Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Salon: January 26, 2014

From the Sunday Salon's original website:  Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.  

Today's Weather:  We continue on the roller coaster ride that is Winter 2014.  Today will be sunny with a high near 55... and tonight the temps will bottom out near zero with a high tomorrow of only 18.  So I plan to get outside a bit this afternoon and enjoy the glimpse of spring before I must return, once again, to hibernation.

What's on the menu:  Last night I improvised with a few leftovers in the house:  frozen shrimp, canned water chestnuts and fresh zucchini and created a stir fry that I served over plain rice.  It was surprisingly tasty.  Today we plan to treat ourselves and have brunch on the Plaza followed by a nice walk around the area.

Highlights of the week:  It was indeed the low-key week that I had hoped.  There was not one great event that occurred, but I did manage to begin a walking routine (more to follow) and I learned how to convert my manuscript into a mobi file that can be read on a Kindle - complete with a hyperlinked table of contents.  While the Scrivener software does all the work, there was most definitely a learning curve to complete the process.

Teaching Overview:  Both Brit Lit and English Comp had in-class sessions to work on their research papers.  Brit Lit learned how to organize their completed notecards and create a detailed outline to help with the flow of the essay and discover if there are any research holes that need to be addressed. We also reviewed the structure for an introductory paragraph, which culminates with the thesis statement.

English Comp is just getting started on their papers, so students brought in two resources on their chosen topic and began writing notecards, making sure to include the source (for citation purposes) and only writing brief fragments to avoid inadvertent plagiarism.  They also began work on a K-W-L chart, that is: list what they currently KNOW about the topic and then... what they WANT to know about it (L stands for what they LEARNED ... but cannot be completed until research is done).  As students research, they should constantly be asking themselves questions... adding those questions to the "W" list... and then finding more resources to address those concerns.  This is what will allow them to dig deep into the topic, rather than just settle for surface information.

Currently Reading:  I am still working my way through New York on my Kindle; I believe I am now on page 176 which represents 17% completion.  This will take a while....

I also read a book on writing this week, Writers and their Notebooks, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  One of my assignments over the next two weeks is to begin a writer's notebook to capture those fleeting ideas or observations or snippets of conversations to be gleaned for future projects.  I seem to have a mental block, however.  There is no good reason for it... I love to write... I love journals.  But perhaps it is because I still do not consider myself a "writer"... and because there is no "right" way to use a journal that stymies me. But the book helped, and I would recommend it to anyone who writes and enjoys reading about others who love the craft as well.

Writing Progress: Inspired by the above reading, coupled with my need to be a good student, I bought a few journals.  A good friend turned me onto the website, Live-Inspired, which sells unique writing supplies at an affordable price.  I ordered several different journals last Saturday, one for each project, and received the package on Friday.  Great service and a very nice product.

In addition to the journals and the manuscript compilation, I also used some time this week to conduct some online research for our upcoming cruise.  I have revised the working title of that compilation of future essays to Visiting the Saints and have a special journal devoted just to that project.

I have another idea for a middle grade novel and I have begun preliminary research into that as well.  While I know the subject, I am playing around with possible ways to structure the book.  One idea is to continue a "series" of the NaNoWriMo project; another idea is to tell the biographical story in first person and present it as a "year in the life" series.  It was a noodling kind of week...

Weekly Exercise:  As it turns out, I am highly motivated by accountability.  You see, we are a family of type A personalities (some would even argue A+)  Even those who marry into the family as a laid-back B become As after spending time with us.  After Christmas four members of the clan purchased FitBits... which is a device that not only monitors your own exercise levels, but also allows you to create a friend list and monitor their levels as well.  As you can imagine, competition is fierce in the Totoro household.

Last Sunday I finally decided to join the craze and purchased a FitBit One, and while I only use it as a glorified pedometer, the comparison of stats with other members of the family urges me to get off the couch and to the gym more than anything else.  I managed to walk on the treadmill six out of seven days this week and I feel accomplished.  I hope the competition does not grow old, but continues to spur me to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Artist's Date:  None per se... but the low key week did provide me time to reflect and ponder creative projects.  Just looking at the pile of new journals is invigorating to me:  the endless possibilities!

I plan to bring my camera with me to brunch today and I am sure the walk along the Plaza will provide some photographic moments.

Craftiness:  Valentine's Day is quickly approaching and I did spend some time this week looking for greeting card ideas and then posting them to my Pinterest Board.  I have all the supplies in house:  paper, stamps, ribbon, etc.  I just need to settle on an idea and then create.

Photography:  While I did not take any pictures that are worth posting... I did spend quite a bit of time learning my camera this week.  I discovered the use of a few buttons that will help me quickly meter and focus, and I even practiced with Manual mode (I tend to shoot in AV or TV modes only).

I also skimmed the book, How to Photograph Absolutely Everything, paying close attention to beach and landscape scenes, since that will be the focus on my photography on the cruise, and I began re-reading the book, Photos that Inspire.

The mechanics of photography are not intuitive for me.  There are some people, like my son, who can quickly assess a scene and know how to set ISO - aperture - shutter speed - white balance - spot meter - picture style - and the variety of other options that I often forget.  I am lucky if I can remember to change the white balance (although the horrid color tinge of the photo instantly reminds me).  But I am determined to learn.  And while the learning curve is quite long... and accompanied by many frustrations and poor shots... I know that I am in this for the long haul.

In addition there is the creative side of photo composition, that is also difficult for me.  I used to think that symmetry was the ideal; but I am learning that is not the case.  And there is so much to consider: the horizon, the rule of thirds, the point of view, the depth of field.  This is truly a hobby that requires me to use both sides of the brain ... and while that is a real challenge, I like it.

And finally there is the post-processing, which I am learning is another craft in and of itself.  While I strive to take a quality picture, there is comfort in knowing some imperfections can be reduced after-the-fact.  But post-processing does not only improve a photograph, it can in fact, be a creative endeavor.  And I enjoy the opportunity to create art when I have no drawing or painting skills.

Yes, photography is indeed a life-long learning endeavor.

What's on the Horizon:  More of the same, I think.  This was a good week and I hope to continue the momentum with walking, writing, journaling, reading, and photography.

I wish you all a peaceful, warm and relaxing week as well.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday Salon: January 19, 2014

From the Sunday Salon's original website:  Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.  

Today's Weather:  Unseasonably warm.... a high near 60 degrees!  I think I might take advantage and go for a walk this afternoon, for they are predicting a high of only 21 degrees by Tuesday.

What's on the menu:  brunch with good friends.  Life prevented us from getting together much during the holidays, but today we are going to enjoy a leisurely meal.  I am sure talk will turn to our cruise trip, which is only three weeks away.... and we are all more than ready to set sail!

Highlights of the week:  dinner with a good friend on Tuesday, and then, quite honestly, Friday morning when I was home alone with no responsibilities of any kind (that hasn't happened much lately).  I did, however, meet the Princess for a quick lunch before she and her family embarked on a magical vacation to Disney World.  I anticipate many FaceTime calls over the next two weeks.

Teaching Overview:  A good week.... but I don't really expect anything less this semester.

Brit Lit began the study of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and I am always curious to hear the students' reactions to the Bennet family and Mr. Darcy at the beginning of the book.  Since the original title for this work was First Impressions, I ask the students to not only pay attention to the character's first impressions of one another, but to also pay attention to their own first impressions of the characters.  I want the students to discern, if in fact, we as readers are a bit prejudiced as well.

English Comp is beginning the major writing assignment of the semester, the research paper, which is worth 50% of the grade.  In addition, they will also have to give a 20 minute multi-media presentation on the topic as a final project, which is worth another 15% of the overall gpa in the class.  Needless to say, they are a bit anxious... but I know they will do fine.  Topics have been chosen and research will begin in class on Tuesday.

Currently Reading:  I had some time yesterday, so I decided to once again catch up on library books that have been sitting on my shelf for quite some time.  Both of them have to do with writing.

The first one I read/skimmed was Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland.  While the content is fairly basic, I was surprised how much information she packed into this relatively small book (176 pages).  It would be a fine resource to have in any writing library, and the author interviews at the end of each chapter give the reader a number of different perspectives.

The second book I finished was Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going.  I am still not convinced that this is the genre that I am supposed to focus my writing endeavors, but I enjoyed the book and the insight it offered.  Each chapter is given the title of a course in high school (including gym and lunch) and the author gives a nice overview of how to properly target this audience.

In an effort to balance my non-fiction reading with fiction, I decided to tackle the historical fiction tome, New York by Edward Rutherfurd.  I used to live in New York City and I am still in love with that place.  I enjoy the author's writing style, identifying a few key families at the beginning of the city's history and then following them throughout the centuries.  I am reading the book on my Kindle, so the massive 800 page book is easy to carry and read whenever I have a spare moment.  Currently I am on page 120, which Kindle tells me is about 11% complete.

Writing Progress:  I am learning that writing progress is measured in baby steps, at least at this point in my writing career.  In an effort to get over my fear of letting others read my work, I have sent out about six copies of my rough draft manuscript to beta readers.  They are friends whom I trust, and I have made it perfectly clear that this is a VERY rough draft.  I know that they will be kind... but I am also hopeful that they will provide valuable input to help improve the plot, the characters and the overall writing.

My coaching session this week yielded a few more writing directions.

  • I am currently working on a theme for a memoir.  I have developed several key "defining moments" in life, and now the idea is to try to find the one thread that is common to all of them.
  • I have begun preliminary research for the upcoming cruise in an effort to write a few personal travel essays with the working theme of Traveling with the Saints (we are visiting the islands of St.  Thomas, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and  St. Maarten) 
  • I have also begun some preliminary research for a middle grade historical fiction idea that will blend the biography of Jane Austen with the story of Pride and Prejudice.  

In the meantime, I have been chastised for not keeping a writer's notebook (chastised in the most pleasant use of the word).... and have been instructed to begin using one immediately.  I am not sure why I have this hang up.  Perhaps it is because "real" writers use notebooks and I still do not consider myself a true writer.  Anyway, I am a good student... and I will of course complete this assignment.

Weekly Exercise: ah... best laid plans you know.  I know a large part of my problem is that I have not yet established a walking routine... and because of that, I always run out of time (or to be more honest with myself, I do not make the time).  This week I hope to discover a good time that works on a daily basis, and then institute it.

Artist's Date:  Well, not exactly an artist date, but last night my husband and I went on a date to see Saving Mr. Banks.  If you have not seen it, I would highly recommend it!  I did not realize that there are two parallel stories, one told with wit and good-natured humor, the other more serious and thought-provoking.  Of course, Tom Hanks is absolutely wonderful as Walt Disney, and Emma Thompson gave an outstanding performance.  I am anxious to purchase the DVD when it is available, and then my plan is to watch the original Mary Poppins before re-watching this behind-the-scenes tale.

The most significant quote from the movie (for me at least):  That's what storytellers do.  We restore order to imagination.  We bring hope.

Craftiness:  No craftiness but... I did take time yesterday to organize my space.  This is a necessary step for me to actually begin to work.  I cannot think in clutter and I almost feel claustrophobic.  I am hopeful that the clean desk, the organized stamps and ink pads, and the color coordinated papers will soon inspire me to create.

Photography:  Again, no photo sessions this week (although the nice weather today provides the perfect opportunity) but.... I have also organized my bookshelves and found a place to store all those "books and works in progress" close to my sitting area.  Travel writing and travel photography are in that basket.  See, my vision for this upcoming trip is not only to document Traveling with the Saints with written description, but also to capture the personality of the islands in photographs.

I know that in order to effectively (or at least decently) accomplish that goal, I need to practice before I go.  And of course, the more I practice the more I will improve.  So I hope to read the tips in these books today, and then find time over the next three weeks to go out and explore my own hometown through a 2.5 inch viewfinder.

What's on the Horizon:  Nothing... absolutely nothing out of the ordinary and I am thrilled for that.  Perhaps I will be disciplined enough to actually use this time to devote to crafts, photography and artist dates.

I wish you all a peaceful Sunday afternoon that I hope is filled with at least a few minutes of leisurely reading.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday Salon: January 12, 2014

Is it really the middle of January?!  Even in the effort of trying to slow myself down and appreciate each day for what it has to offer, the weeks still seem to zoom by.  But as I reflect on this first full week of the new year, I am pleased with the balance of activities and I look forward to exploring more of the interests in the weeks and months to come.

Today's Weather:  My... what a difference a week makes!  This time last week we were looking at sub-zero temperatures with wind chills approaches -30 degrees.  Today?  Sunny with the possibility of reaching 60 degrees.  Such is the joy of living in the midwest.

What's on the menu:  A family pizza dinner (ordered from the local Pizza Hut... not homemade).  My eldest and her family will be leaving for a magical vacation to Disney World on Friday and will be gone over two weeks, so we need to get our Princess-fix before they depart.  In addition.... we need to put away the Christmas decorations and (hopefully) our son-in-law can help carry them up to the attic....

Highlights of the week:  There were a few highlights this week...which I will detail below.

Teaching Overview:  Classes started this week, and while it was difficult to get back into the routine, it was good to see the students again.  The highlight, however, was the return of several alumni for an all-school assembly and then a more intimate lunch with faculty.  The tables were turned a bit, and the students gave us a report card of sorts, that is, they told us what we do well to prepare them for college, and what areas we can improve.  It was encouraging to hear that my rigor in the writing class pays dividends, as the students felt that they were well-equipped to handle any essay assignment and they were amazed at the vast difference in writing ability when placed in peer edit groups.

Currently Reading:  Since school just started, I had quite a bit of free time this week and decided to use a portion of that time to review all the library books sitting on my shelf.  I managed to read one in full, quickly read another (First Impressions:  Degas, a YA book I used for research), and after skimming the rest, decided that I could return four to the library without reading them in full.

The book I read in full was Refuse to Choose:  Use All of Your Interests, Passions and Hobbies To Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams by Barbara Sher.  I owe Joy Weese Moll the credit for introducing me to this author and while I borrowed three of her books from the library, this was the one that seemed to hit me where I currently live.

The author identifies personalities who have so many viable interests that they never seem to get anything done as Scanners (I fit the definition ... how about you?)  It isn't that scanners are unfocused, and often it has nothing to do with time management or organization deficits, but rather we are so intrigued with life around us that we are naturally curious to learn more.  She offers some good, practical advice to help us satisfy this need to learn while at the same time (finally) accomplishing projects that we want to do.

Interestingly, she also gives scanners permission to abandon projects that have lost interest.  She says that the passion is gone because we have already gleaned what we needed, so there is no reason to continue.  She advises wrapping the project with some brown paper, tie it with twine, label it, and include a sheet that details what was completed, as well as what is left to be done.  Then place the parcel on a bookshelf entitled, My Life's Projects... or My Autobiography... or My Adventures... anything that helps us realize unfinished projects do not translate to failure, but rather, knowledge gained and joy derived for that moment in time.

In an effort to try to create a balanced reading life, however, I want to read a work of fiction next.  My natural inclination is to read self-help or memoir, but recently I heard a quote that has resonated with me:
Non-fiction gives us facts; Fiction gives us truth.

My brain is full of facts and I need to balance that with truth.  I am considering either New York by Edward Rutherfurd (I read Paris this fall and really adored the author's development of generational stories in a historical fiction work) or.... a short story collection recommended to me by a good friend:  The News from Spain by Joan Wickersham.  Short stories are not something I typically read, but I have no good reason why.  Perhaps I could read both?!

Writing Progress:  Drum roll please..... I actually finished the rough draft of my NaNoWriMo novel, First Impressionism!  While I wrote more than 50,000 words in November, which qualified me as a "winner" - I still needed to write two more chapters to complete the novel.  And even though I was sick with the flu (twice) and had to prepare for the holidays, I still had a mental block in completing the book (this had nothing to do with being a scanner, by the way... but rather facing fear).

My schedule Wednesday provided me with an unexpected block of time and I decided to put it to use.  It only took about 2.5 hours to complete and I must confess, that the satisfaction I have experienced in completing this project is pretty awesome.

I even formatted the manuscript into a PDF file and printed it off:  all 182 pages.  I hope to spend a bit of time each week in the revision process and perhaps have a copy ready for possible beta readers by spring break.

Weekly Exercise:  I have decided to add a new category to the Sunday Salon in an effort to keep me accountable to this lifestyle goal.  For about two months last summer (until I experienced a knee problem) I walked a 5k four to five times per week and I LOVED it.  I felt a sense of accomplishment and I know my body enjoyed the workout.  But once out of a routine, it is difficult to establish again.

So in October I decided to join a local gym in the hopes that walking inside on a treadmill would take away the excuse of not walking outside in the cold.  And of course... the day after I joined, I came down with round one of the flu... which turned into round two... which segued into the holidays.. which led me to the first of the year.  So last Saturday I joined the rest of those who made healthy resolutions, and went to the gym once again.  I walked about 2.5 miles in thirty minutes, a good first day effort.... and then Sunday I stubbed my toe, which sidelined me yet again.

I am determined, however, to return to the summer level of activity - and then to maintain it.  I am determined to begin walking in an official 5k a month - starting this spring when the weather is warmer.  And the only way I will attain this goal is if I put it out here for others to read.  I may not be accountable to myself, but I am not about to lose face in front of the world.

So this week.... I will once again go to the gym and get on that treadmill for the first time.

Artist's Date:  Good news:  I actually completed my first planned Artist Date yesterday.  A good friend of mine and I treated ourselves to a "day in France"  We began the morning by having breakfast at Chez Elle, a lovely creperie here in Kansas City that provides good authentic French food in the perfect ambient setting.

We then had tickets to the Impressionism Exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins museum.  The exhibit featured artwork as well as photographs that depicted the change in the cities and countryside from approximately 1860-1880.  I had seen the exhibit in October, but it was nice to revisit the collection and share personal insights and reactions with one other.

The Alliance Francaise partnered with the museum to offer a Day in France experience.  The pastry tasting and wine tasting events were sold out, but we chose to register for a class in French Travel (a brief discussion of sights to visit in Paris and Bordeaux) and another class on The Destruction and Transformation of Nineteenth Century Paris.  Both of us truly enjoyed the latter class and could easily have spent a few more hours learning from this passionate instructor.

Craftiness:  Now that I know I am a scanner.... I do not feel quite so guilty reporting no activity (again) in this area.  Yes, I did "shop" for a few more dies to download from the Silhouette website, and yes, I did take advantage of the Archiver's sale and purchase some decorative paper to use in card making activities... but I did not actually create.

I am learning, however, that I need to schedule this time - put it on the calendar - and then honor the commitment.  And... I need to define the underlying fear that prevents me from pursuing this creative outlet.  I am not quite sure if it is because I cannot play without a specific purpose (quite possibly....) - or if it is because I don't think I am creative enough (quite possibly..) - or if it is because I am afraid if I start I won't want to stop.  All these are silly, I know.

Photography:  And... I could just do a copy-and-paste from above and put it here.  I love photography ... I love learning about the technical aspects of photography ... I love learning about the creative and compositional aspects... I love taking pictures of memorable moments to savor for generations to come.  I am constantly reading blogs and books on the subject, and I can spend hours on Flickr and 500px studying the images and the exif data associated with them.  But for some reason I don't pick up the camera and practice.

Again, there is some mental block that prevents me from doing what I know I need and want to do.  And I am determined to overcome it ... some day.

What's on the Horizon:  This past week was jam-packed for me, typically two or three calendar activities per day.  I am hoping that this week is a little more subdued, with time to stay home and write, read, craft(?) and revise.  Getting into a regular routine would indeed be a highlight.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sunday Salon: January 5, 2014

Well, here it is... the first Sunday Salon of the New Year.  This is always an exciting time - starting the year with a clean slate.  There are so many possibilities ahead and the regrets of the past have been silenced with the flip of the calendar.  While I have many life changes that await me this year, I am still committed to enjoying each day - live in the moment - and find contentment with what I have.

Today's Weather:  F-R-I-G-I-D!!  At 8:00am the newscaster stated that the temperature was 10 degrees, and that is the warmest of the next 48 hours!  Tomorrow the low is -11 temperature with windchill of -30!!  Fortunately, we did receive the first real snowfall of the year... approximately four inches of fluffy beauty, but the cold will keep us indoors, next to the fire, with a hot cup of Christmas in Paris tea.

What's on the menu:  leftovers.  The New Year's ham was postponed until yesterday, but rather than the traditional dinner with savory green beans and mashed potatoes, we simply had sandwiches while watching the Chiefs vs Colts game (ugh!!)  Geoff is out of town for the next two days, so I may make the green beans for myself and enjoy the comfort food during this cold snap.

Highlights of the week:  It was a low-key week.  We kept Brynn over New Year's so her parents could enjoy an adult celebration... and there is nothing quite so entertaining as watching a 2.5 year old view the Disney movie Frozen.  She adores the theme song, Let it Go, and sings it at the top of her lungs.  I am sure we listened to the soundtrack a minimum of 20 times over the course of 18 hours.  That definitely could be considered the highlight of this last week of Christmas vacation.

Teaching Overview:  I spent Thursday developing lesson plans for both classes, Brit Lit and English Comp, to take me from the present to the end of the year on May 13th.  It was bittersweet... knowing that when I retire I will have free time to pursue personal interests, and yet having to say good-bye to what has been a fulfilling career.

Currently Reading:  I picked up the book, Daily Rituals:  How Artists Work by Mason Currey at the library today.  It is essentially a brief summary of the daily routines of many popular artists, writers, filmmakers, composers, and other creative personalities.  It is a quick read, but interesting... and what I have discerned is that many of the authors tend to get up early (which I do).... have a morning routine (which I do).... focus on writing between 8:00 and 12:00 (which I plan to do)... take a daily walk (which I hope to do)... and then spend the rest of the day socializing, drinking, and/or taking drugs to help them sleep (which I have no plans of doing).

I found it quite interesting that most authors consider it a productive day if they write 1,000 words.  That seems doable to me.

On another note.... I have discovered that I read far more non-fiction than I do fiction... and while there is nothing wrong with that, I am constantly pondering the quote I heard a few weeks ago that says:  Non-fiction gives us facts but fiction gives us truth.  I want to be more balanced in my reading.  I want to continue the study of writing as a craft.. but I also want to read more in my chosen genre.  I think perhaps I will try to read one non-fiction book and then follow that with a fictional narrative.  Hopefully this will give me a more balanced reading life... and one that I can use to help me in my new writing career.

Writing Progress:  I met with my writing coach for a second time this week and have grown to appreciate her wisdom and support even more than before.  I love the accountability she provides and her action steps are quite practical and just a bit outside my comfort zone - the perfect combination.

This week I need to develop an "editorial calendar" (a new term to me, but I have researched it online and created one that I think will suit my personal needs) ... order business cards that confirm that I am indeed a writer ... complete my NaNo story (which I plan to do prior to the first day of class on Tuesday morning) ... and discover a theme for my memoir.  All of these are good action steps that I am certain will bring me closer to my goal of creating a writing routine once I retire.

Artist's Date:  Making strides here... that is a good thing!
I have joined a Facebook group that is going through the Artist's Way over the course of 12 months rather than 12 weeks; this seems doable to me and I am looking forward to the longer, more relaxed study.

To that end, someone on that loop posted a Kindle ebook that gives some ideas for Artist's Dates, and while nothing is a big "aha" moment... there are some good ideas that get the creative juices flowing.  I have some concrete ideas for future dates, and I am sure that I will be able to develop more as time goes on.

In the meantime, I have my first artist date scheduled for this coming Saturday, January 11th.  The Nelson-Atkins museum is sponsoring a Travel France Day to spotlight the current exhibition of Impressionist Art and Photographs.  A friend of mine and I plan to walk through the exhibit in the morning and then take part in a couple of the events in the afternoon.  It should be fun, cultural, educational, and inspire me to revise my NaNo project.

Craftiness:  And believe it or not... I am making very small baby steps in this area as well!

In November a good blogger friend and scrapbooking lover posted about her recent purchase of a Silhouette Portrait die cut machine.  I was intrigued, so I followed the link.  OH MY... what a glorious invention this is.

To make a long story short... the holiday special was two machines for the price of one plus $35 in free die cut downloads for each machine.  This was simply too good a deal to let slip by.

With the help of my eldest, I sold all my Cricut supplies online for $100 and then she and I split the cost of the two-machine deal.  And while I have not actually used mine ... I have downloaded several dies and have a long list of potential projects to create.  I am excited about future Artist Dates with this machine!

Photography:  And I have given this topic some serious thought as well.

I have decided that a 365 project is simply not for me.  There is too much pressure to take a picture a day and quite frankly, writing needs to take the priority in my life right now.

HOWEVER.... I am still devoted to this hobby and I have a desire to improve.  So I think a 52 Project is much more in keeping with my schedule, my priorities, and my goals.  I hope to take my camera out at least a couple of times a week... and then I will post one picture for the week - on Flickr and on the blog.  I am excited about this prospect and have already begun making a list of possible subjects to photograph each week.

What's on the Horizon:  The first week of school of my last semester of teaching.  That is the big deal.  On Monday there is an alumni chapel that I will try to attend, as I love reconnecting with these students and learning about their life after high school - and then on Tuesday we will begin second semester.  I calculated that I have 36 more days of teaching..... not sure how I feel about that.

I wish you all a great first full week of the new year....

Thursday, January 2, 2014

One Word

I just glanced at the clock on my computer and realized there are ten minutes left to the first day of this new year and I find myself asking already ... "Where has the time gone?!"

My mother said the older I got, the faster time would pass... and I hate to admit that she was right; perhaps this is why I have been focused on learning to live in the present these past few months.  I spent so much of my youth wishing I was "old enough to...." and I have spent many mid-life years just waiting for this phase of life to pass.  And now I find myself wanting time to stand still.

Living in the present won't add minutes to my life, but I do believe it will enable me to better enjoy those minutes.  I cannot slow down time, but I can slow down myself.  Rather than focusing on doing and productivity, I can begin to focus on being and the sensory details of the world around me.

There is a movement in the blogosphere to select one word for the year.  One word that will help focus energy and bring about change in a very subtle yet permanent way.  I have participated in this tradition for the past two years.  In 2012 my word of the year was balance... a great word, but in the end, I realized was not at all practical.  Last year I chose the word peace... which moved me to closer my desired destination.

This year I did some research.... yes, I want peace, but that is a rather lofty goal; what is the best path to achieve peace in life?  I researched the definitions of words such as:  joy - happiness - satisfaction - contentment - harmony - tranquility.  And I concluded that one of the key ingredients to finding peace in life is learning to be content:  content with what you have; content with where you are; content with who you are.

Content to me does not mean laziness.  It does not mean that I will say "this is the best there is ... or this is the best I can be" and just lay down and give up.  NO!  Content means being satisfied with the way things are today.  I hope that I am never too old or too weary to stop growing, for to me lack of growth or learning is certain death.  But I do want to learn to be content ... accepting... satisfied... that what I have and I have achieved today is good (enough).

So my word for 2014 is:  Content.

And as I glance once again at the computer clock and realize that it is already the 2nd day of this new year, I will look back at yesterday and say.... It was good.