My First Month of RAW NEWS – November 2017

RAW NEWS is giving me the new direction I’d hoped for. I’d known from the beginning that I wouldn’t get to every letter of the acronym every day, and I haven’t. But I have spent enough time in each that I am very satisfied with the month of November and am eagerly looking forward to further progress in December. Here’s what I’ve been up to this month.

hand drawn icon of bookRead

I have a goal of reading 150 books a year. Messages from Goodreads have been chiding me that I was anywhere from three to ten books behind where I should be for November. Not that I really care — 150 is just a sort-of goal, the result of overachieving three years ago and trying to keep it up ever since.

Still, I pulled up my socks and ended up reading thirteen books in November: six novels, two memoirs, three books about spirituality (includes one of the memoirs), and three books about compulsive eating.

Next Month: Now that my 150 goal is again within reach, I’m going for it. Seventeen books to go which is very manageable, even though I don’t dash through books. I read at night for a couple of hours and sometimes in the middle of the night for another hour or so.

hand drawn icon of painting with brush and pencil on topArt

I’ve really enjoyed the six week course, Painting for Absolute Beginners, just as I enjoyed its predecessor, Drawing for Absolute Beginners. My instructor, Rod Bergeron, is an exceptionally good teacher. He understands what in education we call learning progressions, which basically means that he can break down a technique and diagnose exactly where you’re having a problem and how to fix it. I find that such a refreshing, positive change from art teachers who prefer to maintain a mystique; to act as if artistic skills are bestowed at birth to a select few.

Next week’s post is about an aha moment I’ve had as an absolute beginner in art.

Next Month: My painting course ends tomorrow. Rather than continuing on with Painting 101, I want to be home as much as possible enjoying a hygge winter. I have lots of books to help me take next steps, along with three of the 21 Secrets online courses. In December, I will focus on the 21 Secrets course called emBody. More about that below.

hand drawn icon of book with pencil on topWriting

In addition to weekly blog posts, this was a month for incessant journalling. That became addictive quite quickly, and I found myself waking early every morning, wanting to write.

Writing and reflecting in the moment helped me to stay in that moment, rather than be focused on past or future. I also found that the moment expanded and I seemed to have more time in my day. Nevertheless, in the last week or so, errands and life got in the way and I resorted to standard end-of-day journalling. I’m now finding that kind of journalling superficial and not very helpful.

Next Month: I was going to keep a bead journal in December, but I’ve changed my mind. Instead, I’ll try a daily art journal on the emBody theme – see the next entry.

hand drawn icon of apple with bite out of itNutrition

The three books on compulsive eating were the first clue that this hasn’t been a good month for nutrition or weight loss. But that’s okay because I’ve learned a lot. Specifically, when I feel like I’m running on a treadmill, it does a huge number on my eating habits. (Not exactly rocket science, I know, but it was really obvious this month.) And I need to find a reasonable midpoint between being hypervigilant about food and numbing out, eating everything in sight.

Next Month: The three food books I read were all by Geneen Roth. She pioneered the concept of emotional eating. I loved her books, especially the one with the great title, When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a ChairAnd yes, it’s every bit as humorous as the title suggests.

In December, I’m going to work with Geneen’s great ideas, and I’m going to journal about my insights. For something a little bit different, I’ll work in an art journal where I will also do some artwork about body image through the 21 Secrets online course, emBody.

hand drawn icon of stylized person in motionExercise

I’ve worked one-on-one with a wonderful personal trainer for many years. But in the last few months, I was getting really bored with strength training so we switched to Mat Pilates. Then, six weeks ago, she bought a machine called a Pilates Reformer. Wahoo! What an amazing workout. After an hour on the Reformer, I feel tighter, stronger, even longer which for someone who is 5’1 is rather nice.

Dog walking and training is also part of this category of RAW NEWS. Shylah and Toffee are both doing well and getting plenty of opportunity to chase squirrels on my property. I do, however, want to do more training, especially with Toffee because she is easily bored.

Next Month: I’ll be carrying on with the Pilates Reformer sessions, and adding in some work on my treadmill at home. And spending an extra twenty minutes a day training both pups.

hand drawn icon of open boxWonder

I love the freedom to read a casual reference to an artist, for example, and having the time to jump on Google to look at their work. This month I discovered the work of Irish poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue.

O’Donohue was a Catholic priest, and the first to popularize Celtic spirituality. One of my two regrets from my university days was not taking an offered course in Celtic mythology. O’Donohue appeals to me because I’m interested in all things Celtic, and because I share his belief that “beauty ennobles the heart and reminds us of the infinity that is in us….It returns us to our highest selves.”

Along with his beautiful, thoughtful writing, I appreciated learning all sorts of quirky little facts. For example, did you know that the word ‘hello’ does not exist in Gaelic? The way to greet someone is through a blessing, ‘Dia Dhuit,’ meaning “God be with you.”

Next Month: In December I’ll just keep following breadcrumbs, learning more about whatever appeals to me. I love this!

hand drawn icon of lotus flowerSelf-Care

This month’s self-care included: a few afternoon naps; numerous hot baths (so many that dry skin is becoming a problem); fresh flowers; breakfasts and walks with a friend; giving blood; a spa pedicure, and decorating for Christmas.

I’m starting to pay attention to the times in my days and weeks that make me happiest. For example, I love the days when I make art. There’s a feeling of timelessness to those days, probably because I took the time to do something that mattered to me.

Next Month: I have a tendency to procrastinate, waiting to write or play with art until I have huge wide open swatches of time. In December I’m going to work on inhabiting the present moment, to, as Ram Dass said, “be here, now.”

How has your November been? Any highlights you want to share?



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  1. I’m loving your breakdown of goals versus your RAW-NEWS vision! In the following breadcrumbs section this month, I’ve been digging into stages of adult development. Came from a reference about generativity being a later stage of development & my personal struggle with this concept. So far this rabbit hole has been 6 hours or googling & processing. There might be a blog or 2 in it, but it’s also been personally mind opening.

    1. Hi Pat,
      There we go mirroring each other’s journeys again. I too have been looking into stages of adult development. Two books that I found really useful are The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom by Angeles Arrien and Awakening at Midlife: Realizing Your Potential for Growth and Change by Kathleen Brehony.
      I hope you will end up writing about this concept. I intend to as well and it would be great to get a conversation going.

  2. Wow, you seem so busy, Karen. But, at the same time, you are aware of your priorities and make things happen that matter to you. I am so “behind” on the self-care part, except a couple of days ago… It was my birthday and I vowed to “only do things that I enjoyed” that day. I mostly succeeded and even took a one-hour nap, something that never happens!

    Since reading your bead journal story, I am writing down the most important thing in my diary now as well, every day. We will have to compare notes next year.

    You sure picked the wrong time of the year to watch what you eat. Mark and I are very healthy eaters, but with all these events, we have been eating homemade desserts and way more sugar than usually (which is close to none). 🙁

    I am in awe of how many books you manage to read! 17 in December?? Sigh. If I manage to read one book a month, it is a lot! But, I am writing again, and trying to stay on top of my inbox and blogs. 🙂

    1. Wahoo, Liesbet!! So many good news items in your comment. First, a belated happy birthday. I’m so glad that you took the day to do only what you enjoyed. That is tremendous self-care.
      And way to go on the bead journal. I haven’t started mine yet, and now am putting it off until January, but I will definitely be doing it and will look forward to comparing notes early in the new year.
      Another huge cheer for being back to writing. I know that was really bothering you. I’m so glad you’re back to it. I, on the other hand, am writing only my blog and my journal. Next year, I hope to start a larger writing project.
      I know what you mean about December being a time for lots of sugar. I’m still going to eat some of it – Geneen Roth is completely opposed to deprivation. The reason I chose December is because I am determined to NOT start the new year obsessing about weight and food. I’ll report in at the end of the month and let everyone know how I’m doing.

  3. Karen, I don’t think I’ve every met anyone as focused and determined as you. I cannot believe how many books you read! Do you ever find a book that you don’t like and just put it aside? Do you read more than one book at a time? I’ll be looking forward to three of the 21 Secrets online courses – as with all your posts, it sounds interesting.

    1. Thanks, Anna. It’s funny. I don’t see myself as terribly focused or determined. It always surprises me when someone makes that comment.
      I definitely find books I don’t like, and I happily put them aside. Life is too short to read something just for the sake of finishing it. I do try to decide fairly early into a book because, of course, I don’t count it toward my yearly total if I don’t finish it. I’ve had a couple of books that I’ve abandoned halfway through – that hurt my Goodreads count for sure!
      And yes, I do usually read a couple of books at a time – one fiction and one nonfiction so that I’ve always got something interesting to turn to depending on my mood.

    1. Thanks for saying that, Donna. I just replied to Anna and said I don’t particularly see myself that way. It’s always so interesting to hear other people’s perceptions.

  4. Wow, Karen. You are an inspiration! You say that you don’t see yourself as being focused, but you are and it’s obvious to anyone reading this (and past) posts. I love being on this RAW-NEWS journey with you (as an observer at this point but, who knows, maybe some time as a fellow traveler).

    I would love to find similar art classes like you attended. It sounds like your instructor really made the process approachable – not full of intimidation or self-doubt. I’ll keep looking.

    And your book count… that’s amazing. I love to read, but two a month is just about my limit… one for my book club, one just because.

    Yay you! I am so looking forward to future updates!

    1. You are a sweetheart, Janis. I so appreciate your enthusiastic support.
      I do hope you can find an art class that makes the process less intimidating. Maybe look specifically for an artist who has teaching skills. I think that’s a big part of Rod’s success.
      And thank you, thank you for being interested in the RAW NEWS updates. That means a lot to me.

  5. Hi Karen,
    I loved this post…we get to see RAW NEWS in action! It is good that you don’t expect yourself to get to every letter every day, you don’t need to put that pressure on yourself. I read this post voraciously on my phone in the car today. I waited to respond until I got home where my computer has a full-size keyboard and is not as unstable as a car ride is.
    The best part? When I read this paragraph I was cheering you on over here…
    “I’m starting to pay attention to the times in my days and weeks that make me happiest. For example, I love the days when I make art. There’s a feeling of timelessness to those days, probably because I took the time to do something that mattered to me.”
    We spent the entire day in the car, yes, again. I could use a few timeless days myself. I am expected to be somewhere this Sunday afternoon but I am following the lead of a fellow member of the team who is bowing out. I will let them know ahead of time, of course – I wouldn’t just not show up and leave them in the lurch. The old me would feel compelled to be a people pleaser and show up as expected so I don’t let anyone down but this time I am putting myself first and realizing that if others can take a day for themselves so can I! I have been going non- stop for days and days (weeks and weeks technically) and I need a break. You inspire me to do a little self-care too. Thank you for that. I love these RAW NEWS updates and am looking forward to next weeks.

    1. Yay you, Susan! So glad to hear that you are going to take some time for yourself. Do you remember the post from last January where I vowed to enjoy more pyjama days? Maybe your day for you could include your favourite flannels? Enjoy!

      1. Thanks, Karen, your support of my decision just makes me more firm in my commitment to take care of myself. I am envisioning myself cuddled up on the couch with a book and a cup of tea beside me…yes, maybe even in my pyjamas. 😀 I do remember that post last January. I hope we both get many more days like that over the rest of this year and into 2018! We really are worth looking after too. 😉

  6. Hi Karen, I was interested in your Pilates Reformer. It sounds brutal! I will follow it up and do some exploration. I just registered for the winter sessions of activities and was a bit disappointed to find their selections limited in that many are repeats of what I did in the fall. I swapped out Tai Chi for 20-20-20.

    BTW you are focussed and determined! I enjoyed reading how you structured your days around RAW NEWS.

    1. Hi Fran,
      The Pilates Reformer definitely makes me ache, but in the best possible way. Doing the exercises on it, the movements are tiny, but they are so targeted and precise that they are incredibly effective. If you can find someone in your area who teaches using a Reformer, I really think you’d like it. Like Tai Chi, it’s also focused on breath so there’s a soothing, meditative quality to it even as I feel ab muscles I didn’t know I had.

  7. I agree, very focused and determined. I’m also impressed with your reading, I’m up to 31 books this year – last year, it was only 20. Too many interesting blogs to read!

    1. I suspect for you, Anabel, it’s too many interesting blogs to read AND too many interesting places to visit! You amaze me with your variety of destinations and your knowledge of the history of each. If websites and brochures and plaques counted as books, your count would be enormous.
      Anyway, 31 books is terrific.

  8. To say that this post was an inspiration would be an understatement! I have so many take-aways from this.

    Your book count is impressive, and I am most intrigued by your drawing and painting courses for absolute beginners. This has been on my secret desire for as long as I can remember. Were the courses you took online or through a local school?
    … and I love the quote “beauty ennobles the heart and reminds us of the infinity that is in us….It returns us to our highest selves.”

    This post has setup my Sunday perfectly 💕

    1. And your response has set up my Sunday perfectly! Thanks so much, Joanne.

      Rod’s courses are currently offered at the Cobourg Community Centre. However, I’ve been encouraging him to get them online and pointed him in the direction of Udemy, an online course site that initially looks expensive but ends up having what seems a nonstop sale so that every course ends up being $15 Canadian. Rod just wrote to me to say that he is interested in doing this and has been in contact with Udemy. I will be sure to let everyone know when his first course is available.

      I just love that beauty quote as well. John O’Donohue has a book about beauty. I’ve just ordered it through interlibrary loan. If it’s as good as I’m sure it will be, I’ll definitely do a blog post review of it.

      1. Thanks so much for the information.

        Karen, I’m not getting your responses sent to me. I happened upon this one only because I came looking for Rod’s name again. Any clues as to why I’m not getting your replies? I’ve checked my spam folder, but that doesn’t seem to be the problem.

        1. Hi Joanne,
          Thanks for letting me know about the problem. We’ve since corresponded a bit on email. So this reply is really for anyone else who is reading your comment and saying to themselves “Me too.” Folks, if you’re having any problems at all with my site, please do let me know as soon as possible by emailing me – Thanks.

  9. Ditto to what everyone else has said above — this is such an inspiring post, and I am impressed with how many books you read last month, Karen. The other thing that came through strongly is how happy you sound. I am so glad that you are spending time doing the things that you really love to do.


    1. Hi Jude,
      I appreciate that you noticed I’m sounding happy. I am, I am! Life is really wonderful, as I see it is for you when I read your posts. I”m so happy for both of us.

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