Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

When we are born, our parents give us a name.  From that moment on, that name is who we are.

As we grow, adults we encounter ask us three questions.  What is your name?  How old are you?  What do you want to be when you grow up?

Most of us pick a goal.  I want to be a firefighter.  I want to be a nurse.  I want to be a dinosaur.  Don’t judge.

We dutifully repeat our career goal to inquiring grownups.

All through grade school, we are proud of our choice.  We pretend that we are living our dream.  Doctoring sick dolls.  Circling the moon in cardboard rocket ships.  Teaching rows of stuffed animals their ABCs.

Until we stop.  When did those dreams disappear?  When did the adults stop asking us what we wanted to be when we grew up?

In high school, a few of us still clung to our dreams and fewer still carried them into college. Or beyond.

Ask any astronaut how he realized his dream and he will tell you that he worked.  Hard.  He never gave up that dream even when there wasn’t enough coffee to get him through half the hours of studying he needed.  Every step, no matter how small, got him closer to his goal.

When did the rest of us stop wanting to be a ballerina, a chef, an astronaut, a teacher?

I remember wondering why there were no teachers speaking at my middle school career day.  It kind of made sense; the teachers were with us every day.  But I hadn’t thought to ask any of them what I needed to do or where I needed to start to achieve what I always knew I was meant to do.

That night at dinner, I announced my intentions to my family.  “When I grow up, I’m going to be a teacher.”

My mother was quick to respond, “You can’t be a teacher.  You’ll never make enough money to survive.  Anyway, the kids will laugh at you.”

I was crushed.  I loved working with children and was often called upon to babysit for various families in the neighborhood.

My mother was right about most things; she was the smartest person I knew.  So I set that goal aside and later took my first real job at a day care center.  It was a joy to read to the kids and help them write their letters and numbers.  While I wasn’t the teacher I dreamed of becoming, that job mostly satisfied my desire.

Time passed and I became a mother.  My daughter was eager to learn and soaked up everything I taught her.  We started with the ABCs and by the time she was five, she was reading chapter books.  I was proud of her, and proud of myself for teaching her.

I once again wanted to be a teacher.  Now a single mother, I did not have the resources to go to college.  I didn’t even have a high school diploma, having dropped out when I got pregnant.  I embraced my grown-up responsibilities and took whatever employment I could find.

Like so many, I gave up on my dream.  Our reasons vary, but the majority of us never grow up to be what we said we wanted to be.

We take jobs, start careers, become other things.  No less important, but not what we told all those countless adults years ago.  We become electricians, analysts.  We drive recycling trucks and pour coffee.  We work retail and answer phones, teach yoga and wash windows.

When someone asks me who I am, I answer,  “My name is Kitty and I fix addresses for the local electric company.  I’m also a writer and an editor.”

A while back, someone asked me what I would attempt if I knew I could not fail.  Today, I ask you.  Who would you be if you had not quit?

John Assaraf said, “If you’re interested, you do what’s convenient.  If’ you’re committed, you do what it takes.”

Have your passions changed since you were a child?  That’s okay.  In fact, I would hope that they did change.  Change, not disappear.  As long as you are willing to work, it’s never too late to set a new goal, dream a new dream.

Perhaps you no longer know or cannot put into words what you want to be.

Ask yourself some questions to once again discover your passion.

  • When I was young, I wanted to be a(n) __________ when I grew up.
  • In my free time, I enjoy _______.
  • If I won the lottery, the first thing I would do after paying off all my debts is __________.

Once you set your goal, I encourage you to work toward it.  Make a list of what you need to accomplish that dream.  If a certificate or degree is required, start looking at schools and applying for grants and scholarships if you need them.

I’m not only talking about your career.  If you’re happy in your job, be thankful.  But what about your hobbies?

Perhaps you want to be an artist.  Go paint a picture, or mold a lump of clay into a work of beauty.  Dreaming of owning a horse? Go to a stable and take a ride.  Have a message to share?  Find a Toastmasters club and sign up to give a speech.

Don’t let the standards of our society define you.  You are more than just what you do.  If you want to be something different than you are now, work toward it.  If you want it bad enough, you will find a way.  Then you will have a more satisfactory answer when someone asks you who you are.


Who am I?

My name is Kitty Kessler and I’m 44 years old.  I’m a wife, a mother, an addressing guru, an advocate against domestic violence, a writer, an editor, a small business owner, a toastmaster, and most recently, a student working toward her Masters Degree and teaching certificate.

43  is not an age that I thought I would celebrate.  It’s not a milestone birthday, you know, the ones that end in ZERO.  Although the past year has been a good one, we’re not swimming in extra income right now, so the plan was to just treat the day as any other.

On Thursday, two days before my actual birthday, Margie sent me a Happy Birthday email.  I was shocked that anyone from work even knew when my birthday was.  But I was pleased; I felt like my presence in the department was appreciated.  I hurried to reply with a big Thank You email of my own.

Before I could hit Send, Dave popped into my cube to ask if I was busy.  I said no and sighed, thinking more work was coming my way.  I turned from my computer to see him grinning, holding a large gift bag, with Kelli smiling behind him and Zak coming toward us.

I fought back tears as I read the cards and opened the presents, each picked especially for me with love from the people that I spend most of my waking hours with.  As I hugged and thanked each of them, I told them how much it meant to me that they had thought of me.  I explained that I wasn’t planning on celebrating this year.


Val and AJ joined us.  I was repeatedly told that every birthday was important, but more importantly, they had learned from me that every day should be celebrated.

Wow.  For once, I was speechless.  My perpetual good mood had been noticed, and appreciated!  They had used my birthday as a reason to return some of the happiness to me.

cheesefriesOver the next few days, the love continued to pour into my life.  A surprise birthday lunch with my closest girlfriends, complete with candles in my cheese fries.  Cake Pops, a free drink from Starbucks, flowers, phone calls, text messages, and countless Facebook messages from my family and friends.

rosesMy birthday has passed, but my smile remains.  I learned my lesson.  There is always, always, always a reason to be happy, a reason to celebrate.  It doesn’t have to be a birthday or a holiday.

Do something that you enjoy every day.  It doesn’t have to be big or expensive.  Read a favorite book, paint your toenails, pet your cat.  Share your joy every day.  Tell someone how much you appreciate them.  Smile at a stranger.


How will you celebrate today?

Although I’m happy to just be a worker bee, today I attended STOP Training for Supervisors.  STOP stands for Safety Training Observation Program and teaches how 100% of accidents are preventable.  If you see an unsafe act, such as someone not wearing protective eyewear, not saying something is the same thing as saying it’s okay.  “The highest level of safety performance you can expect from your employees is based on your minimum standards.”

While the topic was safety, these words hit a different chord in me.

Why do we often only do the bare minimum?  Imagine how much we would accomplish if we went an extra step in everything we do.

  • Clipping coupons?  Cut out the pet coupons and drop them at a nearby shelter.
  • Making a donation?  Round up to the nearest $5.
  • Sweeping your driveway?  Do your neighbor’s driveway too.

Seeing our progress gives us a sense of accomplishment.  Sometimes our extra efforts don’t seem to make a difference.  But when we look back, we often wish we had done more.

  • Writing for an hour each morning?  Set the timer for an extra ten minutes.
  • Exercising?  Do one more set.
  • Pay more than the minimum payment on your credit cards.

It’s okay if you don’t want to do it for yourself.  Our extra efforts can mean a lot to other people.  You may be surprised at how you’ll benefit when doing something simple for someone else.

  • Smile at everyone you pass.
  • Thank your mail carrier.
  • Talk to the grocery cashier and the kid bagging your groceries too.

The highest level of performance you can expect from yourself is based on your minimum standards.  It’s time to raise the bar

FailBoatScrewing up in my department at work can earn you the title of “Captain of the Failboat.”  It’s not a proud name to wear.  Sure, it’s meant in fun, but it still stings, especially when the fail isn’t your fault.

I started my 2015 with promises and motivation.  Then life happened, overwhelming me and pushing my intentions down the drain.  My work computer crashed.  Query rejections sprinkled into my Inbox.  I turned to food for comfort.  There was little time to spend with family and friends.  I found myself going down with the ship.

While I stood alone in my pity party, I realized that it didn’t have to be my boat.  What changed my mind?  Two little words.  They came to me while I was standing in the slowest line at the grocery store, listening to a little girl detail her day to the obviously disinterested cashier.

“I was gonna make a picture.  But he colored on my paper.”  She pointed at the slightly smaller boy sitting in the bottom of the basket.  “And then, Mommy got me a new one.  That he didn’t color on and then I made a pretty picture of our house, and then Mommy put it on the fridge.”

She hadn’t given up just because of a set back.  Her little voice echoed in my mind.  She had simply started again.  It was the power of “and then…”

I don’t have to wait until next January to start a new diet just because I cheated a few times on this one.  And then, I can rewrite the notes and outlines that I lost at work.  And then, there is still time to set my goals down on paper.  And then, I can plan a Dream Board party for February, or even July if that’s what works.

There is comfort in the ability to start again.  It is not written in stone that failure has to be permanent.  I am not Captain of the Failboat.  I refuse to stay under the waves of despair and self-judgment.

What if we stopped beating ourselves up when we falter or even fail?  What if we just stopped, took a deep breath and said, “And then…”

This is our year!  We’ve picked our words and set our intentions.  Our To Do lists are checked off and we passed on the donuts some skinny guy brought into the office.  But it’s been less than a week.  What can we do to maintain our momentum?

1. Turn off the TV.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  But we’re on a budget.  Television is our main source of entertainment.  Snuggling in the flickering blue light makes up the majority of our evenings.  We have several shows that we each watch and even more that we watch together.  After making a list of just the shows I love, I found at least an hour each day to spend on activities that will improve our lives.  I didn’t have to give up every show, just the ones that I wasn’t enjoying, and the ones that I slept through the ending on a regular basis.  I filled those time slots on my calendar with writing time, exercise time, and an earlier bedtime on Sunday nights.

My favorite quote

2. Read and reflect on a favorite quote or photo before you get started.

Personally, I love quotes.  Little bursts of someone’s wisdom posted on the bathroom mirror, scribbled inside a notebook cover, beautifully framed.  Quotes inspire and motivate.  I get most of my writing done in the early morning hours.  But before I open the computer, I sit down with my cup of coffee.  I empty my mind of the few thoughts that rattle around before the world awakens.  Then, I look at my favorite quote.  I read it.  I speak it out loud.  I breathe.  And off I go.

3. Use a timer.

Tim got me a beautiful hourglass for Christmas.  It takes 60 minutes for the sand to travel through the narrow passage.  It’s easy to get distracted when I work in the evenings, but as long as the sand is falling I keep working.

Mornings are a bit more difficult, because I have a day job.  Instead of a timer to keep me on task, I use an alarm to let me know when I need to wrap it up.  It’s no secret that I’d rather write and edit all day.  Someday I won’t need the alarm, because I used the timer earlier.

These three small things have made a difference in the quantity and the quality of my work.  Hugs and Happy Writing!

New Year’s Day.  Fresh starts, focused intentions, detailed plans.  New calendars, empty journals.  And almost everyone shares your positive attitude.  The air is thick with optimism.

Statistics say we won’t accomplish a fraction of what we set out to do this year.  But that doesn’t stop us from setting our goals and jumping head first into the New Year.  Numbers are not my thing.  I’m an English Major.  The statistics mean nothing to me.

As many of you know, I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions.  Several years ago, a friend told me about her dream board.  She had learned about them from Christine Kane.  You can find her website here.  I made my own board and started reading Christine’s blog.  Instead of New Year Resolutions, Christine suggested picking a word to guide us through the year.

I think for days, trying different words on for size.  FOCUS, RITUAL.  As a writer, either of those would help me.  Finances on my mind, perhaps 2015’s word is ABUNDANCE.  But I never did get the house clean and organized; maybe I’ll recycle last year’s word, CLEAR.

I started a new job in 2014.  Gained weight.  Finished my memoir.  Got a home office.  Found help for Tim’s intractable hiccups.  Gave gifts, received more.  Finished the year with a CLEAR sense of what I do and don’t want.  Clear was the right word for last year.

For weeks, words have been rattling around in my head.  ACCEPTANCE.  I don’t need to be in control of everything; RELEASE.  Or PATIENCE.  DISCIPLINE.  That would be a good one.  SIMPLICITY.  ORDER.  Today’s the day.  I have to pick one.  My office is quite the mess right now.  But just to my left, on the bookshelf.  There it is.

ENOUGH.  I am enough.  I do enough.  We have enough.  ENOUGH.

EnoughEnough   [ih-nuhf]

1. adequate for the want or need; sufficient for the purpose or to satisfy desire.
2. an adequate quantity or number; sufficiency.
3. in a quantity or degree that answers a purpose or satisfies a need or desire; sufficiently.
4. fully or quite.
5. (used to express impatience or exasperation): “Enough! I heard you the first time.”

ENOUGH doesn’t mean the bare minimum.  Even desires will be fulfilled by ENOUGH.  And it will allow me to define my limits.  Welcome, 2015.  My year of ENOUGH.

This New Year’s morning, I wish you enough.

Note: If you want a stone engraved with your word, I recommend Justin.  From several Word of the Year stones, to gifts for my writer friends, to the stone in the picture, he has always surpassed my expectations.  His attention to detail and artistic guidance brought my ideas to beautiful life.  (Click on his name to go to his site.)

Proof copies of my memoir are being printed as we speak.  The publishing process is confusing at best, but I think I’ve got my ducks lined up and because I’ve chosen to self-publish there’s a strong possibility that The $35 Wife will be available before the end of the year!  I’m so excited.  And petrified.

Copyright, cover art contract and photo session, proofing, edits, and formatting; my head is spinning from the whirlwind of things to do IN ADDITION to taking care of a family and a home with a small zoo and working a full-time job that I’m still learning.

In The Wizard of Oz, the witch cackles while she rides her broomstick in the tornado. She’s not fighting the winds, she’s just enjoying the ride.  That’s how I’ve felt lately.

I’d like to think that I’ve only been busy these past few months, but I can’t remember a time when I could just drop everything and enjoy the company of friends and family.  I promised myself that I would take time for myself this year.  Life had other plans.  I’m not complaining, just vowing to do some things differently in the remaining months of 2014.

I’ll still be riding the tornado, because that’s just the weather of my life right now.  The rainbow is on the horizon and I’m headed in that direction!

Step over it

on August 17, 2014 in Musings No Comments »

A while back, a new friend told me a story of disappointment.  That is her story and not mine to share.  But a bit of advice was given to her and she passed it on to me.  Those words changed my perspective on life.

“I hope you can step over it.”

I had a habit of piling all of my troubles into one mountain.  Sure, I could still climb that mountain and get over those things, but it was a steep climb.  Progress was slow and often painful.  New obstacles were more than stumbling blocks, and I found myself sliding backward toward the low points.  Restarting my upward journey was more difficult each time.

What would happen if I chose a different method of dealing with my troubles?  It certainly couldn’t be any less productive than my current path.

When the next obstacle came rolling my way, it was a big one.  A former co-worker was spreading rumors, telling people I had said horrible things about a former manager.  It hurt, not just because he was saying those things, but because a few people believed his lies.  Unwilling to work with him, I declined a fabulous opportunity to represent my company at community events while earning quite a bit of OverTime pay.

I wanted to deal with it later, set it aside for when the pain wasn’t so sharp.  But then I remembered those words.  And I didn’t add it to the mountain.  I stepped over it.  It took effort.  It was a big step to take.  But suddenly, it was behind me.

I stayed on my path.  I didn’t have to recover altitude lost by stumbling.

rocky path

Staying on my path, one step at a time.


As I stand and look up at the mountain I have built over the years, I no longer see a solid mass to be conquered.  I’ve pulled several stones from the pile and stepped over them as well.  The mountain is shrinking, falling apart.  Some steps are harder than others.  But as I tear out the smaller stones and step over them, the bigger boulders are losing their hold and rolling down, becoming smaller with each tumble.

It’s not about choosing my battles, nor is it accepting the problems as truth.  I’m just over them.  Moving on.  One step at a time.

There is something beautiful about all scars of whatever nature.  A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with.  ~Harry Crews

I am not ashamed of any of the scars upon my body.  Each tells a story.  Some are ragged and attest to my resilience.  Others announce I am a mother.  Still others remind me that I once had no fears.  I wear my scars with pride and acceptance.

But under my skin, there are other marks.  Some are scars, hurts long healed.  But others are wounds kept open by often flung spiteful words.  Just when I think the scar has formed, the scab is ripped away with a new torrent of hate.  I truly don’t understand.

Can you imagine living in a world where someone could throw a knife at you if they simply wanted to?  They wouldn’t even need a reason.  Thankfully, we have laws to protect us from such violence.

But why don’t those laws protect us from the sharp words that are hurled toward our defenseless hearts?

A gun only holds so many bullets.  But a tongue never runs out of ammunition.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can also hurt me.  I won’t fight back.  Neither will I stand and continue to absorb blades of hurtfulness.

To all the bullies, I feel sorry for you.  Hurting someone just so you feel better about yourself is only temporary relief.  Find a cause.  Give your time and energy to something worthwhile, instead of passing judgment upon those who never had a chance to tell their side of the story.

I wish you love and happiness.

“Life is what happens when you make other plans.”  I don’t know who first came up with this gem, but it fits.  No matter how completely I map out my time or how specific my ToDo list is, something always seems to come up to burst my ambition and steal my time.  Sometimes it’s a tragedy, like losing my brother last month.  Other times it’s a homeowner woe, a leaking sink or a cracked window.  I wish it was more often a phone call from family or an impromptu lunch with a friend.

I figure I lose about 5 or 6 hours of productive time each week to these pop-up needs.  That may not seem like much when you know a week has 168 hours.  But when you break the week into tasks…

  • Sleeping (42 – 49 hours
  • Day job with travel (46 hours)
  • SuperMom time, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the animals, shopping, errands (25 hours)
  • Writing/editing, critique and writer’s group (30 hours)
  • Time spent with my wonderful husband and kids

…you get the idea.

Wouldn’t it be better to set aside an hour each day for Life.  If nothing pops up to fill that time, we could bank it for the ncxt day, and hopefully the next.  Then we’ll have it when we need it.

But instead, I’m not going to schedule my full 168 hours this week.  Sure, some things have to be scheduled, but I’m going to roll with the flow this week.  If Life is what happens when you make other plans, let’s see what happens when I don’t make plans.

Have a wonderful week, my friends.  I’m planning on it.