Branson Retreat

Two weeks ago I met up with former Inkspers Brenda Anderson and Stacy Monson in Branson, Missouri for a writing retreat. We stayed at an amazing resort at The Cliffs at Long Creek, a short but curvy drive from downtown Branson.

The first night we were visited by a masked intruder. Lucky for us it was a friendly animal critter, not a criminal critter. This little guy was very dedicated to climbing up the beams that hold the screen for the basement patio, and he almost made it had we not gotten too close and scared the poor guy away.

Racoon at BransonEach of the seasons were represented in the seven days we spent at the resort. There were 70 degree days, a hail storm to rival any we’ve had in Iowa, a windy day that would blow the hair off of your head, and a day of massive snowfall. You just can’t beat the Midwest for changing seasons in short order.

I managed to get two of my floundering manuscripts tore apart and pieced back together to into stronger, more interesting stories. I also started a Middle Grade novel about a Troll Princess who learns that beauty is more than warty skin deep.

After our group, which included Brenda’s daughter Sarah and another friend Mari Keisling, spentMoses musical Moses the majority of our week writing, we ended our retreat on a high note watching Moses, a musical at the Sight and Sound theater. Brenda got us a backstage tour after the show, and we got to meet the actor who played Moses. I can’t say enough about the musical and Sight and Sound theater. Moses was an amazing production, the actors incredibly talented, and they even had live animals that traversed the aisles. It was probably a good thing I didn’t have an aisle seat! I wouldn’t have been able to not reach out and touch the camel as it plodded past.

Alas, the last day came and went and I am back home building on all of the work I managed to get done during our luxurious stay. Next year we plan on having the retreat at a resort in Minnesota, but I will always remember the incredible stay we had at Long Creek.

Below is a video I took when I first entered the resort. Be jealous. Be very, very jealous.

A Simple Life

I frequently watch HGTV’s House Hunters International. It’s a terrific way to see the world on a budget. One thing I’ve noticed is that many of the prospective home buyers have one thing in common: they’re searching for a simpler life.

Personally, I think they could look in their own backyard. As much as I would love to travel around the world or live in exotic places, I’ve learned that enjoying a simple life is more about choice than location. While some people thrive on keeping overloaded schedules, nothing stresses me more.

Over time I’ve developed a handful of skills that help keep the stressors to a minimum.

Prioritize Who/What’s Important – My faith and family should always come first. When my schedule gets so crowded that there’s little room for either, then I know it’s time to cut back. When I start many things but finish few, then projects have to go. I’d rather take on a few projects and do them well rather than take on many and do them poorly. Think about what you would rather sacrifice: your faith and family or the project?

Keep A List – I begin every day with a To-Do list and prioritize the items on the list. (I’m even writing this blog off a list.) It’s a visual way to see not only what needs to be done, but what’s been accomplished. When I don’t make a list, even if I’ve been busy the entire day, I’ll feel like I’ve wasted my time.

Prepare by Pre-Planning – My oldest son graduates from high school one year from now. Already I’m planning his graduation party. Throughout the year I’ll purchase what I need for his party, and store it in a large Rubbermaid container. When his party day arrives, I’ll be ready. Also, I’m also spreading the cost over months so it’s much gentler on my checkbook.

Learn to Say NO – It’s hard to say No, especially when someone asks you to help with a project you know is worthwhile. But, if you can give only scraps of time to that project, who are you benefiting? If you’re stealing time away from your priorities, who are you benefiting? When asked to help with something, don’t give  a quick, un-thought-out yes. Pray about it. Look at your schedule–will this new project fit in so you can give your all? If the answer is No, then don’t be afraid to say No out loud. In the end you’ll be thankful, as will the person who asked you for help.

Take a Vacation – I just spent a week in Branson, Missouri with my daughter. We didn’t over-schedule the week, but rather chose a couple activities we wanted to do. We kept busy, but we also took much time to relax. On the way home, I even had breakfast with three other Inkspys! That couldn’t have happened if I’d over-scheduled. If traveling is out of the budget, become a tourist in your home area. I love discovering what Minnesota has to offer!

So, no, I won’t be moving overseas to find the simpler life. I’ve found it right here at home.