Growing as a Person Never Ends

Working part-time and freelancing has its advantages. Today I am helping out with the harvest.

It is my job today to watch the grain drier. We’ve had a wet summer and fall, so putting wet wheat into the bins is not a good idea. The grain drier does just that; dries the grain so it can be safely stored until it is trucked to the grain elevators.

I’m fortunate I am able to take my work with me. We only live a quarter-mile away from my father-in-law’s, but I prefer to stay at his house so I can keep a better eye on the equipment. I do a walk-around every fifteen minutes, just to make sure all is running smoothly.

Living in a farming community is exactly where I like to be. Having grown up on a farm, I still enjoy the quiet and wide open spaces. I’ve done my share of living in cities and towns, and am so fortunate to be able to have a rural home again.

Before my dad passed away five years ago, I spent a good portion of the fall hauling bales, swathing and combining. I miss him every day, but even more so this time of year. It was when him and I spent the most time together.

Setting the farm talk aside for awhile I’d like to talk a bit about growing as people. It doesn’t matter how old we are, there’s always an opportunity to learn and grow. Sometimes life itself teaches us the biggest lessons.

One of the biggest things I have learned is that as a writer, I have to go out and get what I want. Sitting around waiting for someone to notice me and my work is not time well spent. Being an introvert doesn’t make putting myself out there easy, but it is something I must do if I want to succeed as an author.

And to get a better feel for what it takes to make it in the writing world, I have purchased an event pass for Wordfest’s Imaginairium in Calgary Alberta. The event runs from October 14 – 23, and will host a number of speakers each day. I will be attending from the 17th to the 20th, as I am unable to go for longer than that. As a relatively new member of the Writer’s Guild of Alberta, I am excited to learn of the writer events available. (I’m going to allow myself one day to drive there, and another to drive home. And I’ll be back in plenty of time to cast my ballot at the polls on the 21st.) My goal for attending the Imaginairium is to connect with other writers and speakers, with the intention of building some friendships beyond the event.

To attend such a large event on my own is both scary and exciting for me. This is where growing as a person comes into play. Without stepping outside of my comfort zone I may never realize my full potential as a writer, or as a contributing member of the literary world.

No matter how old we are, there’s always room to learn and grow. Farmers can learn to utilize technology to be more efficient, and writers can learn to go after what they want in their careers. And no matter who you are, there’s always a learning and growing opportunity just around the corner.

To wrap up this post (I know, it has been a long one) I would like to briefly step back to the beginning of it. If you live in a farming community, enjoy it and never take it for granted. If you’re an urban dweller, I encourage you to pay a visit to a nearby farm. I’m sure you’ll gain some new insight on what farmers do and how they contribute to your food supply. And if you’re also a writer, your experience can be used as story fodder.

Have a great week,

Diane

Photo credit: Diane Ziomek Copyright 2019. My part in helping with the harvest.

My Week in Review

I hope everyone has had a good week and weekend. Mine has been busy with my writing course, a couple extra shifts at work and getting my site updated. The latter was fun for me, and it really made me think about where I want to go in my writing career.

I write almost every single day. My journal is my thinking space, and it provides me with a place to voice my concerns, share my worries and come up with story ideas. Some days are vent days, while others are more productive.

My writing courses have been an eye opener for me in terms of what readers expect from different types of writing. I’ve been utilizing what I’ve learned so far, and can’t wait to see the results.

Even without formal training, I’ve had plenty of positive feedback from clients. Updating my website helped me realize that my work has been valuable to others, and has provided great content for their sites. What more could a person ask for?

Having short stories published has also been good for easing the self-doubt most (if not all) writers harbor occasionally. Polar Expressions Publishing holds annual contests for short stories, and my work has appeared in Shoreline (2016 Summer Collection) and Wherever We Roam (2015 Summer Collection). Seeing them in print among others gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Submitting articles on behalf of our library to a local newspaper helps me exercise my skills as well. There is never a lot of space for an article, so saying all that’s needed in less than 150 words can sometimes be a challenge. I envy those who can write flash fiction, because in some cases a newspaper article is much like that. Short, sweet and to the point.

As you may be aware, I do not spend my entire time writing. I also enjoy crocheting, spinning yarn and needle-felting. Yesterday I invested in a drum carder to make the process of carding my alpaca fiber easier and faster. I have several big bags of it, as well as no less than a dozen smaller bags. Plus I also have four bags of raw sheep wool. Do you think that will keep me busy for awhile?

Crocheting and spinning are my way to relax, and I often find my stories taking shape while I work with my hands. I’m the first to say I’m not much of a plotter, but when a story takes hold I will run with it. If any of you have read The Hidden Estate, you’ll see my hobbies have worked their way into the novel. It was the first novel I ever wrote, and those who have read it have given it a good rating which makes any new author do a little happy dance.

As I wrap up this post, I have to remind myself to take the time to just be. My mind is often going in several directions at once (are all writers like this?), and I have to center myself. And as a writer, I like a challenge. I have my usual topics to write about, but have found satisfaction in writing about something out of my element as well. Should you ever find yourself needing a blog post or article for your website, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Have a great week everyone,

Diane

Getting ready for another couple ounces of alpaca fiber.

Photo credit Copyright Diane Ziomek 2019. The photo is of my new drum carder, taken after I carded some dyed alpaca fiber.

Last Minute Decision Pays Off

I have to admit, I’m a little frugal when it comes to spending my money on something I feel I don’t really need. Or for something I feel is an indulgence.

We occasionally host workshops at the library for different things, and I generally don’t attend for one reason or another. Most often that reasoning is only logical to me I’m sure. Well, on Friday we were hosting a Sea Glass Art Workshop, and after seeing all the pretty things for it I commented to my manager I regretted not signing up. As luck would have it, there had been a last minute cancellation.

I decided on the spot to take advantage of it, and said I would fill that space available. I honestly didn’t give the frugal side of me a chance to list 101 reasons why I shouldn’t take it (it was $160.00) and am happy with my decision.

It was a last minute decision that paid off, because not only did I have a fun evening, I also came home with a piece of art which I created. The design was inspired by a photo found on Pinterest, and was so simple to make. We had a wonderful, knowledgeable instructor who owns her own studio (Shattered and in Pane) in Victoria, BC, Canada. It was a real treat to know she loaded up her supplies and drove them from Victoria to Mannville, AB., just so we could create our own works of art.

I see myself taking what I learned and buying some supplies to make more pieces. I think it’s something my sisters and I could do together, as well as my daughter and I. Not only will we be creating art, we’ll also be creating memories. And at this point in life, I am realizing that’s what’s most important. Creating the memories, having the laughs and drinking that special bottle of wine.

I spent the evening with some amazing women, and even though we were all given the same materials to work with, none of the finished projects were the same. I’m pretty sure mine was the only turtle though.

The photo (also posted on Instagram) is of my creation after a few hours of curing time. It won’t be ready for the wall for another day, just to be on the safe side. Oh, and the turtle’s name is Fred.

The point to all of this is, don’t be afraid to try something new. You never know how something will be until you give it a try. (And if money is an object, perhaps you could start a little side hustle to fund the little extras you deserve.)

On another note, I’ll be adding a few pages to my site over the next couple of weeks so feel free to check back often to see what I’m up to. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and have a great week.

Diane

It’s a ME Day

I hope you have all had a great weekend. Mine was good, and the weather even cooperated so I could bring in part of my garden. Yesterday wasn’t as nice, so I worked on cleaning out the bathroom cabinet and figuring out a plan for my bedroom closet.

Today I decided to make it a ME day, and drove to a small city less than an hour from home. I bought some organizers for my closet and pantry, ordered some new glasses and spent time in the bookstore. I have been spending so much time either working, doing yard work and my course, I decided today was a good day to just do something for me.

Plus, I bought a spinning wheel. It’s different than the one I have, and needs a little TLC to get it working properly. I have my sister to thank for noticing it listed on a local Facebook Group. I can’t wait to get it set up and working right. I’ll bring it inside tomorrow; tonight it’s going to stay in my Jeep. I’m not quite sure where to put it yet, so need to figure that out before I bring it inside.

As part of my ME day, I decided to do some crocheting this evening. As I walked down the yarn aisle in Walmart I spotted some nice blanket yarn. I think it will be perfect for a throw for the new sectional. I don’t think it’s going to be very big, because I only bought two balls of it. But, it’ll be perfect to keep my cold feet warm as I write.

And yes, I tend to be most productive writing when I’m sitting in a comfy spot. When I’m comfortable I get a lot more accomplished, and the words flow freely. My desk and computer chair don’t usually produce the number of words I can come up with when I’m relaxed in my “spot”. Granted, I’m going to have a new spot when the new furniture gets here Wednesday. If I’m right, the chaise part of the new furniture will be perfect.

It’s going to be warm!

I don’t usually take a ME day, but with the next course starting on Wednesday I decided to regenerate a little. It’s important to take the time for ourselves, and I know I need to practice what I preach a little more often. So, tonight the computer will stay off and as soon as I finish this post, my iPad will be set aside as well.

Do you find yourself taking on too much sometimes? What helps you get everything done while keeping your sanity?

Have a wonderful week!

Diane

Photo credit Diane Ziomek. It’s the first half-dozen rows of my blanket yarn throw.

Back to School

Okay, I know you’re probably thinking “Whaaat?”. Actually, it’s me who’s going back to school, not my kids. Although, I do have their full support on it.

It’s not a traditional classroom or schedule by any means, but it does mean work and dedication on my part.

Let me back up just a little.

As some of you know, I am an independent author in addition to a library assistant. As my LA position is very part-time (six days a month), I am wanting to further my writing career. I love to write, and do just for the sake of writing. Sometimes I sell a book, pattern or printable, but it’s not enough to add to my nest egg. (And we all know how important having one of them is.)

Anyway, I recently became a member of the Writer’s Guild of Alberta. While perusing the Members area, I found out about a conference in Banff in October, plus some provincial colleges that offer distance learning. To add to my excitement, I realized GPRC offers writing courses. I haven’t had any formal training or education as far as writing goes, so decided to register for a couple. I mean, it can’t hurt can it?

When I told my kids about it, then made a comment about my age, they both said “You got this!”. It’s wonderful to have their support.

The photo is of my bubbles showing the topics I am including in my upcoming Reference Guide for Romance Authors.

I spent some time on the first one last night, and am working on it again today. One of the lessons stresses the use of bubbling (or mind mapping), which I haven’t done much of. My first attempt was on a loose leaf sheet of lined paper, but today I bought a larger pad of paper; simply because I ran out of room.

It’s never too late to enroll in a class, nor is it never too late to begin a writing career. Or if writing isn’t your thing, then that’s okay too. There are plenty of other career choices available if you’re not happy in your current one.

With the distance learning options available, there’s no reason why anyone can’t learn something new. And for those who are happy in your career, what about taking a crafting class? Or perhaps learn more about a hobby? The possibilities are endless. I can see myself delving a little deeper into the writing field; perhaps deep enough to earn a full time income.

Before I close this post, I am curious to know: have you changed careers or taken a course online after the age of fifty? (And for the readers who aren’t in that age group yet, do you see yourself pursuing an online education to change or expand your career ?)

I’ll keep you posted on my progress, as well as the other trials and tribulations of being over fifty. Have a great week!

Diane

Remembering Dad, and Living Life

Two weeks ago I started a post which was to be dedicated to the fifth anniversary since my dad suddenly passed away. Needless to say, that post didn’t get very far. It was an emotional day for me, but I made the best of it.

My sisters and I had talked about getting together but hadn’t really figured anything out. I decided to throw together a quick meal and took it to my younger sister’s house, where we all got together. It was a simple meal, a beer to toast him and we parted ways. Sometimes the quick meals and get-togethers are the most memorable.

The following couple of days were spent vehicle shopping, and I settled on a 2016 Jeep Patriot. Let’s just say I have Dad to thank. I just wish he was here to see it. I’m sure he would have liked my choice. (Photo below.)

Last week was a work week; and I never seem to get much else accomplished when it’s a work week. I did take Wednesday and went to visit my best friend; something I need to do more of. We used to call each other regularly, and visit frequently when our kids were little. As the kids grew, life got in the way and our time together was all but nonexistent.

Losing both of my parents in less than three and a half years of one another made me realize just how quickly life can change. My best friend lost her mom and step-dad in an accident in April of this year, and so many lives were affected. What I’m saying is we never know what tomorrow will bring, so we need to take advantage of today.

We all have such busy lives, although technology was supposed to make it easier. I think we need to all take a step back sometimes and put the phones and computers away, and just go visit family and friends. No one is going to regret not working, but they will (and so often do) regret not spending time with each other. I know I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to spending time with friends.

Something else I did today was surprise my daughter at work. Seeing her eyes light up when I walked into the office was so worth it. And it probably didn’t hurt to have an Iced Cappuccino in hand for her either. 🙂

It’s those moments that really count, and make life worth living. I can burn the midnight oil and get my work done (current WIP is a reference guide for romance authors) after the house is quiet. Enjoying my time with my kids is worth losing sleep over.

Photo by Diane Ziomek. My new SUV.

Do you take time to visit family and friends?

Mastering Time Management

Stock image courtesy of Canva.

The week has flown by, and the weekend is already half over. The scariest part, is July is almost over. Where has our summer gone?

My work weeks never seem to be productive at home, because after spending all day on my feet I just don’t feel like doing much. I probably shouldn’t let it bother me, but it does.

I hate to admit it, but something I struggle with is time management. When I’m working my shift at the library, I seem to get a lot done in a day. But when I’m home it’s a whole different story.

I have been using a bullet journal for about a year and a half (give or take). I have tried several different layouts and have decided simple is best. Sure, the bujos on Instagram are nice to look at, but they must take a lot of time to make pretty. When I started out, I followed the pretty layouts but soon found myself spending more time journaling and planning than doing what I was supposed to be.

I borrowed a copy of Ryder Carroll’s The Bullet Journal from my local library (yes, the one I work at) and his method is super simple. Granted it doesn’t look as fancy and colourful as others I have seen, but there’s something to be said about the simplicity.

I have added a habit tracker this month to mine, because I found myself rewriting some of the same things day after day. I stepped away from the habit tracker for several months, but found it’s something I benefit from. This way I can keep track of how often I do my morning pages, water my plants, vacuum, do laundry and so forth. Plus, I also have the bottom half of it as a health tracker. I like to keep track of how often I walk in a month, how many nights I get to bed before midnight, do my yoga/pilates and even lady days.

Not all planning and time management systems work for everyone, which is why I like the flexibility of my BuJo. I like the concept of the future log, as pictured below. I can plan the major events a year in advance if I like, then add to it each month as occasions and appointments pop up. It’s looking pretty empty right now, but it will fill up as time goes on.

In previous months, I have actually drawn out a calendar but am finding Ryder’s method much easier. The days of the month are listed, one per line, and events, holidays and appointments are added as the month goes on. It not only takes up less space, but I can see at a glance what I can schedule for when.

When it comes to the daily pages, I had been dedicating one page per day, but found some days the pages were almost empty. Now I’m filling the pages with one, two or even three days worth of tasks/notes. I haven’t been doing a task list for each week anymore, but the daily pages take care of what needs to be done each day. I’ve gotten into the habit of filling it out right before bed, or first thing in the morning. That way, I don’t miss anything.

The photo below shows a couple of entries for days earlier this month. The tenth has a list starting on the previous page, but notice what was scheduled, what was done and the notes added to the days.

I know I still have a long way to go to manage my time perfectly (or even relatively close), but having it in writing has been positive for me. I find the more things I have going on, the more I need to schedule them in. One thing I haven’t scheduled in is novel-writing time, and have thus not touched it.

My manager and I were checking out Lynda.com yesterday; an online resource for courses available to library patrons. One of the first I will be taking is on time management. Since I work from home more than the library, I really need to learn some tricks to keep my household obligations separate from my work time (side hustle). I may be doing a follow up post after I take the course, providing I find it helpful.

Do you have trouble budgeting your time? If not, what system (if any) do you use to stay on track?

Photos (Copyright Diane Ziomek 2019) were taken specifically for this post, and are intended for single use only.

The Bounty of Nature

I’m not sure about you, but I love picking wild berries. Saskatoons are my favourite, and right now is prime picking time.

We have several bushes of wild berries on our property, which aren’t the easiest to get to. I’m seriously considering relocating some of them into what I hope will become a small orchard. A couple days ago, I went down the road to a good spot that is easily accessible from the road. I was not disappointed, because I had picked almost a bucketful in less than an hour.

My Blue Heeler was quite excited to go with me, and he explored while I picked. I took him along for protection as well as company. I know he would do his best to ward off a black bear if it decided to go berry picking at the same time.

I’m very fortunate to live in an area where wild berries are bountiful. Once the saskatoons are done, the chokecherries will be ready for picking too. I’m going to try to get enough this year for chokecherry jelly. If I’m able to get more saskatoons this week, I will make a small batch of jam.

Our forecast doesn’t look promising for berry picking on the days I don’t work, which is a little disappointing. Today was a beautiful day, but by the time I was finished with yard work, I was too hot to go pick berries. Our weather has been a little unusual this summer; July is over half over and we have had rain almost every day.

I love living where we do, because nature provides us with berries, nuts and even mushrooms. I’m very careful with the latter, because aside from morels I honestly don’t know which are safe and which aren’t.

I found a small stand of hazelnut trees, but I think the squirrels will probably beat me to them like last year. I guess they have more rights to them than I do, because they have less resources than people.

I think for me, the best part of picking wild berries is going out and getting fresh air, plus knowing the berries I pick haven’t been sprayed with anything. Sure, I can go to the grocery store and buy frozen ones, but fresh are so much better.

Not only are they healthy, but I get a little exercise while I’m picking them too. And that is worth something to me.

Do you enjoy picking berries? If so, what’s your favourite?

Photo taken by me after cream and sugar were added to the bowl full of fresh berries. Yes, I know; probably not the healthiest, but oh so good!

Walking to Stay Healthy

I have to admit, when it comes to exercise I’m the last one to go full guns on a program.

That’s not to say I’m a couch potato, because I’m not. I like to keep busy with my writing, crafts, reading and puttering out in the yard. Since most of the things I do don’t involve strenuous exercise, I make a point to try to walk for at least half an hour each day.

I’m fortunate, because living in the country gives me plenty of opportunities to walk without having to worry about much traffic. The only time we have a lot of activity past our place is during spring and fall; seeding and harvest time.

I like walking on the gravel road, because it gives me the opportunity to see tracks. Usually it’s deer or moose tracks I see, but last Thursday I saw bear tracks. The deer and moose must consider our road their personal highway, and I suppose the bear did too.

Photo taken July 11/19 while out for my walk.

I like to take our dog along, but if I’m planning on walking more than half a mile one way I leave him home. He’s ten now, and I’m sure when he goes too far he aches like I do.

Instead of giving up my walking outside, I will be investing in bear bells. That should keep the wildlife at a safe distance. I prefer to walk outside, because the air is fresh, I can listen to the birds and I have plenty of choices regarding distance and direction. It’s much nicer than being on a treadmill and staring at the wall.

Walking to stay healthy doesn’t require much more than a good pair of shoes (which I need to replace as soon as possible), comfortable clothing and an optional walking partner. And, there’s less risk of injury than when running.

I will power walk sometimes, just to raise my heart rate. I like to keep a steady pace with the occasional burst thrown in. My bursts don’t usually involve jogging or running, because my knees and hips rebel. I will occasionally do squats at the turnaround point, but have to pay attention to what my knees tell me.

Walking is good for you and your health. Being able to enjoy an active life is also good for the mind. Something as simple and low impact as walking may not seem like much, but any activity is better than none. And, for those of us who are on the second half of a century, staying physically active is crucial for weight management. Plus, bone, muscle and mental health all benefit from regular exercise.

Walking for health is my choice, plus I have added in some resistance bands to my daily routine. The most important thing to remember is to start slow, and increase time, distance and intensity gradually. If you go full guns right off the top, you will not only risk injury but you may also become discouraged.

Do you have a regular exercise plan? If so, is it new or have you been doing it for some time?

5 Ways to Cut the Clutter

New logo designed 2019 on Canva by Diane Ziomek

I don’t know about you, but I like to keep things pretty simple. Easy on the eyes; nothing flashy. Those were my thoughts when I designed the logo for my blog. It’s just enough to catch the eye, yet not be overwhelming. And to me, simple also means downsizing and cutting the clutter.

The older I get, the more I realize I have “too much crap” as my significant other has pointed out to me. I hate to admit it, but he’s right. When I left home at sixteen, I really had nothing. Life happened, and now I have tons of craft supplies, books of all kinds (including at least eight boxes of kids books), board games, VHS movies, DVDs, clothes I don’t wear, electronics I don’t use and a bunch of things that don’t really fall into any specific category. It’s time to continue with the de-cluttering process.

I was doing alright until Mom got sick and had to be moved into a long-term care facility (which didn’t end up being too long-term at all). My mom had a LOT of stuff, and my sisters and I split it up between households as best as we could. We each have our share to distribute as we see fit, and my share consisted of the crafty side of things.

As I have been going through boxes and totes, I have come up with five ways that are helping me. I hope they will help you eliminate some of your clutter as well. And if you’re someone who doesn’t have any, you’re my hero! 🙂

  1. Keep only what you use. I know, this is a hard one to get a grasp on. I find myself with appliances and kitchen gadgets that I’ll need someday. If I went through my pantry, cupboards and drawers, I’m sure I could easily part with a lot of stuff. And that’s just in my kitchen.
  2. Label storage totes. As anyone who celebrates any holidays or lives in a climate like we do, there are always items that only get used a few days out of the year, but are too pricey to replace each year. By investing is some transparent totes and labels, you will see at a glance what you have stacked in your storage room. This method also works for the craft supplies creatives seem to accumulate. (Ahem!)
  3. If it doesn’t fit, toss it. This doesn’t mean you have to throw away items of clothing that don’t fit into the trash. There are plenty of organizations that will take donated clothing. If you blew your clothing budget on some higher end outfits, there’s always the option of selling online or via local Buy & Sell groups. When I went through my closet, I gave several bags to a local church. After Mom passed away, we did the same with her clothes.
  4. Sort and file. Although I think about receipts when I say this, it also applies to mail, magazines and anything else we bring into our homes. Whether it be groceries, toiletries or the ever-constant paperwork, it’s better to take a few moments to put everything in its place right away. I do admit, I tend to slack occasionally then spend a lot more time playing catch-up.
  5. Invest in shelving and storage units. Let’s face it, we have to keep some stuff. We need bedding, clothing, dishes, towels and all of the other things required for daily living. By creating a space for the necessities, then keeping those spaces organized, the clutter can easily be kept under control. Whether it’s bookshelves, storage bins or dividers in your closet, having an orderly system for your possessions will be beneficial.

I know it’s often easier said than done, but if we can part with the things we don’t use, we will soon enjoy a less cluttered home. And if you can make a few extra dollars by selling what you no longer need or use, your holiday or retirement fund will thank you for it.