Life Goes On

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View at Short Pump Mall, Richmond, Virginia

Gretchen Rubin has often said:

The days are long, but the years are short.
I realized that part of why I’m not blogging is that I’ve been busy with so many other things. It’s not good or bad, it’s a season in life.

Last year, my favorite boy toy and I traveled extensively, both in-state and out-of-state. Some of the trips were to see our daughter, grandsons, and bestest son-in-law. One trip was to see my Dad and family in Texas. But mostly we wandered.

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My daughter and oldest grandson

I took nearly 2500 pictures last year, often with my cell phone. It’s always on me, it takes reasonably good pictures, and it’s easier to post to Facebook later.

Continue reading “Life Goes On”

2015 Word – Create

House Taken at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia
Winter Scene at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia

Creativity should be an everyday experience.
Creativity should be as common as breathing.
We breathe, therefore, we create.
– Erwin Raphael McManus in the book, “The Artisan Soul”

2015 – Create!

For 2015, my word is CREATE.  Not nurture (like nurturing my creativity theme last October), practice (everything I’ve learned) or even creativity.  No, the word is create.

I took a number of classes last year – on photography, journaling, and being creative.  I took them to learn and have fun, both of which I accomplished.

But the time has come to just create.  Not to worry whether I’ve learned the techniques good enough or if there’s another something to learn.  It’s time to use it all and show it off to the world.  To not be intimidated as to who might be better than me, whether I’m worthy enough, or whether I’m even good enough.

I need to sharpen my focus, cut back on the classes and possibly other activities.  To create – whether writing up my blog, taking pictures or post processing pictures.  To create – keeping my journals, telling my stories, and writing up my observations each day.  To create – in each and every facet of my life, every day, every way that I can.

How will I do this?

Continue reading “2015 Word – Create”

Time For Tea

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Dark chocolate covered marshmallows with sea salted caramel tea. Picture is stylized using Topaz Impressions.

You’re invited to a virtual tea time!  I’d call it by its real name – PARTY – but in the wisdom of our politicians in this country, the name has been corrupted and I don’t feel like a bunch of landings on this page because people are looking for “the” tea party instead of “a” tea party.

So.  Welcome!  I’ve been wanting to do a tea for a while with all of you.  This will be fun!

What kind of tea would you like?  I have a plain black tea, grown in India, called Tiger Hill.  There’s also a caffeinated chocolate tea that’s not too chocolaty and has no added sweetener to make it sugary.  Or would you prefer decaf such as a blueberry rooibos or sea salt caramel?  No, no sugar added to either of them although they do have some natural sweetness.

And I have some chocolate to go with your tea.  No, sorry, no cookies today.  I didn’t get around to it.  I have almond toffee, truffles, or dark chocolate covered marshmallows.  One of each?  Yes, that’s what I’m having too.  As an aside, my love for those dark chocolate marshmallows goes way back, which I wrote up here.

Were you planning on reading while you slowly sip your tea or did you want to visit?  I know it’s a bit harder to visit over the Internet, but that’s what we do when we leave comments for each other and chat back and forth.

If you want to read, do something fun!  Some inspirational websites are Marc and Angel Hack LifeThe Happiness Project or The Daily Motivator.  If you don’t like the topic at the top, search down the sides for links to other posts.  Or get yourself a Sherlock Holmes pastiche on your Kindle / Nook.  Per Google, a pastiche is “an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another work, artist, or period”.  In this case, the authors are imitating Dr. John Watson and some of them do a really good job of it too.  They are mostly short stories and you can easily finish one or two during your tea break.  I particularly liked the ones by Hugh Ashton, although June Thomson and Steven Ehrman are very good also.

One last item – why don’t you keep a pen and paper at the table with you?  If you’re anything like me, at some point your mind will start running off with everything you forgot to do, call, or take care of.  If this happens, note them down so you can release them from your mind and relax for a few minutes.  And turn off the phone while you’re at it.  That’s your first note – remember to turn the phone back on.

Almond toffee, a truffle and blueberry rooibos tea.
Almond toffee, a truffle and Tiger Hill black tea.  A perfect combination.  Picture is stylized with Topaz Effects.

So get your tea, a small sweet treat, and something to read.  Blow on your tea to cool it, then start sipping.  Read a few sentences, take a few more sips.  Repeat.  Every few sips, take a nibble of your treat.  Just sit and relax.  Enjoy the taste of the tea and the taste of your treat.  Ahhhhh. . . isn’t that good?  Do you need to close your eyes for a few minutes and relax even more?  Please do so.  In fact, do so and think some happy thoughts.  But drink a little more tea before you close your eyes.

Now reflect.

Think fondly of the last thing you laughed at or smiled at.  Yes, the dogs are always a good choice for finding laughter.

What are you proud of at this  moment?  Proudest of this year?  Don’t worry if you can’t answer this.  You’re here to relax and have fun for a few minutes.  Move on to one of the other questions instead.

What is going right for you at this time in your life?  There’s always something to be grateful for, even if it’s small.

What are you looking forward to?

Remember, if your mind is running amuck, write it down so you remember it later.  Then let it go.

So sit, nibble, read, and relax.

Do it until your tea is gone, the house is exploding (imploding?) or you have to get back to life.

Taking a break is a great way for me to nurture my creativity.  I hope you enjoyed your break as well!

Now aren’t you in a better mood?


To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

#write31days

 

 

My One Thing – Storytelling My Life

Path to Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine
Path to Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine

Pick a direction, start marching down that path and
see how you like it.  Time brings clarity and if you find
you don’t like it, you can always change your mind.
It’s your life.
– Gary Keller & Jay Papasan, The One Thing

The Short Version

After reading “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan (see my notes on it here), I realized that my ONE Thing is storytelling my life.  Being a writer is too narrow for my life and being a photographer is also too limited.  I desire both and need both to achieve what I want, which is to record and curate my life.

I first read about curating my life on Gretchen Rubin’s blog (here), particularly her comment from a book that said, “self-curate or disappear”.  She expands on this with these questions, all of which I answered “yes” to:

How about you? Do you “self-curate”?
What steps do you take to preserve memories,
to catalog memorabilia, to leave a record of your life,
thoughts, experiences, and to review it?
Do you do it for yourself, or with an eye to an audience?

Wikipedia says curation is, “archiving, historical record keeping”, and that “in general, archives consist of records that have been selected for permanent or long-term preservation on grounds of their enduring cultural, historical, or evidentiary value. Archival records are normally unpublished and almost always unique, unlike books or magazines for which many identical copies exist. This means that archives are quite distinct from libraries with regard to their functions and organization”.

This is what I do with my journals and photographs.  I keep a historical record of my life that is mostly unpublished and mostly unique, for which no identical copies exist.

No Longer A Writer

I realized earlier this year that being a writer no longer fit me, way before I started contemplating my one thing.  In my journal, I wrote:

What about not being a writer?

I’m okay with that.

I don’t want to be in front of the computer for long periods of time, just staring at it.

I really really hate the thought of writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting all those drafts.  I’d rather watch grass grow – at least I’d be outside!

My imagination / observation is not up to that of authors.  I read all the details they put in to bring a story to life and it just blows past me.  I skip over a fair of that, which is NOT helping develop my skills as a writer either.  But if I find it interferes with the enjoyment of the story, I’d find it tedious to no end to actually write.

My life experience is actually pretty limited to be a writing what goes on in my Walter Mitty imagination.  My real life is narrow and boring with few opportunities to experience what I daydream about.  In other words, I would write without authority or knowledge.  I suppose I could obtain such knowledge through research but my time is limited, my energy is low, and my desire to do so is non-existent.

And the photography? It’s easier for me, goes faster, I have my favorite boy toy as a resource,  and people would rather look at picture than read something thoughtful anyhow.

So I guess I want to keep my journals, but for now, nothing more beyond that.

After I wrote that, I stared at it for a couple of days, then grieved.  I wasn’t ready to give up being a writer, something I thought all my life I would do.  So I decided to not give it up.

And a few days later realized that yes, this door was closed for now.  It really was good to decide that I’m not a writer.

Not Only a Photographer Either

As the summer went on, I realized that I didn’t want to be just a photographer either.  It would have been easy enough to convert my blog to mostly photographs.  I’m capable of some really good work and have enough inventory that I could post a daily picture for a fairly lengthy period before I’d run out of ideas.

But that didn’t suit me either.  Just as being a writer was too limiting, being only a photographer didn’t contribute enough.

Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine
Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine

Being a Storyteller

That’s when I realized that I wanted to tell stories from my life, with both writing and photography.  They complement each other and together give a fuller, more rounded story, the story of me.  Something to remember my life by and hopefully pass to generations after me.

Per Wikipedia, “storytelling is a means for sharing and interpreting experiences”, which is what I want to do.

Margaret Heffernan wrote an article in Inc. about a narrative template for storytelling, called ABT, that said:

So if you start with your information (And)
but only pile on information, you lose momentum
and a sense of destination. So you have to
move on to your challenges (But) and then
imagine a resolution (Therefore).

I haven’t overly focused on technique, but it matches what I try to do.  I make a point, share from my life how I executed (or failed) and why it was important to me.  As with anything, it doesn’t work everytime, but I get (and appreciate) the comments that you all are relating to many things that I post in my blog.

As I’m writing this, I did some research on Google about storytelling techniques.  Needless to say, there are all kinds of hints and tips out there.  Storyteller.net had a useful list of tips for those telling verbal stories that also applies to what I’m doing.  Two particularly good reminders were to tell stories that I like and to not hesitate to remove slow moving parts.  Amanda Lewan’s blog post is directed to the fiction writer, but she has a good reminder to show, don’t tell.

I’ve been working on this approach for a while and need to continue honing my skill at storytelling my life.  For now though, for my creative side, this is my ONE Thing.  Identifying it and writing it out nurtures my creativity by giving me focus and helping me prioritize my time and efforts.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

#write31days

Baby Bump

There are four stages for enjoying a happy event:
— anticipation (looking forward to it)
— savoring (enjoying it in the moment)
— expression (sharing your pleasure with others)
— reflection (looking back on happy times –
  which is why it may be a good idea to take pictures,
  keep a one-sentence journal, collect mementos, etc.)
– Gretchen Rubin
Author, The Happiness Project

Here are the much requested photos of the baby bump!  And I had to get my daughter in a lobster bib. . . not once, but twice!  And oh, look – Junior wanted some blueberry pie to eat.  Yum!

How do you like that baby bump?  What’s that you say?  She’s starting her sixth month and that’s it?  Yep, that’s it.  Of course being as tall as she is helps quite a bit, plus all her exercise and fitness.  I’m 6″ shorter; by that point in my pregnancy I looked like I swallowed a volleyball.

She’s looking good though and she felt good for the trip.  I had warned her that I’d be taking pictures, so she was a good sport about it.

As for nurturing my creativity, some nights it’s fun to just sit and work on photos.  It’s fun (and nurturing) to look through them, process them without a lot of correction, and simply enjoy reliving the moment they were taken.  The quote above was from Gretchen Rubin’s blog and the post can be read in its entirety here.  Tonight was expression and reflection of a happy memory and fun with my daughter before the baby comes.

I’m not sure which one is my favorite, but I think her holding the blueberry pie is the one I like best.  She has such a pretty expression on her face!

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

#write31days

Creativity Versus Needing Sleep

My daughter and I together in Bar Harbor, Maine
My daughter and I together in Bar Harbor, Maine (I’m holding a blueberry hot tea that was delicious)

I had fun with my daughter these last few days, but after a late night flight yesterday and working all day today, the best thing I can do to nurture my creativity is go to bed at a decent time. In her blog, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin writes repeatedly about the importance of enough sleep.  One of her best posts is here, where she shares how a lack of sleep creates problems for her and tips for getting better sleep. There are multiple reasons I need to be careful about getting enough sleep.  It impacts my desire and patience with being creative, especially if I just don’t feel like doing it.  Getting enough sleep helps with other things as well:

  • I’m in the middle of tax season right now, so I have to be on my best game at work.  Many decisions, large and small, are getting made all day long.  These state income tax returns are more problematic than usual due to a large divestiture that my employer had in 2013 (which is public knowledge).
  • Discouragement is usually a physical issue for me.  The days I’m the most discouragement and feeling defeated correlate directly to how tired I am.  Tuesdays are generally the worst day of the week for me too.  So when I’m talking particularly nasty to myself, feeling hopeless or overwhelmed, or not coping very well with stress, I need to stop and ask a) is it Tuesday today? and b) am I just tired?  By the way, when I ask if it’s Tuesday today, it might be Monday or Wednesday instead.  Sometimes my Tuesday comes a day early or later, but it helps if I can identify that Tuesday is happening on a day when I’m down.  So Tuesday, in this context, is a verb and not a proper noun.
  • I’m happier and enjoy life much more.  I’m easier to be with, it takes less effort for me to spread cheer and kindness to others, and my little corner of the world is just better if I’m in a good mood.  And a happier “me” makes for a better blogger as well.

I haven’t downloaded pictures from the weekend yet.  I tried to get some baby bump pictures, which I will share.  But my daughter isn’t showing much yet!  She finds it amusing that my friends want to see what she looks like.  Of course, she’s 6″+ taller than I am, so I’m not surprised she looks pudgy instead of pregnant as she finishes her fifth month of pregnancy.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

#write31days

31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity

White crab spider on a lantana at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia
White crab spider on a lantana at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia

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Nothing feeds the center of being so much as creative work.
– Anne Morrow Lindbergh
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The things you do every day take on a certain beauty, and provide a kind of invisible architecture to daily life. – Gretchen Rubin
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Welcome to my landing page for 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity.  If you want to see my posts for the month, jump to the bottom!  There are also links to posts I’ve done previously about creativity.

Why I Am Doing This

Several months ago, I questioned whether I was doing enough to nurture my creativity.  By the time I finished writing my post, I decided that I was doing better than I thought, but not as good as I wanted to be doing.

In September, I participated in the 30 Days of Lists.  I posted a few of them to share, then realized that I’d rather spend that time working on my photography.  I did my lists everyday in my paper journal and thoroughly enjoyed it.  All that changed was I chose to not share it so frequently.  Instead, I worked on my pictures every night.

My Vision (Because Everyone Needs a Quest)

I intend to continue this nurturing of my creativity for the next 31 days.  Some of my posts might be simply the photographs I worked on that evening (with before and after examples), others will be longer as I record what is inspiring me or influencing my creativity.

It helps me to set out expectations when I start something.  I can always adjust them along the way, but it helps me frame up a project and what I need to do to accomplish it.

My expectations are:

  • It will focus me on my photography and writing
  • My creativity will be nurtured and strengthened
  • To continue with the routine of working every night doing something for my creativity (for more on how a routine makes it easier to get something done, check out Gretchen Rubin’s post – Why I Try To Do Some Things Every Day, Without Exception)
Why am I sharing how I nurture my creativity?

  • To encourage my readers to nurture their own creativity, whatever it is
  • To give my readers things to consider for their own application to their creative processes
  • To practice nurturing myself with evidence of it
  • To give me a body of work for my own future reference and encouragement
Details Behind 31 Days
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I’m participating in a challenge called 31 Days:  A Writing Challenge, Every October, Every Day.  It’s an interesting idea – I choose my topic, put in a one-time link, and post every day.  The challenge is to go deeper into one topic for the  month.  As I considered whether to do this, I read over some of the bloggers who participated in 2013 and there is some incredibly good stuff out there.  The topics are all over, from cooking to faith to crafts of all kinds, and changes in home or behavior.  They all shared a desire to do something for 31 days and write about it.
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Prequel Posts
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To help get you started, here are some past posts on nurturing creativity:
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 Creativity vs. Craft

 Nurturing My Creativity. . . Not

 What Inspires Me

 Special Photo Challenge:  Inspiration

 Inspired for Creativity

Sharing a Passion For Photography

Working Back From Discouragement – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & Part 4
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Index of Posts

Day 2 – Weekly Photo Challenge:  Nighttime (Processing A Night Photo)
Day 4 – Weekly Photo Challenge:  Signs (Trying out Topaz Labs filters)
Day 12 – Foodie Tour! (in which I try blogging from my cell phone)
Day 14 – Weekly Photo Challenge – Dreamy (thoughts on being a more creative photographer)
Day 17 – Got Rust? (trying something different with my photos)
Day 21 – Baby Bump
Day 30 – Time For Tea
Day 31 – 31 Days Wrap-Up

Books Everyone Should Read

The greenhouse at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia
The greenhouse at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia

So. . . is there a difference between recommending books that I think everyone should read and my favorite books?  I would say yes.  There are books that I think have tremendous value to shape our lives and influence our thoughts, but they are not necessarily favorites of mine.  Many of these are favorites, but some are books that I think are worth reading even if I’d prefer to not read them again.  So here is yesterday’s list from 30 Days of Lists:

  1. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin – my very favorite book.  I liked how Gretchen improved the happiness with her life (without spending a lot of money to do lavish things) and how honest she was about what did and did not work for her.  I tried a number of things myself after reading her book and kept the ones that worked.
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  2. The Creativity Book by Eric Maisel.  This was my first exposure to the idea that everyone is creative, no matter what we do in life.  Seriously, even accountants can be creative, although that’s easier to believe in the last ten years after all the fraud scandals!  The book has daily exercises to improve your creativity.  It’s not about writing, photography, or anything we would normally consider to be “creative”.  It’s about living right where we are and being creative in that space.
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  3. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.  It’s a hard book to read and has major sections that you get through only by rapidly skimming it.  Still, the lessons are incredible.  The two big eye openers for me was that I have to work for what I want and not expect anyone to give it to me (from when Dagney Taggert met John Galt in the valley) and that arrangements between spouses are nobody else’s business.  I thought that was incredibly insightful of Ms. Rand to acknowledge that there is value in women staying home and not “making money” and that such arrangements were between them and their husbands.  This served me well years later when I encouraged my favorite boy toy to quit his day job and pursue his art.  As far as I was concerned, it was no one’s business what the arrangement was between us.
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  4. Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane.  I actually quit reading Dennis Lehane’s books for a long time after reading this book.  [SPOILER ALERT] The book has a powerful lesson in it though, that we can do what is right legally and morally, but the end result devastates everyone and was a mistake to do.  I still struggle to reconcile that to my faith in God, yet I’ve seen it happen.  There are times when a judgment call needs to be made and things done because it is the right outcome, not because it’s the right law.
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  5. Walden by Henry David Thoreau.  I’m amazed at the people who slam this book even though they’ve not actually read it.  It’s not an easy read and Thoreau is self-righteous and condescending in many places.  But whether you agree with what he writes or not, it’s thought provoking and will cause readers to examine their lives and beliefs.  If after that you don’t agree with him, at least know why you think and act the way you do.  For example, one of the things that Thoreau comments on is the need to live simpler lives.  My favorite boy toy and I clearly do not do that.  But I’m comfortable with that and that our lives are richer for not stripping down to absolute basics.  For more of my thoughts on that, see my blog post on why I don’t travel lightly.
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  6. Laura Ingalls Wilder – all of her books.  Although the books are an idealized fictional account of her growing up, it gives an easy-to-read insight into growing up in frontier America, what families did to feed and provide for themselves, and how families interacted with each other and their neighbors.
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  7. James Herriott – his first four books (All Creatures Great and Small; All Things Bright and Beautiful; All Things Wise and Wonderful; and The Lord God Made Them All).  These books are also a fictional account, but here it’s of a small town vet, loosely based on Herriott’s life.  However, there are a lot of life lessons in here, from dealing with difficult people and patients, paying attention to what he was doing, and being diligent even when things went wrong.
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  8. Tolstoy and The Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch.  After the death of her sister, Nina spent a year reading a book a day and blogging about it.  This book is more than moving on from grieving or even about reading.  To quote the book review that I did here, it is also about celebrating the life we each have to live.

Rose from the botanical gardens
Rose from the botanical gardens

I didn’t list The Holy Bible here.  I went back and forth on that.  Clearly it has value and everyone should read it for themselves, preferably the whole thing too.  But to me, the Bible is just a starting point.  Actually executing on it is difficult and takes a lifetime of figuring out what to do and how to do it.

I could add so many more books!  But this was what came to mind when I did the list, for the reasons that I’ve listed.

I’m interested in hearing what you – my wonderful and faithful readers – would add as a book (or books) that you recommend everyone should read.  Of if you’ve read one of these, what you thought of it and did it change your life?
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Books are a uniquely portable magic.

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

I can never read all the books I want;
I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want.
I can never train myself in all the skills I want.
And why do I want? I want to live and
feel all the shades, tones and variations of
mental and physical experience possible in life.
And I am horribly limited.
Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

#30Lists

Engraving Our Heart

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said,

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.

I think Emerson’s comment above is a great one for engraving on our heart.  Every day IS the best day in the year.  There will be days, of course, when we can’t make that happen.  But in general, every day should be the best day in the year.  That’s what we have is today – today to live, to love, to enjoy our life.  No matter how crummy the day, something good happened at some point, from a random act of kindness to an unexpected blessing.

At the beginning of 2011, I used an exercise in my journals that asked these four questions each day:

  1. What was the best part of today?
  2. How did I feel after writing that?
  3. What was the best moment?
  4. How do I incorporate this into my life?

On January 2, I wrote:

Best Part of the Day – Eating breakfast at Cracker Barrel with my favorite boy toy.  He was so relaxed, as was I.  We talked about all kinds of things (written about above).  He was so smiley and happy for nearly the entire breakfast.  The fire on my back was warm, the restaurant was not overly crowded, the food was fixed good and tasted good.  The Christmas tree is down, but the pine needle garland and red bows are still on the fireplace.

Thoughts on the Exercise – Bit hectic.  Not sure if I will keep doing this long-term.

Best Moment – My favorite boy toy agreeing to go to Starbucks so I could write for a while someplace different than at home.

Incorporating Into My Life – I need to enjoy precious moments and good moods while they are here.  So often either he or I are tired and crabby and unfortunately, our mood impacts each other.

Within a few more days of the exercise, I realized that the best part of many days was having breakfast with my favorite boy toy.  As the year has gone, we’ve made it a point to go out for breakfast several days a week before I go to work.  There are so many advantages to it.  We’re fresh and relaxed, leading to better conversations and less bickering.  The day hasn’t started yet, so we have patience for whatever is being discussed, from galleries for his art work to how many days we spend visiting our child.

Gretchen Rubin’s experiment that resulted in the book, The Happiness Project, consciously undertook to make each day a best day.  So did Ann Voskamp in her book, One Thousand Gifts.  Both are worthy of reading if you want to improve your contentment with your life as it is right now.

An unknown author once wrote,

We can’t adjust the wind, but we can adjust the sails.

And that is something within our control – adjusting our attitude towards life.  For other ideas on this topic, check out Leo Babauto’s entry on 10 Simple, Sure-fire Ways To Make Today The Best Day Ever.

This picture is from earlier this fall, taken when we drove a bridge over a bay that went out to the Atlantic Ocean.  It was part of a series, another of which is posted here.

© 2011 dogear6 llc

Word for tomorrow – TRANSMIT.  If you prefer to work ahead, see the list for the week under “A Word A Day”.