Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Day 31 - More

Today's Blogher blog prompt is "What do you want more of in 2014?"

The answer to that question for me is:  Time.

Well not literally of course.  I mean I get the same 365, 24 hour days as everyone else.  What I mean is that I want to feel like I actually have some of it to spare.  I want to have an hour a day that is unscheduled and is mine to enjoy in whatever way I see fit.  I want to have one weekend each month that isn't full to the brim with planned activities.  I want to have the time to chat over coffee with friends, enjoy a walk through this beautiful city of mine, and stare out over the ocean and daydream.

Of course the only way this is going to happen is if I begin to do less of some things. That is the difficult part. Figuring out what it is I am willing to let go of or put off until later.  While it might exhaust me and wear me out I do love all of the things that I do.  Which means I definitely have some work to do.

Happy New Year to all! May 2014 be prosperous for us all.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Day 30 - What do you want to do less of in 2014??

Today's Blogher blog prompt is "What do you want to do less of in 2014?"

The answer?  Everything.  Well everything except sleep.  I want much more sleep in 2014.

I have always led a busy life but 2013 was the year of doing too much.  I pretty consistently over committed myself and though I generally managed to get everything accomplished, I would not say that 2013 was the year of my best work.

This past fall was my first full time semester.  In order to finish earning my degree in three semesters I enrolled in five classes which in hindsight was not a good plan. While I expect to have at least one mid-semester break down, this past semester I had about four.  I struggled to keep up with homework and projects. My grades suffered and though I ended up with three As and one B, I also received the first C of my college career.  I was never so grateful to have a semester be over.

I overbooked myself creatively.  I am fiercely dedicated to making a success of the troupe I manage. Handling the general management, booking and creative direction is a full-time job.  I also wanted to make sure that I kept up with my solo creative work and I began teaching dance for the first time this year.  I often felt as though I was so busy handling the management of the troupe that my personal creative practice became neglected.  Particularly in the areas of dance and music.  When the fall semester began I had trouble keeping up with my writing and even took a blog hiatus for a time.  Somehow I managed to write a little something every day for that last part of the year.

To earn some extra money, which I desperately needed, I took on a few crochet commissions and taught some classes.  I worked two part-time jobs, which should have been enough to cover expenses but I had some health issues this year and so did my elderly cat which depleted what little savings I had.

As as result of this I felt a lot of stress and exhaustion.  I had practically no social life and struggled greatly with feelings of isolation and loneliness.  I was short fused and grumpy most of the time.  I cried a lot.  I pretty much stopped any exercise outside of what dance practice I could fit in and walking between home and school.  I definitely didn't eat right and I had several nights where it was a glass of wine that got me to bed.  Everything suffered.  I am quite sure that all of this contributed greatly to mental state I find myself in now (which we will sum up as not being in my happy place).

And just to be consistent I'm finishing the year in the same manner.  The past four nights I have been up until the wee hours working on props and costuming for my troupes NYE show.  I'm in that place of exhaustion where I feel like if I stop moving I'll just fall where I stand.

In 2014 I'd like to simply do less.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Day 29 - 2013 makes me want to nap

It's 11:49.  Once again I am creating a last minute blog post.

I spent my evening painting a floor cloth in a red and black checkerboard pattern so that my troupe has a safe and non-slip surface to perform on at our New Year's Eve performance in Boston.  After I post this I will work for another hour or two on costuming for the troupe. The past three nights bed has been 2:00 AM due to working on costuming.

This is nothing new.  I've spent many late nights crafting, working, writing papers and planning shows.  I had very little time this past year for personal projects or rest.

If I had to sum up 2013 in a sentence it would be:  2013 has left me feeling like taking a very, very, very long nap.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Day 28 - First or Last?

I am borrowing from yesterday's Blogher NaBloPoMo blog prompt for this post.  After two nights of 2:00 AM bedtime due to costuming I'm just too pooped to ponder an original post idea.  So...

Which do you enjoy more: the last week of the year, or the first week of the year?

The answer to that question for me is, well, both.   

New Year's Eve is one of my favoritie favorite holidays.  It is probably the one time of year that regardless of how busy I might be, I take the time to reflect on my life.  Attempting to review one's life in its entirety is usually an overwhelming and often depressing proposition but a year is a comfortable amount of time to think about.  A year is short enough to be fresh in our memories when looking back and it is long enough that when we set a goal we'd like to accomplish, a year seems a reasonable amount of time to accomplish it.  

As the year ends I give a lot of thought to what I have accomplished, what habits I want to let go of and what good ones I picked up.  I think of the faces of new friends and those I said goodbye to.  And of course I give a lot of thought what my goals are for the year ahead. 

When midnight on the 31st hits I always toast the year to come.  The days ahead are always a bit heady and exciting with the prospect of new goals and ideas.  

I am often asked why I love New Year's Eve and it has nothing to do with the parties, champagne or midnight kisses (though all of these things are nice).  It is the annual reset button.  It's knowing that no matter where I am now in life, I could be someplace completely different in 365 days.  It's the reminder that nothing is static.  

And this year more than ever I feel like I need the reminder that change is possible.  

Friday, December 27, 2013

Day 27 - Jack English

Today I read the story of Jack English in the Los Angeles Times.  I was so very moved by the story of this man, his wife, his cabin...his life.  I find myself questioning all the time what I should or should not be doing.

Is this right?
What will people think?
What if it's not something I should be doing?
What if it's what I should be doing but I don't?

And then I read about this man who perhaps asked himself the same questions (I can't really know) but who went and lived his life in the way he saw fit.  And on top of it, he seems to do with a loving and open heart.

In the video above he says, "I've lived a good life..."  

I want to be able to say the same thing when I am 94.  I've lived a good life.

Oh, and I'd also gladly live in a cabin in the woods. These days it seems the most appealing way to live that I can think of.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day 26 - A Post About Nothing in Particular

This morning's Blogher blog prompt asks the question of whether or not this Christmas met my expectations. I am not going to answer that question.  Christmas is over and done with and next year I'm going to make plans to be out of town in one way or another hopefully in the company of people I like.

I return to work today after five days of not having to set an alarm clock.  This has been a little bit of heaven and something I could easily get used to.  In fact, this morning when my alarm sounded off I did not recognize it at first.  The harp ringtone that I use sounded distant and foreign.  I was already sort of awake, having been drifting in and out of sleep for an unknown period of time.  I had just drifted in again when the up and down cascade of notes tinkled its way into the dream I was having, reaching my ears as I was wandering the concrete halls of an abandoned industrial building.

My alarm was set for 6:15 but I snooze, snooze, snoozed it until about 7:00 when I realized that if I was to have any sense of focus before logging into work at 8:00 (i.e. - having a cup of coffee made, sipped and working its caffeinated way through my system) I needed to rise and shine.

And so now here I am.  Mostly ready to take on a day which will include working both of my jobs; running some errands in between the two; doing some laundry; a whole freakin' bunch of hand sewing, hopefully some time for dance and music practice; eating and possibly some company in the evening.

A full day lays ahead....but first, I need another cup of coffee.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Day 25 - A Holiday

It is 11:43 PM and I am just beginning today's blog post.  I spent most of today cutting and sewing a set of fleece hats for a show my troupe has coming up next week.  Of ten hats I've completed five and hope to finish the rest tomorrow.

I began the day by giving myself an hour of reading time - non-school reading for a change and I did pause late afternoon to roast a chicken (with rice & onion stuffing), roasted veggies and gravy.  

One lesson I took from this past weekend is how much I need to take time to do things for myself - like reading and cooking good food.  And that I absolutely need time for silence and stillness.  I made sure that I gave myself both of those things today.

Now I am tired, and a little wired due to the coffee I drank to keep awake to finish "just one more hat."  I'm settling in to read and then to bed.  I'm super sleepy.

Happy Holidays to all.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Day 24 - Christmas Big or Small

It is Christmas Eve and today's Blogher blog prompt is:

If you celebrate Christmas, are you doing the holidays larger or smaller this year?

Those that read an earlier post know that Christmas, as I've celebrated it in the past, is not happening this year.  So the answer to the question above is, smaller...much, much smaller. 

However, this past weekend I received an unexpected gift - not anything that could be put in a box, tied with a bow or put under the tree.  Though it came wrapped in a shell of ice and cold it contained a center of warm joy.  On top of that it was a surprise and thus,even more special.**

Whatever sadness tomorrow may bring I have this treasure of a memory I now carry inside and for that I am so very grateful.  

**And yes, this post is intentionally vague...some memories are meant to be held close.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Day 23 - Why Write?

"I had been certain art would save me." - Natalie Goldberg

This morning while browsing the interwebs in search of inspiration for today's post I visited The Creativity Portal to make use of their blog prompt generator when a link to the left of the page caught my eye….

Warning! to Writers, Natalie Goldberg says: "I have not seen writing lead to happiness in my friends' lives. I'm sorry to say this…"

The article, an excerpt from her book on writing Thunder and Lightning, talks of her own struggle with the question, "Why write?"  Why write when it might not be how I make a living?  Why write when creation often seems to cause so much struggle?

One could say this about any art. Why paint? Why dance? Why make music? Why sing?  Creation is a struggle and yet for many of us it is something we must do even when it doesn't make us money or bring us joy or sets us apart from the rest of the world.  When I think of my own art - dance, music, sewing or writing, I think of the process.  The process, the experience of creation, transports me.  This is particularly true with writing.  When all else falls to the side, when darkness encroaches and I am paralyzed mentally and emotionally. When I don't feel called to make music or to dance or to sew, I write.  

I will write out my pain, my sadness and joy and find I am lifted to a place outside of myself.  All else, the burden of tension, stress and struggle of life (even if this is what I am writing about) is lightened or lifted away.  It isn't easy or clean.  I have been known to weep my way through a box of tissues while writing about a loss or a memory.  Perhaps that is the trick of writing for me, that it brings me to the very center of what I am experiencing; it forces me to be present in the here and now.  Even when the writing is not personal - a paper for school, or a response to a blog prompt, the experience of word craft still transports me and within a few strokes of the keys I enter that place of flow. 

Writing is the first thing I do each day.  It is my practice, my balm, my burden and my meditation.  I am not sure that there is a concrete answer to the question of, "Why write?"  For me it is something I feel called to do above all other things.  Perhaps the closest response for me to the question of 'why write' is…

…because I must.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Day 22 - Christmas Past

Christmas is not a personal religious holiday for me.  I feel much more attuned to the natural cycles of our planet and find a lot of comfort in the symbolism of the Winter Solstice and its longest night.   Christmas has instead always been a time of family - the day we gathered because of the traditions of an older generation and because we all had the day off.  Christmas Eve as a child was spent at my mémère's with my parents, brother, aunt and cousins.  Christmas Day was at my grampy's and where we all shared Christmas dinner. As with any family, over the years traditions changed due to death and circumstance.  

First came mémère's death when I was six years old.  Christmas Eve was often spent with my aunt and later, due to distance, just immediate family but we still made the trip south on Christmas Day to grampy's house.  When I was 21 my parents moved to the midwest but they would often fly back to New England for the holiday.  When they did not I made the trek to my grampy's when I had a car, or spent the time with whomever I was dating when I didn't. Always there were early morning phone calls, talk of what one had for dinner and what gifts were exchanged.  In my early thirties after my grampy died we began to bring my gran to our house to spend a few days and celebrate.  My brother, who had moved to the west coast, had become a husband and father with a family of his own but still called in the afternoon and the phone was passed from person to person as were holiday well wishes.  

A few years later my parents separated and then divorced.  The holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas became, well, awkward.  What had once been the traditions of a single family were now split and I was left feeling unsure of where I should spend the holiday.  My mother and I established a new tradition of getting together after New Year's Day to have a meal, exchange gifts and celebrate.  My gran, who was my father's step mother, continued to come to Maine for the holiday spending the week with my father and his wife.  I joined them for the traditional dinner and exchange of gifts.   I celebrated the Winter Solstice with friends. 

This past winter, after 90 years of life, my grandmother died. She was laid to rest in June and six months later, for the first time since I was a child, I have no plans for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.   I tell myself that life is like that, full of change and that I should (and will) adapt and adjust.  I tell myself that my personal celebration is to acknowledge the turn of the year and nothing will change the importance of that.  Yet, I can't stop myself from feeling like I have lost something greater. 

Perhaps is only through loss that we realize the importance of certain things.  My grandparents were the people in my life that accepted me come what may; a dependable rock of I love you.  Later, after my grandfather's death and the scattering of the family that raised me, my grandmother became my touchstone of continuity from childhood to adulthood.  As the holiday approaches, I feel as though without her I've lost a sense of having a home - of belonging somewhere.   

I am sure that time will heal the sense of loss.  That next year I will feel a little less adrift and perhaps I will have found some new tradition to establish but today I feel mostly sadness.  

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Day 21 - Winter Solstice

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” - Anne Bradstreet

Today at 12:11 PM (EST) the sun will appear to pause in the sky and the wheel of the year will begin to turn from darkness to light.  It is easy to see a metaphor of overcoming adversity in the symbolism of The Longest Night.  As moments of darkness tick by we ask ourselves, is this the our darkest hour? 
As we travel through our own dark times we often ask ourselves the same question.  Can our mood become any more miserable?  Can our burden become any heavier?  Have we faced our darkest moment?

As it is happening we can't know if this is our lowest or darkest point, we can only know that the night will end, and the dawn will eventually come.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Day 20 - Alone

It can be a tough time of year to be by yourself.  I have posted this video several times before but it is always worth sharing again. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Day 19 - Donation

Today's Blogher blog prompt is:

What was the last donation you made?

That is actually pretty easy.  Last night I had $10 from selling back one of my textbooks for school and gave it to a friend who needed the funds to help replace some stolen equipment.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Day 18 - One thing replaces another...

Today was my last final exam.  I thought when it was over that I would feel a great sense of relief but it didn’t come.  It could be that I am unsure how I did on the exam, and it’s likely at least a little bit of that, but I think also it is the fact that life is not going to slow down anytime soon.  The time that was freed up by school being done for the semester will be immediately filled with preparations for an upcoming New Year’s Eve show.  I’ll be sewing and rehearsing and writing and crafting...

There must be a way that I can find a few moments of peace in this busy life of mine.  I want to be able to be present with what I am doing NOW instead of stressing about the length of The To Do list.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Day 17 - But

This post is being brought to you courtesy of the iPhone blogger app.  I do not have an internet connection this morning and I'm not feeling quite brave enough to venture into the cold to find one.  

Last night I lay awake in bed for an hour and finally logged into my scrabble app to play a few late night games with strangers finally finding sleep around 2:00 AM.  I woke up groggy this morning (no surprise) and though I wanted nothing more than to stay in bed all morning I have a to do list a leg long...I got up. 

And I'm thinking to myself now about just how tired I really am and how I can't recall the last time I felt truly relaxed and rested.  And how I have so much in my life that normally I'd take great joy in doing and yet somehow even things like art and learning become just one more item on the to do list.  And how I look ahead to the future and I know that even if I live the hoped for average of 40 more years I can't possibly accomplish all I want to do.  And how much I dislike the words impossible and limits...

And logically I know,
That I am human and to be human is to have limits 
And I know
That the tiredness wakes up my manic 
And I know that I need
And food
And interaction
And silence
And joy
And touch. 

And I know that I need to find a way to stop.  
To be okay with standing still
And letting go. 

I know all of this but...


Monday, December 16, 2013

Day 16 - I'm Tired

I'm tired.
Weary to the bone pooped.
I'm running on fumes and I'm pretty sure I'll hit empty any day now.
I really want a nap but it is quite possible that I am too tired to sleep.
Shutting my eyelids would take too much effort.

I keep telling myself that...

...Saturday I'll catch up on sleep...oh, wait, I have that thing.
...Christmas Eve & Christmas day!  I'll give myself the gift of a day off...oh, wait, no I have to make things for that other thing.  That will take at least a day and a half.
...the day after?  Oh, wait no...I work.
...and...oh...maybe..or...darn and bother I'm busy then too.

But wait...
Look on the calendar.  January 2nd!
I've nothing planned on January 2nd.

I'm claiming it right now.
January 2nd is my day.

There will be sleeping...

January 2nd
January 2nd
January 2nd

,,, and no laundry shall be done on that day.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Day 15 - Shoveling

In Portland the city only clears the downtown area sidewalks.  Everywhere else the property owners are responsible for clearing the way for pedestrians.  Unfortunately most property owners don't do it and many pedestrians end up walking in the street. 

I am renter but one half of our landlord team was out of town and I was in the mood to shovel so I did the front and side of the house.  It was hard work but I enjoyed it and was pleased with the result.  

A reminder to those that clear their own sidewalks to make sure you shovel at least three feet to allow for those who have wheelchairs or other mobility devices to pass.  Let's all help keep our neighbors safe this winter. 

Day 14 - Storm

After tonight's holiday cocktail party we went for a walk in the storm to a park for a snowy view of the city. We were not the only ones out enjoying the first snow.  There were about a dozen other folks out playing in the fluffy white stuff. I guess the first snow can bring out the kid in each of us. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Day 13 - Superstition

I knock on wood.  I toss salt over my left shoulder if I spill it.  I pick up pennies for luck.  I save wishbones. I have my share of little superstitions but I have never however been superstitious about Friday the 13th.  In fact I think I fall in with those who find it to be a rather lucky day - okay so I don't have a negative superstition about Friday the 13th.

Thirteen is a prime number, divisible only by itself and one.  When I think of prime numbers they take on a personality of independence and self reliance.   I'm also a big fan of Friday with it being the last day of the work or school week.  The number thirteen and Friday isn't so bad of a combination.

This Friday the 13th was also the day I learned I received a higher than expected grade in my business statistics class.  This was a class I was struggling with, mostly due to time constraints, and so finding out I actually did pretty well was great news.

So Happy Friday the 13th to you!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Day 12 - Grateful

Tonight I am full of gratitude for the generosity of others.

I am grateful for handmade (and edible) gifts.

I am grateful for the patience and understanding of a close and dear friend.

I am grateful for the busy hands and creative skills of my fellow performers and crafters who helps jumpstart our costuming for a new show.

I am grateful for the doctor who tended my kitty today and who has a particularly gentle touch with him.

I am grateful for the work of my fellow students on projects we have done together this semester.

I am grateful for music and dance.

I am grateful for trash bags that don't break.

I am grateful for coffee and tea.

I am grateful for the force that holds this universe together.

Good night.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Day 11 - The Less Travelled Path

I am back to Blogher's blog prompts this evening.  Today's prompts is:

"Tell us about a time you took the less traveled path."

Of course this is a reference to the Robert Frost poem, "The Road Not Taken."  The meaning of which as been debated for decades.  When I look at this blog prompt though my thoughts go to a conversation that I had a very short time ago about trust. 

(Warning!  Warning! Warning!  We are about to get...PERSONAL)

After I typed the previous paragraph I went on to three or four more before I realized, I can't publicly, on my blog...go there.  

(Ctrl+Shift+ UpArrow,
tap tap tap tap tap,
tap tap tap tap...delete. )

I reveal a fair amount of personal stuff on this blog but there are some things that are far too intimate for me to publicly share.  The details and origins of my trust issues? Yep, it's one of those things.  Let's just say that like many of us I have some deep hurts in my past that left a few scars and one or two scabbed over, but not quite healed, wounds.We will leave it at that. 

For me, in this moment,  one of the less travelled paths would be to trust fully.  The conversation I referenced above was one that made me realize how ill prepared I am do that and how much of that is due to my ability or inability to trust myself and my own feelings. 

Always more work to be done...

(...and yeah, I guess I kind of went there anyway...)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Day 10 - Fairy Tales

Once again midnight is approaching and I have yet to write my blog post.  Tonight I blame Sleeping Beauty. I spent nearly three hours drafting a script with three alternate endings to that particular well known Grimm tale for the performance my troupe will be doing on New Year's Eve in Boston this year. Prior to that I spent close to two hours working through an online quiz for my business statistics class.

At least I can't say I didn't get to it because I just plain forgot or because I was feeling lazy.  Nope, laziness is definitely not part of the program today.  Sleep will be though and soon.  I've two final exams to prep for and a well rested brain is a very necessary thing.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Day 9 - Oh Crap! It's Almost Midnight...

...and I have yet to write a blog post, so once again I turn to Blogher and today's prompt for assistance.

Question:  If you could banish one thing from this earth -- tangible or intangible -- what would it be?

And of course it is a bigger question than I can possibly answer in less than two minutes, but at the moment I'd find a way to banish hunger.  Because everyone should have enough to eat.  


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Day 8 - A Year From Now

I have had a full day today with rehearsals, seeking costuming supplies, homework and more rehearsals all of which I enjoyed (well I'm not gonna say my statistics homework was a blast but it wasn't heartbreaking) but it left me with not a lot of time to think about what to write today.  The following was brought to you by the Imagination Prompt Generator...

Q. What do you want to be doing one year from now?

A. One year from now I hope to be in the final weeks of my last semester at school and closing in on the end of this endeavor that is called earning a degree.  I expect I'll be stressed out a bit, though if all goes well I'll only be taking three classes.

I will likely be looking for a second job or expanding my hours at my current one (which I love) as I'll need to find a way to support myself without my school financial aid as a back up.  I'm hoping to take at least a half year off from school before starting in a grad program during which I'll work, hopefully save some money, and explore some creative endeavors that have been put off due to school.

I hope to still be teaching a dance class and performing regularly with my troupe.  I hope that all of the work we have been doing this past year pays off and we find ourselves looking ahead to exciting new opportunities.  They are a wonderful group of hardworking and dedicated performers and I believe that we do have great things ahead!

I hope to be healthy and mostly happy.

What do you want to be doing one year from now?????

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Day 7 - More? Yes...I want MORE

There are only about twenty minutes left of December 7, 2013 and I'm just sitting down now to write this blog post.

Today began with my sleeping in until nearly 10:00 mostly because I didn't want to be an adult today.  I really wanted to eat Lucky Charms and watch cartoons...but I got up anyway.

Today ended with my feeling grateful the music and dance that is apart of my life.  And for the creative people who help make both of these things happen.

I want more creation in my life.  More art, more dance, more music, more love and more peace.

And I want everyone I know to have more of those things in their lives too.

Good night friends.  Dream well.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Day Six - What do you wish you had more time to do each day?

Today's Blogher blog prompt:

What do you wish you had more time to do each day?

Today I wish I had more time to write.  

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Day 5 - I Want More Sleep

I was, until very recently, one of those folks who went to bed at midnight and rose at 5:00 AM to begin my day.  This has been my habit for most of my adult life and for most of my adult life I've managed just fine on my five to six hours of sleep per night. Though I was never what one would call a "morning person."  I didn't wake up all bouncy and ready to go.  No, it was always a two hour...coffee...read the news...more coffee...shower...food...pants...okay I can leave the house now sort of process.  Much of the reason I get out of bed so early is so that I can have the time to actually get my head together before starting the day.

While I was slow to get started after I was actually on the move I plowed through my day, no matter how busy.  I didn't generally have the urge to nod off midday (though I have always, always been in favor of naps) or find myself wanting to crawl under the covers at 9:00PM and sleeping in, even when I had the time to do it, was usually no later than 7:00 AM.

Lately however I'm finding myself  wanting to stay under the covers for hours and hours and hours.  I'm chalking this partially up to the fact that it's winter and under the covers is the only place that is dependably warm in my apartment - especially since I was given the gift of a heated mattress pad which makes me want to build a pillow fort over my bed and never leave - but mostly it's because I'm just really, really, really tired.

And while I could just it must be my age and I'm getting "sooooo oooooold" it was only a matter of time before my lifetime of functioning on five to six hours of sleep caught up with me I'm going to point out to myself that I am far busier than I ever have been before.  I am reminding myself that I am a full-time student, that I also work two part-time jobs, teach dance, write daily, keep a pretty busy performance schedule, manage a troupe and do the normal human things (eat, poop, sleep and scratch where it itches).  I guess tired is to be expected.

Still, I'm really looking forward to Saturday morning which is the one day this week that I don't need to set my alarm clock.  More sleep please...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Day 4 - Your Less is My Less

This morning I read in our local paper about the cancelling of the Gulf of Maine shrimp season.  The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission made the decision to close the fisheries after it was shown that Gulf of Maine shrimp population was at its lowest level since 1984 and that  a "report released Nov. 21 by the fisheries commission’s Northern Shrimp Technical Committee concluded that the stock has collapsed."  The reason?  Rising ocean water temperatures, over fishing and the absence of  springtime plankton, the shrimp's main food.

I agree that it is important to do what we need to do to preserve our natural resources whether those resources be a gorgeous mountaintop view, timber forests or the Gulf of Maine Fishery.  We need to manage these resources in such a way that they will be there for future generations enjoy and make use of. We are only now learning the dangers of overuse and of pushing our resources to their limits.  I agree that closing the fishery, hopefully only temporarily, is the right thing to do when taking the long view.

However, I also know that this decision will have a huge impact on those who depend upon the annual shrimp harvest for income.  Whatever the industry one works in so many people live paycheck to paycheck these days.  The fishing season often runs from December to May.  That's six months of income many folks, whether fishermen or those that process and sell the catch, or restaurants that serve fried shrimp to tourists, will not have this coming year and now, like so many of us, they are finding themselves trying to find ways make do with less.

These are not easy times.  Whether looking at the potential loss of a once thriving fishery, the economic impact that this loss of income will have on individuals and communities, or the emotional impact of seeing friends and loved ones struggle to make ends meet, we begin to recognize that one individual's hardship (one creature's hardship, one ecosystems hardship) is everyone's hardship.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Day 3 - Half Empty or Half Full??

Today's Blogher NaBloPoMo blog prompt:

Do you see the glass as half full or half empty?

This is one of those life questions that comes up with fair amount of frequency so I've probably given it some semi-serious thought at some point in my life.  I'm guessing that my answer then was likely what my answer is now and that is that whether I see the glass as half empty or half full depends upon what kind of day I happen to be having. 

I believe that even the uppest of of optimists likely has a day or two that the glass is looking a little more like it's being steadily emptied and even us grouchy worry warts have days that all seems right with the world. What I try to do is look at the glass of water and see just that, a glass of water neither half full nor half empty but one that simply is. Which I suppose might be something similar to acceptance or letting go of attachment/expectation but it's far too early in the day to read that much into it and right now my cup of coffee is decidedly on the empty side and in need of refilling. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Finishing What I Start

Today's blog prompt from Blogher:

Do you think you're more or less likely to complete December's NaBloPoMo? Why?

At this point (Day 2)  I am feeling pretty good about the likelihood of my finishing this month's NaBloPoMo.  December is an easier month for me as the semester wraps up and my performance schedule becomes a little lighter.  I have more time to myself to do other things I enjoy, like writing.  There is also the fact that last year, after two failed attempts in October and November of 2012, December was the first time I ever completed NaBloPoMo.

There was a time in my life many years ago that when a task became overwhelming or difficult I would be likely to quit or walk away muttering that it was just "too hard" or took "too much time."  I think the turnaround for me began when I began working on my associates degree in 2004.  This was the first time that I'd taken on such a large goal and saw it through to completion.  It did help that I really, really enjoy school, but it also was the first time I that I was doing something because I really wanted to and not because it was what I thought I should be doing. 

It was also the first time that I began to recognize that the process of doing something is as important, and sometimes more worthwhile, than the end result.  I worked full-time and was attending college full-time as well being a rather busy community activist.  It was easy to feel overwhelmed but I discovered that if something was that important to me I'd find the time to work on it.  Incrementally, step by step, I completed papers, took exams and checked classes off the list of requirements until I had, two years later, a degree in hand. 

It is pretty rare these days that I don't finish something I begin; even with exhaustion, crankiness and the feeling of being totally overwhelmed I will find a way to push through.  I am looking forward to this month of blogging every day and of course to that last day, when I get to say once again (hopefully), "Woot!  I did it!"

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Day 1 - More/Less

I wasn't going to get out of bed today.  It's warm beneath my blankets.  And safe.  There is no one to worry about other than me.   With my eyes closed, my blankets tucked up around my ears it becomes a 3.5' x 6' peaceful, vacation cocoon.

But then I blinked and caught a glimpse of fat snowflakes falling outside my window.  I couldn't resist sitting up to watch them float down from the sky.

Watching from the doorway to my room Miss Pickles, one of my cats, saw my awakening and jumped up onto the bed wanting me to play.

It was then then I remembered I had  homework to do if I ever want to finish this degree I'm pursuing (and I do dislike leaving things unfinished).  And a dance rehearsal to lead and my own choreography to work on and...and...and...oh yes, this blog post to write.

Today is the first day of the BlogHer December NaBloPoMo.  I completed the 31 days of blogging last year and have decided to once again tackle to task. This months topic is "More/Less" and there seem to be a lot of interesting blog prompts all prepared for me to make use of.

As for today...I'd like more time to enjoy the peaceful quiet of my cozy bed and less on my To Do List, but I suppose I could say that everyday.

Blog on...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013, 12:36 PM

I stood at the intersection waiting for the walk light. The man stood to my left, facing the highway off ramp. His back was to me but I could see he held a cardboard sign in his hands. He wore a corduroy jacket, worn at the elbows with the seams coming out and a black hat.  I did not see his face, but his hands appeared unwashed as did the hair that poked out from beneath his cap. At his feet lay a brown dog and a dirty green backpack that appeared to be packed full.

As cars whizzed past us on their way to downtown Portland a few slowed long enough to yell at the man through their open windows...

Get a fuckin' job asshole...”


One swerved as he made the extra effort to reach across the passenger seat to flip the bird at the man. With his middle finger pressed against the passenger window he bumped the curb before speeding on his way.

As I waited, I heard footsteps approaching from behind, an uneven shuffling gait. A voice, a bit gravely with a familiar New England accent, “Bruthah...hey bruthah.”

The footsteps shuffled past me and I saw that the voice belonged to an older man, with slate gray hair and a stubbly beard. He posture was bent and his flannel jacket many sizes too big. As he passed I caught the strong scent of stale body odor. He stepped closer to the man with the sign and tapped him on the shoulder.

“Hey bruthah...”

The man with the sign turned. The older man reached out and took the sign man's hand turning it palm up and I heard the unmistakable clink and jingle of change. The coins filled the younger man's hand and a few spilled on the ground.

“Here ya go bruthah. I ate at the kitchen today and they gave me dinnah in a bag,” he paused to straighten up and pat his bulging jacket pocket, “So I don't need this today. It's all yours bruthah.”

The older man patted the younger man on the shoulder then turned and started back the way he came. The light changed and I crossed the street continuing my journey to school.

The End

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Be back soon...

The past few weeks my posts have been...well they have been nonexistent.  My life is over the top busy right now and quite simply I've not had the time to post.  I do hope to catch up on things over the next week and to be back to writing soon.  I have lots of things to post about.  

I'll see you soon!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tears irrigate the heart...

Today began after a night of not enough sleep and a breakfast of coffee and apple crisp (it's homemade, organic and gluten free...healthy, right?).

I arrived at school to discover I'd completely forgotten about an exam in my environmental science class. Just absolutely, 100% spaced it.  I've no idea how I did but I'm pretty sure my grade will shame even my inner high school slacker. (I sat in the bathroom after and cried).

Feeling discouraged I boarded the intercampus shuttle bus and as I settled in for a nap I overheard the woman a few seats in front of me telling her friend about a recent loss of a friend to brain cancer.  She then said  her mother had just called and told her that her dog of 13 years had passed away that morning. She felt regret that when she'd visited this past weekend she not hugged the dog before heading back to school.  She was in a hurry because she had an exam to study for and she'd just felt she'd didn't have time to spare.  She cried. (and so did I).

I slept on the bus but awoke with a headache and stiff neck to find the bus driver standing over me asking if I was okay. I told him yes, I was just tired.  I left the bus and sat beneath a maple tree.  As my head began to pound, pound, pound I realized how hungry I was and then of course realized I had no cash.   Up from the depths came that feeling of...

...not-having-enough-time,-enough-money,-enough-sleep-and-oh,-gods-I'm-about-to-cry-here-beneath-this-tree-and-I-so-wish-I-was-not-by-myself-right-now-how-to-I-ask-for-help-when-everytime-I-ask-for-help-I-feel-like-I'm-whining-and-I-should-just-such-it-up-like-everyone-else-does? (I cried again...again...and created some snot for good measure).

I knew I couldn't handle work today between my pounding headache and the faucet of tears I'd become so I asked if I could just go home and possibly make up hours over the weekend.  Upon hearing my request and seeing my face I was told, "Yes, go home...get some rest."

I boarded public transit. Changed busses.  Passengers boarded a few stops after I did began discussing the fate of one woman's "crazy ex-boyfriend" who was now serving time in jail for the horrible, horrible things he did to a child.  I was the auditory witness to her sharing the details of the things he used to do to her and to others while he made her watch.  I left the bus feeling sick to my stomach, angry that I'd been an unwilling audience to the story and then overwhelmingly sad that someone had experienced what she did.

I went home. took an ibuprofen and crawled into bed.  There I hugged my pillow and I sobbed.  I sobbed for myself and the how lost I feel right now; for the young student and her loss of her friend and her dog; I sobbed for the woman on the bus and the horrors she went through; and all the other horrors of the world. I sobbed because I felt so small in the face of all of it. I sobbed into my pillow and all over my cat.  I cried and cried and cried until I fell asleep.

I awoke nearly four hours later, about a half hour ago, feeling as though a stopper had been pulled up from the depths of my insides.

I feel emptied out, unblocked.  I feel defiant; wanting to shake a fist of beauty in the face of the world's ugliness.

Monday, October 14, 2013

And here we are...

It is blog post day and try as I might even with an entire day off with no plans I've not managed to write a thing.  Maybe I do better under the pressure of my self imposed one hour 6:30 - 7:30 Monday morning scheduled time for blog post writing (today I was asleep from 6:30 - 7:30).

I did however manage to find time to watch this video, which did resonate with me.  It's worth the watch and if I have one of those days in which I'm feeling particularly confessional I may share exactly why it did.

Until next time...

Monday, October 7, 2013

My stormy Monday night wish list...

What do you wish for on this Monday night wherever you may be?

1. A late night coffee shop in my favorite city (Portland, Maine)
2. A Sunday subscription to the New York Times
3. Quiet Sunday afternoons to enjoy wish No. 2
4. Footed jammies for tall women
5. Pretty wool leggings to keep me warm on walks to school
6. A winter midnight picnic beneath a full moon that sparkles the snow
7. A surprise potluck dinner with all my friends
8. That I get at least all Bs this semester (I'm starting to worry)
9. World peace
10. Cuddles and snacks for all the pets in the world, and full bellies and warm toes for all their people.

So you want to be a non-traditional student...

At the beginning of every school year there are numerous articles shared on news sites and blogs that give all sorts of advice to incoming college freshman. They offer ways to deal with homesickness, how to make friends, doing laundry and keeping up with homework. It's all generally pretty good advice and if you are your typical college freshman, living in a dorm and college IS your life they can be quite helpful. But what about the rest of us?

What about those of us who already have well established lives with jobs, families, a strong circle of friends, hobbies, and living spaces to maintain? Making a return to school, whether part-time or full-time will be a huge adjustment for us too. Where is the “What You Should Know About Returning to College When You Already Have a Life?” Well, it's here, finally. At least here are five pieces of advice I wish I'd been given when I decided to make the return to school.

1. You will question your sanity. (and likely loose your shit at least once) It may happen on a Friday night around 11:30 PM when everyone else in your time zone is either asleep or out sipping fancy cocktails at your favorite bar. Or it will happen as your alarm goes off at 4:00 AM so you can get up early enough to squeeze in a run before you head to the library to give your paper one last review before handing it in. Or it may happen in a class when you realize every evening of your week is booked and the professor just asked you to squeeze one more assignment into your schedule and you suddenly break into tears. It will happen. It will likely happen more than once but you will be okay.

You've just taken what is your already full time life and heaped 10 to 15 hours of classes and another 20 hours of homework on top of it. That's like taking on a second full-time job. Life can go from busy to go-go-go-go! It's going to be a major adjustment. What do you do about it? Take advantage of peace where you find it – sitting beneath a tree between classes, a 20 minute walk in the afternoon or reading a chapter in a non-school book before bed.

My morning coffee time is sacred. It might be the only 15 minutes of sitting still in my day and I treasure it.

2. Sleep is just as important at 30, 40, 50...as it is at 18. Nearly every article out there for new freshmen tells them that they need to make sure they get enough sleep. It holds just a true for those they call non-traditional students. Enough sleep will go far in preventing excessive recurrences of item number one. And here is where the adults have the advantage, while many articles state that most teenagers need anywhere from 8.5 to 10 hours of sleep, we can get by with 8 to 9. That's an extra hour of study time!

Now I know as well as anyone that 8 hours of sleep was a near impossibility for most us before we returned to school (heck I probably average about four to five hours a night if I'm lucky) but try to get a full night as often as you can. It makes a world of difference.

3. Your friends will wonder where you have gone (and you will miss them). You will say, “I'm sorry, I can't (attend the baby shower, potluck, go have a beer, see a movie...etc.) because I have (homework, reading to to do, research, a paper to write...etc),” often enough to sound like a broken record. This part does kind of suck especially if, like me, you were a very social person before you decided to make the return to school. It can be especially hard when you do see your friends and they are all swapping stories about gatherings you were not able to attend. It can be so easy to feel like you are missing out on something and that blows at any age.

First take a moment to recognize that you are doing something important for yourself. You made the decision to return to school because you wanted to. Your friends will recognize that and hopefully be supportive. Second, you will have time that you are not in school. There will be holidays, vacations and summer break. During these times you can make an extra effort to spend time with those you love. Third, take time to at least make an appearance at the important events like weddings and birthday parties even if you can only stop in for fifteen minutes it will be a way to show you still exist and likely be a nice break from the school grind for you.

And fourth. When you are done all of this and you finally take that walk to be handed your diploma you can throw one hell of a party and invite them all.

4. Don't compare yourself to other students. I'm not talking about those brand new freshmen. I'm talking about the 35 year old mom who is in your sociology class, or the 47 year old man in the suit who rushes into accounting with only seconds to spare, or the 51 year old artist who always has something interesting to say in your intro to lit course (all of whom get straight A's). It can be so easy to say to yourself, “I should be handling this better. I mean so & so is (a mom, a CEO, managing a their own business...) and they can pull it off.” or “Well of course she has it easy. The husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend takes care of dinner and the house while s/he does school work.” or just “Everyone seems to have it soooooo much easier than me.”

Your situation is just that, it's yours. You can't know what the life of another person is like. Those other students may be looking at you and thinking, “Oh this would be so much easier if I were single like her. She must have so much free time on her hands.” Right, because all you did before school was sit around petting the cat and eating nachos. Keep the focus on yourself and your work. You are doing the best you can within your own set of circumstances just as they are.

Finally avoid at all costs that “who has it worse” conversation that inevitably comes up if you have a friend in school at the same time as you. Neither of you will be willing to give up your grip on the gold medal for exhaustion so why go there?

5. Recognize that it this has an end. Every semester brings you one step closer and at some point in the future you will take your last class; the hard work will pay off and you will be handed your degree. Really, it will end, you will have time to breathe again and then you can start to make plans for graduate school!

There are probably a few other things I could add like B's are an okay grade, schedule EVERYTHING and coffee will be your best friend but those five items are the basics. If you are currently a student or considering a return I do hope you find them helpful.

See you next week.

Monday, September 30, 2013

4:00 AM

Sunrise - Summer 2013
Monday morning. 4:00 AM. I am wide awake. The alarm isn't due to sound off for another hour. I want to stay in bed but as I lay still in the dark beneath my covers telling myself that it's cozy and warm here, why would I want to get up, I can hear the mumbling in the back of my brain that is already beginning to catalog my every growing To Do List.

I close my eyes and roll over. I decide to stay in bed just on principle. One of my cats has become alert to my wakeful state and has jumped on the bed purring. She begins to knead herself a nest right next to my chest. She nuzzles my cheek seeking affection. I push her away, “It's too early,” I mumble. She circles and purring settles in against me, purring, purring, purring, purring...

Determined to not get up I pull the covers to my cheek, take a deep breath and exhale willing myself to relax. I drift for a moment but then realize my right foot is chilly. It has worked it's way out from under the covers. I pull it in beneath the blankets. This shift of my lower limb brings my knees into contact with each other and shifts my hips. I realize that to stay in this position will mean that my left foot will soon fall asleep.

I roll over, trying to not disturb the cat. As roll my blankets travel with me; my sheet remains pinned beneath the cat. My entire backside begins to feel the morning chill. I wiggle and shift to slide my blankets back into place. This results in a slight smothering of the cat who wakes and walks across my pillow to sit in front of me (purr, purr, purr, purr, purr...). She meows once.

One open eye catches the light of the clock. 4:21 AM. I wonder how long it is until sunrise. I reach for my phone and quickly check. 6:37 AM. I could get up, write, have coffee and then walk to view the sun coming up over the bay. I switch to my weather app to see if the sky is clear enough to watch the day begin. No, I think to myself. Sleep. Sleep is what you need.

I set the phone on the night stand and close my eyes. I begin to drift. A single paw taps me gently on the cheek. Meow. Purr. Purr. Purr. A second tap, followed by a head butt. Meow. I realize the cat's motivation has switched from affection to breakfast. Tap, tap.



4:27 AM. I give in. Sunrise, here I come.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

All by myself...

My idea of a good night has always been having a lovely meal and a proper conversation.” Kirsty Gallacher

I am half way through the third (fourth?) week of the fall semester. I think I am finally beginning to establish a rhythm to school, work, homework, teaching, creating and self care. It is so very easy when I become busy to neglect the last item from this list. It is often easier to eat a bowl of popcorn for dinner than a balanced meal or to push myself to stay up later than usual to finish some project or homework. I've done rather well with making sure so far I get enough sleep and eat right. However there is still one area that I am struggling with.

In the midst of those days filled with work, school and creative projects a feeling of isolation can slowly creep up on me. . Life becomes one long to do list,checking one item off and moving on to the next. I can spend an entire day holed up in my apartment often within the confines of my room working towards deadline after deadline.

Of course many of the things I do involve human contact. Attending school and creative collaboration definitely require interaction with other people. However, it is a very different thing to spend two hours with someone working on choreography or listening to a lecture and spending two hours in a conversation with no agenda.

With all of the homework, rehearsing, and work I am too distracted to notice until one day I have a moment to breathe. At first I will putter around the apartment, taking care of minor housekeeping tasks that I've neglected. I'll sort my socks, alphabetize my books, update my Netflix queue...I walk a circuit of my home, straightening misaligned coffee table books and picking lint off the futon cover. I ask Miss Pickles if she'd like to go grab a cup of coffee and a moment later I remember that she is a cat, has no thumbs and no interest in coffee.

This semester I'm making an effort to not let disconnection become a habit. I have plenty of time to myself, which like most of us I need a significant amount of, but I also need an equal amount of time where where I can, however briefly, set aside the to do list and step out of the role of student, or teacher, or director to spend time with those I love.

So anyone up for coffee sometime in November?