As at least one nice person noticed, I have been blogging regularly for the new year. I do personal writing every day but have never developed a public practice. For now, my goal is to post every day, but I am giving myself lots of space around topics. Just post.
I did miss yesterday and didn’t even think about it until I was tucked in bed, too tired to do anything about it. So, today, I begin again.
Begin again: Those two words come up often in the other practice I am establishing: meditation. I signed up for the 10% Happier app challenge that started this past Monday. The goal is to meditate 15 out of 21 days, but I am working on finding time every day. I want this to be more than just taking ten breaths, though, but a real meditation practice that helps me understand how my perspective impacts my world.
The basic lesson so far has been that meditation is not about emptying the mind, as that is impossible, but about getting still and seeing how the mind works, the ideas that appear and disappear, the paths we wander down and those we ignore, the emotions that arise and their impact on our thoughts and body. There’s a lot going on when we are sitting quietly with our eyes closed. And we should view all of it with self-compassion and a sense of curiosity.
I know schools are adding mindfulness activities and training to the curriculum and am interested in learning more about how they work. I plan to make this a focus of my reading and research this spring. It would be possible, I think, for this to do more harm than good depending on the approach. But, at a basic level, learning to be able to identify your state of mind and use mindfulness techniques to connect and tinker with that state could be a useful skill in a stressful world.
Today is the first day of my blogging challenge that I haven’t known what I was going to write about so I just sat down in front of the laptop and opened a blank post.
It was a different kind of day: today is exactly one month since my hip replacement surgery and only my second time away from the farm. I am reasonably mobile although I carry a cane when I’m outside the house. We visited a friend who has had a bumper crop of pecans. The family gifted us a basket for the holidays and then invited us to come over for more. I visited with my friend while my husband used a pretty nifty tool to pick up the pecans. We’ll let them dry before shelling and then I will make a pie and these chewy pecan pie bars. The latter are delicious and do not require dealing with pie crust. Later, after running into my husband in town, the same friend stopped by our house for an afternoon visit. Lovely. We chatted some more and took a walk around the barnyard.
This is a little slice of life that I share as it is a reminder to me that I should take more advantage of the flexibility of my schedule. Knocking off to go visiting would not have been something I did pre-surgery. After all, the world could not live without me. My friend is a real estate agent with a similarly flexible schedule. We may have felt a little guilty for playing hooky, but as professionals, we knew a few hours of rest could actually help us focus better later. Huge rationalization? Maybe…but I think these kind of opportunities to connect with others informally within the confines of “working hours” could be considered a type of mindfulness. My friend and I talked about work and family and podcasts and books and gardening. We weren’t trying to accomplish goals or solve problems: we were just sharing ideas and stories around common interests on a wonderful Wednesday afternoon.
I love my work but my goal for the new year is to make sure I also make time for life.
For now, in order to get in the habit of blogging, I’m going with pieces I am calling “short bits.” Basically, what I am thinking about it. Sheri Edwards, the blogging mentor to us all, calls them blog shorts and has a wonderful introduction here. So, my short bits are blog shorts.
This one is simply about the seeming lack of nuance in all sorts of places, due I think, in large part to our continued distraction with media. We want quick answers and memes to share, diving into the ever flowing stream of stuff, generating quick comments but never really digging deeper than the surface. We label things good and bad, and certainly there are examples of both of those in the world, but there are also nuances of good and bad. Events are often more complicated than they seem. Zero tolerance policies almost never work. And, teachers and students and content and pedagogy overlap in complex ways that do not always lend themselves to easy charts or frameworks or continuums or, for that matter, 280 characters on Twitter. Whenever someone says you should ALWAYS or NEVER, I want to shout, “It depends!”
But, in the interest of seeing nuances myself, there ARE good conversations going on within communities, including Twitter. The #clmooc has made long term use of the web to connect around creativity and collaboration. I am sorry I missed the #clmooc book discussion about affinity communities online. Participation in these kinds of groups allows users to access the power behind the tools when wielded with a mission of authentic connection.
I’m not sure how I discovered artist and writer Austin Kleon. Probably on Twitter. I have his books and the new one is on preorder. But, it’s his weekly newsletter that makes him an integral part of my life. I look forward to it every Friday. He seems to have mastered the art of the email newsletter: ten quick items. He highlights his blog posts which are always thoughtful and also introduces his readers to music and books and art, all in the name of supporting our own creativity. If you don’t get the newsletter, you should.
Go ahead…subscribe now. I’ll wait.
I’ve thought about crafting my own Austin Kleon style blog post each week, but I’ll be honest: I’m a little intimidated. Kleon has a breadth and depth of knowledge of culture and the arts that make my offerings seem meager. But, as the saying goes (at least if you grew up with Risky Business), sometimes you just have to say WTF. So…here you go: five items from the week ala Austin:
- I was sad to finish The Books By the Bay mystery series by Ellery Adams, but she knows when a good thing is done. Using the setting in coastal North Carolina to craft the stories, Adams drew on Native American and Appalachian culture while painting a loving portrait of the fishing community that resides along side the tourists in Oyster Bay.
- This Newshour feature on conductor Jessica Bejarano inspired me to stream some classical music, including Beethoven. I’m also learning to play Piano Sonata No 20 (short and pretty simple), and it feels good to sit down at the piano in the evenings for a little practice. I have never been much of a music memorizer, but I would like to try to get a couple pieces under my belt (or my fingers, as it were). I may try this easy tip.
- The Electric Light Orchestra has always been a favorite, and Mr. Blue Sky has been running through my head lately, probably because it has been raining so much! As though the Internet was reading my mind, I stumbled on this animated version.
- It is February 1, and I like Austin’s idea of starting my resolutions now. I often wait until my birthday month in May as that’s really the start of my new year, but May seems far away. Today is about this blog post and 10,000 steps, something I haven’t done regularly since Christmas Day.
- Thursday was the last day for the 4H STEM Club. As I said on Twitter:
My exchange with Sheri Edwards of the What Else blog about our mutual love of crocheting and how we learned was featured as part of Edublog’s round up for week two of the #blogging28 challenge. While I basked in the glory, I also forgot to blog yesterday.
Have I already run out of things to write about? No…but I have moved further into the new year with its work demands and I haven’t quite gotten the habit in place yet. I have thought about potential topics but not made any notes so they die on the vine, as it were. I could expand on the twitter conversation I had with a few folks about our process:
I hope this didn’t sound flippant. I take my audience seriously but as I went on to share on Twitter:
The #blogging28 challenge allows time for posts to percolate by suggesting doing one blog post each week. And, by encouraging participants to comment on others’ blogs, connections are made that can lead from comments to full blown posts in the same way these Twitter posts led to this post.
I think I am behind on commenting on blog posts and want to explore some new writers. The Edublogs week two round up has a list of participants at the end of the update.