Long Nights – Short Days

Yesterday was the first day of winter.  It is the shortest day of the year , if we are talking sunshine.    I went to work in the dark and after working all day I headed home in the dark.   In spite of all the darkness when I got to work I found beauty in the local homes blanketed by the snow illuminated by the glow of street lights.I just had to capture what I saw and share it with you. IMAG3234.jpg

Joy of Holiday Cards

Today I spent the day making holiday cards to mail.    I stamped and painted all my holiday cards and then stamped my envelopes as well.   I thoroughly enjoyed the process though most would say I was nuts to make something handmade that will likely end up in the trash after the holiday season.   But it okay for me.  I enjoyed thinking about the people I knew we were sending them to.

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I love to get holiday cards and yes the infamous Christmas letters.   I love to hear from friends and families we have known for years and life has altered our course such that we are no longer living close by.   I  read them when they arrive and again once the holiday is over.   I think about the people who sent them and how our paths crossed.  I love to catch up if only once a year.   I love to see the pictures that folks share and how they have changed. .   I love it all because they took time to “say hi.”

It used to be that many more folks sent holiday cards. Folks drop you an email and that seems to be where we are going.   I know it is expensive to purchase cards and the cost of postage is nothing to sneeze at.   I know people’s time is often more precious than the  money, so spending an evening or Sunday  doing cards is hard for some folks to justify.     All of these are some of the many  reasons why the tradition is fading away.

In this hurry up, always on, electronic age it is fun to get a piece of happy mail on a cold snowy night and remember the people in your life.   Thanks to everyone who send me a card, photo or letter this year.   To everyone that I sent to I hope you enjoy.

Returning After Much Reflection

I have taken a break now and then from my blog but never like this one. Never before for months, but I felt that this one was essential.   I have always been politically active.  I have always enjoyed discussion with others who do not share my point of view,  trying to see how they get to the place they arrive.    I have always believed  that respectful discussion makes both myself and the other person more pragmatic,  more empathetic, more compassionate and not so narrow minded.   Unfortunately this time around it did not seem possible.

I lost social friends this election cycle because I did not support their candidate.   When they asked and I felt comfortable sharing, because we had in the past, I was chastised for my choice.  Screw my reasoning for my point of view. Who cared if I did research based on what the candidates said, and drew my own conclusions instead of repeating things just because I read or heard them.    Promises were made by candidates  and many others rang empty and false to me.  People said  we read it on the internet or hear it on the news it must be true.  I was of the era of “question authority” and would go back and try to figure out fact a fiction, even when it seemed near impossible to do so.    People were called names and things were said about them, but we were not willing to really go ferret out the truth that is at our fingertips now with the internet  to get to real information, not what he said or she said, but real truths. It was disheartening to me to loose friends and feel like there was almost no truth this time in what was being said. I was saddened by the lack of civility not just by candidates but so much of our citizenry.

I also felt strongly that each of us are given a very special personal right to vote, based on our beliefs, our life experiences, where we are in the continuum of life, economics and family situation.    It is yours right to vote as you see fit, not be be persuaded by me to vote the way I am, because how you got to your candidate was a different path than I had taken.   It was not my right to try and attempt to influence you no matter how much I wanted to.   That is why each of us have a vote, to voice our beliefs. It is the way our democracy works.

Once the election was over, and the system had worked as it was designed we had a new president.  I had a lot to think about, I even thought about stating a new blog to chronicle the next four years.   In the end I decided against it, because if I did so, I wanted it to be fact based and I learned preparing for this election fact checking takes lots and lots of time.   In the end I would either be preaching to the choir or getting hate mail.   It just did not seem like I how I wanted to spend my  free time.

Now we all watch the next four years to see what happens, and then we deal with what does because that is what we do.   I go back to blogging about everyday things.   I share  the thoughts of someone who lives in Montana as she looks out the window.  I am glad to be back.   I missed you all.

Water or Mountain

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One of our favorite spots on the Wise River.

This week we were out and about taking photos for a retirement journal RangerSir has asked me to make for one his employees.   Our daytime adventures took us to some of our favorite places in our neck of the  Montana. One of those places was an out of the way place on the Wise River.   Once we got there I just had to get my feet wet.  The river was low as it often is this time of the year.  Even though it was low the water was cold, a true mountain river.   It made it easy to imagine walking out into the river because there was  a log on that someone had placed in the middle of the river.   RangerSir was not interested in getting his feet wet so this was a solo adventure for me.   My destination was to sit on the log, enjoy the water and sunshine.

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I could have laid there for hours listening to the sounds and relaxing.   Too bad it is a couple of hours from our house.

I laid out there quite awhile until RangerSir and Zip reminded me we had other places to visit before the day was out and the sun would set.  I was totally relaxed listening to the water, the wind and the sounds of nature.   I could smell  the resins of the evergreens heating up in the afternoon sun.   It was a little bit of paradise.

Once I had gotten back in the truck and and we were headed on to the next place we wanted to photograph  I realized I think I am more water than mountain.   I suppose that is easy to say since I have a mountain front and center in my picture window, and no water near by.  As a kid I spent my summers on the lake with my grandparents and  spent years living in the land of 10,000 lakes.   Until I moved to Montana I was always walking distance to a lake or river.   Now as we start to think about where we might move to next, I think water trumps mountain.   Not 100% sure but something to think about when picking our destination.     Water or mountain?  Mountain or water?

Here Comes the Next Season

Today we were under a red flag warning.    What that means is that conditions are right that a wildland fire if started could go wild and easily grow.   Today the air is super dry, my phone says the humidity is 13% and the winds are blowing a steady 21 mph in town.   The temperature here at the house is 84 degrees in the shade and the winds here are surely as strong as they are in town.   Yes I am from the Midwest and know that 84 isn’t hot at all, but at our place in Montana it is darn hot.

We are starting to enter fire season around here.   The Red Flag warning is a sign of the coming of the end of summer.    Our grasses are all cured and getting drier by the day.   The hottest days of the year should be just around the corner.   I can’t remember the last time we had any moisture, but we have dry lightening at least a couple times a week. That is how many of the local wildland fires start.    RangerSir had spent the last week trimming down grasses around the house and outbuildings because it is the time of the year you do that type of thing if you live here.   We had a large grass fire between our house and town last week.   If something gets started out here it should burn hot and fast through our property, but we should be ok.   There is always the factor of what are the odds of should really means.   So you do all that you can do to improve your odds.

I went out today to try and photograph rooster boy thinking I would get some good photos and would blog about the chickens.   The weather was not cooperating. He is a handsome blue rooster, instead here with the wind at his back  he looks like he is having a terrible hair day.   Oh well what is a little wind now that we are in fire season.

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Instinct Is Still Intact

Our dog, Zip, has been full of challenges.   Most of them come from his previous life as a puppy companion to an older woman.   He ended up in the shelter when the woman could no longer stay in her home and family could not keep her dear pets.

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Zip loves laying in the lush grass over the septic field.

Read between the lines, and you know what things Zip never learned.   Zip’s main purpose in life was to sit on her owner’s lap and be the center of her world.   We suspect his owner wasn’t very mobile  and because of that  he wasn’t house trained until he learned it here. He had never experienced grass before us. To this day he likes to walk and lay in lush Iowa green grass and hates prickly cured Montana dry grasses.   He isn’t crazy about snow and absolutely hates rain.   He can hold it for hours rather than go outside in even a light drizzle.   We have learned that we just pick him up and carry him out to a spot because he likely will never choose to go outside instead he will explode.  He will go on walks, but he is the first dog  that we have had that is not passionate about them.  He is not a dog who loves to train with me or gets me out when I don’t want to go.   We don’t tell him this out loud, but we think he is a pansy dog.

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He hates walking through even a little water on the road.

Today he fooled us.   His terrier instinct kicked in and he was on the hunt for some ground burrowing animal that has turned up in our yard.   We have not see what is making all these holes, but Zip was out there in the hottest sun of the day digging for all he was worth.  He was dirty from digging with his front feet and tossing with his rear feet.  His feet were digging through not only soil but also rocks and roots.  Some how I imagine that was harder on his feet than the dry grass.    His head was down in the hole, snorting in a highly unimaginable fashion before today.   His nose was mud caked from sniffing out his imagined prey.  It was fun to see him having fun doing something outside.

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This is fun and I know how to do it.   How’d I know how to do this, my humans have not tried to teach me this?

So we now ask ourselves nature or nurture?   When does it kick in?

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It was fun to see him enjoying himself doing something so dog.

Persistence

This last couple of weeks I have had surgery and been on the mend.   One of the things that I did with my spare time besides sleep a lot I also got caught up on some videos that go with a class I am taking.   One of the videos was a round table of women who were economically successful in creative fields talking about their successes and failures.    When I say economically successful I mean they are able to support themselves or make significant contribution to their household’s bottom line in their creative pursuit. I clarify this success  because I think it is what we all want to make a living and what we love doing.    We want to explore and do something we love, but most of us if we are lucky never get much beyond the break even point if we are lucky.  These women  were writers, painters, stampers and mixed media artists.

One of the things they talked about is other women often ask them how do they break into their field.  It was so interesting in that they said you don’t have a “aha moment” and suddenly you are successful.   They all said over and over, that innate talent is always helpful, but more important is persistence.

On my desk and in my planner I have this quote by Calvin Coolidge. It has been a driving philosophy in my life. It hasn’t always made my life easy but it has allowed more success and opportunities that one can imagine.

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Long ago, in an almost different lifetime, I was in a session  at the Fortune 500 company I worked for at the time.   It was for managers they were  grooming and developing for the next level of management.   During the session it came out that I was the only person  who had not graduated from college in the group of managers and directors.   One of the gentlemen in the session pointed out to the group that I was an  oxymoron being a manager without a degree.  I on the other hand thought, I don’t think his college degree helped him in his word choice when selecting oxymoron to describe me, though everyone knew what he meant. It took me a few more years to get to achieve my position, because I had started at the bottom and had persisted in proving that I had the ability to learn and the talent to do the job I wanted.

Persistence has served me well since I have become self-employed.   People always say to me it must be nice to have the flexibility you have.   It is nice, but it is also somewhat scary.   If you don’t work, you don’t get paid.   It is not like when I was an employee and if I was having an off day, I could show up to work and get paid, even if I wasn’t hugely productive.    Now I am always on the hustle, looking for my next gig.   If you don’t ask you won’t get  job, so I find myself telling folks I am looking for work, and I might help them.    It isn’t like you hang your shingle out there and suddenly there are six people out there begging to hire you at a livable wage.   Self-employment isn’t that easy.   You have to be persistence in your flexibility to try new things and take risks that sometimes don’t quite make sense or aren’t easy.

That all said, like thousands of you I am not making a living at things I love doing.   I’d love to be a writer.   I have a small box of reject letters from the days before self-publishing for the e-read.   I have a finished book, that needs to be re-worked, polished and edited. I spend several lunch hours each week with a sandwich in my truck reading and marking up changes.    I love to be on a design team where I was mailed supplies for my artistic endeavors to try out and make things that inspired others.    I have studio space full of paper, pens, ink, canvas, fabric and sewing machines.  I have tried lots of things and these are the mediums I enjoy working with, and they make me feel most creative. Here is is where my persistence comes back into play.   I spend time in my studio every day.   I don’t skip.   Some days after work,   it may only be 20 minutes.   Other days like today, I have carved out hours working  on a gift journal I am making and  writing my blog post.   People say they don’t have time to do….you fill in the blank…..   You do.   It may not be a lot of time, but you have time.   You choose where and how you spend your free time.   You have to be persistent because only you can make it happen.  More than that persistence of your passion, those things you enjoy, even if it is only 20 minutes, will make the day feel better for you and that is not bad.   Not bad at all.