A Spring Day in the Middle of Winter

It is still winter in Montana and will be at our house for months to come.   We have had some serious early thaws  recently as we will here every year about this time.   Today it had melted enough of the snow away that it was a perfect day to open the chicken run and let the ladies out today for some free-range time.

2017-02-19-2017-02-19-001-022-1280x853Though it doesn’t look like much the chickens were out there eating the shoots of new grass that the melted snow provided.  My chickens  can be an industriousness bunch when it comes to good fresh food after the snow hiding “good eats” and being on commercial chow for a few months.

Let’s hold onto the memory of this day with sunshine and blue skies as  we enter a week that is suppose to be full of show again.  The snow is happening less frequently and days like this are happening more often.   There is hope for spring, no matter how far away.

Where Do Books Fit In Today?

I can never remember a time I did not read nor a time I did not have a book.   Before I could read, I was read to.   Books were part of my life then and they continue to be. I wonder today in the age of electronics, are we growing a new generation of readers or is the next generation self-entertaining only with games?

I remember my grandparents reading to me from the same books they had read to my uncle and my father. When I started school  the book fair came to our town once a year.   It was then that my mom would take me to the school gym set up with books galore and I got to pick out and purchase one new book.  Many of those books I had for years.   They were a prized possession when I was young and a collection of memories when I grew up.   I had those books  until I finally gave them to my nieces and nephews many years later.

I have embraced the e-reader.   It isn’t the same a print book.   Just like a quality hard cover is not like a poorly mass-produced  hard cover, nor are either like a paperback book.   I have read several books that after reading on the reader, that I have purchased a second tie in print to add to my permanent collection of print books, but for the most part electronic works for me.  I have a small collection of print books in my permanent collection. If you are some one who has moved numerous times, you know that the cost of moving is determined by two things cube (how much space you take) and weight.   Having moved back and forth across the country three times in seven years my permanent collection was pared down to those books that had a special place in my heart.

If you read in the bathtub, you know the value of a paperback that if dropped is not a catastrophe. Many a book has a bit of a warped page and the smell of bubble bath in my past.

I support authors and the literary arts by reading the same way I have always done it.  I check books out of the library .  I buy books.   I continue to  borrow and lend books.  The difference is today I do most of it electronically.

To me the e-reader has opened up the possibilities for new writers to get published without being policed by the major publishing houses.   It is not to say that they don’t have a place, because I believe they do.   I also would say that the large publishing houses  have in some cases have prevented things being published as well,  so they have been a double edged sword.  Today  the author who is turned down by one of the big publishing houses   had limited to no options in the past, can now self-publish and see what happens.   Kind of an wild west, throw your hat into the wind and see what happens kind of environment out there right now.

The thing I wonder most about is do the e-readers help to cultivate and grow a new generation of book readers?  Is a new generation of readers being developed or being hindered with the electronic format?   I can’t imagine a picture book being the same electronically.  Maybe it is and I just don’t get it.  I love the places that books take me…the past…the future…places I will never get to travel to…people I will never get to talk to.  It was the written word and my imagination making it all happen for me.   Books have been a constant companion of mine.  Books have taught me much, expanded my horizons and shaped my view of the world.   I am thankful to everyone who encouraged my love of books.

Are you a reader?   Have your reading habits been impacted by the electronic format? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

 

Free Time – Life Balance

One of the biggest changes for me, now that I am no longer working out of the home is to allow for time to make myself work-ready and to commute to the office. For me the loss is a couple of hours each day.  I am not special in this loss of personal time.   It is the personal price that millions of people pay as part of being gainfully employed.  It is time the working person can never get back.

I use my commuting time to plan my day or decompress and shut down at the end of a day.   When I push the button on the garage door, that is the line of demarcation of work time and personal time.   I don’t take home paperwork, my computer or say to anyone at work to call me at home.     I have traveled that road before of letting work take over my life and have no desire to do it again.    When I am on the clock I am 110% in, but when I am off-the-clock  I am guard my private time preciously.   It isn’t easy and I like so many others have struggled with this situation.

When I accepted this job, RangerSir and I talked about this.   We discussed what the realistic expectations were.   We discussed what was most likely to suffer and what each of us might do to limit the impact of my new job on personal time.

I have done several things to ensure that I don’t let work creep occur.    I am trying to cultivate new habits to ensure I don’t just go to work and come home and veg, because I  found I was falling in that pattern.    In January  I enrolled in a creative class with weekly assignments because I love to learn and I thrive on creativity.   With regular assignments I am forced to carve out time for myself.   It seems that once I have found the rhythm of making self-time, it seems I have found  time for other things as well.   I  have queued up several books at the public library, because I am back to reading daily.   I had wanted to make a baby quilt when my newest Great Nephew was born, but I had never started the project.  I felt I had no time.    Now the top is pieced and I am busy machine quilting it so I can go to baby Harrison.

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I had never imagined I would find the time to make a baby quilt, though I really wanted this special baby boy to have one.   Now suddenly it is well on its way. 

Are you caught in the never ending rat race of letting your work encroach on your personal time?    Are you not being yourself, but instead using the exhaustion of work  preventing you from finding enjoyment in life?   If so, I hope you take a little time and think about how you can find some time for you.  You are worth it.   Maybe you can’t be as lucky as I am, but even if all you get is a few minutes to yourself, it will be worth it.   Once you claim those first few minutes hopefully you can claim a few more and a few more.

It is something we all need not just with work and personal time, but holistically more life balance.

Unexpected Goodbye

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A page from my art journal that I created when looking for answers this last week.

Most people spend more waking hours with their co-workers than their family.   Your co-workers become an extended family.   If you are really lucky some of your co-workers become your friends. I had a co-worker who was one-of-kind guy.   Our careers ran parallel paths in so many ways that made us click and become more than co-workers.   We were friends. Unfortunately last week I lost my friend to suicide.

Montana has a rampant problem with suicide. We are often number one or two in the nation per capita when looking at our suicide rates. It is a sad reality to know so many families personally affected by suicide. For RangerSir and I it is not people we know second or third hand that have been impacted by this crisis.     It is people who we know as a member of our inner circle.   In January we attended two funerals for victims of suicide.     It has left us stunned and reeling seeking to understand.      Something we may never do.

Suicide affects young and old alike.   If reaches across gender and economics. It is a problem in rural and our cities.   Suicide leaves behind family and friends who wonder what more they could have or should have done.   There are no answers. Only holes in lives about what was possible that will not be.

I beg of you if it is a moment of great despair or if it is a long battle with mental health, please seek help.   It may not feel like there is anyone out there who cares, but there is.   It may not feel like there is anyone you can share your burden with, but there is.   It may feel like there is no way out, but there is.   Call out for help.   Ask for help.   Accept the offer of help.   The world is a better place because you are in it.

Mystical & Yet Melancholy

imag3268One night coming home from work last week I was taken aback by the beauty of the moon rise.   It was so amazing to see the clouds that were sneaking in to cover parts of it.   I so wanted to capture it and share it.   The way the clouds moved back and forth covering the moon and then not was  like a magical show of nature. The colors of the night were like a blanket covering night sky and snow-cover lands alike.  it was almost indecipherable where the sky ended and the horizon started.   The color was a blue of melancholy, sadness, loneliness and yet so peaceful.

I talked myself out of stopping my truck and taking a picture until I was nearly home.   The reasons were many for not taking the picture.  It was approaching night so the light wasn’t good, but that is what made the sight so special.  I  didn’t have the right set up to take the photo, I had just a phone.  The picture  wasn’t framed right and there were things in the picture I really didn’t want. It was bitter cold and I was dressed to commute, not stand outside for an extended period of time.  Dinner was waiting.   The list in my mind was a mile long as I continued to look at that moon and watching the changing images as the clouds moved in and out.

I recently started a new creative set of classes for 2017 and my statement his year is: Change the Pattern of Your Life.  It hit me.  I was letting the same pattern of excuses make me not take a chance and see what would happen.  When I was just a 1/4-mile from home I finally I just got out and took a half dozen shots.   None of them will make National Geographic, but I did it. It doesn’t capture the sight as I saw it, but it still serves as a medium to share something of that night with others.  I did not let the pattern of letting the same reasons for not doing something continue to drive me and prevent me from trying.

Do you let a very  repeatable list of reasons prevent you from trying something?   Does your selftalk sound like a parrot repeating the words over and over?  When was the reason you tell yourself for not trying something a new reason, not the same reason you told yourself 100 times over?   Challenge yourself to explore, do something that those comfortable reasons say not to.   Don’t let the pattern of your life prevent you from living it.

If you are interested in the class I am taking samples of my creative work and information on the class can be found about it on my other blog Playing Without Limits.

 

Already the Days are Getting Longer

Working outside the home and commuting daily allows a person to notice when the days get longer and shorter.  There is a consistent time piece of our daily routine when we walk out the door, get on the highway, catch the commuter bus or train by which  we are able to measure our days. We noticed day and night relative to that constant migration daily to work and home again.

I feel like I have been living in constant darkness lately.   Each day I left home  in the dark of night with the stars overhead heading to town and came home in the same darkness. If I was going to get some sunshine it had to be during my lunch hour.    This first week of January we had  vicious cold snap of subzero temperatures.   One day we got all the way down to -30 at our house, and that was before we factored in the wind.   I was down right miserable in the  cold and darkness.   Yet by the end of the week, even with the nasty freezing temps, I had found hope.   I was driving home as the sun was setting.   In Montana twilight lasts forever, so suddenly I was driving home in the last vests of daylight.   The days were still cold, but the afternoon light was giving me hope and encouragement.    The hint of days getting longer has gave me optimism and hope that no matter how cold the days were yet to come and no matter how long the nights, spring though months away is slowing making its way to my neck of the woods.

Another Day

Today is another day.   It is the day after yesterday and the day before tomorrow.   For me is not some magical special day that I make resolutions, promises or goals tied to the new year.   It is a just day.  It is another 24 hours to be spent by me, if I am lucky followed by another   It is a day in my life.  Each one special and one of kind.

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Each morning somewhere between the time when I wake up and when I actually  start my day I reflect how do I want to use this day.  During the time when I do the routine morning tasks of cleaning up, eating and getting dressed I start to think about what this day holds.   I begin to organize my thoughts  recognizing what things I have to do today and the things I  want to do.   I want to fully experience life  each day, but I don’t want to get lost in all the externals that I don’t actively be me.    I don’t want to feel like at the end of the day  my existence did not make a difference. It is a balancing act.   What I plan for each day isn’t the same every day.  Many things influence my plan for the day, if I work or not, is there a commitment I need to fulfill or a deadline approaching, how do I feel, what my family needs, my friends,  and so much more.    Some days I have a simple wish, to walk more steps than I did yesterday or eat a healthy lunch.   Recently my goal was to  pray for a family who has lost a son and that I learn more about compassion and empathy because I can not imagine their pain. Some days it is to accomplish something at work, something that won’t likely change much of anything in the world.  While other days it is do a random act of kindness for someone who I don’t know.

Most days I pick several things for my daily goals and other days I just aspire to accomplish one thing.   I try to make it a mix of for tasks but sometimes  I when I feel spent  I just wish for a day for me.   This weekend  I gave myself the gift of nothing.   Nothing for me is to allow myself the luxury of doing what is calling me at the moment.   For me nothing can  be to read, sew, write, play in my studio, talk to my life-time friend, pull my camera out or take a walk.   My wish for the day can be a grand task impacting everyone I meet or just a single movement toward a lifetime quest that only I recognize.   It changes for me each day.

It is not about a resolution I make on the first day of the year.   Instead it is about my life list.   All those things I want to see, do and change.   My life list does include places I want to see and things that are personal goals, but it contains bigger unreachable items as well.   Those big things, like world peace,  I don’t serious believe I can change all by myself, nor will even see in my lifetime, but I want to be a drop in the water  that sends out waves or a butterfly wing that contributed to a distant tornado that is part of that change.    I want to waste one less minute than I did yesterday.   Today I want  to make better use of  the time allotted to me than I did  the previous day I was given.    I fully embrace each day no matter what day of the year it is.  I wish the same for each of you.