Friday, July 9, 2021

July Good Things

Welcome to the second half of 2021! Here are some things I'm enjoying these days:

A visit to the local butterfly house

My new crane birdbath and copper cattails
(the birds don't use it, though--probably because it's metal,
and the water gets really hot!)

Golden zucchini blossoms

Kayaking through quiet coves at Horsetooth Reservoir

Ferret Cam: 
Native black-footed ferrets were thought to be extinct by the 1950s, but were rediscovered in Wyoming in 1981. Since then, conservation efforts have increased the population and continue to support this species. Our local Discovery Museum has a live ferret cam. A lot of the time, nothing happens, but it's exciting when the little guy pops out of that hole! Here's more info about black-footed ferret history:

What good things are happening for you mid-year?

Friday, May 21, 2021

Roadblock Season

Every spring, when we're (mostly) done with snowy weather, road construction season begins. Orange traffic cones pop up as prolifically as dandelions. Unexpected road closures and detours make getting from point A to point B a little more challenging. 

This is customary and expected, and it doesn't stress me out too much, unless I'm running late. My real problem this year is that the biggest roadblock in my life right now is...


Yep, I'm standing in my own way, impeding my progress as effectively as any "road closed" sign. Have you ever driven by a highway construction zone, creeping along behind a giant RV from Oklahoma for miles and miles, and it doesn't even appear that there's any actual road work being done?

That's my writing life right now!

To stretch this road metaphor, I've found myself at the intersection of discipline and passive resistance. Every time discipline gives that polite "go ahead" wave, resistance says, "no you first, I have (insert nonessential task here) to do." And on it goes.

I have things I need to do. Thing I want to do. I'm just not doing them.

Partly, I blame the enticing spring weather, which is a most welcome relief from pandemic winter. Growing season in Colorado is fairly short, and I have been working on getting flowers and veggies planted. But most of the blame rests squarely on my not-yet-sunburned shoulders.

Time for me to dust off 2021's word of the year again. The good news is that just as every ending can inspire a new beginning, every stop can inspire a fresh start.

How's your productivity these days? Are you running into any roadblocks?

Friday, April 9, 2021

Second Quarter Check-In

Believe it or not, we're a week into the second quarter of 2021. For anyone like me whose shiny new January commitments feel like they're wavering a bit, I'll share something I read recently about entering into contracts with yourself. 

The gist is that we are much more inclined to keep contracts/promises/agreements made with an outside party because we can better envision and anticipate the consequences. If you promise you're going to meet a friend for an outdoor, socially-distanced coffee and you don't, you know that without a very compelling reason for your absence, your friend will be a little perturbed. Plus, being reliable is common courtesy.

But we break promises to ourselves all the time, often without a second thought. The problem with that is, we become accustomed to our unreliability. A way to be more mindful about this is simply to write it down. 

Take one or two of the more important items from your to-do list and elevate them to the next level of commitment by writing a contract with yourself. 

  • Give each a separate slip of paper. 
  • Be as formal (I, the undersigned, hereby affirm...) or as casual (I'm Gonna _______) as you wish. 
  • Use specific language regarding what you will do and when. Big statements such as "I will clean the garage" can end up feeling wishy-washy and/or overwhelming. Give yourself a wide enough window to account for the life's unpredictability.
  • Sign and date the bottom.
  • Post it where you will see it every day.
  • When the contract is fulfilled, give it a big star or an A+ for a job well done.
  • If you don't manage to follow through for whatever reason, assign a consequence and renegotiate the terms.
The month of March showed me how easy it has become for me to not get much done. I have pandemic and work-from-home burnout, and I'm just kind of tired. So maybe a contract is what I need to recommit. But first I have to commit to making a contract.

How was your first quarter of 2021? Any changes upcoming for Q2?

Friday, March 19, 2021

Ready to Spring


Happy Friday! I had planned to write a different (i.e. better) post for today, but after switching to Daylight Savings Time last weekend during a snowstorm that dropped 30" at my house, I haven't had the most productive or inspiring week. 

Walter in his little "snow-asis"

Tomorrow, however, marks the spring/vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere, which is welcome news. Every year, spring brings the promise of renewal, but perhaps no year more than this one. Longer days, warmer temperatures, and increased vaccination will hopefully spread a little optimism after a long and bleak Covid winter. 

With not quite two weeks left in March, there's time to wrap up the first quarter of 2021 and plan for the second. Though I'm still trying to factor discipline into my daily life, I can feel some of my new year enthusiasm waning, so it's a good time for a bit of a reboot.

For a list of  9 ways to celebrate the spring equinox, including the Descent of Kukulkan shown below, check out this list from Mental Floss.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Buh-bye February


Is it just me, or has this been the looongest short month? We've had cold, windy, snowy weather all over the country, the pandemic continues, and spring seems far away indeed.

But it hasn't been all bad! Here, in no certain order, are some of the good things about February 2021:

  • My family is still happy, healthy, and hanging in there;
  • Politics has simmered way down;
  • The coronavirus numbers are dropping, and although it's still slow going, more at-risk people are getting vaccinated; 
  • This month had some fun things to celebrate, including Black History, Valentine's Day, Lunar New Year, and Mardi Gras;
  • I had time to read: The Truants, by Kate Weinberg; The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig; and I'm working on The Best of Me, by David Sedaris;
  • I was able to meet with both my book club and critique group via Zoom;
  • The days are getting longer;
  • Chocolate (which goes without saying); 
  • And last but certainly not least, my talented graphic designer friend is putting the finishing touches on the cover for the sequel to my novel, Passing Through. Look for more about this in March.
Maybe it will come in like a lion, but I'm still ready for a new month. 

What made February good for you?

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Year of the Ox

This week marks the start of the Lunar New Year celebration. Although I have no Asian heritage, I love this holiday because it feels like a second fresh start for the year. Plus, the new year begins on the night of the new moon, which is symbolically interesting.

February 12, 2021 ushers in the Year of the Ox. Oxen are associated with hard work, diligence, determination, and discipline. I did not know this when I chose discipline as my word for the year, so I'm chalking that up to a happy coincidence.

Reflecting the ox's steady influence, 2021 will hopefully be a calmer, more predictable year, which sounds good to me. Additionally, it will be a year in which hard work pays off. It may feel tough and methodical, but with patience, it can be transformative. It's also a time to be organized and follow a consistent routine, perhaps by using a planner! 

I wish you lots of good fortune in the Year of the Ox! Work hard, stay the course, and hopefully we'll all have success stories to share in the coming months.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Color of Success

What is the color of success? It's kind of a trick question, because for many people, the answer is multicolor. Color coding can be a huge boon to organization, which, we all hope, leads to a successful outcome. Teachers have known this for years. That's why every kid needs a green folder for math, say, and an orange one for reading. Then a teacher can tell at a glance whether little Timmy is literally on the right page. 

And how did Timmy become the name we all use in these hypotheticals? Is it from the old TV show Lassie, wherein Timmy found himself in all kinds of predicaments but never actually fell in a well? But I digress...

In my last post, I mentioned that I have fine-point markers for color coding, and I have been using them regularly. Each day, I mark out the time I spend on work (my actual job), exercise, down time/self-care, food prep/eating, errands, writing, chores, TV, and miscellaneous. 

I know this is such basic stuff, but it has really helped me me track where my time goes. That in turn makes me more aware of what I'm doing from moment to moment. This is really important because I tend to get lost in my head for extended intervals. Sometimes I think I have one of those Star Trek portals in my brain, where I jump in and jump back out, and two days have passed.

Anyway, I'm on board this color-coding train now and hoping to keep on rolling. Tips for color coding? Leave a comment. Also, check out this short article for inspiration.