Life has gone to the dogs!

Hi Everyone!

Hope your August is off to a great start. It’s hard to believe that school will be starting soon and summer will be over.

I got a quick visit from my son this week and his new puppy, Rainey. What a cutie and he is just as laid back about life as Arden is. 


This week has been all about dog training. My dog, Kato, has become a Master Trainer over the year.  He has managed to turn my fearful other dog, Odie, into an almost well adjusted dog.  Kato has taught both of my daughter’s dogs a good dose of social skills in the limited time they have visited and he taught Rainey the fine art of tug this week. Kato is also Master Tugger and never loses that game. Kato lives for the tug!


During all the dog chaos I decided we should go ahead and bring Miss L’s dog, Dinah, into the mix.  Odie does not easily make friends and has had difficulty dealing with small dogs in particular. Now why would I do this you ask?  I have learned that when Odie is overwhelmed with new people and/or dogs he just gives up his bravado and hunkers down to watch the insanity around him.  Dinah is too small to continue living outside, especially out here where she would be considered a snack for some of the wildlife. 

Like most small dogs, Dinah makes up with attitude what she lacks in size.  After three days of being inside with two big dogs she has essentially convinced them she is a force to be reckoned with. Though she is slowly warming up to them, all she has to do is show her little teeth and both dogs retreat to the safety of the sofa.  This morning though, she seems to be allowing Kato to be in her personal space more and is taking some interest in playing with him. Hopefully in about a month I can post a picture of all three dogs happily snuggled on the sofa. Of course, I will need to find a new place to sit. Now if we can get her properly house trained. Miss L is learning all about doggy parenthood and the responsibility that is involved in proper care and training of a pet. 

Other than visiting with my son, lots of home cooking while he was here, and wall to wall dogs, I managed to finish the commissioned drawing of the barn. All done and delivered to its new home!  This is one of THE MOST DETAILED drawings I have ever done. If you have seen my work in the past you know that is saying a lot. 


My clients wanted to have the details of the old construction and the old boards plus some of the surroundings. The finished size was 16″ x 20″. I’m very surprised it did not take me longer. I gave up trying to keep up with hours. 

Since I do not have much space right now to work, I think I am going to concentrate on drawings but want to add some color without dragging out lots of paint. Some experimentation is in order I believe. 

The upcoming week may very well turn into another crazy, on the road week. I am supposed to be getting some of he legal paperwork I need and there is school shopping and soccer sign ups to do.  Hopefully I will get to check in but forgive me if it doesn’t happen.

Have an awesome week! 

Death, taxes and CHANGE

Hi Everyone,

Yes, it happened again. My post day got away from me last week. I did start it, but before I could finish the day was gone and we were well into a busy weekend.

We are slowly settling into new routines all around.  Mine seems to be the biggest struggle right now because of the overwhelming amount of paperwork and appointments I have to make in the process of settling J’s estate and getting Miss L’s benefits and other life stuff in place. Yesterday was an entire day of driving to different meetings only to arrive home late in the evening feeling like I only made two tiny drops of progress in a ocean of red tape.  

Danny and Miss L have worked out a complex schedule for who gets to sit in the King Chair (the recliner with the best view…outside to watch horses for Danny, the TV for Miss L) what day. I just stay out of that whole thing. They seem to enjoy the debate process!

The food buying and meal planning is also under adjustment. Our health nut food ways are not completely pleasing Miss L. She has the family genetics for an amazing metabolism and she does not waver on her likes and dislikes. I am compromising on allowing some junk food and she is attempting to try new food. I will admit that I have missed Kraft Deluxe Mac & Cheese. 

Sweetie Pie, the cat, had been stuck in confinement while awaiting her spaying surgery. Unfortunately that was not sitting very well with her and she jumped at the chance for escape while Miss L and Danny were cleaning her crate. The surgery appointment got cancelled and we are hoping that the now invisible Sweetie Pie does not appear in the future with a crate load of kittens. 

Princess Dinah, the dog, it adjusting very well and we are slowing introducing her to my pups. She will be getting her surgery next month and if the budget allows, a professional haircut. Her Princess title isn’t matching her wild child look at the moment. 


The chickens have had to give up the free range life as the Thing In The Thicket has increased its chicken consumption. We lost two of our little girls in the past two weeks. There will be an upgraded chicken coop in the Fall. 

Our oldest horse, Christy, carried her last rider this week when she gave Miss L her first riding lesson. Christy’s hip is causing her lots of pain so Danny decided to let her enjoy a rider free retirement. Now Bob is in major training to take over Christy’s job. 

I believe the quote about death and taxes needs to be changed to, “the only thing you can count on in life is death, taxes and CHANGE.”  Lots of change sometime. None of it bad here, just different and all of the elements of the quote are in play with our changes. A death brought about the changes and those darn taxes will be paid at the end of all the paperwork!

I have gotten a good start on a commission piece and hope to show at least some of it next week if not the finished piece.

Embrace the changes this week!

Sudden Insights, This and That

Hi Everyone!

I wrote the Sudden Insights part of this post a couple of week ago but for some reason it only showed up on my Facebook page.  I’m adding to it this week.  My apologies for the wonkyness.

May 26, 2017: Sudden Insights

Who else is living through monsoon season? We had tornados yesterday in three counties including where my family lives and where we live. We are all safe and unscathed, but there were places with extensive damage. I have not heard of any injuries, but I would be not  be surprised if there were some. Most bad weather you have some time to prepare, but tornadoes are not so kind. I once had a tree go through my bedroom. I still get edgy during a storm thirty years later.

Thanks to a combination of monsoon weather (no gardening can be done in this relentless rain), a holiday week (before the long Memorial Day weekend) and one of my major suppliers moving their location (closed all week) I have had some extra time on my hands. Nope, as tempting as it is, I have not been napping. I have been painting and drawing.

After last week’s post about working on portraits I found myself very stressed and frustrated with the progress on those. In the wee hours of the night (my usual insomnia) I asked myself, “What do you REALLY like to do?”.  I looked at my past work and my Pinterest boards where I save artwork by other people that I like and am inspired by. 

Here is what I discovered:

I definitely do not like doing landscapes. I couldn’t find a single FINISHED landscape in all my past piles of work. Sketches, yes. Started paintings, yes. Other artists’ landscapes, yes. Finished work of my own? No. I have done buildings and house portraits but landscapes of sweeping vistas. No.  Clearly I need to just let that one go unless somewhere in the future I get struck with some sudden change in direction. I will just enjoy the views I see and the beautiful work by other people. 

Portraits of people cause me a great deal of stress.  Commissions especially, but even painting my own kids was stressful. Human faces are so subtle in their detail. A slight deviation of an eyebrow or curve of a lip changes a person into someone else.  It is especially hard to work from photos. So much detail is lost with bad lighting. Kudos to portrait painters who can do a true likeness from photos alone. If I were a portrait artist I would have to require in person sittings at least during part of the process.  The fact that my portraits have all been children or pets compounds the problem. It is a waste of time to try and get either to sit still!  All of my work has had to be with photographs, thus the stress to get it right. 

I won’t say that I will stop doing portraits because they make me dig deep to see, test and hone my skills and work on my patience level, but I think I will limit what I take on knowing how much stress they cause.  There have been times when I have had several right before Christmas and that was not fun.  

So what the heck do I like? THINGS! Seems I might be a still life painter.  Looking at past work and picking out the ones I got the most joy out of were things. Things in nature to be exact. Seashells, gourds, deer skulls, etc.  I like animals too and odd manmade things, particularly with rust involved.  I knew I had hit on something when my brain started popping out ideas like popcorn.  

I guess that all these years I never stopped to analyze what I really enjoyed. My time with pencils or paint was so limited I just jumped at the chance to do SOMETHING.  If you do creative stuff, you know there is such a joy to the process that you crave the time to spend doing it. Music, art, sewing, pottery, etc. is all an encompassing process that takes you out of normal life and into some other realm.  Now that I have some insight I can work accordingly. I can’t say plan accordingly because I rarely plan what my next project will be.  They seem to choose themselves! 

Here are a couple of things I have been working on this rainy week. My first horse painting is finished! Trust me, that is a big leap. 

I need to get back to the easel. Next week the weather clears up and we will probably have to use machetes to weed the garden. There will also be new additions to the farm this coming week that I will introduce you to. Wouldn’t it be horrible to get bored?! Not going to happen around here anytime soon!


June 9, 2017:  This and That

This week is one of those weeks that is hard to describe.  We have enjoyed several lovely evenings outside watching crazy chicken antics, various and assorted wildlife and birds and fun visits with the neighbors.  On the other hand it has involved either learning of the passing of friends’ parents or knowing that several are friends are in the final days or hours with a parent. Days of alternating joy and sadness.

My son is in his second week of his Iceland trip and currently offline in the wilderness there.  My daughter finished her last year of teaching and is transitioning to a new career. Danny and I will celebrate our 1st anniversary.  The ebb and flow of life.

I sought the comfort of my pencils this week with this fish drawing.  After the intensity of my Bob painting last week I needed the meditative process of drawing to ponder life’s changes. 

My thoughts and prayers are with my friends and children as they navigate endings and new beginnings. My thoughts and prayers are with any of you going through the same turbulent waters.

Peace be with you this week.

I’m doing it! 

Hi Everyone!

Lots of To Do’s have been done around here this week. We finished a shelf for the bathroom, more work on the barn, garden and yard, ordered new tires for my car (yuck) and today we will be getting up hay (double yuck).  Life as usual. So how are things in your world going?

I won’t blather on this week, but I am patting myself on the back a little.  Now that I have some time back to call my own and knowing next week will be a slow work week thanks to Memorial Day weekend and one of my printing suppliers being closed, I jumped into the BIG scary stuff. 

Over the years I have drawn many portraits in pencil and charcoal, but if I painted portraits it was back when I used crayons. Even during college I don’t remember any of my art classes requiring painted portraits. Lots of drawings of people, but no paintings. 

After completing the grandpup paintings I have been feeling a little more confident as my skills with acrylic paints have started to return. In case you are wondering, I do not use oil paints. I don’t like dealing with the solvents and I have no patience with all the drying time involved. I appreciate them and love the blend-ability, but that is where my love for them ends. I may try them again one day and change my mind, but I’m not there yet. 

So, this week I drug out some photos of my kids in the early years and have jumped into portrait painting.  These are still works in progress and there have been several moments of total frustration. I realized today that my easel was turned the wrong way. Once I situated it where the natural light was on the painting life got much better.  Don’t you hate those slap yourself moments? 

Honestly, it is freaking terrifying! I think painting my own kids was a bad decision. I know their faces so well and the events and emotions tied up in these that it makes them harder to paint than someone I don’t know. My next attempts will be of strangers. Do not be surprised if I ditch these and redo them in the future. Overall though I’m getting the feel for this process and I’m not hating these paintings. Practice, practice, practice!


Have a great week and go do something terrifying!

My current crushes

Hi Everyone!

Hope you are having an excellent week.  Mine has been fairly calm and a little disappointing. I have been on a bee watch, hoping for a swarm of bees to move into one of my swarm traps.  For several days it looked very hopeful with lots of scout bees, then suddenly the activity died down and it turned cold here again. The next several days will be warm and I will be back to watching my hives. The rest of my week has been very busy with work and I have put in long hours on this computer.

I thought I would share a couple of my latest obsessions with you in case you would like to check them out.

In the past couple of years I have become very interested in quilts. Making them to be exact.  I have never made a quilt and have no idea where this sudden interest came from.  I lived in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia for many years and always tried to go to the Amish community’s annual quilt auction.  I would walk around amazed at the skill and artistry of their quilts.  Often these quilts would sell for thousands of dollars and well they should.  I have a Pinterest board called If I ever make a quilt if you would like to follow it or just see what I have been pinning since this quilt thing started happening.

A while back I ran into Sherri Lynn Wood’s book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously.  It now resides on my wish list on Amazon.  It appealed to me because, try as I might, I rarely am able to follow a pattern.  Not that I can’t really, but because my brain will, somewhere in the middle of making something, go “what if I tried this” and that will be the end of the pattern.  I have always suspected that any attempt of following a precise quilt pattern would end badly for me.  Sherri’s book throws out the precision part and let’s you go off on your own, but at the same time seems to give you the skill set to not wind up with a wadded up mess.

Back to the obsession part of this post.  I ran across Abby Glassenberg’s podcast While She Naps (same name as her blog) and she had an interview with Sherri Lynn Wood and that led me to Sherri’s blog Daintytime and I have been binge reading ever since, starting at her very first post.  I am especially interested in her bereavement quilts.  I think that is an amazing way to work through grief.  They are very different from other quilts and bears I have seen using a loved one’s clothes.  I am also still very much in love with her improv quilts and foresee the day when I will attempt one of those.

We have had a sudden cleaning out of old jeans here and I have decided to start a quilt with the fabric.  Here is what I did last night.  After hours and hours on the computer I needed to do something more hands on so I cut up jeans.  Don’t expect to see a finished quilt anytime soon, but I’m moving in that direction.

The jeans are worn out, but what is left is going to find a new purpose.

 

Any ideas of what I can do with the leftover bits?

Also interviewed on Abby’s podcast (yes, her podcast is an obsession right now as well) was Ann Wood. Oh. My. Gosh.  I love her work.  Go to Ann’s blog and see what she does if you like textile art.  Really, I just want to sit in those lovely rooms with her and touch all that gorgeous fabric she works with.  I’m not a cutesy person. I don’t do cute hearts and fluffy animals. Her birds and animals and insects just make my heart sing.  They are rough and royal all at the same time with the simple and ornate fabric.  Her boats make me want to take a journey with the cat.  Just go check it out.

I have no affiliations with any of these people or their products.  I just found them and thought I would pass them along in case you are looking for some new visual candy or creative challenges.

So, my work load is calling and I must go.  Have a awesome week and if you have some cool current obsessions please share!

Reconnect

Hi Everyone!

I am writing in the early morning hours just as the sun is coming up and right after I read an article about a hate filled meeting held in a town that is dear to my heart.  What makes humans fear differences in others so accutely? Our alikeness is much more prevalent. 

Our lack of winter this year in North Carolina has brought on the beginnings of early Spring. While I love the warm weather and the blooms beginning to open, I know from experience that this could be a disaster rather than a blessing. We have notiously fickle and often severe March weather. What is blooming now could be frozen in a couple of weeks wreaking havoc with our crops and flowers. 

It’s funny how putting yourself in a new location changes your perception. I grew up in the country surrounded by nature but often took it for granted as a child. As I moved to more and more suburban/urban areas I took less notice of the ways of nature. Yes, I noticed the seasons change and knew not to plant my tomatoes until after the last frost date, but nature’s effect on my day to day life was limited by the conveniences of stores and the prevelance of cement over grass and crops.  Only when the big events of tornados, extreme temperatures and days of sloughing through rain hit did I really take notice.

Yesterday I noticed how nine months of rural living has heightened my awareness of nature. A couple of years ago we started planting our garden here according to the moon phases. We can discuss that in another post, but we noticed a significant improvement in our yields. This past year there was an unusual amount of rain in July than slid into a bad drought by September. By October you could FEEL the distress of the plants and even the creatures as I noticed with the demise of my bees.

A couple of weeks ago we brought chickens here to live with us. It is a stupid farmer that does not take the life of his livestock in the highest regard. I find myself watching over our chickens with the same angst as I did my kids and my bees. We have a resident hawk couple right behind our garden. I enjoy having them there and know they help keep the rodent population in check, but now I notice their every move when our chickens are free ranging. Too close of a hawk scream has me herding chickens back to the protection of their run and coop. In an amazingly short amount of time what I paid no attention to in the past now gets my attention in an instant. 

As I prepare to get more bees I realize that my time with them last year has ingrained in me the subtle weather changes and plant stages. I notice how hard or softly the wind blows, the barely noticeable difference between 45 degrees and 50 degrees both of which effect the activity of bees.  I notice the first barely visible blooms on the trees to judge when bees will have food available again. 

I have also noticed the calming effect nature has on me compared to the rushing around I did in town. I sit and observe. I don’t want to kill a hawk or a black snake just because it is a predator of my chickens, but I do stay watchful. I appreciate that they have a role in this amazing cycle of nature.  

Everything in nature has a purpose on this minuscule marble floating around inside of a vast universe. People are part of the cycle and have purpose. I wish there was less jumping to conclusions about what someone might think or do and more calm observation and knowledge gathering before humans decided to hate or harm each other.  

*Next week I should be back to posting artwork and such.  I needed to write out the disappointment I was experiencing.

February. Fun or Funk?

Hi Everyone!

How is your February going?  At the moment ours has been fairly mild weatherwise.  Usually February here is our coldest month and longest and dreariest. For a 28 day month it always seems to me it is at least 60 days long.  I’m writing this on February 2nd so we will see how I’m doing by the 28th.

I did work in a little fun this week when my BFFs invited me to join them on a ski trip.  Get this…yours truly went skiing in 10 degree temperatures (wind chills around -10)!  Yes indeedy.  Here we are.  Four layers on top, three layers on bottom, two pairs of socks, two pairs of gloves, face mask, toboggan and goggles made this a fairly comfortable endeavor. Fresh snow, great friends and no lift lines made it awesome!

Do we look warm enough?
Do we look warm enough?

I have managed to cram a full schedule into the February.  I’m going to visit my daughter in Charleston, SC next week.  It would be lovely to have about 75 degrees while I’m there.  The next weekend I start Bee School and that will last five weekends.  Of course it is time to start on the dreaded taxes. Yuck.  I am working on the bathroom remodeling and need to get new bee hives to put together and paint before bees arrive in April.  I have a list of sewing I want to do and last, but not least, I am working, working, working on new artwork.  Hopefully all this will get me through winter without going into my usual funk.

Many of you who read this blog are creative people with blogs of your own, artwork, writing, etc.  I would love to have your help and advice as I throw myself into my artwork and try to get it out into the world.

I am in the process of writing an Artist Statement.  When I read these at show openings I often find them dry and academic.  In other words…boring.  I suspect that is because they are just darn hard to write.  How do you write about yourself without sounding either conceited or weird?  I would like mine to explain why I create stuff and what it’s about without being boring, conceited or weird.  The challenge at the moment is just to figure out why I create stuff and what it’s about!  I am open to suggestions and would love to read yours or someone’s you think did a good job with theirs.

Do you sell work online?  If so, pointers on Titles, Descriptions and Tags would also be appreciated.  Creating art is not nearly as hard as writing all these things.  I am currently on Etsy, Fine Art America and now Red Bubble and Art Pal (still working on this one in case you don’t find much).  If you want to take the time to check these out and send me a critique, I will be happy to listen.

I am not sure what to do with my Etsy shop.  In my attempts to minimalize my life and stuff I am finding that keeping inventory is a royal pain, not to mention shipping.  The print-on-demand stores are very convenient and after the time involved in shipping, probably gives about the same return on investment.  Oh well, it’s there with stuff in it for the moment and I will ponder the future of it as I go along.

Please join in the conversation.  I have been writing this blog for a few years now and it’s lonely out here.  It is time that I heard from more of you.

Stay warm and in case I don’t get a Valentine’s Day post on here, give someone special a hug and/or kiss.  You don’t have to wait until the 14th.  Go ahead. Do it now!

Stepping up

Hi Everyone,

Hope you had a lovely week.  Here in North Carolina we are alternating between Winter, Monsoon Season and Spring.  In other words, every day is a weather adventure. nc-weatherI just logged in to write a new post and realized that this one did not go out last week.  I am so sorry! Darn it, I was even ahead of myself for once.  So, here is what you were supposed to have last week and I will now go and write this week’s post for next week.  So much for the best laid plans.

This past week became a big decision week for me.  I have been sort of lost as to what direction I need to go in career wise for the past six months.  Usually I have my design business plus a side job for backup.  I lost my office manager job when I got married and moved to the hills and have been wandering around somewhat aimlessly since then during the hours I would normally be working there.

As D.s retirement is upon us the end of next month we have been going through the budget with a fine tooth comb and checking it twice. There are not many part time employment opportunities locally and we both still need to work (even if we didn’t financially then for our sanity).  So, I’m going to do what I have always wanted to do and that is to see if I can make a decent income from what I create.  I’m making this art/craft/maker/designer gig full time now.

I have started on a new work schedule.  Those of you who work from home probably know, it is easy to lose focus when the laundry/dishes/yard all need attention. I have to write it down and look at it several times a day until it becomes a routine.

There have been hours of research the past couple of days.  Thanks to a nasty head cold and guilt for being sick, research has been conducted from a prone position on the sofa, but surprisingly productive considering.  I have a long list of sites to sell my work, boat loads of info on SEO, hashtags and social media strategies.  You will probably see a new website and blog layout here soon.

I realized that I have stacks and stacks of work already that with a little more attention could be good work to put out there in the world.  As most artists/creators are, I’m very critical of my own work and often get frustrated and shove it in a drawer before it is either finished or given a fair evaluation. Here is an example of a piece I started last week and sort of like, but then again…

Along with the career decision, I have started, once again, to clean out and organize all our stuff.  I say ours, but most of it is mine.  There is a box of paper scraps getting donated to a friend who works with kids at her church and old magazines and reference photos going away, dried up paint and markers have been cleaned out.  Here are some of the harder things to let go of…   

And now that deer season is over it is time to get back to house remodeling, garden planning, barn, chicken coop and dog fence building.  Nope, BOREDOM is never mentioned here!

Join me and go do something this week you have always wanted to do, but scares the heck out of you!

 

Photo credits…I have no idea about the NC weather, but all others are from yours truly.

Disappointed

Hello Everyone! Hope life is good for you as we ramp up speed for 2017. Today I have something on my mind that we all have to deal with and it just isn’t fun.  Disappointment.  There is a good chance that if it hasn’t happened to you yet this early in 2017, then it is lurking just around the corner.

Today I am disappointed and, dang, it’s just a little thing, but it is really eating at me and I can’t figure out why.   Back in December I signed up for a “sew along” event online to a) add some new, much needed items to my pitiful wardrobe and b) to keep my mind and hands busy during the winter.  With the sew along event you get a discount on the patterns that are going to be featured.  Well, come to find out this morning, I did not receive the one main pattern discount code that I wanted.  Evidently, it went out the end of December and the deadline to order was January 1.  Somehow, even though I was registered, the email did not get sent to me.

When I emailed the coordinator of the event she apologized, but said there was nothing she could do until the next coupon codes go out in February or March. MARCH!!  This is for a sweater!  By the time I get it made I won’t be able to wear it because it will be SPRING here!!

Honestly, this is just a minor disappointment…supposedly. Or it should be.  But it has pissed me off all morning, like eating at me.  Why?  Maybe because I have made a commitment this year to look after myself better.  Part of that commitment includes getting rid of the ratty clothes in my closet and adding some nice, very specific pieces back in.  I was looking so forward to making this sweater this month to have to wear for the rest of the winter.  I actually planned for two in two different colors.

sewingmachinedo6lc_sb2eg-theotime-gueneau

I think the other reason is that I gave myself a specific budget on the clothes and now this throws off my budget if I buy the pattern at full price or pick another pattern to make as a substitute while I wait for the new code.  Maybe I’m just disappointed that I’m not going to have that new sweater to wear when I want it.

Yuck, that is probably the root of disappointment. Not getting something you want WHEN you want it and EXPECTING a certain outcome that doesn’t happen.   This past weekend I had a conversation that I EXPECTED to be a fun conversation.  Somewhere along the line it took a turn and I was disappointed in how it all ended.  After half a century of walking and living on this earth, I would think by now I would know how to avoid setting myself up for disappointment.

Should we have EXPECTATIONS? It seems like we should. But why?  Looking back over the past few years there was a time when I let go of expectations and was rarely disappointed.  The downside of that time is it was a very dark chapter in my life and I had experienced one life blow after another to the point that I was frankly afraid to expect anything positive.  Now, life is good and I have let myself fall into looking for certain outcomes evidently.  How do you keep a positive attitude, but without expectations???  Someone more enlightened than me needs to jump into this conversation.  I have had several disappointments recently.  None of them huge or life changing disappointments, but they have caused reactions in me that I did not like so it seems to be a ME problem or one of those times when the universe thinks I need to learn a lesson.  Don’t you just hate those?!

Feel free to add your insights. I’m pretty sure this is a universal problem not just mine, even though it is feeling like it right now.

Have a fabulous week…but don’t EXPECT a fabulous week. 😉

 

Photo credit Théotime Guéneau

Hello 2017!

Hello Everyone,

Welcome to 2017. Did you send 2016 out with a bang, or like me, with a whimper?  Sorry for the delay getting this posted on time.  I wrote it way back on Tuesday, but things came up…like a big snow storm…that required attention to little details like getting deliveries to customers before the roads were slick, fighting the crowds in the grocery store before we ran out of food at our house. img_3800

I did, however, start out my 2017 pretty darn well. Historically, I spend my New Year’s Day in my pj’s, curled up on my sofa, under a blanket with a good book.  Admittedly, this is not a bad way to start a new year, but this year it is not in line with my pursuit of Hygge. I am trying my darnedest to foster a better relationship with Old Man Winter.  You will find throughout this blog, my whining and complaining about winter, the cold, the grayness of it all.

In the U.S., our state parks have First Day Hikes lead by Forest Service rangers. I now live very near Hanging Rock State Park that includes a couple of nice mountains and good hiking.   Yes indeedy, yours truly, managed to drag herself out of her nice, warm, cozy house and out into the chilly morning air of January 1, 2017 to go hiking 4.7 miles with approximately 20 people she did not know.   Uphill, no less!

It honestly took extreme will power to overcome my aversion to cold AND my introvert personality. Guess what! It was awesome!!   Perfect not-too-cold weather, considering the number of layers of clothes I was wearing.  The views were magnificent even with some cloud cover.  The company was friendly and the rangers had lots of information and a good sense of humor.

Any Andy Griffith Show fans out there?  Notice the mountain in the distance with the big rock formation on the top?  That, my friends, is Pilot Mountain.  Below it is the town of the same name except in the show it is Mt. Pilot.  Yep, there really is a Mt. Pilot and I have known a few folks, who move to North Carolina from other parts of the country/world, call the town by its fictional name.  There is also a thriving little tourist business there thanks to the show.

So, yes, I felt like I rocked January 1st this year and gave myself a big ‘ole pat on the back.  The hike was over by noon and I quickly got home, changed back into my pj’s, settled in on the sofa with the dogs and a good book and all was well with the world.  For the record, D. had to work and probably was not convinced that his winter hating wife would actually go hiking until he saw photographic evidence.  

This year my goal is to add meat to the pitiful bones of have existed on this blog for a while now as I got through some big life changes. More creating, more thinking, more exploring.  MORE than what I have been giving you.  Thank you for hanging in here with me if you have been here a while.  Welcome if you are just landing here and wondering what goes on.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago about a book I found and promised to write about it. I’m going to try and not make this too long or you will never come back.  So here is my book story…

From the time I read my first Dick and Jane book (for younger readers, these were our first grade reading books) I have been a voracious reader.   For years and years I normally had three to five books going at once and would panic if I started getting low.   Up until my mid-twenties I generally read novels and then somewhere after that started reading primarily non-fiction.  I noticed a phenomenon happening.  It seemed like I often had just the book I needed to work through a work or life problem virtually fall into my hands.  It could be fiction or non-fiction.

Now I know that I am not the only one to have this experience. Yours may be a podcast, radio show or a person who shows up. God, the universe, spirit, whatever your word for the mysteries of life, shows up just when you need it.  If this has not happened to you, then you need to slow down a little and pay attention.  You are not being ignored.  You are doing the ignoring of what is around you.

This happened so often to me that I got in the habit of wandering around the library saying a little prayer of “God, which one do I need to read today.” Not every trip to the library was life changing, but it made the search much more interesting.

I had strangely gotten away from reading books all the time for some reason (uh, ipad maybe), but I stopped into the local library to find reading material while I am stuck at our shop without wifi. Now, I’m not going to tell you the name of the book that I picked up.  In all likelihood it wouldn’t do a thing for you because you aren’t dealing with the same stuff I am.  But, I picked up a book by an author I had read before.  I thought it was about organizing and downsizing into a smaller home.  Yeah, we still have lots to minimize yet at our house.

What I discovered it was about was clearing out your mental and emotional stuff! Nah, I wouldn’t need that.  Cue the belly laughs from off stage here.

For a couple of months I had been getting crankier and shorter tempered by the day and for the life of me couldn’t figure out why.   Life is good!  What the heck?  As I started reading the book it started talking about how to change old patterns.  Old emotional patterns set up when life held different circumstances and people.  Old coping skills that are no longer working.  Well smack me in the head!  It began to dawn on me that I was trying to use old coping skills for entirely new situations.  I no longer needed the defenses and walls that served me well a decade ago.  I no longer had to pretend to be tough and completely in control like I did when I was a single parent with teenagers.  Thank you Lord!

We get so stuck in our thinking and reactions. The brain gray matter makes these patterned grooves that seem permanent, but they aren’t.  We just have to pay attention to what we are thinking and doing and dissect it down to the roots.  It’s not necessarily easy, but it makes all the difference.  I’m pretty sure D. would tell you that I have been much easier to live with the past couple of weeks.  I haven’t completely broken old habits and patterns, but when I feel a strong reaction coming on I take the time to figure out why instead of just blowing a gasket.  Breathe, breathe, breathe.

So now you have my book story. I would love to hear yours.  Seriously, I think they are some of the coolest human stories when solutions present themselves in mysterious ways.

Have an awesome week!!

Photo credits…all taken by yours truly.