The First Post of the Year!

danielle-macinnes-222441-unsplashI’ve been blogging a little over a year now, but 2019 makes for the third calendar year I’ve been writing and throwing it all out there for everyone to see. It wasn’t lost on me this go around that the first post of the year is kind of a big deal, ya know? It has the ability to set the tone for the year, you see.

It’s like that scene with Santa at the North Pole in The Polar Express, when he presents the first gift of Christmas.

No pressure or anything. It’s just, you wonder if you should be able to hear the elves cheering at the North Pole here in Ohio when you hit the “publish” button.

Is it a wee bit ironic that this particular blog post is not the first post of the year? I digress….

It’s January 11 and our Christmas decorations are still up. Don’t judge! I suppose I could be removing Christmas ornaments right this very moment but I am choosing instead to write. Priorities, priorities… There is so much to catch you guys up on!

The weeks leading up to Christmas are a big blur and a big ball of stress but somehow I wake up on Christmas Day and everything is right with the world. Sure, we didn’t get to see everyone we wanted to this year, but the day was fun and relaxed.

One of my favorite weeks of the year is that time between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  Like that line from the Chicago song, does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care? It doesn’t matter if I’m working or not, it’s a pretty relaxed week and quiet at work if I do, and there is simply no pressure to do anything if you don’t want to. Talk about blessed.

I wish people weren’t in such a hurry to rip down their decorations that week. I think we should all just hit the snooze button on life and take a lesson from the Danes and embrace hygge (pronounced “hue-gah”).

Hygge is kinda hard to explain, so I’m told. It’s a state of being. I suppose you can describe it by saying it’s the cozy feeling of contentment that overcomes you when you just hang out at home in PJs and fuzzy slippers, feed the fireplace, drink hot cocoa, snuggle, and be happy. I even got a book about hygge this Christmas. Can’t wait to crack it open this winter and enjoy. Hygge is my favorite state of being. I inherently knew what hygge was before I knew there was a word for it.

Perhaps if I got a tattoo, it should say “hygge me” inside of a heart. I might be onto something there…


We sent our Christmas cards to family and friends but this year, I took the unprecedented step of writing a letter to go along with it. Let that sink in for a moment: I love to write but I never did that before. Isn’t that funny?

It was pretty well received. A few people contacted me to say they enjoyed it. What they didn’t know is that I wrote it off the top of my head and the original version was six – count them, SIX – pages long! It hit me that 1) no one wants to read six pages about the five of us, and 2) that gets a little costly for the number of cards we mail, so I was forced to play editor and whittle it down to just two pages.

Do you know how hard that is? I mean, I had YEARS worth of news to catch people up on, people I don’t get to see very often if at all.


I’ve had a lot of thoughts and content bubbling up inside for the last few weeks but I just couldn’t find the time to get it written down. Instead, I’ve been on the prowl for a puppy.

Yes, a puppy. Our oldest seems to be allergic to big dogs, so this makes the effort a little challenging. We would love to welcome a pet into our lives but we’re all allergic to cats. It’s been over five years since our angel of a basset hound, Monk, passed away. I’ve been researching breeds and we think we are ready to move forward with a Maltipoo, a low-shedding, hypo-allergenic cross between a poodle and Maltese. Part of me is a little anxious about having to train a puppy but “designer dog” rescues are hard to come by although not impossible. We may have found a rescue, actually. We need to do more research on that but at least we’re aware of one.

<<< Isn’t this little guy cute? Be still my heart. I want to hygge him.

But these last three or four weeks? I’m exhausted. It occurred to me today that I am “puppy pregnant”, which is not to say I’m actually pregnant. Oh, no…. Mama Louie’s uterus is closed for business, shall we say! 😳

But seriously, I’m scanning puppy sites in my every spare moments. I’m scrolling through endless dog names. I notice everyone who already has a dog. I’m wondering if the dog we get will look like my husband and the kids (dark-haired) or more like me (returning to the blond of my toddler years)? I’m starting to buy things to nest. The kids can not wait to add to the family. Our youngest is looking forward to no longer being the youngest. 🤣

Did I mention I’m tired, oh so very tired? This past Monday wasn’t even my first day back at work but midway through an afternoon meeting I wanted to grab a pillow, curl up in a ball, and nap.

Will it be a boy or a girl? Will it be a colicky baby or sweet? Will it come “late” or “early”? We’re not even sure when we’re “due”.

Puppy pregnant is a real thing.

I need a nap.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

 

Word of the Year 2019

Happy new year!

It’s become a thing for many people to choose a single word that will be their focus or mantra for the new year. This hasn’t always been a habit of mine. I guess I became aware of the practice a few years ago but didn’t apply it to my own life until recently.

Although I didn’t choose a word for 2017, one quickly revealed itself to me early on: travel. That was the year I turned 50, and I decided that it was time I started visiting people and places that had been on my wish list for too long.

I had originally wanted to travel to Iceland as part of a big birthday trip that year, but I ended up making several mini-trips instead, and it was just as glorious if not more so. It was so much fun, I really kept the trend going well into 2018 with several more trips. Between work and play, I’ll bet I had a dozen or so trips under my belt. The nomad, the wanderer, in me can’t sit still.

Not all those who wander are lost. – J. R. R. Tolkien

Last year, I tried to choose a single word, but in true Silonda style, I chose three: breathe, connect, and nest (see My Intention for 2018)! I really need to work on that following instructions/simplification thing… 🤣

Cue 2019. Somehow January snuck up on me. I don’t know how! For two, solid months I knew I wanted to devote some time to planning and dreaming for the upcoming year, two of my absolute favorite things to do, but I just wasn’t settled enough to pull it off.

Planning and dreaming is important stuff, but I had the overwhelming urge to purge things out of my house instead. What do they say? “Outer order invokes inner calm”? So I’m just telling myself that the physical purging of stuff was needed to proceed on to the inner task of meditation.

Still, the task of choosing a single word to focus on was daunting, which is crazy: it ought to be pure fun!

Through an online friend I came across the Dayspring quiz for your 2019 word of the year, so figured I’d give it a whirl.  The questions were Biblically-based, but low and behold (cue the angels on trumpets), they revealed an excellent word for me for 2019: courage.

courageCourage might be worth 10 Scrabble points but it’s priceless in the game of life, eh?

Why courage, you might ask? I never really thought of myself as a skittish, fraidy-cat type. I’m not meek and never have been but yes, I can be a quiet observer. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to experience the slow building of confidence that comes from sticking your neck out, trying new things, honing a skill, and getting recognition for excellence. Basically, I’m not a confidence newbie.

But like any muscle, it gets weak if you don’t exercise it. That said, I will –

  • Catch myself whenever I say, “I can’t do that!” to describe something I’m afraid to do and change it to, “I will do that!”
  • Take the time to warmly welcome anyone new in my social or professional circle and help them connect to others, even if I am not the official “host” or MC of that circle. I will summon up the courage to play the role anyway and not concern myself with how that might appear to others.
  • Ask myself, “What would courage look like?” in times of uncertainty and then act on it.
  • Step up and speak out whenever I see injustice, like racism, sexism, or bullying.
  • Lead efforts I feel should be made.
  • Share what’s in my heart, in person and this blog.
  • Dare to dream bigger than I have before.
  • Breathe deeply and remember that I’m batting 1.000 in my ability to get this far in life.

What about you? Have you chosen a word for 2018? What does it mean to you? How did you discover it? And most importantly, how will you use it to influence the year ahead?

Sending you my very best wishes for the seasons ahead. Peace, health, and happiness to you all. ✌🏻❤️

 

 

 

 

January

amy-reed-518427-unsplashHow I love January!

A perfect blank slate, a fresh start

Winter white

Brilliantly sunny with blue skies

New-fallen snow that sparkles and tingles with the slightest hint of sound…listen closely for its promise

A clean calendar

Crisp, sweet air

Hope anew

Momentum

Resolve

Potential

Beginnings….a genesis

Relief

Happiness and good cheer

Forward-looking

Onward and upward

Best efforts and good habits

Unencumbered

Free

Pay day

A new box of 64 crayons with the sharpener built in

A full tank of gas

Rev your engines full throttle…

Go

 

Photo by Amy Reed on Unsplash

Brief Reflections on New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve at Louie Lodge. My husband and I will be apart today for the first time since I met him 18 years ago. One of the high school bands he works with was invited to march in the Citrus Bowl parade in Florida yesterday while today they marched at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. I stayed back here in Ohio with our kids.

December 31 is usually a quiet night for us. We hang out at home, watch the ball drop on TV, and catch a few musical performances. No big parties for us. Nobody but us. I often wish we had a big group of people to hang out with but the truth is we don’t have a posse we feel close enough with to do that. I’d rather lounge on my comfy sofa with the blanket and fireplace going and not deal with whomever is on the road and shouldn’t be.

Tonight is a night of quiet reflection, again.jeshoots-com-490731-unsplash

I usually make a big list of resolutions at the start of the year and take this last week of the year to reflect on the progress I’ve made so I can plan next steps, but not this year. I’ve had the last few days off work but instead of reading, relaxing, and reflecting, I’ve been tidying and tying up loose ends: making overdue appointments and dates with friends, cleaning, and purging clothes and household items that clutter up the place. I’m glad I did…it needed to be done…but I feel very unsettled heading into 2019. I haven’t done the proper meditation and planning to start the new year.

How I love a fresh slate, an opportunity to start all over again. I am way overdue for reinvention, for new beginnings. My husband jokes with me that I need a change of some kind every three years: a new city, new house, new job, or new kid. It’s been 14 years since we’ve had a new house or city, and eight years since I changed employers or had a kid, so I am well overdue on many fronts. Given that we aren’t planning any more kids, you can see where this is headed.

I was feeling very hopeful about 2019 until about an hour ago. I had my heart on a certain puppy for the last week or so, and I thought the breeder told me we were next in line to choose, but I learned moments ago that the puppy I had my eye on has been scooped up by someone else who jumped ahead of me. Perhaps I misunderstood the breeder, but I’m actually heartbroken over this. It’s crazy. It’s just a puppy but I woke up this morning of new year’s eve thinking she would be ours and join our family soon, another sweet little heartbeat to add to the home, but instead she’s gone, just like that. Now I don’t know what 2019 holds for us.

Pardon me while I go take some time to think about that as the clock winds down to midnight.

But before I go, here’s wishing you all, around the world, a peaceful and prosperous new year full of good health and joyous community with your favorite heartbeats.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

 

Blessed Are the Mornings

The tick, tick, tick of the clock is the only sound I hear at the moment, punctuated every now and then by neighborhood cars as people start their day this last workday of the week. In a moment, my oldest will stir from his bedroom and start his routine for yet another day of high school. My husband and youngest two are still asleep, warm and cozy under down comforters in their rooms.

It is unusual for me to be awake so early. Mornings sneak up on me. I am well rested when I rise these days but it’s usually a slow acceleration from awake to functional. In contrast my husband can bounce out of bed with full energy and ability to hold a lively conversation the minute his eyes open.

Not me. Don’t ask me to talk first thing in the morning. Don’t expect me to remember anything either. My oldest son coined this phrase that we laugh about but it’s 100% true: don’t expect anything from me before I gain my “morning strength”. Coffee isn’t the magic elixir that delivers it, either. Morning strength comes only from standing on my own two feet for twenty minutes.

simon-matzinger-633741-unsplashIt’s not that I don’t like morning: I love it. I especially love waking leisurely to the birdies chirping outside and the gradual light of sunrise. I love seeking out a cool spot in the bed when stretching but then curling back up into the warm spot your limbs inhabited all night long.

One of my all time favorite things is when one of the kids climbs into bed in the morning and we get to snuggle and hug.. It’s even better when my youngest makes this little sing-songy whimpering noise, almost to the point of sleep-talking, when he stretches or settles into a new position. It melts my heart to hear it. We’re almost at the point where our kids have outgrown wanting to climb into bed with us. I’m gonna miss the smell of their freshly-showered heads tucked under my chin and the way their little bodies spoon mine. So sweet. So peaceful. Just warmth and protection, trust and love.

But on days like this, where I rise in the early morning as the first one up, I feel like I’m keeping watch over a sanctuary and helping its inhabitants prepare for a new day, except the inhabitants are people you love still angelically tucked away in their little cocoons for the night.

I have a routine when I rise first. I check on each heartbeat, plant a kiss on each cheek, stare in wonder how the faces of my children have changed yet again seemingly overnight, and then I leave to grant them peace, the luxury of sleep for however many minutes longer before their day begins.

Blessed are the mornings, aren’t they?

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

Authenticity Matters

wim-van-t-einde-589443-unsplashI’ve never been one to toot my own horn. But a couple of times in my career, I found it necessary to hire someone to help me rethink how I present myself and how my body of work and accomplishments are shared with others. I hired a consultant, a business coach, to help me with it. In plain English, that means I hired a resume writer. I’m not actively looking for a job, but I need the sort of independent critique of my career that I can’t really get from people vested in my day job. 

She gave me a self-assessment that took over five hours to complete. We then spent an hour talking about it and how I want my career to progress from here on. One of the keystone questions she asked me is what I am known for and what I want to be known for.

After considerable thought, authentic is one of the words that came to mind. Let me tell you what this means to me.

I take my day job and professional career very seriously. My reputation, integrity, and ethics have always mattered. Thanks to an enormously influential undergraduate college professor in an honors accounting program, I learned early on that if we lose people’s trust in us as professional accountants – if we give them any reason to doubt our ethics – we were done. He taught us that unquestionable ethics, trust, and integrity were foundational elements in the field of public accounting and auditing where he coached all of us to start our careers. While I can’t say that I was naturally drawn to public accounting and auditing from an early age, this call toward high ethical standards was something that resonated quite well with me because that is fundamentally who I am.  

Fast forward, I began my professional career with one of the Big Eight world-wide accounting firms. Not one to want to screw things up, I was a pretty serious chick in my early work life. Always the arm’s length professional, always formal, and frankly, always a little bit stiff because I thought that’s who I needed to be. I didn’t want to ever destroy someone’s trust in me. But the real me is witty, and likes to use humor. It was exhausting to always be totally on guard, pleasant, and formal, because the real me is not overly formal at all times. 

At one point, I picked up an awesome client, my favorite place to work of all the places I had advised over the prior 20 years, and that’s saying a lot. One of the blessed things about that place was how much their culture values a sense of humor. To this day, the company hangs plaques on the wall to remind employees of what they value, but the thing is, it isn’t just words on a page, or a plaque in their case. Leadership, and therefore the employees, lived it and showed it, every single day.

It was there that I learned how to integrate the real me with the professional me. Totally,  authentically me. I found I could credibly be both trustworthy and light-hearted, yet fully able to deliver the gravitas that is needed whenever it is needed. All of these things are important because as an auditor, you are sometimes required to deal with some pretty heavy stuff, very serious business issues, and you need an outlet to laugh or you’d go mad.

What surprised me is how well people responded to the authentic me. Authenticity feeds integrity, something my husband and I try to teach our kids. What you see from me is what you get at work, at home, at church, with friends, wherever. I am the same person.

If you’ve paid attention to my posts, you may have learned that it drives me crazy to hear a leader say one thing but do another, or talk a lot of fluff or nonsense just to obfuscate a lack of substance. Our country has a dearth of leadership in that regard, and it’s something I can deliver, certainly on a smaller scale, so it’s time I talk about that.

What’s is your “brand”? What do you want to be known for and are you delivering it now? Is it coming across clearly in the ways you network, in the work you produce, and in the life you lead? What steps have you taken to hone what you present about yourself to the world? And how well-aligned are your work and personal lives? Do you want them to be?

Photo by Wim van ‘t Einde on Unsplash

Blog Milestone – 100 Followers!

katya-austin-554633-unsplashHey everyone! I just wanted to send a special shout-out to those of you who took the monumental step of following my blog. Thank you! In just a little over year’s time I have 100 official followers worldwide, in addition to slightly over a dozen email followers.

I realize that not everyone reads all of my posts, and that my blog topics can vary wildly from one to the next, but I appreciate that you take the time, and toss a few likes my way. For that I give a hearty thumbs up back to you, as much as I am still green at this, still very much a newbie. 

I would love to hear your feedback. What drew you here in the first place, what topics speak to you the most, and what would you like to hear more of? I’d even love to hear from you guys with a quick country or state roll call. 

Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart.

~Denise

 

Photo by Katya Austin on Unsplash