Lane Ends, Merge …

I’ve done a lot of traveling and driving in my time. As most sane folks can say, most of it was during the warmer months of the year when travel on roads was less dangerous and you could, for instance, cross the Great Divide without tire chains.

One of the less-than-pleasant aspects of driving that time of year is the road construction. Yes, I understand why it has to happen when concrete can cure and the ground under the road isn’t a solid block of dirty ice, but it certainly can make what seems like a short and pleasant trip a… not so either of those things.

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Surprise scenic route!

The worst, though, is when you’re driving along fine and all of a sudden, there are all these flashing signs and traffic backs up and everyone is trying to occupy the lane three over from you but no one is being polite about it. You feel like it came out of nowhere, but you know that they don’t usually do that. Usually, there are signs ahead, but maybe you were too busy to notice, maybe there were too many other things to pay attention to. Maybe you didn’t think that it would apply to you, but to another lane.

But it did apply to you, and now you have to try to barge your way into the other lane where there are too many cars and trucks who are probably more aggressive drivers than you are and probably will keep their spots to your detriment. Or there is that little exit up there going the other way entirely. There are a few cars going that way, but you get the feeling that they know more about the road that direction, that maybe they already know the secret route that will get there where you all want to go. Do they live around here? Or just have the good tip about how to get around the traffic?

This heavy-handed metaphor has reared its head in my life. In one week, I went from having two paying jobs this fall and trying to figure out how I would handle them both and still have time for my kids and family to having basically neither. Sure, there might be a few hours here and there, but realistically, there isn’t much, and those hours would only be for a while, anyway. Once the project is over, there go the hours.

So what are the options, here? My husband has a VERY good job for this area and makes more on his part-time hours than some do full time. But… he doesn’t make quite enough to pay for our lifestyle as it stands, and we’re going to be adding another child in dance class in the fall and all of the expenses that go with that. Man, kids are expensive.

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If only it were this clear…

I will admit that I’ve eyed that other exit for a while. There have been many opportunities for me to veer off that ‘beaten path,’ and in fact, it’s always been my intention to go off on my own and try to support myself and my family by an alternative means. Lately, I’ve been a bald tire with my regular schedule going to an office part-time. I planned to support myself with my creativity, but I didn’t plan well enough for it to actually work.

So I still need to stay on a road, but maybe not the road that I’ve been on, the road that is so congested with everyone and their brother, the road that has been giving me a regular headache and a hole in my heart. Or at least my gut.

That’s not to say I’m totally confident in this turn of the wheel. But I only have so many choices. So I’m turning the wheel the OTHER way, away from the regular, closer to the road that I’ve always wanted to forge, and closer to my family and my home. I’m excited, scared, and absolutely sure that this is the choice I need to make at this moment.

I just hope that there’s a Baskin Robbins out this way…

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All you need is…

I had a discussion the other day about how Valentine’s Day is (or is not) a greeting-card-and-candy-company holiday. I mean, it’s named for the feast day of St. Valentine, right? So how did it go from a day honoring a couple of martyrs to a day about love, flowers, and chocolate?

 

St valentine

For some interesting details about Valentine’s day, check out this NPR article: https://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133693152/the-dark-origins-of-valentines-day

Before it was a saint’s day, this time of year was the beginning of the fertility festivals in many warmer climates. While more northern climes don’t turn toward fertility festivals until closer to Easter, Lupercalia was celebrated by the Romans and Galatin’s Day by the Normans around this time of year. Yes, a couple of guys named Valentine were martyred around this time, and at least one of those Valentines sainted was killed because he was marrying people without permission. But really, it’s all about more babies.

 

But so many people who love and celebrate the day aren’t all about babies. It’s easy to say that this is a greeting-card-and-chocolate-company holiday, but it can be about so much more than just that. I spent a few quality hours creating valentines for family members with my kids, as did my mother-in-law. My 4-year-old sat still at the table for at least an hour, carefully writing her name on 22 valentines for her dance friends and she was truly distressed when she came home with extras, worried that not everyone had gotten one. She really wanted to tell everyone at her dance class that she was happy to be their friend.

This was my daughter excited to show love to her friends and family. This was my 2 1/2-year-old making something to give to her family and remembering them when they weren’t actively in her view or immediate future. It’s hard for adults to look outside of our own heads to show affection for one another, how about we teach our children how to do it?

It’s easy to be cynical about ‘lesser’ holidays like Valentinethis one. I would like to argue that having a holiday that emphasizes caring for one another and that kids love is certainly worth valuing. Yes, people have used this holiday to sell things and other people have used this holiday to make us feel bad about ourselves, but there is so much good in this holiday. To simply write off the positive that can be done with this holiday is short-sighted in my opinion.

If we can pass on the positive of this holiday to our children, it is definitely worth the effort.

New Year, Old Me

Another time of year that encourages reflection (Or maybe it’s just me?). New Year’s Resolutions are abundant and often forgotten or ignored as February nears. By the time we’re getting our tax papers, they’re not even given a thought.

The impetus to start over again, to try something new that we haven’t tried before is

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He looks just as confused as I feel! From http://redcrosspharmacy.com/new-year-resolutions/

encouraged in our society as a way to make our lives exciting or interesting again. It’s certainly not a new concept – The Babylonians were making New Year’s resolutions 4,000 years ago. The idea of New Year, New Start, New You is perpetuated in every corner of popular culture and especially in advertising and media.

 

I feel a little guilted into making resolutions every year. I am generally happy with who I am until the advertisements start with, “Are you tired of saggy, baggy eyes?” or “Lose those twenty pounds once and for all!” that are encouraging us to make resolutions to ‘make ourselves better’ — or at least buy their products in an attempt to make ourselves better.

But it’s hard not to see a new year full of possibilities and make ourselves a few promises. I’ll try not to yell at my kids so much this year. I want to feed my family better this year — I’ll try to cook at least a couple times a week. I’ll sit down an write at least some more. These promises made to ourselves or our families or the universe are resolutions to take those possibilities and make everything better in our immediate surroundings.

 

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Don’t forget to be awesome!

For me, I seem to make the same resolution every year, because if I can continue to accomplish this one thing, it will hopefully make everything better in my life and therefore in my family’s life, my work life, etc. That one, ongoing resolution is this: to connect to myself and connect myself to all of the pieces of my life. I feel like if I can accomplish this on an ongoing basis, my work life, my home life, my external life, and my internal life will all find balance and work better together. There are some more specifics that crop up every now and then (a recommitment to yoga tends to come up often), but the overall goal is the same every year, every resolution, every time I remember that I need it. Not to find a new me, but to support and sustain the old me as best as I can.

 

Thank You Day

Full disclosure: I have not been paid by anyone to promote anything, I just really like this idea and want to give full credit to the amazing writers who created it.

I have always loved the holiday of Thanksgiving. The meaning of Thanksgiving, appreciating what you have in life, has always been an important theme for me. This appreciation has kept me going when things were hard and brought me out of more than one depressive episode. I am SO lucky. I appreciate what I have. The family and friends getting together to share their lives and what is important to them is also amazing, not to mention the food.

 

DTiger's Thank You Day Book

There is also a book on the same subject! Links at the bottom.

But it’s always been a sort of ephemeral ‘Thanks.’ Traditionally, families join hands and pray, saying ‘Thanks’ to (Insert Favorite Diety) for their family, friends lives, shelter, and food, and maybe some of the younger members have been thankful for specific things and toys that they have been given. While I appreciate this appreciation, and I think it is something that we should do EVERY day, there seemed to be something missing.

 

 

Then I watched Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood with my two small daughters. At 2 and 4, both of my girls are obsessed with this new version of The Land of Make-Beleive from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and I am happy to have them watch that rather than something more violent or rude or even something that isn’t teaching them anything.

 

In season 2, the writers of this excellent show chose to do an entire episode about gratitude and created ‘Thank You Day’ in Daniel’s Neighborhood. On this day, everyone gets together for a celebration, much like our Thanksgiving celebrations here in the U.S., but there is an additional element that we haven’t incorporated traditionally. Everyone in Daniel’s neighborhood makes cards to give to each other that thank that person for something specific. The cards are given to the recipient, then the cards go onto a ‘Thank You Day’ tree where everyone can look at the beauty that they made together.

 

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And Thank You Internet for providing another amazing image!    https://goo.gl/images/J38B9u

I love this adaptation. While we often say ‘Thank You’ to the ones we love every day, this practice would highlight for everyone that what they do for each other is important and to keep it up. Creating a decorated tree together would help cement that we are a community and we need to work together to make something amazing. As a person who is terrible at thank-you cards after receiving stuff, I like the idea of thank-you cards for being who you are a lot better.

 

So I think we’re going to have a new tradition, one that allows us to make amazing memories and to really appreciate everyone around us. If you want to join in with this new tradition, let me know! I’ll try to post a picture of our ‘Thank You Tree’ before the end of the month.

Link to the show on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B00BI0OB56?ref_=aiv_dp_season_select
Link to the episode guide: http://www.neighborhoodarchive.com/dtn/episodes/114b_thank_day/index.html
Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Thank-You-Daniel-Tigers-Neighborhood/dp/1442498331

 

“It’s the subtleties that draw the eye…”

Everything is Brown. Unless it’s Grey. Or black. The world has turned monochrome around us. The Autumn has burned itself out and left behind husks, ashes, and leaf piles that are quickly turning into compost every time it rains.

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November. Yeah, it’s kinda like that.

We’re past the flash and burn of the fall. All of the plants have dropped those leaves like a lit match to conserve their energy for fighting off the driving cold that is coming in a few weeks. The leaves and the trees say goodbye to each other in a spectacular color party, then separate to leave the tree to nurture all life on earth including a new batch of leaves next spring. But all of the raucous celebration is over now and winter’s hush is starting to settle in.

This time of year it is easy to mourn the bright days of summer, the striking colors of fall, or even to eagerly anticipate the coming snow. It’s easy to look around at the lack of color and warmth and feel the heavy blanket of short days and bitter chill suck the energy right out of you.

I used to hate this time of year. Especially after the amazing show that we get in early fall, this drab, colorless world around us right now is even more tired and promising long cold nights ahead. I used to look around and see nothing but darkness and cold. Even rainy days wouldn’t help feed my spirit and creativity, they only compared to the warm rains of July or the snow that was stubbornly refusing to make an entrance.

 

PoolFern

..But November can also be kinda like this.

I’m not sure what changed, but at a certain point, I could see the color differences between the browns and greys and black. I could appreciate the contrast between the occasional stunningly blue sky and the dark stillness below. I am still amazed when I’m looking at a completely empty meadow that suddenly bursts to life with a startled flock of brown birds.

 

This season forces the observer to look closer to find beauty everywhere, hidden in plain sight. I hope to teach my daughters that there is always more to see, that the surface isn’t going to teach you anything. Sure, Spring, Summer, and even Winter have an amazing facade that doesn’t require much delving, but this part of the autumn rewards the careful explorer more with surprise nuggets of beauty.

So just look a little closer and I’m sure you’ll find something worth looking for.

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