Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Be Prepared ~ An Educational Rant

I haven't ranted in a long time. I don't like to be negative so I've decided I'll call this post educational although I'll be clear that I am writing about one of my biggest pet peeves ~ unpreparedness.
I work at a front desk in a public service job and have been doing this work my entire working career of 30+ years. I feel qualified to speak out on this matter. So listen up!
I'll go out on a limb and give the general public a slight pass for being unprepared when they call or walk into an office of any kind where they are unfamiliar but I am left wondering every single work day where polite office manners were dropped from high school and college teaching for professionals. I'm guessing it has a lot to do with various business practices and the fact that I am old school. 
Identify who you are and what you are calling about, whether you are on the phone or at a front desk. Seriously.  If you are an attorney, doctor, accountant, detective, having spent at least 6 years of your life in college or in a profession, be proud! If you are uncomfortable knowing what to say, here is a template to start with:  "Hello, this is attorney/doctor/detective/accountant John Smith, calling for Mr. Jones, regarding the Johnson case".  Don't make me drag all that information out of you. You are wasting your time and mine.  Please. How hard can this be?  I know it is a generational thing because older professionals are not who I'm writing about here. This template is also good for when you just show up, unannounced with no appointment.  Don't make me say, "are you an attorney/doctor/detective/accountant"?  It's embarrassing for me. Perhaps I should know you but often times I've only met you once or twice. I do my best to remember people but when I am answering 100's of calls and greeting 100's of people, I hate to break this to you, but you are not the center of my universe.  Additionally, it shows poor etiquette on your part when you make me drag it out of you.
Have your information and pen ready so I can direct you as quickly as possible. On a daily basis, I talk to no less than 100 people whether on the phone and/or in-person. I can't tell you how many times people call for information and don't have a pen and paper ready to write it down. This is a bigger pet peeve for me than the identification peeve. When you call a business office, think about what it is you are trying to accomplish and keep a pen and paper handy. Receptionists everywhere will love you for it.
Don't talk and drive, we can't hear you on the phone and it's against the law in Washington.

Breaking it down:

  • Identify yourself and your reason for calling (be brief)
  • Have a pen and paper ready to document information
  • Speak clearly and slowly into the phone
  • Say please and thank you
  • Tell us if you simply don't have any information. We're trained to ask you the right questions to get you where you want to be. Let us help you.
  • Don't assume the office you are calling knows who you are. It's okay to identify yourself each and every time you call. We love that!
  • Don't make us drag every single bit of information out of you, be prepared.
  • Don't call from the road. We can't hear you and it's dangerous for you and the public.
I hope this rant has been helpful and not snarky. If I am wrong here with any of my rant or you have something to add, please leave me a comment. I'd truly love to hear from you!

love, susan

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Year (2014) in Review

The end of year is sneaking up on me fast. It always does. First of all, I want to once again say thank you to a guy whose blog, The Art of NonConformity I've been following for a long time. He created a movement that is making a difference in the world. He is the reason I started reviewing my year and focusing on the next. Thank you, Chris Guillebeau!

Last year I chose develop as my word for resolution. In previous years I chose minimize and focus. This, in lieu of a resolution, is a concept that has served me well. I have developed in key areas I focused on and am pleased with the results.

Develop Friendships: Last year I kept up friendships with a few special people. Meeting for coffee, long photo walks, talking on the phone, thrift shopping, meeting for dinner and simply keeping in touch. My life is full with a high-maintenance husband,  3 dogs, 1 cat and a full time job. My friendships are like the sand that fills in between the rocks in a jar that appears it's too full to contain anything else. I love my friends!

Develop Better Eating Habits: This is a constant battle for me. Meal planning on Sundays and  creating a system for freezing lunches that include vegetables has increased extra time in the morning to use in better ways.  Pre-measuring and containing food has helped with portion control.

Develop a Reading & Writing Schedule:  I can do better in this area. It is a guilty pleasure that, like a lot of other things in my life, I can really binge on and then I don't get anything else done. That's not a bad thing. I need to continue paring down the things I don't want to do to replace with activities I enjoy. I've filled an entire journal with "morning pages". This is a huge accomplishment for me.

Develop a Cleaner Home: I hired a domestic goddess to help me keep my house in order. Best decision I made last year! I've worked hard to get things picked up off the floor so when she arrives (twice a month) it makes her job easier. I hate clutter and yet I'm still living in it. It's a work in progress and I'm not done yet. My new rule to live by when shopping for clothes:  If I don't love it, I don't buy it.  I also have started taking questionable items in my closet and placing them to the forefront. If the item isn't worn that week, in other words if I avoid wearing it, it gets dropped into the goodwill box on Friday. Why hang on to stuff I don't wear?  This is a very difficult process for me but I'm getting better at it every day.

Develop Photo Walking List:  Several walks last year with select friends helped form an idea for keeping a list. Photo walking is very personal to me and I've noted that it is not everyone's cup of tea. I have a great friend who loves going as much as I do and we accomplished several walks this year. We drove to Walla Walla in October to a great old cemetery.

I've been thinking about what I want to work on next year and I am torn. So many words come to mind:  READ, WRITE, PHOTOGRAPH.  Yesterday it came to me that what I really want to do is create.  That's it!  2015 will be the year of creating.  I can hardly wait!

How about you? How was your year? Did you have a theme word? How did it work out for you?  Do you have a goal for 2015?  Tell me!!!!

love, susan


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Things I Learned on 12 13 14

Yesterday was a great day. I received texts from two friends who wanted pictures taken. I said yes. And, then schedules promptly collided. They both asked for 11:00am. What to do?

I learned a lot from my experience yesterday and if even one 'take away' helps you somehow, my mission here is accomplished.
Don't overbook. I ended up with two shoots yesterday, back to back. It all worked out but it could have been a disaster. Sometimes it just can't be helped and I made the best of it.

Kids.  When kids are involved, time must remain fluid.  I learned I had better be flexible. Ask your client what part of the day is best for their child and respect that. Look for the moment when the child is done with you. Don't push your luck. I always want to leave on a good note so hopefully I'll be invited again.

Patience. It's one of my best virtues, if I may say so myself. Whether working with kids or difficult adults, patience is a tool that will serve you well in all situations. I'm not just talking photography here.

Listen and Watch Body Language. Don't intrude into other peoples' (even small children) space if it makes them uncomfortable. Yesterday, I watched a 22 month old little person get comfortable with me when I sat on the floor and got down to her level. This works with dogs, too. Be mindful of this, always.  

Ask.  I realized yesterday one of my shortcomings is asking  people what they want. I know what I want when I'm snapping images. I'm always looking for what my husband calls "the money shot".  I'm beginning to understand that it is different for everyone. See the look on this little boy's face? I shouted for joy when it popped up on my screen.  This session was a maternity shoot and while I got nice pics of the family, this one is my fave. I wish I was better with editing to take the shadow from mama's face. It would truly be my "money shot" for the day! My first shoot mentioned while I was working that she was looking for an image she could use on a Christmas card. I took 128 images and narrowed it down to about 30. I can only hope she finds one that is exactly what she is looking for. Note to self:  ask what they want!

Location. This is something I need to learn to talk about right up front with people, before we set a time. I prefer to work with natural light and have yet to pop my flash on anyone. I love to shoot anywhere people are most comfortable and for a majority, it's home. With kids, I don't think you can go wrong at the park. There are many places to choose from around here and today I will start a file so that when people ask, I'll have choices.

What to wear. Last year I did a shoot where the guy showed up with a big grease stain on his shirt. I'm not that great of an editor and I left it in the pics and chalked it up to experience. Another time, I had a woman lean up against a tree and it left bark on her sweater.  Oops!  Yesterday, everyone had great coordination but not because of me. I'll be adding it to my list of what to talk about when setting up a shoot. Color coordination

Know when to stop. I never know exactly how many images I'll shoot when I go out. I tell people that we can usually get good images in 20 to 30 minutes. I don't wear a watch but I have an innate sense of time and I have a 6th sense about people and when they are tired of smiling. If I get 20 great images out of 100 snaps, I'm super happy.  Knowing when to stop when I get home and start editing is what I need to work on. It can take me 2+ hours to edit a 20 minute shoot.

Enjoy what you do. This applies to photography, writing, washing the dishes, or whatever it is I am doing right now. Be present.  Put the phone away. Chisel out the time I need to enjoy the here and now.
I write this today because I was so jazzed up last night after doing what I really love to do that I could hardly contain it and I don't want to forget the things I need to do to improve and make my hobby more enjoyable. I wish I could take people pictures every weekend but the reality is that I might start thinking of it as a job rather than a hobby I enjoy so much.
If anything I've written here has been helpful, or you have tips you can share with me, I'd truly love to hear from you.  Leave me a comment and I promise I'll read it!
love, susan

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Susan on a Pink Cloud

I can't believe it's December and I'm  on a pink cloud. I spent half of Sunday preparing frozen meals for my lunches for the month. It made me so happy to do that and as it turns out, I'll be eating out three times this week.  Shhhh. Don't tell my husband. It makes him cringe.
It is super important for me to have plans this time of year. If you have suffered through my past whining about having seasonal affective disorder, my deepest apologies. This post is not about depression.
There are so many things happening this week, I hope I can manage to squeeze it all in and contain my excitement: 
  • tentative plans for an engagement photo shoot (can I tell you how thrilled I am about this possibility?)
  • chicken pho with a co-worker today
  • luncheon/baby shower tomorrow at work. I know, I KNOW, I've told you before how much I dislike baby showers, but it has been promised there will be no silly games and the expecting mother wishes only for diapers and books
  • dinner tomorrow night to celebrate birthdays
  • lunch on Friday with girlfriends
  • annual potluck on Saturday with about 200 like-minded friends
Future plans:
  • signed up for an awesome online workshop with Jacob Norby to learn how to Burn the Leash
  • looking forward to seeing our grandkids this month
  • a possible trip to the beach
  • making time to look at my 5-year plan for retirement
OH MY GAWD ... I can hardly wait!  If that isn't enough, I was talking with a good friend last night who just purchased a Nikon D3300. She is moving up from taking pics on her cell phone. I went to bed dreaming about all the places I'll take her on photo walks. Love that!
Got winter blues?  Make some plans. It's a plan that works!  And, leave me a comment and let me know what kind of plans you have ... that's where ideas live!
love, susan

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

101 Words

I snagged this photo at my aunt & uncle's 50th wedding anniversary party last summer. I forgot I was the flower girl in their wedding. I was 5.   Some days I just want time to stand still.  Every day I wake up and feel like I don't have a moment to waste. Tick tock.    Yesterday a friend said goodbye to her mother. She died at 5:00pm, Colorado time. Helen was a mother, an artist and one of the many good people of this world. She lived a long life and left good people in her wake.  
That’s what I want.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Love You

“With my last breath, I’ll exhale my love for you. I hope it’s a cold day, so you can see what you meant to me.
”  -- Jarod Kintz

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Do Nothing

Hang on.  Or let go.

Thank you to my friend "T" for giving me a topic to write about this morning. I've been feeling brain dead the last couple of weeks. I know there are ideas somewhere in my mind but lately I 've been working so hard that all I am doing is simply surviving. It's a temporary situation, thankfully.
"T" is not my only friend who is struggling with decisions. When I look around me, there are decisions taking place about gut wrenching, real-life stuff and it has affected my heart space. Tears have been shed for my friends. Major medical issues, relationships, plumbing problems, employment difficulties. You name it, my friends are experiencing it.  On Sunday I had a real breakthrough when I realized that I've been where all my friends are right now, in those awful transitional places that are hard, super hard and seem like the most horrible situations for them. I've been struggling and feeling their pain and the truth is that its all about the growing pains. Theirs and mine.
I've had all the above mentioned situations and then some. I often wonder when the other shoe is going to drop now because my life has been on smooth for so long. One thing I know for sure, it will drop. How I handle it is different than how I used to handle crisis.
G-d, grant me the serenity to accept the things
 I cannot change, the courage to change the things
 I can, and the wisdom to know the difference
I like this prayer. I use it often as a filter for things going on in my life that are out of control or where I need clarification for what to do next. Sometimes, doing nothing is the action I need to take.
I'm going to leave it at that for now. Think about it.  Have you ever just done nothing, slept on it, decided to not decide, etc.?
love, susan

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Joy Meter = Overload

Today was filled with unexpected surprises right out of the gate.  I got up at my usual work time, even though it was a day off for me, and decided to get dressed and take a quick trip to town to see if I could get a good sunrise photo. It was wicked cold and three shots was all I could stand in the freezing wind.  After a cup of coffee with some like-minded friends, I went home to make breakfast for my sweetheart. He loves the attention and I love crispy hash browns. Win/Win. I decided to make a loaf of orange cranberry bread just to stay on his good side before we took off for a doctor's appointment.
It was the first time I've been to a dermatologist in a long time. Hubby said I'd like him. That would be an understatement. I'd invite him over for dinner in a heartbeat. Great guy. His nurse was equally friendly and I discovered by listening to her that she is a weekend photographer and has taken her skills to the next level by starting a side business. She gave me some great tips and I found her business page on FB. She offered to help with any questions I might have and I'm hoping she'll be a good resource for learning more about my camera.  As it turns out, I need to have two procedures done so I'll be visiting the good doctor and his nurse again soon.
Then, I got to see my fantastic hair designer later in the afternoon. She recently moved to another shop and we had some catching up to do. I love that woman. Not only is she a talented colorist, she is one of the kindest people I know in the Tricities. 
So, meeting with three wonderful people in one day put my joy meter on overload. I've tried all day to not think about having to go back to work for the next three days but there is no avoiding it. Such is life.
How about you.  Did you meet any wonderful doctors and nurses today? Get your hair cut?  Stand in the biting wind?
love, susan

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Oh! Happy Day!

This is a writing prompt I received from writer Jacob Norby yesterday morning. I should have known better than to ask him for a prompt. What was I thinking?
But here is the thing. Fear has ruled my world since I can remember. I barely remember what I ate yesterday but I recall vividly laying on a cold, hard floor with my favorite silky blanket in kindergarten, trying to take a nap because that's what the teacher said to do. I hated that cold floor and I feared I would freeze to death. How is it that some memories are burned into our brains like that? A mystery to me.


What am I afraid of?  It's not what you might think.  I am not afraid of dying. I know this because once I traveled on a plane and, while landing, the wheels would not come down. I had just spent a beautiful weekend with my best friend, eating bologna sandwiches and talking up a blue storm. The short trip from Cordova to Anchorage was a part of Alaska I had never seen before and I was the happiest I had ever been. I felt zero fear and in a matter of minutes came to terms with the fact that I might die that day. I believed it then and I believe it now that dying on a good day would be the best way to go.

No, I'm not afraid to die.

I'm truly afraid that if you know who I really am or what I really think, you won't like me. I have opinions. I have a past that I am not particularly proud of. I've made mistakes. Huge mistakes, most of which I have made amends for. The past no longer haunts me.  I have regrets from my past, things I would do differently if I had it to do all over again. Don't we all?

At the bottom of it, what I'm really afraid of is the remaining character flaws that flare up from time to time. I swear, my defects are protected by a steel trap in my mind so as to never be totally eradicated. The good news is that today I'm aware of them and I watch for red flags indicating they are popping up.
Today, it has been thirteen years since I've had a drink. On November 6, 2001, my dad and I were in Tombstone, Arizona celebrating the marriage of my very good friend from Alaska. I had no idea it would be the last time I drank. The night before her wedding, we cracked open the champagne and made a toast. Why I didn't drink more than I did remains a mystery to me today. I only know that my life had gone to hell in a hand basket and I was tired. I have a picture of us on that day and it is classic Susan. I always look good on the outside but I can be dying on the inside and you'll never know it.
I'm fine will be my famous last words.
I don't talk much about my life before I got sober unless it will serve some purpose to help another. It's a sad story of my own making and I choose carefully who I'll share it with. Afraid?  You bet I am.  I'd rather talk about my life now.
Bottom line:  I am less afraid of changing than staying the same. My life has been nothing but better since I put down the drink.  Of course, there is more to it than just that but it was the first step in the right direction. Who knew?
So, to my very good friend celebrating her 13th wedding anniversary, I raise my coffee cup to you! It was one of the best days of my life and I've had many best days from that one until now.
love, susan

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Retirement Dreams

I rarely delete photos. This one did not make the cut from my shoot on Saturday with the king and queen of the homecoming dance. The subjects are fuzzy, however, I couldn't bring myself to delete it. Here is why. 
Do you see the message here?
"Look forward to planning your next event."
Retirement has recently made an appearance on my radar. It happened while on that trip to Montana with my high school buddy in September. She has no idea what can of worms she opened when she asked me, "Susan, when are you going to retire?" It was an innocent question. Honestly, I've really never given it more than 2 seconds thought because I have not considered myself retirement material. My party line is: I'm a much better person when I'm on a work schedule. Sick, I know.  She reminded me that because I had worked in the state system long enough to vest, that I am eligible for 100% paid medical at age 60.  You say what?
I called the peeps in Alaska and heard it from the horse's mouth that, yes, I do indeed qualify to retire. I have a little paperwork to gather up and a few bucks to pay for a break in service but those are minor details.
DREAMS?  I cannot think of anything else these days.  In a phone call to my son last weekend I told him I finally have a 5 year plan.  Have you ever had anyone ask you what your five year plan is?  I've always hated that question in an interview.  Geezus, I don't know what I'm doing next month. Five years? I'm not that girl.  My son, on the other hand, says he thinks about retirement all the time.  Good man!

So, I wanna know.  Do you have dreams? Do you have a 5 year plan?  Tell me about it!

love, susan

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Do Something

This week I found myself sharing a bit of my experience with a good friend. When that happens, it starts a snowball effect in my mind and it's hard to shut off ... and when that happens, I write.
Our conversation reminded me of the fear I felt when I got close to high school graduation. I'm not sure exactly when it hit me that I would be gathering up my diploma and be cast out into the world of grownups but it was probably a week before I graduated. I have an incredible denial system that is still with me today. I wouldn't call it a character defect as it often saves me from sleepless nights. I'm a fly by the seat of my pants kinda girl and I like it that way, thank you very much.
Having said that, my parents decided to move from Haines, Alaska to Fairbanks, Alaska immediately after commencement. I had a hot boyfriend and he invited me to move in with him and it sounded like a great idea at the time. It was a crazy, fun-loving summer but then he got into a motorcycle accident which laid him up and it was time for me to go. I ended up in Fairbanks, clueless about what I was going to do with my life. My folks were going to charge me rent so I had to get a job fast. College was on the table and I was registered to go but my grades in high school were so mediocre that I was going to be on probation the first semester. I got a job at JC Penny and blew off college. Regrets?  Yes, I regret not going to college, however, at that time I was not college material. It would have been a waste of good money and time. At that point, I'm pretty sure my parents said do something, Susan.
Do something.
This is encouraging advice I remember giving to my son a very long time ago when he struggled to figure out what to do next. I believe those two words invite action. Trying to figure out the right move can be paralyzing.  I get it. Just do something and while you are doing that you will be exposed to new people and new ideas. That's my experience. Not everyone knows early on in life what they want to do.  
I eventually took a better job at a bank. After banking, I worked in the mental health field for a while and eventually into public service in the legal system. I was never afraid of changing jobs. Really, I was more afraid of standing still.
Just do something. Say yes. Acknowledge fear. Make some plans. Be willing to change those plans. Be open to change. Don't get hung up on results. Ask questions. Talk to people. Write about it. Do anything. Let go of old ideas. Ask others what they did.  Start today.
I'm closer to the end of my working life than I've ever been. I have enjoyed a couple of different career choices and have definitely been able to continue flying by the seat of my pants. If I had it to do over again ... well, I can't do it over again. This is the path I chose. I am making the best of it.
Do I still struggle with figuring out what I want to do with my life?  You bet I do. It dawned on me after the conversation with my friend that I still get to live by my own words.  Today I'm going to do something and see what happens.
How about you? Are you doing something, or are you stuck?
love, susan

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Happy Bosses Day!

Happy day to all the bosses in the world!. This is your day. I've got meatballs swimming in bbq sauce and grape jelly sitting on the counter, heating up for a fantastic day at work. The girls  in my office are putting together a fabulous feast for all the bossy-types we work with. And it's going to be big fun!
I challenged a friend to sit for 30 minutes this morning and write about her favorite bosses. It got me to thinking about all the great bosses and mentors I've had in my 30+ years of working. Today I'll leave you with the highlights from the best of the best:
Archie was my first boss when I was in high school. He ran the local theater in my small hometown of Haines, Alaska. I learned how to do every job except running the films. Back then, the movies came in on big, heavy tape reels and he mostly left that job to the guys. Archie was a great first boss. He never once yelled at me or made me feel stupid. 
Jean was my boss at JC Penny ... my first real job after high school. I only worked there a year but she taught me the value of putting the customer first. She was kind of a staunch woman who didn't smile a lot but she was all about business and I admired her. Sure wish I would have gone back and thanked her for the great start in my working life. Funny how I can forget a lot of things but still remember her name. Huh. That's interesting to me.
Tom Hishimoto (haha, made that last name up as I cannot remember his last name, he was Japanese) was a boss  I worked for in the early part of my banking career. He ALWAYS had a smile on his face and he taught me the only word I know in Japanese.  Hai = yes. Yes, we always care about the customer. Yes, we answer the phone by the 2nd ring. Yes, you can do it, Susan! He loved everyone and I learned a lot about customer service from him. Just a good guy.

Ginny is right up there as one of my favorite bosses of all time. She taught me and many others on our team the true meaning of teamwork. She had a magic way about her that brought people together to use their hidden talents and she really helped me shine. Working with her was truly the highlight of my working experience and I will be forever grateful for her example of a great team leader. She also became one of my most treasured friends. Love that!

Jane taught me to think past the limitations in my mind. She once made me put together a desk and hook up a computer. I thought that was man's work and she set me straight about that. Kinda funny how those small experiences can translate into life changing moments. She is still my friend and I got to visit with her about 3 years ago when she moved to the Pacific NW. Love you, Jane!

Mike was an attorney at a local law firm. He was still old school then and everything he wrote was done by dictation. I had forgotten how much I love transcribing until I went to work for him. He was the most prepared attorney I've ever worked for and he always did his work well in advance of when it needed to be done. None of this wait til the last minute, let's everybody get an ulcer kind of work. He was a meticulous writer and I learned a lot about cutting out the fluff in my writing by his example.

Margaret is my current boss. She has been in her job, well, let's just say a very long time. She is perhaps the easiest going person I've ever worked for and it takes a lot to get her feathers ruffled. I'm not sure I've ever seen her get mad. She is older than me and I like that she leads by example. She has never once said no when I asked for time off, which make her hunky dory, in my book!

I've been one lucky girl in my working career. There has been rarely an occasion when I didn't like my boss. Over the years, I've learned that every supervisor has a different style.  I have learned from every person in my working path and have tried to find something positive even in situations that have not always been ideal.

Do you have memories of great bosses?  I hope you'll think about it and leave a message or better yet, thank your wonderful boss today!

love, susan 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Happy National Coffee Day

Coffee does make the world better, wouldn't you agree?


I've been on a writing hiatus. Some days I feel like I'm never going to come back. Not sure why it happens but I've learned that this will pass.  So glad there is a "national" day today so that at least I could have one fleeting thought that might lead to another. I need prompts sometimes.  So, I decided to go into my blog and search the word coffee.  91 blog posts came up!  It is, after all, probably the single most important food stuff I care about in this life, second only to sugar.

I started this blog 4 years ago on September 4, 2010 with a post about the dumbest thing ever.  Banana cream pie. It was a start.  Don't judge. Pie goes with coffee.  See the connection there?

When I first started writing, I did some research on blogging and one of the tips I found was that a person should find their niche.  I'm a bit of rebel and can't quite seem to find a niche.  Maybe that's my niche.  Right? After all this time, I still don't have a real niche but I have found writing to be so therapeutic, right up there with my daily coffee.

So here are a couple of my favorite blog posts from the 91 posts that mention coffee over the last 4 years.  I'm glad I wrote them and I'm really glad I can go back and read them from time to time.

Some of my posts are even useful, like this one on road traveling.  Coffee is an essential part of the road.  And, this one on a lot to do about nothing.  Here is my post from a fabulous motorcycle trip to Mt. Rainier.  Don't miss this post on two words.  And, if you clicked this far, please don't leave without reading this post on my favorite coffee spot in Eagle River, Alaska.

I tip my cup of joe to all of you blog readers out and want to say thank you for hanging in here with me.  Love ya!   susan

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What if?

Last week I took a road trip to Montana with my high school friend. Our focus was to visit another friend from the class of '77, a mini reunion if you will. It turned out to be so much more than that, for me. An experience and life lesson I shall not soon forget.
Anyone who cares much about me knows that I keep a pretty heavy summer calendar and this trip was put on the calendar sometime last winter or spring. I don't recall. I just know that being a former future tripper, I didn't think much about it until about two weeks ago. That's when my wheels (so to speak) started spinning. When that happens, I get less sleep.
I've not done long distance driving without my husband. He's the man with wanderlust who kissed me and infected me with the desire to see new places quite a few years ago. We have traveled by truck across the country and back, including Alaska and Canada. He is the one who taught me how to read a map. He is the one who has changed flat tires and told me to turn the radio up when there is a noise in the motor for no apparent reason. He is the one who said, "Susan, never go home the way you came". He is the one who has taught me to put my hand out to people, look them in the eye and have a conversation.
Traveling without him, if the truth be known, scares the shit out of me. I hadn't really given it much thought until a few days before my friend and I were to roll down the road. The what if's kept creeping in and I struggled to ward them off.  What if's can paralyze a person into a life coma. I've seen it happen. I don't want to be that girl. Truth:  I've been that girl. Too afraid of everything ....
So, I ran the car through the carwash right before I swooped up my friend from the airport and we rolled down the road Thursday afternoon with a clean windshield, sour gummy worms and 12 years of life to catch up on. I kept my smart phone charged and ready and only used it to get us to the hotel in Spokane. The next day, we followed written instructions for the long road leading to our friends' place in Big Sky country. We both felt so proud that we made it there on the first try. I worried about getting out of there and trying to follow the instructions backwards but worry is such a waste of time.  We decided to take a different, much less traveled highway home for a more scenic route. I worried what if I get a flat tire or hit a deer. No cell service for most of the trip. I survived by mentally picking the what if up and placing it on a mental shelf. It worked.
It was a beautiful trip with many treasured memories.
What if I let worry rule my world?  I'm not going to think about that another moment. I'm out of here!

Do you get the what if's?

love, susan

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ride Your Skill

Yesterday was the worst day of motorcycling riding I've experienced in 8+ years of riding. I'm grateful that it came now and not in my early days.  Over the years, I have picked up many tips from fellow seasoned bikers which have not been wasted on me.
Tim H., road captain for a day, said that to me one time when we were out riding in a group of 17 bikes. It was my first big group ride and he knew I was scared to death.  Being scared has never stopped me from going but it does cut down on the level of fun. I'm glad I was riding that day to hear him say that to me. I think about it every single ride.
My hubby says this to me on a regular, annoying basis. On the ride home, I got to see first hand how following too close can result in a bad outcome. There was a 50 car pileup on both sides of I-82 due to a sudden microburst of wind that made visibility go instantly to zero. We were fortunate to have not been involved in it. There were no fatalities but I'm quite certain we would have died if we had been involved. I use this advice in all my affairs.
This is my phrase and I live by it daily. When we got home, we discussed how we would have handled the situation if we had come upon that dust storm.  We would have pulled over to wait it out, especially on a motorcycle and double especially on the highway. I never ride when I'm tired, hungry or have too much on my mind.  I just don't.
Once again, a tip my hubby gave me. I've never had to use it until yesterday. Between the wind and the rain, it was a miserable ride but it was do-able. If it had gotten only slightly worse, I would have insisted on pulling over but slowing down and leaning into the wind made it possible for us to get home.
I usually have an extra sweatshirt on my bike for elevation climbs. Not yesterday. Bad move. Luckily, he had a headband in his bag I put around my neck to keep the cold air from going down my jacket.  It's a good idea to carry an extra sweater or shirt anywhere I go.
Sometimes you're going to find yourself in situations you'd rather not be in. Grit your teeth. I'm a believer in life experiences! I used to live in a place where the temperatures got down to 50 below zero on a regular basis. It's what I'm made of.
Okay.  What three word pieces of advice have gotten you through situations?  Tell me, please!
love, susan

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pattern Interruption

The season is changing and so am I.  I woke up this morning with the idea of pattern interrupt on my mind.  It's a term I heard used last spring in a writing class I participated in and it has been stuck in my brain ever since.
What is it?
Simply put, a pattern interrupt is changing the flow, like when a tree falls into a river.  Water is forced to flow another direction. 
Think about it.
Could your life use a little pattern interruption?
Today I think I'll put my earrings on first and see what matches. Maybe I'll have breakfast for lunch, take a different route to work, call instead of text.
What kinds of things do you do to change it up?  Tell me!
love, susan

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hating on Sundays

I got to spend some time with Lily and
her people on Saturday. Big fun!
A couple of weekends ago I was having a nice conversation with my son via phone. Since their visit here in July we made a commitment to talk more often. I'm not sure if it was my hysterical crying in a phone call shortly after they left that did it but those conversations have been priceless. If you are reading this, my son and precious daughter-in-law, I love you and the sound of your voices.
One of the things we last talked about was hating Sundays. When he said he kinda hates Sundays I knew exactly what he meant. That apple don't fall far from the tree. I don't exactly hate Sundays but the anxiety of only having one day left of what I consider a two-day holiday can be overwhelming.  
What to do with my time?  When my son was about eight years old, he would wake up on Sunday mornings and complain that it was almost time to go back to school. I always laughed but I sure understood what he meant. So I started telling him that he could not complain about Mondays until 8:00pm on Sunday night. I was hoping to divert his attention and get him to enjoy the day without the anxiety of spending it well.
I had to laugh when he brought it up on the phone.  I wake up and think about how I am going to spend my last few hours of freedom. I want to spend them well, like the last few dollars in a bank account. Should I do laundry or can I put it off until the last minute? Road trip or lawn care? Grocery shopping or watch a movie?  It's about the choices. There are just so many choices. I'm hoping that our recent conversation helped in some way.
As I sit here thinking about this last weekend, I once again was able to stuff a lot of fun into it. And truth be told, I did wake up hating Sunday. I got over it pretty quickly but the feeling is always the same. OMG, I only have 15 hours of free time left!
How about you, do you feel like that on your days off?
love, susan

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Manner of Death

It has been a hard week. I'm still wrapping my mind around the death of Robin Williams and trying to figure out why such news devastates me.
Maybe it's because I get it. 
I get what it feels like to see the world in shades of gray.
There have been times in my past when it was hard to get out of bed and function, put on clean clothes, brush my teeth and function at a minimum in my own life, much less a work life, family life, social life.  Honestly, I don't really ever talk about it much.  That's part of the illness. It has a life of its own and it likes living in the darkness. It feeds on it.  I've been there. I'll feel better tomorrow. That's the lie depression tells its sufferer.
When I heard the news, I felt a deep sadness for someone I didn't even know. One more victim of a deadly, silent illness that is so misunderstood by those who have never suffered from it. The stigma and shame. The silence of it is deadly.
See, the thing is, if Robin Williams had died from complications of Parkinson's disease or a swift heart attack, we'd be sad but it would be acceptable.  There has been much debate about the "selfishness" of suicide.  I refuse to get into that debate.  Suicide is just another symptom of depression.  A final symptom.

It's important for me and you to know the signs of depression; the red flags. My hubby has learned my red flags and I'm grateful for that. He knows the right things to say so that I become aware that I am sinking. Because you can't really see depression like you see a broken arm. It is insidious. By the time you are sitting in a dark room for 20 hours as it was reported that Robin Williams was doing, that becomes the new norm. Non-sufferers often times don't fully understand that it is a deep hole one has fallen into and cannot crawl out of without help.

All week I've been thinking about the things over the years
that have kept me away from the edge of that abyss.

Sunshine.  It's like a big battery charger in the sky for me. It's the number one cure for me.
Medication. At times, I have to take it. I hate taking it but when the depression gets bad enough, I'm on the phone with my doctor.
Light box.   A must have for those of us who have seasonal affective disorder.
Writing.  An amazing outlet for me.
Photography.  It's all about light. I'm all about light.
Eating well.  Fresh food, please.
Friends.  Spending time with my peeps.
Walking.  Exercise and fresh air do me wonders.

In closing, I've been wondering all week what goes on the death certificate of one who dies from suicide.  Hanged himself with a belt?  I worked at hospice once for about 18 months. I noted on a majority of death certificates "cause of death" was from urinary tract infections; surprisingly not the major medical issue that put them into hospice care. So, I wish the news would report that Robin Williams died from depression.  I can't bear the thought of what was reported in the news. It was only the manner of death.  He died from an illness many people suffer and I'm one of those people.

The truth is, we're all going to die. What I've learned this week is keep paying attention to the warning signs of depression and not let it take a silent seat in my house. Don't think that it can't happen to you. It happened to a funny, talented, intelligent and loved man who the world adored. Imagine that.

love, susan

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Writing About Writing

Thank you to my online friend, Sora over at Shine Connection, for inviting me to write about writing and share it with her in a sort of blog "tag, you're it" kind of thing.  I love a deadline and a good challenge!
Why do I write what I write:  Well, I just can't help it.  I have to write. My head will explode if I don't. Actually, it's more like my heart will explode more than anything.  I often get all filled up with emotions, usually sappy/happy ones, and writing helps me sort that out. Every day is full of experiences. Weird confession:  I feel like that little boy in the Sixth Sense who said "I see dead people".  While I don't see dead people, I am witness to things that often other people seem to miss and I just gotta write about it, ya know? Do you remember the moment in that movie where Bruce Willis realizes he's dead too? Well, it's kind of like that when I connect with people through my writing. When someone leaves a comment on my blog post, it makes me feel like they maybe saw the same thing I did. I can gage when I have written something in my most genuine voice ... it will always garner comments. If you are not past my weird confession, I'm sorry for that visual.

What are you currently working on?   Next question please.   No, seriously I started writing a memoir that got painful so I have it on the shelf for the time being. Or maybe I got busy.  Or dis-interested. Or (fill in the blank). I just re-signed with a great group of writers over at Unboot Camp with Jacob Norby, which will start in September. Truly, I'm hoping to get back to work on that memoir. It does have a happy ending!  Also, I love blogging. 
How does your work differ from others in the same genre? I don't even know how to answer this question. May I phone a friend, use a life-line, or ask the audience please?

Describe your writing process.  My writing is often inspired by the photographs I shoot.  My first other love is photography. I started this blog almost 3 years ago because I was shooting a lot of photos and really wanted a space where I could explain the images. I take photos almost every day and from those I will often find something to write about. I have developed a habit of writing morning pages (journaling). However, I am much more faithful to writing daily in the fall/winter than I am during summertime. I'll grab a cup of coffee, shut my office door and write a couple of pages ... a mind "dump" so to speak. From there, an idea may "bubble up" and I'll write a blog post. When I'm traveling, I try to keep notes but honestly I have to admit that my ideas are fleeting and if I don't write about them immediately, the ideas are gone. It feels like a mental illness some days. Can anyone relate to that?

Okay, your turn.  If you're a writer and feel inclined, write a post with the above topics and send it to me!  I'd love to hear from you!

love, susan

You Made My Day, Dude!

A couple weeks ago while I was driving back to Portland after spending the night on the Oregon coast, we came up on some road construction ...