Wandering at the Shadows' Edge

exploring potential and possibility

Archive for the month “October, 2019”

Tiny Steps

I think I’m starting to get a handle on my writing schedule at least so long as I’m working nights. I’m writing at least a bit every day – usually a blog post and at least 400 to 500 words on fiction. Lately it’s been short stories. I want to do more writing, or at least get more words in, but I am making time in my schedule to write. I am making it a priority.

There are other things I want and need to do and I haven’t done so well in making those things happen. Admittedly, most of them don’t get added to my planner. I don’t block time out for them specifically, or add them to my to-do list.

What kind of things am I talking about? Donating, selling, or otherwise getting rid of stuff (It’s all sorted out, I just haven’t gotten it out of the condo!), finishing the weavings on my rigid heddle loom and my inkle loom, practicing my calligraphy and illumination so I can get some projects finished, sewing new clothes – both for daily wear and for costumes.

There are other things too. I know I can’t get them all done at one time. But I need to start getting them done. I need to start checking them off my list. I want to better my skills, I want to get the clutter out of my house.

Most importantly, I want to stop feeling overwhelmed. I know it affects my ability to use my time wisely. When I feel overwhelmed, I procrastinate and choose to do nothing at all. I’m working on that part – I’m making it point when I feel overwhelmed to pick one small thing to do, or to spend just 15 minute doing a specific thing. It gets me started and gets at least part of something done. I usually end up doing more than that one thing or 15 minutes.

These are all little steps. But the only way to get anywhere is to put one foot in fromt of the other. And to keep doing it. Each step may not get you too far, but when you put htme all together, you may find you’ve reached your next mile marker. That’s what I have to reminding myself of.

Filling the Silence

Every year around this time, I get a chance to catch up on podcasts I listen to or discover new ones. At least for the last five years. This is because I’m preparing to teach new hires at work.

I’m not on the phones. I’m not in front of a class, or assisting a co-instructor. What I am doing is analyzing the course materials, making notes of dead links and incorrect references. I’m making lesson plans and checking the test answer keys.

And, though I’m coordinating with my co-instructors, I’m mostly doing it on my own. I can put my headphones in and listen to podcasts while I work. And since I’m a bit of a completist when it comes to podcasts, I tend to start with the first episode. If it’s an older podcast that I’m just getting to, there may be upwards of a hundred episodes to catch up on.

I’m never going to run out of stuff to listen to. There are plenty of podcasts I’m interested in, but don’t have time to start listening to until I caught up with the ones I’m currently listening to.

I may be able to add another one or two before class starts this year. I’m nearly caught up with all but two of the podcasts I’m currently subscribed to. And I can only listen to so many episodes of the same podcast in a row. Most of the podcasts I listen to only have new episodes once a week or twice a month, so on the rare occasion when I’m caught up, there’s not enough material to fill the hours at work or the commute. That’s when I start adding from my “to listen to” list.

What do you listen to when you have time?

I Love Teaching – Don’t I?

Teaching is something I’m very comfortable with. It’s something I really enjoy. I also enjoy mentoring people – new instructors, team mates, former students.

I’m teaching, or I will be, a class of our new hires for this coming tax season. Instead of having one co-instructor, I’m mentoring two new instructors. There are good aspects to this – the number of classes is split three ways instead of two. If one of us is out, there are still two instructors in the classroom. And the students get experience with three different and distinct teaching and coaching styles.

But there are some negatives too. I have to coordinate with two people instead of one. Neither instructor has taught a long course – like new hire, which is 3 months long. We have six weeks to prep for 3 months of teaching – and they haven’t ever prepped for anything longer than a day or two.

And then there’s the personality conflicts. They’ve already started with one of the instructors. I’m the senior instructor because I’ve done this five times, and because I teach the actual instructor certification class. Our lead instructor, who is coordinating all six new hire classes, asked me to take on two new instructors because of my experience and my planning. But one of the co-instructors insists on doing some things their own way, saying I need to trust them that everything will work out. They don’t, or won’t, understand the need to work as a team and within the same framework. They refuse to accept that my experience is valid.

It’s a discussion we had multiple times in the first two weeks of prep. I feel like this instructor is surrounded in a fog that absorbs everything that’s explained to them and doesn’t let it actually impact them. I don’t’ know how to get through to them, but I won’t let it hurt our students’ learning.

I need to figure this out, but this is unmapped territory for me. I’ve never had a co-instructor so resistant to suggestion and request. All I can do right now is keep trying.

Healthy Habits

I’m climbing up a long hill and as I get older it’s only going to get longer. It’s my own fault. I ignored the work I should have been doing over the past several years. There were reasons, but I could have done some of that work.

What am I talking about?

Health and fitness. Both what and how I eat and how active I am. Fitness was easier when I had a house with a yard, that was only three blocks from the grocery store and the book store. I was just more active on a regular basis. And I just stopped paying attention to what I was eating. And I got older – along with all the changes that brings.

I figured out how far down that hill I’d slid. I fumbled through the fog and shadows. And I stopped the slide. I’m watching what I eat – turning toward healthier choices. I got a gym membership and a weekly session with a personal trainer.

I’ve made a start, but only a few steps in. And it’s hard. My trainer is encouraging but pushes me. But I don’t make it into the gym as often as I should outside of our sessions. It’s a matter of choosing how to use my time and what my priorities are.

And then there’s the eating. Part of my problem has always been what I eat. But the bigger part of the problem has consistently been how much I eat. It’s not that I generally eat too much. It’s most often been that I don’t eat enough of the right kinds of calories and my body holds on to everything. Eating enough calories of the right stuff means eating a lot more food than I’m used to and I have trouble with it.

But I’m working on it. I’m starting to head up that hill. And I can see progress, even if it is just a few steps at a time. At least the fog is thinning.

It’s going to be a long trek.

Planning the Shadow Wandering

I love paper planners. I’ve tried all kinds of them. I’ll find almost any excuse to try a new one. And none of them have really worked well for me. So I’ve mapped out a lot of shadow paths I don’t want to explore again. Because none of the preprinted paper planners seem to work for me.

A few years ago, an author friend of mine gave me a bullet journal for my birthday. I decided to give bullet journaling a try. And I failed miserably for the first year. But something clicked mentally. The next year I failed less miserably.

I tweaked the way I was using my bullet journal, which really the whole purpose – make it work for you. It’s still not perfect. I still fail somewhat. But this year I’m using it on a far more regular basis. And I’m tracking some things I really want to track. I haven’t managed to track them all, but I’m getting better at it.

And I’m figuring out what I need to change for 2020. My current journal is the size of a trade paperback. It feels tight when I try to plan out a week. It’s possible but not comfortable. So next year’s journal will be larger.

I like being creative and using lots of colors. That means toting around lots of pens – because my journal needs to be mobile. I’m working on a space efficient way to carry all of my pens and my ruler and stencils. The stencils need to be available – because I may be creative, but I can barely draw (something I’m working on improving) and I certainly can’t do it quick enough to make it worth doing to decorate my journal.

I’m still working on what I want to track next year and how. Some of my tracking formats worked and some not so much. I have a few months to figure it out and a special notebook just for playing around with ideas.

My bullet journal is something I need. But I also need to want to use it. It needs to be useful, creative, and fun. It needs to be able to adjust and update when I need it to. It’s getting there – and I’m enjoying tweaking it as I go.

Food

I like to cook – but I have trouble cooking for just myself. And I really like most vegetables, fruits, and grains. But I like meat, poultry, and seafood too. And getting enough calories from just vegetables and fruit is hard. The volume of food you have to eat is daunting, to say the least. It takes me forever to get through that much food!

I tend to eat too few calories and put my metabolism into starvation mode. Then it fights to hang on to everything and I end up gaining weight. So I need to eat more calories along with exercising and drinking lots of water. I’m working on all three.

I downloaded an app on my phone that should help. It lets me cut down recipes for one or two servings and create a grocery list from the recipes I want to use. We’ll see if I can remember to use it and if it actually makes things easier.

I’m leery, because the experience of the past tells me it will be less effective than I’d like. It may be a wonderful app. It was recommended. But I have a tendency to forget to use such things. They’re only effective if they’re being used and I’m already tracking my eating in two places. Adding another app I need to check on a regular basis may not be the best option. But we’ll see. I’ll give it some time and see if I can get in the habit of using it.

It’s pre-mapping something I’m almost familiar with, yet have never been successful at. I have hops, but no specific expectations. In this case, the destination is the point, but the journey matters too.

Physical Shadows

One thing about roaming the shadows and not keeping track of where I’m going – I don’t keep track of other things, like my weight. And when I finally did step back into the light, I found I’d gained a fair amount of weight.

I was very unhappy with that discovery. And I decided to do something about it.

I joined 24 Hour Fitness and set up sessions with a trainer once a week. I started walking again and doing the lateral elliptical machine at the gym when it’s too hot or rainy to walk the hike and bike train behind my condo.

And I started eating better. Lots of fruits, vegetables, and such. Eggs and some cheese. I haven’t gone vegetarian. I eat some meat, poultry, and seafood. And I haven’t given up my beer. That’s not happening!

I tried Daily Harvest. I like the idea of having smoothie ingredients ready for immediate use. And they have dinner bowls, overnight oats, and snack bites. But I wasn’t fond of a lot of the flavors. Some of them were good, and I’m still ordering a limited number of them. I think I’ll be prepping ingredients myself and buying frozen fruits. That should make it quicker to fix smoothies and I can probably pre-mix the ingredients once I find the combinations I like best.

I’m just starting to lose some of the weight, but it is happening. I’m hopeful. We’ll see what happens.

Shadows of an Artist

I have never referred to myself – or even thought of myself – as an artist. I do a lot of crafty and creative things. But I have little discipline in most of them. So I’m not an artist.

Or am I?

An artist is someone who creates art. And what is art? Dictionary.com defines art as “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.”¬†

But it also tells us the origins of the word “art” comes from Middle English and Old French “ars” or “artem” and means “skill, craft, craftmanship.”

So do I create art?

I do have have some skill at the things I do. I try to put some definable sense of craftsmanship into them. Others find them aesthetically pleasing.

I think it can be called art. Not high art. Not even high quality art. Maybe everyday art.

And isn’t that something lovely to consider – that everyday art exists. That art doesn’t have to be confined to the museum, gallery, or concert hall. That art can be a part of lives. part of our everyday experience. That art is for everyone, everyday.

Everyday art is, to me, something created, not because it was needed or contracted, but just because the creator desired to bring something it to being just to be enjoyed, to make those who see it feel something.

So many of my projects – by that definition are art. And because I create them, I must by definition, be an artist. An everyday or common artist, but still an artist.

That thought is almost overwhelming sometimes. But it’s inspiring too. I think it’s time to go create some art.

New-Old Journeying

I’m still visiting old shadows and paths, but some of them are taking me in new directions. The two that are taking me the furthest from familiar paths are essentially new versions of things I’ve tried before. I’m only going to talk about one of them here.

I had a podcast for a little while over a decade ago. It was about creativity and I enjoyed it. Buth other things took priority and even though it was something I wanted to do, I just couldn’t find that one topic I could center a new podcast on. So I let it sit in the back of my mind in the mists and shadows until something came that I felt I could talk about for an extended time.

It took a financial podcast for inspiration to hit. “How to Money” is a podcast about all things money, hosted by two young men who share one of my loves – good beer. They have a beer while recording their podcast, talking about it at the beginning and end of each episode. And I can talk about beer forever.

So there it was – topic #1. But there are lots of beer podcasts out there. So what could I talk about that would make my podcast unique? What do I spend my time and energy on just for me? It really should have been obvious. I read, and I write. I love books of all kinds. Could I combine my love of beer with my love of books?

The answer was yes – and Books and Beer 2 Go is the result.

I got the intro and first episode out. Then I ran into computer problems. Then I ran into time problems. But the podcast is getting back on track – I think.

So, if you like books, or beer, or just want to hear me babble, go to your favorite podcast app and download an episode. And don’t forget to let me know what you think.

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