Blog Archives

Z is for…

zOMG!

As in, thank goodness it’s finally over. April and the 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge are done today.

Whoo hoo!

Yeah, baby.

It’s over! It’s over! ~crazy happy dance~

Whew ~collapses into chair, gasping for breath~

This has been quite the experience. What a way to get back into more regular writing. A 30-day A to Z challenge. It’s been … um … interesting – yeah, let’s go with that – to have to come up with a not only a new word everyday, but then write a post about or containing that word. Some letters/days were easier than others. Some days I just barely managed to post before midnight, typically after I look at the clock, think ‘crap, it’s after 10, still have to post, what’s today’s letter?’

And so much fun to see how others met the challenge, from fiction to non, poetry to prose, photographs and art. There are a lot of talented and intelligent and interesting people out there and I’ve enjoyed connecting with some through this challenge. I now have a pretty impressive group of blogs to keep up with 🙂

I can say with some certainty at this point that I am unlikely to keep up with the post a day rate. I found it to be a bit brain draining. But I do promise I won’t disappear, posting as the words prompt.

Congratulations to all of you who completed the 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge. And to everyone who read and liked and followed, thank you so much.

Here’s to doing it all again next year 🙂

Yoga

I have just recently started going to yoga classes again. I need to have some form of exercise in my life, besides walking, and at my weight and general physical condition, yoga’s a good choice — it builds strength and flexibility while not putting so much stress on the joints, and is easily adaptable for different ability levels.

I found a nice studio here in town with a monthly membership, and since hub signed up with me, his company will reimburse the monthly fee as a health club expense — they will reimburse for gyms and other sports/health clubs as well.

Now, I don’t know a lot about the different types of yoga, so I can’t say if the studio is more one type than another. I’ve attended a couple of vinyasa sessions and a couple gentle yoga. They also offer hot, power, stretch, and eclectic. At this point gentle, stretch, and to some extent vinyasa are about all I can handle.

It’s all a workout for me. I sweat profusely, stretch and strain, work through stiffness and muscle cramps, adapt as best I can with all the excess me. I do not always flow smoothly from one position to another, and because of my lordosis, I have less range of motion on one side or the other depending on the pose. They keep the room a little warmer than I’d like, increasing the sweating so my palms sweat and I can’t hold downward dog as my hands slip on my mat. Getting the inhales and exhales right with the movements is difficult — I seem to be out of sync an awful lot. But I like that I can adapt as necessary, only moving as far as I comfortably can, using modified positions and aids such as blocks and straps, and if I absolutely can’t do a certain pose right now, it’s okay. I’m not being judged by what others can do, only on what is my best. Really not being judged at all… Just accepting that what I can do may not be the same as others, and it’s all okay as long as I am doing my best and striving to improve.

It helps that I feel sooooo good when I walk out of the class — all stretched and warmed up and moving easier. I know it’s silly, but it is so nice to be able to lift my foot up to put pants on without laying the pants on the floor or using my hand to pull up my leg. And that going up and down stairs seems easier. I’m really not in it for the spirituality component, but I do like that it really makes me focus on being in my body, feeling what my body is doing as I breath, as I move, and as I rest.

I’ve been going twice a week and plan to up it to three times in May — all gentle yoga. After that, I’ll see what I can add/change. I know it will be slow going, but I’m going to enjoy it.

X is for…

Xocolātl.

I generally prefer it processed and blended with other ingredients. But I like it more bitter than sweet, barely like milk version, and don’t like white at all. My tastes run to gourmet and European rather than grocery store American. It’s very nice in coffee or as it’s own beverage.

Of course I’m talking about chocolate.

I really do enjoy good chocolate, as do my children. Our one request of hub whenever he travels to Europe is to bring us back chocolate. So we’ve had chocolates from France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Belgium, and U.K.

I love that chocolate is so versatile, working with both savory and sweet. Chicken with mole sauce. Chocolate bars with bacon pieces or chili powder. All kinds of fruits and nuts are better with chocolate. I love orange and chocolate, cherries and chocolate, hazelnuts and chocolate. Chocolate candies, chocolate ice cream, chocolate cakes and cookies and pastries…

It’s a good thing we don’t keep too much of the good stuff around the house 🙂

W is for….

Wandering.

I have a small pillow in my room with “Not all who wander are lost” embroidered on it.

I had forgotten until it was mentioned by another blogger that it comes from a poem in The Lord of the Rings (although to be fair, it’s been many many years since I’ve read the books). The poem is “All That is Gold Does Not Glitter”

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

While planning things out is never really a bad idea, sometimes going with the flow, wandering, can make for a much better experience. Or at least a more interesting one.

I’ve mentioned before how we did a lot of road trips when I was growing up. It wasn’t unusual for us to hop in the car on a Sunday and just drive. Sometimes we went to places we knew but sometimes we’d decide to turn left* instead of right, discovering new things in the process — an abandoned mining town; roadside graves from late 1800s to early 1900s; a naturally carbonated spring; a field of trillium in full bloom; waterfalls; and more.

To this day I occasionally still like to get in the car and just go, exploring the area. Last weekend my daughter and I did just that, discovering how quickly our area goes from suburban to small town to single-lane dirt road rural. (Thank goodness for GPS, smart phones & the Internet.) We saw horses and cows, big houses and small, woods and open fields. We found a cemetery, in use for well over a hundred years, with clusters of multiple stones for multiple generations of the same family from a century ago to within the past few years.

Some of our more questionable wandering from my youth — driving up the canyon while the river was flooding to see how bad it was up there, and driving down out of our protected valley to see how bad the ash fall from Mt. St. Helens was heading out of the mountains towards the Basin (it was bad, main roads were blocked by the police, but Dad told us he knew back ways we could take – but we didn’t as the ash was falling thick and fast in heavy flakes). We were however smart enough to stay put until told to evacuate during a major forest fire.

I think part of wandering is being smart enough to know when not to and when to turn around. But it’d be a shame to let the possible risks of wandering keep you from the adventure.

V is for…

Vision.

I am and always have been a very visual person. If I had to choose between losing my hearing or my sight, I’d choose to lose my hearing.

Which makes the fact that as I age my eyesight is getting worse a cruel joke.

To be fair, it’s not as bad as so many others, but for someone who has gotten used to being able to read everything, even the tiny script used on so many products, it really sucks. So far it’s just my close vision that’s affected and not my distance. But I’m sure that’ll happen too.

I hate that I have to have glasses at hand at all times — while shopping, looking at maps, on my phone, reading books and magazines, viewing and editing photos. And my eyes are not equally bad so I can’t just pick inexpensive reading glasses off a rack. Even with insurance, a decent pair of glasses can be a bit costly.

I have a Nook so I can adjust text size, which is nice, but I still have lots of paper books to read. I’ve bolded what text I can on my phone, enlarged it in those apps that allow me to. Use larger text and such on my computer. And when I have my daughter along with me, it’s not unusual for me to hand something to her so she can read it out to me.

Anyway, it’s a pain and a hassle and it sucks. But what can I do but adapt ~sigh~

U is for…

Useful/useless information.

I am full of it. I mean the above kind of information.

I believe I’ve mentioned before that I’m a readaholic — I read all sorts of things, fiction and non-fiction. This means that when I’m checking out Twitter or Facebook or other things, I click on a lot of links to a variety of articles on a wide variety of subjects – politics, science, nature, current events. And often I read or hear about something that piques my interest further so I do some research on it.

One of the results of all this reading and research is a brain full of tidbits of information, not always really useful.

Sure, sometimes it’s useful — writing stories, knowing what I’m photographing, knowing what that unpronounceable ingredient just might be and how bad it is, knowing what that word or phrase means and its etymology. And so on and so on.

But more often it’s really useless information that will never be used that’s just taking up space in my brain. And it can be terribly distracting as these bits of info buzz around my brain when I’m having conversations, reading, watching TV or a movie….

~sigh~

I like to think I manage to keep most of it bottled up so I don’t come off as an obnoxious know-it-all, and I do try to preface anything I might say less as an ‘I know’ and more as an ‘I think I read somewhere’ or ‘if I recall correctly’. If someone shows me I’m in error, I have no problem admitting, accepting, and moving on.

Anyone else have a head full of useful/useless information?

T is for…

Traveling.

I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to do some traveling – domestically and internationally. The actual traveling to the destinations is not necessarily my favorite part… Sometimes it’s really just a necessary evil. So I won’t talk too much about that.

As a child, we often took car trips, sometimes just for hours, driving random roads up in the mountains, stopping when we felt like it to check out views, rivers, historical sites. Sometimes the drives were longer. When we lived in California, every other summer we would drive up to Washington to visit family, taking our time, exploring and camping on the way. When we moved to Washington, the trips were then back down to California, usually every other Christmas. And then when my sister and I were old enough, our grandparents would fly us down to visit. Occasionally we were the only passengers on the small planes that flew into the local airport.

When I was 16 I went to Germany and Denmark, traveling there by myself then staying with friends and family while there. The best thing about traveling without parents and staying with locals was the freedom and ability to really see things — not the censored version I otherwise might have gotten. I still plan to someday get back there.

During our marriage we’ve done quite a bit of international travel, some with the kids, some without. First to Pakistan to meet my husband’s family, then two Mediterranean cruises, trips to Wales, England, and France, a cruise around New Zealand and Australia, and another along the Pacific coast of Mexico. I loved the Mediterranean and would gladly go there again, as much as possible. New Zealand and Australia are so large, that one cruise/trip was definitely not enough. And I know our kids would love to travel some more too.

Ultimately I’ve been to 24 states — living in 6 of them. And I’ve visited 14 countries so far, with a few more on my ‘to see’ list.

One of the things I’m excited about with living in the South now is new states and places to visit. Lots of Georgia yet to see, we’ve made one quick trip to South Carolina, but still need to see more Atlantic states as well as the Gulf. I’ve already been doing some random driving around just to see what’s here. And I’m hopeful that maybe we’ll add the Bahamas and Caribbean to our list of cruises.

S is for…

Seasons. As in Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter.

Do you have a favorite? Supposedly lots of people do. I can’t say that I have a favorite but I do prefer Spring and Autumn, the transitional seasons.

Not that I hate Winter and Summer — they have their good points.

I love the singular crisp and cold days of Winter, when the sky is a bright clear blue and it is so cold that there are ice crystals shimmering in the air. Or the days when I can stay tucked warmly inside while large clusters of snowflakes float softly down — it’s like being in a snow globe. The rest of it is too cold, too grey, too messy, too damp, too chilly…

And Summer. Summer is great when it’s hot, but not humid, with a breeze, air conditioning , and easy access to a swimming pool/lake/ocean. BBQs — BBQs are a nice part of Summer. Hanging out in a hammock or on a shaded porch with lots of chilled beverages at hand. Late clear nights staring up at the Moon and stars. Sitting around a fire with hot dogs and s’mores. But like Winter, those days seem far too rare while most of them are too hot, too humid, too sweaty, too sticky, too many insects…

Spring and Autumn. Transitional. One when the world is returning to life, the other when it is returning to rest.

Everyday can bring something different — new leaves, buds, flowers; sweet floral scents; birds returning from their Winter away; baby animals; weather that varies from beautifully serene to stunning storms. The stripping off of the heavy Winter clothing for lighter garb. Ostara. Passover. Easter. Earth Day. Beltane. May Day (remember delivering flowers to neighbors?). Mother’s Day. Memorial Day.

Or conversely, each day the world slows down, bringing us closer to Winter — more colored leaves; fewer leaves on the trees and more on the ground; fewer birds and thicker coats on the animals that stay; cooler temperatures, during nights first then extending to mornings and then all day; that special smell that happens only in Autumn, of damp and rotting leaves — which is more pleasant than it sounds; the ripening and harvesting of so many crops. Bringing the warmer clothing, sweaters and boots and coats, back out of storage. Mabon. Oktoberfest. Rosh Hashanah. Yom Kippur. Sukkot. Diwali. Samhain. Halloween. Dia de los Muertos. Thanksgiving. Lots of family birthdays.

So, do you have a favorite or preferred season? Why?

R is for…

Reflection.

Both in an image and as careful consideration.

It is not unusual, especially when taking photographs around water, for there to be reflections in the final image. Reflections I’m often not even aware of until later, when I’m reviewing the pictures. Like the photo I chose as the header image for this blog. My focus was on Mount Maunganui and making sure I got some of the beach in the shot — I had no idea I was catching any sort of reflection. Unfortunately, it’s a bit cropped in the heading ~stupid header formatting~ so here it is with the full reflection:

20140421-212221.jpg

I find that sometimes how I go through life can be a lot like these photographs — I’m so, or too, focused on just one point of view, one image, that I fail to see or experience the whole thing. It’s not until later, when I’m reviewing what happened, that I realize there was a lot more going on that I just wasn’t aware of.

And this is where reflection as careful consideration comes in. Instead of waiting until “after”, I have to take (or make) the time to see the whole picture, see all the little details that affect the final product. With all the distractions in the average day-to-day — family, friends, pets, jobs, bills, TV, books, etc. — it can be so easy to just go-go-go without anything but the briefest of pauses to check off the items on our to-do lists before tumbling exhausted into bed. But taking the time to sit quietly and reflect, particularly positively, on the day/week/month, etc. — before/morning, during/noon, after/night (suggestions only) — can actually help reduce anxieties and stresses, and make it easier to fall asleep at night.

I’ll be the first to admit that I myself am not always the best when it comes to positive reflection, but when I do take the time, I often come away with a new outlook, a new plan, and better point of view.

P.S. The original word that came to mind for the letter R was “rumination” however, looking it up kept leading to “ruminants” and ruminating as an unhealthy psychological disorder — neither of which were where I wanted to go. 🙂

Quiet

Quiet. Solitude. Alone time.

Most of today was that way for me. Everyone else took off for several hours while I stayed home, relaxed and running errands.

I’ve always valued my quiet, alone times. When a teen and in college, most of my quiet times were spent out walking – through the woods, around campus – or sitting and enjoying my surroundings – along the river, in a park, in a library. Now they’re often spent at home with TV or a book, in the car, or out running errands.

There were several years, when children were small, that quiet time was mostly something wished for, dreamt of, but rarely seen. Not even the bathroom was a refuge.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago — oldest was away at college, hub had already made the move south, and the two children still at home with me were out as often as (or maybe more than) they were at home. And it took a lot of adjusting for me to get comfortable with being all by myself. Sometimes it was downright uncomfortable. It was too quiet, too still, I was too alone. Every unknown sound was frightening simply because I was all by myself.

Eventually, I did adjust, enjoying that I could choose for myself what I would do, without interruption. I watch TV; read books, magazines; go shopping; go exploring; take photographs; research whatever is interesting me; listen to music; get online; write…

And sometimes I just sit in the quiet, breathing it all in. Just… Being.

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