Archive for the 'Work' Category

Getting Grounded in the Tree

autumn tree

There’s been a lot going on the last few weeks, not the least of it being the “month” of Jewish holidays. Sometimes there seems to be no time to breathe, much less compose a post. At the office today I got up to take a short walk. It is too windy and cool outside so I walked about the hallways. As I headed back to my desk I was captured by the view out the window. I always appreciate that I can gaze out the windows and see trees and mountains and birds. Today is a perfect autumn day – clear blue sky, fall-colored leaves, puffy white clouds. I went and stood by the window and practiced a moment of mindfulness. Looking at the tree, the leaves, the bark, the branches the pods. Just breathing.

At Least It Wasn’t Raining

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The big broad Hudson (looking back to NY, NJ ahead on the left) under a beautiful blue sky

Yesterday was one of THOSE commuting days. It took me 2.5 hours to go 75 miles up, and just about 2.5 hours to return. That’s 5 hours commuting to spend about 6 hours meeting with folks. I spent a LOT of time simply sitting in traffic, waiting to inch forward. I remembered why I used to try to be on the road by 6am and not leave the office until after 6pm. That made for an extremely long day but a much shorter commute. Yesterday the weather was beautiful, although a bit chilly in the morning. I should have tossed on a jacket for the ride up. I was in the convertible and even with the windows up and the heat blasting, my shoulders were cold. Riding up it took me nearly 90 minutes to reach the Palisades. I think that might be 40 miles. That’s terrible progress. I think the fastest I ever got moving on the NJ Turnpike after Exit 11 might have been 40 mph. Most of the time it was 25 mph. On a road where I can usually hit 80 mph.

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Pretty sailboats on the Hudson by South Nyack

Coming home I spent quite a bit of time sitting on the Tappanzee Bridge (No, I will NOT call it the Mario Cuomo Bridge) as you can see by the pictures. Apparently there was some accident further north on the NY Thruway. Heading from Westchester county to Rockland county in the afternoon rush hour is always slow, but this took it to a new delay for me. I apologize for the poor quality. Every time I picked up the phone to take a picture, we got to inch forward half a car’s length. I finally held the phone up and pushed the button and hoped something would come out. Of course the camera assumed I was looking at the barriers, not the pretty sailboats out there on the Hudson. Still, I think you can get the idea. I do love looking at the river, the palisades, the mountains, the boats. That and the Kensico Dam and reservoir really make up for the ride on the NJT between exits 11 and 14. *grin*

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Before cropping

Trying to ‘Get’ Mindfulness

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Mindfulness is quite ‘in’ these days. Articles, courses, references – it seems to be everywhere I look. I wasn’t really sure what it meant/involved. I thought it was something about being aware in that moment but more than that was unclear to me. I knew more about “Willful Blindness” than about Mindfulness. For a fantastic discussion on that, you should follow Margaret Heffernan and/or read her book, ‘Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious At Our Peril”. I’ve heard her speak and she is FANTASTIC. But I digress. *grin* How like me.
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Yesterday at work we had an entire day devoted to learning – personal learning and corporate learning. I confess I was skeptical about the event. I thought it was going to be all ‘live’ presentations of folks droning on and on. It was nothing like that, and I was extremely impressed with how well it ran and the wide range of topics available to pursue. Folks who worked in large locations gathered together in party-like atmospheres, while us remote folks made do with our own kitchens (and cats). One of the options under the Personal Development track was a 45-minute session on Mindfulness. I decided to take that session. (Most of the offerings were a combination of pre-recorded presentations and reading materials, plus other relevant tasks or suggestions.)
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This particular session seemed to be aimed at how one could practice mindfulness at work. The goal of practicing mindfulness would lead to a feeling of calm, the ability to focus, reduction of stress, and overall better health. All of which would make you more productive, in all aspects of life. At least, this is what I took away from the session. As is my habit, I took screen shots of material I wanted to remember and revisit. I saved “10 mindfulness habits that will make you more productive at work”, “7 things mindful people do differently”, and “Some mindfulness exercises”. Although one of the ‘habits’ is ‘practice humility’ I’m arrogant and prideful enough to believe that I actually practice the 7 mindful habits most of the time. *laughing* Maybe a good part of the time if not most of the time. A lot of it sounded much like things my therapist used to advise me to embrace.
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‘Approach every day things with curiosity and savor them.’ That would probably be something I stop and do deliberately, or when I’m taken by surprise. I do love to learn how different things work and function and to watch skilled people practice their art. ‘Accept that things come and go.’ Oh yeah, that sounds like Howard for sure. “Accept”. He was always reminding me to accept how people are, to accept what I can’t control, to accept the decisions I make. Which leads, of course to another habit: ‘Make peace with imperfection, yours and others.’ ‘Make peace’ is another way to phrase one of Howard’s mantras: Accept, don’t Expect. 🙂
rock amid pebbles

I think the next 4 are really expanded commentary on the others. ‘Forgive mistakes, big and small’; ‘Show gratitude for good moments and grace for bad ones’; ‘Practice compassion and nurture connections’; ‘Embrace vulnerability by trusting others’. I’d like to think that I have made progress on these over the years. I probably have the most difficulty with forgiving and trusting. Being vulnerable is an uncomfortable feeling. On the other hand you don’t want to be all locked away, because that is suffocating.
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The 10 habits are ways to practice the 7 guides above. Many of them are ways to “be present”, “stay in the moment”. If you are working a specific project, it’s not that difficult. I imagine most of us can hone in and focus on something we are trying to accomplish. But mindfulness appears to be about staying in the moment and NOT working. And that is very, very difficult for me. My mind is all over the place the minute I try to “relax”. *laughing* I always tell this story about my first yoga class, at one of the local high schools. The first instruction was to stretch out on our mats and relax, and let our minds relax too. Well. Although Ahuva and relax both have 5 letters, other than the ‘a’ there’s not much else they have in common. As I lay there on the floor, I started worrying about my car. Did I lock it, was someone going to break in, what is this relaxing thing anyway, this is boring, what am I supposed to be doing, what am I supposed to be feeling, is everyone else getting this, why am I not getting this. By the time the instructor told us to sit up, I was hyper-ventilating and completely stressed. *grin* I never went back to that class.
tree root with moss

I cheated on completing the Mindfulness session. I marked it complete without doing the 10-15 minute practice. I decided I’d try it at home (even though I am NOT a trained professional). 🙂 I decided to give it a try in the hot tub at night. One of the suggested exercises was to take several deep breaths, counting as you inhale, hold it, exhale. That is something I learned 2 years ago when I re-attempted yoga and I do that when my mind begins spinning downward into the vortex. I thought I’d try a different exercise: Mindful observation. Pick an object and observe it for one minute, noticing color, texture, shape, smell, etc.
white pine needles

There’s not much to touch in the hot tub. (Do NOT go there.) I was going to stare at the trees, but they weren’t offering much inspiration. I decided to close my eyes and LISTEN, not LOOK. That I COULD do. It was lovely. I don’t know what creature produced the sounds I heard. One was definitely crickets or cicadas. I don’t know what the other very interesting insect-sounding noise was. I was able to sit there and let go of everything but the moment. I focused on the sounds, I focused on the water moving against my hand, I ‘tracked’ the plane that flew overhead, I heard more bird/insect noises further way. I noticed my breathing, without trying to control it. It really worked. *smile* I sat there for SEVERAL minutes (I think), simply being. I would open my eyes after a bit, move about, settle down and close my eyes and begin again. I felt relaxed and refreshed after I got out of the tub, and did NOT have difficulty falling asleep afterwards.
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Today at the office I tried another of the suggestions – Notice 5 things in your day that you don’t typically notice. There are probably a lot of things inside the office that I don’t usually notice, but there are also probably very good reasons why I don’t look there. 🙂 I decided to try to focus during a walk – LOOK at things on my walk, feel the sun and wind, smell whatever might be there (and of course hear the pterodactyl yelling from the warehouse next door).
weed with berries

It went surprisingly well. For starters I walked much more slowly than I usually do, and I made a point to look at the plants, the asphalt, the stones and trees. I saw many plants that I don’t usually notice, and noticed the bark on the trees, the pine cones, little seedlings, spider webs. It wasn’t just the noticing. It was the not having anything else churning in my mind. Usually I’m obsessing about what I have to do and what I’m feeling and why am I feeling that way. There was NONE of that. I was moving slowly, focused on seeing, not thinking, feeling the sun and the breeze. The most thinking I did was when I thought about aiming the camera to take a picture to share. It was incredibly restful.
tree bark with fungus

I stayed focused on seeing, feeling, sensing, for easily 25 minutes. Near the end of my walk I realized that I was losing my ability to stay focused on what was in front of me. I’d been thinking about what I needed to write, about curating the photos I’d been taking, wondering if I could escape down the shore one of these days. That was the point when I checked the time and saw I’d been out there for my usual 30 minutes, but nothing about it felt ‘usual’. I hadn’t even realized how much time had passed. In any case, I think there is a lot here that could be useful if I can figure out how to make it work for me. Huh. There may be something TO this mindfulness thing. *smile*
red leaf in grass

Wrong Season for This

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Not fair, not fair, not fair. Picture me throwing myself on the ground, having a major temper tantrum, arms and legs pounding the earth. I have a head cold. I mean, REALLY, who gets a head cold NOW???? I woke up Saturday with a scratchy sore throat. I thought it might have been from having dinner out the night before. Although the restaurant was lovely, they had music playing, which means everyone talking ups the volume, and ups it again and again because of everyone else upping the volume. But it didn’t go away. I felt poorly all day and ended up taking a nap. I woke up Sunday still congested and thought well maybe it’s allergies. Season is changing, maybe there is some pollen out there. I didn’t let it stop me from the important things like running errands and going to the block party. Monday – still congested and headache-y but I waged another foray in the Battle for a Beautiful Basement. I figured it was allergies (and dust in the basement) but when I went to the office on Tuesday, it would be banished by the closed ventilation system.

No such luck. 😦 I have a cold. I spent the entire day in the office blowing my nose and drinking gallons and gallons of hot and cold liquid. 😦 I couldn’t go visit my other mother as planned because I am obviously laden with germs. I did my coworkers a favor and am working from home today. I have my cold water with OJ to one side, my tissue box to the other, and an ever-growing mound of dirty tissues that I toss whenever I get up. It’s NOT FAIR!!!!! Itchy eyes, snuffles, post-nasal drip, and such a headache. Sigh. Do you think this means I might be spared a cold in the winter? Oh make it so.

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Some of us are feeling fine and having a good day.

Cicadas

To me the sound of cicadas is an “end of summer” sound. This feeling has grown on me over the years – I don’t believe I felt this way as a child. It seems to me that I become aware of the cicadas in September, the end of summer both literally and emotionally. They are sooooo loud once they get going. This year I became aware of them in July. I’m not sure why that was. Did they emerge earlier? Am I listening for them? One day they will be a cacophony wherever I am. The next day it is as if they never emerged. Yesterday morning I came to the office and was slammed by a wall of cicada sound when I got out of my car. Today – nothing but the pterodactyl screech of the adjoining warehouse.

For your listening pleasure, should you like cicadas, I give you the other day at work. That buzzing humming noise on the video – that is ALL cicada. That’s what they sound like. I never see them but oh wow, just listen to them sing.

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Office Creativity

the binding

Some days in the office, as the clock ticks towards 5 pm, and the air is quiet and still with everyone out on vacation, I raise my head and look about me to gaze upon the kingdom. I keep 2 live plants in my cube, and some silk plants as well. My coworker Bill probably does a better job than I of keeping the live ones in that state. He’d pointed out to me the other morning that one of them needed pruning. As I gazed about I saw the plants and realized that they needed more than pruning. They need support and they really need more soil in their pots. There wasn’t much I could do about adding dirt at that point but I thought I could at least make them stand upright.
securing the knot

My office appears to be empty of anything useful in staking a big plant. No rulers, no sticks, no rubber bands, no string – pretty much nothing that can be utilized as garden implements. Where there is a will, there is a way. I can be very determined.
tacking it to the wall

I was ransacking the drawers and shelves trying to find something string-like to tie the plant together. Nothing until… AHA!!!! Look at THAT!! A PHONE CORD! It was huddled in a corner of my desk, doing nothing, feeling neglected and useless. It was meant to work with a headset but the headset was missing a vital part, so nothing ever came of that project. A phone cord is long, pliable, and strong. But how would I pull the looped cord so that it pulled the plant upright? I have THUMBTACKS!!! Hmmm. The pressure from the plant will probably pull out a thumbtack, and I’m not sure if the tacks will hold the thick cord. Bingo! I have lots of twisty ties from cables in my desk. Make a loop with the twisty tie and tack THAT to the wall. And use LOTS of thumbtacks. Even so, additional reinforcement would be good in case thumbtacks begin popping out of the cubicle wall. Scotch tape. I have tape. One last touch – the binder clip to keep the knot in the cord. *grin*

Now if I can only remember to bring in some potting soil.

office support

Making Do On the Lunch Hour Walk

lunchtime lake

I like to get out and take a walk at lunch when possible. I’ve done that at every location I’ve ever worked. Before my current location, I worked in a very nice office park. There was a lake, the lake had turtles, wading birds (crane, egret, whatever it was), lots of green grass, pebbled paths for pedestrians, and of course wonderful coworkers (I have to put that in – I know some of them read this *grin*). Not only was it lovely right in front of our building, but I could walk through the trees behind our parking lot into another area with paths and trees. It really made for a lovely stroll.
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Well, nothing lasts forever. It wasn’t wedding bells that broke up the old gang but cost efficiencies. First they told us we should/could all work from home and they closed the office. (I don’t LIKE not having a place to be with my coworkers so I kept nudging and nagging until I got an assigned desk in a new location, close to my home.) Shortly after they kicked everyone out, they decided that everyone had to be co-located. I was already relocated, but the rest of my group would be relocated to another state. As you might imagine, by now most of them have relocated to other companies or retirement.
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I, however, continue to work and continue to come in to the office (a lot, if not always). I still like to walk at lunch when the weather and my schedule permit. But the current scenery is a far cry from that to which I’d become accustomed. (Speaking of cries – remind me to come back to THAT.) As you can see from the photos, I walk around the parking lot. Yes, I walked around the parking lots before as well, but they were surrounded by lovely trees and green grass. This parking lot is surrounded by fences and warehouses and storage facilities. The parking lot itself could serve as a set for a post-apocalypse movie. I mean – LOOK at the plant above. Doesn’t that look as if it has been exposed to some kind of radiation? It certainly does not convey an image of health and serenity.
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One of the neighboring facilities is a warehouse with large openings for trucks to back in and unload. Unearthly pterodactyl-like screeches sound irregularly from that facility (okay, I don’t KNOW that they are pterodactyl-like sounds but they sound the way you’d THINK a pterodactyl would sound). The sounds are triggered by sensors in order to keep birds from flying into the warehouse. I have no idea how effective they are as bird-deterrents but they enhance the post-apocalyptic sensation wonderfully. I debated recording it for you but that required more patience than I had. 🙂 Not to mention that I didn’t want to stand around too long and become pterodactyl lunch. Maybe they aren’t recordings.
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But still, I get outside and I do get to walk, and there are some interesting leaves. In the spring there is even a row of day lilies along one of the sides of the building. I have no idea what trees are shown in my photos. I know that one of those things looks exactly like the enormous 12 foot tall weed growing outside my dining room window. I usually try to pull it before it reaches the berry stage but I gave up on weeding this year. Can any of YOU identify it? I don’t know what the fern-y tree is either, but I like the pretty orange things on it (seed pods? leaves?). I walk up and down the aisles of the lot, looking at the cars, trying to find attractive distractions. To date my best distraction from the walking and the post-apocalyptic blues has been YOU – I write posts in my head until I get back to my desk! Thanks for reading!!!! 🙂
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