Change, Life, Rambles

Creatures of Habit

It’s 6:15 AM. I’m usually the last to get out of bed. It’s a known fact in this family and even the dogs know it. Mornings are not my time. I like to ease into my day. Maybe it is the chaos of the move or just the songbirds welcoming the morning light that have me awake today. I knew better than to just lay there. It would be so easy to slip back into slumber, even if it wasn’t actually sleep. I told my husband I was going to shake things up a bit this morning. I’m getting up and I’m taking the dogs out. This is a big deal and one of those moments where we will look back and say, “do you remember that morning when…”. Well, the dogs are shocked. I didn’t do it like daddy. I took Ella and Pachelbel first. Sawyer and Rachmaninov joined. They don’t need a lift down the stairs. I then went back for Benny and Mozart. Mozey was still asleep, oblivious to the whining of his best friend. There are some benefits to being deaf. Mozey has a pretty strong sleep game.

Now that we’re outside and everyone has done their business they are all staring at me like, Daddy feeds us now. Well, I’m enjoying my coffee go smell stuff.

So here we are. Me typing away on my iPad, wondering if this is even going to post when I finish and the dogs just waiting to go back in.

Sometimes it’s good to get out of our comfort zone and try something we don’t normally do. The sounds of the birds and fresh air with my coffee is nice. I love being outside. It inspired me to write, which I haven’t done in some time. I’m easing into my day a different way. No promises that it will become a thing, but I don’t hate it.

In 2020 we all were forced out of our comfort zone, then we developed a routine a new normal- however weird it was. As 2021 threatens to get back to something resembling our previous normal there are a lot of conversations surrounding what we’ve become comfortable with. It’s going to require compromise from both sides of the work from home vs. back to the office groups. We’ve found that we can be effective regardless of where we work. Some of us are comfortable at home, some of us need the interaction of the office. To be effective as a team we have to be flexible, step out of our personal comfort zone and meet the others halfway. It is not going to be one or the other, it can be both and we can appreciate the benefits of what is out of our personal comfort zone.

Even creatures of habit need to shake things up. While the dogs are still waiting to go back inside they are now all relaxing at my feet listening to the birds. Well, Mozey isn’t listening to anything, but he did find a cool bug that has his attention.

Life

Quick and Easy Makes the Best Meal

Egg Roll in a Bowl

It’s a healthy meal that with a little planning can be ready in less than 30 minutes.

  • Shredded Chicken (or ground pork, ground beef, ground turkey)
  • 1 Package Broccoli Slaw (or Cole Slaw mix)
  • 2 carrots chopped or grated
  • 2 broccoli stalks chopped or grated
  • Sliced Mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 Teaspoon Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon Sesame Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Low Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Hoisin Sauce
  • Salt/Pepper/Garlic
  • ½ Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)

  • In a high-sided skillet or wok, brown the ground meat and remove it from the skillet/drain.  (Skip this step if you use precooked shredded chicken). We like to slow cook chicken breasts in the crockpot on low for several hours. Then shred it for adding to the veggie mixture. I add a little of the broth to the wok before adding the vegetables.
  • Add shredded veggies to the same skillet, toss until slightly wilted.
  • Add rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, seasoning mix, and ginger.
  • Add mushrooms (optional).
  • Set heat to high and return ground meat. Add hoisin sauce. Mix vigorously.
  • Serve by itself or over rice.

This makes 2 – 4 portions. It’s super easy and super yummy.

Family, Life, Quotes, Today I will

National Day of Service 2021

Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?' - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Steve and I wanted to do something today for #nationaldayofservice. It had to be Covid-19 aware and something important to us. The Covid Aware part was the biggest struggle. What can we do that is adequately socially distanced and we will not risk exposure? Today we chose to take the afternoon, enjoy being outdoors in the cool day sun, and pick up trash. We were not without subject matter to work with!  There are several local parks we like to visit. Some days there is a good bit of trash and it is terribly sad to see. 

There is a growing awareness that single-use plastic is detrimental to the planet. Do you know what’s worse?

Humans.

If we would make better decisions, pick up after ourselves, and work for the good of each other so many issues in life could improve.

I digress. This is not a post about how much humans can sometimes suck. Although, I’m sure as my husband hauled a giant lawn leaf bag full of trash around our favorite park the thought crossed his mind several times.

While there was plenty of trash to pick up, there was beauty worth working for. Nature always finds a way to make us smile. Deer and raccoon tracks were all over Pharr Mill park. Families were using the trails or playing by the water at Frank Liske. From trash to fungi to waterfalls our time outdoors today was wonderful. 

It is not uncommon for us to take trash bags with us when we walk the beach at our favorite Dauphin Island. I believe it will now be a regular part of our park excursions.  The parks that do not have on-site attendants fare poorly.  I expected to need the large trash bag, I did not expect to fill the large trash bag overcapacity.  

Our parks are not able to have their regular clean up events. They are understaffed as it is. Picking up is something that needs to be done, and we don’t mind doing it.  I believe this is a regular task to add to our 2021 goals and I want to find others.

Organizations that rely on volunteers are struggling. They are struggling to raise money for their organization. They are struggling with volunteers and health protocols.  I encourage you to find something you care about and discover how you can contribute. It doesn’t have to be for a specific day. Every day is a great day to work for the good of our community.

 

 

Family, Life, Rambles

Weekend Fun

So how was your weekend? Our guest room and bath are getting a fresh look. We are the weirdos who find home improvement projects to be fun. There’s always something that needs attention.

Next month we will tackle the upstairs bath. The next, our bedroom. One project a month is the goal. Floors in the bedrooms will come at some point and kitchen cabinets are in the agenda before year’s end. I do believe both of us are putting off trim painting for as long as possible.

Family, Life, Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday January 14

Happy Thursday! For Thankful Thursday, I reflect on these two. Julie and Aubrey have grown into amazing young women. These two are strong, independent, and straight-up good people. They take things as they come. They are accepting of others. They are supportive of each other. They go out of their way to help when needed.

Ten years ago I met an acquaintance that would change my life. It was not the easiest year for me. That acquaintance became a friend. Nine years ago, that friend became more. Almost 8 years ago, I married him. Julie and Aubrey have accepted us without question. He’s not their dad and has never tried to be. I jokingly said they treated him like a pet. So, I am thankful for their acceptance.

When we have faced difficult circumstances these two have dropped everything to step in and help, even if it is just being around. No hesitation, just what can we do? Or, they just do. I’m thankful for their empathy.

Both had lived life on their terms. It’s not always easy to take a chance or do your own thing. I’m thankful for their adventurous spirit.

I’m thankful that I was the one that got to make them.
I’m thankful to be their birth-giver.

Leave a comment or LinkyLink below. I would love to know what you’re thankful for. I’ll be by to visit this evening.

Family, Life, Motivation, Rambles

Aspiring to be

In an attempt to not break my workday writing streak I headed over to Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop Inspiration Button. After several uninspiring, or I don’t know you like that, clicks I was inspired by the following prompt:

When I grow up I want to be like…

Let’s get something straight. I’m not growin’ up and you can’t make me. I hold dear my Ravenclaw coffee mug, coloring books and super amazing twisty Crayola coloring pencils, and my silly accents I use while making dinner and jamming to 90’s hip-hop. By jamming I do mean dancing in my kitchen while wearing dachshund printed PJs and fuzzy socks. #dontjudge

There are also many in my life who have inspired me to be the best me I can be. However, weird and sometimes immature that may be. Hey, I hope they are proud.

#1 My Grandmother

#2 My Aunt Merita

#3 My Great Aunt Hazel

Despite being terribly sick, my Gran raised me from two years old until she died in 1997. Off and on I spent time with various family members when Gran was in the hospital or recovering from being in the hospital. She was declared dead once, and we were told she was brain dead another time. She wasn’t ready for such a final diagnosis and managed to push on.  Because of her health, her time spent directly entertaining me involved reading, drawing, coloring, word search, or other word games like Scrabble or Boggle.  I learned to entertain myself by playing outside, climbing the fruit trees, picking blackberries, kicking a ball around, or building with legos. Not those lego kits either. I had to use my imagination to come up with what to build. My favorite was designing lego houses. I wanted to be an architect or a veterinarian. Gran never discouraged me. Our games gave me a love of words and creativity. When I discovered music she would listen to me practice for hours. Never complaining. At the beginning that had to be terribly difficult. By the time I was in high school I was pretty good, but a trumpet is loud and had to be difficult to listen to hours on end. She knew music was my ticket to college. Living on her fixed income, there was little money for extras. I did not go without needs and she did her best to make sure I got some things I wanted. Others helped with some of those too. She instilled her love of art, reading, and her “do what you have to do” spirit.

My Aunt Merita is my go-to for all things advice. I know she helped Gran when things were tight. I remember staying with her regularly. I grew up as her 5th child. When I discovered the level of math and advanced science necessary for architecture or veterinary medicine, I realized my goals needed to be revised. Social Science and teaching became my area of interest. As a teacher who began her career later in life Merita was able to guide and advise. She stepped in as a grandmother to my children, an advisor when I needed to find my way, and a friend when I needed an ear. She is a strong independent woman who battled cancer and won. Given only a few months to live and asked by doctors if they could study her case, she emphatically proclaimed she was not ready to give up yet and sought treatment. That was ten years ago. While we are separated by distance these days, she is only a phone call or text away. In a sense, we share a mother. It is because of Gran that Merita and I have similar views on getting done what has to be done and pushing ourselves.

Lastly, my Great Aunt Hazel.  She would come by regularly to chat, sometimes bringing fresh vegetables. She loved Gran’s cooking so it was usually at lunch and the vegetables would be part of it. Aunt Hazel was loud, vibrant, and lived her life the way she wanted. After her husband died she ran their coal mining business and kept it successful. Talk about a woman in a man’s world. I can remember staying with her once and she took me for a 4 wheeler ride around her property. It was terrifying and exhilarating.  She was in her 70s and loved the adventure.  By her 90s she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She had such an amazing attitude about it. Very much an “it is what it is” mindset. Once, at a family gathering (decoration if you are familiar with the Southern tradition) Aunt Hazel was riding her scooter along the dirt walking paths and weaving in and out. She was having a joyful time, happy for anyone to tell her all about her grandkids…even if she had just heard about each.  Aunt Hazel was willing to help Gran anytime it was needed, and she didn’t have to be asked. She recognized the need and filled it. She was vibrant and didn’t let anyone tell her what she couldn’t do or how she should do it. She also did what made her happy.

These three summaries of amazing women are extremely condensed versions. Gran, Merita, and Aunt Hazel are my best examples of tenacity, strength, and joyful living. Each rose above their circumstances in life. Each faced adversity and pushed on anyway. Each modeled the tenets of continuous improvement, be your best self, and help others when you can.

I want to be like them. I want to be me, not what others think I should be. I want to be driven, creative, and strong in the face of adversity. I want to be happy where I am and help bring happiness to others. I want to offer words of wisdom when it is needed. I want to be able to ride a 4 wheeler in my 70s and a scooter in my 90s.

Life, Photography, Technology

Canon of Nature and Me

2020 Photography goal complete!

In an effort to keep busy, continue learning, and challenge myself I decided to dedicate several months to learning my camera. I signed up for a Coursera specialization and worked to learn various aspects of photography and manual mode. By the end, I was confident shooting in manual, although not always successful.  It was worth the time and effort to improve the shots I take and develop a fun, although expensive, hobby. (Donations for new lenses will always be graciously accepted!) Nature is my preferred subject. I was also able to practice with our kids, as well as their friends. Completing this specialization and receiving constructive feedback and encouragement from my peers is both validating and extremely satisfying. There were elements that challenged me tremendously. (I’ll be honest, it’s mostly the math of it.  Math makes me want to cry.) Other elements will help me in my instructional design and development. More importantly, I accomplished something I set out to do and developed a new hobby.  Below is my Capstone Statement for Canon of Nature and Me and the images I submitted. A canon is a statement, collection, or criterion of related works. It is also my brand of camera, so a little play on words.

It would be easy to shrink within and give in to the frustration of 2020. Nature has been my inspiration to stay positive and stay healthy. It has been my retreat. My photography inspires me to explore new areas, as well as explore the same areas through a different lens…sometimes literally. Colors change throughout the year. Light reflects differently each day, and at different times of the day. The view changes and the camera keeps me from taking it for granted. In this series, I am exploring the world around me. What is growing in my own backyard, my neighborhood, my favorite parks, and nature preserves? Getting outdoors keeps me motivated and I seek to capture that motivation with my lens and share it with you the viewer.

I started taking pictures regularly a few years ago. My philosophy was point, shoot, and hope for the best. My strategy was volume. Thousands of pictures for a small number of useable images. This learning series and Capstone Project has encouraged me to adjust settings, eventually shoot in mostly manual, and delve into editing RAW images. I have successfully become intentional about framing, exposure, and seeking to capture inspired moments instead of seeing something cool and hoping for the best as I take shot after shot.

As cities grow our neighborhoods expand. New building projects are implemented for houses, apartments, storage facilities, another gas station or car wash on the corner. Finding a relaxing natural space can be difficult in larger cities. Greenways offer an escape to nature. Nature preserves offer some protection to nature and the environment. As with our changing cityscapes, natural landscapes change as well. I seek to document the natural places I enjoy, frame the landscape, and capture the inspiring moments for both historical documentation and change over time.

 

Life, Photography, Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday 1

Life, Quotes, Self Reflection

2020 Some Things Worth Remembering

The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things. - Henry Ward Beecher
There is so much truth in that statement. It’s easy to find happiness in the special moments. The daily grind is where there is a challenge. This was and continues to be a truth for the time we are in. Many have found happiness in the less exciting aspects of life. A simple walk around the neighborhood is a treat. Camping, hiking, and kayaking are our preferred activities.  Not just for us it seems, outdoor equipment sales soared by mid-year 2020. Bike sales grew by +63%. Paddlesports, much the relief of suppliers and manufacturers who had been facing declines, grew +56%. Golf was up +51%, and camping +31%. Judging by the difficulty of getting a campsite, I think this number is probably a good bit low.  Back in October we scheduled all of our 2021 campsites and have already started looking at 2022.  CRAZINESS!  (source)

2020 was less than easy. It took real effort to find happiness in common things. I didn’t mind working from home. I certainly didn’t mind social distancing.  As an extreme introvert, it was nice to have my preferred life become socially acceptable.  The mask was a little tough at first, especially when hot. Over time, no big. It is just another item of clothing.  I knew that it was going to require an effort to stay active and not sink into the frustration of the election, Covid-19, and the changes we faced. I need goals and am very task-driven. So I set one and decided to learn how to use my digital camera and shoot in manual mode. I took a specialization through Coursera (which I just finished, yay me!) and took pictures as often as possible. As much as possible I ate lunch with my husband and took walks morning, afternoon, and evening as weather permitted. We adjusted. There were a few scares with the kids being exposed. They are all working outside the home and being as careful as possible. By the end of the year, only one was actually living at home. (Fly little birdies! I’m so proud of you!) Some friends and family were not so lucky and suffered from the virus, and some succumbed to the complications. 2020 was certainly not all rainbows and butterflies.  We had to make the best of it, and I’m proud to say we did.

If you have 6 minutes to spare, check out our year in review video linked below.

Live life. Give joy. Be at peace.

 

Life, Quotes, Rambles, Today I will

In with Both Feet

It's easier to resist at the beginning than at the end. - Leonardo da Vinci

#Truth

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is get started. It requires motivation, initiative, and sometimes optimism. Honestly, this should probably be my daily mantra and reminder. Get up. Start your day. Do not snooze that alarm. It is much easier to resist getting started in the morning.

I’ve also resisted getting started writing more.

Last year I decided my goal would be to learn my camera and use it for more than just point and shoot. I was successful. I now shoot in manual mode most of the time and I am editing RAW images.  Still learning, still taking pictures, and continuing that process. Actually, 2020 was the perfect time for that goal. Photography is a great activity for social distancing and trying to stay active.  This year, I have chosen a different activity and one that is not very active. I want to write more and improve my writing. I’ll still embrace my stream of consciousness preference, and I want to broaden my abilities. Years ago I wrote almost daily. I communicated with others across the world in a virtual space. I miss that. It was beneficial to read the perspective of others and be exposed to new ideas, new books, new places. So, for 2021, I’m going to get back to that. I want to improve communication, write more, and keep moving.

With this post, I’m refusing to resist. I’m getting started. One of my favorite authors is American historian James McPherson. I had the pleasure of interviewing him for a grad paper. What stuck the most was his comment that the hardest part of any book was to start writing. It stuck because I have such respect and admiration for his work. How could he struggle to get started? Because he’s human and sometimes that’s what we do.

Here I am, getting started and jumping in with both feet.