Everybody Has a Past.

Everyone has a past.

These words have come across my world several times in the last couple of weeks, and it’s got me thinking.

Unless you’re a newborn infant, you do have a past. Your past may be full of love, cuddles, positive happenings and good memories. Or it may be full of pain and misery. Most of us have a combination of these things.

I cry when I read news reports about children who are abused and beaten by the very people who are supposed to be protecting and cherishing them. The past these kids have endured is so horrific they may never fully overcome it.

In many ways, our past is what makes us who we are today.

It shapes us and molds us. But is it an unbreakable shape? If we are taunted and reviled, do we have to cower in fear all of our lives? If we are assaulted, do we have to assault others in turn? If we are coddled and doted on by helicopter moms, do we have to go our whole lives with an overinflated ego, thinking we are God’s gift to the universe?

Your past can be overcome. Slowly, one memory at a time, we can look at ourselves in a clear light, and see who we really are. See how those bad things strengthened or weakened you. The old saying, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” isn’t always true. Sometimes we are so beat down by the assaults we’ve endured that we can’t stand up straight.

But there is validity to that saying as well. You have come through the fire and out the other side; you have gained strength. It’s like purifying gold or silver in a crucible. The heat destroys or filters out the bad stuff.

I want you to know that you are valuable. You are valuable to God and to the world, Each person has a place at the table, a reason for being here. Each of us has talents, gifts and skills that we can use for our own good and the good of others. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been called ugly, fat, or stupid. Look at that memory, release the pain to God, and then let it go.

Don’t let it define who you will be from now on.

Make a list of your positive characteristics and post it somewhere you’ll see it everyday. On a mirror or a bulletin board, maybe. Or on your computer. Embrace the good parts of yourself.

It’s all part of the journey.

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Balloon Rides

My dad was a man who loved adventure. Loved to travel. Loved new experiences.

For his 70th birthday, I bought him a new adventure. Something he had always wanted to do, but hadn’t had the chance.

A hot-air balloon ride.

I drove the family to a field on the outskirts of our town where the balloon was laid out on the ground, almost impossibly big. The bag trembled and shivered as it began to fill with hot air. Soon it was rising into the air, taut, straining at the tethers. Ticketed riders climbed into the gondola, laughing and excited. The rest of us watched, some of us wishing we were going as well.

The pilot spoke a few words about safety and off they went, mounting majestically into the sky. Craning our necks to watch them fly, we waved and shouted good-bye. My mom, my kids and I sprinted towards our van, and off we went in hot pursuit. What a blast it was following the multicolored balloon, trying to stay on the right roads and keep it in sight in order to be there at the landing! A few times we lost it on the curvy back roads, but ultimately got there in time to see it descend onto a muddy field, and my dad climb out, smiling big.

I got to thinking about that journey as I read an article in the newspaper the other day. Two men, one from the USA and one from Russia, took a journey of almost 7,000 miles in a hot air balloon. A record-breaking journey, may I add. They flew from Japan across the Pacific and landed in the sea off the coast of Mexico.

My dad spent two hours in a balloon, going 10-15 miles across the Pennsylvania countryside and for him that was an adventure undertaken, a dream realized. How much more so for these two gentlemen who spent 15 years readying for their journey of a lifetime!

Rather than a chase car (a little hard across the Pacific, don’t ya’ think?) they had technology. Tracking and monitoring equipment aboard the balloon verified the 6,646 mile journey, which took them 6 days, 16 hours, and 38 minutes.

Further and longer than any other recorded balloon flight.

Rather than standing in a small gondola for a couple of hours on a sunny June day, Tom Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev lived in one for six days. Sleeping bags, a small heater, and a chemical toilet were the main necessities. Plus oxygen masks and warm coats to counter the high altitude and cold.

Two balloon rides in two different geographic areas, two decades apart. One shot, one long, One old school, one high-tech. But the sense of adventure, of a journey anticipated and enjoyed is the same. It’s what journeys are all about.

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The Journey of the Year or the Year of the Journey?

Many of us make resolutions at the start of each year, full of ambition to better ourselves in this sparkling, fresh, new year. I usually do it myself. With mixed results, I might add. Exercise more? Hah.

But this year I’m thinking in terms of “journey.” Rather than just list things I’m going to do or not do, or trying to change a bunch of stuff about myself, I’m taking a long-term look.

Where do I want to be at the end of this year?
What do I want to have accomplished?
What will my journey have to look like in order to arrive at the desired destination?

There are a lot of possible journeys I could take.
Self-improvement is always a popular one. Learning a new skill. A new language. Getting organized and out from under the threat of finding myself in Hoarders Anonymous.

Write a book. Or finish one.

Yep. Finish one.

For me, 2015 is going to be the year I finish revising a middle-grade novel I wrote several years ago. Whether it ends up being a journey to publication, or a journey of self-satisfaction in getting it done remains to be seen.

But I will do it.

I am putting this out here online to try and keep myself accountable.

In order to reach the end of my proposed trip, I’ve set some goals.
1. I will work on this revision for a minimum of 4 hours a week (not the 2 hours every day I’ve resolved to do in the past). I mean to finish by June.
2. I will identify a writer friend who has not read any of the previous versions of the book–fresh eyes–who is willing to read the whole thing through. I hope to get it back by the end of summer, and tweak a little more based on this persons suggestions.
3. I will find out if the agent who suggested some revisions three years ago is still at that agency. If not, I will find out where she is. I will submit the finished revision to her or another agent by the end of the summer.

And that will be the end of my journey. Of course, I hope it will be the continuation of a longer journey to publication, one that started when I wrote the first words of the first chapter.

Well, that’s it for me. What kind of journey do you plan on taking this year?

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Anticipation

I love to travel, whether a physical journey, an intellectual journey, or a trip through a new and intriguing subject. I’ve just finished a 10-day trip involving my trusty Ford Explorer, a bus, a plane, a cruise ship, two taxis, and two trains. Two countries, four Canadian provinces, 400 years of history. 

One of the best things about trips, to me, is the planning. I can happily spend hours, days, or weeks poring over maps, websites, and guidebooks. Hotels, train schedules, flights. The thrill of the journey. Anticipation.

Journeys of the mind also call for planning. Brushing up on my pitiful French before the trip involved researching programs. Reading reviews. Checking used bookstores, Amazon and the public library for the best dealon the one I chose. Getting ready to read the first page and listen to the first CD. Anticipation.

Journey with me along the road and around the curve, looking for the next adventure, the hidden gems, the sweet surprises amidst the everyday. Anticipation!

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