Monkey-Mind Stress & A No-Monkey Business

fuscia1Hey there! It’s been quite a long while since I’ve had the pleasure of posting anything worth a smile. Not that I’ve been unhappy, but wow, what a year of crazy bumps from one direction to the next with a jungle of surprises around every corner!  I’ll spare you the details and just say that the cup of life had been running over. Much like the fuchsia that hangs in my kitchen, with dripping blossoms that too soon fall to the floor and wait for me to sweep up – so pretty, yet I rebel, “how much is enough “pretty”?

So, I’ve been working on resolving a bad case of “monkey-mind“.  Too much on the brain makes one insane.  I don’t know if that’s a cliche’, but it should be. Sometimes the wheel begins to spin a little too fast in my world, and even though there’s nothing to really complain about, being overwhelmed – good or bad – can be stressful. So, I’ve returned to a daily 20 minutes of yoga and meditation.  I think it’s working. Look! I’m blogging. 🙂

In my last post, I was still recuperating with a broken leg. I’m thankful it all healed well, but by the time I was able to put my leg to use, the city began construction, replacing sewer lines in my neighborhood, and hope was lost for even a brief jaunt to the grocery store in daylight. Fortunately, I work from a home office, so getting to work wasn’t the issue, but getting the work done to the tune of jack hammers, chain saws and heavy equipment was more distracting than trying to relax in a tree full of chattering monkeys. No way could I comfortably write a friendly blog post without relating a few unkind words about my sudden unfortunate situation. It was the summer of hell, to say the least.

roadAs seen in these images, each morning (left) the machines rolled in and dug out the street so the work could continue, and then each evening (right) they’d fill it in again. The non-stop thunderous rumbles, beeps and bangs, while the house vibrated with every bucket drop and roller tamper, drove my patience to the brink. I dashed around the house anchoring every piece of porcelain in its place with poster putty, trying to stay calm, even as I heard bathroom tiles fall into the tub and storm windows fly out of the frames. I endured the misery, hanging on to hope that the noisy chaos would put an end to the mopleakage of mucky water I’d been mopping up in the basement every Spring – then the noise and confinement would be well worth it.  Indeed, this Spring’s thaw brought not a drop rolling down the brick foundation! I did a happy dance with the dry mop and sang a heartfelt “halleluiah!”

During the winter months, I had become overly occupied by a slew of little obligations, as well as new writing responsibilities. Most of my work day is now spent at EmbroideryDesigns.com where I’m happy to be a part of a great support team.  The daily exchange of information with both industry folks and hobbyists never fails to solve puzzles and teach me something new. It then becomes fodder for articles at EmbroideryDesigns.com’s Learning Center.  And the projects I create and post about on my work blog, Stitch and Craft are also an enjoyable task, causing the hours to pass much too quickly.

So, you see, I have been writing, but I’ve missed blogging in my “break room” where I can toss my personal two stitches into the world. Writing keeps my stress factor down – almost as well as lavender, yoga and meditation.  So does food.  Well, the right foods anyhow, and in small frequent meals. Unfortunately, during the past year’s distractions, I ignored the rules I’m to live by. I stuffed myself with momentary good-feeling morsels and neglected the necessities that set my digestive system off on an uncontrollable tangent.

Yeah, that’s what happens in the golden years – your body starts making demands and takes control of that “I’ll-eat-whatever-I-please-and-to-hell-with-nutrition” attitude. On the bright side, I no longer stress over dieting, because if I stick to the health rules, I’m not pillsallowed to count calories or skip meals. Now it’s all a matter of counting vitamins, minerals and glasses of water while timing small numerous portions by the hour. I’ve always known the science to healthy eating, but I must give it keen attention in my old-er age, because if I choose to ignore it, there are physical repercussions. So, I do the list of “14 Foods That Fight Inflammation”  and when I fall short, I reach for the appropriate bottle kept handy on my desk – a display that often provokes the question, “Got pills?”  But snarkiness aside, I’d have to eat twice as much food to get what I get in a few pills everyday, and considering I’m not on the skinny side, it’s a good thing.

Farming Scene by Concord Collections – EmbroideryDesigns.com

I also have been busy this last year, reducing one of the biggest stress inducers I’ve ever experienced – business. First, to clarify any misunderstanding caused by previous statements made here and on other social media, I did not retire from work or stop digitizing, but I did retire my custom digitizing services. I’ve found that “un-marketing” is a feat to be extremely difficult after an online presence of over two decades. Okay, so I have only been one tiny pea in the embroidery pea field, but as the only pea in my pod, I’ve been one helluva busy pea.

No matter how small the business, and no matter how many newfangled things they come up with to help operate one, I’ve come to this conclusion: running a business totally solo without delegating anything is certainly possible, but it’s borderline insane. During buzy-ness you have many responsibilities. During slow-downs, you have the same responsibilites, as well as those you didn’t get done during the buzy-ness. It’s tough to fit in personal time if you don’t choose to hire help. You at least need a monkey – you know, someone who will listen while you plan your week’s agenda or bring you a banana when you need one.

So, to aid in un-marketing, I’ve temporarily closed my web site while I review and revamp, and currently my business domain names are parked at my personal “name domain”.  I will continue to digitize the occasional stock design and deliver private orders while decisions are being made about a new site for Moonlight Design, but until then, in reference to my no-monkey business, I can only say, “to be continued”.

stitches-coverstoryQuoting industry veteran and master digitizer, Steve Freeman of Qdigitizing, who noted in “Back from the Brink”, June’s cover story, pg. 40, in Stitches Magazine, “Sometimes you have to recognize when enough is enough in order to reinvent yourself.”

I suppose that’s what has come about as I’ve tried to un-market, shrink back and just be.  I’m reinventing myself while being content that I remain a part of the embroidery industry.  I will also continue to pop in now and then at Stitches with a bit of “Punching Sense” or whatever else I can offer. Right now, I’m gearing up to participate again as a digitizing judge for this year’s competition and the excitement is building! Do not hesitate to participate in this one, kids – first price is a Melco single-head!

On a closing stitch, to those who are curious, I hope to not let another year go by without posting. I’ve come to the conclusion that venting my two stitches reduces stress – and I’m going with the assumption that working at stress reduction is a lot less chaotic than living with a monkey. Alas, God bless Jane Goodall.

monkey

Baby Chimp by Ace Points – EmbroideryDesigns.com

 

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Tenacious Eagle Awesome

Some days I just don’t wanna write. And if the mood isn’t there, it isn’t there. I do have a post started, and it might only take a few hours to complete, but it ain’t gonna happen tonight.  I won’t leave you with nothing, though, and offer the following tid-bit. As well, the half-written intended post should be up early in the next couple weeks. For now, excuse me while I kick back, so to allow the words a little nap and my eyes a little bird-watching.

The tid-bit:

For all of you fellow nature/wildlife lovers, the 2012 family of the Dacorah Eagles are currently beginning a new family!  The first egg was laid February 17th. If you haven’t experienced watching the nesting, mating, egg laying, hatching, growing, parenting and all else that brings their offspring to the point of leaving the nest, as well as offering tracking information of where they travel when they do fly from home with photos and videos, now is a good time to begin peeking in.

Take a few moments to watch the video of the second egg being laid. Second egg arrived at 9:06 PM CST Monday, Feb 20th!

The observance of these marvelous, spiritual, nothing-less-than awesome creatures can offer so much to increase one’s own inspiration and insight, as well as bring to light that perhaps life really isn’t so bad, even if it seems so.

Personally, it brings me peace … except when they have to battle the weather. That is truly depressing.Check out the Raptor Resource Project blog by Amy Ries that explains things like why it’s okay for the egg to be alone awhile and how the eagle is able to survive through nature’s wrath: RRP Blog.  Each day brings a new change and a new struggle. Today the snow of last eve was replaced by cold high winds.

I just have to say, what an inspiring example of hope, strength and beauty!  Oh, to have the patience, tenacity and endurance of the eagle!

Creativity Awaits Outside the Window

Watching the raindrops hit the leaves of the Crabapple tree outside my office window today, I considered how fortunate I am to actually have a window.  I’d spent at least 20 years employed at various jobs working in spaces without windows.  Three of those positions required that I create, either by writing or designing or both, but rarely did I find muse while on the clock.  Inspiration necessary for motivating creativity was acquired during outside walks during breaks and lunch hours or at home – where there was a window.

For about 18 years I’ve been working from a home office with two large windows; one is half-draped to keep light hitting my computer monitors and the other is devoured by the Crabapple tree.  I can’t see very far beyond the window from my chair, but what I can’t see, my mind’s eye can.  The seasonally, changing view is embedded in memory, as I routinely walk over to the window every hour for a Yoga stretch.  (CTS and PAD will not be my downfall if I can avoid it!)  Within minutes after opening the window – even when it’s Minnesota cold – for a relaxing daydream, along with a meditative, breath of fresh air, my mind kicks in with an uplifting fervor and the creativity flows!

Not being able to steal a glance at nature every time I have a mind-block would be so drastically stifling!  I’ve spent a good deal of dead time staring at a blinking cursor on a white doc page or canvas of a graphics or digitizing program, and then, later during a walk or gazing out the window, I’ve been hit with an epiphany.  I jot a note or capture a picture to examine later and it’s the image that helps me recall exact details of my bright ideas, because it triggers what I was thinking at the time.  I’m then able to move forward in my project at a faster pace and with more clarity.

I never question why it works (I’m a firm believer in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”) but sometimes I wonder if it’s actually nature that turns on the switch of creativity or just the physical act that tells the brain to take a break so the “juices” can flow.  I only know that when I find myself just sitting there trying to squeeze out the next paragraph, design or digitizing solution, staring at my pencil cup just doesn’t cut it as well!  The weather can be sunny or snowy, or rainy and cloudy in a blue sky or grey, and after a brief gaze at the Crabapple, the wheel of creativity never fails to turn.  Oh, sometimes a Cardinal or squirrel interrupts my focus, but the experience usually enhances inspiration, which sometimes leads to an idea for an entirely new project I can tuck away in the slush pile.

Curious to know if this is a common or personal experience, I did a little research and found that there’s actually a study of the affects to employees at work places with and without windows called “A Room with a View: A Review of the Effects of Windows on Work and Well-Being” by Kelly M. J. Farley and Jennifer A. Veitch.  Now, I haven’t read the entire study (yet); however, a statement in the abstract told me I wasn’t alone.  “Windows with views of nature were found to enhance work and well-being in a number of ways including increasing job satisfaction, interest value of the job, perceptions of self-productivity, perceptions of physical working conditions, life satisfaction, and decreasing intention to quit and the recovery time of surgical patients.

Fresh air from an opened window is also said to spur creativity, because it enhances brain power, according to various claims.  If you can’t open a window, brief outdoor walks should be mandatory, because it helps you get your Vitamin D, as well as “’Vitamin G’ – what experts call time spent in green spaces”, explains Prevention Magazine in The Fresh-Air Fix”.  The article also offers six ways you and your family can benefit from being outdoors, which by the way, spending time socializing has also proven to be another way to pump up creativity.

If you aren’t fortunate enough to have a window in your office and find it difficult to arrange hourly breaks outdoors, try taking a few tips from the ancient Chinese system of Feng Shui.  Whether you believe in its laws of aesthetic energy or not, many of its principles are in agreement with scientific facts, as well as the results of health studies.  Good air quality is the first thing on the list in “Create Good Feng Shui In A Small Office with No Windows” followed by displaying various types of art, including a wall mural depicting nature.  That would be my preference, along with a small aquarium, if forced to work in a windowless room.  I must have some place to look where my mind can take frequent walks – my body is just not that ambitious!

If you have one or more employees whom you depend on to produce great creative works, provide nature in the environment, but give them more than a potted plant.  (Yes, plants do improve air quality, but it’s simply not enough!)  If possible, arrange for an office with a window or hang a large photo of the Rainforest or of somewhere a mind can tip-toe through brain-titillating tulips.  And by all means, allow brief, outdoor breaks for rejuvenation as frequent as reasonable.   Sitting still for too long can cause dead stares into pencil cups.

Finally [and I suggest this, of course, at your discretion] cut a little slack when your hired “creator” occasionally appears to be dawdling in daydreams, while staring out the window or other focal point on your dime.  Have patience.  Surely, a masterpiece is about to be born!