Posted in Uncategorized

Need a Holiday Gift Idea?

Are you someone who supports people who are trying to make their way as an entrepreneur?  My sister-in-law (Bonnie Patterson) has taken the plunge and devoted her existence to pursuing her passion full-time–she is an artist!  Every part of the calendar was created by her!  Each month has a unique piece showcasing her talents.

 Click on any of the pictures below to be taken to her blog where you can order online.

Check out January’s art:

Calendar Buffalo

Here’s the calendar template for each month…
she’s included the lunar cycle and major holidays!

Calendar Details

and thumbnail images of each month’s art:

Calendar Thumbnails (2)

It is a personal goal to see her succeed as an artist.  Everyone needs a calendar to bring in the new year…ship one to a friend as a gift!  Your support is greatly appreciated!

Happy Holidays to everyone!

Posted in Creativity

What Do You Do For Relaxation?

Suburban GardenThis is a short post about some of the activities I do to help me relax and feel connected to the parts of me that aren’t complicated by logistics, obligations, and “have to’s.”  These are things that while producing output for others (and myself) give back to me in some way….on a meditative and soul-replenishing level.

I generally have two cycles….a spring and a winter cycle.  The winter cycle comes around when the temperatures dip down and there’s a chill in the air.  Decorations throughout the neighborhood indicate that candy and scary movies will pepper conversation.  As the temps forewarn of snows to come, the itch and urge to pull out all of the craft supplies blooms in me until I start noticing patterns and colors in great detail.  Before I know it, I’m looking at my faithful illustrated library of blankets and quilts, potholders and wreaths, canvases and rugs.

The spring cycle begins very nearly at the end of the winter cycle when the seed catalogs come pouring into the mailbox.  The sun begins a deliberate thinning of the snow blankets, melting icicles tap out a tempo to accompany the early Robins, and the scent of moist soil hits your nostrils.  This time of spring sets my imagination going on where to plant this year’s crops, what new vegetables and fruits I will attempt planting and how I want the yard color palette to look from different approaches to our home.

This year, just like the weather, my rhythm is all mixed up.  But its okay, because its helping me get through this ankle surgery.

LettuceStrawberries

On the left I have a small row of mixed lettuce growing in front of a row of green beans, and behind it are cucumbers.  I can go out and look at them every day and never get tired of what I see.  The lettuce has been growing and picked from since April without bolting and turning bitter.  Tomorrow we will pick from this short row for the 6th time!  The picture on the right is one of eight ever bearing strawberry plants that have just now started sending out runners.  These runners grow inches every day, and if you don’t get out and help their growth direction you can end up with strawberry plants where you don’t want them.  This is just a small sampler of this years produce.  I have jalapeno, banana, and Anaheim peppers; eggplant; peas; onions; tomatoes; basil; beets; radishes; and much more to plant before the growing season is over.

Ed's First Quilt ProjectWhile the yard is overflowing with edible landscaping, inside I have finally completed a project that took me years to complete.  I finished piecing together a small quilt top (suitable for an infant’s car seat) years ago and finally decided to try my hand at tying a quilt.  Its the easiest/fastest way at putting together a quilt.  You tape the backing to the floor, place your quilt batting on top of that and finally, place your quilt top on top of that.  Once you’ve safety pinned the sandwich together, you can begin tying through all three layers.  I finished this project because I wanted to prove to myself I was capable of piecing together and finishing a quilt project.

The two skills I lacked were the tying of the quilt and the binding process.  Thanks to a couple of books from the library, and YouTube, I was able to gain adequate instruction and practice on scraps to achieve a finished project.  It’s not perfect, but I wasn’t seeking perfection–just completion.  The binding job I am most proud of because I made the binding, attached the binding on the front side by machine, and hand stitched the back all the way around with mitered corners. This quilt is my first and has given me the confidence to begin my next project which is a King Sized quilt for our bed.

Below are a couple of pictures to show you the beginnings.  The larger quilt block will have sashing bordering it in a color that will have continuity throughout the quilt.  I hope to start on twin sized quilts for my twin daughters to last them through their college years.  These activities are things that I enjoy because not only does it keep my hands busy, but results in a worthwhile keepsake that leaves a mark behind and keeps older traditions and skills alive.  I hate to think that someday any of these activities will become novelties only due to mass production and automation.   There are still quite a few people who enjoy quilting and gardening, and I hope it continues on into our future.

King Beginnings

So, in addition to the above, I enjoy learning more about what interests our children, anticipating things to come as they plan their future, wondering what my wife will choose to do when homeschooling the kids is no longer a daily part of her life’s routine,  reading and creative writing, cooking, wood working, social media and a myriad of other things.  There’s never enough time in a day for me to attend to all of the projects and activities that I’d like to get around to.

Your turn!  What captivates your mind & time?

Cheers,
Ed

Posted in Education, Relationships, Writing

Who Can Afford a Mid-Life Crisis?

Citizens registered as an Independent, Democra...
Image via Wikipedia

As an entrepreneurial minded person, I have always enjoyed observing different environments and assessing what could be done to make things better, more efficient, more pleasurable and rewarding.  So much of my adult life has been a path of least resistance trek…settling some might say.  I have decided to finally fulfill my motto for this year, “Passion with Purpose!”  But man, what a time in life to be engaging in such tumultuous choices!  Nevertheless, if you want different results, you have to make different choices….so, next month I finally begin to finish what I started YEARS ago!  That’s right, when I should be having a mid-life crisis–I’m sharpening pencils, buying new lined notebooks, making sure my laptop and printer are ready to support me in the role of student!  I’m going to finish my bachelors degree in Business Analysis and Management through an accelerated program at Bellevue University!

We have twin daughters who will be needing braces soon, will start driving and going to college; a house that we’re pulling off the market to rent out until the housing outlook improves; and aging in-laws with health issues.  Our elected officials seem bent on allowing the economy to tank while arguing the correctness of standing proudly on party principle.  I don’t even bother to turn on the news anymore.  Election campaigns are spinning up and nobody has anything nice to say about anyone else.  My party is more correct than your party–this party holds the monopoly on perfection–please, we do not allow our children to behave that way!  Is responsibility and stewardship forgotten after being appointed to Congress or the Senate?  That may seem a rather harsh or unfair question, but from the “common folks” perspective, seriously, how are we supposed to believe that common sense is being applied?

I do not for one minute think that only Republicans are capable of appropriate size and responsible stewardship of the government, nor do I believe that Democrats are the only people who care about social programs or topics that fall into the pro-choice bucket.   The Tea Party (a loosely leaderless group) is also not the only sect of people who would like to distance themselves from the Republicans and Democrats.  Its hard not to feel lost and disenfranchised by these cliques that truly no longer represent me or my views/ideals.

I’m reading a book titled “Not Quite Adults”  by Richard Settersten, Ph.D., and Barbara E. Ray.  My wife has already read it and recommended it to me.  Its an eye-opening look at the harsh reality of why our youth of today and the country are in the situation you see when you look around.  How many children have moved back in with mom and dad because they can’t afford to buy into the American Dream?  How many retired couples are having to return to work because their nest eggs have dwindled to nothing since the recession of 2008?  In order to get ahead, many go into debt to achieve the higher level degrees required to earn the income necessary to support all their obligations and subsidize their children’s successful launch into adulthood.

Where does it end?  Where did we go wrong?  But more importantly, how do we stop the insanity and get on a path to health?  The other book I’m reading right now is “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain” by Ryan Blair with Don Yaeger.  A very interesting story about a young kid from a troubled childhood who found himself in juvenile detention centers, but with the help of a few good mentors, managed to turn his life around and rise to the top.  His book challenges you to be persistently looking for ways to turn unfortunate circumstances into opportunities for success.

As for me, I’m starting to consciously plan for a new direction in life–one with more options…starting with going back to school!  I’m also starting to think that there’s got to be a better way for preparing for retirement/future than Wall Street.  Something is majorly wrong when bad news on the other side of the world can cause your stock value in an American company to plummet!  Is it just me?  Am I alone in feeling discombobulated?

 

Posted in Education

How to Recoup Bookshelf Space

Okay, call me a throwback for suggesting that people still like hardbound books and magazines.  I am one of those who will always treasure the look, feel, smell and tactile experience of page turning.  No matter how technologically advanced we get, I’ll always prefer the portability of a nicely bound window into another persons view of the world without worrying about my ability to read due to dying batteries, a virus, or electronic dependencies. Consuming Shelf Space

So, if you’re like me and my family, bookshelf space is a valuable and limited commodity.  Since we recently moved, I have found several boxes of year’s worth of magazine subscriptions to some of my all-time favorites like Handyman, Organic Gardening, Mother Earth News, GRIT, and others.  However, as you can see from the picture I’ve included, just one season alone can consume a good deal of bookshelf real estate!  So, I’ll share with you a simple, yet practical solution to save what you treasure about your magazines and allow you to reclaim some of that shelf space!

Take those stacks off the shelf and bring a few with you the next time you have to go to the dentist office or the emergency room with a sick child.  Make sure you also bring along an empty folder with pockets.  Your task is simple, as you go through each magazine, tear out the pages that have articles or pictures that you know you’ll use or refer to later.  Here are a few examples of pages I’ve torn out and saved from several of mine:

  • Cute pictures that you may use to make homemade cards, embellish pages of a scrapbook, or craft projects for the kids
  • Recipes that you want to try
  • Pages with instructions, parts lists, supply sources and pictures/diagrams to help you build projects for your home

In the process of performing this task for myself I’ve discovered that for many of my magazines, 80 percent or more of the pages are filled with advertising or articles that I don’t wish to keep.  I chose the articles that I know will be of benefit and relevant to how I spend my time.  Buy a couple of binders to hold those reference articles, how-to instructions, pictures, and recipes.  You’ll quickly increase shelf space, eliminate years of accumulation that you won’t have to store and move anymore, and have what’s important to you at your fingertips.

Posted in Writing

Life – A Mixed Bag

Donald Hall
Image via Wikipedia - Donald Hall

Good Evening All,

Lying here in bed…the glow of my laptop screen providing a sleepy ambience, the smell of Vicks rub for both me and my wife who occasionally pulls out a kleenex for her leaky, dripping nose!  Sigh, yes its that time of year again.  The kids got hit with the cold first, one at a time finally visiting us!  The tickle in the throat, the wheezy flitters in the nose, it all seems to accompany this time of year when the night temps drop into the 50’s and the daytime temps make you wish you didn’t have to go to work.

We’ve settled into a new rhythm, sort of…now that we’re back in the burbs. Life is more convenient than the 40 minute one-way commute I had daily to and from work.  The kids are closer to friends and my wife doesn’t feel so isolated.  I have made designs and schemes for the future of our yard and already begun work to frame the future.   Somehow, it doesn’t seem that we’ve only been here two months!  The first couple of weeks I had no problems getting out of bed early in the morning…plenty of time to putz around the house doing odd jobs, etc…but that has worn off.  I’m lucky to get up and go through the motions in time to arrive on time!

I almost can’t watch television or look at news much without getting depressed.  Doesn’t anybody report anything good anymore?  Isn’t there anybody doing anything commendable, worthwhile, rewarding, inspiring?  Why does journalism have to take the low road as the norm and the uplifting as the exception? I would love for just one day all news, radio, paper, etc to report nothing but useful, positive, good news….perhaps we could have one day a week where that was all that was reported? You’re right…that’s fantasy, but I can dream.

To kick off a bit of good news reporting myself, I have to share that my son has begun soccer practice and all three kids are rehearsing weekly for a local homeschool production of Broadway Dreams.  Many homeschooled kids auditioned and were selected to sing several solos, duets, and ensembles.  They will have four performances in November consisting of selections from musicals, movies, and television shows.  We’ve been making use of a bigger kitchen and cooking a lot of homemade meals and treats.  This time of year is perfect for culinary curiosity and exploration.  Right now, my family is my bright spot in these uncertain times.

They say that “its all about perspective!”  One personal coping technique I use to deal with a less than optimal reality is to read real life stories of people who’ve had far worse stories to tell than me.  The book I’m reading now to give me a different perspective is “The best Day the Worst Day” (Life with Jane Kenyon) by Donald Hall.  The story is about two authors who marry in spite of their huge age gap.  They are passionate about poetry and writing.  Jane gets Leukemia and the story is his detailed account of his daily routines, his thoughts, and observations.  I’m more than halfway through the book and read a bit each night before going to sleep.  His writing style is thorough and contemplative.  It will definitely drive me to read more of his works.

How do you cope with the daily grind and mullygrubs?

Posted in Relationships, Writing

Blogger’s/Writer’s Block or Thought Tornado

My personal journey with writer’s paralysis…mood, motivation, prioritization, and other obstacles.

Temporary Actors in the Cast of Spring
Fading and Temporary Beauty

The choice to move from one location to another causes great upheaval and conflicts of priorities.  Its difficult enough to contemplate major life changes for yourself; its especially challenging when you add the duties of family and a full-time job.  How/where/when you choose to split your energies can be exhausting.  With a house finally selected, and the majority of projects completed at our existing residence, we see the light at the end of the stress tunnel.  However, all the actions required to get to this point has derailed my goals of writing a blog post every week in 2011.

I am finding that getting back into the groove/routine and feeling motivated in coming up with original material that isn’t cliche is daunting.  During day-to-day conversations at work or with family and friends, we’ll engage in conversation that makes me think–“Oh that’s a great blog topic–I’ll have to explore that!”   Later, I end up either forgetting (because I didn’t write down a teaser note) the topic/scenario, or I’ll discount it as not being a read-worthy entry.

So, I have to stop making excuses about what I write, why I’m writing and just “Do it!”  Each day I am learning something new about myself, others, or the world around me.  I enjoy sharing how I see the world.  Here’s a perspective that makes me very melancholy:

With twin daughters approaching sweet sixteen and a son who will turn 12 in November, I’m feeling the train of time rapidly bearing down upon me.  I look at the irises just outside the fence of the orchard and notice they are at the end of their season.  Their light purple blossoms once vibrant, strong and scented, have surrendered to the beating sun and fatiguing winds…bent over, shriveled, now brown husks.  A few final perky blooms persist like little kids who aren’t quite ready to go to bed.  They were beautiful at the beginning of their glory, and served valiantly their role in the cast of spring characters.  It is time now for the peonies and the roses to take center stage.  As a 44 year old man, with teen daughters, I see that just like the irises, I too am entering the end of my season as a main character in the cast of their story.  Like the roses, my girls are entering their bloom and taking center stage.

So, back to my writing…the act of preparations for moving both at work and at home has created quite an emotional storm.  My observations both entertain and distract me; taking me on mental trips reflecting upon the past or visualizing into the future.  I tend to marinate in my meditations…in hopes of finding what I’m supposed to learn from each situation. Some might say I overthink or read too much into a situation.  I am working on trying to achieve a healthy balance between critical thinking and letting it be.  I guess NOT carrying around my blogging palette (a small notebook) lately to record all the ideas that I have causes me to feel like a lot of objects swirling around in a tornado of thoughts.

Reading other people’s blogs helps me to see “other ways” of sharing views and perspectives.  I’ve really enjoyed the simplicity of the “10 Ways to…______(fill in the blank)” types of blog entries.  I also deeply appreciate those who share their vacations, research and experiences with relationships (either people or animals.) So, I’ll try to get back to my regular writing routine in spite of the hectic pace of life.  It really doesn’t take me very long to wring out the texts of my mind and I find it very therapeutic.

I thank you all for taking a few minutes to read my post.  Feel free to leave your thoughts, observations, or questions.  Have a great week!

Posted in Writing

National Poetry Month

This is my attempt at honoring National Poetry Month!  One goal this year is to acquaint myself with all the National Holidays and special days recognized and celebrated by all the peoples of the United States of America.  So, I did a little research and came up with over seventy reasons to celebrate throughout the year!

At first, I wrote my poem and decided because of the content it should be titled “Spring, Sprang, Sprung!”…but I did a quick check on Google to see if I would be stepping on previous author’s toes and decided to steer clear.  So, here’s my attempt to capture my favorite season and celebrate National Poetry month!

Spring Demands Attention!

The wind chimes clang

as mornings rays gently pry

tender crocus, tulip and daffodils rejoice

tis Spring cries the Robin!

Soils perfume a moist radiant air

a mix of cut grass and tree blossoms bright

the panorama is a bouquet of celebration

Winter’s spell is broken honk the geese!

Children frolic and explore the earth reborn

clouds herald the supply of natures drink

bees buzz excitedly at each colorful revelation

“Arise!” demands the sun!

By:  Ed Milligan

I’m excited at what I will learn about people and culture in this little self-imposed continuing education assignment to explore and understand the history behind each of these holidays.  I’ve added a few links to help you learn a little more about the history of National Poetry Month and how you can participate:

The history of National Poetry Month (started in 1996)

Poets.org A hub for poets everywhere!

April 14th is “Poem in Your Pocket Day!

Find out what’s happening in your state to celebrate National Poetry Month.

For those in NebraskaPoetry Menu (great contests, opportunities for educators!)

 

Go ahead now!  Its your turn.  Try it–you may discover you have talent hidden in places forgotten!  Have a great weekend everybody!

Cheers (follow me on Twitter @justasked)