2016: The year of sliver linings

So, usually I make a h12512526_10153179574482035_1188196950185852739_nuge list of things I want to accomplish in the new year and usually most of those don’t get done.

This year I took a different approach. I have decided to make 2016 about silver linings. Sure, I have a few goals, like keeping up with my daily thankfuls and a few others, but mainly I want this to be the year I finally train myself to look on the GOOD side of things first, instead of going right to the bad side of things.

I’ll admit, I have always been on the pessimistic side of things, a glass half-empty type of person.  On the heels of my 40th birthday this summer (July 8, if you want to mark the date..hint hint…haha) I decided it was time to change my way of thinking.

Today on the way to work it was cold, rainy and just plain wet. And I’ve been struggling with a head cold. At Christmas I had an inner ear infection, which caused me to miss Christmas with my mom, brother and his family. So, on my way to work I found my mind grumbling about the cold and wet roads and the fact that I’ve been sick since Christmas and then I realized, I don’t have to be grumpy about this: I can find the silver lining.

Flipping this around: I love the way the streets look in the rain. I love the way the colors of the cars and stop lights dance off the wet pavement leaving colored streaks. I love the way the colors reflect off the raindrops on the windows. I love the peaceful sound of the rain hitting my car windows gently.

Bingo. Silver lining. I came to work with a smile on my face.

It is amazing how if we find the silver lining, how quickly our attitudes can change for the better.

So, introducing 2016: the year of silver linings.

I hope you join me.

The happy jar

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My happy jar is on the right, sitting on top of the box the pieces of paper are stored in.

For the third  year in a row, I kept a “happy jar” next to my bed and each day I put a slip of paper in it with one “happy” thing that happened that day. I also threw in events and movie tickets.

I started doing this after seeing a Facebook post about it. Years ago I set out to find my happy jar. I found it in a local antique store — an old glass jar, which I suspect was used to store honey at one time since it’s shaped like a bear. I love that old, vintage jar.

Each year, on Dec. 31, I empty the jar (which has usually takes several shakes as it’s been stuffed many times). This year’s pile, all 365-plus of them, took a while to go through, but I realized, most of them are simple, everyday moments. Reading all those made me realize how much I value the moments — after all, that’s what life is made of anyway — moments.

These moments included the birth of my nephew, Kizen, getting to see my cousin get married, attending my niece’s 16th birthday party, getting to spend time with my grandmother and my aunt from California and getting to spend time with my other aunt and cousins and lots of time with my mom, brother and his family. I also made new friends in 2015. I realized, reading all those notes of time spent with various people in my life that I’m close to — family and friends are most important to me. Which, on a side note, leads me to some of my new year’s resolutions, which include eliminating things that get in the way of those moments.

This year also was the year of movies for me. In 2015 I had movie tickets from the following: Crimson Peak, Kindsman: The Secret, Star Wars, Vacation, Jurassic World 3D, Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Still Alice, Poltergeist 3D, Paranormal Activity: Ghose Dimension and Everest. And those were just the ones I threw in the jar. I’m sure I saw more.

I also got to see Loretta Lynn in 2015, the Blizzard Bash and got to go to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, twice for long weekends. And there were lots of day trips in between taking photos and just exploring Kansas.

In the middle of all this, I also had a major surgery just a few days after my 39th birthday.

All the preceding is in one year — so many treasured moments. So. Many. I am so excited to see what 2016 has to offer. I have many personal goals that will make this year even better.

So, if you want a real treat, considering starting a happy jar (or box) and placing one slip of paper in it each day. Then sit back on New Years Eve and realize how many moments you might have forgotten that life blessed you with that year.

Happy 2016!

Simple, breathtaking beauty

12063385_428237064047205_8564471604112973876_nThis morning I was on my way to work and I was struck by a beauty so simple and so ordinary for our Kansas town. Our local grain elevator, Bunge, was surrounded by grain trucks waiting to drop off their load of precious grain.

I kept driving for a second, but was just struck by the scene, so I went back. I needed a photo.

It was hard finding a good vantage point since the grain elevator is right off a road that isn’t exactly easy to stop on, so I stopped on a nearby side street to grab the s12074843_428237080713870_3911829038915214424_nhot. Thank goodness for a parking lot off of a building right across the street.

When I was taking the photos, I could hear the hum of the elevator and the trucks idling, steam coming the trucks in the cool, crisp fall air. The photos were truly worth going back and taking.

The above photos embodies not only Kansas, but the product of the hard work our farmers put in year-round to provide products for our nation. These farmers and ranchers work tirelessly — and at great monetary risk — each season. They are at the mercy of the weather every year. You can’t predict what the weather will be like from year to year.

To illustrate how important farming and ranching is to our community, I found this information: according to the Kansas Department of Agriculture, “agriculture is the largest economic driver in Kansas, valued at more than $62 billion, accounting for 43 percent of the state’s total economy. There are 46,137,295 acres of land. Farmland accounts for 88.9 percent of all Kansas land. More than 21 million acres in Kansas is harvested for crops and over 16 million is pastureland for grazing animals. Kansas farmers and ranchers are feeding the world. In 2012, Kansas exported nearly $4.9 billion in agricultural products. The top five exports include wheat, beef and veal, soybeans, feeds and fodders, and corn.”

I am proud to be a part of this community I call home and this community full of so many hard-working people.

So, part of your food supply — and these photos — are brought to you by Kansas farmers.

A man and his dog

wpid-20150731_202640.jpgI haven’t been able to do nearly as much as I used to in these few weeks since surgery…major surgery will do that to you. But last night I was able to get out and see the world. I was thrilled to see a road we usually take was open after floods. Finally! They hadn’t done any work to it, but it was dry and passable.

An amazing, wonderful, post-flood world awaited. The views were stunning and the photos were incredible.

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This is algae under the trees.

The highlight of the evening was running into an equally-enthusiastic man on a fishing mission. We’d seen him before on these rides. He drives an old truck and always has his old black lab with him. While standing outside marveling at the incredible views that we haven’t been able to see for months, the man parked, let his dog out, caught a few minnows in hopes of a really big fish in return and then joined us further down the road.

wpid-20150731_203203.jpgIn listening to this man we learned he is a Vietnam veteran, with Agent Orange. He’s had a tough life dealing with broken relationships, nightmares from the war and fighting for his disability rights that took him over 40 years to obtain.

“I  just had two nightmares last night,” he said. “Man, I hope they don’t come true.”

We listened to his war stories, the government’s denial of his benefits and his stories of joy, hope and happiness. Last night it was just him and his dog. The previous night he had been fishing with family members and they had caught several fish — many were gar — which was much to his dismay. He loves to fish, hunt and enjoy his life. These are his stomping grounds too.

“If you know a woman who likes to fish, look me up,” were some of his parting words.

This man was a generous man, offering to let us fish with him, offering us beverages and plenty of stories. On that lone dirt road, we met a true gem — and I imagine a legend of sorts in the area. The next time I run into this man, I hope to do a photo shoot of sorts with him — a photo essay capturing the essence of his life, his struggles and his perseverance over it all. There’s a story in everyone, I promise. It’s just that some people are more open and willing to share than others.

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Baby armadillos were spotted!

wpid-20150731_200034.jpgIt’s those moments in life that makes the rest of the stresses melt away — in those moments listening to him tell stories about his life the rest of the world felt so far away. It was an important lesson — if we live in the moment — and allow that moment to consume us — the rest will fall away. Even if it’s just for a bit. Truthfully, the stresses of the world will be there waiting for us when we’re ready to return.

The evening was capped off with a stunning sunset over the marshes, many critters and a great feeling of joy.

Sometimes it’s time to let go

wpid-20150525_140935.jpgToday I cleaned out my “favorites” bar on one of my web browsers. It was time to let go of some of those websites.

My dad was killed in a house fire and on my favorites bar I had bookmarked the various stories done about the fire. Every time I logged onto that web browser, there it was — “man dies from injuries in house fire.” And other headlines that instantly took me back to that moment — multiple times a day.

Today, I decided to let go of those bookmarks. The pain it causes me on a daily basis does not serve me. It does not help me. It only jerks me out of the present moment and back into the past. I can’t change what happened to him…and he wouldn’t want me reminded of that every single day.

I still miss him every day. His smile. His laugh. His humor and the stories he had to tell. Man that man had stories.

I love you dad, but today I had to let go of those bookmarks. Doesn’t mean I’m forgetting you, just means I want to remember the good parts — not the tragic way you died.

Pre-session computer woes

wpid-20150412_161844.jpgSo, I had a great session with a great group of college students early this evening. If you’re reading this, you guys/gals were an awesome audience!

But it must be a law or something that says you must have computer woes before a session. I got to the hotel nice and early so I could give my PowerPoint presentation one final look. Of course, you can’t have a PowerPoint presentation with errors…especially at a journalism conference!

So, with time to spare, I find a quiet corner, open my laptop and prepare to givwpid-20150412_165256.jpge it one more look.

But the computer had other ideas.

It decided to update. And it took 20 minutes.

As I watched the spinning wheel of death on my computer, I became more and more desperate, even making a secondary plan that didn’t include my PowerPoint. Frantically texted my best friend to let her know how distraught I was.

But, lo and behold, my computer gracefully updated. The presentation went as scheduled.

Thanks to my wonderful audience, it was a great session.

I have a confession to make

So I have a confession to make.

wpid-20150329_140441.jpgHere goes.

I am a photo hoarder. I was looking in an application I use to back up my photos and I was shocked: in a little over two years I’ve acquired 10,898 photos. That’s 3,979 photos in 2013; 5,613 photos in 2014 and so far, in 2015, 1,298 (mind you, it’s only April). Clearly this problem is escalating for me.

Gasp.

What could I possibly have taken photos of to get my storage up to 10,898? Well, a little bit of everything. So, let’s take a trip into my photo storage and find out what’s in there. I’ve listed them below, in no particular order.

First, moments. Moments are so precious to me. Every single moment with a family member, friend or just out on a walk. I save ’em. And I could probably tell you the story behind at least 90 percent of those photos. I have a photographic memory, really.

Second, events. As a journalist, even if I’m not covering something, I take a ton of photos. Parades. Commission meetings. Accident and fire scenes. Family events. I can acquire 100 photos at a parade or family event. I’m constantly sneaking photos to the point where I turn the sound off my phone so nobody notices when I am grabbing the candids.

Third, my daily life. I love taking snapshots of my daily life. The flowers I saw on a walk. Sunrises. Sunsets. The way the street lights look through rain drops on a car window. The little dog on my route that I watched grow from a small puppy to the large dog he is today. Of course, there are my own dogs. I have  hundreds of pictures of them. Let’s not forget the barn cats I have at my house. Probably another couple of hundred. 8e2d9-img_0130

Fourth, downloads and screenshots. Ok, so I’ll admit, I don’t need to save these. But, I’ll call this one simply lazy. I just don’t feel like deleting them out of my storage.

Fifth, trips. This one is a major weakness for me. I take hundreds of photos — per trip. I document nearly each building I see, including the fine details of the architecture. Trees. Sunsets. The view from wherever I’m staying — multiple times a day. And of course, detail shots of the entire area I’m staying whether it’s a cabin or a hotel.

And yes, I take selfies. It’s interesting to look back on photos of myself — it’s amazing to see how much you change in a couple of years. Some of the more quirky pictures in my photo storage are hilarious selfies my mom and I sent back and forth to each other. We both swore we’d never show them to anyone else. They make me laugh just seeing them. But don’t tell my mom I saved hers!

wpid-sanddraw_0.2547671627253294.jpgSo, why do I need 10,898 photos? The memories of course and not to mention photography is a passion of mine and relieves stress for me. Do I plan on getting rid of any? Maybe the memes I don’t need or the screenshots, but the others, no. Photos are snapshots into our lives. I love to sit back sometimes and just review all mine. Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I cry at the people and animals that in just a couple of short years are no longer in my life.

So, while I clearly have a problem with photo hoarding, at least they’re store digitally. Well, most of them anyway. We won’t dive into the boxes of CDs and boxes of print photos that I acquired prior to digital photography.

The importance of noticing

I spent this past weekend in Eureka Springs and I learned some valuable lessons — the main one being this: so much passes us by when we aren’t looking, aren’t paying attention and aren’t participating inwpid-20150329_193744.jpg life right in front of us.

It was this sunset that taught me that lesson. This beautiful display of light that towered above the pine trees at the cabin went on for only a few minutes. I was inside the cabin heating up some water for my tea when I glanced outside. The forest floor was seriously glowing yellow. It was a beautiful, amazing sight how the light from the clouds spilled down and onto the forest floor.

So, outside I went with tea in hand to watch the display unfold. It went from a yellow glow to the brilliant oranges in this photo. In less than three minutes or so, it was gone. The sky darkened and yielded to the night sky as stars started to expose themselves.

wpid-20150329_140441.jpgLater, the sky filled with the moon and stars, and a new beauty unfolded. Still later that night, a raccoon rustled its way down the mountain, passing near the cabin. Again, a moment in passing that if preoccupied, I would have missed entirely.

It’s critical to stop, put down the technology, and just notice life — something I’m honestly not very good at. Something I really need to do more of. I realize how much I stare at that glowing screen checking for emails, comments to the paper’s website and of course, the damn Internet rabbit hole.

Eureka Springs was filled with so much beauty — flowering dogwoods, daffodils, and many other signs of spring. I’m filled with so much gratitude I got to spend some time there and for a few lessons I learned during the trip.

King of the dirt pile

On the way to Topeka Friday evening, I was driving up Burlingame Road and I saw a cattle feed lot. Several cattle were standing on a dirt pile as if to say “I’m the king (or queen) of the dirt pile.” Cattle and I go way back. I have several stories to tell of my adventures alongside (or in the presence of) cattle.

First, I find cattle remarkably fun to watch. I love to go out, drive around, find random herds of cattle and just watch them. It’s especially fun to go cattle watching in the spring when the new babies are frolicking in the pasture alongside their mothers. I suspect it’s not just the cattle — it’s just the fact that I’m out in nature, away from the hustle and bustle enjoying time away that relaxes me.

Second, I use cattle as a reference point. Really, I did this once. I was out driving around one day and I got lost (I often get lost) and I called a coworker at the paper for directional guidance. She wanted to know what I was seeing. Of course, this is Kansas, so I replied “I see lots of cows!” Followed by silence. Then followed a bit of laughter — you can’t guide somebody home by way of cattle. Of course, I eventually found my way back home, but the cattle didn’t help my journey home. “Follow the black cattle all the way back to Emporia!” No, that doesn’t work out too well. Better to get a GPS or better yet, don’t get lost.

I scared a bunch of cattle half to death one day. Really, this was totally an accident. I was young and driving on a gravel road out in Greenwood County. I took a corner a bit too fast, missed the corner entirely and nearly ended up in the middle of a pasture filled with cattle. Cattle scattered in every direction and then they just stopped and stared at me. I felt a little like they were going turn rabid, break the fence down and eat me for lunch. Of course, zombie cows don’t exist — unless you read the book “Apocalypse Cow.” Do I recommend the book? Only if you like zombie, flesh-eating cows, twisted humor and lots of gore. If you should be so curious, it’s by Michael Logan. I do not recommend this book for kids — and probably even most adults.

Then there was the time I was attending college obtaining my degree in child development. In my first life I aimed at running a child care center but became interested in journalism and switched my focus. I did my unit box on cows. A friend’s mom helped us make cow beanbags and I made games and flashcards all based on cows. For the record, I got a “C” on that project. I was highly insulted my cow unit box didn’t go over as well as I had hoped for the instructor. She must not like cows, I determined.

There there is cow tipping. Just kidding. I promise I’ve never attempted to tip a cow — nor will I ever. Those poor cows are attempting to sleep and they don’t need tipped! Unless of course, you tip them with some tasty cow-safe treat — just for being a really cool cow.

Oh and who can forget the cows in the movie “Twister.” “We have cows!” is a line I’ll forever laugh at. My favorite screening of the movie was at Emporia’s Granada Theatre, where they gave us inflatable cows and even sprayed water on the audience during the movie. Another really awesome cow moment.

I’ve even had my neighbor’s cattle wander into my yard, which makes my dogs insane, but for myself, I’ve just gained a front-row seat to cattle-watching. And maybe a few pits in my yard to boot. But hey, who doesn’t enjoy a free lawn-mowing by the neighborhood bovine?

Grateful for what I have….

TRIGGER…this will talk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)…please don’t read if this is upsetting to you….

I just did an interview for work…and I must say it brought a lot of things in perspective. I have omitted the names because the article hasn’t run yet…but here’s my intro:

“When the parents took their infant daughter, who was born on Aug. 1 to her first day of daycare, they had no idea the day would end in tragedy.
Nov. 15 was the day both parents had training at Taco Bell, where they are employed. That morning Nov. 15, their infant, and her older sister , 3, were dropped off at daycare. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary — but it would be the last time the parents would see their baby smile. Their baby died that afternoon from what authorities are saying is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).”

I don’t have many other words than that right now. And the story has stopped there for the moment. We all just get up and assume everything is going to be ok. Nothing prepares us for something like this. The story above is a probable case of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Now, the lives of these parents are in pieces. They held it together during the interview…remained strong….later the mother admitted that she’s been nervous about the interview because she knew she’d have to face what she’s trying avoid — all the details…all the events. As I watched the mother and father pull out the bag that they were given at the funeral home — the bag that held the guest book and the paperwork. I can’t imagine the pain and how that would feel to pull that out…knowing that is from your baby’s funeral. I felt the parents’ pain so much during that moment. It was a very pointed moment…very painful….

This is indeed a tragedy for the parents and a tragedy for everybody who knew this little girl. A reminder to every parent who lost a child…of the pain and heartache losing a child brings. Nothing will ever bring that child back. BUT….through generosity of the community this young couple lives in, their bills are being paid through donation cans they have put around town. We can all help. It won’t bring their baby back, but perhaps it will allow them time to grieve instead of worrying of whether they are going to be able to provide for their other child, who is 3.

On the way back to the paper from the interview, I did shed a few tears — but those tears were not for me…it wasn’t my pain. It was the parents’ pain that I felt. Yeah…those tears are for them…

Nothing I say here can make it better for them…I think this post is more for me…

Cherish what you have….we have no idea what is going to happen next…

BN