Golden Book: Use Your Imagination

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these but I recently picked my favorite Little Golden Book and fell in love with its brilliant words of wisdom all over again. It felt like a good time to dive back in. After all, Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book (Diane Muldrow).

When you get home it’s so easy to plop on the sofa, TV remote in hand, or to settle in front of your computer for some mindless scrolling. I challenge you to resist the temptation to go completely brain dead after a long hard day at the office. While all of those activities are gratifyingly mind numbing, partaking in them does nothing to recharge your mental, emotional or social batteries. You’re simply killing time. 

Instead, dare to raise your expectations for yourself by exercising a little self control and by pursuing a passion totally unrelated to your job, even if you like your job. In my experience, the happiest people tend to be well rounded with a multitude of passions and outlets for all that pent up stress. Don’t shut down the minute you get home from work. Wake up. Energize yourself with something completely different and creative and 100 percent for you.

Be creative. Read a fantasy novel. Make something with your hands. Paint a picture. Sing a song. Try a new cocktail recipe. It could be anything. Just do something! Take up a hobby. Maybe join a writer’s club or take a woodworking class. It’s never too late to have fun while learning something new but make sure to use your imagination. 


Look Up

It’s amazing what you notice when you look up. People tend to get caught up in the everyday stress and routine, glued to their phones, desks, computers, sofas. I’m guilty of it too. The hardest part of going out into the world is always making it to the front door. I hardly ever regret leaving my apartment in favor of activity and the possibility of making new friends but, for some reason, it’s one of the most difficult things to do. Of course, once I finally cross the threshold and begin to once again participate in life I always wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. The world is fascinating when you stop for a minute and let yourself soak it all in. Here are some things I noticed when I looked up during my recent visit to Little Italy in Ohio.

The Italian flag was everywhere! The red, white and green flew from nearly every porch, balcony and shop window. Even the turf at the park was colored to reflect the area’s Italian roots.

Christopher Columbus stood watch over the little park when we visited late one evening. 

Little Italy was in full bloom. The flag was hardly the only spot of color along the crowded street. 

The clearing of the bells of the Holy Rosary Church joyously declared mass in session throughout the day as people gathered to celebrate. Along the outer walls of church, small nooks house the likenesses of a few beloved saints. 

Even the parking lot guard rail was Italian, sporting a large red mustache.  

When was the last time you caught a glimpse of something that made you look up and smile?

POTD: Dolce Vita!

Sweet life! Not only is it a very apt description for a long weekend with my sister, eating our way through Little Italy. It is also the name of the restaurant where we enjoyed a feast of gnocchi and veal parmesan. Our outdoor table had the feel of a small cafe on a crowded cobbled street in Italy.

While we waited for our food one of the chefs came around to each table carrying a bowl of a fresh pasta to be sampled. We also patted the heads of a few friendly dogs meandering down the street and chatted with their owners. The loud speakers overhead belted Sinatra and Phantom of the Opera tunes in competition with the ones across the street. Conversation lulled when dinner arrived and we dug in and I surprised myself by not needing a box at the end of the meal. To top off the evening we toodled up the street in search of fresh cannolis but eventually decided on refreshing sorbetto instead. Life is very good.   

POTD: This Way to the Castle

I’m excited to say that I have now visited two of the great lakes. My sister and I spent the weekend savoring the flavors and atmosphere of Little Italy in Cleveland, just a short drive from Lake Erie. While sampling the local cuisine occupied most of our time, we were also on a mission to explore the great outdoors of Ohio. We decided to try the North Chagrin Reservation for our first outing and were not disappointed. One could spend hours getting lost in nature amid the winding wooded paths of the reservation. We spent the morning investigating offshoots along the trail although our interest was peaked when we began to see signs for Squire Castle. 

POTD: Everything But the Kitchen Sink

I grew up in a family of happy, hearty Colorado hikers. My dad, the boyscout, instilled in my sister and I healthy respect for preparedness when venturing out into the wilderness. Whether we’re hiking two miles or twelve, we always make sure to bring a pack stocked with water, extra gatorade, snacks and/or lunch depending on the length of the hike, and other outdoor essentials. ‘Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it’ has been one of our long standing family mottos. 

Friends and coworkers are always shocked when I show up to our weekend day hike shouldering a full camelback and wearing a good pair of boots. It’s not uncommon for them to arrive in jeans and their favorite pair of loafers, toting nothing more than a light windbreaker. Depending on the weather and the degree of difficulty of the hike, this can be sufficient and I may occasionally be over prepared as is my preference. When it comes to hiking, it’s important to find people who speak your language. What one person calls a lovely nature walk may be deemed a rigorous hike by someone else. 

POTD: Those Aren’t Raspberries!

You learn something new everyday. I’ve run past these a few times every week throughout the summer and watched them grow from tiny green buds on their thorny stalks. Having grown up plucking raspberries off the bushes in my mom’s garden I assumed that’s what these were. I had no idea this was the land of wild blackberries. It’s always exciting to make new discoveries, even small ones that make you think of home. 

POTD: Steel Grey

I will always be a mountain girl first and foremost, eternally content to spend my days scrambling over rocks and craggy slopes amid the pine covered wilderness. However, sometimes a change of scenery can open your eyes to a different kind of magic, as was the case on this drizzling early spring day over a year ago on a class trip to Chicago. The rows upon rows of thousands of windows lining the streets perfectly mirrored the clouds above, seeming to bring order to the chaos of the stormy sky. For this foreigner, it wasn’t difficult to become transfixed by the maze of towering skyscrapers, canyons of pale concrete and silver glass. 

The Art of Taking Up Space

The world gets so much bigger when you stop trying to be small. I had this fabulous epiphany during my second week in the steel mill where I currently work. The first couple months of employment were a string of safety trainings and shop floor tours with a small group of fellow new hires, five of us in total. It being a steel mill, I was the only girl. While attending a rigorous engineering school I became relatively used to this ratio and it wasn’t any surprise when I reported for work. However, it did feel like a clean slate and a chance to do a few things differently. 

In school I tended to float on the edges of conversation, afflicted by the lack of confidence which comes with a bad case of impostor syndrome. That feeling never totally went away and it still haunts me from time to time. But when I started my new job I decided that the rest of the world didn’t need to know that. Here are some tips I picked up when I chose to take up space.

  1. The Stance – The simple act of physically occupying more space can completely change the way others act around you. I noticed this right away and the difference was mind blowing. A good rule of thumb is to set your feet comfortably shoulder width apart in a relaxed stance. If you cross your ankles or stand with your feet touching, people tend to squeeze in around you until you’ve been shuffled to the back of the pack. In my case this was particularly problematic as most of the guys in my tour group were at least six feet tall. When I planted my feet just a little wider there was an almost instantaneous change. I believe the boundaries of one’s personal space are largely defined by their foot placement. 
  1. The Posture – Much like widening your stance, standing up straighter and taller helps to assert your presence in a group by taking up more physical space. The purpose of this is not to dominate the conversation. You aren’t trying to take over. You’re simply showing everyone that you deserve your spot in the circle by acting like you do. Of course, don’t overdo it. This should be a relaxed but alert posture indicating that you are fully engaged in the conversation and that  you belong there. 
  1. The Arms – If you can’t decide what to do with your hands, rest them loosely into your pants pockets. While widening your stance and standing straighter both help you to occupy more space, crossing your arms does just the opposite. It often causes you to hunch your shoulders and appear small. Many people subconsciously hug themselves as a self soothing mechanism. While it might make you feel more comfortable, it has a drastically different effect on those around you and should be avoided whenever possible. 
  1. The Eyes – It’s all about eye contact! As a general rule, roughly three seconds is an acceptable amount of time to hold someone’s gaze. It is long enough to make you appear interested and engaged without getting you into trouble for staring. This was one of the most difficult pieces for me to master. I constantly worry about what people are thinking, afraid that someone might get the wrong impression from one look. However, it’s far worse to never sufficiently lock eyes. You’ll come across as shifty and nervous. Trust me. 
  1. The Voice – Take a deep breath and take your time. Give yourself a few seconds to collect your thoughts before diving into your sentence and don’t be in a hurry to get to the end of it. It’s not a race. No one is going to cut you off at the buzzer. If you don’t value the words you’re saying, how can you expect anyone else to? Speak like you deserve to be heard; slowly, loudly and clearly. 

Today’s the Day!

Once again I have fallen into idle habits and am redoubling my efforts to shape myself into the successful, happy person that I always strive to be. I keep finding excuses not to do the things I want to do. I’m always running out of time. So today, instead of wasting it I will… 

  1. Get up at the second alarm. No more snooze button or emergency last call alarm. I will get up when I mean to get up.
  2. Check at least three short term work projects off my daily To Do list and make headway on one long term goal. 
  3. Do the dishes when I get home. I’m so tired of having a dirty kitchen. The ever mounting pile of pots, pans, and tupperware mounting in the sink is a constant nagging reminder of all the little ways I want to stop failing myself.
  4. Get off the screens. I will play the piano and read a book (maybe I’ll even finish it). I might go for a walk or pick up my knitting again. I will relax without the glowing devices. My eyes need a break.
  5. Go to bed on time. There’s absolutely no reason to waste hours of perfectly good daylight only to be enslaved by all the unfinished tasks until an ungodly hour. After all, the spell is always broken at the stroke of midnight. I want to go to sleep before the magic of the day wears off. 

What will you do today?