I am a freelance, nonfiction writer who cares about the environment, individuality, creative expression, and simplicity. I'm glad you've found my blog, and I hope you'll join in the conversation by leaving a comment. Disagreements are allowed, even encouraged, but cruelty, vulgarity, and slander is not.

Let it Snow

January 18th, 2009

I live in a section of the United States where snow falls in winter...sometimes.  Actually, many of the storms we get are more of an ice, snow, sleet, freezing rain and rain mixture. These storms are not picturesque illustrations of children sledding past snow-covered barns. When a storm is photo worthy, the shot must be taken quickly before the moment disappears.

We do get the occasional "Nor'easter" though. Many of my friends remember being restricted from impassable roads for three days after a 30-inch storm in 1996.  We have great memories of that event. This is why, I believe, our media embellishes every winter weather event and why the markets quickly sell out of bread, milk and eggs whenever a few inches are predicted.

We long to be snowed in. It's a chance to use those board games that otherwise gather dust in the closet. It's an excuse to make hot chocolate the old-fashioned way: with milk and chocolate. It's a cozy experience where weather actually forces time to stop the hustle - something that we humans try to do, but rarely achieve.

So when the conditions are right for an impending storm, everyone gets anxious. We complain about the media's exaggerations and everyone's fretting. I believe the anxiety is simply childhood anticipation mistaken as adult fear. Inside, we really just hope it snows like mad.

Fix It or Trash It?

January 11th, 2009

I recently asked a cobbler how much it would cost to replace the sole on my husband's dress shoes.  The answer?  About $45...more money than we paid for the shoes.  Albeit, we bought them on a great sale, but it seems that it is hard to find anything worth fixing today.

Or is it?  I began to think of the hassle of shopping, finding the right fit, the right color, the proper style. I put a lot of thought into my purchases, and I'm not anxious to re-buy the same thing so soon.

When I was young, my Nana always seemed to have a repair project in progress. I loved watching her make something new again. It felt good to rescue the item.  It felt much better than it does to toss away a good paid of shoes.

We've lived in a disposable world for long enough.  Our youth have never known a time when it was worthwhile to repair their belongings.  Do you think that time will ever come to an end?

The Land of Over-Opportunity

January 6th, 2009

Have you seen the trailer for the movie Yes Man?  In it, Jim Carrey's character is optimistically gathering information from a public billboard filled with chances to learn things like the Korean language, how to play a guitar, and even how to get a pilot's license.

My own head spins with options, ideas, and opportunities every day. These include resources for self-improvement, paths to success and chances to have lots of fun. I can learn Italian; film, edit and publish my own movie; jump up and down at an endless string of concerts; network and hobnob with peers and mentors via the internet; learn the art of handwriting analysis; adopt a pet; write a book review; the list goes on and on. Since life gets shorter every minute, I'm compelled to try more and more.  As the guru in film declares, "You say no to life, and therefore you're not living."

But as I'm running from one thing to the next, I know in my simple mind that quality and quantity are two different matters. While it is great to have so many options at our fingertips, it's too easy to say "yes" to more than can realistically be accomplished.

How do you choose which opportunities to grasp and which to let go?  

Gone by the Wayside

December 28th, 2008

Remember the little extra things you used to do? Remember that special care that was applied to everyday tasks? I was reminded of my own past while rushing to wrap a present last week. A voice in my head reminded me that, back in the day, I would dedicate the time to clear a proper workspace, cut the paper straight, carefully crease all the corners, use minimal exposed tape, dig out a matching ribbon and bow, and make the present look downright beautiful. The result was a package pretty enough to double as a decoration while it waited under the Christmas tree. This mindful energy was transferred to the recipient on exchange day as he would stop and admire the present before tearing into it.

Another reminder of extra care gone by came a few hours later. The family pulled out a board game to play. Inside the box, my Nana had written notes about two past family matches on special days complete with scorecards to show the winners. She had noted witness of a clever scenario experienced during a particularly close game. You see, she loved strategy.  She paid attention to the way one rule would effect the outcome. And she loved her family.  She paid attention to who was with her, when, and recorded their winning glory in history.

Both these examples reminded me that it only a takes a few minutes of our attention to exalt everyday experiences. Whether it be the task of wrapping a present or that of putting a game away, proper attention can only be paid if we slow down and listen to the voice when it prods, "I used to be better about this." We must teach ourselves that slowing down can produce fulfilling results, and therefore it is worth our time to give care to our tasks again.  

Is there something you used to do that has gone by the wayside during these hurried times?  Do you wish you paid more attention? How can we teach ourselves to slow down?  

Answers From the Past.

December 20th, 2008

Life is easier when you know who you are. And there is truth to the advice "understand your ancestors to understand yourself."

I glazed over this wisdom for years. I only knew that my bloodline included a combination of Pennsylvania Dutch and Hungarian. Maybe it's because I've reached mid-life or that my career is taking a major turn or simply because my 93-year-old Pennsylvania Dutch Nana just died, but I suddenly found myself wondering how my Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors created their own nationality.

My husband is Irish and German. That's pretty clearcut. His ancestors came from Ireland and Germany. Where did my ancestors come from?  Pennsylvania? Like most people today, I found the answer on the Internet.

My family came to Pennsylvania where they settled with others who spoke their language and shared their beliefs. I may never fully understand what differentiates the PA Dutch from thousands of other German immigrants, but I did find that their virtues and characteristics survived 10 generations.

As I was reading the stories of 200 years ago, my eyes grew wide. It was as if the words on the page were written explicitly about me. The character of these people mirrored my own personal beliefs that, until now, had no basis for existence. For example, I could never understand the depth of my sympathetic compassion for the plight of the American Indian. I've never known an American Indian. My family never expressed opinions on the subject. Then I learned about my great ancestor's compassion for both Indians and slaves, and I found comfort in knowing that I was never alone.

Admittedly, most of what I discovered confirmed what I already thought I knew. My fathers were Pennsylvania farmers, at the mercy of the land and weather. Isolated by a peculiar language, they survived with their own skills and superstitions. They were, and I am, stubborn, non-aggressive, devout, self-sufficient and open to every shade of religious expression. We talk funny sometimes, but we are industrious. We waste nothing and make full use of opportunity. So many of my own idiosyncrasies were spelled out on this cyberpage entitled "Character of the PA Dutch."

It's true that our genetic makeup becomes more complex with each generational ingredient. Yet, I would guess that you too relate to one ingredient more than the others. I picked the PA Dutch track, party because I despise the dish called Hungarian Ghoulash. Seriously, I owe it to father to also research his line. In the meantime, my prominent family nationality was the simplest place to start.

If you are struggling with something in your head, it might be advantageous to spend an evening researching the characteristics and basic historical struggles of your ancestors.  Knowing your roots can simplify the answer to the age-old "who am I?" question.

Do you know where you come from?  How has the knowledge helped you in your daily life?

Note: Here are two top resources found during my search.  I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information on these pages:

PA Dutch Culture Website

A Free Genealogy Search Site
Try searching for your grandparent's name and resident city first via Google or other engine.  I came into this site through a Google search, and did not have to register.