Time to Get Up and Do the Work

My home base for work, study, creation, meditation
No, I don’t have a job in an office away from home where I should be. And while I do have the shipping setup in the basement for my online stationery shop, I don’t mean that either.

The current stay-at-home mandate is not stopping me from going to work, because my work is to get up each day and go through my health-supporting routines, then go through the day pursuing creative efforts and mental stimulation. That’s my job in these dark times and it’s a seven-day-a-week gig.

Routine is the right-hand enemy of fear and anxiety, while the left-hand works on staying active through creative or mentally stimulation. Without this right-left defense, that foe (or obstacle) could easily render me incapable of doing much else beyond fretting and stewing.

My perspective on these odd times has slowly shifted to an appreciation of the opportunities during this new, highly restrictive phase of life. That may seem like either a crazy idea, or at least insensitive to other’s plights. I can only control how I react to my own plight, but I do empathize and understand others struggle daily.

How many of us have various projects, whether around the house, starting a journal, sketching, painting, or fill-in-the-blank we’ve wanted to get to for a long time? Now you have the time.

How many of us feel we haven’t engaged enough with family in a meaningful way because we’re too busy with other things? Now you have time for that also.

One way (some would say it’s the best way) to deal with an obstacle in life is to go through it, meaning adapt to it and creatively deal with it. Skirting around it does nothing but give it a chance to do its finest obstacleness later. Trying to run headfirst into it without a plan or thinking it’s fake news or hoax, is unfortunately the modus operandi of a certain ill-prepared political party. And we are witnessing that epic fail. By finding ways to defeat it through personal actions you control, by choosing to take advantage of what is available (in this argument that being ample time for x, y, or z), is how you can shift your thinking away from “it’s in my way and I give up,” or “It’s big and scary and I can’t do anything about it” and to seeing opportunities.

One quote found on that infrequent source of gems, Facebook, amplifies this change of thinking approach to what you can control:

“Do not change your behavior to avoid being infected. Instead, assume you are infected and change your behavior to avoid transmission.”

To spin it differently:

“Don’t focus on the unknown timeline of when we’ll be able to resume normality, but instead look within to make the best use of daily opportunities sheltered time provides.”

Fresh Bits 3/27: Interesting Things to Do and Read

This is a new series I’m starting on Fridays for fresh bits of things to do over the weekend and beyond. Each Friday I’ll share collated interesting things to read or do found on other blogs, e-newsletters, and the like.

Signs of spring?

Today’s fresh bits include advice for the isolated-in-place, things to do with stationery stuff, creative distractions, reading ideas, and more.

  1. Soothing coloring therapy. The New York Academy of Medicine has a library of links to coloring pages and books from around the world.
  2. Fountain pen user? Nice list of things to do with your fountain pens during your stay-at-home period, courtesy of the Fountain Pen Love site.
  3. Have kids at home and want to draw with them? A guide on resources from Austin Kleon.
  4. Love books? Missing your in-person book club? Lots of virtual equivalents to previous social activities are popping up, and here’s one for book club lovers.
  5. Lovers of nature, creativity, and just plain intellectual thinking should subscribe to Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings. Subscribe here, or just visit her site to wander for hours and days. Great stuff!
  6. Timely (rediscovered) wisdom from the acclaimed author and educator who eschewed technology, Neil Postman: How to Live the Rest of Your Life.
  7. Fascinating podcast out my usual zone but enjoying the author’s views and language/phrasing mastery. From the BBC description: “The award-winning and critically-acclaimed podcast from George the Poet delivers a fresh take on inner city life through a mix of storytelling, music and fiction.” Take a listen.
  8. What’s helping me cope the most with isolation and the why of it? Increasing my studying about stoicism. Good place to start is The Daily Stoic. Sensible thinking for nonsensical times.

See you next Friday with more Fresh Bits. Add your email at the right to get them (and other posts) automatically. Stay safe inside, stay six feet away, and take advantage of this unique time and circumstance to create and learn.

Trader Joe’s For The Win

Making decisions these days is about as quick as Monk’s playing medieval tic-tac-toe
In our new, weird-times world, we’ve thrown our old standards and habits out the window much like dirty, used-once-too-many-times dishwater. These new, daily behaviors will likely be with us for most of this year, if not into next year and beyond. But that’s not all bad: washing hands frequently isn’t a new idea. This should be something we learned as wee tots and part of our autonomic life skills. And limiting trips, excursions, and such has, at least in the last decade or two, been a wiser way to live to lessen our impact on the planet. Think of Covid-19 as a drill in preparation for the far worst crisis on the horizon, one where we’re steadily approaching the tipping point: global warming. No amount of hand washing will help us then.

But back to today and my story of venturing out, like some small forest burrow animal ever-concerned whether a predator lurks outside my refuge. Going solo on this food run, with my combined list in place and common sense whispering this will help limit exposure to only one of us in the household at a time, I head off to Trader Joe’s, my favorite grocery store.

Rewind back 10 days when a trip to the local Meijer was as close to an anxiety riddled outing as I’d ever want to have: a polar opposite to my Trader Joe’s experience today. The Meijer trip was an eye opener on many levels and happened the day after their public announcement (translation: vacuous marketing speak) of reducing hours and putting steps in place to protect workers and customers alike. Not only was there zero effort at limiting or distancing the herd inside, but employees were gloveless, an especially uncomfortably visual in the produce section. Combine those with Meijer customers who acted as though the crisis was behind us, with most making little effort on separation, and for a few, no effort at all to cover their hacking, coughing as they wandered the aisles. I felt like I was running a zombie gauntlet without a hand sanitizer amulet. When I finally got out to the car, I wanted to strip naked and cover myself with the hand sanitizer I keep there. But even in liberal Ann Arbor, there’s probably a law against that.

Clearly Trader Joe’s is a company committed more to safety and taking responsibility than protecting profits, evidenced by their well-thought out approach to crowd control.

I arrive before the announced 9-10 a.m. window where a separate line exists for us senior citizens, and the surprise bonus of employees throttling crowd control letting in three seniors for every one non-senior during that hour. Not only that, they had an employee (with gloves, as ALL Trader Joe’s employees had, whether stocking or cashiering) spray and wipe cart handles, seats, and basket top rims before incoming shoppers went in. Inside, all shoppers were patient and following social distancing guidelines.

I love to shop in a good grocery store I like to take my time and explore the not-so-obvious culinary delights available. It’s a rare trip to Trader Joe’s where the crowds allow such meandering, as there was today. In my throttled wave, there were probably 10 shoppers in the whole store. But I felt the need to hurry, not out of fear of Mr. CV-19, but out of courtesy to the 60+ people queued up outside waiting for us old farts to check out.

Good to know this process exists, since Trader Joe’s will be my store of choice in the months ahead for food runs since there I feel my risk probability is as low as possible these days in a public store. And yes, they even had toilet paper on the shelf, a rare sight these days.

Oh My…Has It Been That Long?

That white stuff outside is snow, and that blurry bit of a silver car out there is my downsize from the Travato van to a Subaru Crosstrek.

Embarrassed I’ve left this site go fallow, but honestly, doesn’t seem that long ago when I wrote about the shift from the wandering life to the Ann Arbor life. Guess it’s been that busy since and hadn’t noticed! I’ll fix that shortly.

Besides the transition from van life to house life, the adjustments to having space and my things around me that were in storage, and yes, to winter in Ann Arbor, I’ve added a new distraction. On January 9 I opened (re-opened, really) my online niche-market stationery shop that I had for several years back in the day-job days. Love doing this and immersing into this world again, but damn, it was a lot of work to get ready.

Now that it’s settling into a nice flow of orders, I’m ready to get back to writing and sketching, things I love that were put on hiatus while I spent several months re-establishing Notegeist, the online stationery shop (check it out!)_.

And so, as I sit here at one of my newly adopted Ann Arbor coffee shop haunts (this one Roos Roost off S. Industrial), I’m working on reestablishing my direction for this year in writing, sketching, and traveling. The shop will be a part-time endeavor along with these other joys rounding out for a full and interesting time of things here in Southern Michigan. And yes, I promise to write more about all that here in a, ahem, more consistent fashion.

Last Voyage

Currently in the rain and cold (but comfy with the Truma heat going) at a campground in Van Buren, Ohio on leg one of my last voyage in Tamasté. I’m on my way down to South Carolina to hand him over to his new, adopting parents. Happy to report they are as excited to start their Travato adventures as I was a year ago this month when I picked up Tamasté from Lichtsin RV in Iowa.

It’s been a lot of fun and saw a great deal of this beautiful country in the year I wandered about in this Travato. Bittersweet for sure, but eager for the adventures ahead living in Ann Arbor, MI, with more travels in my sights (albeit not in a fully, self-sufficient rolling wonder that is a Travato).

The new parents will, undoubtedly, meet some wonderfully Travato owners as I have, some of whom I now consider long-term friends. All in all, I set out to accomplish a few things on this year of wandering and just about did them all. Only thing missing was visiting some natural places out West, and those I’ll still get to eventually, but in the more conventional way of traveling.

So to all those in the Travato tribe I’ve met along the road, I want to say thank you. You made this a special year I won’t soon forget. They say memories are a comforting blanket as we age, and this year has provided much warmth for those reflective years ahead.

Going Dark: Field Notes’ Autumn Trilogy Release

NOTE: You can now read my archived and current stationery reviews at Ink & Core. This specific review is now at https://inkandcore.com/2019/10/02/going-dark-field-notes-autumn-trilogy-release/

For us confirmed stationery nerds, the arrival of a new, limited edition subscription release is the highlight of the quarter. Challenge is, with social media coverage within niche groups so rabid, it’s nearly impossible to have the joy-like thrill of Christmas morning when the package arrives. Spoilers abound EVERYWHERE and there is only one way to ensure opening the package will be a surprise.

And so I went “dark.” I hid my icons to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, (and had to do this on laptop, desktop, iPhone, iPad) and then set up a Gmail filter to avoid seeing the announcement email when it came over. Worked pretty well, and the only news I couldn’t avoid was the release was called Autumn Trilogy. Since it’s the fall 2019 release, no surprise on the name.

Fortunately, my avoidance efforts worked. The release announcement, and no doubt multiple spoilers, came out yesterday, Tuesday. And through the benefit of being fairly close to Chicago, my package arrived today, Wednesday. So unlike our ancestral cave dwellers, I only had to spend a brief time being “in the dark.”

This release is nothing short of a stunner, and (recorders on and historians to note) just may be my all-time favorite Field Notes release. Let me repeat that: All. Time. Favorite.

The attention to detail in this release is amazing, clever, and hits the spot (at least, my spot). Since autumn is my favorite season, orange my favorite color, trees my favorite thing in nature, and pocket notebooks with 70#, fountain-pen friendly ruled paper my paper-format of choice, what else could this be but my new favorite. I see more packs of this coming to my mailbox soon since I believe this issue will sell out pretty quickly. More pix below of the details in the gallery.

If this hits your button too, head over to Field Notes Brand website and score some for yourself. But don’t wait: like every fall with gorgeous leave colors, they won’t last long.