The walking, talking blood pressure pill

I’m not the only one who’s stressed out.  There’s busy traffic, suicidal pedestrians, work pressures, bills, unexpected life events, medical concerns, judgemental people, cats trying to trip you, price fluctuations, eternal questions about life, the Universe, and Everything.  I’d make an exhaustive list but quite frankly, Dear Reader, we don’t have that kind of time.

I (and practically everyone else on this planet) often seek ways to reduce stress.  Perhaps a Zen koan, a few moments of meditation, some soothing tea, a relaxing game.  A hobby.  Creating a refuge.  Baking.  Once again, there are so many things to try that we don’t have the time needed to list them.

I rediscovered an old favorite, someone with a voice that’s like a mug of warm cocoa and a hug for the ears.  I feel my blood pressure dropping as he speaks.  I feel whole, like I’m okay, like I’m Just Enough, like I can do anything when I listen.

I’m talking about Bob Ross, of course.

During his long career as a painting instructor on PBS he taught a lot of people to make art.  But he also tried to tell everyone that they could believe in themselves.  The paintings he gave away after each show have been sold to make money for charity.  He was like Mister Rogers for adults.  Once a hard-ass Sargent in the Air Force, he had a dream of never having to yell or scream at anyone again.  He found ways to make art.  He learned the wet-on-wet oil painting technique that let him create whole paintings during short snatches of time, when he escaped the rigidity of the Service to create his own world.

I came looking for Zen and I found Bob.

I don’t paint with oils – too messy.  But I can use some of his techniques with other media.  I want to learn to keep that vision and that peace that he offers through his show in my heart.  To continue to strive for excellence, but temper it with gentleness and playfulness.  So that no matter what, art stays fun.

From now on I’m going to try and watch at least one of his episodes per week, as a meditation but also a way to learn to create that kind of hopeful world within my heart.

Here’s to you, Bob.  You left the world better than you found it.

“There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.”

Unrepentant Bibliophile

Books have been a part of my life since the beginning.

As a child, the public library was always my “happy place,” where I would go for socializing and for fun.

Books provided friendship, escape, knowledge, peace.  I gathered libraries for myself in my room, checked out tall stacks every week.

When I was old enough to pick out a university, I chose the one I did largely because of it’s fantastic, beautiful library.  It was built like a cathedral to knowledge, with stained glass windows and a giant, leather covered, metal studded door.  Come to think of it, I should have spent a lot more time in that reading room.

I met my wisest kendo teacher in the undergraduate library at that same school.  If you happen upon this, Bolling Sensei, I hope you may understand someday what you gave me.

Libraries are places of hidden treasures, ready to be uncovered with a watchful eye.  As I gather facts, I feel like a squirrel gathering nuts against winter’s chill.

When I got my first house, I looked forward to gathering a fantastic library.  I made a good start of it then had to give up almost every book when I had to move five years later…

…it left a hole in my heart, of a size I’ve barely begun to fathom.

I collected ebooks, bought a reader.  It helped.  I wanted a library small enough to fit into someone’s prosthetic leg.  I still have that reader, old as it is.

Two more moves.  Heartache, saving, worrying, and then the break came.  A better job, a very kind offer from my folks, and finally a new home.

As I looked at my fledgling library tonight, I felt a sense of peace and wellbeing come over me that I’ve not felt in quite some time.  At first, I hardly recognized it.  Then I knew I had to share it.  It was the feeling of being around books again.

I was truly home in a way I’ve not been in far too long.

Viva books!

Voyage into Suburbia – and bonus recipe!

I’ve bounced around a lot, lived in plenty of different places so far.  I’ve lived in small towns, in huge cities, in a cabin deep in the woods, in a tent in the desert, on an Indian reservation (what they themselves called it, by the way), in a trailer at a trailer park, at a small airport, in college dorms, in apartments both good and bad.

Now I embark on the strangest journey of all.

I recently moved into the suburbs.

It’s a strange world of single family houses, personal mail boxes, polite neighbors, friendly cashiers at the grocery store, remodeling, painting, grilling on weekends, commuting to work, pool care.  Dogs being walked on leashes, people going on jogs voluntarily, kids playing in yards.

Of course I’ve seen many of these elements before but having them all together is quite amazing.

Home Depot and Lowe’s have never been quite so exciting.  With my intrepid spouse at my side, we plan what we will do with our house, and how to make it a home.  We think about painting the living room white and hanging black curtains, or turning it into a small dojo.  We plan our study and our art studio.  We set up our kitchen and actually choose a decorating theme.  We fret over the HORRIBLE colors of paint the last owners put up, and wonder how any sane person could actually like those shades of dirt-green, off-white and off-pink.  We worry about yellow algae in the pool and termites in the beams.  We celebrate every time I manage to grill a good piece of meat.  We have no landlords, no surprise inspections, and no neighbors sharing our walls.  There’s breathing room.  And huge lizards in the shed, and dragonflies skimming over the pool in the morning.

There’s moonlit nights and there’s quiet inside our brick walls.  There’s peace in our hearts.  This isn’t an end to worry, or to trouble, but it’s a different world than I’ve ever known before.

As a reward for reading all this, I’ll give you something.

If you like corn at all, you owe it to yourself to try it grilled.   I haven’t been much of a corn fan but was shocked when I tried it.  I’ve never tasted corn that was so sweet and flavorful!  Here’s my simple recipe.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

You will need:

Corn on the cob, out of the husk and silk picked off

Butter or margarine

Freshly cracked black pepper

Sea salt or kosher salt

Aluminum foil – approximately a square foot for each ear

A grill – gas, charcoal, yours, a friend’s, whatever you can find

Here’s what you do.

Lay out your foil, shiny side up.

Spread butter on the corn, lay it on the foil.

Sprinkle on salt and pepper.

Roll corn up in the foil and close the ends.

Roast on the grill for about twenty minutes.  You can put it on indirect heat next to your main dish if you want.  Turn a couple of times.

Carefully unwrap the corn and eat.  You’ll find that it’s juicy, sweet, and the heat really brings out the flavors.  Enjoy!

 

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Someone else’s drudgery might be your dream job

A job that someone else might consider a shallow waste of time might be your best place for this moment in time.  A job that you find shallow might develop hidden depths as you think about it.

Anyone in the working world has experience with grindingly boring jobs.  Some of us have always had satisfying, fulfilling work but we have witnessed boring jobs.  Okay, now the rest of us (99.999%) have had one or more boring, unfulfilling jobs.

The strangest thing is, I’ve learned that kinds of work I’ve heard others complain endlessly about, and haven’t expected to like, are actually boatloads of fun for me!

For example, I pretty much always thought I wanted to be an artist or designer for a living.  However, I didn’t know what that meant.  I’m not good at being creative each and every day, and I’m not always the best with deadlines.  Also, I hate selling so I’m not the world’s most amazing self promoter.  I recognize these things about myself and I’m okay with that.  I know what I need to work on.

I thought that data entry could be about the most mind numbing job imaginable.  Call center work was scariest and most horrible, but data entry had to be the most boring.  Fast forward quite a few years and I find that call center work is actually pretty fulfilling if you work inbound lines, and I just took a job as a claims analyst that involves a lot of data entry.  Yet, it’s great!  It’s like doing a hundred puzzles a day and it’s always new and fresh!  I never would have found this out if I’d clung to my old ideas about the perfect job.

The moral of that story is to stay in tune with the kinds of work you like, and your personal strengths, so you know what you’ll actually be a good match for.  That way you won’t take the job that everyone else wants but you might hate.  Here’s an example.  I thought I wanted to be a trainer at a call center.  I thought it would be great – I’d be off the phones, I could share my experience and help mold my students into great reps, and oh, did I mention I’d be off the phones?  Once I knew more about the position I realized I’d be going slowly crazy there.  A job where I was assisting other reps on the phone as they asked me questions about product and navigation was a whole lot better for me.

What if you hate your current job and can’t get out of it?

Been there, done that, got the lame corporate T-shirt.  I’m not sure what you should do in your situation but here is what I’ve done to make it easier on myself.

See the humor in the situation.  There’s something funny about everything, even if all you do is sort frozen fish on a  conveyor belt and throw out the green ones.  How funny is a green fish?

Find the places where you make a difference.  In my dull customer service jobs, one thing that’s kept me going is knowing I was making a difference in many people’s lives.  Even if I was just telling them why their pills were going to be late.  At least I could give them one more positive interaction than they would have had.

Find ways your current job can build your skills.  I would sometimes take on extra work or do extra training if I knew it would develop me.  This has gotten me into better and better jobs.

Always look for opportunities.  You won’t see them if your eyes are closed.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/shallow/

The Nitty Gritty – Life Lessons from my job

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’ve started a new office/customer service job it seems like the training is half pablum, half semi/useful stuff, full of platitudes and not really of lasting use to anyone.  Not so with this new job, the one I talked about getting a month or so ago.

I started training this week and have been really impressed with the company.  Today I had a course in cooperative communication, and another in appreciating diversity.  Usually those are prime candidates for the Useless List.  This time, though, I was shocked!  I actually learned some things, and was reminded of useful advice I’ve heard before but don’t put in practice often enough.  I came away from the training inspired, not bored.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned, hopefully they’ll help you too.

“Be responsible for your actions.”  More people need to do this.  Being responsible isn’t being accountable to a higher authority, it’s recognizing what the right thing to do is, because it’s the right thing, then doing it.  I need to do this more too.

“Stay Positive.”  This is practically the watchword of the classroom I’m in, and the instructor reminded us on the first day that our jobs will be much more fun if we do this.  The material, though difficult, will also be easier to learn.  I agree with her 100% and want to do this more in my private life as well.

“Don’t focus your attention on your intention, but on the impact of your actions.”  I love this at the same time as I am infuriated by this.  It’s so easy to say “but I only meant to…” when a mistake has been made.  However, no matter what I might think, the effect of my actions is exactly the same no matter what I meant.  Focusing on the impact puts my attention where it needs to be to learn from what happened and do better next time.

“Be creative and flexible in your interactions.”  This was great because it reminded me that different people have different styles of interaction, so if you are flexible, you can get the most out of every meeting, be it casual or professional.

“To err is human, but to take responsibility for your part is professional.”   I love this.  It allows that mistakes can happen, but demonstrates a behavior that is the first step in the path to making amends and fixing the situation.

“The power of the pause.”   This is the best of all the tips, really, because it’s the one that lets you follow them.  Taking that extra second after you might have said or done something wrong, or someone else did, can be all the difference between a reasonable response and an unfortunate one.

 

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/grit/

Take up your quill and write your own destiny

I’m approximately halfway through my life, given current longevity rates for a person in my socioeconomic situation.  It’s causing me to see that I will never do the things I want to do unless I make them happen.  I can’t afford to wait, it’s time to decide what things I want to take the time to be good at.  Also, what things I want to do, and how to get there.  Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

Growing up, I didn’t have much variety of music to listen to.  We had a few cassette tapes of folk music.  We didn’t go out and buy albums.  We didn’t have Mp3s to download, and I didn’t listen to the radio because I took the bus everywhere.  Listening to music on the internet was a total revelation to me when I went to college, but I didn’t do it much because music wasn’t really a huge part of my life.

Fast forward to meeting my wife.  She is a metal head.  I didn’t like it at first.  Gradually I started to and now power metal is my favorite genre.  For a long time I had a recurring dream about playing the guitar but I never did anything about it.

Tonight I got to hang out at a friend’s studio.  He’s been playing electric guitar for 38 years and wow, he’s good!  I haven’t listened to much live music so this was a real revelation.  The music touched me as never before.  I even liked the songs I normally wouldn’t like, as the sound enfolded me and stirred my deepest nerve endings.  I found myself totally comfortable in the studio.  I liked the smell of the air, the look of the equipment.  I didn’t feel out of place like I have in other musical venues.  It felt… right.  In fact, I was inspired to do a painting, which I’ll start tomorrow.

This reminded me of my dream of playing the guitar.  Perhaps, I thought, I could start playing one!  Time’s wasting, there are fewer days ahead than there are behind.  I can find a cheap used guitar to start with, and look at lessons on YouTube.  I can practice with headphones on so I don’t even bother the neighbors.  The point is, if I want to do this, I can make it happen by taking the first step, and then the next, and then the next.  I can have my dreams if I go about it in a sensible way.  As my guitar player friend said, “you have to decide you’ve already done it and then just get started.”

Is there a dream you’ve had that’s like this?  How might you write your own life story?

 

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/quill/

The greatest paper I’ve read this month

Okay, it’s metaphorical paper – the endless scroll that is a webpage.  Yet, I’m actually tempted to print this one out.  I found it thought provoking, refreshingly non-partisan, and eminently useful.  It’s a graphic discussion of core beliefs and how we learn, done by one of my favorite cartoonists.  Just click to follow – there’s a safe for work, and a not safe for work option!

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https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/paper/