Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Increase, Decrease, Decrease 2016!

I am not much for resolutions!  In my experience a resolution is good for about 3 days and then it is broken.  I also hate starting anything on a traditional date when "everyone is starting something" - i.e. New Years Day.

It is just a trap, trap, trap!

But this year I am falling into the trap for 3 personal goals. Simply put - Increase, Decrease, Decrease.  I thought I would share them here, because a public admission (and a public flogging if needed) might help compliance beyond 3 days!  Ha!

Goals should be measurable.  Pledging to be a happier person is a wonderful life attitude to seek out, but as a goal ...  how do you measure improvement.  My goals are measurable and I have a tracking system set up.

So here goes with the public pronouncement.

Goal #1
I need to Increase my activity.  Man, I hate this goal.  I have started it over many many times on this.  But I keep trying.  The past year was my couch potato year.  I thought 2014 was miserable for me and 2015 was pretty much a loss as well.  2016 must be more active - mostly because this body I have must last me precisely another 38 years (more on that in goal #3) and at this rate it won't.

Goal #2
I need to Decrease the load my legs haul around each day.  Simply put - lose weight.  I hate this goal, too.  It is so trite and so common and usually so unsuccessful.  But my weight continues to creep up. Sitting on the couch in 2015 didn't help.  I don't care if I "look younger," but I want to feel more energetic.  And if I have another 38 years, it is a long time to feel this way.

Goal #3
Finally, this goal will make some of you smile.  I need to Decrease my yarn stash.  (the operative word is decrease.)  I don't actually hate this goal.  It is clear, however, that my yarn is secretly reproducing while my back is turned  I could not possibly be guilty of contributing to this obsession!  (I am going to have to answer to God at some point for all these lies!  But for now, lying works.)

Here is where the '38 years' comes into play.
  • About 5 years ago I did a yarn inventory, noting type and yardage on an excel spreadsheet.  I owned about 140,000 yards of yarn.  Using a typical measure of knitting up 5,000 yards a year - I could knit for another 28 years without ever buying yarn!  I was appalled!!  Embarrassed actually.  I went on a yarn diet in that moment.  
  • A few years later I updated my inventory and I was bouncing about 170,000 total yards of yarn.  Gads!!!  Epic yarn diet failure!!!  (That was when I decided that I should be buying only male or female yarn.  No more mixing up the sexes.  The yarn was showing no control!!)  I could now knit for another 34 years without buying yarn.  Unacceptable.
  • This fall I updated my inventory - (and by now no one should be surprised) the total was up again.  I now own about 191,000 yards of yarn - and this is with regular knitting and giving away yarn since the last inventory.  Now everyone, all together ... how many years can I knit without buying yarn???       "38 years!"   Correct!  You all are so smart.  :-)    
But ...
Let's get real.
For the record
 I will be buying yarn again!!
  I have a love affair with the stuff. 
It is a hobby that lights up my life. 

I want my yarn stash numbers to decrease or at least stay the same.  This goal will be the hardest one of all.  Like all 'addicts,' I am reducing my yarn temptations. I stopped all knitting magazine subscriptions, I have 'unsubscribed' from all on line yarn vendors, and I am avoiding yarn stores. It is going to be tough, but my hobby should not take up one whole room in my house - and it does!

So welcome 2016!
The year of Increase, Decrease, Decrease!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Year, New Hobby ... Adult Coloring

I don't need a new hobby... craft ... past time ... creative endeavor!  You can use any label ... I don't need it.

But this fall a new past time captured my attention and apparently I am hooked.  And it seems that I am late to the game on this particular activity.

My first completed coloring page.

Adult Coloring

Come on, guys.  You remember coloring - coloring books and wax crayola crayons!!  For me coloring last happened about 60 years ago.  A new coloring book with a fresh box wax Crayola crayons and I was set.  By the time I was 12 years old I had moved on to Barbies.  I never considered for one second that I would cycle back to coloring books and colored pencils at age 68.

My second work in progress

To start with ... these are not your childhood coloring books.  These adult versions of coloring books are works of art in the form of line drawings.  Beautiful drawings ... almost a shame to add anything to them.  As most articles on the subject mention, adult coloring books were not on the merchandising radar 3 years ago.  Now all the books stores, craft stores and even some gift stores carry them.  This holiday season, the adult coloring book displays are mostly empty in my area.  Totally amazing to me.

Prismacolor Premier Pencils.  This isn't the largest set.
But someday I might spring for their biggest selection.
Then there are the coloring tools.  Yes, you can use Crayola crayons if you want, but these adult coloring books are generally not designed for stubby wax crayons.  Color pencils are preferred, or color markers.  As you can see from the samples I have posted here, the pictures are filled with small details.  You need a point to fill them in and wax crayons won't work well for that.  So color pencils or gel markers are almost as remarkable in the complexity of offerings as the coloring books.  And let me tell you, some of those colored pencils sets can be pricey, pricey, pricey.  But oh so pretty.

Johanna Basford's Enchanted Forest
You are seeing the face of the slip cover for this book.

Of course, there are many extra tools that can be used - like blending pencils, and special erasers, and pencil sharpeners and fancy cases to carry your tools.

Here is the actual book - the brown cover with only pen art work on the cover.
Under the book is the inside of the slip cover.
Every detail of these books are beautifully executed.
They are very appealing without adding any color.

And, yes, I have outfitted myself with everything.   I am the "tool queen" when it comes to any hobby.  Anyone who knows me personally will not be surprised.  But you can get started with very little in investment and have a satisfying experience.

But the real question is "Why?"  Why color?  Well, there is a psychology connected to this past time. You can read more about it here in this link.  But from my perspective this is what I know:
  • The most often heard reason is that it reduces stress.  I can confirm that is true!  Just like knitting, mediation or any mindful activity that refocuses and/or distracts your brain - it relaxes the mind.  I can also pick up, do a small bit and easily put it down again. 
  • I love the artistic part of selecting colors and blending them without worrying about the quality of the underlying drawing - I am happy to leave that to the professional artist.  And I am challenged to improve a beautiful artist's black and white rendering by adding color. 
  • Playing with color feeds that area of my brain that I always felt was deficient!  My artistic efforts were always limited to pencil or charcoal.  I could produce a level of realism in a drawing using line and shading.  But when I attempted to layer color onto my own work, it was an epic fail.  This activity allows me to play with color once again.
I struggle with the question of what to do with the completed colored page.  For me a hobby or craft is satisfying when it results in something I can enjoy - a product - something beyond the process of creation. Would I sit down and look at my colored books once they are filled?  Would I frame and hang something I colored on the wall?  The answer is most likely no. 

Recently, however, I came upon some coloring books that seemed to answer that question.   Beyond the simple pleasure of coloring with a child, a fully colored adult book would be a great thing to look at with child - sort of like sharing a picture book.  For example:
  • Coloring books by Johanna Basford - (Secret Garden, Lost Ocean, and Enchanted Forest) have hidden items in each picture.  Kids and adults enjoying hidden object picture books and games.
  • Coloring books by Daria Song - (The Time Chamber, The Time Garden) actually tell a story in pictures - with a small amount of words to flesh out the story.  The artist's pages tell the story of a tiny fairy that lives inside a cockoo clock who has adventures.  A very charming idea presented in a high quality publication - that just happens to be aimed at Adult Colorists.
So I am prepared for a year of coloring - to go with all my other hobbies.  

In fact, coloring is one of two new hobbies for 2016 - beyond knitting, spinning, weaving and coloring ... but that is for another blog post!

So what fun things will fill your new year?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

This Christmas

My Christmas decorations are up, 
much reduced over previous years - part of my less is more style of living.  
The gifts are all purchased and wrapped - and sit prettily under my tree.
Holiday cooking began in earnest two days ago - as well as a house clean up.

  I feel on schedule, 
in control, 


My Christmas tree with gifts this year.
Just like every other Christmas for at least a decade
it feels like I am going through the motions.
Checking off my to-do list.
Preparing to make the holiday grand for the folks I love.
But it has been many years since the holidays
have been grand in my own heart.

Christmas is a hard holiday for some folks,
and I count myself among them.  
The Christmas season is filled with too many sad remembrances for me.  
I have spent years of Christmases just trying to get to the month of January!

This is the oldest ornament on my tree.
It was a decoration one of my Christmas gifts from my future mother-in-law in 1967.
My dad died on this day, December 23, in 1970.  He always comes to mind during this season. I have long since moved on from that loss, but it still left small sad memories for me.  

This metal flag bow was put on the tree the year my son went into the military in the mid 1990s.
It was the first Christmas my son was not home with us.

In more recent years, the Christmas season has been especially difficult.
In early December 2010, mom was hospitalized with a terrible stomach flu that landed her
in rehab on discharge.  The year was a race to get her home in time for Christmas.
And all the traditional stuff (tree, gifts, cooking, decorations) were held off till December 23.
But it was one of the most joyful Christmases - because she made it home.

  Mom moved from my home into Assisted Living in early December 2011.  A fall in October and extended rehab November did not help her. 
That was the first Christmas when she was not with family.  

Mom made this lighted ceramic Christmas tree.
I am sure most everyone has one of these!
But I am just as sure that this one is the loveliest one of all.
The elder care community she resided in was exceptional.   Always beautifully decorated for every season.  A festive holiday reception was held for residents and family with delicious food and wonderful entertainment.  The staff was gay and engaged with the residents.  But it never fully compensated for the fact she was not home.  She always asked to go home, especially during the Christmas season.  It was a conversation that always left me sad.

A Christmas angel made by my mom during a more  joyful time.
Not sure how I feel about the concept of 'heaven', but if there is one
she most certainly is there - wings and all!
Last year mom died on December 28.  Another difficult Christmas.  She had been markedly failing the previous months - and last Christmas was just one long sad goodbye as I sat by her bedside day after day watching her slip away from this world.  The cheer and decorations of the season seemed to be a cruel artificial shell that surrounded my intense sadness.

This Christmas is the first anniversary of her death.  I have completed a year of "firsts without mom." Now I feel that circle is finally closed.  She officially slips into my past, but not out of my heart.

I miss her - especially this Christmas.  I have been caught totally by surprise this week when I find tears are falling.  Sad images of our last Christmas together are common this week.  Loss is a lonely a feeling when it seems like the world has moved on and memories persist.   Although this memory will never be totally gone, the intensity will fade with time.

So this will be a pensive Christmas for me.  Christmas Eve will be filled with our small immediate family - our traditional dinner, gift exchange and a sleep over at our house.  Christmas morning will be our family breakfast.  I will go to Mass and then visit the cemetery, while my son visits with his in-laws - who also are mourning the death of a loved one this past fall.  The rest of my time will be quiet ... maybe a long walk ... maybe time spent with one of my many hobbies ... maybe a distracting activity like planning out my January 2016 calendar.  Once again, I look forward to January.  I just need to get to January.

I think 2016 will be a positive new beginning for me.  
In fact, I know it will be so!  
Christmas 2016 will be better ... 
because it won't be
  this Christmas ... 
the first one without mom.

I wish you all a peaceful and happy Christmas.

"Somethings in life cannot be fixed.
They can only be carried."
Megan Devine

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas Past

It is the season for good will and cheer for all.  

Being Christian, I celebrate Christmas.  Of course, in recent years it seems like the word Christmas has been replaced by the word Holiday.  Merry Christmas is now Happy Holidays ... to be more inclusive of all the celebrations that occur during this season.  Sad.  I wish political correctness hadn't evolved to such a meaningless point.

Back in the mid 1990s I was the supervisor of a large medical department.  We always celebrated with gusto.  There was no focus on the religious elements of Christmas, just the Santa theme.

Santa would arrive bringing good cheer for the employees, we had a pot luck lunch in the department.  The supervisory staff (there were 4 of us) dressed as Santa's elves for the whole day.  I remember that time with great fondness.  Nothing speaks of Christmas as much as bringing smiles to the faces of the employees and patients.

Recently one of my former employees found a picture from that time that she shared with me.  In the spirit of good cheer, I share it with you.

Hope your holidays (whatever they are) are filled with joy, smiles and good will towards all.  And remember, the best thing you can do this season is to pass all that cheer on to others.  There seems to be a deficit of good cheer in our world today.

Don't forget!  Pass it on.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Planner-Calender, Bullet Journal, Commonplace Book

I spent my whole adult working life tethered to a planner/calendar of some sort.  I always used a commercial option to keep all the balls of my life from falling to the floor.  It worked pretty good.
And as a caregiver, I kept copious written records - since I was managing two lives for 8 years.

After my mom's death I entered official retirement ... I dropped all tracking methods keeping my to-dos on short daily 3x5 cards.  Things were simpler now.  Simple life ... simple tracking.

After months of using that approach, I discovered it wasn't that simple.

When a 'vacuum' occurs - the void fills with other things.  Lots and lots of other things.  The 3x5 cards system failed for a lot of reasons.  And I began to wonder if my mind was slipping.  Stuff fell off my radar with frightening frequency.

In truth, my mind probably is slipping.  I guess it retired when the rest of my body did.  So ... with that as a concern I needed better system.

My Bullet Journal - of course, I had to purchase a nice cover.
Enter the Bullet Journal.

I mentioned Bullet Journaling in a previous post.  I purchased a simple plain bound book specifically designed for bullet journaling - but really - the method could be used in any blank book.  I launched a 'test'  journal (which is no longer 'test').  Being a bullet list kind of person, this kind of time management fit me perfectly.

It is very individualized including all those bullet lists I put on 3x5 cards, as well as future planning, wish lists, habit trackers, future shopping lists, favorite quotes, and all my brilliant ideas (smile).  Some people do traditional journaling or diary entries in this book and decorate it with art work and colored pens.  I like mine plain, neat and productive.

I am getting a whole lot more done.  Less things fall through the cracks of my life.  In fact, checking off those little boxes is sometimes the main reason I do the task!  (Ha!)  I still use a wall calendar for distance planning and to prepare my Bullet Journal each month, but my Bullet Journal holds all the details.  And, as they say, the devil is in the details!

Another kind of book has recently hit my awareness.

A Commonplace Book.

For those who are well versed in historical figures or various kinds of old style literature - you might already know about Commonplace Books.  But for me, this was a new idea.

Here is the link that describes the Commonplace Book.  This book is not a planner or a journal.  It is  a place to capture and save those bits of knowledge, quotes, art work, doodles, clips saved from magazines or newspapers and ideas from others that are meaningful to you.  It is a place to house them so that they can be found again should you want to hold that information in your life.

Laura Bethmann
Photo Credit: Link
The practice of a Commonplace Book is apparently very old ... used during times when knowledge found in books was not readily available to the general population - books were rare and very expensive.   Over time this kind of book was used less because books became more common and ownership more likely.    It appears now - in the electronic information age - a more modern version of the Commonplace Book might be returning.

We are now bombarded with information from every direction and multiple sources often passing at what seems like the speed of sound.  When nuggets of interesting information, a great quote, an impressive idea or a beautiful picture comes to our attention - it can be easily lost with the next thought, or email, or phone call or demand on our time.   The Commonplace Book might be a good place to safely store those eclectic things ... so it is not lost by our memory.

This is an idea that appeals to me.  It feels like a creative outlet, an unstructured storage chest for fun quirky things that catch my fancy.  And although my Bullet Journal is a pretty plain Jane bound book - a Commonplace Book could be a beautiful, colorful bound book - special just for itself.

Thinking, thinking ...