Tag Archives: Change

September Skies

I think, somewhere along the way through adulthood, I’d stopped noticing the sky. Oh, I’d returned to an awareness of nature, realizing on an instinctive level that it would calm the storm of my life. Though other than to look for threatening weather or waning daylight, I really didn’t look up.

 

But those planes made us all look up and notice. Even far from the actual places of destruction. Made us notice the perfect blue, the picturesque white clouds and the ominous absence of planes on that day. Made us scan those September blue skies in the days and weeks after, looking and wondering.

 

I’ve continued to notice the beauty of the sky. Even as we contemplate the potential of other dastardly deeds – human and climate based. My eyes are often on the clouds.

I am aware of the light. How it is different in each season. And different in other parts of the world. And how it changes in September when the angle of the sun announces the coming of a new season.

 

I think about how September is full of ghosts for me. Family birthdays that now mark the years since we had the celebrant here with us. Anniversaries that no longer accumulate to anything. (Though a couple that still do.) And all those ghosts who didn’t know the turn their day would take on that lovely morning.

 

I would think of what we have collectively learned – about the nature of disaster. About human nature. But, I’m not certain those lessons were universal or lasting for many.

 

United we stand? I hold out hope as I absorb the September sunlight.

 

© 2017 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

What Life Brings

Do you have a month particularly punctuated by significant dates? We are currently passing through my month, September. Many family anniversaries, both current and no longer marked – a couple of my cousins, my brother’s and my sister’s, my parent’s and my own. Birthdays too, though all of these are marked in memory only – my grandparent’s on my dad’s side and my mom. Having so many dates with meaning can’t help but lead to a bit of reflection and nostalgia.

Sept 1984

A date on a calendar comes up and when it marks a certain event, the passage of time becomes clearer than it normally is. This date became significant in 1938, that one in 1959, 1986, 1997, 2001… it can’t be possible that the calendar has turned so many times, and yet it has. And the number of times that we have celebrated the anniversary of each event has grown while we were just busy making a life.

 

I know people who are deliberate in their decisions and planning and I know people who never seem to be prepared for any of the things that occur in their life. And I know all sorts of people in between these types. But for all of us, life seems to have a haphazard aspect. If there is anyone out there who has done exactly what they expected to do every step of their life, I certainly would like to meet them. I know that we are all supposed to have 5 year, 10 year and life plans so that we can check our progress and recognize our successes when they happen. But, really.

 

Life brings choices and pivotal moments disguised as everyday activities. We can rail against the haphazard nature, we can take action to direct our own fate as much as possible, we can accept the parts that are out of our control. Or plenty of other variations.

 

Sometimes those ‘if only’ thoughts come along to taunt – think where you would be if only you had made this choice or done that thing, if you hadn’t been afraid to try something new, if you hadn’t splurged when you should have saved. But I didn’t. And through the course that I have taken, I have managed to learn, to experience and continue growing.

 

My mom was born on this date 77 years ago and I have marked it now 11 times without her. I can smile as the past scrolls out in my mind – the ways that we celebrated – and I can think about all of the ways that she is still with me.

 

We can turn the calendar and spend a few moments on a significant date and remember what was and wonder at what is and decide what should be.

 

© 2015 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Once Familiar Route, or Planning to be Disoriented

Every once in a while I become aware of the changes that have occurred in my routine for various reasons.  For years I headed east from my house – for work, family, errands.  Everything that I needed or wanted was pretty much east with the rare exception.  When my workplace actually moved closer to my home, my usual radius became about 6 miles, mostly east.

 

And then my life changed and now my well-worn route is south and north.  Work is south, with a slight alteration thanks to the onset of construction season.  (A quarter mile section of my regular road is being completely replaced, requiring me to go over a mile out of my way…)  New personal commitments and interests send me north several times a month.  Occasional jaunts take me to once familiar areas east of my house.

 

But I digress.  A person that I know is starting a new job this week, and my one of my sons started a new job a couple of weeks back.  Both are pleased with the opportunity for full time employment.  Both are interested in doing a good job and succeeding.

 

A new job is exciting. But it is also unfamiliar and disorienting.  A new routine, all new co-workers, tasks, procedures, culture, etc.  When we start a new job, we look forward to the additional money, the opportunities to use our skills.  We forget to think about the disorientation – all those new names and faces, the different commute – so much change.  That disorientation can really bite hard.

 

It wasn’t so long ago that I was in the midst of it myself.  At least being a writer helped me because of the necessary skills in observation and identification.  I never stopped being able to identify with new people at my previous job.  To help them to understand why their head was spinning.  Even still, I had to have more than one talk with myself when starting my current job to remember the plan.

 

How can a person plan to be disoriented?  A big part of the plan is just that – to know that it will happen, that it is a normal part of a new experience.  Normal means it happens to almost everyone.  The next part of the plan is to know that it is temporary.  Fairly quickly something will seem familiar, and then another something and another.  Friendly faces will offer assistance, ease the transition.

 

There is so much to learn and acclimate to in a new job, many go from being the person that everyone goes to for the answer to the person who feels lost.  But you are still you.  You still have the skills that got you the job, they just have to be applied in this unfamiliar place.

 

Long ago this was a familiar route to me.

Long ago this was a familiar route to me.

Things that we look forward to – a baby, a job, a house, a move, a marriage – are stressful because everything that was once familiar suddenly is shifted and disorienting.  If it was an anticipated change we have trouble figuring out why we are discombobulated, disoriented and we get frustrated.

 

Sometimes familiar routes cease to be current routes, but fairly quickly the new route becomes familiar.

 

© 2015 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Last Vestiges

An article in the Sunday paper talked about how to properly put away your snow blower until next season.  It liberally refers to best practices during the last use of the season.  Stepping out to retrieve the paper from the end of the driveway this morning, I passed what I hope were the last vestiges of snow from the winter just completed.  (I feel safe saying winter is done since we have already entered meteorological spring and are mere days from astronomical spring.)

 

Winter weather, however, may not be done with us yet.

 

How does one know then that the current use of the snow blower will be the last of the season, in order to follow the directions provided in the article?  How do I know that those tiny patches of snowy ice are the last, at least for months to come?  (Looking out now with the thought of capturing them to illustrate this post, I see that I am too late and they are gone.)

 

odd post-snow remnants, picture taken by a friend

odd post-snow remnants, picture taken by a friend

We often talk in terms of end of this and last of that, but unless the deadline is self-imposed, calendar based, or otherwise easily limited and under our control how do we know it is a last of something?  This question comes to mind when I pass the bookshelf in my living room where the last book that my mom was reading sits.  The clean tissue that she had hastily or lazily pressed between its pages to mark her progress has been replaced by a book mark from one of her favorite independent bookstores.  It took me a couple of years to even make that change, but it never occurred to me not to mark the spot.

 

That last book, Tobias Wolff’s Old School, isn’t something that I have any interest in reading, at least not currently.  It sits on the shelf as a dust catcher between books that I have read and deemed worthy of keeping.  It represents all of the things that mom was still planning on doing, learning, accomplishing and experiencing.  There were stacks of magazines that were folded open to articles that she was in the midst of reading, other stacks of notes she had taken to be used in a future project, all signs of her planned continuation of intellectual development.  Despite cancer’s effect on her physical self, she would not have proclaimed Old School as the last book she would read until circumstances made that decision.

 

Last, as in previous, makes sense and I do truly hope that the last snowfall we experienced days ago in my region will be the last for months to come.  But I won’t bet on it or plan in it.  There are too many variables out of human control.  That book makes me consider my use of the word last in many instances.  How do I know?

 

© 2015 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Hardy

Now this is a word that we don’t use nearly often enough these days.

 

“I’m interested in that thing that happens where there’s a breaking point for some people and not for others. You go through such hardship, things that are almost impossibly difficult, and there’s no sign that it’s going to get any better, and that’s the point when people quit. But some don’t.”

~Robert Redford

 

Life has taught me that hardy is something that I want to be, a trait that I want to cultivate.  There are all sorts of breaking points, and I have a few memories of quitting this or that, like playing the flute, early on that didn’t sit well with my competitive nature.

 

Hardiness consists of these characteristics – resilience, optimism, flexibility and creativity.  I read this in periodic research that I have done and I believe it because it has been true for me.  The beautiful thing about hardiness, is that while some people are inherently hardier to begin with, it is something that can be learned and strengthened over time.

 

a hardy plant, Lily of the Valley

a hardy plant, Lily of the Valley

I do not lean toward optimism, but I can turn my thoughts in that direction.  My mom was quite the optimist and I could regularly compare my Eeyore mindset to hers, and sometimes be amazed that her belief that things would be ok seemed to actually make them ok.

 

I’ve learned resilience can be born from stubbornness combined with a willingness to learn.   Realization that resilience is something that I am mastering came slowly.

 

Flexibility and creativity also make sense as parts of the hardy equation.  Creativity provides strengths and helps recharge batteries.  And flexibility releases some of the pressure from stress.

 

I am mere days away from the beginning of a new decade, so while I hope that you get something out of reading this post it is admittedly more of an exhortation to myself that I know how to be hardy.  I hope that you do too.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Season’s Change

Summer is over if you count the season as lasting between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  Or we still have a handful of days left if you take into account these days before the first day of autumn.  The leaves on the trees are still green, but clearly worn.  Some are tinged with other colors after hanging onto branches for quite a few months.

 

Walking at the back of the nearby park with the dog recently, I got a strong whiff of the sharp smell of fall.  A bit of pungent decay, once growing things ready to enrich the soil for something future to grow.

 

I’ve written a couple of times over the past few months about summer, this season that most causes us to think of leisure.  One that we are more likely to feel concern about wasting than the other three.  (Assuming that we live in a place that has seasons, which I do.)

DSC03501

How did I do in my effort to enjoy moments of summer?  I mentioned choosing the patio option as often as possible in my early summer post.  I’m afraid that I didn’t meet up with family and friends all that often, but I can say that I logged a bit of time on decks and patios.  Nor did I manage to get to more than one outdoor concert.

 

I took stock again early last month in my effort not to let summer pass unnoticed.  I can add the taste of our own tomatoes to the list I made in that post.  They have a heady flavor, but unfortunately thick skins.  And I experienced mosquito bites too, darn it.

 

This summer wasn’t hot enough for a lot of people, but it was just about right to my thinking.  (I’m sure they at least appreciate the more reasonable utility bills from the moderate summer heat.)

 

Now plenty of people are already bemoaning the coming of winter.  But, please, let’s give fall its due first.  The weather will continue to be pleasant for weeks to come and then turn crisp.  While the plants all settle into a dormant state.

 

I’ve lived most of my life in regions that experience all four seasons.  I most enjoy spring and fall, I see benefit in summer, and I endure and accept winter for the sake of the other seasons.

 

While I think about how I met my own summer expectations and where I fell short, I have to remind myself that I shouldn’t just lament but decide what I might do better.  How about you, did your summer turn out how you expected?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

How Much ‘Summer’ in Summer?

August is upon us and the back-to-school ads have started to appear.  Gardens are about to produce tomatoes and cucumbers galore.  Leaves on trees are looking a bit tired and worn here and there after shining in their green spectrum from early pale to later deep green.  We still have a couple more months to go before the plants all go dormant for the cooler months.

 

I haven’t taken a vacation, or even devoted a whole day to summer activities, but I have vicariously enjoyed those of friends and family on Facebook and in-person telling.  And I have thought about what constitutes a summer moment so that I don’t miss them when they occur.  In early June, I wrote this piece about summer and the importance of noting this season.

 

Summer isn’t just a season, it is an idea – a representation of things to strive for like relaxation and laughter with friends and family.  It is nostalgia in a different form than what the holiday season brings forth.  The sound of children laughing in early evening brings me back to those moments in long ago yards playing tag or chasing fireflies with a group of other kids.  The joy of still being up and out in the dark when we would normally have been tucked into bed.

 

Enjoying the idea of summer in adulthood takes effort, a deliberateness that wasn’t necessary in childhood.  First we have to be conscious that this effort is even required.  Summer was spontaneous in our younger years and we might expect this to continue, we might feel discontent when it does not.

 

For several years in the transition from child to adult, I didn’t think about summer much at all.  Perhaps because I was busy figuring out what being an adult meant for me.  Perhaps because I was doing this figuring out in California, where the seasons are subtle and mostly all have the feel of summer.  It wasn’t until my children were old enough to have a summer break in school, and summers had the same rhythm they had in my childhood that I started to think about what makes summer.

 

Then I was divorced with two boys and a full time job and I had to make sure they had a summer while basically foregoing one for myself.  Or so I thought because I thought of summer as long stretches of unscheduled time to explore and enjoy.

DSC03845

Now summer comes in moments, sips, or bursts.  And I enjoy them.

  • Time on a patio with family or friends
  • The hummingbird that visits the Rose of Sharon in the corner of my yard
  • Watching the tomato plants grow and tomatoes form
  • The firefly that hovered in front of the dog and I on a late evening walk
  • The dragonfly that reluctantly posed for this picture
  • The little boy gleefully whizzing by on his bike
  • The sound of lawn mowers while I still laze in bed on a weekend
  • Thunderstorms clearing the humidity from the air

 

How much summer is in your summer so far?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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