Journey 259: Springfield Connections

Today’s journey was, in part, a literal one. Rising while it was still dark outside, I was on I-44 heading east toward Springfield, MO at 6:00 am. My destination was the University Plaza Hotel and Convention Center, which was playing host to the Heartland IMA Conference. This annual event is geared toward accountants. I am not in accounting. However, one of the guest speakers this morning at the conference was author and speaker, and my friend and mentor, Lu Ann Cahn. 


Lu Ann’s book, I Dare Me, chronicles her year long journey of doing something new every day…365 firsts. Her transparency in sharing the experiences that transformed her life inspired me to create my own year of firsts and begin the Cindy Goes Beyond Blog, which is in its second year. In January 2014 I shared a link to one of my blog posts with Lu Ann, expressing gratitude for the inspiration she had given me and appreciation for the way my life was shifting as a result of moving out of my comfort zone, daily. 

Lu Ann responded so graciously, offering encouragement and the opportunity to do a guest blog post for her. We have become friends, and I continue to view Lu Ann as my mentor as she journeys on, speaking around the country, embarking on new adventures, and encouraging people to take that leap out of the routine and into the unknown. Lu Ann visited Joplin last January and we did a first together. I visited Philadelphia in June, attending a writer’s conference with Lu Ann and experiencing a whole string of amazing firsts.   

When Lu Ann informed me she would be speaking in Springfield today, I was delighted to meet her there. We enjoyed catching up on each other’s lives over breakfast and sitting outside by the hotel pool before her session began. What a treat, later in the morning, to hear her share from her heart before an attentive audience of 500+ people. 

I’ve read Lu Ann’s book and heard her speak before. However, I was reminded today how amazing the journey is when I open myself to new experiences. And reminded as well of the many opportunities that show up when I shift to saying “Yes!” to the unknown rather than defaulting to an automatic “No”. Lu Ann shared that the keys to moving out of the ruts and comfort zones we find ourselves inhabiting are playing, having fun, and being curious. She put actions behind her words and invited the audience to open the small colorful containers in front of them and blow bubbles. There was a moment of surprise, as accountants and finance students looked at each other, and then playfulness overtook them and bubbles filled the air. I heard one older gentleman chuckle and say, “Fifteen years attending this conference and I’ve never done this before.” 

That’s what Lu Ann does, she bypasses our tendencies to play it safe and resist change by helping us to step beyond our comfort zones. By her example and her stories, she has done that for me, and my life path is forever altered. As she said today, energy around us shifts when we do, and the act of seeking and experiencing new things brings more new things to us to try. 

I am so grateful that Lu Ann’s journey brought her to Springfield. It was a pleasure to spend the morning with her, and vital to be encouraged to continue on this adventure that began last year. I love how Lu Ann, while further down this path than I am, offers guidance along the way and cheers me on, pausing with a helping hand stretched out, providing wisdom and humor for navigating the tricky parts. My desire is to, in turn, offer the same to others on the journey. I can’t wait to see where our paths next cross! 

Journey 166: Journey Home…But First, Temple University

Today marked the end of my Philadelphia trip. The effects will continue to ripple onward and outward, but the plane took off at 3:45 arcing toward Dallas. Soon I’ll fly north to Joplin. 

On my last morning in Philly, I had the pleasure of accompanying Lu Ann to Temple University, where she assists students in the Communication School. What a gorgeous campus, sprawling over 115 acres. In between calls and tasks we walked a tiny portion of the campus, virtually a ghost town during the summer months, when 37,000+ students are on holiday.

As in the neighborhoods of Philadelphia, a wide range of architectural buildings form the campus. We walked through lanes that offered faculty and students a wide choice of food and drink, and green spaces and beautifully manicured parks. 

Before taking me to the airport, Lu Ann and I shared one more meal together, trying something new. What a great way to conclude our visit!

There are meal wagons that line the streets around the university. We selected The Creperie at Temple, which offers fresh ingredients folded within a warm crepe right off the griddle. We both had the Enzo, stuffed with chicken, avocado and grilled veggies. Oh my goodness this lunch was bliss served in a triangular box. 

What an amazing trip, with a friendship deepened,  new connections made, and a heartfelt call to leap forward in my growth and life. I know it will all unfold perfectly! As I was boarding the plane in Philadelphia, an advertisement flashed on a screen on the wall, “The best thing about a trip to Philly? The return visit!” Sounds great to me. 


Journey 164: Philadelphia Writers Conference

The oldest writers’ conference in the US, Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, PWC henceforth, was established in 1949 and continues to serve as a place for writers to learn and connect, be encouraged and inspired. Day two of PWC was very full and rich and it was my focus today, with a brief time out for a lovely excursion into Old Town.  

Lu Ann’s class on non-fiction writing was up first. She began her teaching time by having each of us blow bubbles! What a brilliant way to tap into our creativity. Lu Ann reminded us that we must approach writing with passion and play with it, enjoying the process. Having fun, loving what we are doing, opens doors and connects us with others. I KNOW this to be true. 

Lu Ann is skillfully teaching us to write powerful proposals and query letters. Knowing what I am compelled to write, doing my research to define my market and my competition, and sharing why I am uniquely qualified to write my book are all essential components. 

Tom McAllister continued in the memoir class, instructing us on essay and memoir writing. I’ve realized from his class that I am drawn to writing essays, which are short non-fiction pieces that both dramatize and create reflection. We learned about being specific in what we are writing about and when to narrow in on a subject and when to broaden the view. Tom has an engaging teaching style and speaks rapidly, which is essential since he has so much to share. 

The social media class has been a surprise! Don Lafferty  is extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of online marketing via websites and social networks like Facebook. While his class doesn’t teach about writing, it DOES instruct writers about reaching their intended audience, which is crucial for all authors no matter their chosen genre. 

I have learned so much about how Google works and what  I can change in my WordPress blog to increase my chances of appearing higher on the first page of a Google search. Don is sharing invaluable info, and he does so with skill and humor. 

After my last class, and with a couple of hours before the banquet this evening, Lu Ann and I headed out into the city to explore. To my delight, we took a horse drawn carriage ride through Old City and Society Hill. Pat the driver and Spot the horse made quite a team. What a beautiful ride through charming neighborhoods steeped in history. 

I saw the home of James & Dolly Madison, Washington Square, Ben Franklin’s Printing Shop and wonderfully restored Georgian townhouses built in the 1700’s. Pat told us stories, accompanied by the steady clip clop of Spot’s hooves. 

Back at the conference center, we had time for a cold drink before  dinner and the keynote speaker. Joining us was poet and instructor Anna M. Evans. I’ve loved meeting so many writers. Anna, originally from England, has published a couple of books of poetry, so far. Her most recent book, “Sisters & Courtesans”, is a delightful and scandalous collection of poems that highlights different women throughout history. When Anna recited one of her poems spontaneously for us, in her lovely accent, we laughed and whooped with approval. I promptly bought her book. Check out her blog here and enjoy!

The day concluded with a formal sit down dinner, shared with wonderfully open, creative souls. Everyone is so sincere, so encouraging. Keynote speaker Stephen Fried shared from his life journey as an investigative journalist, non-fiction author and adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. 


Using personal experiences and humor Stephen presented his perspectives on what a writer’s life looks like and the nature of writing today. He has published many articles, essays and books on a wide range of topics. With droll realism he warned that the writing life isn’t what one expects it to be, yet he spoke with great passion regarding  writing about the things that capture your interest and heart. 

“Ride the waves,” he told us, “don’t resist them.” Which echoes my sentiments about life, and my current journey. It’s a mighty big wave I’ve caught, and with shaky but determined legs, I’m prepared to do just that. It’s going to be an amazingly spectacular ride!


Journey 161: Trip to Philly

philly trip

Ask any realtor. If you want an increase in business, just plan a trip out of town! That’s certainly held true for me. I’ve had this trip planned since January, when my mentor and friend, Lu Ann Cahn came to Joplin. Lu Ann’s book, “I Dare Me” was the inspiration for my year of firsts in 2014. What an honor and privilege to meet her when she stopped in Joplin so that we could do a first, or dare, together. After we served lunch at Watered Gardens, a ministry in Joplin that feeds and shelters the homeless, Lu Ann and I had a late lunch together, and she invited me to Philedelphia to attend the nation’s oldest writer’s conference.

In the spirit of doing new things and journeying far this year, I said yes! The next five days will be full of adventures: first time to fly out of Joplin’s new airport, first trip to Philedelphia, first time to attend a writer’s conference and what a fun time I will have as Lu Ann’s house guest. This personable, lively woman continues to be such an inspiration to me!

philly trip Lu Ann

The Philedelphia Writer’s Conference was established in 1949. The founders were guided by the belief that writers gain from fellowship with other writers and from constructive professional help. The first writer’s conference in Philly hosted four workshops, a banquet and an evening speaker over two days and has grown to offer 14 workshops, four seminars, manuscript rap sessions, a Friday roundtable forum, speakers and the annual Saturday night banquet with keynote speaker. I am so excited to experience this conference, and revel in the creative energy that is sure to be surrounding the event.

Tonight, after the obligatory run to Walmart for necessities for the trip, I am putting offers together, finishing up laundry, hauling out my carry on suitcase and reading an article that is part of an assignment for one of my classes. And, I am full of gratitude…to Lu Ann for cheering me on and inviting me to visit her in Philly, for Greg who surprised me with a card that was encouraging and contained extra cash for the trip, and for you all, my readers, who have journeyed with me along the way, some for the entire 525 days (so far) as I have honed my writing skills and fallen in love with the craft, and others who have joined in at various points along the path, walking alongside, offering words of praise, hope and love. Thank you, from my overflowing heart.

I am full of anticipation and joy as this amazing trip is unfolding. To quote my favorite Hobbit, “I am going on an adventure!” I’ll post next from Philadelphia!

philly trip writers conference

Journey 14: Witnesses to the Journey

Joplin Globe article

There is a great quote from the movie Shall We Dance. I’m going to adjust it a bit, because she is speaking to her husband. Susan Sarandon’s character, Beverly, says, “We need a witness to our lives.  There’s a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? [Another can say] ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it.  Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness’.” The idea of being a witness to the life of another resonated deeply and the thought has stayed with me. When I am present with another, whether he or she is performing in a band, singing a song, running a marathon or living a life inspired by passion, I am bearing witness to the significance of their lives.

Having my mentor in Joplin the last couple of days was such an instance of bearing witness. Lu Ann, by her presence here, by her questions, by her sharing of insights and by her willingness to journey alongside me, bore witness to and brought a sense of affirmation to me and my ongoing adventure. In the same way, I got to bear witness to Lu Ann, to her gifts of journalism and putting people at ease and to her courage in striking out across the US, visit 30 cities in 30 days….and doing 30 dares. I was honored to have her here and privileged to share in a meaningful first with her. We used video cameras and iPhones, words and blogs and social media to capture that witnessing.

In a similar way, Andra and Roger, from my city’s newspaper The Joplin Globe, were present with us to bear witness to all that we did, both individually in our past adventures and together in Joplin. Andra is a great journalist with a promising future. I suspect there is a book within her waiting to be birthed. Roger was kind and attentive and quietly snapped pictures without making us aware that he was doing that. His photography is another powerful form of bearing witness to the life of another as he captures each moment and freezes it in time.

The culmination of their joint efforts appeared today on the front page of The Globe. I was surprised and then humbled by that placement. The story so beautifully details how Lu Ann inspired me through her transformational year of firsts and continues in the expansion of her life, and how I grew and opened to new experiences and now continue as well on my journey. Roger’s photo that depicts shared laughter between Lu Ann and me was perfect, and could be titled, simply, Joy.

I am grateful for these witnesses to my life these past couple of days, and indeed, to all those who journey with me who affirm my life and let me know that they see me and see what I am doing. I am honored to do the same. Your life will not go unnoticed because I notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I am witnessing it. I see you. I applaud who you are. You are beautifully YOU.

Lu Ann’s blog post about her visit to Joplin

Joplin Globe article about our shared dare

Journey 12: Meeting My Inspiration

lu ann cahn meet and greet

Anyone who followed my journey in 2014, through my year of firsts, knows that I was inspired to undertake this huge challenge by reading the book, “I Dare Me”, by Lu Ann Cahn. My word, BEYOND, had selected me, as had my symbol and song and theme. I wanted to move beyond my comfort zone and into a more open and expansive life. As I was wondering how, exactly, to accomplish this, I came across a post on Facebook about Lu Ann. The article shared how this news reporter from Philadelphia, desiring to get unstuck and out of the rut her life was currently in, did a year of dares in 2010, experiencing something new every day.

Intrigued by what I read online, and excited by the discovery, I bought and read Lu Ann’s book. “I Dare Me” resonated with me. I KNEW this was my path for 2014 and beginning January 1, I created my own Year of Firsts. On day 40, marveling at the way my life was opening up due to this shift in attitude, I contacted Lu Ann via her Facebook Page and shared my blog with her and how amazing the year already was. I knew I still had a long way to go, however I also knew there was no turning back on this adventure.

lu ann cahn meet and greet group 2

Lu Ann graciously responded to my post, with an invitation to do a guest blog post on her blog. I was honored and so impressed by Lu Ann’s graciousness and authenticity. Thus began a correspondence between us….this author, blogger, news reporter in Phillie with this writer, blogger, realtor in Joplin. Lu Ann has been an encouragement to me, a guide who has tread this path before, and succeeded. I have continued to follow her journey via her blog and Facebook.

In December, Lu Ann contacted me about possibly meeting in January…in Joplin! I was delighted. I wondered if she was speaking nearby or passing through on the way to somewhere else. Lu Ann is experiencing another first, another dare, in a grand way. She’s traveling across the US, on an adventure. Her 30 Dares in 30 Days tour will hit 30 different cities. In each location, Lu Ann will join with a reader in experiencing a new dare. What a privilege to have her stop here in Joplin. Tomorrow we will experience a first together.

This evening, Lu Ann joined a group of people at Books-A-Million for a meet & greet time. I got to say hello to my inspiration and give her a hug. She is charming and genuine and funny. As people stopped by, chairs were pulled up and the meet & greet became a sit and chat and get to know each other. I loved that. One thing Lu Ann and I both learned from doing new things everyday is that you go with the flow, which is always exactly right. This evening wasn’t about being formal or following a schedule. It was an opportunity to get to know Lu Ann and for Lu Ann to meet some of Joplin’s dear citizens.

lu ann cahn meet and greet book signing

We had an amazing time, sharing, asking questions, and just being ourselves. Lu Ann created the space for us to do that. I heard more of the stories behind the stories in the book and enjoyed hearing of others who are experiencing dares also. This gracious lady then took the time to sign copies of her book, chatting with each person as she did so.

I look forward to spending time with Lu Ann tomorrow, sharing about our experiences while doing good for my community. And then off she will go on her continuing journey, seeking the new, opening to possibilities, embracing change and people along the way. What a way to begin the new year! I am, once again, inspired.

lu ann cahn meet and greet all in

Day 47: Guest Blog for Lu Ann Cahn


What an honor for my first today, doing a guest blog for Lu Ann Cahn. Late last year, as all the components for going beyond in 2014 were coming together, I came across an article about Lu Ann Cahn.  She is a veteran journalist and a reporter for Philadelphia’s WCAU-TV and covers breaking news and investigative stories for NBC10 News. I read her book, “I Dare Me” with fascination. Feeling stuck and wanting to make a change, she experienced a year of doing something new each day in 2010. New purpose, joy and enthusiasm flowed into her life as a result. She inspired me.  I desired to move beyond my comfort zone and stretch myself. I knew I’d found the perfect way to accomplish such a journey. My own year of firsts launched January 1.

On February 9, Day 40, I looked back with amazement and a sense of accomplishment. Yes, there was still a lot of the year ahead! But I was thrilled with how my life was shifting and opening up. I loved that my real estate business was tracking along with my personal growth. I expressed my deep gratitude to Lu Ann, by way of her Facebook page, and posted a link to my blog. She so graciously responded. And then the following day, invited me to do a guest blog for her. It is so amazing, that the one who has inspired me, is allowing me to share my adventure.

Thank you, Lu Ann Cahn, for making today’s experience a first! And for the continuing inspiration and encouragement! Following your example, I Am Daring Me as well!

You can find my guest blog post here on Lu Ann’s blog: