Un-Role Models

I like to think of myself as a positive person.  I actively avoid negativism whenever I possibly can.  I try to look for the twist of any situation that will allow me to accept it without judgement.  And yet I’ve observed myself consistently sliding into the world of UN when it comes to role models.

That’s not to say that I don’t have the usual cadre of positive icons, each selected for specific traits that I aspire to.  But on a day-to-day basis, I find the un-role models having a greater impact, and that might simply be because I see so many more of the negative ones than the positive.  I see them everywhere – the grocery, the mall, restaurants, on the street.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing these people; I don’t even know them.  I’m not judging them; there’s no point in placing them on a good to bad value scale.  I don’t want to change them; I don’t have that kind of influence.  Besides, I’m in no position to cast the first stone.  And yet . . .

When I’m at the grocery and I see an overweight shopper leaning on their cart, I stand up taller. When I’m walking a mall and I see a similar aged person shuffling, I pick up my feet and step up my pace.  When I see a similar aged person hunched over with obvious pain, I straighten my spine, lift my chin, push my shoulders back and keep my eyes looking forward.  When I see an extremely overweight person eat an enormous plate of food, I slow my eating pace and save half my meal for left-overs.  When I see driver after driver in oncoming cars with scowls on their faces, I smile.

A few years ago I remember sitting in an airport watching people.  I particularly watched similar aged or older people.  I observed as much as I could about them, and I would say to myself, “I’d like to be like that person when I get older” or “I don’t want to be like that person when I get older.”  I found in a very short time that the people I want not to be like is far greater than those I would emulate.

I understand that there are many physical afflictions that people suffer from that cause them to walk, act, or move in certain ways, often painful ways.  I understand for some there is little they can do about their physical being.  And yet, in some perverted way, I guess I am thankful for their existence in my life.  They have helped me be a better person.  For now, at least, I am able to avoid letting my physiology be a limiting factor for my activity.  I am blessed. And should the time come in the future, when I am no longer so blessed, I hope to also serve as the best possible UN-role model I can be.

 

 

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Traditions!

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Family Band Pic – December 2016 – Daytona Beach

 

As a young boy growing up in a reasonably large family, I understood that there were some things that just happened, repeatedly.  It wasn’t until later in life that I learned these repeated events were traditions.  They were just things that we always did.  Pot roast for Sunday dinner.  Gathering at Grandma’s on decoration day to sort flowers on the lawn before taking them to the cemetery to decorate graves.  Attending Christmas Eve services at church and receiving a bag of goodies to take home and being allowed to eat them at night before going to bed.  And countless others that clutter my memory.

And then I married into a family that had even more rigid traditions.  There were correct place settings for particular meals.  There were certain days when things were done.  There were certain ways that things were done.  Without exception.  Sacrosanct.  Almost stifling. I think I do understand the value of traditions.  They give roots.  They provide stability, a home base. But they are not sacred.

I married a second time into a family with four young  siblings.  I learned quickly the value in being open to change.  Our family is a very viable community and as such is always changing, always growing, always becoming something new.  Rigidity has no place in our world.  This was made evident several years ago when one of the siblings traveled at Christmas time with a boyfriend’s family.  I overheard a comment about how she “spoiled” Christmas, and yet Christmas continued, life went on, and I think we all grew as a result.

We all learned that changing locations, changing traditions wasn’t a bad thing, but a learning thing.  In fact, last year, my wife and I traveled to Alaska for Christmas, and then we moved here.  This year we celebrated Christmas with the whole group (minus a deployed son-in-law) in Orlando.  And I heard discussion that next year we’ll return to Iowa for the holidays.

I’ve aged a bit.  But in that aging, I’ve become more flexible in thinking and in action.  There are no longer certain foods that have to be prepared for certain meals.  When I dine out, I choose foods I’ve never eaten before.  I choose wines I’ve never drank in order to find new tastes.  I travel to places I’ve never been before to gain new experiences.  There is so much life to be lived and so little time to live it.  Traditions have a place, a marker for beginnings, but not an anchor to prevent movement.  Traditions have the greatest value in showing us how much we have learned, how much we have grown.

Long live traditions!  May we always be willing to change them!

 

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Shades of Grey

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The Alaskan winter reminds me daily that life is all about shades of grey.  It is a gradient world never reaching absolute white or absolute black.  There are infinite variations capable of melting massive mountains into clouds and hiding all sharp edges behind soft mounds of snow.

I like the subtle variations of this world; it feels like living in a gentle Japanese painting.  I especially like the lack of absolutes.  There are so many more possibilities within the shades of grey than if I were limited to black and white.  The world becomes a richer place, and I get to share in that wealth.

All this is great, of course, unless I’m on a shopping trip, and I HAVE to buy something, and I feel I HAVE to be happy with my choice for the next four years at least.  Then having too many shades of grey makes the decision very difficult and I might yearn for black and white to make the decision easy.

However, I’m personally very happy with my shades of grey.  At any given moment, I have the joy of every point on the spectrum.  My life is full, and I never feel the need to exclude anything or anyone.  The Alaskan winter suits me, I think.  I can prosper in this place, and when I have to go shopping, I can be happy with whatever I get, because nothing lasts forever, and it can always be replaced.

 

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Alaska Daylight

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Sun taken at 2:00 pm on Nov. 27, looking across Turnagain Arm near Girdwood, AK.

 

Before my wife and I made a final decision to move to Alaska, we visited for 10 days last Christmas, to check out the lack of sunlight we had heard so much about.  Actually, we came to be with family, but a secondary goal was to find out if the lack of sunlight was as negative as many people like to think.

People in the lower 48 frequently say they couldn’t live in Alaska and be dark all winter.  There is talk of vitamin D deficiency, light deprivation leading to depression, and so forth.  So many notions of Alaska winters are negative.

Granted we live in the Anchorage area and not up north where they are indeed in 24 hours of darkness.  Therefore we really don’t know what that world is like either.  But speaking for our present environment, I would hold that the degree of suffering due to reduced daylight is minimal.

The most serious side effect I’ve experienced so far is that I get more sleep.  I find that the mid afternoon darkness starts my feeling that it must be dinner time, and by 8:30 or so, I’m ready for bed.  This really isn’t such a bad arrangement, because on most days I’m able to be outside while the sun is up.  If I were stuck in an interior space where I didn’t get to see the sun during the day, I might feel differently about it. But even in the Midwest, there were many days when I went to work in the dark and came home in the dark.

On bright sunny days, driving can be problematic if heading in a southerly direction because the sun is always low in the sky.  But, as you drive, there are frequently mountains to block that direct sun in the eyes problem.  Not too big an issue, for the most part.

Like many experiences in Alaska, light and darkness is just another of the extremes.  The more northerly the latitude, the more dynamic are the day to day changes.  And the really wonderful part of that reality is that in just a few short days, the phenomena of little light will reverse, and soon the land of midnight sun will again be present.

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Life Goes On . . .

November has come and gone and with it, this year’s Nanowrimo.  For the past month it’s been a mindful daily activity to sit down and put words on paper.  For me this year, it was a successful activity in the sense that I met my goal of at least 50,000 words during the month.  Actually made over 55,000 this year.

For this accomplishment, I received a badge and a silly printable paper certificate that declares me to be a WINNER.

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I like my little badge and I did in fact print my certificate.  Sounds silly, and maybe it is, but it also means that this year I was able to stick to it.  I was able to develop a story and characters and give them some life.  Daily I entered their lives, or they entered mine, and we communicated and I told their story on paper.

I kind of like the story that came out of that relationship.  In fact, this morning, in the wake of Nano, life goes on, mine and theirs.  I found myself once more at the keyboard waking my characters and peering into their lives to see what they are up to today.  I guess the novel that they are part of isn’t finished.  Funny, reaching 50,000 isn’t really the end of the story.

Life goes on – everyday.  For you, for me and for my life as a writer.  Life goes on.  Thank you Nano for being a part of this life.

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Artists and Craftsmen – I applaud you!

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The holiday season is the  perfect time to get hundreds of artists and craftsmen together to show their wares.  For those of us who want to give a few special gifts that are not cookie cutter items from a some chain commercial establishment, it’s awesome to get so many choices.  But that is also a problem for these events.  I always feel overwhelmed; there are so many things to look at, so many choices to make.

We went to such an event yesterday.  The quality of the goods was amazing.  Every medium was represented, from fiber to steel, from food to soap and candles and musical instruments.  This was truly an incredible display of talent and execution.

Having occasionally dabbled in various art forms over the years, I have some notion of the numbers of hours that each artist spends preparing for such a display. And knowing that, I always am a bit dismayed that I am not able to give each the accolades they deserve.

I try to ooh and aah at appropriate times.  I smile and nod.  I mumble, “nice work, I like that” so the vendor has some feedback that someone likes what they  have done.  And yet, I can’t do what they all want.  I can’t spend enough money to please them all.  And that is truly why they have gathered.  Of course there is satisfaction in hearing that someone likes your work, but the real payback for doing this art show thing is that someone likes it enough to spend some money to own it.

I’m sorry, but I don’t have enough money to even buy the things I truly love.  The capital just isn’t there.  And so I walk by your booths, quickly some times, avoiding eye contact, don’t want to get your hopes up.  Sorry!

Yet I’m glad you’re there!  I love seeing such skill and talent expressed!  And I love the tenacity you display by being there!  Artists and craftsman, I applaud you!  You are the heart of the human spirit!

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Nano – Practice in Humility

Participating in Nanowrimo is a month long practice in humility.  In order to write 50,000 words in the month, it is necessary to average 1,667 words per day.  I’ve been doing fairly well, and each night I go to bed knowing I’m right on track.

Then morning comes, and I refresh my Nano dashboard, and the wind is taken out of my sails.  I have written zero words for the day, my average is down, my graph shows me below the line that indicates I’ll finish by the end of the month.  At the present rate, I’ll finish on December 3.  I am humbled.

Obviously that’s not acceptable, so I’ll push ahead once again.  And maybe that is the real function of humility, that one must never rest on one’s laurels, that life moves on, and one must move with it or get left behind.  Thank you, Nano!

 

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