Category Archives: Life Changing

All We Can Do Is Wait

On October 31, 2017 while everyone was prepping for the evenings Halloween fun, I was attending my son’s parole hearing.  It was the first either of us have ever been through so the nerves leading up to the day were rough for both of us, but I’m sure more for him than I.  I visited Patrick the evening before the hearing.  We had a nice visit and were both quite relaxed by that point.  We were as prepared as possible.

Patrick and Grace taken during prison visit October 30, 2017

Patrick and I, October 30, 2017

The parole hearing was scheduled at 8:30 am, so McLeod House, the bed and breakfast where I was staying in Newberry was kind enough to fix breakfast for me a bit earlier than normal.  This was nice, as I was able to attend with a satisfied appetite.  When I arrived at the prison I had to go through the normal security check procedures used when visiting a prisoner.

The hearing was being conducted by video, with Patrick and I seated side-by-side at a table and the gentleman from the parole board on two-way video with us.  We could only see part of his face, but we could tell he was inputting information into a computer, reading information on Patrick, and forming his questions as he went.

This was surprising to me.  I expected them to have a written list of questions they went by, but that was not the case.  Obviously each parole hearing is conducted “on the fly” so to speak, with questions tailored specifically to each individual person and new questions arising based on the answers the parole board member receives.

When I arrived the parole board member asked if I had ever attended a parole hearing before, and when I told him I had not he explained that for the majority of the hearing he would be talking to Patrick and I was to sit quietly and listen, and I was not to help Patrick with his answers, nudge him, kick him under the table, or in any other way influence his answers.  At the end I would be given an opportunity to speak.

The gentleman covered my Patrick’s crimes, asked him some questions, and then asked me what I thought about his crimes.  That was a question I had not anticipated and all I can hope is my reaction/answer satisfied what he was looking for.    When given the opportunity I also stated that I have room for Patrick to stay with me, a car he can use, etc.  However given the nervousness of the situation I know I forgot part of what I intended to say.

The hearing took approximately thirty minutes.  When it was over we were advised it may take weeks or months to hear a decision.  Patrick has one required class he will be finished with in a couple weeks, and we anticipate they may wait until he has completed that before issuing a decision.  Hopefully it is not too long.

There is no visiting once the hearing is complete.  I was able to hug him goodbye and then I left the prison.  His earliest parole date is March 19, 2018, so there is plenty of time between now and then.  Hopefully the decision is made quickly so we know the situation.  It is in the parole boards hands so all we can do is wait.

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Filed under assumptions, communication, Coping, decisions, Family, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, parents, time

Making Decisions

Life gets busy and we tend to let time move past without really analyzing where we are in life compared with where we want to be.  It is when we take the time to step back and re-evaluate our position that we are able to determine our next step in accomplishing our overall goals.    This applies to anything in life…employment, relationships, finances, hobbies, etc.

For the past twenty months since my husband passed away I spent time reducing some of my expenditures, rolling over investments without really paying attention to them, and learning to pay bills.  I initially developed a budget but I did it without a clear understanding of my overall financial situation.  I realized I wasn’t in the best of situations, yet allowed myself to float along for a while.   Decisions by successful people

One to two months ago I started taking a harder look at my budget, my overall financial standing, and where I am compared with where I want to be at retirement.   The process while a bit stressful was also very enlightening.  I enlisted the assistance of a trusted friend in reviewing what I had to see if my thought process was on track and solicited suggestions.   The realization was that I need to make some changes, and I need to make them faster than I originally thought in order to secure a better future for myself.

While parts of the decision making put pressure on me to accomplish some tasks faster than I originally anticipated, the completion of those things will put me in a better position both financially and mentally to move forward with my life.  The decisions to make major changes in ones life are not easy, but they can also be enlightening.  While there will be difficulties along the way, and some of my decisions will also impact others, once the dust settles down things should be better for me and others.

decisions2So what am I doing?  I am going to downsize by sorting my belongings and accumulations of the past 36 years into keep and sell piles, and I am going to downsize out of my home and into something smaller and more manageable for me, both in upkeep and cost.   I am changing financial advisors in the anticipation that my investments will provide me with better earnings for my retirement.   I am going to forgo some of my activities and/or volunteer positions so that I have less commitments and more time to devote to things that I need or want to accomplish, such as the downsizing, running my photography business, and my writing.

Life is always evolving, always changing.  If you have areas you believe need improvement or with which you are unhappy, take a hard look at things and make changes that will provide you with the lifestyle and overall happiness you deserve.

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Filed under Activities, assumptions, communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, habit, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind

Desirable Age

What is the desirable age?  That is a matter of your perception of age, your life as it once was, your life as it currently is, and your life as you want it to be.  The desirable age changes based on where you are in life and your personal life experiences.

When you were a child time moved slow.  School started in September and it took forever for Halloween to arrive, even longer for Thanksgiving, and that stretch until Christmas was an eternity.  As you got older and had a better understanding of time and more responsibilities time moved faster until suddenly one turn of events led to the next in the blink of an eye and you are constantly questioning where time has gone.

age - each year is preciousHave you ever found yourself wishing you could go back to the carefree days of your youth?  Do you remember a time when you wished you were older?  We all experience desires to be an age we are not for various reasons.

As a young child it was exciting to become older.  We proudly announced out age, thrilled with the advancement another birthday had afforded us.   “I’m Five,”  “I’m the oldest,”  “She’s too little to do this.”

Proud displays of advancing age and accomplishments.  Age brought wonderful benefits.  the ability to cross the street by yourself, ride a bike, walk downtown, earn money babysitting or getting a part-time job, driving a car, dating, and the list goes on.  Who can forget that ever desired ability to reach the age where you can purchase alcohol?  Everyone started their life and lived the first 21 years of their life with the ever present desire to be older.

Then you become and adult and suddenly life hits you smack in the face.  You have to work, if in college you may have work and school work.  You have bills, responsibilities.  Maybe you’ve gotten married, had kids, or both.  What happened to those wonderful days of high school that you once desired so much to be rid of?  You hit the age of 25, you are now a quarter of a century old.  Where has time gone?  You’re on a downhill roll, approaching 30.  Remember when 30 was old?

age - quote by eleanor rooseveltThose mid-range years of 30-50, you are working, raising kids, trying to have a life.  Time flies by.  They tell you to plan for retirement but seriously, when you are only 30 retirement is decades into the distance.  Why worry?  Spend and enjoy.  By the time you reach 40 you are taking life more seriously. Retirement plans are in place and you may even dream of the distant future with ideas about how you will spend your leisurely days of retirement.  Realistically you are counting the days with a mixture of excitement and dread until your children move from needing constant care to the teen years where less constant supervision is required but there is the potential for stepping onto the wrong path due to peer pressure and temptation.  Then they graduate from high school, enter into college and/or the working world.  Will they marry?  When will they have children (your grandchildren)?

You have become an empty nester.  Some feel lost without children at home.  Some enjoy the freedom to once again not have the responsibilities that they have carried for the past 18-20 years when raising a family.  You are still working, you still have responsibilities, but you have freedom like you haven’t had since young adulthood.    You have reached an age in your life where you may just say “can I just stay here, like this, forever.”

age - old age is 15 years older than i amIt is a wonderful point in life.  You are still young; retirement is a long way off.  You can enjoy activities on a larger scale, whether it be travel, boating, fishing, extreme sports, hobbies, or any other thing that captures your attention.   Life is a comfortable combination of relaxation and excitement.   Some people may desire their youth, some may desire retirement, but overall it is a mid-range point in which time is flying by as you enjoy life.

Retirement age is a combination of state of mind and age from birth.  Those born in 1960 or later like me do not reach full retirement age until 67, those born 1959 or earlier full retirement age is 65.  Early retirement can be taken at 62.  Those ages reflect when you can begin collecting social security benefits.  For those who are widowed you can collect widows benefits at age 60, provided you have not remarried prior to reaching that age.

That desirable age depends on where you are in life and what has transpired in your lifetime.  What you think is desirable or undesirable now may change depending on what happens in your life.   In fact that is what inspired me to write this blog.  I was recently talking to someone and told them I have a reached a point in my life when I wish I were a few years older.  Why?Age - life your life and forget your age

I was widowed at 55 but can not collect widows social security benefits until age 60.  While I may or may not collect them at that point, it is frustrating to realize I cannot receive that benefit for several years.  I have also come to realize that there are numerous discounts on travel, dining, and other perks that I am unable to take advantage of because I am just a few years too young.

Life experiences v. desirable age.  At 54 I had no desire to reach retirement age, I liked being younger.  I used to joke with my husband, who was nine years older, that getting the senior price for him and having to pay full price for me was what he got for being a “cradle robber.”  Ron was already retired but I was employed full time.  We purchased a motor home with the idea of me working a few years and then going full-time RV, traveling the country together.  Then Ron developed cancer, lost the battle, and I became a widow at 55.     I lost 100% of his social security income; I can’t collect widows benefits because I’m not old enough.  Live experiences v. desirable age, I am now looking forward to reaching age 60.  I may or may not collect at that point, but I know the option is there should I want or need to.  age - success by age

I can not say what someone who is in their 70’s or 80’s desires.  I haven’t lived that yet.  I know many people in those age groups are very active.  Remember age is a matter of the mind.  It is my belief that if you think and behave like someone who is younger, your active lifestyle will keep you young, and for that you will have a more fulfilling life.

So what is the desirable age?  In reality every age is desirable.  Every age has its benefits, its “perks.”  The innocence and energy of children, the desires and dreams of youth and young adulthood, the freedom that comes when you become an empty nester, the time and ability to fulfill dreams after retirement.  Enjoy your life.  You are at a desirable age.

 

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Filed under assumptions, Coping, decisions, employment, exploration, habit, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, reality, time

It is Me

It is always interesting when you read things that are supposed to be a part of your personality and discover they are accurate.  Astrological signs, the zodiac, those predictions that say because you were born in this month on this date, this is your personality.   I am a Libra.  It is Me.

Libra I BalanceWith today’s internet if you search out something on any sight it will suddenly start popping up in massive quantities.   That was the case with traits of my sign, Libra.  What surprised me was how many of those quotes accurately reflect my personality.

“Libras can take forever to make a decision.”  Anyone who has known me for long will attest that this is true.  Why?  Because the Libra sign is the scales, we like things to be in balance so we must carefully weigh all the odds, then review them, then think about it, then ponder over whether or not we are making a good decision that will keep everything in balance.    Now you may think everyone does that when making a major decision, and I agree with you on that.  But with us Libras it can be a minor decision or a major decision.  Each receives equal consideration, so don’t ask me to make a snap decision between plums or peaches, I need a minute to ponder the positives and negatives of each option.

“Libra knows and feels way more than they express, let things go way more than they should; feel deeply, love hard and aren’t shy about taking the hard road.”
This is so true.  Again, we don’t want to rock the scales so we may be thinking and acting one way, but feeling totally the opposite because we don’t want to cause a disruption.  It is better, or easier, to go along with what someone else wants and keep everything peaceful and flowing than to object and cause a dispute.   Keep in mind this can be the process with both negative and positive things.  I may be feeling something positive, but what if others don’t agree with that, better to keep it to myself and not risk an upset.

There are several thoughts about the Libra personality that play into each other, and as you read through these you may see a flow.Libra over thinker

“A Libra will act as if everything is okay even when things are falling apart.”

“Libras are good at ‘saving face’ meaning they can have more turmoil going on in their lives than you can imagine but guess what?  They won’t let you see them sweat.”

“A Libra bounces back and recovers no matter how heavy the weight you place upon them.”

Those three quotes easily relate to each other, and anyone that has known me for very long knows that I fit that personality.  I have lived for years with constant turmoil of some kind or another.  The majority of people I encounter have no idea what has gone on ‘behind the scenes’ in my life.   When in conversation I have mentioned a small portion of what I have encountered people sometimes wonder how I am able to function.  What the heck am I supposed to do, give up on life?  No, I do what the Libra personality says I do, I act as if everything is okay when inside I’m falling apart.  I don’t let anyone see me sweat, I keep a smile on my face and purge forward.  Because I am determined to maintain a positive attitude I always bounce back.

When a Libra is finally tired of the bullshit they won’t look back and you will be history.”  We Libras may prefer to keep everything in balance, but be aware, we are not pushovers.  We do not like things or people that are unfair, rude, or disrespectful.  We will put up with a lot, we will forgive and forgive and forgive, but eventually enough it enough.  When we have been pushed to our limit we will walk away and never look back.  What happens if circumstances cause us to look back?  We will always be wary.

Libras are also a good judge of character.  “If a Libra appears to be shy or standoffish they’re likely observing your behavior before opening up.”  I like people, but I don’t have a lot of close friends.  We Libras are choosy about who we get close to.  We enjoy being wild and crazy, wacky and weird, but we don’t want people who are going to tip those scales out of balance.  There are a lot of people that simply don’t fit what we consider the ideal friend, and so they remain at a distance; close friends are few and we like it that way.

Libra Leisure and HobbyLeisure & Hobbies are important to us Libra.  We have a wide range of interests and taking time to enjoy the fun things in life is important to our well being.  While we are the scales and like things in balance, we also like to debate issues and I for one certainly go for the win.  However winning or loosing is not the ultimate goal, because knowledge is gained through debate so a good discussion is always good for the brain.  If you always associate with people who think just like you there is no challenge, no gain in knowledge, it is just an ongoing, never changing, boring existence.

Travel is always enjoyable.  Exploring places you have never been or sometimes revisiting places you love and enjoy.  For years Niagara Falls was my favorite city.  That isn’t to say I don’t still enjoy it, it just isn’t the same as it was 35 years ago.  I love visiting historic homes, walking in gardens, visiting areas that are cultural and stopping at scenic outlooks.  No matter where you are there is always something you can enjoy, and with me, something I can photograph.

Over the years I have dabbled in various hobbies and crafts, with my most prevalent being photography.  A hobby that goes with that is being a scrapbooker.  I have also done counted cross-stitch, embroidery, latch hook, and miscellaneous other crafts, plus I love to write.  I enjoy  playing video/computer games.  I do this to compartmentalize my brain.  At work when I take a lunch break playing a computer game while I eat helps my brain to re-energize for the rest of the day.  It gives it a break.  Besides, games are fun!

“Music is often the center of a Libra’s existence.”  I listen to music less now than I did when younger, and I think it may have to do with the environment in which I work or the fact that I now reside alone.  I have learned to enjoy quiet.  When driving alone music in the car is a must – I  “dance” as I drive, singing, enjoying every minute of it.  When cleaning or doing other manual labor around the house if I take the time to turn on the radio I am happier and tend to work faster.  I also take breaks to dance to my favorite songs.  Music just fits every mood, it is energizing and relaxing, whatever you want it to be.

This is just a slight glimpse into the many things that make up the Libra personality.  The more I read the more I know.  This is Me.  I am a true Libra, whether overthinking and weighing the odds of an inconsequential decision far too long, juggling turmoil, sizing up someone before letting them into my inner circle, shooting pictures, playing computer games or dancing in my kitchen, I am a Libra.  This is Me.

 

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Filed under assumptions, decisions, Discoveries, hobbies, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality

Decompress a Boggled Brain

Let’s face it, some of us have this issue more than others.  It could be related to your lifestyle, age, career, family life, or just an occasional bumble in your normal schedule.  Sometimes it is a combination of all those things and is just plain hard to shake.

Maybe you’re like me and have a “to-do” list that seems like Mt. Everest x 3 and you feel like you’ll never get through it all.  When things seem overwhelming it can be hard to get motivated.   Sometimes you accomplish things but no one can tell.  If you spend 10 hours on paperwork, who is going to know except you?   That lack of visual accomplishment can make one feel as if they have nothing to show for their effort.

How do you prevent feeling overwhelmed?  When you want to throw up your hands and turn into a sluggish couch potato, how do you reverse the process?   You have to decompress your boggled brain.  Give it a break from life’s obligations.  Have some fun.

The time you spend decompressing the brain can be anything from a few minutes to a few days.  What I have found is that by taking a break I re-energize and am able to accomplish more than I would if I stayed on the straight-and-narrow work path.    It is easy to think “I shouldn’t be doing this” or “I should be doing this” because of that massive to-do list.   The trick is in the timing.Decompress - everyone needs time

I work full time as a paralegal.  I spend the majority of my workday at the computer writing pleadings, handling correspondence, and listening to people’s problems on the phone.  Very rarely is my to-do pile shorter than about 18″ in height, quite often it is more than that.  I do not leave the office at lunch; it is a one-person office and while eating I take calls or handle people as they walk in the door.  I decompress at lunch by skimming through Facebook and quite often spend time playing a game such as Candy Crush or Tetris Battles while eating.   Playing those games releases the brain from thinking.  Although the mind is active, it is relaxing.   I have found it to be a great way to re-power for the afternoon.

I am a photographer, and for the past three years I haven’t done much in the way of shooting pictures.  That is for a combination of reasons including working on cleaning out my parent’s home after they passed, a bad ankle that I finally had surgery on this past fall, and my own husband fighting cancer, a battle he lost 20 months ago.  I wasn’t going out and shooting because not only was it was physically painful to walk, but I also felt I have so much to do here at home that I should be here working, not out having fun.

So what did I realize?  I had lost my motivation.  I was here and getting things done, but not to the degree that I used to several years ago.   I lacked motivation and my productivity was down, which compounded my feeling of being overwhelmed.  I decided it was time to get out and participate in a few more things this year, attend more festivities and do more photo shooting.

Fun - give yourself permissionI will admit it was hard.  However forcing myself to get out and do things has been beneficial.  I am more physically active, which increases metabolism and energy.  I discovered I am happier by being once again out and about partaking in different activities.  The result is that I am more productive than I was when spending the entire weekend at home.  Why?  Because I have decompressed my brain so I am more relaxed, my energy level has increased, and therefore I am more productive.

When you are feeling sluggish, overwhelmed, ready to throw in the towel and call it quits take some time to decompress the brain.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Filed under Activities, career, communication, Coping, death, decisions, Discoveries, environmental, events, habit, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, lunch, Meals, mind, time, Weather, work

Do I Like Living Alone?

I recently had a friend in a long-standing marriage comment that they wouldn’t mind living alone.  I was surprised.  Their comment had to do with everyone needing space, time alone.  Residing on your own provides that.

When my husband passed away in December 2015 I was thrown into living on my own for the first time in my life.  I went from living with my parents to living with my husband, and we were married 34 years.   I don’t mind living alone.  There are benefits.   My friend’s comment got me thinking, do I like living alone or have I adjusted out of necessity?

When you are married or involved in a co-habitation relationship patterns develop as to who does what.  One person pays the bills, another handles correspondence.  One mows the lawn and snow blows, the other cleans the bathrooms and vacuums.  Cooking involves making foods that both people like and predominately follows the preference of the person cooking.  Decorating incorporates the likes and dislikes of both people.  Each person tolerates things they don’t particularly care for out of consideration for the other.  It is a cooperative living arrangement that also provides companionship and support.   Living Alone

When residing on your own there isn’t anyone there to help carry the load.  You must figure out how to juggle it all on your own.  When like me it is suddenly dropped in your lap it has a definite learning curve.  Sometimes things don’t get done in the time frame you would like.   The benefit is that there is no one is there to interfere with what you want or the schedule you keep.

I can eat dinner when I want, whether it is 6:30 pm, 9:30 pm, or anywhere between.  I can cook what I want the way I want.  I only have to consider my own palate and my own schedule.   If I don’t want the TV on, it isn’t.  If I want the radio blasting at 2:00 am while I clean house, it is.  There is no noise, no one talking as I read my book with my meals.   Pictures on the walls, knickknacks set out, and the arrangement of furniture can all be changed to the way I prefer.   This is a slow, gradual process.  The house is slowly becoming more “me.”  I have made subtle changes that most people probably wouldn’t even notice.   I’m sure they will become more prominent over time.

So that brings me back to my friend’s comment.  Do I like living alone?  Yes and no.  I think living alone has been a good experience for me.  I have learned to do things I  never did in the past.  The basics of life always handled by my husband such as taking a car in for maintenance, handling the banking, trading in my vehicle for a new one, applying for a mortgage modification, meeting with a financial advisor, paying bills, gathering information for yearly taxes, mowing and trimming the lawn, etc. now must be worked into my schedule.

My husband, Ron, handled a lot.  I’ve never even painted a wall or put windshield washer fluid into a vehicle.  He handled it all.  Ironically Ron taught our son and daughter to do house maintenance, yard maintenance, how to use the generator, power washer, electric drills, shop tools, and how to hook up the trailer and pull it.  He just never taught me.  Those were things he took care of and there was no need for me to know how.  Ron took care of me.  That is what he felt his position was and I accepted it for thirty-four years.  Good or bad it is what it is.  Now I move forward.

I think living on my own and learning new things has boosted my self-confidence.  I have to handle things and if I don’t know how I make inquiries to find someone that does.   I have dealt with a plumber, a heating and cooling person, camera repair, computer support, and resolved issues with a hot tub repair. I have ventured into the unknown and survived.

I also think living on my own has been good from an emotional standpoint.  Ron and I were very wrapped up in each other’s lives.  We were happiest when it was just the two of us and we spent probably 90 to 95% of our free time together throughout our entire marriage.  We attended festivals, events, shopped, did photography, traveled, ate meals, watched TV, and so on together.  We had a few things we each did on our own, but the majority was together.

Living Alone 2The reality is most couples are not as completely consumed in each others lives as we were.  They spend more time doing things on their own and socializing with others.  Living alone has allowed me to adjust to doing things on my own.  I am still learning how to involve others in my plans so I am not always a solo act.

I think this adjustment period is important.   If at some time in the future I become involved in a relationship in which the decision is made to reside together I will be better prepared for the reality that most couples do not spend the majority of their free time wrapped up in each other’s life.  It will most likely not be such an all encompassing relationship as I had in my marriage.  I will also know that I am making that decision because it is a person I want to spend time with, not because I am lonely and/or trying to recreate what I had in my past.

So now we are back to where we started.  Do I like living alone?  Yes and no.  It has been and will continue to be a growing experience.  I have adjusted.  I am comfortable and would consider myself happy on a day-to-day basis.  I don’t desire it in the long term.  I hope that in my future I find someone who is interested in residing together and enjoying the benefits of daily companionship.   In the meantime I will make the most of living alone and enjoy it.

 

 

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Filed under assumptions, communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, Family, freindship, friends, friendship, habit, home, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, mind, reality, time, Uncategorized

Cherish Surprises

It is easy to get wrapped up in the mundane routine of everyday life.  You get up, have breakfast, check your email, pack your lunch, drive to work, drive back home, and so on.  Your habits are routine, your interactions with others are routine.  It is all the same.

Don’t let monotony drag you down.  Even when each day is a repeat of the prior one, you can bring some variety into your life, or into the life of others.  By doing one, you create the other.  The end result is you will both probably benefit from the interactions.    surprise - momens seize us

Now if you are wondering what can you do to create surprise in someone else’s life, think about what things you find to be a pleasant surprise.  Moments you cherish.  It can be anything big or small.  It is something that creates a moment of pleasure, of surprise, it makes you smile and brightens your day.    At the same time, if you tend to overlook those moments when they happen to you, learn to cherish them.  What am I talking about?  Easy.

A phone call from someone when you least expect it, an impromptu opportunity to get together with a friend, finding a $5 bill in your coat pocket, an unexpected opportunity to travel, a handwritten letter in the mail, when a child brings you a bouquet of dandelions, a wild animal standing near the roadway, spotting a rainbow, and the list goes on.  There are no set rules, whatever makes you happy, whatever makes you smile, that is your surprise.

To cherish the surprises, you need to be alert to the small things in life that we often overlook.   Be more attentive.  Enjoy life and cherish surprises.

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Filed under celebration, exploration, flowers, freindship, friends, friendship, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind

I May Be Sinking

I had such big plans, a long list of things to accomplish around the house and in the yard.  Things to organize, things to sell, things to clean.  I had deadlines that have passed.   I do have things crossed off, but the list is long and never ending.

Now I look at my list, at my yard, my house, stacks of paperwork to do, cupboards, drawers, closets and rooms to clean out and organize, things to sell or donate, and find myself frustrated at what I have not yet accomplished.   I want it over and done, neat and organized, manageable without me feeling overwhelmed.    I feel like I’m sinking in a mucky hole and I can’t make the climb back out.  overwhelmes

Now don’t get me wrong, small accomplishments give me great pleasure.  Unfortunately I frequently get a project partially done then get swung in another direction and don’t quite complete the task, so it is there dangling like a carrot in front of a horse, and I can’t quite reach it.    Part of the problem is I am feeling overstretched with what I need to accomplish, but what do I give up?  What do I let slide?  What am I overlooking or letting slide that I shouldn’t?  What if I’m doing it wrong?

The idea of letting things slide and not get completed does not formulate well in my brain.  I want balance, harmony, peace.   My life is out of sink.  I need downtime to relax and rejuvenate, but don’t feel like I should do that when I have other things to get done.  I need to get things organized in my life to bring it balance.   At the same time on those occasions when I “screw off” and get away from the house, even for a few hours, I feel Priorities - schedule themrejuvenated again.   It is a battle of the brain, which way to go.

Then I wonder, how did  I do things before?  Why is it a few years ago I could find time to scrapbook, write, read, attend festivals and events, go out for the day shooting photos, go places, do things.   Why am I not fitting those things into my life on a regular, weekly basis now like I did then?   Is my failure to go out and do those things causing me to falter in the other areas?   But if I spend time out doing things, then I’ll never get things done here.

Self-analysis can be enlightening and frustrating, it can help one reach a resolution to an issue or it can make one feel they will never accomplish their goals.   In my case, I’m still sinking in that muck.  If I want to get out I have to figure out how to balance my life.  I have to push myself harder to get things done.  I have to make a point of doing things I enjoy such as going to places where I can take pictures, attending events, or something so simple as sitting on my front porch and reading a book for an hour.  I haven’t even visited my favorite spots in probably close to a year.  I used to visit them all the time.  Balance - harmony and life

I have to get the balance back into my life.    Balance brings harmony.  Harmony brings the sun and dries up the muck.   Hopefully it is soon!

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Filed under Cleaning, communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, habit, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, mind, reality

Show Me The Bottom Of Your Feet

A step that I completed three times this past weekend.  Having done it for the past five years, I really don’t need any instruction, I now know it is required.  That is only one of the things that must be done when you visit a prisoner.  Those who are familiar with the routine don’t give it a thought, but it is discomforting to someone who visits for the first time.

Knowledge is the main key to a successful visit.  Visiting a prison is not scary, it is just different.  Security measures and dress codes must be adhered to.  Your freedoms are also restricted to insure the safety and control of all inside those doors.  Prisoners in a visiting room are not horrible people to be terrified of, they are just people who made a mistake at some point in their life.  They are in that visiting room spending cherished time with friends, their parents, spouse, children, grandparents.  Anyone who is on their visiting list and has been cleared to visit.

So what is involved in visiting a prisoner?  While I can only speak for Michigan, I would presume that other states have similar practices and requirements.  Step one is the prisoner has to fill out a visitors list, putting on it the people who will or may visit him.  Before a person can go inside a state prison to visit they must fill out an application and submit it to the prison, then wait to obtain clearance.  Once you have received clearance it “moves” with you if the prisoner should be transferred to another location.

Patrick and Me 2 adj croped May 2017080

My son, Patrick, and I during day one of my visit during Memorial Day weekend

Once approved you are free to visit the prisoner during that prison’s designated visiting times.  Information regarding each prison’s visiting hours and other important information can be located online.  You may want to call the prison to verify whether their vending machines use cash or if you have to purchase and load a vending card.  You will need quarters for a locker where you will be required to store your car keys, jackets, or any other items you carry in but are not allowed to take into the visiting room.  Keep in mind that most prisons do not allow you to bring your cell phone, beeper, pager, or any other similar devise inside the building.  Those items must be left in your car.

The easiest way to go about this is to take in the cash you plan to use for vending (some prisons require quarters only in a clear plastic bag and limit the dollar amount per person), your vending card or funds to load one, your picture ID, and your car keys.  You are not allowed to wear anything, such as a watch, that contains a battery or is electronic, but other jewelry is allowed.  An inventory of all jewelry, belts, glasses, and medical items, such as an ankle brace, will be noted at check-in, and then verified that it is still with you at check-out.  That is not because they think someone is going to steal it off you, but to make sure that a visitor has not transferred contraband to a prisoner.  Prisoners are also searched/patted down prior to the visit and again go through a “shake down” after the visit.

Patrick2 May 2017 adj cropped 078

Patrick during day 2 of our visit — this photo has been cropped, which I do with most photos taken at the prison.

Keep in mind that clothing should be conservative — no short shorts, low-cut or revealing clothing such as skin tight leggins, no hoodies, no jackets/coats in the visiting room.  The only thing you are allowed to carry into the room is your funds or vending card and your locker key.

So, you’ve done your preliminary steps, you have been approved, you know when to visit, how to dress, how to bring in funds for vending machines.  Now what?  If possible, it is best to advise your prisoner in advance the date and anticipated time when you plan to visit.  This allows the prisoner to be properly clothed for a visit and to be where his Commanding Officer can quickly locate him.   My son knows the estimated time of my arrival and is able to see me drive by from his bunk window.  When he sees my car go by he walks up by his C.O. and awaits the call from the visiting room so he can be released for a visit.  This helps to shorten the time you have to wait before the visit begins.

When you arrive at the prison take in only the limited items mentioned above and lock everything else in your car.  You will need to complete a sign-in sheet where you fill out your personal information, including your name, address, birth date, the license plate of your car, the prisoner’s number, and your relationship to the prisoner.  You will need to present picture ID, which they will hold until you leave.  They will note any jewelry you are wearing:  2 earrings, one ring, one pair of glasses, etc.  The desk will call back to the prisoner’s bunk and advise the C.O. that the prisoner has a visit.

If your prisoner sent anything up to the desk for you to take home you will receive it from the visitor’s desk, will be instructed to sign that you have picked up.  It is always a good idea for the prisoner to let you know ahead of time what they have sent to be picked up so you have some knowledge of what to expect.  Items they send to the front for pickup are only held for thirty days.  At my most recent visit I had to pick up a large envelope, a very heavy box filled with paperwork and books, and a huge plastic bag filled with numerous items my son had crocheted since my prior stop.  I have a small hand cart I take with me which helps in transporting the items going home from the building to the parking lot.

Make sure you have the appropriate money and/or vending card purchased and loaded before going back to the visiting room.  It is also a good idea to use the restroom prior to your visit, as bathroom visits are limited, require you to be escorted out by a guard, and also require another complete search and pat-down prior to re-entering the visiting room.

Once your prisoner arrives in the visitor area (you will not see this, he will arrive through a separate entry), he will be patted down, enter the visiting room, and be either standing at attention near the doorway until you arrive, or be already seated at an area he was instructed to use by the visiting room officer.   Once he is in the visiting area you will be called and taken back.

You will walk through a scanner, then be told to remove your socks and shoes and show the guard the bottom of your feet.  If it is warm enough, sandals make this step much easier.  You will then put your footwear back on.  You will be asked to open your mouth and raise your tongue.  You will have to stand with your back to the guard, legs spread, arms raised, and be patted down.  You will have to pull out your pockets so they can be checked.  If you are wearing a shirt with rolled up sleeves, they will have to be unrolled so they can be checked.  All of these steps are to prevent contraband from entering the prison.  The search and pat-down are done by a guard of the same gender as the visitor.  Your hand will be marked with a black light pen and you will be then taken to the visiting room.

Patrick May 2017 adjusted 077

This photo of Patrick shows how prisoners are required to dress, in their striped uniform and prison issue shoes.  This also shows the way most photos are taken before the mural and is why I crop most photos

Visits in prisons are contact visits.  This means you are in the same room with your prisoner and with all other prisoners who are having visits.  Be aware that prisoners are not allowed to converse with each other in the visiting room.  A cordial greeting is okay, but beyond that they can not congregate and or hold conversations with each other.  When you enter the room you will spot your prisoner and go to where ever they are located.  You are allowed to hug your prisoner upon greeting and upon leaving.  There are usually cards and other games available on a shelf to use during the visit if you choose to, and also some toys for children.  There are vending machines to purchase beverages, snacks and sandwiches.  Keep in mind that this is usually food the prisoner is unable to get during their day-today life and so this is a special treat to be able to eat and drink items such as burgers, burritos, candy, and pop.  They have limited items available in their commissary, but not all.  I normally purchase the photos tickets and food for my son, only having a light snack myself during the entire day I am there.  I go out to dinner after the visit.  I generally go for about 8-9 hours per visit and spend between $25-$35 in vending per day.

Remember, everything in a prison is limited and controlled.  The prisoner is not allowed to get up and walk around, they are not even allowed to approach the vending machines or area where games are stored.  You will have to get everything on your own.  Food items must be removed from their package and put on a paper plate before taking it to the table where you and your prisoner are seated.  There are microwaves available in the visiting room for heating foods.

You will be able have photos taken of your prisoner solo and/or with you.  Photo “tickets” are purchased either at the front desk as you check in or are cards that are purchased from the vending machine.  The cost is very reasonable, $2.50 gets you two 4×6 prints of the photo, one for you to take home, one for the prisoner to keep.  At some point during the visit you will be called up to have your photo taken before a mural in the visiting room.  Photographer is one of the jobs that prisoners can hold while they are incarcerated.   This is the one time when the prisoner is allowed to get up, walk over to have his photo taken, then return to his seat.  The other is if he is going out for a restroom visit for which he is escorted out by a guard.

If you as a visitor need to use the restroom you will have to advise the guard at the desk.   You will then go back to your seat and wait until another officer comes into the room to escort you out.  They will sometimes make an announcement asking whether any additional women and/or men need to go, but sometimes it is not announced, so keep your eye out.  It is often easier to go out when a group is going then have to wait later.  Bathroom trips are limited and keep in mind you will again have to go through the metal detector, remove shoes, get patted down, etc. depending on how far outside of the visiting room you have to go to use a restroom.

If a visiting room becomes crowded some visitors may be asked to leave.  The general rule is first in, first out.  Some prisons base who is asked to leave first on the distance traveled to visit.  If visitor one was in first but traveled 300 miles and visitor two only traveled 100 miles, visitor two may be asked to leave before visitor one.  Generally they will make an announcement and ask for volunteers to leave prior to selecting who must go.  I have only had to leave earlier than intended 2-3 times in the past five years, Father’s Day being one of them.  For that reason I now avoid visiting on that holiday.

Patrick and Me adj cropped May 2017079

Patrick and I during day 2 of my Memorial Day weekend visit. 

When you are ready to leave you must advise the desk overseeing the waiting room, then go sit back down and wait.  An officer will arrive in the visiting room to escort you out.  Keep in mind that it may take some time before you are actually allowed to exit, and  the wait may be extensive if it is during shift change or count.  Your prisoner can advise you on when those things occur.  You may hug your prisoner before departing, and if photos were taken you would have received two copies of each picture — one to leave with the prisoner, one to take home.

During the exit process you will be asked to pass your marked hand under a black light, they will verify you are wearing the same jewelry you entered with, and your drivers license will be returned to you.  Retrieve your items out of the locker and you are free to go.

You have now survived your first prison visit.  A simple walk in the prison.  Nothing scary.  Perfectly routine.

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Friend Frustration

It is a difficult dilemma, deciding how you want to handle a friendship that has times that are good and times that are frustrating.  This was a difficult situation, one which I contemplated over for literally months.  I hope the end result has a positive outcome.  The ultimate deciding factor was based on two areas that came into play….the friend’s emotional needs and my emotional needs.

This friendship is long-term.  We were very close for eight years, then completely out of contact for twenty-nine years.  In 2009 we connected on Facebook, doing the occasional Instant-Messenger chat, commenting on each other’s posts from time-to-time.  Nothing major.  Just casual contact.   That all changed in 2015.

In 2015 I was making regular trips back to my hometown to work on cleaning out my parent’s home.  My friend suggested we go out to dinner, and after about three months I finally agreed.  It was like deja vu.  Friends - someone is special when you eventually get together again and its like you didn't miss a beat

He picked me up at my parent’s home, which had the same furniture it did when he last set foot in it back in 1980.  We had a great time chatting about his marriage and kids, my husband’s battle with cancer and my kids.  We talked about our siblings and parents.  A connection that went way back.  It was a wonderful evening and after dinner we went back to the house, I invited him in and we continued to talk for a couple more hours before he went home.

It was a connection we were glad was re-established.  Throughout that summer I was making frequent trips into town hand he would on occasion stop by and visit for a couple hours.  It was a nice friendship, familiar, comfortable, but different.  We also maintained contact with conversations on Instant Messenger and an occasional telephone call.

We both realized that there was still an attraction there.  However we were both married and did not step outside of the boundaries of respective marriages.  Then the playing field changed.  My husband lost his battle with cancer.  We maintained the messenger and telephone contact for about three months, and then it tapered off.  He stopped responding to emails or instant messages for extended periods of time.

Friends - someone who speaks to you on their free time v someone who frees time to speak to youI found this frustrating as he suffers from depression and I would wonder how he was doing.  Then suddenly I would receive an email or message.  There were always reasons for his disappearance…busy, kids, grandchildren, sickness, depression…but were they reasons, or excuses?   In my opinion there is a fine line between the two, and I wasn’t quite sure on which side it fell.  Things would improve for a bit but eventually would fall back into the old pattern.

After a while I decided I wasn’t going to continue to pursue a one-sided friendship in which I always initiated the contact.  Instead I would wait and see what happened, and each time I did that I would ultimately receive a message from him usually by email.  He would apologize for his lack of contact and say he had been busy, sick, depressed, whatever, always wanting to preserve the friendship.  And so the cycle went.  This became a roller coaster ride that was irritating.  I didn’t like the feeling that I was making the effort and he was responding when it suited him.  I want the friendship, but not on those terms.  friendship - ignore me and I will ignore you

March 30th of this year rolled around and I received another email.   This one got down to the emotional nitty-gritty, it was honest.  The best one I’ve received because it got to the core of the situation.   He wants to remain friends, but the line is grey for him right now.  There are a lot of factors I am aware of but am not going to elaborate on.  Let’s just say that email put everything into perspective.  He is trying to get his mind straight and I have to be removed from the picture for now.  I’m good with that.  He closed with “Hopefully your friend.”

So what did I do?  I responded.  I don’t know if my response helped or hurt him in his situation, but it helped me in mine.  I was honest.  I told him we are still friends but that I find the friendship frustrating, that a person’s interest in maintaining a friendship is related to their response or lack thereof.   I pointed out that they say ex-lovers can be friends for one of two reasons:  either they were never in love or they still are.  That is the grey area.  I have accepted my grey area and can live with it.  A ghost from the past is not the reality of the present.  We are both different people than we were in 1980.

Then I tossed the ball in his court.  I can handle the give-and-take of being friends, but it is his decision on whether to respond and maintain the friendship.  If he decides to respond great.  If not I move on and don’t worry about it.  This decision was based on my emotional needs, not his, but it also supports his need for distance at this time.

So now I wait.  We are still connected on Facebook.  He has “liked” a couple of my posts; I have “liked” a couple of his.  Do I hope he contacts me at some point in the future?  Absolutely.  I will always be his friend, that is a given.  He is intelligent, funny, challenges the brain.  We have a past, a comfort level of true friends, a connection that can not be replaced.

I hope that right now we are just taking a break and that eventually the friendship is re-established on a more personal level.  However I will not allow my emotions to feel trampled by the friendship.  That is also a given and I have made that clear to him through my actions.

And that, my friends, is how you deal with a frustrating friendship.

 

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Filed under communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, freindship, friends, friendship, habit, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, reality, time

Lingering Loneliness

This came as a surprise.  For the most part this is not something I experience.  I have adjusted to living on my own and consider myself happy in my current lifestyle.  I don’t know if it was the depression of days upon days of gloomy skies and rain, being overly tired from a month that was exceptionally busy and had me feeling overwhelmed,  or the fact that I came down with a horrendous head-cold.  Whatever it was, from out of the shadows loneliness attacked.

In reflecting back I think it was a huge melting pot of all those various factors.  It was rainy, wet, gloomy and cold.  Not my kind of weather at all.  Too many days of drizzly skies compounded the fact that my lawn was getting way too long and between the rain, a trip out of town for a memorial service, and my mower being buried in a shed where it was difficult for me to access, I was frustrated with not being able to get the lawn done.  Then the neighbor mowed his lawn and it made mine look just that much worse.   I don’t like having bad “curb appeal,” but I had and still have a negative “curb appeal” going.

I have been attending physical therapy three times a week, buried at work, and between the two have been more tired than normal.  I have crashed on the couch quite often in the evenings instead of getting things done.  That added to my frustration as my “to-do” list is impossible to complete and lack of energy aggravated me further.Loneliness is my least favorite thing

Suddenly I came down with a massive head cold.  I couldn’t breath, my nose was runny, and I had the chills.  As I lay in my bed shivering the loneliness enveloped me.   For thirty-four years whenever I was sick and had the chills Ron would wrap himself around me and the combination of body heat and human touch would help me to relax and go to sleep.   Now he is gone and I was alone and couldn’t sleep.  That is when it hit.

Ron always handled the yard work and now it is mine to do.  I’m frustrated over not having it done the way I want it.  Landscaping Ron was going to tear out and re-do didn’t get done and it needs to be changed.  The grass isn’t mowed and trimmed the way it should be.  There are things left in the drive, yard and garage from Ron’s scrapping days that I simply want gone.    It has me feeling overwhelmed, angry with myself for not being as fast and efficient at getting it done as he was.  Irritated at the mess I have to deal with.

Weekends were almost always spent together.  Ron and I would get up, have breakfast together and the conversation was always “What are we going to do today?”  Festivals, special events, arts and craft shows, or just going somewhere to shoot pictures.  Photography was a constant part of our lives.  Now I lack motivation.  My weekends are just me.  No one to have breakfast with, plan my day with, or go places with.  Just me doing whatever I want, alone.  On the weekends when I do get out of the house and go somewhere I feel much better, but self-motivation is difficult.

LonelinessBoy, does this sound like a major pity-party or what!  The fact of it is, I am alone.  I have to figure out how to juggle the yard work and get it done.  I have to eat alone, plan my own weekends, get out and be active by myself.  When I’m sick and have chills, that’s the way it goes.  I’m alone and I have to deal with it.    That is life.  That is reality.    Pity-Party over.

So am I lonely or was I just having a moment?  Probably a combination of both.  I don’t feel loneliness on a day-to-day basis.  I have enjoyed adjusting to life on my own.  If someone asked I would tell them I am happy with my life and it would be true.  Will I continue to have moments when loneliness hits me?  Most likely.  Do I want to spend the rest of my life alone?  Not really.  I would prefer to someday find someone who has similar interests and with whom I can share my days and a home with.  Until that time arrives I shall continue as I am and I shall be happy, because happy is the best way to be.

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Filed under Coping, decisions, Discoveries, environmental, Family, habit, home, Illness, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, mind, reality

10 Things I Can’t Live Without

When I stumbled across this statement it intrigued me.  Look around you.  You are living with dozens of “must have” items that did not exist 30, 50, 75 or 100 years ago.  Think of all the modern conveniences you use on a daily basis.  Which 10 things are most important, those items you can not live without?

There is so much we take for granted.  Things that in my lifetime have gone from non-existent to everyday use.  As I went through my day I thought about the things I was using.  What would life be like without this convenience?  That is how I came up with my list of 10 Things I Can’t Live Without.

  1.  Hot Water Heater — I know, pretty basic.  This occurred to me as I was climbing into my nice hot shower.  Before they existed people had to haul water in and heat it on a stove, then pour it into a tub and take a bath.  All that work just to get clean!  That brings me to my second item.
  2.  The Shower — before someone figured out how to force water up through a pipe and out above your head, everyone took baths.  Some people still do.  Some find it relaxing to climb into a tub and while away in a nice soak.  Not me.  I am a shower person hands-down.  One of the great inventions, and you don’t have to haul or boil water to receive it.
  3. Furnace — convenient heat.  No hauling wood, building a fire, having it die down overnight and waking up to a chilly home.  My furnace that I set at a temperature I want it to be at and it conveniently kicks on and off throughout the day and night to maintain the temperature of my home.  The convenience of warmth, or coolness if you also have air conditioning.
  4. Automobile — the ability to walk out, get into my vehicle and drive wherever I need to be.  It has heat.  It has air conditioning.  I can listen to the radio or news.  It protects me from the wind, rain, snow, cold, heat.  It gets me where I need to go quickly.  I can’t imagine life without the convenience of my vehicle.
  5. Internet — now I know there are people who live without being connected to the internet, or do they?  People are connected through their phones so they are never really not connected, just maybe not through a computer at home.  However I use the internet at work, at home, for staying in touch with family and friends, for gathering information, planning trips, mapping out routes, maintaining the website where I have my photographs, and writing this blog.  So much of what I do involves around the internet I would be very limited in what I do without it.  In fact when the power goes out, there is a tremendous amount of things I can’t do at home or work.
  6. Cell Phone — gone are the days of a phone attached to a wall with a 16-foot cord.  We now carry our phones with us everywhere we go.  It allows us to be in connection with others through phone calls, text messages, and social networks.  We use it as a computer, for navigation, for information, as a clock, as an alarm, stopwatch, to get news updates and weather reports.  The cell phone is a multi-use tool that we have all become dependent on to keep us in check as we go through the day.  How did we ever manage to live and survive without it?
  7. My Camera — I know, a weird one to pop up in this list.  A camera is the window to the world, past and present.  The images you capture hold forever in time a moment that will never again be repeated.  It is your memories held for generations to come.  Walking and looking around you, taking photographs of whatever captures your eye is relaxing.  I do the same thing driving, I see something, I stop and photograph it.  It is relaxing.  It is preservation of time.  It is important to me.
  8.  Paper and Pen — writing tools.  I can write without a computer.  I quite often write things by hand and later transcribe them into a typed format.  Why?  Because if traveling it is easier to pack paper and pen than my laptop.  Writing by hand slows the brain down, it causes you to spend more time formulating your thoughts.  It is not as easy to go back, erase and re-write if you are using paper and pen.  This is another activity that is relaxing and preserves thoughts and ideas for future reference.
  9.  Range/Refrigerator — those wonderful kitchen appliances.  Gone are the days of purchasing a block of ice and having it put into your “ice box,” although I do have an antique one in my garage.  Pull refrigerated or frozen food out of your refrigerator and cook it on your range, either on the burners or in the oven.  No hauling wood and estimating the temperature.  Push those buttons, wait for the “ding” to tell you it has reached the appropriate baking temperature and pop it in, then set the automatic timer to let you know when to remove it.  Convenience.
  10.  Washer/Dryer — laundry at its finest.  No hauling water, timing the cleaning of your clothes in proper order, whites to darks because you are re-using the water, then running it through the ringer to get the water out before hauling the basket out to the washline to hang the items to dry.  Although I will admit, I love the smell of clothes dried outside on a line.  Now I throw the clothes in my washer, add the detergent and fabric softner, set which type of wash it is –colored, towels, handwash, etc. — and push the start button.  I don’t even have to select how much water is needed, the machine weighs my laundry and makes that determination for me.   Laundry is now an load here, load there, convenience instead of an all day job.
  11.  Microwave — remember when these came out?  Convenience.  They were big, bulky, but fast.  Was it safe?  Who cared – it was a quick way to get things heated.  I will admit that the majority of my cooking is done the old-fashioned way, on a range, oven, or crock-pot.  However one cannot beat the microwave for warming up beverages, popping popcorn, reheating leftovers, or other quick-fix items.  It has made day-to-day life very easy.

    I know, I’m over the limit, not only do I have 11 items on my list, but on some I cheated and doubled up.  Once the mind got rolling it was hard to narrow down the items, and even now I can think of more.  What about crock pots/slow cookers, electricity, flashlights, gas grills, and more.  As soon as I send this I’m going to think — why didn’t I put such-and-such in?

    What are the items you can’t imagine life without?  What are the ten items you can’t live with out?

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Filed under assumptions, Discoveries, habit, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, reality, time, Uncategorized

A Murphy’s Law Week

There is a saying “If Anything Can Go Wrong It Will” that is referred to as Murphy’s Law. This past week has had an assortment of bumbles that were not of major proportion and actually had positive outcomes.  When talking to my son on the phone about one of them his response was “so basically you did it all wrong but it was still good.”  Murphy's Law - If anything can go wrong it will

Murphy’s Law #1:  I cut a recipe out of a magazine that I thought sounded good.  Thinking I had all the ingredients except broccoli, which I purchased at the store, I pushed ahead with preparations.  A good plan…or so I thought.  The recipe called for Hillshire Farms smoked sausage; I had their Polska Kielbasa so I used that instead.  Next 2 cloves of garlic crushed, I substituted minced garlic.  A large red bell pepper, I had green so the dish wasn’t as colorful but the flavor is equal.  One package of frozen broccoli; I had purchased fresh.  The fresh seemed like a huge amount so I guesstimated how much to throw in.    Tomato sauce, didn’t have any of that either so I measured out an equivalent amount of condensed tomato soup.  No mozzarella cheese in the refrigerator so I used my taco cheese.  On a positive note I did have the instant rice, olive oil and one yellow onion.

The Benefit:  Despite all the substitutions it tasted great and I had leftovers to use for lunch at work and dinner when I got home late.  My son asked me if I wrote down my substitutions so I could make it the same way next time.   It might be easier to re-write the entire recipe!

Murphy’s Law #2 happened when my cable TV box stopped working and my provider informed me it would be $35-$70 to have a service call.  This was the second time the box went out and I told them I wasn’t paying for a service call, I would bring in the box and decide then whether to replace or turn in and cancel TV.

The Benefit:  They could suddenly provide me with a free service call and have the technician call me about one-half (1/2) hour before arrival so I could leave work to meet him at the house.    That led to Murphy’s Law #3.

Murphy’s Law #3:   The day I was to have the service call on my cable TV I received an automated call at work giving me a two-hour block for arrival.  I held for a live person and was informed that they do not make personal phone calls, only the automated system does it.   I explained what I had been told on the phone originally and she said tech’s can’t make calls.  I responded that was not what I was told, that no one would be at the house unless I received a call, and if it doesn’t get handled I will bring in the box and cancel the service, at which point I hung up.

The benefit:  Ten minutes later the service tech called and said he could meet me at my house. That lead to Murphy’s Law #4.

Murphy’s Law #4:  The cable technician and I both anticipated this being a quick 20-30 minute service call/repair.  He ended up at my house working four (4) hours to resolve all issues.

The Benefit:  Numerous problems were discovered which resulted in the replacement of all cables coming into my house, replacement of weird splits to the cable when it was run in the basement, adjustment of the bundle of cords behind the TV putting too much weight on the HDMI TV input and causing problems, replacement of the TV box twice.  My original wasn’t working and was extremely hot, and the first replacement didn’t work.  Four hours later the TV and internet were both working faster and smoother.

Murphy’s Law #5:  I received a telephone call confirming my post-op surgical follow-up appointment, but the time they gave me was an hour later than I scheduled.  The girl found where they did give me the 10:30 slot, but they had keyed it into their computer as 11:30, so she confirmed me for 10:30.  A few minutes later someone else called and said that they had keyed it into their computer wrong, but were heavily booked and if I came in at 10:30, I might not get called until 11:30.  I had booked the appointment six (6) weeks in advance and was not happy.  I asked about coming in earlier, which they were able to do.

The Benefit:  I arrived for a 9:15 am appointment and my name was called almost immediately.  I had X-rays taken, saw the intern doctor, saw the surgeon, and was out the door and on my way to work by 9:40 am.

Murphy’s Law #6:  After analyzing and contemplating for over a week I made my decision on which cell phone to upgrade to and went onto the Verizon website to order, only to find that although it is listed on their website it is not available and they do not have an anticipated availability date.  I didn’t want to wait indefinitely so checked to see if that phone was available elsewhere.  It was, but I either had to pay for it upfront in its entirety or pay interest if I financed it and then it would have had to be serviced through them instead of my cell phone provider.  Ugghhh, back to Verizon’s website I went.

The Benefit:  I decided to get the same brand, just one step down, which was a savings.  The only feature I lost in doing so was the shatterproof shield.  It came with free 2-day arrival and I had it shipped to my work location.  Added Benefit:  It arrived one day earlier than anticipated.

Murphy’s Law #7:  I had shopped and planned several meals to prepare throughout the week, but didn’t get them made due to getting home from work late and not wanting to cook at 7:30 to 8:00 pm.

The Benefit:  I made everything over the weekend and ended up with a batch of leftovers:  stuffed peppers, spaghetti, and chicken noodle soup to get me through the following week.

Murphy's Law - the full versionMurphy’s Law #8:  It has been a crazy couple of weeks at work.  Friday was like a triple Monday.  Throughout the week things had come up that took priority and pushed other things back.  I ended the week feeling burned out and more buried then when the week began.

The Benefit:  I work for someone who understands the pressure and commented that we have both been going crazy, are staying afloat but both need to plan vacation time or we will both burn out.  Added Benefit:  I like to take time off in small blocks and have some short outings/trips planned over the next few months.

Murphys’ Law #9:  I went from an IPhone to a Droid, which results in a learning curve.  First problem was when I was trying to make the transfer from one phone to the other.  I got the IPhone shut down and the Droid on, but it told me it couldn’t be used until I completed some set-up steps and I couldn’t get the steps to work.  I ended up spending 1-1/2 hours on the phone with tech-support to complete the steps.   Thought all was okay, but ran into a problem at work when I couldn’t figure out how to answer the phone.  Then on the second day every time someone posted on Facebook or sent any type of message my phone was playing music really loud, and I couldn’t get the notifications to stop or sound to go lower.  Embarrassing!

The Benefit:  I like the new phone and features not available on my previous model.  I am still on a learning curve but will figure it out eventually.

Murphy’s Law #10:  Saturday I was going to the drive-thru at the bank so wore a sweatshirt and no make-up assuming no one would see me.  I decided to drive through the lot at the car dealership and see what they had in the models I was considering, thinking the dealership was closed on Saturdays.  Wrong!  I got out of the car and was looking at one car when a salesman walked up.   He must have figured any female standing in the rain looking at a vehicle was likely interested in buying.  So there I was in an old sweatshirt, no makeup, hair frizzy from the rain, pricing out vehicles and test-drove one while my vehicle was being appraised for trade-in.

The Benefit:  I got a good trade-in value on my car, was able to lower my monthly payment by leasing instead of buying, and now have a larger vehicle with more room and more perks.

Remember:  If anything can go wrong it will, but if you look for the positive in each situation you will find it and reap its rewards.

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Why Write?

I have always loved writing.  As a child I would make up stories and write them down.    I can remember standing and reading them to my mother.  I have no idea what happened to them, I wish I had them now.  I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to be an author someday.

As a child I participated in an activity that all writers do…I was an avid reader.  All writer’s read, and generally read in the genre in which they write.  I read a wide variety, but the majority of my reading is non-fiction and memoir.  Those are the categories in which I do the majority of my writing.  I also love reading travel, novels, drama, history, romance and mystery.  The only genres that I am not highly fond of are science fiction, fantasy and horror.

write - must read a lot and write a lot

When I was in my teens I thought about becoming a newspaper reporter and writing on-sight action news.  I wanted to be in the heart of whatever was going on, to put those stories into print.  Unfortunately I allowed my mother to talk me out of it.  She didn’t believe it was an appropriate career choice for a female.   Regrets, some.  But in a way my life is circling around to past dreams, just in a different direction.

As a young mother I took a correspondence class on writing magazine articles for children.  It was fun, interesting, and I l learned techniques and about the publishing world that could be applied to both adult or children’s literature.    Being married with a full-time job and two children, the writing got pushed to the back and was to a certain degree lost in the shuffle.  However during the years my children were young I wrote a “newsletter” for friends and family.  The “Grogan Gossip” was my reporting about the happenings of our life and activities of our children.  Except for the first one, I have every newsletter in chronological order in a notebook.  They are fun to go back and read.  Things long forgotten but saved permanently in the written format.  I still do the newsletter, but only once a year at Christmas in lieu of a Christmas card.

writing - articulating thoughts when speaking v writingWhen you are born a lover of the written word it never goes away, it just transitions over time.  Writing and literature go hand-in-hand.  My high school classes were filled with literature…classes in modern short stories, mysteries,  American literature, Advanced Grammar and Composition,   and more.  When I went back to college in 2010 one of my favorite classes was public speaking because I was writing whatever I chose to talk about.  It was fun!

I have difficulty expressing myself verbally, but I can easily put thoughts and feelings into the written word.  I have always been that way.  You simply bleed onto paper.  That is the way of a writer.   Once I start writing the thoughts just flow.  I can start out saying “I only have time for a quick note” and by the time I am finished I may have 3-4 typed pages.   Writing is as easy as breathing.writing - no time to write short letter so wrote a long one instead

While I have not yet worked my way into the world of published book author, I am writing a book about my family’s encounter with Child Protective Services that led to my husband and my attempt to become foster parents and apply to adopt our granddaughters.   It is a story that should be told.  Many of the injustices we encountered are a nationwide problem that most people are not aware of.  That is why I am writing that memoir.  It is with the hope that in reading our story others will be aware of the danger to family that Child Protective Services poses.  I also hope that maybe someday my granddaughters will encounter the book and realize they were very much wanted and were taken in an unjust way from family who loved them.

write what disturbs youI write in many formats.  I titled this blog Life is a Melting Pot because my life is a jumble of various activities and I like to write about whatever strikes me at the moment.  This blog is not the only regular writing I do.  For the past eight years I have held the position of newsletter editor of Bluewater Family Backgrounds, a publication of the St. Clair County Family History Group.  As the editor I gather content and put together the entire newsletter, writing some articles that go into it.  I have been writing a column called “Who AM I?” for the past five and one-half years for The Lakeshore Guardian, and local free publication.  The column is on genealogy.  I am in my fourth year as an opinion columnist for our local newspaper, The Times Herald.  I select my topics and how often I write a column, frequently selecting topics that can be a bit controversial.  Finally, my daytime job is that of Paralegal in which I spend my days doing legal writing.  All of the areas in which I write are slightly different and I enjoy each one.

writing - isn't about making moneyI belong to a Freelance Writer’s Group and at the meetings I see a variety of people with a wide range of interests.  The group includes people who write children’s stories, adult novels, travel columns, science fiction, non-fiction, memoir, and more.  We all have one thing in common…we love to write!  Writers are like any other type of artist, they are imaginative, creative, passionate about their art, well-read, self-promoters and self-starters.  Writing is something you do solo; you have to be motivated to write or you will never succeed.   Writers love words, language, and people watching.  Everything is a potential story or scene.  If you spend much time with a writer you may find yourself popping up in their stories, blogs, or columns.  You may not be there in name, but you will likely recognize a scene in which you have lived.

So why do I write?  Because it is something I love to do.  Because it is something I have always enjoyed.  I did it as a child and I can continue to do it throughout my life.  Laura Ingalls Wilder is my motivation.  She published her first book. Little House in the Big Woods in 1932 at age 65.  She completed the last book in her Little House series in 1943 at age 76.  Laura Ingalls Wilder died in 1957 at age 90, leaving behind incomplete manuscripts and her diary.  Some of those posthumous works were edited and published by her daughter, Rose.  Her legacy is my inspiration.  That is why I write.

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Attitude Analysis

Your attitude, the way you think or feel, is generally reflected in your behavior.   Your own personal demeanor affects the way people view and respond to you.  The attitude of people around you has an impact on the way you respond and behave toward them.  I believe that temperament impacts people both emotionally and physically, and for that reason a positive attitude is important to a person’s emotional well-being.

attitude - focus on possibilitiesYour own personal attitude has a great impact on how you feel throughout the day and your overall outlook on life.  If you feel that life has thrown you the scrungy bone and you must gnaw away at it, you will likely make very little progress and will feel depressed, over burdened and uninspired about life.  Not only will your attitude leave you feeling low, but it will be portrayed in your dealings with others, and may leave them feeling oppressed by emotions as well.

Alternatively if you go through your day with a positive attitude, knowing that no matter what happens things are going to improve, your positive outlook will not only keep you emotionally stable, it will affect those around you as well.  Why?  Because with a positive mindset you maintain an emotionally healthy attitude, and that positive outlook is well received by all around you.  Attitude - how a man treats others

The attitude a person portrays has great impact on how others perceive them.  This is frequently most obvious when dealing with economic differences.  A person’s temperament  when interacting with those he/she perceives to be below their social class is one of the most obvious insights into a person’s character.  Stiffness, curt politeness, a lack of genuine friendliness or outright rudeness is evident in those who think themselves better than others.  Far greater is the person who realizes those differences yet treats all with kindness and compassion.

If you have the opportunity to take part in a gathering in which there are a wide range of economic levels sit back and enjoy the show.  People of money may snub those who they view as being below them.  Those who are of lower income ranges may be intimidated by the social status and obvious wealth of others.   The true judge of character in this type of setting is the person of wealth who treats those who are Attitude - how you react to itstruggling economically with consideration, kindness, and as an equal.  This is a person of great integrity.  They recognize that they have obtained wealth, but they do not fault those around them that have been unable to achieve that goal.

It is important that a person maintain a positive attitude as that is crucial to success, and the key to success is belief in one’s own ability.  This does not mean you will always achieve your goals.  The key to keeping positive is to always be striving for something.  Regardless of whether or not you succeed, attitude is at least 50% of the battle.  There is a saying, “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, either Attitude - the one you feedway you are right.”  That is how strongly attitude affects your ability to succeed in whatever you set out to accomplish.

As you go through life keep your attitude in check.  Think about how it affects your own emotional well being.  Think about how it affects the emotional well-being of others.  Don’t focus on problems, focus on possibilities.   Keep your integrity about you and let it guide you in how you handle interactions with others.  Think positive.  Believe in yourself.  Believe in others.  A positive attitude will take you farther than you ever dreamed possible.

 

 

 

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Crash and Climb

We all have a vision of how our life will be, who will be a part of our journey, our plans and dreams for the future.  Sometimes that plan goes untested.  Sometimes it has twists and turns, and those can lead to the ultimate crash.

When you crash you have two options — Crash and Burn or Crash and Climb.  If you crash and burn you have allowed circumstances to take control of your life.  Instead you need to crash and climb out of the rubble, rebuilding your life.  Remap your life, make new plans and dreams.  Great things can happen that would never have occurred before you hit that wall.comfort-zone-adventure-out-of-it-to-grow

During the climb you will learn new skills, new relationships will form.  People will enter your life and impact you in ways you never before imagined.  They may influence the way you conduct business, handle finances, travel, view life, invade your mind or leave a mark on your heart.

I hit a brick wall fourteen months ago when my husband lost his battle with cancer.  I have spent the past year climbing out of the rubble and rebuilding my life.  A good friend has knowingly or unknowingly guided me in the process.  They have pushed me beyond my comfort zone, asked questions to inspire my thought process.  Not judgmental, but thought provoking inquiries such as “How do you plan to do that?”  and “What are your plans for the future?”

I am happy with my life.  It isn’t what I originally planned, but that is okay.  I have climbed out of the rubble and embraced the change.  I have done things I never would have done prior to the crash.  I have developed friendships I never would have made before I hit that wall.

No matter how good life was before the crash, embrace the change.  Value the friendships.  Enjoy the journey.  Believe that the best is yet to come.

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Shedding Skin and Learning to Walk

Two steps forward, one step back.  The circle of life can make you feel as if you are repeating a vicious cycle and the only hope is that you will somehow break free of the rotation and get on the straight path to success.

Such is my life this past week, which I have spent shedding skin and learning to walk.  Sound strange doesn’t it?  On the 15th of November I had surgery, an ankle fusion.  It was a three-month, non-weight bearing recovery and when you are living alone that is enough of a challenge, not to mention isolation.  On the 10th of February I was told that my ankle is completely healed, I can’t hurt it.  The hard cast was removed and I am free to walk on it.walk-fly-crawl

I was warned that the foot would be very sensitive.  They weren’t kidding!  Walking is agony.  I am so glad I still have the medical cane from the original accident six  years ago…the kind that has four feet and stands on its own.  The ankle doesn’t hurt – the foot itself does.

How bad is the foot pain?  I hate shoes, they are generally the first thing I shed when I walk in the door.  However my tennis shoes provide padding, much needed padding.  I wore shoes inside my house all last weekend, and I am wearing tennis shoes to work this week.  Once I take the shoes off inside my house I haven’t been able to walk on the cane; I have had to use my knee cart.  Things are improving though.  This morning I was able to walk, barely, with my cane when barefoot.  Tonight barefoot meant the knee cart.  I am hoping by the weekend I will finally be able to make it up the stairs and into my own bed.

At least I have stopped leaving a dead-skin trail, sort of.  I had never been in a hard cast before, and after three months the leg and foot were extremely dry.  I felt like a crocodile that was shedding it’s skin.  I discovered moisturizing shaving cream was the best thing for washing it; better than a moisturizing soap.  I now treasure my 24-hour body cream more than I ever have.  I’m still slightly flaky, but not as bad — no comments from the peanut gallery please.

So I am now shedding my skin and learning to walk.  I haven’t bounced back as quickly as I had hoped, but I am seeing progress every day.  This morning I was able to walk out the front door and onto the porch by myself, but needed my bag carried.  I hope that after a few more days I’ll be able to carry my own things in and out of the house and start driving myself to work.  That is if they don’t kill me in physical therapy, which begins on Thursday.

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Remember The Good Ole Days When People Talked To Each Other?

Have you ever looked around at people when out in public?  Have you considered your own conduct when socializing with others?  What about the way you make and maintain friendships?  We have become a society in which a large portion of our social interactions are electronically based.

I think there is both a positive and a negative to this development.  Social media…blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, Stumble On, etc. are all great places for exchanging information and keeping in touch with others.  Social media is especially helpful in allowing families to stay in touch when they reside in various spots around the country and/or world.  I spend a fair  amount of time on Facebook and Pinterest so I am not at all opposed to it, but I do have some concerns.social-interaction-pay-attention-on-twitter

People are losing the ability and/or willingness to deal with people on a personal level.  They are unable to tuck their cell phones away and simply have a meal or conversation without repeatedly checking their phone.  Not because they are receiving phone calls, but because they are viewing their media feed, texting, posting articles, or other such activities.

I will admit to on occasion doing the “check-in” post letting my friends know where I am at and/or what I am doing.  Pictures of meals, selfies of people and who they are dining with have become common place.  People don’t sit at a table and converse with each other, they sit across from each other, each on their phones a/k/a social media.

social-media-strap-phone-to-foreheadA couple years ago my husband and I were in a restaurant that was quite busy and we had to wait for our table.  I was looking around the restaurant and I  mentioned to him that he and I looked very out of place.  The reason being we were the only two people in the entire restaurant, both the dining and bar areas, who were not on our phones.  We were talking to each other instead!  That is sad….people are losing the human connection.

It has gone so far that some restaurants have pads attached to the tables for games, order placing, paying bills, etc.  No human interaction.  What kind of message is this sending to our youth, and what will the overall affect be on society?

There is nothing on social media that cannot wait.  If your family really needs to reach you they will call.  The jokes, posts, news articles, photographs, and more that are posted on a regular basis do not have to be reviewed every ten minutes, thirty minutes, or hour.  If you miss a few the world is not going to come to a screeching halt.  Heck, people have become so self-absorbed they probably won’t even realize you are missing.

So what should you do instead?  Take a break.  Go to dinner, have a conversation, go for a walk, and don’t check your phone and/or post for at least an hour or two.  At first it may seem difficult, depending on how much of an addict you are.  However I would be willing to bet that you will find it refreshing and strive for more unconnected periods of time.  You may end up like me, wondering why people can’t just step away at least a few hours a day.  social-interaction-human-more-important

Look at it this way.  Life is meant to be experienced live, not through the power of electronics.

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Realities of Racial Profiling

I am and always have been a reader.  On occasion I will read something which has a profound impact on me.  This is the case with a book I recently finished,  Native Son by Richard Wright.

Native Son, a novel published in 1940, tells the story of “Bigger”, an African American boy who represents the oppression of their race during that era.  A lot of progress has been made in the past 75 or so years since the book was written, but the treatment of  persons of African-American decent by the white race during that time period is disgraceful.EPSON MFP image

While we all know that there are prejudicial attitudes in this country as demonstrated in recent times by the brutality shown against black men by those of law enforcement without just cause, we at least have progressed to a point where derogatory terminology and failing to recognize the race as having intelligence on the equivalent with others is no longer accepted.

The novel takes place twenty years prior to my birth.  Growing up in the 1960’s I remember racial riots, derogatory references to the race in general, and other such behavior, but not to the degree which I encountered in this book.  What I found most disturbing was the de-humanizing of the race in general.  They were compared to apes, considered to be so lacking in intelligence that they could not plan anything.  After being arrested they were rushed through the judicial system without sufficient time for proper trial preparation and were tried in front of a jury panel of all white men.

racismIf you research racial injustice for the 1940’s you will find that the treatment of “Bigger” portrayed in the novel is a very accurate representation of the mindset during that era.  Lynchings were common for anything and everything considered inappropriate.  NAACP members campaigning to get those of African American decent the vote where removed from their homes and lynched.  A 26-year old man was lynched for failing to address a police officer as “Mr.”  If a white woman was attacked it was assumed that a black man had committed the crime and the “suspect” would often be captured and lynched.  Justice did not prevail.

White workers would strike or riot against any black man that received even a minimal promotion at work.  A 15-year old boy was lynched for writing a card that revealed his crush on a white girl.  A 14-year old was sent to the electric chair after being accused in the disappearance of white girls and a 16-year old went to the electric chair after being convicted of killing a pharmacist; he was not properly represented at trial.  The list goes on, but this sampling gives you a taste of what life was like for those of African American decent in the 1940s.racial-profiling-we-were-all-the-human-race

In all fairness I must mention that those of black skin tone are not the only race the white Americans have discriminated against.  President Roosevelt issued an executive order after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and all of Japanese decent were gathered and placed in camps that were the equivalent of prisons.  They were surrounded by barbed wire and conditions were deplorable.  Latinos were beaten by soldiers because it was assumed they were the cause of crime in California.   The discrimination continues to this day.

Even now many white American’s behave in a discriminatory manner against those of other nationalities.  It doesn’t matter whether they are of Mexican/Spanish decent, Asian, African, Calderon, or any other nationality, if they do not have white skin they have most likely suffered some form of racial profiling and/or discrimination.

Why do the white Americans think that they are better than others?  The white man invaded this country and then forced the Native Americans away from their territory. From the time they set foot on this land white men have forced their way into control and oppression of those of a different cultural. religious or financial background.  The white man has proven himself to be a race of bullies.

racial-profiling-we-are-the-human-raceWe have come a long way in the acceptance of others since the 1940’s when Native Son was written….a book in which a 17 year old boy was sent to the electric chair for the murder of a wealthy white girl.  Although the book is a fictional writing, is is a very good replication of the era in which it was created.  Although those of African American decent are now given the same rights of due process as all others, discriminatory behavior continues to exist.

Every race has persons who have good behavior and persons who exhibit bad behavior.  The realities of racial profiling are evidenced in the behavior seen on our own TV screens and the treatment those of non-white race are frequently subject to…and far too often by those who are supposed to uphold the law. When will the American white citizen learn to treat all other American citizens as equals and not make assumptions on the way a person will behave based on the color of their skin?    That is a question that will likely remain unanswered for a long time.

EPSON MFP image

The back cover of Native Son

 

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Rhetorically Resolving Resolutions

Every year thousands of people make New Years resolutions which they ultimately give up on within the first month or so.   The act of making the list is rather rhetorical, as the majority know that they will never accomplish those resolutions.  The list is made out of tradition, not with the intent to succeed.   new-year-resolution-fatter-and-lazier

A resolution is an action taken to resolve a problem.  Who wants to start the new year thinking about a list of problems they must tackle?  A New Year’s resolution is a cumbersome burden no one wants to bear.  Just the sound of it is overwhelming.

Throw those resolutions out.  You are not going to accomplish them anyway.  Instead list your goals for the new year.  Think positive, dream big.  These are things you want to accomplish over the course of the next twelve months.

new-year-goal-setting-6-steps-to-successAhhh you say, isn’t that the same thing as a resolution?  Well, sort of, but it is a mind game for motivation.  Which do you want to do?  Which makes you feel that success is possible?  You can only pick one of the following:

* List your resolutions for the new year — those problems you intend to resolve.

OR

* List your goals for the new year — those things you want to achieve.

Which phrase encourages you to take action?  Which phrase makes you go uggghhh?  Do whatever provides you with the most motivation.  If taking a slew of problems you have resolved to correct inspires you, then by all means go for it.  If setting forth a list of goals to complete inspires you, then take that route.  new-year-goals

The desired outcome, whether you choose to set resolutions or goals, is to cross those items off your list one-by-one as you complete them.  Every item you cross off the list provides you with a feeling of accomplishment.  The more things you cross off your list, the more encouraged you will be to keep working on that list.

What are my plans for 2017?  I have made a resolution to resolve problems by setting forth a list of goals to accomplish within the next year.

Happy New Year!

 

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