Why I love January

I don’t consider myself a poet, but I have journals full of free verse from my high school creative writing classes. I found it to be a relaxing pastime and an effective vehicle for expressing the jumbled-up emotions of my teen years.

Every once in a while I am inspired to write poetry, as was the case following a visit with a dear friend who is more than 100 years old.

She is a remarkable woman with a sharp mind, quick wit and wealth of wisdom earned through tough times and an insatiable appetite for reading and learning. A woman of faith and a writer herself, she has touched many a soul with her empowering presence, listening ear, and ability to cut to the heart of a matter with grace and love.

I wrote For January as an expression of my gratitude for the privilege of knowing this very special woman.

Photo by galdzer via Deposit Photos.

Photo by Galdzer via Deposit Photos.

For January

Fine white hair
precious as silk
touches purple shoulders,
woven from Wisdom,
tested on
a life well-lived
in love.

Skin the color of light
drapes over her small frame
chiseled by Love,
edges smoothed
by Trouble’s waves
crashing against
her soul.

Raised by a troubled mother
father on the fly
boarding schools
good and bad.
A young woman’s dreams for
the writer’s life
put on hold for unexpected love.

I listen to her heart
learn about her life
through words strung together
on golden thread.
Brilliant beads
of truth and sensibility
glistening on paper.

A friendship
built across tables
at breakfast,
nurtured through letters
of care and concern.
Devoted sisters,
loving friends.

We have our pet names for each other
She is Millie, Mamsita,
Mammy, Mumsy, Mom, and
my dear friend, January.
I am her Rosebud, Dear Child, Cherub
Little Sprout, Darling Girl, and
one and only, Trinket.

It is the January of her 98th year.
The air is frozen
and the chill of impending loss
draws me to her.
She reaches out to hold me,
melts me with her spells
of love and grace.

So many lives changed
righted, redirected
through this one woman.
A priceless gift
to so many,
to me.
Love alive forever.

©JoAnn Amicangelo



Why I Write



I’m beginning to define and explore the difficult question of why I write and why I want to become a better writer. Here are some of my initial and incomplete thoughts:

  • Writing is my response to God’s direction. God keeps telling me to write. I know that sounds pretty mystical, or overly religious or downright arrogant. I mean, if God said it, who’s to argue the point, right? But it’s true in the sense that, despite trying a number of different degree programs and work roles, I have always sensed God’s finger pointing me back to writing. I think it’s safe to say I feel compelled to write, as in, if God gave me the ability, provided the training and gave me the tools to write well, then I should write.
  • Writing is the fruit of my spiritual life. In high school, much of my writing was focused on searching for my identity, asking the big questions about the meaning of life and my purpose on this planet. Just after graduating, my search culminated in establishing a relationship with Jesus, and that course correction shifted my journal writing to reflections on scripture, meditations on my life as a Christ follower, and insights I was getting from reading the bible and books on the Christian life. Nearly 40 years later, I am still recording my thoughts and ideas about the realities of my life.
  • Writing is a way to share my journey with others. I have written dozens of articles over the years on various subjects for publication in magazines and newspapers. But I feel most fulfilled when I write about my personal experiences in a way that has the potential to help others. My blog is a vehicle for this kind of writing.
  • Writing clears out the cobwebs in my thinking. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to write my way through problems and relationship issues. I start out confused or angry as I write about a situation, and by the time I’m three or four pages in, I see things in a different light. I’m usually able to understand the decision before me or recognize my role in a situation, and I’m able to come to some resolve.
  • Writing gives me great pleasure. Ok, not when I’m in the middle of it; not when I’m moving words around, swapping paragraphs or wondering if I have made any sense at all. I enjoy writing when the work is done, when I’m reading it aloud to myself to hear where I need to make changes. The pleasure comes in the final edits and when someone reads my story and says, “Good job.”

I have stories to tell – my story, your story, God’s story. That’s why I write and why I have started to blog more regularly.

©JoAnn Amicangelo 2015

What I’ve Learned From Playing Panda Pop

Panda-Pop-WalkthroughLast year I wandered into a jungle of multi-colored bubbles to rescue baby pandas kidnapped by an evil baboon. I’ve managed to free enough pandas to make it through the Spooky Forest, around the Great Statue and past the Zen Garden to the doorstep of the Panda Kings. For all this adventure, I’ve only had to pick up my phone to play the game, Panda Pop.

My daughters laugh at me when they catch me playing it, as if I’m too old for such folly (and I probably am). My husband just shakes his head. I don’t mind, though. I’ve found the game to be challenging enough to keep my attention, but not so much that I have wanted to quit. In fact, one day as I was winding my way past a few tough levels in a row, I thought of the valuable life lessons I was scoring along the way.

You have to stay in the game to win the game

I’ve been known to start something and not finish it. There’s the cross stitch picture I thought would be so cute hanging somewhere in my house 10 years ago that instead sits undone on a closet shelf. There are the numerous article ideas I’ve outlined but haven’t fleshed out. And, of course, the weight loss attempts too numerous to count that have been foiled quickly in the light of a tempting dessert or savory bag of chips.

Feelings of frustration or hopelessness or simply allowing myself to be distracted by other things have lead me to give up, sometimes temporarily, but other times for good.

Not so with Panda Pop. I will play a level over and over again until I win it. I might hate the process, complain and question my sanity for spending precious time rescuing gaming characters, but I stay with it until I save every last one.

Admittedly, Panda Pop has an addictive component to it, so to say it’s reminded me that you have to persevere to succeed at real-life goals is a bit of a stretch. But the lesson played itself out this past summer when I was working on refinishing old bookcases.

Despite my efforts at prepping the wood properly, the paint would not stick to the surface. I stripped and repainted those bookshelves three times! I wanted to quit after every failed attempt, but I thought about how perseverance had served me well in the world of Panda Pop, and I was encouraged to press on. And now those bookcases look quite lovely in the family room and I have a good sense of satisfaction about finishing what I started.

Regardless of the venture, stuff happens on the journey to getting things done that can get you off track. You have to keep your eyes on the prize, especially when the obstacles seem impossible to surmount. American abolitionist and author Harriet Beecher Stowe had it right when she said, “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you … never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

You have to lose some to win big

Every once in a while I conquer a level in Panda Pop on the first try, but more often than not, it takes me a few tries – sometimes dozens – to  figure out the best strategy for freeing the baby pandas. I just keep plugging away at it, learning from my mistakes and eventually I’m feeling the rewards of staying in the game.

This silly game reminds me that failure at one step on the road to achieving my goals doesn’t mean I’ll never succeed. Failed attempts call for an honest assessment of what went wrong, a review of my options, and a rethinking of how I can get to where I’m going. It’s try, try again and again. I like what baseball legend Babe Ruth said about missing the ball: “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” Losses can be the ticket to winning big in pursuit of my goals.

Determination is the fuel that keeps you in the game

In his goal setting course, Five Days to Your Best Year Ever, Michael Hyatt points to excitement as one of the seven criteria for effective goal setting. “Your goals have to be compelling,” says Hyatt. “They have to be something that gets you through the messy middle so that when you’re tempted to quit, like you will be inevitably, you can press on.”

Sometimes I’m so determined to succeed at a level of Panda Pop, I will play it over and over again. I refuse to purchase more bubbles to make it easier to win, I won’t admit defeat. My desire and determination to win is greater than the agony of another failed attempt at winning.

This may be the element missing from goals I’ve set in the past and never met. The emotional connection to the goal just wasn’t there, leaving me vulnerable to defeat. This year, I am determined to reach a number of difficult goals, and when I’m struggling to keep moving toward them, I will think of bubbles and pandas and the satisfaction of winning new levels.

Sometimes you have to walk away from the game

When I was working on those bookcases last summer, I became so frustrated at times I would shout at them. Being Italian and all, I would shake my fist in disbelief at the bad results I was getting. But I noticed something different about my behavior after those outbursts. Rather than throw in the towel and give up, I would tell myself to take a break. I would stand back and let it go until I had the emotional energy to start all over again. I walked away from those bookshelves for three weeks or more before I came back to finish them. I gave my determination meter time to fill back up, and when it did, I had what I needed within myself to reach my goal.

I do the same thing when I play Panda Pop. When I have exhausted all my options and start to feel a level of anxiety over the stupid game, I turn it off. I walk away from my phone. I do something that actually has value, like have a conversation with my daughters or read a good book or tinker in my garden.

And the most important lesson I’ve learned from playing Panda Pop?

Don’t waste too much time on silly pastimes

I don’t have a clue if making it to level 165 is some sort of achievement in the world of Panda Pop, but I get a whole lot of satisfaction out of shooting bubbles and dodging obstacles. And yes, I’ve been reminded of some valuable truths about reaching my goals. But, at the end of the day, I know very well that all the while I’m fighting the great baboon, I’m not making progress in the areas of my life that really matter.

Panda Pop can be a fun diversion from life’s pressures, but remember the better adventure is finding success and satisfaction in the real world.

©JoAnn Amicangelo[2015]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to JoAnn Amicangelo with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.