Merry Christmas!

Designed on CanvaPro.

Merry Christmas to all!

It has been a busy few days with putting the finishing touches on the decorating, final gift wrapping and family meals.

Last night my kids (both in their twenties) and my father-in-law joined us for supper, along with my daughter’s boyfriend. It was a fun evening and we all ate much too much (as always seems to happen when we cook so much).

Today we went to my younger sister’s house and enjoyed more family time, ate too much and took family pictures in front of the Christmas tree. I was blessed with gifts on my list, but the family time is much more important.

The day also marks the sixth Christmas without Dad and the second without Mom. I miss them being with us but as is said, “life does go on”.

I think the best thing this year is I was able to spend both Christmas Eve and part of Christmas Day with my kids. They usually split the time between their dad’s place and with us, but this year their dad went to spend Christmas with his in-laws a couple provinces away. For that I am grateful.

Tomorrow will be a day of relaxation and making room in my kitchen for the new dessert dishes, gravy boat and coffee press. I may or may not have to do some rearranging in my cupboards.

The older I get the more I prefer practical gifts. It’s better to have something a person can use and enjoy than something that gets tucked away in a drawer or closet.

In less than a week we’ll be ringing in the new year. I have set some goals for 2020 which involve increasing my client base, creating a new passive income stream and spending more time with family. I’m excited to make 2020 my best year yet and look forward to sharing my progress.

What are your plans for 2020?

5 Ways to Cut Down on Holiday Stress

I made this wreath for the door earlier this afternoon. It has also been posted on my Instagram accounts so if you follow me there, that’s why it probably looks very familiar. Merry Christmas!

Here we are, a week from Christmas Day. It’s hard to believe it has crept up so quickly.

I don’t know about you but I always feel more stressed this time of year than any other. Perhaps it’s because of all the expectations we have of others and ourselves, or perhaps because it’s just so busy.

As I get older I try not to get so stressed out over it because let’s face it; it will come and go whether we’re ready or not. This year I have found a few ways to deal with the stress a little easier. Granted this list may be a little late for some this year, but it’s ‘food for thought’ for other holidays too.

  1. Take some ‘you’ time. I am someone who feels I need to be doing something every waking moment, whether it be reading, working, writing, crafting or household responsibilities. If I’m not doing something I feel guilty. Take a few minutes in the evening to relax and unwind with your beverage of choice, a good book or your favourite TV show. It’s amazing what some quiet time will do to regenerate a person.
  2. Delegate some of the work. If you’re the person hosting Christmas Dinner, it’s okay to ask for others to contribute to the meal. In my family my younger sister is hosting but we’re all taking a favourite dish to help out. I’m taking the popular Broccoli Salad and some baking. Not only will it be less meal preparation for her, but she’ll be able to enjoy the pre-meal visiting without being stuck in the kitchen the entire time.
  3. Enjoy the time together. We decided a few years ago to eat, visit, open gifts then do the cleanup. Of course some of the food needs to be refrigerated relatively quickly, but that’s all that gets done right after the meal. Take the time to visit with each other, play games and watch the kids enjoy their new toys. Dad always said Christmas is for kids and I see now he was right. The dishes won’t be going anywhere so if they don’t get washed right away it’s not the end of the world.
  4. Set a budget. I know most of you reading this will have all of your shopping done by now. I always stress out over how much I’m spending so this year I set a budget for each person and stuck to it. Our family gift exchange is a Secret Santa one with a thirty-five dollar limit which is doable for everyone. Of course I have a little higher limit for my kids as well as a limit for their significant others. I finished my shopping on Monday and as I bought for each person I crossed them off the list. That way I wasn’t spending more than I could afford.
  5. Pay cash or use your debit card. The holiday sales tempt us into buying more than we should. Anyone with a credit card knows just how dangerous that can be. I set money aside this year for Christmas shopping and paid with either cash or using my debit card. I’m not going to have the huge credit card bills that many others will have, so that alone will cut down on the after-holiday stress as well.

The true spirit of Christmas is for spending time with family and friends. You don’t need to break the bank to impress anyone. Do what you can and don’t fret about what you can’t do. The holidays are meant for laughter, sharing a meal (or three) and enjoying the time together. Don’t let the advertisements on TV tempt you into spending more than you can afford.

In closing I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May the season bring joy, good tidings and wonderful memories. And please remember, if you drink don’t drive.

What They Say Is True

Have you ever heard anyone say the older you get, the faster time flies?

I used to think they were just using it as a figure of speech, but I now see how much truth there is to it. It seems like just yesterday I was getting home from Calgary, and it’s already three-quarters of the way through November. If I’m not careful I’m going to wake up and be eighty-something, and not know where the past thirty years have gone. Now that is a scary thought.

My time has not been wasted however. I have been brushing up on learning Canva so I can make more printables for my Etsy Shop plus design my own postcards, worksheets and brochures. It’s a good skill to know and the more I use it the better I’ll be.

In addition to the above I’ve also picked up some extra shifts at work while our manager is away enjoying a much-deserved vacation. I don’t mind the extra shifts though, because it will help offset the two weeks we’re closed through Christmas holidays.

And speaking of Christmas, I committed myself to having a table at our local Christmas Market. I’m changing up my wares a little this year because there are other vendors with crocheted items. I don’t like to step on anyone’s toes so am adding some woodburned items to my table. Plus the handspun alpaca yarn and dryer balls should find new homes.

Volunteers are an integral part of any community, especially a small one like ours. It has been decided to update our area history, so I have taken on the role of website moderator and newspaper article contributor. Our little committee of five all bring something different to the table; my expertise is the computer and writing side. As the information starts trickling in, I foresee some editing required as well.

Designed on Canva. It’s pretty basic compared to some of the designs I have seen created (and have created of my own).

The reason for mentioning the history book project is because it ties in with time flying. The first was done in 1983 so it’s time to update it. If we don’t take the time to do it now, much of our history will be gone when the elderly pass on and are no longer able to tell their stories. Preserving history is important; even moreso when the younger generation doesn’t seem to have an interest in it. I do have to say though, I’m sure I was the same at their age.

Do you find the time passing by quickly, or is it moving along just as you expect?

My Trip to Imaginairium

I hope everyone has had a good couple of weeks. I thought it was just a week ago that I last posted, and realized I haven’t written anything since the ninth. Shame on me!

I enjoyed my time at Imaginairium, and for those of you who follow my author Instagram, you will have seen my posts. For those of you who don’t, feel free to do so. I don’t post there daily, but I prefer quality over quantity.

We are getting a taste of winter today, complete with blowing snow. It doesn’t make me happy, because so many crops are still out in the field. It’s going to be a tough year for the farmers if they can’t get the harvesting done because of the weather. 

Now, let me backtrack a little and tell you a bit about my trip to Calgary for Wordfest’s Imaginairium. My drive down was mostly uneventful, aside from getting a rock in my windshield which has led to a crack at least twelve inches long, so far. (My glass guy says it’s not fixable, so I will wait and see what happens through the winter. If the crack obstructs my line of vision, I’ll be getting a new windshield sooner than I had anticipated.)

When I got to Calgary I was quite impressed with the fact I didn’t have to rely on my GPS to get to my home-away-from-home. I surprised myself on that one. It has been over a year since I was in Calgary, so I was afraid I wouldn’t remember where my turnoff was.

My first day of Imaginairium was a little stressful, and it started with the public transit driver not being very helpful. Thankfully I had my phone and I utilized my GPS to navigate where I needed to be once I got off the bus. I walked several blocks to the new Central Public Library downtown, and was quite overwhelmed by the sheer size of it. I’m sure our little library would have fit in the main entryway.

My first event was at Memorial Library, which is several blocks away. Even with all of the walking, I still managed to get into the event before my first scheduled one. I was quite pleased about that, because I was ready for a break. Having a pass for the entire week was beneficial.

A neat thing the organizers did this year was to have attendees collect beads from each event. Apparently it was the first year to try it, and I think it was well-received. I enjoyed being able to add a bead to my bracelet at the beginning of each event I attended. Each was different, and there was one special author bead in each bag. I didn’t get any of the special ones, but for those who did it would have been quite exciting.

For me the most memorable event was the one by author Michael Christie when he talked about his latest book Greenwood. It spans over four generations, and talks about trees, family roots and climate change. I have yet to read it, but have my very own autographed copy for when I am able to sit down with it. I briefly spoke with Michael while he was signing it for me, and he is a down-to-earth gentleman. I wish him all the best with his books.

In addition to me attending several of the events, I also took some time to go to Cross Iron Mills. I started at one end where I bought myself some new walking shoes, and ended at the other end where I spent well over an hour in the Indigo bookstore. I ended up leaving there with five books; one of them being the Writer’s Guide to Character Traits Second Edition. It will come in handy when I’m writing my stories.

I highly recommend attending an event such as Wordfest’s Imaginairium to writers and readers alike. For me it was a step outside of my comfort zone, but I am happy with my decision. Perhaps one day I will be in front of the room telling the audience about my books.

Photo Credit: Diane Ziomek
I took this after the event. Note the beads on the bracelet (his is the first from the left); I did add a few from additional events.

With all that being said, I’m gearing up for National Novel Writing Month, which begins November 1st. I have a basic plot figured out, but my characters will need to help me out with my story. It’s going to be a busy month with working, writing and getting ready for our local Christmas Extravaganza Craft Market.

Have a great week!

Diane

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