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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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

 

Turning Inward

As the weather turns colder, there is a phenomenon that is pretty common in the continental climate parts of the world. I can’t speak for the areas with a steadier climate as I’ve never lived in one, but up here while the change to autumn is all around you – notifying all of your senses – we tend to become a people of philosophy right before the snow falls and locks us up tight for a few months.

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September on the Escanaba River Basin, Michigan

It might be because of the spectacular fall show. It’s one thing to describe the riot of color that slowly burns through all of the deciduous trees around you, and it is quite another to actually walk through the blaze and notice the few green branches that are still clinging to summer as the rest of the season has burned out around them. It’s amazing to note how dark green the pines are in the face of all that excitement, disapproving old caretakers that don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

It certainly is hard not to think about death when many things are singing their mortality as loudly as they know how. It’s easy to ask what your purpose is in life and why are we really here when you notice the things that will soon be gone.

It might go back to our farming roots. When you had to make sure that there was enough food to carry everyone through the winter, there was a LOT to be done in the fall months. After the harvest, there was a flurry of preparation that needed to happen, in the fields and in the house, to keep body and stomach together through the cold season. Once that is done, your brain is primed to planning and thinking with no focus to keep it occupied, and that’s when the philosophy starts.

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Always better with a lap critter.

Whatever the origin of this turn, our focus moves inward and we’re more likely to sit in coffee shops until all hours of the night talking over politics, religion, the past, the future… almost anything that we can imagine. It is truly lovely to have a soft cabled sweater and a cup of something warm and sweet to drink while these conversations are happening. A thick pair of socks or a handy lap blanket (or lap critter) adds to the cozy atmosphere and gives a boost to our creativity. After the harvest, somewhere between the start of school and mid-terms, and before the holiday season takes most of our attention, we turn inward and a lot of our most creative ideas come out.

So while the season is cooling, let’s get out there and… turn inward. Who knows, maybe you’ll think of the solution for world peace! Or maybe you’ll just figure out what to get Uncle Jim for Christmas. Either way, worth the effort.

Reading…

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Actual picture of my bookcase. Note the vases and general crap in front of all the books.

I have a confession to make.

I have not read a physical book of more than 25 pages since I graduated from Grad School.

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I had to re-read The Hunger Games in order to teach it to my class last fall, and I’ve picked up various books to start reading them since then, but I haven’t really had/taken the time to actually read a book for my own pleasure.

Not that I haven’t been reading. I read at least ten books a day — Of the cardboard variety. And, of course, I read articles and posts online on my computer and on my phone all the time. Articles are much easier put down when someone shouts from the other room that she needs help wiping herself. The article doesn’t lose its place so that I have to re-read the same paragraph each of the five times I go back to it over the course of the three hours it takes me to finish reading it.

I haven’t thought much about this fact in a while. I read a lot while in college, of course, but not so much in grad school. I had less time and more going on outside of school to deal with. I read all of the books I needed to for school and loved it, but I didn’t really take the time to read anything that wasn’t assigned to me.

Another fact has become increasingly apparent to me, and I think the two are probably related: I haven’t been writing. Other than Facebook updates and things that are necessary for basic communications, I haven’t been writing on my novel, any songs, on any short stories, or here (as I’m sure you’ve noticed). And while the last couple of posts here have been about living my life and being okay with being away from my online presence, I think that this is something that I need to address in my life.

Because let’s face it, I still have a lot to say. I still have things I want to say to the world. I still have characters and stories and ideas in my head that are trying to get out. But these things aren’t going to find an outlet or a road into the greater world without a little help. Words pave these roads and blast through the mountains of doubt and writer’s block. Ideas help fuel the energy to bring incorporeal things to life, to create, to birth.

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“Thanksgiving” cactus blooming at MorSkies Ranch

 

So in order to do justice to the voices in my head, I am going to try to focus back on my creativity. Writing has always been a big part of my life, but I’m not feeding it in the same way that I did. Without reading and putting in words and ideas, I’m not getting anything out. Anything that isn’t nurtured and taken care of isn’t going to flourish.

I’m just hoping that what I have is a cactus that simply needs a little water to bloom.

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