On “Be-living” and Blogging

As I have explained before, my focus for 2013 is “be-living” – not just thinking, not just doing, but trying to live at the balance point. At first that seemed like a passive word, an invitation to “sit around and wait.” That idea drove me crazy! I prefer to be active, moving, pursuing something. Last year’s focus of “walk” was bad enough. But the idea of an absence of movement has been stressful.

I haven’t done much blogging so far this year. I refuse to be a navel-gazing, woo-woo type of writer. If I’m spinning in circles mentally, I figure I’m already torturing myself and don’t need to inflict that on others. The combination of wrestling with “be-living” and struggling through unemployment has left me with little to say. Travel? FUN! Bewilderment? NOT fun!

"Be-living" -- passive or active?

“Be-living” — passive or active?

The first months of this year were easy: help friends with their little guys, try to maintain relationships while living a continent away, keep my youngest daughter focused on all the wonderful things to learn while living overseas, and enjoy some travel to new places. The “be-living” balance seemed to fall into place pretty easily: specific responsibilities, regular time for exercise, and unscheduled time for thinking.

Now that I’m home, balance has been harder to find. Some days the walls seem to close in around me as I wander around with nothing on my agenda. I get tired of mentally going down the same “rabbit-trails” I’ve thought about over and over and over again. I lack energy and will-power to get outside and get physically active.

Other days, I fill my schedule with activity. I run errands, go to the library, take kids on outings, take the dog on long walks, sort through boxes and boxes of “stuff” in preparation for an (eventual) move. There is movement but little time to think and little direction to the activity.

I am realizing that “be-living” is less about being and more about actively engaging in the moment. It is NOT being passive and trying to accept whatever comes my way. It is NOT giving up dreams and dreaming. It is NOT sitting around with nothing to say. (Yeah, those that know me are well aware that I can’t possibly sit around and not communicate!!)

This “be-living” challenge includes actively engaging in this moment, and this one, and this one. It is letting go of excuses about past failures or experiences and not making excuses to avoid future possibilities. It is forcing myself to quit making compulsive lists about future plans. (Okay, okay, so I’m still making SOME lists, but only killing a few trees in the process rather than decimating an entire forest for piles of paper, okay?!!) “Be-living” is active? It seems impossible? Great! Now it feels like something I can get excited about!

I’m sure that a fuzzy definition of “be-living” is not what was keeping me mired down. And I really can’t blame unemployment for feeling stuck (although it doesn’t help). I think I’m getting a handle on how to BE in a more active way. I will keep you posted on how this plays out. Guess I’ve got things to blog about after all…


Progress Report…

It is only 20 more days til I reach 50 years old! Still hard to believe that I’ve been on this earth for so long…and hard to believe there is such a short time left in this Personal Year of Jubilee.


a favorite photo from last May

I decided to take a look back–at the past year, at the plans I made for the year, and at my blog site. Here is a summary of what I have and haven’t done toward reaching the goals I set…

12 Monthly Focuses:

June: Cello — I practiced hard and realized I can still play a pretty mean cello. I also discovered a “Jazz Cellist” during the year. I wanna learn how to play like him! (And it’s a good thing I did some practicing to give me confidence—I’ve been asked to play duets with my violinist sister for my son’s wedding in October–EEK!)

July: 1000 Origami Cranes, October: Poetry, February: Daily Art Journal, and March: nightly Sunset Viewing — These really didn’t happen. I still like the idea of these things, I just never really got around to doing them. Maybe they will happen regularly at some future time…or maybe not.

August: Daily Photo Assignments — I really enjoyed these projects. And, yes, some of them were a stretch for me. I definitely want to do this occasionally in the future!

September: Prepare for Husband’s 50th Birthday — check! did a good job of this, if I say so myself 😉

November: Gratitude List, and April: walk 50 1 mile walks in honor of friends — I’m working at this. I have the list of people who have influenced my life, I have the list of lessons learned from them, and I’m gradually working at the 1 mile walks. It won’t happen in the 50 days leading up to my birthday, but I figure I can keep working at it until I finish the list, right?!

December: journal prompts to finish out the year, and January: personal scrapbook — I didn’t follow the plan I originally listed, but I did participate in making a Christmas Art Journal. I did most of the scrapbooking in October at a retreat with a friend. Both projects are well started…but I still need to finish them.

And here’s the update on my goal of 50 Activities for 50 Years:

Artistic: I got a tatoo just before the 4th anniversary of my son’s death in April (I’ll blog about this including photos soon), Anna and I have started a doll’s quilt with her doing most of the sewing, I have almost finished the animal coloring book (and will post scans, I promise!), and I am QUITE excited about a scheduled photo shoot while I’m in England in June. I also added: making a really cool heart to color as a gift for a friend

I sent a black & white line copy to my friend for her to enjoy coloring

, and signing up for LifeBook 2012 (an e-course with bi-weekly art projects).

Fitness: I would love to announce I have slam-dunked this category…but no, nothing has really changed! I have started walking more regularly. I have also started training to complete a mini-Triathlon sometime late summer or early fall. I guess that is a start…

Literary: I made my list of 50 books. I forgot all about Beowulf (gotta check the library this Wednesday). I’ve left a number of books in places for others to discover and take home. Memorizing poems? Nope, didn’t happen. But I have written a number of poems I’m quite pleased with! (see HERE and HERE for two I posted)

Entertainment: haven’t yet learned to play by ear—I think I’m switching that goal to learning Jazz Cello! And I haven’t watched many movies—those who know me, know I tend to get distracted and wander off! I did discover a new band that both Anna and I love—Pink Martini—in addition to going to a CD release concert by a wonderful singer-songwriter friend of ours, Alison Kitchen. Oh, and I discovered a wonderfully creative duo of Cello & Piano. Check out their videos HERE and HERE.

Other things: Never learned to milk a goat, train my dog for dog agility, or pick our own fruit. Did have a fun camp-out with Anna last June.

camping trip

Camping trip with Anna…and with my dog!

And I got a massage at the Scrapbook Retreat in October. (It was fine…but nothing I would spend money for in the future…) No paper quilt is in the works (although I still love the idea). I’m working on the walking project. And I’m QUITE EXCITED to be going to London England in late June to spend 2 weeks with my sister. YAY!

Weekly Plans? Not so much—again, these were great ideas, but most never happened—except for writing regularly on this blog. Now THAT is something I have enjoyed and plan to continue!

So…just 20 more days in the first half (or so) of my life. Then I move into the next phase. I’m looking forward to it…

Story Collector — Part 2

Last post, I explained about being called a “shaman” because of my interest in collecting stories of the people I meet.

one of my story-teller figures

As I have pondered this idea over the past three years, it resonates more and more strongly. Being a “story collector” and a “story teller” effects many aspects of my life.

To me, this fascination with hearing the stories of others is one part of why I enjoy striking up conversations with strangers. They might look plain or ordinary or boring…but they often have wonderful, interesting stories to share. Whether the stories are “good” or are difficult, having these interactions with others affirms my generally positive outlook on humanity.

By swapping stories with people, I am also affirming their worth. In today’s society it is far too uncommon to find others willing to listen. When someone shares their story with me, it is a gift to me. And when I listen, it is a gift to them.

another story-teller figure I have on display

I realize that my enjoyment in collecting stories often spills over into conversation with friends and family. These stories I have heard just seem to come pouring out of me. There is, after all, so much to learn from the life experiences of others. (Hopefully, my loved ones aren’t just “putting up with me” but actually enjoy hearing some of the stories, as well.)

Finally, I have figured out that my love of story collecting contributes to a “disconnect” between my husband and me.  Frankly, I am usually bored by his interest in discussing the latest news. And I have realized that he is generally bored by hearing the stories I have been told. Sigh… I’m not quite sure how to respond or what to do about this…

Here in New Mexico, there are traditional figures from the Pueblo Indian cultures that illustrate my passion quite well. These “story tellers” are fun to look at. They are such a good representation of my love of collecting stories and sharing them with others. I now own two small figures. They are displayed in my bedroom—a way to affirm this interest and this gifting, and a reminder to keep my ears open as I listen for more stories.

Check out http://www.collectorsguide.com/fa/fa014.shtml for more information about Story Teller figures.

The First Story Teller figure by Helen Cordero 1964
Currently in the International Museum of Folk Art, Santa Fe

Happy New Year??

Seems like everyone I know went to New Year’s Eve parties a few nights ago. We stayed home. In fact most of the family was asleep long before midnight arrived. I’ve been pondering why I tend to skip this holiday, why it is no big deal, why I don’t get excited like others around me.

Some might say it’s because I’m getting old. But, I didn’t make a big deal out of New Year’s Eve/Day even when we were in our twenties. Maybe it’s because I don’t drink anymore. But, I’ve never enjoyed being surrounded by people getting drunk—even during college days. And our lack of celebration is not because we don’t have opportunities to go to special activities or invitations to parties.

So why is December 31 moving into January 1 not a big deal for me?

I realized it’s because this just doesn’t feel like the beginning of anything new. Yes, the calendar changes. But the dictates of tradition and calendar don’t change the feeling that this is still the middle of winter. It is a time to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea; a time to slog through bad weather and gray days. It is not yet a time for new beginnings.

I realized I DO celebrate each new year. I just celebrate it at a different time:

I love the beginning of new life surrounding Easter. It’s spring – moving from the dead of winter to hints and whispers of new greenery and baby critters. The sky and land are washed fresh and shining brightly. It is a time for family photos with every one dressed up in new outfits. It is also a time to celebrate the new life that is possible through Jesus’ death and resurrection. I love to celebrate the NEW YEAR starting at Easter.

Then comes my birthday at the end of May. Each year I like to look back at the previous year, then look ahead to the coming year. As you know, I have declared this year “my personal year of jubilee” as I move toward a new decade and a new half century of life. I love to celebrate the NEW YEAR that starts on my birthday.

One more new beginning is significant to me each year. Each fall is the start of a new year of school. For the past 20 years that has included getting organized, finding materials, and homeschooling at least some of our kids. I love the new school supplies, the fresh backpacks, and the excitement of new-to-us books and clothes. I love to celebrate the NEW YEAR that follows the school year schedule.

So…I will follow traditions today and wish each of you a happy new year in 2012, one filled with blessings from God and a clear sense of His presence as you walk through good times and difficult places.

If you want to see me excited, however, check back at Easter…and my birthday…and even when school starts in the fall. Then I will truly

CELEBRATE the coming of a new year!

Happy New Year!

How to Write a Blog Post

Procrastinate until the last possible moment, going back and forth, back and forth, between two or three possible topics.

Get out of bed and make yourself coffee and snacks to keep up your strength while you write.

Make sure to arrange your pillows “just right” to give your back comfortable support while lounging in your bed.

Don’t forget to pile on an extra blanket or two in case you get chilly because of sitting in one place too long. (Wiggle your feet occasionally so they don’t go numb…)

Make sure that your internet is actually connected and working properly. (Pray that it stays connected when you copy and paste your post onto the blog hosting website…)

Take another look at your list of ideas. Choose one of them to actually write about…


take one more look through all the books you have been reading. Surely there is an idea SOMEwhere that you feel like using!

Take a moment to reach down and pet your loyal companion; you know, the one who helps you eat your snacks, who keeps your legs warm, and who guards you from any dangers that might be outside your window while you are writing.

Try valiantly to avoid checking email and Facebook. If you lose the battle and get distracted by internet sites, at least try to avoid reading other blogs. You need to get back to work before you lose your train of thought…

After a few re-readings of what you have written (and a few re-starts, and a few re-writes, and a few re-edits, after which you might need a few minutes to re-cover your enjoyment of your original topic), copy and paste the words onto the blog-hosting website.

Take time to look through the photos in your archives to find appropriate ones. (WARNING: do NOT get distracted looking back through a zillion photos which bring back a million happy memories!) (WARNING: do NOT get distracted and start reorganizing all the photos in your files so you can better find what you are looking for next time!)

When you can’t find the perfect photo in your archives to illustrate this post’s topic, get out your constant companion and go take a few more pictures to add to your archives. (WARNING: do NOT get confused between your “companions.” Both are black and white, both bring comfort, but only one can record memories for archiving and later retrieval!)

By now your coffee is cold. Wander into the kitchen and nuke it. Search for a few more yummy snacks while you are waiting.

Get settled back into your writing place and add categories and tags to this post.

Check a preview of what it will look like to readers. (Make sure photos are in the right places. Do one last proof-reading to search-and-destroy any typos.)

Hit “Publish.”
Take a deep breath, relax, and get ready to do this all over again in a few more days. (Keep an eye out for new ideas to write about…)

Flying…or Grounded?

Fly by the seat of one’s pants: 1. to pilot a plane by feel and instinct rather than by instruments 2. to proceed or work by feel or instinct without formal guidelines or experience.

I use this phrase a lot. This is my favored way of moving through life. Make an extensive list, then chuck out the list and “fly by the seat of my pants.” I like the freedom in this. I enjoy the creativity it allows. I thrive on the possibilities in front of me when I live this way.

I love to "FLY"...

Unfortunately, this method of living makes it hard to stick tightly to schedules and routines. Just ask my kids who were all homeschooled. We were NOT a family who were all sitting at our desks by 8:30 am, ready to proceed from subject to subject on regular intervals indicated by a bell.

Eventually, most things on my lists are covered, finished, checked-off. All the “basics” get done along with a million other serendipitous things as well.

I used to beat myself up for not sticking to a schedule. Occasionally I vowed to change. I would buy a day-planner, fill it in, and compulsively stick to the plans…for a few days or a week at most. Then it was back to spontaneous living once again…sigh…

Eventually, I realized there is nothing wrong with this style of living. After all, I DO get everything done that needs to get done. I usually find a decent balance between responsibilities and fun. I don’t get bent out of shape when the unexpected happens—whether good (a friend stops by) or bad (pipes break and we have no water for a few days).

I realized last night that this is a significant reason why I enjoy homeschooling so much. When we educate our children on our own, we are not tied to a school schedule. We are free to follow whatever opportunities appear.

Nettie is currently working as a wild-mustang-taming intern at “Mustang Camp.” There is an unexpectedly large batch of newly caught wild-horses coming in and the owners are short-handed. Jakob will be headed back into the canyon to stay for a few days as another “hired-hand.” He will be hand-feeding a few of the newcomers, getting them comfortable with being near humans. This is time consuming, but not difficult work.

I can't "fly" to Mustang Camp...I've been grounded

I so much wish that I could go back to Mustang Camp for the month. I enjoy being around horses. I know I would be good at the taming and training. I could even take horse-crazy Anna back with me. What an awesome experience it would be!

But…Anna is now in school. Yes, it is going well for her. Yes, it was a good decision to enroll her this year. Yes, it gives me more freedom to work on other projects during school hours. BUT…I can’t fly by the seat of my pants for now. I can’t just move her and I back to Mustang Camp to follow this opportunity. We have a school schedule to follow instead. She is learning to live with regularity and consistency…but we have lost room for much spontaneity, at least for now.

So I will make more lists. And I will go where opportunities lead me. But creativity and spontaneity will have to happen within the confines of an external school-day schedule this year. Right now I’m mourning the limits on freedom…

I’m not currently “flying.” I’ve been “grounded” for now.

When I Grow Up…

What did YOU want to be when you grew up? For awhile I thought I wanted to be a nurse. But then I found out nurses have no authority; basically, they are minions to the doctors. Scratch that idea…my independent (rebellious?) streak would never survive such a job. So…what else could I do?

Eventually I figured out what I really wanted to be when I grew up. It was a difficult job. It would take patience, and creativity, and flexibility. Oooo…the more I thought about it, the more I realized it would be a job in which I would never have time to be bored. What did I wanna be?? I’ll tell you in a minute…

I grew up with a stay-at-home mom. But it was the era of Women’s Lib. So moms of my friends often asked what I was going to do when I grew up. I confess…my answer horrified them: “I wanna be a MOM,” I would say.

I wanna be a mom...of a nice big family

“But…you could be ANYthing,” they would urge.

“Yep! I know. And I wanna be a mom,” I would answer.

35 years later, I can truly say it was a great career decision. I see too many friends who bought into what they were told while growing up. They have been frustrated trying to juggle a career with raising a family. Too often, they don’t find fulfillment in either role. Unlike those women who have been pulled in multiple directions at the same time, I have had the privilege of focusing on one primary role: Mom.

Yeah, this career of mine has had its ups and downs. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I would kill the kids first or if they would be the death of me. But the pros definitely have outweighed the cons. I wouldn’t trade my “job” for anything else. In my job, I have gotten to mold the future. I have been able to dream—for myself, and for each one of my kids.

...even if that sounds silly to you!

And I was right, there really hasn’t been much time to be bored!

I’m happy with what I have done “when I grew up.” What about you??

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