Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Window to My Soul…21st Century Scrapbooking



In a world where we are bombarded by technology and “always on” with social media, I find myself appreciating a new way of sharing and preserving an old fashioned way of life.

A Monarch in the making.

I am a romantic at heart.  That is to say I like to take the simple and routine and embellish it with what I’ll call “life trimmings” to make it more memorable.  Take gardening for example.  I love to garden and can vegetables and jam.  But if you ask me what I liked best about these little pleasures, it would be easier for me to show you than tell you.  Because I trim my life in ways that make me happy.  Let me explain…

A day in my garden rarely begins and ends in a single visit.  Life is busy and I work and have teenagers in high school.  That’s why I planted my garden in the front yard next to my driveway.  I am always on the go and in and out several times a day.  And every time I’m leaving or coming back home, I find it almost irresistible not to walk over and pull a stray weed or take a peek at my tomatoes or squash.

Southern Pumpkins

My favorite moments are in the evenings or weekends, when I can kick off my shoes and walk barefoot in the middle of the garden.  The straw mulch gives me a soft bed for my feet and I can more gingerly walk around the cushaw vines trailing around in every direction.  I have a woven hat, with a lime green band.  It’s mandatory attire for sunny days and makes me smile when I see it in my kitchen hanging on a chair.  I feel happy when I grab it on my way out the door with basket and nippers in hand.


Another mainstay I keep in the kitchen are aprons.  I have a few really pretty vintage ones from the 1950’s and a few more functional ones for messier work.  I pull up my unruly hair in a ponytail and am instantly reminded of my Granny shoo-ing me out of the kitchen as a kid to put my hair up before entering her kitchen.  In my kitchen, I survey the assortment of pots and pans, canning jars, and supplies.  Like me, it’s a work in progress.  It's roomy and has potential to store all my kitchen staples for baking and canning in some organized way.  For now, I make it work with a banquet table and Rubbermaid tubs underneath.  And I’m always on the lookout for an oversized buffet or cabinet that could be re-purposed into a work center that can accommodate more storage.

I see potential in most things in life and enjoy the journey in seeing a dream or vision coming to fruition.  It’s like looking at a blank canvas and instinctively knowing what needs to be added or something that would complete the picture.  Sometimes it will be days or even weeks before I figure out what’s missing from a shelf or a mantle in my home.  But it eventually comes to me…often at a yard sale where I find a small vintage treasure.  You can be sure it will be cheap enough not to break the bank and easy enough to swap out without any sentimental value.  I used to be a huge collector of things.  I still appreciate and have a fondness for antiques, but have also learned to appreciate a more minimalistic environment…from surroundings to thoughts to everything in between.  I enjoy “props” that enhance my setting and help to set the stage for my romanticized way of life.   I recently picked up a scarecrow at a yard sale and added it to the garden.  I have included him in every picture I take while measuring my growing produce and enjoying the view.

Which brings me to my last “must have” accessory…something I take with me wherever I go.  It’s not old fashioned and lacks the beauty and character of an old Mason jar with a zinc lid.  It hasn’t been hand sewn or trimmed in lace.  In fact, it is the opposite of antiquated items I typically gravitate towards.  But this gem is what fuels and powers my creativity and passion for every day living.  As incongruous as it may sound, my i-Phone has become a mobile scrapbook of sorts.  I used to cut pictures from magazines and glue them into journals.  I’d write and mail letters to family and friends to share things happening in my life.  And while I will admit there is a tradeoff in leaving behind a good stock of paper or stationery, the benefits and ease of sharing far outweigh the downside for me.

My kids get aggravated when I want to take a picture.  They can’t understand why I don’t just enjoy the moment.  But for me, it’s all about capturing the moment and remembering why it was special.  And I get that not everyone will understand the importance of a photo shot in portrait mode taken from an i-Phone camera, depicting a basket of freshly picked tomatoes...or why I'll position the leaves of my squash, so that the plump and rapidly growing cushaw can be shown surrounded by a frame of straw.  It’s my way of scrapbooking in the 21st century, utilizing all the tools of a different sort of revolution than that of the industrial age.


But please don’t try to pin me down to a generation or type.  I’m just tech savvy enough to be dangerous.  I can’t master Snapchat, however, Facebook is my friend for sharing the moments I capture.  Instagram and Twitter are close seconds.  I think like the industrial revolution, the mediums and channels for making and doing will always change.  What remains a constant for me is a love and passion for living in the moment and appreciating the natural beauty that abounds if you take the time to see it.  And if I embraced a tech-free existence, I’d miss out on a lot of moments I want to look back on and remember.  It may sound funny, but it’s true.  My i-Phone is the window to my soul…see for yourself…



































M




Thursday, October 26, 2017

Recovery

Okay...it's not what you think.  I've been locked out of my account for four months and have been unable to post anything!  Today, I successfully recovered access and control over my Blogger account.  I tried absolutely everything, including all the steps and blog guidance I found online.

So what finally worked?  I remembered my second to last password, which triggered my recall for the one after that LOL.  I have now updated email address from the Time Warner Cable account that was closed months ago and I am back in business!

More to come...

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Beyond the Ice Age?

A little over two years ago, I started my Old School Journaling Blog.  It provided me with a creative outlet to share my thoughts and stories…life lessons I picked up along the way as we all do.

I also used this blog to share my first book, a collection of letters, stories, and poetry that, once cobbled together, became a timeline of my early childhood and adulthood.

After having published my first book, Following the Path of the Dinosaurs; A Childhood Saved
I should have "looked inside" more.
From Extinction
, I believed I’d slayed all my monsters and was on a path to being a more confident and healthy individual.  I’d clearly identified first, how I’d followed the steps of my parents and their behaviors (Following the Path of the Dinosaurs), figured out why I made the choices I had in the past (Lingering Footprints), and finally moved past all these dysfunctions and turned behaviors from my childhood into more positive and healthier choices in the future (Beyond the Ice Age).

I still like the three-part analogy and see it as completely relevant in moving forward.  But events and circumstances that have occurred since 2015 has led me to re-examine whether or not I am indeed, in that golden place of having survived and moved past the Ice Age so to speak and into a brighter and sunnier future.  My conclusion is that I have not and that I am still stuck somewhere between the “Lingering Footprints” of my childhood and family and just short of being free and among the living, “Beyond the Ice Age.”

If you haven’t read the book, some of this won’t make sense (if you’d like to read it, here’s a link to Amazon to purchase J  https://www.amazon.com/Following-Path-Dinosaurs-Childhood-Extinction/dp/1512243795/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1495281988&sr=8-1&keywords=mary+niehaus+ralles ).

Writing the story of my childhood had a much bigger impact than I first imagined.  It wasn’t until later, that I realized that purging my soul had set yet another catalyst into motion.  A catalyst that would force me to examine my life once again, reminding me that I was still on a journey and that my learning was incomplete…stymied and stalled. 

I have talked about ignorance before, willingly admitting that there are often areas I simply don’t know anything about and I’m still seeking to learn.  There are times in my life where I have welcomed the opportunity to learn and others, when it was too painful and difficult…and I resisted, preferring to hide my head in the sand rather than face any new truths that might challenge the grounding I thought I’d found.  Awakenings and enlightenment seldom come quietly.  You don’t go to bed one evening and awake with a new wisdom and strength you didn’t have the day before.  No, in my experience, enlightenment is a by-product of a very difficult path or journey.  And more often than not, the journey contains a high degree of uncertainty, with constantly changing variables.  Variables that require you to react and respond faster than you’re comfortable with, leaving you in active peril of choosing too quickly or relying upon incomplete facts or assumptions that could result in…that could result in…hell, who am I kidding?  We are all in that same environment.  It’s called “life” and it’s completely unpredictable.   If we’re lucky, our internal compass is well developed and we’ve had a solid foundation in growing up and learning how to make healthy choices.  We’ve learned by observation in the first family we came into life with.  We know what is right and wrong based upon how that family unit operated.  We know how to feel about ourselves, and others because we were taught from an early age what appropriate behaviors and boundaries were.

But here’s the thing…there will always be variations to our reality and norm.  Because every family unit grew up in a different reality, operating with a different set of rules.  And that’s not all bad.  It brings diversity and growth into future families and relationships.  It helps us to give and get empathy and understanding.  And it enables growth for future relationships.

But what happens to those of us who may not have been quite so “lucky” in experiencing a charmed life in childhood?  What about those of us, who grew up thinking our reality was safe and normal, only to learn later that everything we grew up believing to be true…was not necessarily healthy?   What happens when we wake up and realize that we were conditioned to operate in a reality and norm that was built on a foundation of dysfunction…a set of rules that perhaps helps us reach survivor status as adults, but prevents us from re-establishing rules that fit for us now in a healthier environment, where we have a chance to not just merely exist and survive, but to thrive with brilliance. 

I want to thrive with brilliance.  I want to leave fear behind and find excitement when I look at unlimited possibilities…instead of feeling paralyzed in fear of making the wrong choices.  I may still want to hide.  I know I will still be afraid.  But I won’t be so afraid that I stay standing still at this single point in time.  My life is evolving rapidly, with significant changes happening in virtually every corner of my life.  I am leaning heavily on the wonderful truth that we all suffer from; the affliction of being human.  I know there is no perfection to be had.  Even still, I have to believe we all have the opportunity to thrive brilliantly if we keep putting one foot in front of the other…even at times when we don’t know where we will ultimately end up.


I think I’ve just written the introduction to a sequel.  As with everything else I’ve shared, I invite you to join me on this journey as well.  I’m taking that first step and I can assure you, I have no idea where it will lead me.  I have a few guides on this path, including a few new books I’ve read.  I’ll share as I go.  And this time, I hope to move a little further beyond the “Ice Age.”

Monday, May 1, 2017

Ted Talks and the Real Stories in Life

I’ve been working on my 100 day plan, which, so far, has included attending two of the recent Ted Cinema Experiences, where I was able to watch some of the 2017 Ted Talks live from my local theater. 


This year’s theme was about the future, spanning topics from data security to artificial intelligence to alternate energies and how we, as individuals, will need to help shape and envision how we get there. 

One of the things I’ve always loved about Ted Talks is that the topic is rarely the real story, and the true inspiration begins when we meet ordinary people, often facing seemingly insurmountable challenges, who go on to make extraordinary things happen. 

I have “met” some of my favorite thought leaders via video links on Facebook (Brené Brown and most recently Tim Ferriss).  There is always some irresistible hook that draws me in and makes me hungry for more knowledge, more insights, more connection and a deeper level of understanding.  The kind of stimulation and perspective that commands my attention and jumps ahead and past all the other social media competing for my stream of consciousness. 

And in having engaged in an almost daily practice of seeking out Ted Talks online to re-charge my battery and re-engage, I’ve also made a few observations for advertisers and content creators:

·      It’s very difficult to compete with real people.
·      It’s impossible to win against authenticity (so keep it real).
·      The best content is a two-way conversation that invites dialogue.
·      Sharing a story online means letting go of the belief that you are the only one holding the pen and you may not get to write the ending.
·      Some of the best stories have surprise endings and catch us off guard long enough to open our minds and consider more…as an advertiser or content creator, this is a privilege we share and an opportunity to do more (so do more!).

Jumping back into the real world, I am reminded that those same thought leaders whose ideas have risen up and bubbled over…began just as simply as you and I and others from every walk of life.

And my current gait and pace in walking through life right now has reached an optimal speed that has enabled me to meet other thought leaders, who may never reach a Ted stage.

The first I met last week, while waiting on a friend for lunch.  He looked to be in his mid-twenties and seemed quite happy with life.  It’s funny how willing people are to make a connection and share when you are living outside your own bubble and with an openness to simply caring about someone else’s existence.    

In the time it took for my friend to arrive, I learned that this young man was quite happy with his job waiting tables.  He had previously worked at another food chain and had been trying for months to get a job at this establishment…a “mom and pop” type restaurant that had been around for about 70 years.  He talked happily about how every time he’d come in, he knew all the people behind the counter and how he persisted in asking a friend to make introductions and help him get a job there.  He said that after having finally landed the job, he loved the work and people and that his workday always flew by.  He seemed to be personally vested in the history of the place and proud to be a part of it.  He went on to say that he got really lucky and that this was the best job he’d ever had. 

All that in ten minutes! Imagine what we might learn if we listened more … during our every day encounters, in our workplace, and with our employees.  Employee loyalty is golden and intrinsically tied to productivity and general job satisfaction.  That would be my observation from a strategic business perspective.  But I’m operating on a deeper level these days…and my observations had more to do with enjoying a finite point in time where I have the luxury of expanding out beyond my own circumstances for a better understanding of others.  And importantly, a better appreciation for the moments I’m living in and a chance to be even more thankful for the journey I’m on…and hoping to be half as lucky as this person I’d just met, in landing a job that brings personal satisfaction and happiness.

My second encounter was with a young girl, who I met while waiting for an appointment.  She was sitting cross-legged on the floor, surrounded by several plastic containers of beads and jewelry making paraphernalia.  I couldn’t resist asking her about her crafts and she started talking happily about how she was making items to sell at a church fashion show later that day.  She showed me several of the pieces she’d finished, each one carefully placed in a zip lock baggie and priced with a post it note.  I was so impressed with how confident and outgoing she was and immediately thought of Sheryl Sandberg and Lean In…seeing this young girl as one of our future female leaders and entrepreneurs.  Her youthful determination and creative spirit was like a breath of fresh air.   

She also had a super cute pair of dangly earrings I had to have and I gave her a few suggestions for how she might market her creations online.  But again, as with the waiter earlier in the week, I again found myself getting way more than I gave in this encounter as well.

I think every time we meet someone, we have an opportunity to learn.  I think that we all have life topics that are only part of our story…and even without a microphone or stage, we can inspire each other every day…if we take the time to listen.

@maryralles