Free Entrance Into Magnificent Zion? Yes, Please.

I’ve traveled about and visited National Parks all over this great country, but I’ve yet to find a place that captures my spirit quite like Zion National Park. From the breathtaking scenery as you drive into the charming town of Springdale to the magnificent views at the summit of Observation Point, nearly every sight is stunning throughout all four seasons. You can safely bet I’ll try to get anyone within earshot to take advantage of the National Park Service Free Days this year and visit this Southwest jewel or any other National Park close to you, for that matter.

 

I first visited Zion when I moved from Iowa to St. George, UT twenty years ago, and I still have yet to hit every trail in the park, such as canyoneering through The Subway and Mystery Canyon or backpacking overnight on the West Rim Trail. My first experience was in the Zion Canyon area, where I would snap photo after grainy photo on ancient 35mm or disposable cameras, hundreds of photos tucked neatly into boxes in my bedroom closet.

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Me and Zion, ages ago

The beauty of Zion is that it’s truly a park for everyone of all ages and shapes and sizes. I started my son on the Emerald Pools trails when he was four years old and sporting his CatDog trucker cap and kid fanny pack, and now I take my daughter along with me. Whether we wander down the easy, paved Pa’rus Trail and the Riverside Walk to the canyons of the Narrows or test her limits and hit the Upper Emerald Pool and Kayenta Trails, there is always something for the little ones to do. Plus, from the spring through the fall there is a shuttle system that takes you throughout the Zion Canyon. No trying to find parking spaces at each trailhead. Word to the wise: arrive early to find a parking space near the Visitor’s Center. This is one busy park.

For those more conditioned (and not afraid of heights), the views from Angel’s Landing and Observation Point are spectacular. Pack snacks and fill your water bottles at the free water filling stations in the park, then hit the canyons. Be sure to take a picture of the switchback system named Walter’s Wiggles as you make your way up to Angel’s Landing.

I could go on for hours about the activities available within the park. Biking, climbing, backpacking, canyoneering, river trips, wilderness hikes down the Narrows (which is phenomenal), Ranger-led activities for kids and adults, the list goes on. Instead, I’ll keep this short and sweet and leave you with some my pictures through different seasons in Zion.

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Go grab your gear, stuff it into your backpack, and get outside! While you’re at it, check out Cotopaxi, an outdoor company doing good for people and our environment

 

 

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Week 1: Fail. Kind of.

First week of the year down. Let’s see how I’m doing on my goals because there’s nothing like sharing your failures with the world to hold yourself accountable.

1) Writing: I didn’t write as much as I planned, *however* I am writing every day. Still plotting a bit as well. Something is better than nothing. Or so I’ve heard. I started to revise “Deacon” and stopped because I couldn’t see the pages through my tears. It’s pretty bad.

Just kidding. It’s horrendous.

2) Health: I’ve been adjusting my eating habits over the past few weeks, so this past week was cake. And by cake, I mean easy. I didn’t eat cake. I did eat some chocolate. But that shit’s good for you, right? My workouts weren’t spot on, but I did walk 4x (plus being on my feet constantly at work) and nailed 1 strength session. Baby steps, because baby steps still burn calories. Meditation: good.

3) I don’t really have a third right now, aside from don’t lose my marbles at my new job. And I didn’t, so I suppose I succeeded there. Yay, me!

I did realize that I might have set my expectations for myself too high this past week. This is going to be an adjustment and I need to cut myself a wee bit of slack for another week or two until my mind/body is used to this sort of nonstop clinic action again. I altered my goals for the next two weeks, which doesn’t mess up my quarterly or yearly goals, so I’m good.

It’s all good, people.

Except Henry died yesterday.

 

Peace out, our happy, friendly, weird little fish. We’ll miss you.

Did you already fail at some of your goals/resolutions for the New Year as well? (Please say yes so I don’t feel alone. So, so alone…)

 

 

Adios, 2016. 2017: Hello, Sweetie.

So… 2016 wasn’t the greatest year on record for me. It wasn’t awful per se, but it certainly wasn’t full of awe. Not that I expect an entire year to be rock-star amazing, mind you. 2016 was simply a challenging year for me, mostly because I relocated back to Nevada and, aside from painting and cleaning my parents’ townhome so they could sell it, I was unemployed for the last half of the year.

Ouch. Good thing I had money in my savings.

Now, my parents had planned for me and Maya to live with them for a while upon our return, but I had only planned to live with them for a couple of months. My plan did not manifest as I had expected as job prospects in this small city (aside from working in a casino, which I did not want) have been slim to say the least. I am grateful for the generosity of my parents, but as anyone who has been fiercely independent and living on their own for many years can attest, living with your parents is not the easiest situation. For all parties involved.

However, this isn’t something I wanted to blog about, thus the lack of entries. I refuse to endlessly dwell on (and submit my few readers to) all of the “poor me” moments of my life. Because really. That stuff gets old fast. And it’s never third-world country bad. So I work it out and move on.

Plus, I have this girl to keep me busy no matter what.

Now, has it all been a downward slide? Hell, no. To be honest, I had tremendous growth with my writing from October onward, more so than ever. I’ve been talking for years- and I mean YEARS– about completing my screenplay and writing novels. I would talk and “plan” and talk some more and “plan” some more and make excuses and blog about it and halfheartedly attempt to follow through, but I always gave up.

ALWAYS.

Then an internal switch flipped. I’m not 100% certain of the catalyst for the change, though I suspect the idea of being unemployed and not accomplishing any writing during this period was unimaginable, so that idea factored into the flip. And quite frankly, I’m getting older. I don’t want to go through the rest of my life wondering “what if?”

One morning  I awoke and decided enough was enough. In mid-September I began plugging away again. I took an idea and some notes I had stashed away and I developed it. Every. Single. Day. At the very beginning of October,  I finished the outline for my screenplay.

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Outline complete!

I had a minor set-back before I began actually writing the screenplay, but I worked through the mental block, gave a hearty “fuck off” to the naysayers (both real and in my mind), and on October 30, I began to write. Relentlessly. Every. Single. Day. (Again, because that’s what you do as a writer. Writers write.) Honestly, I wrote the shit out of that screenplay. On November 6, I completed the delightfully terrible 90-page first draft of Deacon.

I felt the weight of the world lift off my chest. I felt free. I felt creative. I felt driven, motivated, and light. Most of all, I felt relieved. I can do this. I mean, the screenplay needs a significant amount of revising before I allow anyone to read it, but it has solid bones, flesh-out characters, and some great scenes as it stands. Bonus: I loved writing it. It was difficult but so worth it.

The act of completing the screenplay changed my perspective on the writing process. I clearly see what is truly possible for me and what I can accomplish if I put my mind to it.

I can accomplish anything.

I think the completion of the screenplay also began a slight upward trend for me. Maybe the cooler weather played a part as well. I go outdoors more often.  I take more pictures, even if only outside of town. I try new things again, like going on a fantastic, extreme UTV adventure tour outside of St. George with Rachel’s cousin- a man I had never met until the morning he picked me up at my house for the excursion, I might add. Rachel was right though: he and I got along beautifully. It was like hanging out with an old friend. We all went hiking in Zion the day after our UTV adventure. Wandered some trails on the outskirts of Mesquite.

I also began to seek mentors. Not person-to-person, but via blogs, vlogs, email subscriptions, and books. Nearly every single day I absorb some new detail or bit of wisdom. (I’ll list a few sites at the bottom of my post.) These mentors are in the midst of indie publishing and they give solid advice.

I now have a greater feel for and trust in my own voice as I’m writing. At one time I wanted to be a literary master like Rushdie, but I’m quirky in a not-so-elegant way and not a writer of his caliber, which is fine. In fact, my attempts at writing outside my own voice and pretending to be something I’m not likely stifled my progress. As long as I can tell stories that spring forth from the bottomless well within my heart, I will thrive. I want to write stories that allow people to escape their troubles for a brief time and remind them of all the reasons they want to live vibrant, beautiful, messy lives. If I only reach a select few, then so be it. Although, let’s be honest;  I do wish that my writing eventually reaches many people. That means one thing: Write interesting, well-crafted stories.

Okay, it means other stuff as well: create a marketing and business plan; outline, write, revise (and revise and revise), and publish as often as producing excellent, creative pieces will allow; connect with and support other writers (both by purchasing their books and giving reviews online) and obtain mentors in order to expand my writing social circle; completely revamp my website and contribute worthwhile content on a regular basis; and, most importantly, live a healthy, physically/mentally/emotionally well-balanced life. OH, while I begin my new full-time job January 2- tomorrow.

Whew! How in the hell will I accomplish this?

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Columbia River Gorge, March 2016

Plan. Plan. Plan. I’ve been creating a detailed life plan for the next year and I outlined my three-year goals during the past week. I devised the most focused plan in my life. Will I meet every single goal? Probably not. But it’s far better to create a plan and meet most of your goals or even half of your goals than fail to create any sort of a plan and do nothing because the drive is absent. I chunked my long-term goals into bite-sized pieces and I am determined to meet or surpass many of them. Not one goal is unreasonable or out of reach.

I’ve started to revise “Deacon” and will continue to do so in increments as I finish outlining and writing my novel. I’m in full swing and I’m not going to stop. I created a mind-map of ideas for revamping my website. I am stoked about this process. I’m starting a new job, which means income and a sense of self-worth once again. I can finally begin to contribute to society and move into my own place.

As I reviewed my goals last night during the GoT marathon, I noticed an interesting tidbit: not one single goal I set for the next 5 years (that’s all I planned for at the moment) pertained to a romantic relationship. In fact, even as I dreamed and set my goals, not one single time did “husband” or “boyfriend” or even “partner” pass through my mind. I realized that I have absolutely zero desire for anything of the sort right now.

I want to write my novels. I want to raise my daughter to be a strong, intelligent, empathetic, independent young woman. I want to thrive financially. I want to travel, own my own home, purchase a new vehicle, and be physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. Could I do that with a partner? Maybe, but I don’t want the distraction. Not one single bit. I’m perfectly content by myself.

So, let’s bring on 2017 and get this show on the road.

Did you set goals? If so, do you have specific plans to meet your goals?

 

(Oh- and yes: I’m a Whovian.)

 

The following is a short list of websites I frequent. When I revamp my website, I will add links in the sidebar to additional sites as well as these.

K.M. Weiland

James Scott Bell

Roz Morris

Monica Leonelle

Joanna Penn