#Reverb14: Rituals and Routines- Prompt 11

Prompt 11:

What tiny rituals: signal that your day is starting; help you ease into a creative project; give you closure from an intensive task; or mark other significant milestones in your day? What new rituals would you like to create in the new year?

Here’s another topic, I’ve been discussing since Reverb 2010! Morning habits and routines = my nemesis.

However, in October I cracked this problem for a three weeks! I joined a writing accountability group and woke up every morning at 5:30AM and wrote from 6AM to 7AM or until I reached 1,200 words. I quickly had a storyboard for an entire book, well over 10K words written, and a complete first chapter. But… I ended up quitting the writing group for health issues. I was going through something that made me very sick in the mornings and sleeping in became very important to my health. Also, the members of the group had their own scheduling issues and it seemed to taper out in general.

This is the storyboard I created during my three week whirlwind of writing beauty. It is on a cardboard divider that separates our shared office when my husband or I have calls. These big post-its stare at me every day, a reminder of what I can do.

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Despite having to ultimately quit my writing habit, those three weeks felt awesome! I definitely had to get to bed earlier, but within a few days, I adjusted to the schedule. My mind was clearer in the morning. I would get our coffee maker ready the night before and have coffee while I wrote, but ate breakfast later and did some light reading and content curation over it. I felt less guilty taking time to do something passive since I had already accomplished so much. Everything about my work life was better.

So I am committed to starting this ritual again as I know I can do it and the conditions have changed that will make it easier.

What are your rituals and routines for 2015?

#Reverb14: Prompt 18- Nourishment

Prompt 18:

In the busyness of the everyday, taking time to nourish the soul doesn’t reach the top of the ‘to do’ list as often as it should. 

What nourishes your soul? How would you like to incorporate more of this into your life in 2015?

As a writer who works from home, I spend a lot of time in my head and on the computer. It takes effort for me to be in touch with my physical body. It sometimes seems like weeks can go by without looking at myself in the mirror except for when I put my makeup on.

Nourishing my body in 2015 would be the best way to nourish my soul. 

In 2015, I’d like to make more effort to make myself feel beautiful both inside and out. That surely involves exercise, but it also involves little things like splurging on some nice moisturizer and not just settle for the generic CVS brand. I’d also like to replace some of my sparkly MAC eye shadows that I used to wear often and would love to wear again just as frequently.

This week, I did a very quick photo shoot for an upcoming re-release of my book Confessions of a Teacher Recruiter: How to Create an Extraordinary Resume and Hook Your Dream Job. The updated book will have me on the cover (AGH!) in a power pose. I was luckily to have my friend Marie Bramlett of Wicked Lulu do my makeup and blow out my hair into bouncy curls and help me feel gorgeous and sexy. After the shoot, I felt so fancy that I had to have drinks at the Forsyth Mansion! When I got home that evening, I took these quick selfies. My house’s lighting doesn’t do Marie’s work  justice… but check out that bounce!!  I can’t wait to see the photos from the official shoot.

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In 2015, I want to remember that I can just look beautiful for myself and no other reason.

How will you nourish yourself in 2015?

#Reverb14: Prompt 16- Wonder & Effort

I wrote Prompt 16! Thanks, Kat McNally for the opportunity. As a Reverber since 2010, it meant a lot that you trusted me to guide the community with a question that could really help someone grow and understand something about him or herself in the new year.

The picture is from my Facebook cover page (please join us!). I wrote previously about my new obsession with Marvel female superheroines, but I will always have a sweet spot for Wonder Woman.

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Prompt 16:

Like many folks, I picture myself as a modern day Wonder Woman, trying to use my superpowers, to do lists and pure force to get what I want. In 2014, I found that my effort wasn’t often tied to my desired outcomes — except when it was.

In 2015, is there something you’d like to try harder at because you believe it would make all the difference? 


Conversely, what is something you could stop trying so hard at that might actually help you manifest what you’d like?

When I wrote this prompt, I was coming from a very specific perspective and had an idea of what my response would be. Unfortunately, my response is the exact opposite of what I had planned to write.

A constant tension in Reverb since 2010 for me has been motherhood. It started back then with “DO I want to?,” moved to “WHEN do I want to?” in 2013 to “HOW do I do this now?” in 2014. This summer, I wrote that my sole dream for 2014 was to know I would be the mother of a healthy baby by the end of the year.

So I tried VERY HARD this year to get pregnant. Did you know on average, it takes a couple 7 months to get pregnant the first time?!? I am a data-driven woman with To Do Lists and that seemed crazy! I bought The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant, got the fertility monitor and the other supplements and tools… learned all the jargon of the baby-making subculture (TTC, OPK, BFP, and sometimes WTF…) and tried… so, so hard… while also trying so hard to not let my urgency consume me and take over my life. I failed miserably at both.

I didn’t know how else to approach this task other than to be me. 

Six months after I started, my doctor told me that I might want to look at fertility treatments since nothing had happened despite all my tools and tests that showed I was in good reproductive health. I gave up a little, tried a little less hard, and then in that milestone month seven, I got my positive test.

I guessed I was just meant to be basic. Or it was all magic.

So the last three months, I endured the first trimester. Everything that everyone says about how awful it is absolutely true. But it didn’t matter, because I knew I had met my goal and I could breathe! I didn’t “announce my pregnancy,” but I didn’t always hide it. I needed a lot of help and leeway because I was always exhausted and shared with people who I felt could help. I also needed pregnant friends. I told myself that I refused to live in fear and all my hormones and ultrasounds showed that everything was awesome. I couldn’t believe that I was actually going to be one of those women who got to have the Pinterest-inspired holiday pregnancy announcement, that I could pose Forrest with What to Expect and wrap my husband and me in some Xmas lights with a chalkboard that said June 2015 and post it all over Facebook.

But… alas, no. I am not that woman. Last week, I lost the baby just a few days shy of the 12 week mark that had approached so slowly. I will spare you the details, as I don’t want this to be grief porn. What happened occurs in less than 1% of pregnancies and I required surgery. It’s been a week, but I am still waking up in physical pain. The emotions come and go and probably will for some time, especially while I figure out how I could endure the possibility of re-experiencing the last year in this aspect of my life if I want to try again, even if science is on my side to eventually give birth to a healthy baby. Science and probability have not exactly been my friends during this endeavor, after all. I haven’t yet deleted the secret Pinterest boards or told everyone I need to, yet. As a writer, it is probably not shocking that it’s easier to deal with my emotions on the screen first.

So effort, force and trying. Blech. I do know that Reverb is teaching me that spending more effort on trying to be a writer would be a good thing. This weekend, I read an interview with Stephen King about writing in an old issue of Rolling Stone magazine. It’s a good reminder to not forget the hustle in your work life and that hustle might involve being very consistent.

On everything else, I am aiming for peace and optimism and being able to sleep through the night for now and the right to be selfish for a few more weeks about putting myself first. Hope will likely trump effort these days and I am okay with that.

#Reverb14: Prompt 8- Connections

Today’s prompt is from Jen Allen, who I have been happy to converse with via comments!

Prompt 8:

The hectic pace of our lives can make it difficult to remain connected to the things and the people that matter the most to us. We get wrapped up in our work or our busyness and connection falls by the wayside. 

How have you created and/or sustained connections in your life this year?

In 2013, I complained about feeling isolated and not meeting many new women. I didn’t meet a lot of new people in 2014, but I sustained and developed the relationships with people I liked and were important to me. I also eliminated or minimized relationships with women- and men- who I didn’t think were a good fit for my interests and priorities.

Buh bye, mean girls.

I started having my favorite women over for regular dinners with wine. I also strengthened my connections with a small group of women who had been with my life for years. Some of it came naturally because of my wedding in March. My wedding started as an elopement, but when I told a few friends who lived far away that we were going to get married in a few weeks, plane tickets were mysteriously bought and we decided to make it a real celebration. As a feminist, I thought being walked down the aisle is archaic (I am not property!), but I walked into my wedding surrounded by a harem of my favorite women in the world. I wanted their feminine energy to launch me off to my new chapter in my life.

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My wedding was of course about the start of the family I created with my new husband, but I couldn’t have imagined it without my friends, both old and new.

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I’ve also had tremendous support and connection in a local Lean In group that I joined in January. When I started, I wasn’t sure how long I’d stay because I didn’t think I had much in common with the women who had very different career paths than I did and were also much older or younger. Plus, I hated the book. But I kept going every month and it was one of the best decisions I made. Those women rock! In the end, we spent a lot of time bonding over how lacking we found the book. After all, who wants to be second in command or be unhappy all the time?

I also want to shout out to a woman who has been very special to me this year, Megan Jones, the photographer who took all my wedding pictures and more importantly, has helped me get my feet wet as wedding officiant. We often ping each other daily on Facebook about the joy and stress of helping people with their weddings and that connection has been so important to me for the reasons Jen lists in her prompt.

How have you stayed connected? 

#Reverb14: Prompt 15- Do it Anyway

And moving around the prompts…

Prompt 15:

What are you really proud that you made happen in 2014, despite the gremlins? And what will you do anyway in 2015?

I go back and forth on 2014 and “pride.” In 2013, I wrote a book and made a number of life changes. In 2014, I didn’t meet very many of the goals I set for myself at the beginning. I haven’t expanded my coaching options, I haven’t brought back my newsletters, and I didn’t write my new book. I let gremlins get in my way in those cases. I did launch a whole new, almost profitable freelance gig marrying people. That involved a business plan, financial projections, website design, content creation, networking, getting certified in Google Ads, and then the actual work of working with real life people who put their futures in your hands. There have definitely been times when I have sat back and been proud of myself on that front; I acknowledge that not everyone can just do something like I did and make it work. It is a special skill set, and it was just as risky as the other things I didn’t do! I guess there were gremlins… but it’s hard to think about it in retrospect and hear their messages. I guess when you care, you just don’t hear them.

In 2015, there are a few things I’d like to take on where I have some fear, but one project I’d really like to tackle is to begin writing about pop culture, especially television and books. Around June of this year, I developed an unexpected new hobby of reading comic books, specifically comics about the X-Men and the rest of the Marvel Universe.

This summer, my husband and I decided to take “newlywed Summer Fridays” and spend some time doing fun things together, like going to the movies on Friday mornings. I am not sure what makes the Friday morning movie experience so great, but it just is! One of our first picks was X-Men: Days of Future Past and I really loved it even though I had not liked the first 3 movies. The movie made my husband want to re-watch some of the early 90s X-Men cartoons on iTunes which I had never seen so we binge-watched. I found the characters so different from the movies, especially the women and LOVED it! Did the creative team behind the movies mean to destroy the characters of the Rogue and Storm on purpose or were they just lazy?

My constant dialogue about this led my husband to convince me to go to the source and because he loves me so, bought me a monthly subscription to the Marvel Unlimited app. That means I suddenly had access to over 13,000 Marvel comics going back to the 1940s, including thousands of X-Men comics! Suddenly, Sunday mornings were spent in bed, using my tablet to read dozens of comics in a session instead of reading books on my Kindle.

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In the last six months, I have read well over 500 comic books on the Marvel app, including over 300+ issues of the Uncanny X-Men. If you’ve never read the ’70s to early ’90’s run of the X-Men, you are missing out on some of the greatest American literature ever written. I have so many thoughts about what I’ve read that I have wanted to discuss and write about over the last 6 months!

Like, the gender dynamics of Storm’s character arc in the 80s where she loses her power…

and the political perspectives on the Genosha storyline and allegories to today…

and my unironic love for Dazzler…

and whether Jean Grey or Carol Danvers would win in a fight…

and that Rachel Summers talked about the Twin Towers collapsing in the early 21st century in 1985… and why was Rachel Summers such an asshole?

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2014 was the year Chris Claremont became my spirit animal.

After finishing many issues, I wanted to jump on my Tumblr and write my thoughts on what I had read. But I didn’t. I made excuses about time, but the real reason was that I believed no one wanted to hear what a 39 year-old white woman has to say about comic books that were written almost 40 years ago. But the more that I didn’t write, the more I wanted to write about other things, like television shows, and it’s kind of eating at me. I need to get the gremlins out and just do it. As I said in another post, making money and targeting an audience aren’t the only reasons we write. I am starting to feel that may be a major lesson I take away from Reverb this year.

And yes, I did dress up as one of the X-Men this year for Halloween, Jean Grey. I even painted my eyebrows red after watching a cosplay video- hee hee. Personally, as much as I love Captain Marvel, I totally think she would kick Carol Danver’s ass in a fight.

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My husband and dog loved me enough to dress up as Cyclops and Wolverine, too. Here is Wolverine giving the team critical information about Magneto’s whereabouts. :)

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Gotta go- I just started the Age of Apocalypse story circa 1995!

#Reverb14: Prompt 7- Selfie

Prompt 7:

Please post your favourite picture of yourself from 2014, self-portrait or otherwise!

I am going to cheat and add two, though there were literally a dozen I looked at. The first is my favorite “selfie” of the year. It was a group shot taken by friends at my wedding reception.

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This is my favorite selfie I took of just me. It was the weekend The Veronica Mars movie came out. I was a Kickstarter supporter and I got this great t-shirt and wanted to show it off. It reflects the real me and feels natural and sexy at the same time.

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And your favorite selfie?

#Reverb14: Prompt 6: Biting Back

Prompt 6 is a thought-provoking one and comes from Geek In Hard.

Prompt 6

Despite our usually sunny dispositions and dedication to the practice of “assuming positive intent,” we all occasionally find ourselves having to deal with an incredibly unpleasant individual.

While I’m sure you always handle it with the tact and finesse for which you’ve become so well-known, I’m going to ask you to step outside yourself for just a moment.

Think back to such a situation: if the gloves were off, how you really would have liked to have dealt with them?

For whatever reason, 2014 was the year I avoided conflict and cowered. Frequently. I just didn’t have the same strength I had a few years ago when I was just starting out as a self-employed person and naïve writer to take on battles with the same fervor.

When I read this prompt, I thought of a bunch of situations where I could have stood up for myself this past year, but I didn’t. There were the people who didn’t pay me for work this past January. Or how I avoided one of my best friends for 6 months because I just couldn’t face the discussion I wanted to have with her.

I’ve decided to focus on one moment from this past March where I wish I had made a different decision as a writer. In late February, I wrote a blog post for the website Medium about the teaching profession and a movement against Teach for America (TFA) of which I am an alumna. I am generally a supporter of Teach for America and its goals, though I often find myself thinking I would handle their messaging very differently. However, my issue with the anti-TFA movement was not its problems with Teach for America, but that it had unrealistic standards for the teaching profession, standards that I think ultimately diminishes it, whether TFA is a player or not.

I wrote and published my blog post #ResistTFA and The Teaching Profession in a flurry of inspiration one evening, wondering if anyone would read it. Well, it would be an understatement to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the response. According to my Medium stats, over 20,000 people read my post in 48 hours and it went viral on Facebook. It was the second most read item on Medium that week (and Medium did absolutely zero to plug it); as a reference point, the most popular blog post that day on Gawker was only read by 7K readers.

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(FYI: On a disappointing note, I received zero book sales or other “business-boosting” benefits from this post… but as writers, we know that is not the only goal when we take words to paper or screen.)

As excited I was by the stats, I also felt very uncomfortable and uneasy with the attention. I had expected some trolls with those kind of numbers, but received very few negative responses to my post. I constantly felt like the other shoe full of trolls was going to drop directly on my head. I published the post two days before my then-boyfriend and I went on our annual seven-day vacation to Flagler Beach and the day I got engaged (!). I made a promise to my then-fiance to stay off my computer and phone during our time away, which was the right thing to do. When I returned to real life, I belatedly found out that my post had been linked to and responded to in an article that had been published… in The Freaking Washington Post (yet another (!) moment) by Bruce Baker, a professor at Rutgers University.

The thing is there was a time in my life when I was a PhD student circa 2011 where I worshipped Bruce Baker, cited him constantly, and even stalked him at a conference so I could meet him at a Tweetup. As a little unknown grad student, I would not expect Dr. Baker to remember me at all and would never thought that anything I ever wrote would get a response from him… never mind one in The Freaking Washington Post.

My excitement over being linked to in a major media player quickly diminished as I read the response, and realized how much time had passed since it was published. I decided to let it go and not reach out to Dr. Baker or The Washington Post… or write a response on Medium or one of my own blogs. In retrospect, I completely wish that I had bit back. In truth, I didn’t respond because I was “afraid” … I felt like I had somehow overstepped my welcome in the spotlight and was eager to let it go.

But I actually still had a lot to say. If I had bit back, I would have told Dr. Baker that I felt that he was a bit disingenuous in how he used my original post as a stepping ground for his piece and that I felt like I was “subtweeted.” While he linked to what I wrote, he didn’t mention me by name and skirted around who I was and what I brought to the debate about the teaching profession. I was referred to as a “blogger,” not someone who had worked in teacher recruitment for 20+ years in multiple states and at the top of my field. I was not referred to as someone seen markets in play, not just in theory and that it was completely possible that a practitioner and economist could have very different evidence that was equally legitimate.

I also felt what he summarized as my argument was incorrect. His words:

“The implication is that TFA has, by virtue of producing high-quality candidates, outpaced the competition (traditional teacher preparation programs) on the free market – the open labor market for teachers. This would be all well and good if the speedy placement of TFA candidates had anything to do with an open competitive labor market, but it doesn’t.”

In my post, I never said that I thought that the market for teachers was an “open competitive market” and I was uncomfortable having this attributed to me. In fact, I don’t believe the labor market for ANY profession is an open competitive market and it is unrealistic to think you will see anything different in our lifetimes. Is it unfair?  Sure, but it has been unfair for hundreds of years. Education policy can’t change that. And it is why I ultimately decided to abandon academia for practice. I am concerned at how things really play out how I can affect that with my own power and talents.

The reality is that markets use information and social capital to help in the decision-making process. There are always candidates who have advantages that make hiring unfair.  If you are a candidate, you need to know that so you can use your own signals and capital properly. All of my books and the whole purpose of my company is to provide tools and information to those who can use it to help reduce inequity in the labor market. And I’ve been successful at it, too, especially in the teacher market.

TFA has outpaced the competition because it has used information and social capital in the market and I don’t think that is abusing the labor market. Traditional teaching schools could also use information and capital to make their candidates more successful, too, but they mostly don’t think this is an issue. In many ways, I think that is exactly where the unfairness lies.

I wish I would have emailed Dr. Baker at the time to tell him my concerns. At the time, I only saw a “go big or go home” response (another 20K reader post!) and I didn’t want that. It did not have to be that way and this was an important topic that deserves a lot of discussion, publicly and privately. I hope to write more about it in 2014 on Medium and other channels.

What did you wish you had bitten back at?

#Reverb14: Prompt 5- Listening

I took a short break from Reverb14, but am back (in my effort to catch-up, I might skip around the prompts depending on ease of the question).

Prompt 5 comes from Isabel Faith Abbott.

Prompt 5-

What is the sound of your own voice?

This prompt made me immediately think of my dog Forrest. My husband and I rescued Forrest on December 6, 2013 from the Savannah Humane Society. Forrest is a collie mix and quite a character. He loves being sung to, Mondays, and wearing things. This Halloween, he had the opportunity to wear all the things when he dressed up as Wolverine (I dressed up as Jean Grey and walked him around on his leash. And yes, my husband accompanied us as a brooding Cyclops.)

Forrest trying out his Wolverine costume for Wag-o-ween

A photo posted by Josh Nichols (@technicalpickles) on


However, Forrest does NOT like sounds. He was three when he came to our family, most of his history unknown to us. We knew he had been an outside dog with 9 other dogs for almost a year before we met him, rescued off the street by a well-meaning dog owner who finally decided he’d be better off with a family who could pay more attention to him. It was also apparent he had been well-trained and taken care of at some point in his life. What we soon found out is that Forrest had picked up lots of anxieties to ordinary noises in the first three years of his life.

The dishwasher.

The SodaStream.

The click of the stove being turned on.

But more than anything, Forrest HATES the sound of my voice when I am on the phone. He barks and howls and runs to one of his hiding places until I end my call and return to what he wants in his normal doggy mom.

I’m assuming it has to be comfortable A photo posted by Josh Nichols (@technicalpickles) on

I always thought I gave good phone voice, but now I am not sure what my voice sounds like. Is it too shrill, Forrest? It’s certainly made me wonder what energy I give off when I am on the phone that I don’t when I am talking to someone in person. Somewhere in my life, I began loathing talking on the phone, something I am sure my parents never pictured occurring when I was 14 and spent hours talking to people on my pink neon phone that lit up when someone called (why didn’t it light up a special color when it was a boy?!?!). So if I am talking on the phone, it is likely under duress and I am on edge, or I’m asking someone for something or using my best customer service voice for a potential client. I am probably not speaking from a place of power.

Forrest has inspired me to remember the power of the sound of my voice and to be more confident in it, to own it. And to remember that the world is a better place the more you wag your tail, literally or figuratively

Forrest à la #hyperlapse

A video posted by Josh Nichols (@technicalpickles) on

 How can you wag your tail more with your own voice?

#Reverb14: Prompt 4- Conduit

Today’s lovely prompt comes from an online friend whose writing I have deeply admired for over 4 years, Noel Rozny.

Prompt 4:

We are all lightning rods, conduits for that which the Universe wants born into this world. What energies did you channel this year?

Can I express how much I love this prompt? It’s like Noel has been rooting around in my brain!

My word for 2014 was Alternative- I wanted to challenge myself to think about my career and personal life differently than I ever had before. In some ways, I succeeded. When I checked in on my Reverb3 reflections this July, I reported my intention to launch a part-time ‘side gig’ as a wedding officiant in Savannah, GA while I built back my writing and coaching work and stepped away from recruiting.

It seemed like a left-field decision, and most definitely ‘alternative.’ Five months later, I am so glad that the universe led me to that decision! I’ve married about 20 couples, including 10 just this November, and conduit would be the perfect word to describe how I feel in that role. I love my work with couples and how I am able to channel and support their emotions into words in such a special moment. I feel like both a positive bolt of lightning of love and a soft floating cloud of relaxation for anxious couples all at the same time.

Savannah Wedding Officiant

When I was the Director of Teacher Recruitment for New York City Public Schools, I was always deeply proud of the impact that seemed to seep out of my fingers effortlessly. The systems I created, the team I managed, and my personal work behind the scenes ensured that thousands of teachers- theoretically the best of 20,000+ applicants- started their first day of work every year prepared and ready to create change in their classrooms for tens of thousands public school students. My work was important and meaningful, dammit- and I had the title to back it!

I have married all sorts of couples with unique stories. Earlier this week, I conducted an emergency wedding ceremony. The bride’s mom was on life support in Texas and they were removing all support within 48 hours. Before she had slipped into unconsciousness, her mom could not stop talking about how she was worried about her daughter and that there would be no one to take care of her anymore. On Monday, the bride’s sister called us from her mother’s hospital room, put us on speaker and held up the phone to her mom’s bed so she could hear the ceremony. After the bride and groom exchanged the rings they had been planning to use at the formal wedding and I pronounced them legally married, the bride told her mom through the phone that she could let go now because she was going to be taken care of by her husband.

I held hands, gave hugs to them and their young son, and made sure that we honored all the mixed emotions of what had just happened. I had never been so honored to be a conduit for all that energy. This was some of the most meaningful and impactful work I’ve experienced in my life. And I needed neither a title or an infrastructure to do it.

And as much as I treasure my role of being a conduit for others, I am also grateful for how this work has become a conduit for my own energies. Feeling lighter, I am inspired again and writing! I’ve written 10K words on my next book in the Confessions of a Teacher Recruiter series and have been writing about my new experiences being a conduit for love and family. Now I can only wish that I write as fierce and open as Noel (seriously, go read her stuff!)

How are you a conduit of energy for yourself and others?

#Reverb14: Prompt 3- Love

I’m on to the next prompt!

Prompt 3:

It’s all too easy to put off loving where we are until everything is perfect. What can you love about where you are now?

The author of this prompt, Kat McNally, talks about her gratitude journal as part of the intro to this prompt. I kept an online gratitude journal for years until the service shut down in June. I need to restart one. Like her, I was always amazed at the number of things I could choose to be grateful about on any given day.

There are many things I am grateful for… I can honestly say I love the collection of everything that fills my being today.

I love the sounds of my family in my home during the day when I am typing away at my computer.

I love receiving gratitude from strangers who were helped by my book or who I’ve helped by officiating their wedding.

I love the many times this year that I was in a place where I was able to take care of friends in need.

I love the abundance in good television that makes me think or feel warm and fuzzy, like Parks & Recreation.

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I love when I have done things this year without fear.

I love the experiences that have brought me to where I am today, ready to embark on a new journey as a person and woman in 2015.

What do you love?