be fun. See? Learning something new yet again! It never stops. My I/T Department (brother-in-law Brad Shuck) is advising me about this.

This year has been pretty exciting for my writing. I’m growing an audience via Social Media and my blog. I’m advertising on Facebook, and it’s adding more followers for Jewell Publishing LLC, Kathy Raabe, Author, and Grandma Kathy. Grandma Kathy will be the name you will find on my kid books. I’m doing that for a couple of reasons.

First, I’ve read a lot about pen names, and writing in more than one genre. The word is you need separate names for each genre, so they don’t get confused. I don’t want to have two separate websites to maintain, nor do I want to spend the $$. Second, I think readers are smart enough to keep them separate. Maybe you’ll have a reader who has grandkids, they buy books for them from Grandma Kathy, and books for themselves from Kathy Raabe, Author. All the money goes into Jewell Publishing, LLC, and I’m the only one who needs to be concerned about that. Right? Right.

Never did I imagine all the business knowledge a person needs to be an indie author. I’m glad I had folks to guide me through the maze of vanity publishers, who are out there in large numbers, the reality of finding an agent, and going through one (I may not have that much time left!). There is so much more to writing than actually putting the words down on the paper. This weekend, I need to seriously catch up the website for our VFW Post. I have events photos that haven’t been shared yet, and I need to make the time to take care of it. Then I can get back to business.

In the meantime, thank you for making time for reading today. I appreciate it a lot. See you tomorrow!