Ruts Vs. Routines and the “Smarts” to know the Difference

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beechnut tree seeds 001

A Beechnut seed brought home from Arizona three years ago. I still have it! Nature refreshes and inspires me. Connecting weekly with the great outdoors  is important to me.

I love routines. I always have and I always will. Routines give me security. Routine makes me feel safe and helps me develop habits that keep me on track. Staying on task helps me accomplish what I set out to do.

Routines are delightful because you do them without thinking. They become automatic. I know that at a certain hour of the day, I will paint. I will write. I will carry out my dreams come “hell or high water!”

My husband knows never to interrupt me when I’m painting. He knows I never answer phone calls when my hands and elbows are dripping in acrylic paint. If friends call, they go into voice mail. The world literally goes on hold when I’m at canvas working with fast-drying acrylics.

Florida Panther 003

“Florida Panther” made from a Palm frond; wall hanging.

If my husband chooses to converse with me, he may get a growl in return. If my agenda changes either by crook or necessity, I’m not a happy camper. I may even have a temper tantrum of disproportionate proportions. My day becomes lopsided. The monster within comes out. I feel betrayed, cheated, and forlorn; oh, woe is me and a pox on everyone’s house.

If you’ve stayed with me to the end of this tirade, you now know the difference between routines and ruts. Routines are good “if” they help you stick to your goals and enable you to get your work done. Routines become “ruts” when they hold you prisoner and don’t allow you to be flexible. Without flexibility you can kiss creativity and family goodbye.

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The Martins came in March. Their babies will soon be big enough to fly and they will be gone for another year.

Ruts can entrap you, hold you , and make your life miserable.

The first time I went cross-country skiing it was late in the season. Hard, icy tracks were molded on the pathways.  As long as you stayed within their boundaries, it was smooth sailing. Get out of the grooves and you went sailing into the trees. That is exactly what I did when I came to my first turn. The ruts were so deep that you had to literally jump and twist to make the turn. Not something a novice like me could do.

Ruts stifle creativity. Spontaneity is also a critical component. Awareness and objectivity need to be in control 24/7. Creative thinkers must be good observers. They must be willing to adjust when opportunity knocks. Inspiration is a product not of time or mind, but of heart and soul. The door must always be open. The spirit must always be prepared to receive.

Go ahead and plan your schedules and routines. Set your goals and work toward them; but leave yourself an opening for the unexpected, the priceless moments with loved ones and family, and the sudden impulses that may flutter suddenly on your window sill or whisper in your ear in a moment of reverie.

Here are a few tips:

  • Routines guide your way.
  • Ruts holdy our feet to the fire.
  • Routines allow movement and growth.
  • Ruts exhaust you  and make you feel like a slave.
  • Routines involve familiar tasks and a safe place to explore ideas.
  • Ruts become rigid trails that lead you nowhere.
  • Routines let you experiment without criticism.
  • Ruts are monotonous black holes that go nowhere.
  • Routines ground you while your mind soars.
  • Ruts create anxiety and worry.

Figure out when you’re happiest and keep those routines. Eliminate the ruts that stifle growth and you’ll feel a whole lot better.

Five Steps for Success in almost any Situation

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Sea Breeze

“Sea Breeze” 30×24 acrylic on wrapped canvas

My first full-time job after having raised six children was traumatic, to say the least. As a new divorcee’ my self-esteem was as low as my expectations. My emotions and brain were seriously fragmented.

I learned the hard way:

  1. To listen
  2. To focus
  3. To follow directions
  4. To assume nothing
  5. To check and double check the details

Along the way I discovered that these same rules work well in almost any situation.

Put yourself in a social setting where you know absolutely no one. You’re meeting new people and feeling self-conscious. “Will I remember their names?” “Where did she say she was from?” What’s her connection to the host?”

Now review that employee checklist above. The first step is to listen. Most of us are busy thinking what we’re going to say next and we fail to listen and repeat the information in our minds. We also lack focus and forget the details we’ve just been given.

If it’s a work-related gathering, you’ll need to follow important directions/instructions. You must never assume you know what is required, because usually you don’t. Once the project or assignment is underway, you’ll need to proof it, check the details for accuracy, and make sure your purpose was achieved.

Sea Nymph

“Sea Nymph” 24×18 acrylic on wrapped canvas

Now suppose you’re in a conversation with your spouse or significant other. Each of you wants to be heard. Be sure you listen with a desire to understand before you spout off your grievances.

Focus not on yourself, but your relationship. Follow your spouse’s lead and listen for hints or instructions that may guide your answers. Never assume you know what’s going on in his or her head because you don’t. You never know what another person is thinking.

Repeat back what you think he or she said (check and double check). When it’s your turn to express your views, you’re more apt to be listened to if you give the other person your full attention.

Sea Swirls

“Sea Swirls” 24×18 acrylic on wrapped canvas

In turn, these same skills are what a parent needs to teach a child in order for them to become good students, to make friends and to have a better relationship with you. Conversation is a two-way street, and both sides need to walk away satisfied.

Now put yourself in a prayer relationship with your God or higher power. Rather than always rattling off your needs and wants, expressing a little gratitude goes a long way. Listen tor the spirit to either warm your heart or speak to your mind.

Focus on this most intimate of conversations. Don’t let your mind wander. If you sense a direction for your life or are given instructions, obey. Don’t assume that God is either angry with you or that he doesn’t love you. The scriptures (his Word) say otherwise.

Check and double check means going back to the feet of God often. Any relationship requires nurturing and familiarity to prosper. This is especially true in a prayer relationship. Listening, focusing, and following through with what you know to be right will bring a light into your life that will clear the way for joy and prosperity.

And that’s my “Five Step” program!

The Perfect Ending

“The Perfect Ending” 24×18 acrylic on canvas

Physical Struggles are not all Bad

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"Broken" 11x14 mixed media (SOLD); prints available.

“Broken” 11×14 mixed media (SOLD); prints available.

Yeah, I’m slowly getting better after having surgery, but I’ve gotten way behind on my blogs and my artwork. My house is in a sad state of affairs because I can’t lift, bend, or even bathe yet. Had the staples taken out yesterday, and now another five days of showers only.

But what’s the alternative? Have surgery or continue feeling crappy because I was too busy to have my stone-filled diseased gall bladder removed? I do know that in a few short weeks, I’ll start reaping the benefits of the surgery and catch up with my other responsibilities. There’s one thing about work. It usually waits for you.

I’ll take a physical struggle any day over one that you can’t see. I learned this from experience. During a difficult marriage I felt like Don Quixote fighting windmills and imaginary demons. One day when we had a deluge of water from a downpour, our basement windows filled with water. The whole family was outside with buckets scooping water out and away from the house.

"Tickles from God" acrylic on canvas

“Tickles from God” acrylic on canvas

While bailing, I felt exhilarated. Here was an enemy I could actually see and I was doing everything in my power to defeat it. Every muscle in my body was engaged. Our family was working as a team. My husband and I were finally on the same side, fighting an enemy that was real. We were drenched when it was over, and we hadn’t succeeded in saving our basement carpet, but we were united around a common purpose.

The struggle invigorated me because:

  1. I had the tools,
  2. I knew what I was up against, and
  3. The outcome didn’t really matter because we all did the best that we could and we did it together.

I’ve had many challenges in my life, but most of them I worked on alone, and I was the benefactor of my efforts. The kitchen floor of our first tiny home was covered with black tiles that were so thickly coated with wax that every scratch and scuff showed. I made it a goal to restore its former beauty.

Each day I’d razor blade one or two tiles, three if my two babies were good. I kept at it doggedly. I made a decision that I didn’t care how long it took. I was more concerned about sticking to my goal and completing the task I had committed to.

"Looking Outward" (old window frame); acrylic on glass/canvas

“Looking Outward” (old window frame); acrylic on glass/canvas

Six months later the floor was done! I cleaned it and gave it a slight sheen. They looked like brand new tiles. This struggle not only gave me a better looking floor, but a sense of accomplishment. I had completed what I set out to do. I was determined. I knew that if I could do this floor, I could do anything I set my mind to.

In this way, I taught myself how to sew clothes for me and my children, make quilts, sew wall art, crochet, knit, cook, make bread and doughnuts, learn how to can fruits and vegetables, etc.

Over the years I followed this same “modus operandi.” I became tenacious to a fault. Sometimes I’d forge ahead even though it became obvious my efforts weren’t reaping what I’d hoped. Learning how to stop something that isn’t working is just as important as sticking to a goal and seeing it through. Once you determine when a project or a goal must be revisited, analyzed or changed you save valuable time and energy.

Your efforts must be guided and focused. What you learn from your failures and mistakes is just as important as what you glean from your successes. You have to figure out what struggles are worth it and which ones are not.

Run Your Laps Every Day – Reach for the Stars not the Dazzle of Fool’s Gold

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Namesake

“Namesake” 24×18 acrylic on canvas

My oldest daughter ran track as did her younger brother. I remember the grueling contests, the aching muscles, and the near collapse after a race, the throwing up afterward, the dark side of competition all for the ribbons, the glory, the win.

Running gets in your blood. It drives you. My daughter could run miles on the steam of anger leaving from our house and traveling for sympathy to see her friend in another county; a different city.

I watched them both compete and admired their persistence. Peer pressure helped, but the adrenaline rush after a track meet was addictive.

I tried it a few times at the YMCA. The track was the diameter of the building. I ran around and around, and around. 15 laps equaled one mile. I did a lot of counting (and forgetting), and counting again. My “round” trip was tedious and boring. My goal wasn’t to win. I was competing against myself. The end game was to lose 10 pounds. I didn’t last long enough.

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“With These Hands — Hope” Oil on acrylic under painting; 16×20 canvas

I discovered that the difference between success and failure, for me, was being outdoors. I knew where to walk and just how long I needed to go. I used my car to gauge the distance. I started with five miles, then ten. After a few weeks, the pounds started to melt away. Exercise is much easier than counting calories, and more fun.

Every athlete, every runner knows you have to put in the time. It’s no different with any other skill or profession. Time equals distance, equals gain. “No pain, no gain;” you’ve heard it a million times.

The difference between success and failure is often as simple as this. One person spends his or her time vegging out in front of the “Boob Tube” while the other one does the laps, the practice, and the work to improve his or her skills or business.

One person reads books related to their interests and dreams, and another would rather spend his time making things with his hands. If either develops a skill and a driving interest, they have a shot at success.

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Open Book” 20×16 Oil on acrylic under painting; Original SOLD, but prints are available.

What is success? Does it mean money? Does it mean having all the toys and whistles? Or does it simply mean doing something that rewards you with fulfillment, satisfaction and a decent living? Of course, the answers are unique to each individual. But I guarantee that if you were in a devastating tornado or a destructive hurricane, you’d probably say what most people on T.V. say in the aftermath:

“These are just things. We can replace things. But my family – thank God they’re all alive!”

If you haven’t yet discovered what you’re willing to live or to die for, you haven’t really lived. If there is nothing on this earth for which you are willing to sacrifice your time, effort, and devotion to besides yourself, you haven’t really loved.

Many people can’t understand faith or a belief in something greater than themselves. Without a guiding force it is easy to get caught up in the moment and waste your time on quick gratification or cheap thrills. A guiding force or higher power can help you resist that which hinders your growth and success. A deep inner peace can empower you to run your laps, every day, until you reach the heights of your potential. It costs nothing, but it will change your life forever.

Star Gazing, Navel Gazing and Intoxication

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"Moonshines" mixed media on canvas

“Moonshines” mixed media on canvas

Why do some people live static uninteresting lives while others seem to soar to the top? What is it that separates the realists from the dreamers? The introverts from the extroverts; and why in heck does it matter?

The word “myopic” is used to describe people who are bigoted and narrow-minded. Oftentimes, this term is laid on the undeserving because it’s easy to jump to conclusions and put labels on people before we really get to know them or understand why and how they think. In our “instant” society, we trash, label, and despair those who think differently from us. We hurry to form opinions of others and miss the sparkle of ingenuity that may lie just beneath the surface. What a waste!

Too many of us are crowd pleasers and sycophants looking for our next fix of approval and adoration. Whatever is culturally popular and acceptable is where they’ll find us chanting and shouting in unison the latest phrases and tweets. We have become a nation of navel gazers; so focused on our own narrow world view that we miss the big picture.

In the past, according to Wickipedia, “many cultures, including the Greeks, associated tremendous power with the navel. Obviously, the navel is a connection to the life-force of one’s mother, through the umbilical cord, so in some cultures, it is viewed as a center or starting point. In several societies, people have specified particular sites as the “Navel of the World,” ranging from Delphi to Easter Island. These sites were believed to have religious significance as centers of culture and religion for members of these societies.

"Hibiscus Glory" 16 x 20 oil on canvas (SOLD) Prints available

“Hibiscus Glory” 16 x 20 oil on canvas (SOLD) Prints available

“In the 1900s, “navel gazing” began to take on the additional meaning of being used to refer to people who seemed extremely self-absorbed or unaware of their surroundings because they were too focused on their own issues. In this sense, the term is generally meant to be derogatory, implying that someone needs to open his or her awareness a bit to think beyond the current situation, or to consider others. In this sense, navel gazing is viewed as rather self indulgent.”

You will never dream nor find inspiration if you spend your time navel gazing. On the other hand, if you look outside yourself and in your fear anesthetize yourself from pain, wonder, fear, and life experiences, you may become one of the walking dead among the living: an emotional zombie who never discovered his or her purpose in life.

“In Greek mythology the lotus-eaters were a race of people living on an island near North Africa dominated by lotus plants. The lotus fruits and flowers were the primary food of the island and were narcotic, causing the people to sleep in peaceful apathy.”

I read this statement and wondered if our growing appetite for drug addiction in whatever form might be the downfall of a nation lolled into thinking that everything is all right when it’s actually in freefall.

"Broken" mixed media on canvas (SOLD) Prints available

“Broken” mixed media on canvas (SOLD) Prints available

“In the Odyssey IX, Odysseus tells how adverse north winds blew him and his men off course as they were rounding Cape Malea, the southernmost tip of the Peloponnesus, headed westwards for Ithaca:

“I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of 9 days upon the sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eaters, who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among the Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return; nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars.”[1]

Are we fast becoming a culture of navel gazers addicted to our own self-gratification, oblivious to what’s happening in our country and in the world? Have we digressed so far that we simply “don’t give a dam?”

Once we were a nation of dreamers, inventors, and discoverers. Of course, the foolish and the unwise accused them of “star gazing;” spending too much time in frivolous pursuit of the impossible. Their efforts were considered a waste of time until the accolades and the money came in. Then they were appreciated. How convenient!

"Day Dreams" 11 x 14 oil on canvas

“Day Dreams” 11 x 14 oil on canvas

When we look up at the moon and the stars we discover an open door. Instead of seeing the dirt at our feet and the fuzz in our navels, we open our minds to greatness. Here are some quotes from a few star gazers who proved that looking beyond our own selfish pleasures may put us in touch with a higher force:

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Harriet Tubman

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence. See the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.” Mother Teresa

And may I add to Mother Teresa’s quote: We need silence to get in touch with the divine within our own souls.

Don’t be a passive player on life’s stage, my friends. Be a dreamer, active in sharing and believing in possibilities. Take your hopes to the next level. Aspire to live the purpose for which you were created!