Tag Archives: Learning

Waiting Patiently, Part 2

Patience – endurance, fortitude, perseverance, persistence, forbearance, resignation…  Do any of us have enough of this trait in any given moment of our days?  I like this definition: ‘an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay’.  Ah, a willingness to suppress – this implies that, if I want to, I can nurture this trait in myself.

 

Curiosity doesn’t have much patience with obstacles – it wants to know, and it wants to know right now.  Or wants to be or have or feel or experience…  Right now.

 

Having children requires a person to cultivate patience, Herculean patience in the face of unexplainable infant fury.  Empathy for their misery led me finally to patience.  It was my job to use my curiosity to understanding their needs and meet them if I could.  And soothe if I couldn’t.  Soothing requires patience.  Which comes in handy when the endless questions come, then the pushing of boundaries…

 

Gardening requires patience.  Plants grow even more slowly than children, but thankfully don’t have hours-long crying jags or want to know why.  I have one houseplant that I bought back in 1986 that is still going.  (My former mother-in-law even revived it from the mild frost-bite it got on a cross country trip.)  What will thrive, or make-do, or perish?  Why?  Patience is necessary to get these answers.

 

In our vegetable gardening this year, we are watching the tomatoes form and we are full of questions.  Impatient questions – how will they taste, when will they be ready?  Patient questions will get us there – how much sun, how much water?

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Diligence is part of the definition of patience.  This one I understood from childhood on – because of its importance to structure and process and ritual.  Curiosity can’t really be sated without some understanding and application of methodology.  Where would I fit the new information if I didn’t have a means to categorize it in with the information that I already possess?  Diligence comes in handy to retain the information or experience that curiosity prompted.

 

Timing is an important component.  We bought the tomato plants in May, already a couple of inches tall, knowing that tomatoes wouldn’t actually be ready until sometime in August.  Now that it is August, the patience is wearing a little thin.  The ability and willingness to suppress our restlessness for our homegrown tomatoes is getting harder to apply.  But more crucial to a successful outcome.

 

There are so many places and instances where I can apply this patience I have learned, am learning.  At work, while driving, in line, when I’m out of sorts…

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Waiting Patiently, Part 1

We decided to try our hands at a bit of vegetable and herb gardening again this year after a several year hiatus.  We just got a few things and put them in pots because I still haven’t settled on a ‘landscape design’ for the back yard.  (There is the one in my dreams that includes a 3 season room/conservatory, a patio, a beautiful new fence and award winning plantings…)  The last time I tried to raise a tomato plant I put it on the west side of the house and it got burnt and spindly and we managed to reap a single tomato from the poor thing before it became compost.

 

I think that I’ve learned a bit since then.  We’ll see if I have learned enough.  Now our tomato plants live on the south side of the house and are currently full of promise – about 18 tomatoes are developing between the two plants.  We also have peppers, mint and oregano.  We had basil, but a random wind burst blew a chair onto it and now it is in the process of dying.

 

We are already realizing that the herb books we possess have gaps – like when and how to harvest.  Perhaps the writer assumes we know this part…  In which case he or she is wrong.

 

I am enamored of the idea of gardening – decorative and produce.  I have a stack of gardening books that I look at and reference periodically, some practical and some fanciful.  Reading about our founding father’s deep interest in gardening, as gentlemen gardeners I realized that is around my level.  I want to talk about it, think about it, enjoy it and just occasionally do the heavy parts.  Plant something here, pull a weed there, rely upon thick layers of mulch to prevent weeds and help retain moisture.  Unfortunately I don’t have the financial resources to pull off this sort of gardening.

 

Watering is a Zen activity that falls happily in my version of gardening.  Some days the plants have to wait patiently while I participate in other activities and interests, though.

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Gardening is perfectly suited to the acquisition of knowledge – it is forgiving of novice mistakes if you start slowly and allow for changes in plans.  Gardening is helping me to practice the patience that I have mostly lacked in other parts and earlier stages of my life.

 

You’ll have to excuse me now, I feel the need to go take a tour through the yard.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

There Will Be Exasperation

I’ve just sat down and gotten comfortable, so of course the dog now wants to go out.  This is exasperating.

 

Picking up one too many things to put back in their proper place, so everything slides and clangs and rolls away on the floor.  This is exasperating.

 

Dropping one of my earrings as I walk out of my room and put them on at the same time because I am already pressed for time.  This is exasperating.

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Going just a little too long between meals, trying to do that one more thing when tired, being unable to stretch just that tiny touch more to grab something needed when constrained – these are exasperating.

 

Being unable to retrieve the word that I want, or remember the association that would fit well into a conversation, or find that mosquito that buzzes in my ear when the lights are off and I am just about asleep.  Exasperating.

 

Having someone bring in dirty dishes just as I finish up in the kitchen.  Grrr.  Having the phone ring a couple of minutes before the end of the work day.  REALLY??

 

Vexing, infuriating, aggravating, inflammatory things happen every day, plenty of times per day to rankle each and every one of us.

 

Thankfully there is also laughter and beauty and kindness.  The dog wags her tail and smiles at me when I grumblingly go over to let her out and shortly thereafter let her back in.

 

I don’t have any interest in spending my hours feeling indignant much of the time.  I can remind myself to eat in a timely manner to stave off those blood sugar dips that result in a foul mood.

 

It’s a mind game that I can play better some days than others.  How about you?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

How Many Things Can Your Mind Juggle?

Back in my early adulthood, I thought I was overwhelmed when I had a couple of issues at the same time; say one personal and one work issue.  Mind boggled.  But I slowly adjusted and found that I could handle a couple of different issues at the same time and maintain regular stuff as well.

 

Then I had kids and had to mentally juggle my stuff, house stuff and their stuff.  Sometimes I missed a few balls, but I did pretty well because there became an ebb and flow to activity that followed the school year.  My mind could rest a bit here and there.

 

I’ve had periods, sometimes years, when I had to adjust to constant mental juggling, without the relief of that ebb in activity.  Mostly I think I met the challenge.  Often by letting less important things fall to the wayside for a bit.

 

I was told once, by someone who should know, that our minds are suited to holding 7-9 thoughts or ideas in short term memory.  Any more and something has to go to long term memory or get dropped off the mental cliff.

 

public domain clip art

public domain clip art

So this idea of time management (and information management) is more than being in the right place at the right time with the right tools, it is conquering your short term and long term memory capabilities – because I know plenty of people, particularly women, who are trying to shove 25 items into their short term memory and feeling frazzled as a result.

 

I just rewrote my current to-do list of reasonably important tasks, appointments and such.  (Yes, still using pen and paper because that act helps me to keep everything clear.)  I am scheduling a roof replacement that has been on my list for about 3 years.  (The contractor said he has seen worse roofs, but I don’t want to get backed into that corner so getting this off my list will be a relief.  The next heavy rain won’t make me cringe.)

 

A few things were completed and didn’t have to be carried over onto the new list.  And a couple of things came up in the intervening time and had to be done without even making it onto the official list.  I remembered a few things that should have been on the last list, but got lost in the nether regions of my mind.  Plus a few new things.  So the list is longer and looks like I haven’t gotten anything done.  (Sigh.)

 

How many things can you mind juggle?  And do you live with the constant sense that you are forgetting something?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Generosity Toward a Parent

I have had a variety of conversations in recent weeks that when strung together in my thoughts seemed to have similar elements.  The conversations weren’t about the parent-child relationship, but the theme took shape.  It is a central relationship, one that plenty of people experience from each side.

 

As I became a parent, I started to look at my relationship with my own parents differently.  I hadn’t evaluated it since it was a child to adult dynamic.  But I realized that my mom particularly had changed the way that she approached our relationship so that it was adult to adult.  That shift doesn’t always happen when the child moves into adulthood – one or the other side, or both, may prevent it or resist it.

 

I used to have conversations with my mom about the parent-child relationship dynamic – in relation to ours and to mine with my boys.  The conversation tended to come up as the boys transitioned to a new stage of development.  I have really missed the conversations these past years as the boys moved through their later teens and now as I work on forging my side of the adult to adult version with each of them.

 

The shift really starts to come along at the point that the child sees the parent as a person separate from their parental role, it seems to me.  There are glimpses throughout childhood.  I am reminded of a period when the boys took to walking over to a flower shop that a neighbor ran and each buying me a single cut flower.  I think that they initially got the idea from a neighborhood girl, but then kept it up because I showed such delight in their generosity.  They were in early grade school so maybe about 6 or 8.

 

the first flower

the first flower

I’ve mentioned before that my mom went to college starting when I was in grade school.  This meant that she was enmeshed in her own homework and learning experiences.  She graduated from college the same year my brother graduated from high school.  She became an instructor at the same college that I went to and I had to learn to call out her name and not ‘Mom’ if I saw her around campus.  (Which was weird.)

 

The conversations that I have had recently range from a parent of a brand new teen to a friend with sons the same age as mine to a friend who is dealing with the infirmity of her elderly mother.  Generosity toward a parent is so rare as to be non-existent during teen years.  It is a spotty thing, it appears, for twenty-somethings.  And it is hard to sustain in the midst of a crazy-busy middle life toward a parent that is acting more like a stubborn teen.

 

I’ve thought about my responsibility as a parent to encourage my boys to be more giving in our relationship.  It seems to me that learning this must be more deliberate for children of single parents.  When parents are still a couple then each can teach the children to be giving to the other parent.

 

I’m going to have to spend some more time thinking about this.  What do you think?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Why Write?

I was raised to think, not just do.  This thing happened to me, mom.  Why do you think it happened like that?  What can you do about it?  The balance is to think and then do, or you get analysis paralysis.

 

This is at least the third version of a piece that I revisit periodically ever since I stumbled upon this exercise.  The first version was read by me and the person at Poets and Writers magazine who rejected the submission.  The second was posted on my original blog as Why I Write.  It seems like every other person is a frustrated writer these days.  Some people are attracted by the potential for fast money, so it behooves those of us who persist at the craft to think about why we do what we do.  And since we are writers, thinking usually means writing.

 

Writing is permanence in a disposable world.  Committing words to paper – electronic or actual – requires a bit of thought beyond letting them spill from your mouth and moving on.  Which doesn’t mean that a writer can’t do the written version of misspeaking, mind you.  That’s why we need editors.

 

For every attempted act of communication there is equal opportunity for misunderstanding and discord as there is for understanding and agreement.  Written communication allows the opportunity for more deliberate consideration of intent and word choice to appeal to the ideal audience.

 

We learn very early, probably as our first conscious thought, that we have to figure out how to communicate.  Our needs are simple but urgent – food, sleep, a fresh diaper.  But babies have little means to get their point across and then they start to decode the sounds that they hear as words with attached generally accepted meanings.  Ah, communication begins.

 

We spend the rest of our lives communicating, whether we actively think about it or not.  Most often through oral communication, but we have to learn that pesky written part too.  (It is fascinating that for as many people who claim interest in writing, a large number of people groan at the idea of using writing as a means to communicate in business.)

 

Spoken words can fade in the memory, or morph into something entirely else than originally intended but written down they can become information that can be referenced again and again.  Imagine being given multi-step instructions verbally and then having to recall step 6 or so, some time later.  If you have this ability, I applaud you.  I can create a mental list of 4-5 things that I need at the store, recite it all the way and only manage to remember that there were supposed to be 4-5 things in my basket when I actually get to the store.

 

The act of writing, itself, helps the brain to remember the point more clearly.  This is why we are taught to take notes in school.  Typing the thing has some power, but not nearly the power as picking up a pencil or pen and putting it to paper.

 

public domain image

public domain image

Written communication reaches more people with exactly the same message than through word of mouth.  (Remember the game of telephone?)  This doesn’t mean that the message will be interpreted the same by all recipients, but at least it was the same message at the beginning.

 

I wasn’t sure what would come out when I decided to revisit this topic today, it appears to be more general and less personal than the other efforts.  Who knows how it will turn out next time.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Unintentional Teamwork

Not only is it still allergy season for me, I am getting over a summer cold therefore I had facial tissues on my store list.  The smaller cube shaped boxes fit well in my bathroom and I was down to my last box.

 

There I stood facing the industrial shelving that holds the paper goods, staring at the several feet of empty space between me and the store brand facial tissue cubes arrayed at the very back.  How helpful.  I looked over at the name brand cubes to my left – of course quite handy.  I looked at the full sized boxes to my right and was quite pleased to see that there was a full selection of the 3 ply version for my main bathroom.  I grabbed a few.  And went back to staring at my intended cubes about five feet from my nose.

 

A woman about my own age came up behind me.  “Did you need some of those?”  She pointed at those cubes.  “Yes, I am considering my options.”

 

I had considered scaling the rack and also going in search of a long stick – say a broom a couple of aisles over.  She clearly had the same thought, disappeared for a moment and came back with a fly swatter.  Smart woman, she leaned in on the shelf below and started to tease the cubes forward.  I looked at her arm-span and offered to help since mine is greater.  The two of us worked in tandem and managed to pull 6-8 cubes forward.

 

public domain image

public domain image

Only to find that they were the kind with lotion.  Drat.  Ingenuity thwarted by the store’s buyer who clearly overbought this kind instead of the plain old ones that we were both after.  We walked our separate ways empty handed.

 

I don’t know if she meant to work together or just get me out of her way so she could achieve her own goal.  I walked away thinking that while ultimately disappointed in my main goal, it had been energizing to work together with this stranger to overcome that obstacle.

 

Facial tissue cubes are still on my store list for this week.  I wonder what will happen?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Subjective, Conditional Experience

Surveys in women’s magazines have such strong allure because they can tell us, once we calculate the results, where we fall on the unique but still comfortably in good company range.  Of course we want to be seen as a valuable and distinct individual, while not in any way too out-of-the-ordinary.  We need concrete, objective definitions for the boundaries then.

 

But life doesn’t work that way.  Plenty of us will do the normal things as we progress through adulthood – find a steady job, pair up and create our own family, settle down with a house and within a community.  But the details will vary wildly and so those concrete definitions of the boundaries get complicated.

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We don’t want to be ‘wrong’ – not make the wrong decision, or somehow not right and therefore not fit in.  Except that survey is just based on someone else’s opinion of what is right, on conjecture.  Or on an agglomeration of averages – a high percentage of people picked this school or that profession which must make them more right.  But right for whom?

 

My mom came across Margaret Mead as she experienced college in her 30s and 40s – when I was in grade school and high school.  She became enamored of Mead’s assertion that one should have a different spouse for the different stages of adulthood (Margaret’s way of proving her own path as the right one, perhaps?) all the while being proud of keeping her own long term marriage intact as she set about increasing her intellectual range.

 

Mom admired a lot about the unconventional choices of others, but she stuck to the conventional ones.  Dad was conventional through and through.  And they raised us to think for ourselves, with a high awareness of rules, mores and convention.

 

These ideas are much bigger than a single blog post, and this post has wandered in a direction that I didn’t originally intend.  I keep coming back to these themes – value, self-definition, individuality – because they are rich and varied.  I am fascinated by the conflict inherit between the draw of conventionality (and acceptance) and the determination of each person to be unique.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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

Come Banging After Me

I have lost count of the number of times that I started to learn to play the piano.  My mom had an old black upright piano that moved with us from state to state and sounded beautiful to me whenever she played – but the years and the moves weren’t kind to the poor instrument.  It was a relic of her childhood, carried over into mine.  At some point during my college years she treated herself to a new piano that now lives at my brother’s house.

 

Mom was more than happy to teach us to play when we took an interest.  But she wasn’t going to come banging after us to practice, or in any way harangue us for this or any other endeavor.  She loved to play, but had her moments during those learning years when she had to be pressed to continue by her mother.  She had a picture of herself as a concert pianist, unrealized because she didn’t put in the necessary hours of practice and single minded dedication.

 

Mom at a piano, not the one I mention - and long before she was 'mom'.

Mom at a piano, not the one I mention – and long before she was ‘mom’.

My nieces’ dance recital has brought this and other creative efforts to mind, as it does every year.  I am enchanted by the growth of their skill, poise and grace each year.  I don’t have to be there for the moments when they just don’t have it in them to go to a particular class.  When they have to make a choice between practice and another activity.  I just now realized that I haven’t ever asked my sister how much effort she puts into banging after them to work through a momentary dip in interest and effort.  I know that she puts a lot of her own time and effort into making their ability to dance a reality.

 

I took dance classes too, here and there – now and then.  We didn’t ever have the facility and the talented people that my nieces have had the pleasure to be exposed, that perhaps they don’t recognize as a gift.  The other gift that they may not recognize is the time and expense that my sister puts into their pursuit.

 

There are so many options, so many interesting pursuits that we could take on – intellectual, creative, etc.  A whole lot of factors have to convene just so to create excellence – dedication and a support system being just the start.  Regardless of dedication, sometimes the difference just comes down to having someone to come banging after you when your energy and dedication flag a bit.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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