Monthly Archives: November 2014

What Next?

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After gaining recognition for his movie, Super-Size Me, Morgan Spurlock developed a TV show. “Thirty Days”  placed people in situations that varied wildly from their standards of beliefs, and showed them the opposing view from the inside. A “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” theme. The time frame was based on the concept that 30 days is the length of time it takes to form a habit. Beyond just habit, though, given thirty days of practice, a behavior or way of thinking can actually become an integral part of your personality.

That is the time, theoretically, when the forced adherence to a regimen becomes a lifestyle.

The thirty-day mark is where a person moves from “I’ve gone twenty-nine days without smoking”…to “I am a non-smoker.”

When the person dragging out of the house every morning at dawn to hit the pavement, wakes up and thinks, “I am a runner.”

When the dieter limiting food choices decides that light dressings actually are preferable to heavy sauces.

I love this theory!

I have been working at self-improvement all of my life. Too often, my determination gives way to boredom, distraction or just plain laziness. Many times I’ve thought I formed a good habit, only to find that cheesecake – or some other bad choice – had simply not presented itself for awhile.

I know it’s not foolproof.

Thirty days of practice can, perhaps, make it easier to follow a regimen, which can provide a sense of pride in saying, “I am a walker” or “I am a good house-keeper” or “I make healthy food choices.” Thirty days of sporadic involvement or neglect can destroy that habit as if all of the hard work and determination never happened.

I have written a blog post every day through the month of November. Where am I?

I took this on as an exercise in discipline, not to form a habit. I think of this blog as a life practice that helps me to slow down and be more aware. It gives me the opportunity to reach out to others. I will not give it up, but I do not intend to continue posting every day.

So what have I gained?

Well, in taking this seriously, I sometimes had to get up early or stay up late in order to get my writing in, around my schedule. There were times I woke up in the night, panicked at the thought that I’d forgotten to post something. There were times when I wrote very little, but I managed to get something out there every day. That, alone, is huge for me!

I didn’t let all other things go by the wayside. Often, when I start a self-improvement regimen, I use that as an excuse to neglect everything else. “How can I possibly be expected to dust when I am trying to diet?” Not this time! I managed to integrate this added discipline into my life without any more than the usual procrastination and disregard for other activities. That gives me hope!

I think this is the way to go: thirty days at a time, devote myself to one area of importance without giving up on everything else.

My head is reeling! Where to go next?

I have a series of collages underway in my studio that have been stalled for lack of time and devotion.

The studio could use a good thirty days of attention, to get it organized for work and creative function.

Shall I start compiling stories and recipes for the cookbook I’ve been planning?

The exercise regimen I’ve been working at in a series of fits and starts deserves a serious commitment.

This house would be a more pleasant place to live if I spent a month finishing half-done cleaning and home-improvement projects.

Even just a good long walk every day is a good habit to form before winter settles in.

I can’t decide!

The dogs are pacing the floor; today, I’ll start by giving them a walk.

As for the next commitment, I’ll write about it when I know.

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Diversions

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I was planning to write a quick, short post this evening, then turn off the computer.

I worked today. I’m tired and still have lots to do.

Besides, I’m off tomorrow, and will have time to write a longer, more thoughtful post then, as the finale to this month of daily writing.

That was my plan.

I thought I’d download my latest pictures to have a current image, at least, for tonight’s meager posting.

I can’t find the camera!

I took photos just last night, in the side yard with the dogs. It was dark, and I was trying out different settings for the best effect. I was sure it was in my coat pocket…then figured it was in the other coat…then scoured counter, tables and desk to find where I’d mislaid it. Nothing!

I put on boots and coat and went outside to retrace my steps from last night, in case it had fallen out of my pocket into the snow. I searched the car, too, just in case. Then I came in and repeated the search I’d already done. I emptied my purse. I looked in the insulated bag I use to carry my lunch to work. I looked through every other room in the house.

No camera.

I could have selected one of over a thousand photos already downloaded onto this computer.

No.

By that time I had decided they were all too dated. If I was going to use an old photo, it may as well be special.

I pulled out four albums, two metal boxes and one small wooden chest, all full of photographs.

What followed was an hour and a half of reminiscing.

“Oh, my daughters when they were tiny!”

“There’s Katey, right after Michael was born…”

“One sweet, beautiful grandchild after another!”

“…What holiday was that?”

So much for my quick bit of writing this evening!

I’ve decided on – then rejected – several different sets of photos with several different directions to write about them.

I could have written more about my five-day sail; I have photos to accompany that story!

I could have illustrated – with photographs – my time on Grand Turk Island, and many of the characters I met there.

Sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, friends, parents and grandparents, my pets, my gardens through the years…there were too many possibilities.

I had to pause to feed the dogs.

It is getting late.

I still have lots to do, and I haven’t had my own supper yet.

I settled on this sweet photo, though I have no particular story to go with it.

I like it because we all look so much like ourselves.

Brenda, always glamorous (and in charge), looks directly into the camera.

I look a little bit serious, a little bit reserved, and am wearing almost the same identical hairstyle that I have today!

Teddy (though he’s just “Ted” now) often wears that same expression in conversation today! I am in love with his choice of clothing in this picture, but am happy to report he’s gotten better about [not] mixing patterns.

I adore Sheila’s small face, round little belly, and the fact that she is shirtless, while Ted is not.

I don’t know that he sunburned easily, but I have seen several old photos of Ted with his sisters where he is the only one with a shirt on!

And Laddie…a good old dog!

And now I’m off to finish my evening.

My Year of Adventure

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I’m not an adventurous person.

I am cautious to a fault, easily intimidated, afraid of the unknown and nervous about anything new.

I am shy. Crowds can be difficult…but so can smaller groups or even one on one conversations.

I don’t learn new things easily, especially if they involve speed, dexterity, coordination or mental agility.

I have to function out in this world, so I work at it.

I have managed to get married, have children, learn to swim, learn to roller skate, go to college, move to Beaver Island, learn to wait tables, get divorced, move to the city, go to graduate school, teach, open a business, write, display my art…in that order. Every one of these things terrified me but made my life better. Every one was worth the risk, made me feel enriched and capable.

Still.

By most standards, none of these “grand achievements” are much out of the ordinary.

I have had my moments, though.

I have had what I think of as “my year of adventure.”

It was about twenty years ago.

It started with heartbreak: a relationship ending.

After working on my marriage for fourteen years only to see it fail anyway, I wasn’t much for working on relationships. I had worked on this one though. We both had. Yet we each stubbornly held on to collected slights and resentments until the joy was gone.

And that was what I couldn’t live without.

So, I braved the heartache and moved on.

In that new open space, for a short time, I seemed to face the world differently.

I didn’t think of all the things that could go wrong. I simply asked, “Why not?”

I went for an airplane ride at dusk, to see the sunset from the sky.

I paddled a kayak out into the harbor.

I took a trip on a twenty-nine foot sailboat, as part of a three-person crew, from Beaver Island’s harbor down to Port Huron…five days and five nights on the water. In October. With a head wind all the way down Lake Huron. When my sister picked me up in Port Huron, I had lost ten pounds. “It was like bulimia camp,” I told her.

I traveled alone, to work on an archaeological dig on Grand Turk Island in the British West Indies. I met a dozen  people of all ages from all over the United States, there to participate, as I was. I met islanders who in many ways were like my own Beaver Islanders. Stopping at a bar one night, a very slim black man with a lilting British accent admonished us, “You didn’t salute…,” for not waving as we passed him on the road that day.  On this island, you’re called to account if you neglect to wave, too. I collected adventures there, and every night ran down to the ocean at sunset, in hopes of seeing the green flash as the sun sank into the water.

Back on Beaver Island, I went for a ride in a bi-plane. The passenger seat was in front; the pilot sat behind.  We could communicate through our headsets.I was strapped in tight. The cockpit was open to the air. We started with a big forward somersault. As the nose of the plane started to go up, I closed my eyes. Vertigo, like you feel if you close your eyes when going up in a swing, had just started to make me queasy when the pilot said, “Do NOT close your eyes!” He’d been the captain on that sailboat…he was familiar with me and motion sickness! The somersault was followed by a couple barrel rolls and a spin of some kind, then we went for a scenic tour of the island. Above Font Lake, I saw Mike McGinnity down below, in his kayak. He looked up. Without thinking, I threw out my arm to wave. The wind caught my arm…and pulled it. Hard. It took all of my strength to retrieve it. “Keep your arms inside the cockpit,” came the curt directive from the pilot.

I took a new route on my evening walk, ending up lost for hours in the woods and swamps behind Fox Lake.

I didn’t make a decision, ever, to stop having adventures…to quit asking, “Why not?” Even when things did not go as planned, I felt daring and brave.

It seems that things just gradually settled down…opportunities did not present themselves.

I carry that year with me, though, and I’m proud to know that inside of me – meek as I am – lives an adventurer!

An Attitude of Gratitude

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An attitude of gratitude…isn’t that a great line?

I can hardly believe I came up with it on my own. I must’ve heard it somewhere.

Gratitude is not easy for me.

It’s not that I don’t have lots to be thankful for; I do! It’s just easier to look at the negative, to notice what I’m lacking rather than what I have. It feels like one of those ingrained traits, that has always been a part of my personality. Gratitude seems simpering, somehow…as if it comes from a place of weakness. Was I forced, perhaps, to say “Thank you” too often as a child? I don’t remember that. I do have memories of being told, “you should just be grateful…” but I think those suggestions were the result of my voiced dissatisfaction. I seem to have been a complainer all of my life!

It’s also one of those things I’ve been working on for most of my life.

I make lists; I try to keep a gratitude journal; I make a point of saying “thanks.”

There have been times, though, when it has been no work at all…when I looked around at my babies, my family, my surroundings, and felt like I could burst with the appreciation and thankfulness I was feeling.

This morning, in my warm house, with one dog sleeping in front of the stove, the other comfortable on the couch, Parker house rolls baking to accompany the dinner I’ll share with family later, with knowledge that my daughters are happy, that I have people that appreciate me, and family that I love dearly, with hot coffee beside me, sunshine and blue sky all around, and the ability to send my words out into the world…I am sincerely grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Anything is Possible

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Anything is possible.

My Mom used to say that quite a bit.

We’d present her with a far-fetched, nearly impossible development of events. Could it happen? With a lilt in her voice and a bit of a smile, she’d say, “Anything’s possible.”

I always took it as her way of not engaging in our wild, imaginary scenarios, without sounding too discouraging.

It never dawned on me how very optimistic her words were.

Imagine saying – perhaps many times each day – “Anything is possible.”

Imagine believing it!

What a hopeful way of looking at the world!

I tend – more – to expect defeat.

I’m fearful of anticipating wild success.

I don’t even know if the failures and disappointments I’ve experienced contributed to that outlook, or if the attitude preceded (my sister Brenda would say “maybe even caused…“) those events.

I’m just about to the end of my “write every day” month.

Some days have been better than others, but I’ve kept up with it.

Sometimes I write in the morning, other times after work in the evening. Because of that, more than once I’ve woken up in the middle of the night, fearful that I’d missed a day.

Not so far, though!

I’m beginning to believe I might just get through this.

After all, anything is possible.

Good Morning!

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Yesterday, I didn’t have to work at the hardware store.

I had a long list of things to do, anyway.

As usual, I accomplished only a fraction of what I hoped to.

By evening, faced with too much to do and too few hours to do it, I was working up to a big panic attack: stomach cramps, jitters, a big sense of failure, a black cloud of depression, the urge to run…the desire to hide…

I have been there before.

I took a deep breath…turned off the computer…made a simple dinner…read a little in a book that had nothing at all to do with any of the tasks looming over me…and went to bed.

It was the best thing I could do for myself.

Still, projects don’t take care of themselves.

I woke up this morning thinking of everything I’d left undone.

Two long days at the hardware store, the holiday with family then back to work through the weekend…when would I find the time? The energy?

As I made my way through the house in the dark, turning on lights and heaters, brewing coffee and getting ready for the day, these thoughts were looming. I felt stressed before I was even fully awake. I felt the pressure of responsibilities before the sun was up.

But then, as the sun came up, I saw what had happened as I slept.

New snow!

Lots of it!

The plow trucks have not yet made their way down the Fox Lake Road.

There is a deep drift of snow that my car won’t make it through.

I’ll have to wait.

All of a sudden, I have time on my hands!

Snow day!

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Pub Trivia

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I mentioned last week that I was going to play Pub Trivia.

This is the follow up.

Pub Trivia works like this: You put a team together, based on the house rules (in this case three to five players) and show up. You pay a small fee to play. Here, the fee is $5.00 per player, and it goes to support an island charity. You select a table and name your team. We were the “Power’s Do It Best Hardware Players.” You are given questions. No cell phones or electronic devises allowed. No help from non-players. Your team puts their heads together, argues, discusses and sometimes just pulls an answer out of thin air. Questions range widely in subject matter and difficulty. Each team is allowed one answer per question. There are ten rounds of ten questions each, with answers collected and scores updated between rounds. Prizes are given for first and second place.

You can’t possibly study for it, and you can’t take it too seriously.

Some questions that I remember, not necessarily from this year:

  • Who were Miss Parker and Mr. Barrow better known as?
  • What performer was known as “the Brazilian Bombshell”?
  • What American company has HOG as it’s three letter designation on the U.S. Stock Exchange?
  • Whose images are depicted on Mount Rushmore?

One year, our team took first place.

This year, first place went to “Dan’s Harem” and second place to “The Einsteins.”

This year, we narrowly avoided last place. Still, we had fun.

When my sisters and I take vacations together, we look for opportunities to play. Even the sisters that don’t love it as much as I do still enjoy the pub atmosphere and the joint activity. Sometimes they come up with the correct answer when no one else can! In Florida, we went to the Three Sisters Speakeasy with our “Seven Sisters” team. In Nashville last winter, we went to Pub Trivia at two or maybe three different locations. There, cheating was obviously going on, with tables of twenty-five college kids, all with cell phones out to research the answers. Once, I mentioned it to the management: when nothing changed, we just let it go. Winning is nice, but it’s not the end and all.

The Pub Trivia on Beaver Island, with sisters Carol Gillespie and Linda Gatliff-Wearn doing the research and all of the work, with the little restaurant freely offering its space and donating prizes, is the most professionally run game I have ever encountered! I only wish my sisters could be here to play!