Tag Archives: Energy

The Changing Landscape

I am not a gardener, more of a putterer.  I admire gardeners and I enjoy the effect of a garden.  My back and knees don’t want to garden, though.  (They are protesting as I write this because I am itching to go and putter in the garden.)  There is something so elementally pleasing about watching things grow and thrive.

 

Last year I read an interesting book called Founding Gardeners.  I realized that I had something in common with Jefferson, Washington, and Adams besides a vested interest in the ongoing success of the ideals that created this nation – I enjoy a lot about gardening but wish that I could hire people to do the hard parts like they did.  Sometimes I manage to get my son to step in.

 

A few years ago I decided to create a garden area in my backyard in my mom’s honor.  We call it the Grandma Garden.  The object was to add plants each year for Mother’s Day and my mom’s birthday.  It was a way to stay close to her.  For many years it didn’t look much like a garden and plenty of the plants that were added didn’t make it.  (Often times thanks to the dog or other creatures, darn them.  The dog inexplicably dug up a sand cherry repeatedly and I kept finding her playing with it until it died.)

 

Last year I got a bunch of mostly evergreen plants from my sister early in the season.  I put a few in the Grandma Garden and for the first time it started to look like an actual garden area.  I had to move around a couple of boxwoods – moving plants was a revolutionary idea to me that has changed my puttering entirely.  The dog hasn’t been too kind to the boxwoods – digging near their roots unless I am vigilant.  They have been tenacious though.

 

The Grandma Garden last year.

The Grandma Garden last year.

I worried about my new plants during this past harsh winter.  The deep snow cover protected much of the plant bases but I have noticed signs of stress on the upper parts that were subjected to the wind and bitter cold.  I tried waiting to see if they would revive, and then a bit of trimming.

 

I just had to pull up one of the boxwoods.  The larger one, the one that had been more successful.  Because it was larger, it got greater doses of the winter punishment.  Now there is a big space which I am currently pondering.

 

One of the points of the garden was to find things that made me think of mom and the stories that she used to tell.  She wasn’t a gardener, but she had an appreciation for nature and she liked to dabble (a step or two more distant from gardener than putterer happens to be) in planting now and again.

 

There were large bushes in front of the house that she grew up in and every year when her dad got out the pruning tools, mom would pester him to let her trim.  That’s what the boxwoods were representing.  For now, the stunted little one that remains represents these moments in my mom’s life all by itself.

 

We think of plants as stable, but when you start to work with them you realize that gardens are ever changing.  Things thrive and things die – sometimes it doesn’t make any sense.  Sometimes the changes are subtle and sometimes dramatic.

 

Do you pay attention to the landscape around you?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Creativity Clocked In

The number of people who say that they aren’t creative astounds me.  Maybe they have a very narrow definition of creativity?  Maybe they don’t want to talk about their creative efforts because they don’t want to be judged?  Maybe someone once told them that they aren’t creative?

 

I think that we all have our creative moments, if we don’t define creativity too tightly, with too many restrictions.  To my thinking, creativity should be pleasing to the creator and build positive energy.  It should be something that we encourage in everyone.  A little quiet time, some mental space and more people might be able to tap into their own creative vein.

 

I have tried my own hand at sewing, knitting, painting, drawing, wood burning, wood working, writing, photography, acting, music, gardening, cooking, baking, crochet, embroidery (even designing my own pieces), and other pursuits that refuse to come to mind right now.  I tried each of these things because they interested me.  I have been somewhat more successful at some than at others, but I enjoyed learning about the process even if I was disappointed in the result.

Some of my past creative output

Some of my past creative output

 

I suppose there are those who might say some of the things that I listed aren’t creative – back to defining creativity.  I do define almost anything that can be subjectively applied and have a different end result as potentially creative.

 

I am impressed by the creativity that other people show.  I am particularly impressed by people who are able to make a living using their creative skills.  For many of us, creativity is something that is mostly applied to hobbies – though I have used creative thinking more than once at work.

 

I’m not entirely sure that I could be creative on demand.  Though sticking with any creative pursuit does require a certain amount of discipline.  And one of the biggest keys to creativity is being able to tap into the right mindset, so perhaps creativity on demand is just a matter of making sure that you tend the path, or paths, to that mindset.

 

I was very lucky to have two parents who were highly creative in their own ways.  (Though I am wondering now how they might each respond to being called creative.)  Both of my parents encouraged us to take on creative pursuits, and each spent time on their own creative outlets to lead by example.

 

The results of other people’s creativity are easily found on the internet and these can be inspiration to try something out for ourselves, or hindrance out of fear that our own effort won’t be so accomplished.  I don’t think that deciding to express creativity requires accomplishment.  Do you?

 

Writer’s note:  I am changing my writing schedule because summer is a very busy season at my workplace.  I love the challenge of coming up with topics to share here, and was proud of myself for keeping up with it during this last frigid winter when my thoughts were frozen, but I hope to find a balance between keeping things fresh here and keeping my team motivated through our busy weeks.  I will be posting on Tuesdays and Fridays, which hopefully will give all of us a bit of time to enjoy the summer months.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Perception of Control

I feel compelled by circumstances to write on this topic.  In a short span I came across the following links that relate to the topic of control and our perception of our level of control:

3 Reasons You Can’t Climb Out of Your Financial Hole

TheRealMikeRowe on Facebook – 4/19/14 Saturday Mail Call

 

So if I start out this post about control saying that I feel compelled to do something, then who has control?  Well I do, because I didn’t have to pay attention to the forces that happened to bring these examples to me within minutes of each other.  But I am also aware of the influence and how it affects my behavior.  How many people live their lives with a high perception of a lack of control?

 

Too bad we can't have a time out spot like this nearby when we need it.

We can’t control the weather.

I learned early on that I operate better when I have structure, so I created structure when the situation didn’t provide it.  I see this as a gift of my melancholy.  I also learned that this awareness seems to be rare.  There is an assumption that control is held by others in many instances.

 

If we assume that the control is held by others, then we abdicate any control that we might hold in a given situation.  And it might be that the overall control is held by someone else – but there are almost always aspects of control that we might be able to hold if not wield.

 

The example that comes to mind is the jury that I sat on over 10 years ago.  (Fascinating experience – I highly recommend it, but found it hard to balance my life for those 5 days.)  The young man was on trial for murder because he drove the car in a drive by shooting.  Had he exerted control that night and not taken his crew for that ride, instead followed his original plans to go on a date, there is a high potential that none of us would have been there those January days.  Had his lawyers exerted some control and put up some sort of defense, he might not have been found guilty.

 

I could go on with that more extreme example.  There are plenty of examples every day.  Maybe someone regularly interrupts you at the office.  You could find a firm and suitable response that lets that person know you will find them when you are available instead of letting the interruptions continue.

 

I thought it was interesting that most of the comments that I read through on the financial article didn’t address the points of the article at all, rather unconsciously reinforced the first point that many people have a perception of lack of control over their own financial solutions.  Awareness of where you might take control, no matter how small, is a first step.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Loving What You Do

We are told in so many ways to choose to do something that we love to make our living. It has become almost a cliché.

 

“I honestly think it is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate.”

~ George Burns

 

Is finding work that you love one of our modern myths?  It certainly can be tremendously helpful to feel positive about your work because we spend a great deal of our time working.  But plenty of people have found a way to be capable at work that is probably just a means to an end.

 

A garden is a work of love.  Hopefully these plants come back this year.

A garden is a work of love. Hopefully these plants come back this year.

Is it possible to excel at something that you hate enough to be successful doing it?  I’ve noticed in myself and those around me that we usually stay where we feel valued and we think that we can provide value to others.  That doesn’t mix with deep dislike in my book.

 

My first job was babysitting.  A pretty standard method of earning money for a girl back in the day – not as much now, I think.  It helped that I was the oldest girl on a block with plenty of kids.  I had a great career for a few years until the opportunities kind of drifted away as the kids got older and I got involved in high school activities.  I did love to babysit.  I miss spending time with kids.

 

Next I got into food service.  It was a relatively easy job to get without much experience, but not one that I was particularly good at because I just wanted to earn some money.  I also did not fit in particularly.  But food service jobs were available so I got one after another for a period of time.

 

A lot about the jobs that you get has to do with expediency, not love.  I probably would have been better suited to general office work but I had no clue how to obtain such a job.

 

Along the line, I took a brief stab at retail work in a small shop that sold natural remedies.  I do have an interest in the holistic approach and in natural remedies plus it didn’t hurt that a friend already worked there.  I’d tried to get retail jobs back before I got my first food service job, but no one was interested in a person without experience.  It was a means to earn some money while my life was in flux.

 

Eventually I got an office job.  I was a single mother in need of steady income and regular hours – so, highly determined that an office was a good choice.  That determination looked like confidence, which I had sorely lacked in my early forays into the working world.

 

I didn’t love office work, I loved my boys and wanted to find balance.  I wasn’t doing what I loved, but I did learn to love what I did because I found plenty of things to spark my curiosity.

 

Love what you do, do what you love, love why you work, love what you can do because you work to support yourself – there are plenty of options, I think.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

An Accomplished Grumbler

In our house, growing up, we learned early on that whining, wheedling and grumbling got you banished.  Who wanted to be banished?  We kept our grumbling to ourselves when we just couldn’t help but indulge in it.  (Especially when dad was around, he ‘would give us something to grumble about’!)  I did my best to instill this same message in my boys that grumbling wasn’t an effective method of getting what you want.

 

My son’s dog grumbles.  (Hrumphf, hmmrrr, rrrmmm, sigh)  It is hilarious as long as she only does it occasionally.  And only hilarious because she is a dog.  I never knew that animals wheedled before.

pleading eyes

What isn’t hilarious is the percentage of the adult population who didn’t get the same message that children got in my family – that grumbling isn’t effective in getting your point across.  There are an amazing number of grown people who must have had their childish grumbling validated and have carried this annoying trait into adult life.  Who have become accomplished grumblers.

 

What does grumbling cost the grumbler?  Why were we banished when we got in that mode as kids?  My mom was a Pollyanna type – amazingly positive and sunny.  (Not sickeningly, perky cheerleader so.)  One of the ways that she stayed that way was to focus on positive activities, which grumbling is decidedly not.  Grumbling is gloomy and low energy and draining.  It sucks you in rather than drawing you closer and you can’t wait to get some distance.

 

I try really hard not to laugh out loud when the dog does her grumbling thing.  She is a clown and I don’t want her to think this is a good method to get what she wants.  I don’t want her to be added to the list of accomplished grumblers.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Social Media Samba

I realize that I haven’t written about LinkedIn in a long while.  (I have to admit that I haven’t allotted much time for LinkedIn lately – shhh don’t tell them, it’s bad for my SEO.)  It is hard to keep up with all the content that can be found for perusal on the social media sites – and there is plenty that is worthy.

 

Do you do social media?  Are you tweeting and Facebooking and connecting on LinkedIn?  Or all of the other social media sites that seem to pop up every week.  I have no idea what the latest thing might be in terms of social media but I’m sure there is someone to tell me what I should be doing this week.

profile-plea

I do have a social media presence because I do get that it has merit.  It provides a great topic for interaction with new acquaintances too.  Ask a person about their social media engagement and you will find out quite a bit about that person.  As much, or maybe even more, than you would if you brought up one of the taboo topics of religion or politics.  Everyone has a position on social media.

 

I have found that it equates a bit to dancing – hence my title today.  (Plus I just liked the alliteration.)  Particularly for people of a certain age.  Do you dance – are you on social media – seem to cause many people to become self-conscious.  Fear of embarrassment.  Fear of doing the ‘wrong thing’.

 

While I wouldn’t advocate going out and standing in the middle of the dance floor and moving with the abandon of a 3 year old, I think that we should all be aware when we stop ourselves from doing something because of the fear of embarrassment.  Look at all of the public figures who have overcome some amazing faux pas.

 

Come on and pick the rhythm of your choice and stretch your social media muscles.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

I Can’t Make Me

That moment when you realize that you are really an adult might just have something to do with motivating yourself to do an unpleasant task.  We think of being an adult as finally getting to do all of the things that we were prevented from doing as kids.  If I thought at all about all of the things that require prompting to do, I assumed that adults didn’t need that external push.  I found out soon enough that I was wrong.

 

This topic is coming to mind because I’m trying to get up the energy to do my taxes.  Bleh.  There are some chores that I don’t like I have come to a neutral place on – I just do them and as long as things go smoothly, I don’t think too much about it.  But taxes never seem to go smoothly.  Just the act of gathering all the right paperwork is so tedious that it brings out the obstinate little pouty kid who shouts ‘you can’t make me’ over and over.

DSC03760

My sister used to have a friend who went to the trouble to run the vacuum throughout the house without turning it on in an act of defiant compliance.  Even as a kid I thought that defied logic – if you are going to go to the trouble to run it over the carpet, how hard is it to turn it on?  But I also get the defiance, the dig your heels in contrariness of the act.

 

Sometimes even as adults we need to have someone else make us do something – hence the need for many laws – things that will give us great benefit like eating healthy, saving for retirement, getting our teeth cleaned.

 

There must be a solid evolutionary reason why we are so obstreperous at times.  I have found myself splitting into two minds – one is being terribly unruly and the other is consternated not only by the childish stand but also by the choice of the fit.  Why-ever have I chosen to cling to this particular cliff?

 

How about you, what was the oddest situation where you dug your heels in?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Patterns, Collections & Repetition

What is it about a certain thing that makes us want more?  It makes sense that we want to categorize things, like solving a puzzle by snapping the pieces into place, we know what we need to go and find based on the items that surround the missing piece.  But most of us want to create combinations of things that are pleasing.  Either by shape, size, color, texture, sound, usefulness – what have you.

DSC03754

Patterns can also tell us when something goes wrong and help us to figure out how to set it right again.  When one customer tells a company that they are having a problem with a product, it might be assumed that it was an anomaly but when the same complaint comes up again and again then the company better get busy on that pattern.

 

I used to watch my mom sew clothes when I was little.  There was a pattern to her whole effort; deciding what was going to be made, going to the fabric store to pick out all the needed items – which included the pattern to make the piece of clothing – preparing and cutting and then finally sewing.  Some of the pattern pieces made sense right away – you could see it was going to be a sleeve or other recognizable part.  But some of the pattern pieces looked quite random, they only made sense when combined with other pieces.

 

Collections can be useful or informative, say tools, or aesthetically pleasing.  My dad had quite a few tools, some had been his father’s before him.  The hand tools were made to last, worn smooth by years of use.  My grandfather’s power tools were a bit scary since they were produced long before safety features had come into being.  Belts and other moving parts were all open and ready to snag a finger or worse, not hidden behind plates and covers as they are now.

 

I think that I am in the majority in finding comfort in my collections and something soothing in repetition.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Determined, Stubborn, Obstinate

I’ve been called all of these things.  I think sometimes it was meant to be unflattering at best.  I remember one conversation when I was told that I am rigid and I said if the word disciplined were inserted instead, I would accept the charge.  The accusation was wielded by someone who had a more unstructured method of approaching life than I.

 

Determined I accept and include in my own self-definition.  It is a trait that I am proud to claim, one that I cultivate on more hesitant days, in uncertain moments.  Figuring out how to call it up in moments of need is almost like discovering a super power.  I picture determination like a muscle – we must all have it – but as we who are over a certain age have found, muscles must be regularly activated or they go soft.  (But there are always exercises to revive them.)

 

Stubborn can come in handy and I have been known to warn a potential adversary that I practice stubborn quite well.  I have to really believe in the cause and you had better have a really compelling argument for your position.  Compromise is an acceptable end.  But then again, I might just be reformulating my points that I conceded for now for another run later.  I do understand that stubborn should be applied in small doses, or it can turn into this next word.

 

photo credit: Wikipedia

photo credit: Wikipedia

Obstinate, hmm.  This one has been leveled mostly by people whose most compelling argument is ‘because’.  Obstinate means “characterized by inflexible persistence or an unyielding attitude” (per http://dictionary.reference.com/).  I don’t see any point in obstinacy, unless a person has no interest in learning new things.  Of course, I mentioned above that stubborn can become intractable and turn into obstinacy – no for the sake of no.  If I know that I am right then I imagine that can appear obstinate to my opposite.

 

Being determined is a good thing when tempered with an openness to new information.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

An Acceptable Level of Chaos

The known and the unknown.  Order and its opposite – disorder, mess, chaos.  The traditional dramatic struggle is between good and evil, but every day life’s struggle is in the intersection between order and control or varying levels of chaos.  Even people who aren’t drawn to structure, who are comfortable in ambiguity, need some touch points of order – normalcy.

 

Whether we actively and consciously understand our own needs for order, or we lash out in unease caused by too much chaos too close, every one of us has an acceptable level of chaos.  When we can still mostly function, beyond which we get bogged down.

The Course of Empire Thomas Cole, 1836 - public domain image

The Course of Empire Thomas Cole, 1836 – public domain image

 

Somehow I learned fairly early on that I could create some of the structure that I need to feel comfortable in my environment.  I am thankful for this since it has greatly helped me to navigate my life.  I know immediately that when anxiety starts to build that I should take a breather, mentally take stock in all that is going on around me and identify a few simple things that I can straighten out.  I know that to press on will be foolish – and yet sometimes I press on.

 

Even knowing the level of order that I prefer, having such an interest in problem solving as I do, I am finding that the level of complexity in our modern life – the amount of oversight and active monitoring that is necessary on my part to get an acceptable level of service from the companies and people that I interact with – is exhausting.  I can’t begin to imagine how people who have a much stronger need for order, or people who find standing up for themselves a challenge, manage these interactions.

 

I didn’t mean to sound stilted in this post, but I am trying to wrap my head around a solution to this encroaching chaos.  It feels too close lately, in too many areas of my life.  Naming it is the first step to a solution.  Finding joy, or having a laugh will reduce the anxiety while I continue to sort through.  Finding some easy wins will give me a little boost of energy to press on.

 

How are you managing your chaos?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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