Mystery of time


Gretchen Rubin

“The days are long, but the years are short.”
― Gretchen RubinThe Happiness Project
I love this quote. It expresses my feelings exactly! My days, though not often stressful, still seem long. I’m tired at the end of them, and I frequently feel that I didn’t accomplish all I’d hoped. In particular, my personal projects lag behind my expectations.
And yet! The weeks, months, and years fly by. Everyone notices. “I can’t believe it’s already May,” I hear, as I walk about the hospital. The year is already scheduled out. I’m working on September’s call calendar for the primary care clinic. We already know dates for vacation through December. Soon Rob and I will be discussing our work availability for fall months. Where does it go? And how does it go so quickly?
I remember my dad saying to me that time seems to speed up as we get older. Well, he was right, and I suppose most people recognize that reality. There’s some magical element to time. For little ones, it does move slowly. Excruciatingly slowly. I’m long past that stage. The years are short.
Well, there’s no changing it. I suppose the only thing to do is accept, and be ever-more thoughtful about how I spend my long days, and my short years. This is one of those realities that everyone knows, even acknowledges, yet few address. I think most of us just move through life. I have moments of great clarity. And then I get lost again, caught up in the day-to-day.
Here’s to the long days. May they be productive for us all! And here’s to the short years, which we cannot lengthen. May they be memorable! And thank you, Gretchen, for stating so succinctly, so profoundly, what we all know at heart:
“The days are long, but the years are short.”

Overbuyer or underbuyer?

I’ve had a different pace this week. After sitting in training sessions all day, by dinner, I’m done. Not much creativity left, and not much energy either. Fortunately, I brought some books with me so I could shift into a different gear and relax in the evenings.

My book strategy is two-pronged. I have downloaded digital selections, and a couple of printed books, to cover those times when I can’t have my digital source open…part of flight time, or when my battery is low. Choosing to download a book rather than buy a printed copy is somewhat random for me yet. But I think I’ll continue to find that it’s good to have multiple options.

I have about a dozen books in progress at the moment, everything from technical how-to manuals to more philosophical works, and then one that’s easy reading, on a seemingly simple subject. But I’m finding it surprisingly thought provoking. I’m reading The Happiness Project, which I’ve referenced in earlier posts. The author, Gretchen Rubin, says she was happy. But she believed she could have more happiness, and she worked through a variety of month-long experiments to test her theory that changing certain behaviors and attitudes could add up to an increase in satisfaction with life and generate more happiness for herself and those around her.

Gretchen set goals for a year long project, and each month she tackled a different aspect of living, with strategies to improve behavior, habits, and mindset. I’ve picked up some tips, and about half-way through the book, have plans for my own project. But most of my ah-ha’s have more to do with method than with concept.

One month Gretchen focused on her relationship with money, and some of her insight resonated with me. She recognized that some people are overbuyers…buying multiples of things, buying gifts to have on hand for future recipients, buying well in advance of need. Underbuyers are the opposite, of course. Underbuyers buy in small quantities, and tend to have more of a “just in time” mentality. There are pros and cons, whichever camp you find yourself sitting in.

Imagine my surprise to recognize I’m an underbuyer. Being an underbuyer is not the same thing as being frugal. It means you are comfortable having a four pack of toilet paper in the cupboard, rather than the Costco size package of toilet paper rolls. It means you buy gifts when they are due, and for a specific recipient, rather than stocking items to have on hand. It means that you buy when you need, rather than out of impulse. At least this is my definition, culled from Rubin’s discussion.

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, if your buying style is creating issues…storage overflow, or running out of necessities, you might want to determine which style is more you, and then adjust choices that are tripping you up. The point is not that one style is better than the other. It is about making your life work and being more efficient in how you buy. I also think this is an area of money management that is less about how much you spend, more about how you spend. Example: you may actually spend more for less product by buying at the last minute, or in smaller quantities, rather than buying in bulk, for a better price per unit. Or you may create distress for yourself or family members by running out of some necessity before you restock. Conversely, you may get a great deal on food items at a grocery sale, but if the items go out of date before you use them, did you really save money? Or do you find yourself paying for storage space to store all the great deals you’ve picked up?

I immediately recognized overbuyers in my family. There are benefits of being an overbuyer, the most obvious one being that you don’t run out. You are your own supply closet. And overbuyers tend to have more options available at their fingertips without having to shop for specific items. I seldom have all the ingredients of a recipe on hand without planning ahead. But overbuying also feeds clutter and waste.

The important insight for me is to think about habits from multiple perspectives. This question initially seems to be about money, but it is really about management of resources: time, space, and family needs, as well as money. No part of life is one-dimensional, and this is no exception.

The other realization I had is that if you are efficiently organized, either habit can work for you. Overbuyers who efficiently use their stock of food or other supplies won’t lose money tossing out dated product, and will manage their storage space to advantage. Organized underbuyers won’t run out because they have a list of what they need to replace.

If this sounds like too much thought on a subject that should be simple, just think about the extreme consequences of these behaviors. Underbuyers tend to cut things close, to wait till the last minute. Overbuyers probably have it, but may never find it. And in the most extreme cases of overbuying, you can see seeds of OCD behaviors that lead to traps like hoarding. That’s an extreme, but a scary extreme to consider.

So, I’m going to do some thinking about how I buy, and how those choices are impacting other aspects of my life. Maybe I can find the happy middle ground, neither running out of toilet paper at an inopportune time, nor needing to build on a wing to store my bulk buys.

January ReVision

So, two weeks since my last post. Seems longer than that! How quickly my rhythm is derailed by work, travel, and life pressing in!

The first week of January was a mix of work, two days in Ketchikan, two days at the clinic in Metlakatla. I’m doing some project work there, and I try to coordinate with Rob’s schedule when he is there. We came back to Ketchikan on the 7th and traveled to California last week, to give a helping hand with a family need that is brewing. Got home last night to begin another week.

While I’ve been distracted, I’ve been out of touch with my fellow bloggers, reading many posts, but commenting on none, and I haven’t made so much as a keystroke on my WordPress site. I’ve missed it, the little community of bloggers. (My community is small; of course the overall blogging community is enormous.) This happens to me on a fairly regular basis. When I travel, I’m an infrequent writer.

But not an infrequent reader. I’m researching my next phase in life, and here’s the plan: I’m going to test my services on myself. That’s right, I’m going to be my own first client. I want to create a business that works with people and organizations to reinvent themselves. Call it a mid-course correction. Just like I need. My term for this is ReVision. That works nicely with the writing concept, which always requires revision. There are so many lovely “re” words…renew, restore, repurpose, refocus, revive, redesign…all referring to some sort of do-over. Just like I need. The other piece that works nicely is the concept of vision. I need a new vision for my life. Rob and I want to make changes in how we work, how we live. He’s fueling us while I come up with a plan.

So I’ve been mulling over how to make this happen. How do I take the life experience and the education I have and translate it to a service that helps people reinvent…ReVision….themselves? I have hazy ideas. I see potential. I need to synthesize a lot that I’ve read, a lot that I’ve experienced, and a lot of possibility. I began to think if I could do it for myself, really make the changes I need, I could do it for others.

We’re beginning a process of life mapping and I’m reading a lot, everything from Entrepreneur magazine to recent books on happiness and fulfillment.

In the meantime, I’m working on a logo, business cards, putting together content for a website. I’ve created lists and lists and more lists. I’m energized and motivated. And I’m hopeful.

And wouldn’t it be nice if I’m successful? Oh, I’d like to be financially successful. That’s part of it. But more than that, I’d like the concept to be successful. Of course, there are consulting firms and life coaches already doing this. But this particular venture would be my own, would have my unique stamp. My unique vision. I’m curious to see how it turns out. I’m curious to know how the story will unfold. I need a new vision. I need a ReVision.

Clarabell, the Christmas Cow

For a heartwarming story that has the perfect elements of Christmas…a child, animals, Santa…check out this link to Clarabell, The Christmas Cow.

For many years, my father-in-law read this story at Christmas family gatherings. We are not always with extended family at this stage in our lives. Some years the most we can do is attempt to get together with our kids. So now Rob reads this story for our little group.

If you’ve never heard of Clarabell, take a few minutes and get to know her. She’s quite a character, and more importantly, she has character. This is a story that teaches the meaning of selfless giving, and the reward of doing the right thing.

Happy reading, and Merry Christmas!

December Saturday

Saturday afternoon in Craig is a bit quiet. In a small apartment that is not my own, there isn’t much inspiration or much of a to-do list. I’ve got some writing projects I’m working on, but I can only focus for so long at one stretch.

One of my favorite things to do when I’m ready for a break is to catch up on reading. I read blogs, read email, pull up a book in progress on my Kindle. I sometimes look for new quotes and inspiration for blog posts. Inspiration comes from everywhere…and inspiration is whatever catches my interest, makes me smile, the thing that touches my heart or rouses my curiosity.

This week I saw this (thanks to my friend Doug):

Religion is a guy at church thinking about fishing. Worship is a guy out fishing thinking about God. ~ John Fischer

And I found this:

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I always wonder if the quotes I post resonate with others or if they seem trite or simplistic. But whatever…they speak to me, and if these words don’t speak to you…well, that’s just the difference in people. Not right, not wrong, just different.

Words are powerful; they have the ability to heal and encourage. Words can also be negative. I’m careful about what I allow to lodge in my thoughts. I would rather have a store of sayings and quotes in my head that can add to my support when I need it, whether they sound corny or not. The truth is that just as we are what we eat, we also are (or become) what we think.

I don’t always feel positive. Who does? No one I know. But I’m learning, I’m growing, one phrase at a time, one encouraging story at a time.

Quiet Saturdays…well, with a good book in hand, or with an Internet connection…you can find inspiration. It isn’t geographic, you know. Inspiration is everywhere. Hope you find some in your world, wherever you are.

Things I’ve learned

In the past few months, I’ve learned (or re-learned):

~ I’m not too old to be a risk-taker!

~ I have no interest in creating cake pops.

~ I’m a writer!

~ I like chalk board paint on lots of surfaces.

~ I am not into re-purposing T shirts for other garments or crafts.

~ I have a limited tolerance for drama.

~ I’m really good at recognizing a great idea and copying it.

~ I don’t have a big ego, I like to share credit.

~ I’m a mentor in the right settings.

~ Green onions really do grow when you put them root down in a glass of water. Who knew?!

~ I’m always on the hunt for the perfect brownie and the perfect bread recipe.

~ Never write the end of the story in your head before the real story ends…you never know how things will turn out, and frequently the real story will be very different from the version you thought was unfolding.

~ True grace is unfailing and doesn’t ask to be repaid.

~ You can’t have too much shrimp in your freezer!

~ Books that spoke to you once will speak to you again. Reread and see what new things you learn.

~ When you know you have freely chosen, you don’t resent or regret the work it takes to make your choice work out.

~ Doing the right thing reinforces every other right choice you make.

~ Love means saying you’re sorry whenever you need to say the words.

~ I am stronger than I see myself.

~ Winston said it best: Never give up!

Date night

Last night Rob and I had a date. Tuesday night, nothing particularly special about it. But we made it special. We made it movie night, grocery night, talk night.

Last year I read the book, The Help, and like so many, loved it for its humor and touches of tragedy, yet over-riding triumph of the human spirit. It is a wonderful story of awakening minds, standing up for what is right, and the dignity of spirit that can’t be diminished by work or position, however lowly those may be. Character shines through.

Ketchikan has a two-screen theater, but I’ve noticed that we’re consistently behind the rest of the world by about six weeks with movie release dates. So while everyone else was seeing this movie back in August, we are only just now seeing it in October.

I grew up in Mississippi. But I’m happy to say that I didn’t witness the types of scenes that the movie portrays. I know they happened. I’ve heard stories here and there. But I didn’t grow up with a maid in my home. So I can relate to some things, and yet I can’t.

The southern accents, the homes, so much of the movie rang true to me. Although I don’t remember the specific historic time (I was a bit young, less than three years old when the events in the movie occurred), the general look and feel seemed authentic. Some of the events really happened, of course. Medgar Evers was killed in June of 1963. The civil rights movement wasn’t an era to be studied in a history class, it was a current event. There are other signs of the times that seem strange viewed from 2011: the hairstyles, the dress, the cars. In several scenes people are smoking. But it isn’t the smoking itself that catches the attention: it’s the location. In one scene, a receptionist at the local newspaper office is smoking, on the job, during work hours. That would never happen today. The painful discussions of the practical side of segregation would not occur today. No one is sending sanitation initiatives to government officials in 2011.

But the best parts of the movie are the timeless bits: the scenes that show people living up to what is best in themselves, challenging others to see the value of humans, not of color; and recognition of the most basic values of life. Children, women, the elderly, minorities, and the poor are all celebrated in this film. But it is not done in a condescending or patronizing way. The emphasis is on the worth of people in general, the recognition that all have value and a contribution to make.

The film is also about redemption and growth. The main characters all grow throughout the story, and we are allowed to see them shifting their opinions, embracing a different view of life. In the end, the movie is about claiming the potential we have, and treating people right along the way.

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Love that Kindle!

If you haven’t checked out Amazon’s free Kindle books, you’re missing out on real treasure…everything from classic novels and non-fiction to obscure how-to guides; from essays on religions and myths of ancient civilizations to philosophy and poetry; from naturalists’ and historians’ guides to children’s literature. There’s something for everyone, instantly down-loadable, free, and accessible through pretty much any digital device you can think of. Amazon offers free Kindle applications for PCs, Macs, phones, tablets, and of course, you can purchase the Kindle device if you prefer that route. Best of all, whatever you download will appear on any of your Kindle apps. Purchases update wirelessly, so no connecting of everything. It’s like magic.

Another fun thing I stumbled across, accessible through links on Kindle, is Open Library and other resources for free downloads, or for free lending services. See here. (Scroll down to see all the links.)

If books aren’t enough, this link offers access to archived internet pages.
Learn more.
Also here. Found this by following a digital path from Amazon. I love that this company shares this kind of information, and it’s just one of the many reasons I’m a huge Amazon fan.

I’ll never completely give up buying “real” books, because sometimes there is a book so beautiful, or so meaningful, that I have to have an actual printed version in hand. But with all the availability of digital downloads, and the wealth of free material, I can fill a lot of reading time catching up on classics I never got around to in school, or exploring obscure works that catch my interest.

Summer reading lists? In addition to the best sellers, you might want to see what you’ve been missing that is just slightly more dated…Amazon offers almost 16,000 free titles here and if that isn’t enough to keep you busy, there are lending library options that offer free access to books for a limited time before you “return” the book, all done digitally…don’t ask me how, I just follow the links and click.

Enjoy the exploration! It’s entertaining to browse the lists and links, and to accumulate a personal library that’s on hand any time you find yourself waiting in a line, vacationing at the beach, or having a restless night. With all the options, a good read is as easy to find as your laptop or phone. And all those titles you always meant to read? Well, what are you waiting for?!

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What would I take?

I’m sometimes inspired by other blog authors. It’s amazing what a variety of topics people blog about, some of a serious nature, some funny. There are how-to blogs, travel and cooking blogs; parenting and relationship blogs. Some are written as essays. Others have a kind of gritty reality that can be a little unnerving if the subject matter is also gritty.

Now and then I run across a reference to a website that I have to check out for myself. I recently found a website, http://theburninghouse.com/ that poses the challenge to readers: if your house is on fire, what would you save? After you sort that out in your mind, you gather the items and make a photo and submit, along with your list, to the site.

I scanned a few of the entries. As you might expect, the items in some lists seemed randomly chosen. In others, there were the more the practical and sentimental objects most people would select. The photos are interesting. Do you think you could put into one photo the MOST important things (not including people or pets, this is about STUFF) in your home?

I challenged myself to work through this exercise. Not only would it be useful, just in case my house should be on fire and I happen to be around to secure my items to save; but also, thinking it out would help me to assign priority and value. Surely that would be worthwhile.

Turns out, not too much made my list of the essentials. I would grab my purse (has all my cards, id, planner, phone); my iPad; some favorite portraits of my children and family; my jewelry; my recipe collection that has the handwritten and tried and true treasures I’ve accumulated over my adult lifetime; my Bible I’ve had since high school; important documents; a few favorite old books; and a handful of items that I have sentimental attachment to…a few things from family, and from my kids’ childhood. That’s it. The furniture I love, the decorative items, clothing, framed art, kitchen stuff, china, knick-knacks…it’s all good, all meaningful to me. But would I save it from a burning house? No.

So what is really important? Mostly, I would save the things that represent the people that are important in my life: my husband, my children, my family. The portraits and few items that I would save for sentimental reasons are important because I can’t replace them…portraits of my children from years ago, or my wedding, or of family that is no longer here. The books are writings that have been old friends to me for many years, that have taught me and sustained me. The jewelry that I own is not so much valuable as it is meaningful: each piece was given to me by my husband or my parents, or my children. The recipes are full of memories of people who have shared with me, and who have had a place in my life.

Now, to collect everything and make a photo…what would you save? I challenge you to think it through. Hopefully no one has to find out the hard way if this is truly useful…I certainly don’t need a house on fire to help me know what’s important. But it gives context to the question, and gives me insight to myself as I walk through the house and craft my answer.

Story People

I love this:

I read once that the ancient Egyptians had fiftty words for sand & the Eskimos had a hundred words for snow. I wish I had a thousand words for love, but all that comes to mind is the way you move against me while you sleep & there are no words for that.                       Brian Andreas, Trusting Soul

Do you know this artist and poet? I first saw his work several years ago and was charmed by his words. Some are profound, others funny. And there are some pieces that I don’t get at all. But the ones that resonate…they’re magic.

Here’s another one:

I finally got to exactly where I wanted to be, she said, so why won’t all these growth experiences go away & leave me alone?

Or this one:

I’m not that good at being a tourist because I’m always looking at the way the light shines in your hair or the way your dress opens to the wind & my favorite places in the world are places filled with you.

Another personal favorite:

I’m feeling overdressed, she said & he held her close & said as far as he was concerned she was always that way & her eyes glowed softly in the light of his desire

I have seen him in Hawaiian shirts she said, so there is nothing hidden between us

Rob sometimes wears Hawaiian shirts (only beautiful and tasteful, of course! But I say this last bit to him anyway).

And a final excerpt:

There are things you do because they feel right & they make no sense & they make no money & it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other & to eat each other’s cooking & say it was good.

All of these quotes are from the same book, Trusting Soul. But there are many books and pieces of art, frameable, 3-D, etc., available. Get your own, read the whole thing, see if you’re charmed. Check out the website: http://www.storypeople.com/storypeople/Home.do