A Spring Walk

Several weekends ago, I took a lovely walk at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. Not surprisingly, I came home with over 300 photos. It was so much fun! There was so much to see and marvel over.  I felt like I could oohhh and aahhh over the flowers all afternoon long.

The beautiful spring came;
when Nature resumes her loveliness,
the human soul is apt to revive also.
Harriet Ann Jacobs

It was colorful everywhere and my happiness soared just to see it all. The paths were an invitation – come walk me and see what’s here. Explore what’s new. Enjoy the present moment.

Let us decide on the route that we wish to take to pass our life,
and attempt to sow that route with flowers.
Madame du Châtelet

Colors matched and colors clashed. Flowers were tall and short, with individuality just like the many people with whom I interact. But they were all beautiful – the jumble was eye catching.

Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!”
Robin Williams

The fields of daffodils from several weeks ago have already died back, but new daffodils have taken their place. These were quite different though – double blooms, white on white, and a flat faced one.

I thought of how quickly this year is going already. It seems only a few days ago that I was blogging about my accomplishments last year and my goals for 2012. Like the days of our lives, the daffodils are also coming and going quickly. By the time I return, these will be gone also and replaced by something else.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
 They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth

Of course, these daffodil pictures weren’t yellow, but the azaleas were. I’d never seen yellow azaleas before, but I looked it up on the Internet and yep, they can be that color. The flowers have as much variety as the days of our lives and remind me to embrace the differences that each day brings, to enjoy them for what they are as the days fly by.

Spring—an experience in immortality.
Henry D. Thoreau

There was peacefulness everywhere, even for this mallard drake as he pedaled around the pond. There’s nothing magical about a duck of course – they’re ordinary as can be – but they’re fun to watch.  The iridescent green of their head feather glint in the sun, a pretty decoration as a consolation prize for their ungainly bodies.

I liked the texture of the waves and could look at this picture indefinitely. It’s a good vision to have on the days that I need to calm down and relax. Not, of course, that ever happens to me at work or home :)

This is the day the LORD has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

I have more pictures, but I think that’s enough for now.  I challenge you to look for beauty in everything, from the ordinary to the spectacular.  Be mindful, pay attention to the present moment, and live your life fully.

Other walks are posted for January, MarchOctober, and November.

Daybook Entry – February 28

FOR TODAY – Tuesday, 2/28/12

Right now I am. . . at Cracker Barrel, waiting for my breakfast to come as I stare at the fire.  I scored a front row seat and have a great view of the warm, crackling flames.

I am wearing. . . my black dress pants and dress shoes.  I don’t think I’ll be walking during lunch today, otherwise I’d have on my dressy black gym shoes.  I also am wearing a long-sleeve, pink turtleneck t-shirt.  That plus my black sweater will keep me warm at my desk during the day today.

I am creating. . . a 2011 family photo album from the multitude of pictures that I took last year.  I’m meeting a friend later today for coffee and he wants to see family pictures.  I’ve pulled together enough to share with him, but now that I’ve done a first draft, there’s much more I can do with it.  Nothing is labeled, but if you want to see last year, it’s here along the right side.  Towards the end are pictures from the short trips we took last year – Willliamsburg, Chadds Ford, and Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.

I am going. . . to have a good day.  I don’t know why – I just feel that I am.  This is really nice to be in such a good mood before work, to feel relaxed and that all is well in my life at this moment.  Not that my brain hasn’t stopped working since. . .

I am wondering. . . how to pay down our many bills even with my bonus, whether I really want to invest the time or money to go to the writer’s conference, and what further changes I need in my daily routines to exercise more, write more, and remain diligent at work.

I am reading. . . “Home: What It Means and Why It Matters” by Mary Gordon.  The first half was great and I felt had many good points about why home is important.  The second half though has become preachy and whiney and I feel like I’m reading a different book.

I am hoping. . . for some answered prayers about my life.  I am hoping a situation at work smooths out for a co-worker who is struggling right now.  I am hoping to keep up the swimming and new yoga workouts as I do feel better for it.

I am looking forward to. . . seeing my friend this afternoon.  We’ve known each other since before our children were born, when he was doing some consulting for me early in my career.  We see each other every few years and it’s always fun to catch up on our families and jobs.  He recently retired and has gone on to a new career and I am looking forward to hearing his excitement about it.

I am learning. . . how to use a piece of writing software called Scrivener for which I will post a review this week at A Daily Life.  I’m also learning some new yoga moves from a set of CD’s put out by Yoga Journal for a 21 day challenge.  I couldn’t do day 1 even with rewinding it multiple times.  I finally skipped ahead to day 2 and did much better.

Around the house. . . the new dog beds are shedding fleece everywhere.  The laundry fairy came (me).  My new computer is upstairs (the old iMac from my favorite boy toy’s office), but the Internet reception is so poor as to be non-existent.  We’ve called Verizon about this before and they have no solutions.  I think we’ll have to go to Best Buy and see if they have some way to boost the signal.

I am pondering. . . how I could memorialize Leap Day this year.  I don’t want to let it go without even acknowledging it.  Unfortunately, it will probably be a day like every other day.

A favorite quote for today. . .

 “Remember, just because something doesn’t last forever
doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth your while.”

Marc & Angel Hack Life

One of my favorite things. . . are my books.  Over the weekend, I went through and made two small piles of books I want to reread this year and books I’d like to reread when I have time.  I’ll list them out when I update my progress on my goals.

A few plans for the rest of the week. . . I’m doing some training on using our software at work. The younger staff has all kinds of questions, so it’s easier to get them all together over lunch.  I’m also getting ready for a tax audit next week.  I’ve not worked with this auditor before, but she’s been good to deal with on the phone so far.

And that’s the day so far!

2011 Blog Review

Wow, I cannot believe New Year’s Eve is here already.  So, how did I do with my blog?  Here’s an interview with myself:

Why did you start the random word challenge?  One of my personal goals this year was to write, write, write,  Seriously, that’s how I set the goal.  I’d tried on-line journaling before in a different forum, but never got any traction.  I was impressed with the quality of the blogs I’d been following and wanted to try it again.  When I found the random word challenge, it appealed to me as a way to start blogging and have to show up every day.

Describe the state of your blog at the time you started the challenge.  I’d set up “Living The Seasons” in 2008 but never did anything with it.  Prior to starting the challenge, I’d done a few posts in early 2011 but nothing consistent.

How did your blog evolve over the course of the random word challenge?  My first posts were mostly a definition of the word and a picture, with maybe a paragraph as to why I picked that picture.  Slowly I began writing better content to where the posts meant something to me and were something I wanted to share to encourage others, amuse them, or point out beauty.  I got really discouraged in early July because I had so much I wanted to share but the random words restricted my choices so badly.  I realized that I had to be more creative in using the words while posting the topics I wanted.

Did you post as often as you had hoped?  I never expected to post every  day and was thrilled that I did so.

What type of blogging strategy works best for you?  I like to do some research on my topics.  It gives me ideas to expand my own thoughts and helps me ensure better accuracy.  I didn’t research extensively, but I often did research several times as I wrote each post.

If you could go back to the beginning, what would you do differently?  Oh man, there are so many things I’d have done different.  I’d have started right away at Living The Seasons, instead of thinking that My Life In Photos at dogear6 would be a throwaway.  I’d have purchased the domain name at the start, instead of later.  Also, I’d have been more careful on the categories and tags, especially when labeling the family stories.  It’s hard now to go back and find things.  I need to redo them one of these days.

What are you most proud of accomplishing this year?  That I wrote as much as I did.  I’m also proud that my family subscribes to and reads my blog, and that my blog has been a way to stay in touch with old friends and make new ones as well.  I never dreamt that my Jaimie, my friend’s daughter, would be so enthralled with my blog and its photos.

What surprised you about the challenge?  That as I improved my content, it took me so long to write each night.  My longer posts needed about two hours each to develop, write and edit.  It was a great way to end the day, but my reading and other hobbies have fallen way off.  The housework is behind too :)  I was also surprised at how some field trips helped not only my photography, but also gave me content to write about.  I didn’t expect that.

What advice would you give to others who want to blog regularly?  A challenge is a great way to get consistency and there are many of them out there.  The daily prompts from WordPress are another great way to get ideas until your own muse becomes more reliable.  I did not use them, but many of my fellow bloggers did and I think they helped a lot.

Any favorite posts from 2011?  I am really proud of my body of work, so it’s hard to pick just several.  I’d say three favorites would include Culture Norms Are A Pile of Moose Muffins (about my cousin who had Down’s syndrome), Phase of the Summer (about fleeting days), and Come To Me & Leave Happier (making other’s days a little brighter).

What are your blogging goals for 2012?  I’m reducing my frequency and do not plan to post on the weekends unless I’m doing a challenge.  I have several challenges lined up for next year, including the 2012 River of Stones which starts tomorrow.

Thank you everyone for reading my blog, leaving comments, liking my posts, and giving me encouragement!

Happy New Year Everyone!

This picture was taken at dusk tonight.  The sunset was non-existent; I found these clouds when I looked behind myself to the northeast.

© 2011 dogear6 llc

Vouch Tomorrow Is The Last Day For Random Words

It’s hard to believe, but I will vouch that tomorrow is the last day for the random word challenge.  Interested in seeing all the words used?  Check the tab above.

Here’s what I wrote back in February when I took this over:

The challenge is to post a photo each day that matches the randomly selected word.  The purpose is to stretch your creativity and practice your photography.

It’s fun!  Everyone has a different idea how to interpret the day’s selection.  What’s the most fun is to post your interpretation in the comments so we can see the variety of ideas out there.

Better yet, there is only one rule – BE POLITE.  This is for fun and it is meant to be fun for everyone.

Otherwise – do it daily.  Or not.  Or catch up on the weekends.  Use your own photos.   Or found photos.  There are links on the sidebar to see what others are doing as well as some articles on why a challenge can help your photography and creativity.

Have fun!

Of course, it became more than that.  After a while, my challenge was to use the word in my blog and post a photograph that might or might not relate to the blog post.  Tomorrow I will write more about my experience in doing this.

I do want to acknowledge the other participants in this and give out some awards.

Kitty has been in on this since January 1.  She’s posted every day, from taking pictures to match the word to going through her stash and showing us all kinds of great pictures from her travels and home.  Her blog posts became much more descriptive as the year went.  For 2012, she’s spreading her wings and evolving her blog even more.

Kitty, here is a badge for your blog.  You’re a winner and I enjoyed doing the challenge with you.  I am most appreciative of your encouragement and inspiration to see this through to the end.  It’s so funny that at first, we were just two gals doing a challenge and have now become good friends.

I Posted Daily in The Random Word Challenge!

There were other participants that came and went.  Patti recently joined the challenge.  Hugmamma participated when she was looking for inspiration.  Some participants at the beginning dropped when it became too much, including Trisha, Sharlene & Jen (who originally started it).  Here is a badge for your blogs – thank you for your friendships, comments, and encouragement.

I Participated in The 2011 Random Word Challenge!

Part of the fun of doing challenges is being able to put a badge on your blog that you succeeded.  It never occurred to me until recently to do that, so I designed these for you as appreciation for the joy on the journey.

As for today’s photo, I can vouch for the fact that it took a lot to tire this little guy out.  Unfortunately, it didn’t take much time to recharge for him to go again.  At 9 weeks old, he’s already a moose.  He’ll probably be about 100 lbs. when he’s full-grown.

© 2011 dogear6 llc

Word for tomorrow – BLOGGER’S CHOICE.

Scared To Change in 2012

I’ve decided to not redo the random word challenge in 2012.  I’d like less restrictions with my topics, although I don’t expect the content to change much.

I’m a bit scared though to let it go.  I’ve written about things I’d never have picked for a topic.  My creativity stretched and overall, I’m very pleased with how well I used the random words and yet expressed what I wanted.  I wonder if I’ll do as well when I can pick my own topics and write over several days if needed.

Of course, I can continue with the random word.  But there are other things I’d like to try, such as this 95 Questions and the A to Z Challenge in April (thanks Lynda K!).  I’d also like to try NaNoWriMo in November.  My journal jar of ideas is pretty full and could take me a while to get through.

My plans are to post Monday through Friday, with Friday being wordless, i.e. photo only.  I don’t plan to do a daily photo challenge in 2012, but I plan to continue taking plenty of pictures.

KittyHere had a great post about how she plans to structure her blog next year.  She’s got some great ideas and I might use a few of those also.  And of course, there are the daily prompts from WordPress.

So those are my thoughts for today.  This will be my 344th post this year.  I’ve written everyday since I started the random word challenge in February.  One of my goals for this year was to write, write, write and I have done that.

As an aside – there are two readers who might be persuaded to take it on for next year.  If anyone else is interested, please leave me a comment.

The beagle is scared that his powers of telepathy have failed since I am not moving to the pantry to give him a treat.  Or let him out in the yard to check the perimeter for squirrels.  Beagles have such expressive eyes – is this a pitiful dog or what?

© 2011 dogear6 llc

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

Slippery Slope To Winning

I’m a huge fan of the Food Network, not so much for the cooking but for the lessons on life that I see play out.  I also like the fact that it’s very PG and gives good clean entertainment.

Most recently, there was a competition for The Next Iron Chef.  It wasn’t a regular competition though – it was the superstars of the various food shows, from Robert Irvine to Alex Guarneschelli.  It was ultimately won by Geoffrey Zakarian.  At one point, he was in the bottom two, battling with Anne Burrell to not be eliminated.  In a side interview with Anne, she made the observation how every winner of The Next Iron Chef is in the bottom two at some point, fighting to survive.

I’d seen that played out in other competitions on the Food Network as well.  It’s a common theme, how slippery the slope is to winning.  Competitors in this version of The Next Iron Chef were the best of the best, making it even worse.  The mistakes that caused elimination were small – I’d not have wanted to be a judge.

Anne Burrell’s observation also had a second point to it, that it was possible to battle back and win.  She didn’t in that round, but Geoff Zakarian did and ultimately took the grand prize of being the next Iron Chef.

It’s a good lesson for life.  Sometimes we’re on top, sometimes on the bottom.  I’ve been a winner and a loser at work, but being a loser doesn’t mean I have to stay there.  Sometimes it’s a matter of keeping my head down until someone else becomes the latest problem.  Other times, it means being a superstar at the next project.  It can be discouraging at the time though to be on the bottom.

It helps to remember that being at the bottom doesn’t last forever unless I’m truly that bad, in which case I need to do something different in my life.  Anne Burrell is a successful woman and continues to be.  She lost on this slippery slope, but she’s not a loser.  This loss will most likely lead to other opportunities in her career and we will continue to see her on the Food Network.

As for me, I will keep this in mind when I’m discouraged.  Things happen, but I can overcome.

I only exhibited my needlepoint this one time, but I got an honorable mention!  I was so proud of it.

© 2011 dogear6 llc

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

Structure in Daily Life

Years ago, I read several articles about the need for routine in our life.  I was surprised to learn how the structure of routine helped us cope with the many small decisions that had to be made over and over again, making life easier and leaving us to concentrate on bigger, more important issues.  I’d also not realized how routines gave comfort and predicatability in our daily lives.

Since then, I’ve paid much more attention to the importance of routines in my life.  I love having good ones, from getting ready for work in the morning, to coming home at night to dog dances and having to give everyone a pet before kissing my favorite boy toy.  Note that if he wants to be kissed first, he has to greet me at the door.  He doesn’t.

I do have several observations on routines in my life:

  • They need to be constantly reassessed and changed.  While I’d rather not ever change routines, the fact is that what meets my needs today might not tomorrow.  My current exercise routine of walking during lunch has been a struggle due to bad weather and an overly busy schedule.  I’ve had to go back to the gym again, which is a different routine than my walks.
  • My routines also change with the seasons.  My summer exercise tends to be gardening and landscaping on the weekends.   My daily devotions in the summer also change to something lighter and easier for a change of pace.
  • Change disrupts my routines.  I’m an unwilling participant in it, but I’ve learned to adjust my routines, whether short-term or long-term.  In a week, I will start year-end close.  We’ll be working most evenings and every weekend in January.  I’ve know to hunker down and be careful with expectations.  Work, exercise, and good nutrition are about all I’ll do for the next few weeks.  It’s like this every year and at some point, it’s over.
  • If a routine is infrequent, it helps me to make a list of what the routine needs.  An example of this would be my to do list for when I travel of the things I need to pack.  It ranges from a baseball cap to earphones to what should be in my toiletries bag.
  • It’s fun to get away from my routines, but sometimes I don’t enjoy it as much as I should.  I’m usually up early and while it seems fun to sleep in late on my days off, I often end up draggy and and not feeling good.  I’m better off to get up and take a nap later.

With the New Year coming, it’s a good time to reevaluate what’s working and what isn’t.  Changing the structure of a routine is much easier when I know what’s wrong with it.  My initial change might not work, but it’s easier to try again than to stay in a rut.

And speaking of structure, I’ve also been studying the structure of a puppy’s skull.  They’re very cute and very pettable, especially when they’re sleeping in my daughter’s arms.

© 2011 dogear6 llc

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

No Snow Here

Today will be a quiet post.  I’ve enjoyed the Christmas tree my daughter put up – the house was still dark when I got up on Christmas Day.  I turned on the tree and fireplace decorations, petted a few large dogs, and caught up with some old friends.

If you’re off work today, enjoy.  If you’re one of many who’s working, I hope you’re wearing comfortable shoes and practicing patience everywhere.

Here’s a favorite ornament:

© 2011 dogear6 llc

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

Santa Fools My In-Laws

Merry Christmas Everyone!

One of my favorite Christmas stories is the year that Santa fooled my husband’s siblings.

The first year that my Mom & Dad were divorced, my Dad was at loose ends on Christmas Eve.  I usually spent it at my in-laws house and he was reluctant to join us there.  He came up with the idea instead of playing Santa.  My husband had siblings who were much younger, young enough to still believe in Santa.  Or so we thought until many years later.

My father-in-law loved the idea!  He gave me a stack of presents for Santa to give out and my Dad gave me money to buy more gifts as well.  At the appointed time on Christmas Eve, Santa appeared at my in-laws house with a sack full of presents.  The youngest siblings were just flabbergasted that Santa made a personal appearance and my father loved it.

There was a lot of fun that night, but the most fun came over a decade later, once again on Christmas Eve at my in-laws.  The little kids were in bed and the adults were around the kitchen table and the old stories came out.  One of my younger sister-in-laws brought up about the year that Santa came to visit.

It turns out she no longer believed in Santa the year he visited – she knew he was the neighbor next door.  No doubts about it. . . until Santa showed up that night and it wasn’t the next door neighbor.  She didn’t know who he was, none of the other siblings knew who he was, and in the end, she decided it had to be Santa.  She believed in Santa for a few more years, but all those years later she still didn’t know who it was that night.

My father-in-law and I had no idea that had happened to her.  We looked at her, look at each other, and started laughing.  Oh did we laugh and laugh, before finally admitting to who it was and how it happened.  Thankfully she laughed too and it became another family story for us.

As for this year, we’re playing with puppies and visiting with friends.  Notice that my daughter’s hand has been engulfed by a crocodile in the leaves!

© 2011 dogear6 llc

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