A Walk in the Woods Will Clear Your Mind

There are a crazy number of things demanding our attention every waking moment of the day. The world is upside down. Many things we thought we could count on are gone. It is incredibly difficult to know what and who to believe. Very nice people are saying opposite things.

A simple walk in the woods always helps to clear my mind. I’m not one to go venturing in forests I’m not familiar with, but I can easily follow a path. I especially like paths that have maps on a post every quarter mile or so. That way I know exactly how to get back to my car.

We often see chipmunks and there are lots of birds. On our most recent walk we were excited to spot two deer watching us carefully. We saw each other about the same time but they stayed still until we were out of sight.

A walk in the woods does a couple of simple things. Exercise is obviously the first. We can all use it. Walking is an easy activity and who doesn’t enjoy getting out in nature?

Walking is also a great way to set your mind on something other than the chaos around us. If you pay attention to the things around you as you walk, and choose to really see everything instead of assuming you already know what you’re going to see, it sends your thoughts into a different direction than the normals paths it has been taking.

That’s the point. If we don’t choose to see, listen, watch, understand, and stay alert, our minds automatically follow the paths we’ve walked again and again.

I can choose to see and think differently. It’s up to me.

Maggie, Our Loving Mini-Goldendoodle

Many months ago I began writing blog posts about the dogs we have loved. We both grew up owning dogs so our love of these precious animals began long before we knew each other.

Nine years ago after my wife suffered the terrible loss of her younger brother whom she loved dearly, this little one came to bring healing. On the way home from Indiana where she joined us, she crawled up behind my wife’s shoulders and went to sleep.

We realized Maggie was very intelligent as you can see by the “why aren’t you feeding or petting me?” look, and that she would be in charge.

We learned from our very first puppy it wasn’t a good idea to let Maggie sleep with us even if she whined. Right.

We used a small cage to train Maggie so she had her own little bedroom. Bedtime wasn’t a problem, but every morning she woke about forty-thirty or five o’clock and started whining. We kept her in a separate bedroom so I went in, laid on the floor next to her and put my fingers through the grate. She always went back to sleep.

Maggie loves to play and our house often looks like we have a toddler. Which really is true. She has a lot of toys but has a few favorites that she plays with most of the time. Just like a child.

Maggie is all grown up. She goes everywhere with us and loves to travel. We have to spell words like go, ride, her, and take. Problem is, she knows how to spell. She caught on pretty quickly.

Any actions out of the ordinary and she starts following us around the house. Her ears are up, she watches carefully and waits for key words like leash.

We had a speed boat for a few years and Maggie loved it. We bought her a life vest she wore proudly. She sat on my wife’s lap and kept her nose high in the air for all the luscious smells at the lake.

Maggie wants to go for a ride anytime, anywhere, no matter how short or long. I put her in our pickup just to move it from the driveway to the grass. She was as happy as could be just to go that far.

Maggie keeps a very close eye on the neighborhood. She has a huge voice for such a little dog at just twenty-seven pounds. She’s learning, at long last, she’s not supposed to bark at everyone. She sasses instead. It’s like a talking growl. In spite of her growl, everyone is a friend she expects to pet her.

Two years ago, my wife was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. She went through six months of chemo-therapy and three months of radiation. Maggie stayed very close to her, and still does. If I say, “Where’s Mama?” she immediately goes to find her.

We celebrated Maggie’s ninth birthday last April. Last night my wife asked me if I thought Maggie is starting to slow down. Sometimes she tries to jump on the bed and doesn’t quite make it. She still loves to chase a frisbee in the back yard so I don’t really think she’s slowing down. Maybe just a little.

Every night, my wife and I pray together before we go to sleep. And every night I say, “Maggie, let’s pray with Mama.” Maggie might be sound asleep on the couch but when I say it’s time to pray she comes running. She lays down between us with her head down. We didn’t teach her to do it, she just does. When we’re finished praying she goes to the end of the bed to sleep. She’s pretty special.

Of all the dogs who have loved our family, Maggie stands out. She is probably the most needy, but also the most loving furry companion we have ever had. She came just when we needed her and has been loving us ever since.

I told my wife that when it’s time to hold this one in our arms as tears stream down our cheeks, it’s going to be our last time to say goodbye to one of these precious gifts. Maggie loves so much, demands a lot, but has nothing on her mind other than wanting to be close to us. I can’t imagine that ever being repeated and it will be just too hard to let her go.

Discover Prompts Day 12: Feeling Light

One of the suggestions for writing about this Discover Prompt is recalling a time of feeling completely carefree and light. I gave that quite a bit of thought and I really can’t remember the last time I felt completely carefree.

We’re talking about a feeling. Feelings come and go. Who knows how many different feelings we have throughout the day? Feelings are affected by all kinds of things like appetite, weather, people, relationships, finances, caffeine, medications, hammers hitting fingers, entertainment, music, movies, conversations, news, social media, clouds, bills, illness, impressions, perspective, thoughts, possessions, lack of possessions, social conditions, religion, non-religion, education, emotions, bad coffee, good coffee, alcohol, smells, traffic, mechanical problems, temperature, rain, no rain, allergies, colds, flu, disappointments, expectations, hopes, dreams, plans, accomplishments, endings, beginnings, new surroundings, old surroundings, new jobs, old jobs, days off, weekends, Monday mornings, Friday nights, alarm clocks, time clocks, chimes, children, no children, parents, missing parents, driving, walking, thinking, purchasing, losing, acquiring, choosing, clean houses, dirty houses, embarrassment, gloating, plants, blossoms, leaves falling, leaves appearing, snowflakes, rain, water, having a boat, not have a boat, snow storms, snow days, lightning, thunder, ice, stubbing toes, getting lost, lights on, lights off, darkness, fire flies, wasps, mosquitoes, fish, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, ants in the house, spiders, centipedes, chocolate, lack of chocolate, politics, oil changes, car washes, flat tires, motor homes, travel trailers, flying, landing, waiting on a tarmac, trips being canceled, getting fired, getting hired, layoffs, hirebacks, recalls, refunds, overcharges, cold food, cold coffee, cold tea, restaurants closed, pizza, bad pizza, Tweets, posts, stats, likes, dislikes, memes, non-memes, misunderstandings, understanding, Instagrams, Snap-Chats, comprehending, confusing, concealing, revealing, knowing, not knowing, finding, dogs barking, dogs licking, cat tongues, cats purring, water boiling, cold water, clean clothes, body odor, dirty fingernails, and living.

To be totally carefree, one would either have to be an infant, which is not really being carefree but to be unaware of cares, or not be living.

Feeling light, whatever that means, evidently is something different. Someone said that seeking happiness as a goal is a mistake. If feeling light is feeling happy, than great. But happiness comes and goes from one moment to the next, depending on what’s happening around you. Being generally satisfied could be equated with happiness, and if it is, you’ll probably say you are mostly happy, if you are satisfied.

If you are consumed with dissatisfaction, can’t get enough, no matter what you have it’s not enough, then you probably feel like happiness is always just beyond your reach. There is nothing wrong with reaching, striving, working, growing, improving, but not with the price of never feeling a sense of accomplishment where you are right now.

What I am striving for right now, is more coffee.

Awareness of Your Personal Value

How are you feeling today? What kind of day are you going to have?

Whatever you have decided about the day and how you’re feeling in it so far, it is possible to make it better. Not perfect. Better.

When you decide your personal value is the foundation of every judgment and decision you make throughout the day, you are immediately on your way to having the kind of day you want instead of reacting to the day that happens to you.

Economics is based on scarcity. If everyone has the same thing it has no value. The item might be extremely useful, appreciated, necessary, but as far as monetary value is concerned, there is no demand because everyone already has it. If only a few have it, the demand is high because everyone believes they have to have it, and the price is high because there is not enough. That is economics, advertising, commercialism, and the common understanding of value in a paragraph.

Your personal value has nothing to do with economics, but you are trained to believe it does. You are constantly bombarded with messages that remind you you do not have enough, there is not enough, you can’t get enough, and no matter how hard you work, it will not be enough. The most damaging message that comes from all of this is, YOU are not enough, and never will be. You are constantly reminded that unless you have this, unless you go there, unless you’re wearing this, unless you’re eating that, unless you’re driving this, unless you live in that, you have no value. Oh, not in specific words, but that IS the message.

None of it is true.

Your value is you. There has never been another you. There is no other you. There will never be another you. We are all snowflakes! There are no two people exactly alike. There has never, in the history of humanity, been an exact repeat of anyone. Nor will there ever be.

Your value cannot be measured because there is no comparison. Your value has nothing to do with how you look, act, feel, live, think, like, dislike, hope, dream, work, play, eat, smell, run, throw, sit, or stand. Your value has nothing to do with abilities, talents, grade point averages, status, careers, awards, stars, accolades, applause, or friends. Your value is you.

Here is the key. Your value has nothing to do with anyone else’s value. You do NOT have value because someone else does not. You do NOT have less value because someone else has more. Your value is not in relation to anyone but you.

If you do not accept your value, then you will spend your life and effort trying to find it. You will value yourself when others value you. You will value yourself when you finally are able to buy that car the ads tell you to drive. Value will finally be yours when you can afford that house, get that promotion, go on that trip, receive that award, get that attention, be seen with those people. And then you will be left alone with not an ounce more real value than was yours all along. Your value is you.

The most damaging message that comes from all of this is, YOU are not enough, and never will be.

Your value is not a feeling. But not realizing your value will affect and drive your feelings. Your value is not your personality. But not realizing your value will affect whether you react or respond, whether you stagnate or grow, whether you trust or fear. Your value is not behavior. But not realizing your value will affect and drive your behavior.

Your value is you. Say it. “My value is me.” Say it until you’re tired of saying it, and then say it a bunch more.

Dale Parsons MA LPC

An Exercise in Patience

Are you tired of waiting for patience?

Model railroading is a great exercise in stretching your ability to wait for something good to happen. My current layout project began, literally, on the floor. The room I am using was a storage place for all the overflow stuff. I had to move, package, stack, sort, discard, retrieve from the discard bin, and re-stack, so that I could actually begin building a model railroad.

I’m trying things I’ve never done before. This is definitely the most pain-staking, detailed layout I have ever attempted. The bench-work is very sturdy. In fact, I have been ON TOP of the bench several times, working on the styrofoam risers, also something I have never used before.

I purchased the risers from Rider’s Hobby Shop in Flint, MI. I’ve had layouts with mountains for the trains to climb through, but the inclines were too steep, so the engines could only pull a few cars. Not this time! I’m using 2% inclines, which require 16 feet of space to lift the train four inches. Since my layout space is 21 feet long, I have plenty of room for a 2%, four inch lift! Voila!

I have two total loops, so I can continuously run two trains. The town of Maple Valley is going to be an attraction for those who climb aboard the old-fashioned passenger cars, pulled by a vintage steam engine. Beautiful!

Back to patience. It has already taken me over a year to get to this point. I still have not placed a single section of track. The bench work is incredible. The 1 1/2 inch foam underlayment is terrific. The 2% risers are all in place. The scratch-built bridges are really cool. They still have to be painted. Mountains are beginning to take shape. I have built a huge number of houses and buildings. I am scratch-building floral wire trees. Also something I’ve never done before.

If my plan was to run trains as quickly as possible, I would have quit a long time ago. Here’s the point. The process is the fun! But, the process is also the patience growth time. The secret is to be pleased, or at least “okay”, with where I am right now. If I do my best with each step of the process, then I can leave the layout at any time along the way and be satisfied.

I am not yet where I’m going. The goal line is not placing the last tree and bit of model grass. The process is the goal line. It isn’t stationary. The goal line is constantly evolving. The beautiful thing about model railroading is I can change my mind at any time, just because I decided to do something different.

Life is not fixed. It’s a process. Constantly evolving. Patience is a project of effort, trust, and satisfaction.

Coffee please.

Anxiety and Model Railroading

I love model railroading. It’s been my hobby since I was fifteen, and I loved trains long before that. I’ve been working on my newest layout, which, at the present time is still quite a way from rolling stock moving along the rails, for about sixteen months.

I’ve seen posts of modelers who appear to be living the dream, spending tremendous amounts of time working on their railroad as a result of this unbelievable struggle with Corona Virus. This is NOT a criticism! I applaud their dedication to the hobby, and the pictures I’ve seen are amazing. We can all learn from each other. I also know that most of these modelers are working on their layout because they are not allowed to go to work. So it’s a battle to survive. No, my problem is me. Because of anxiety I struggle with almost constantly, it is very difficult for me to stay in my train room long enough to get a lot done. Oh, I know that’s okay. It’s not a project that has to be completed on a schedule. It’s mine, for me, by my plan, schedule, design, likes, dislikes, frustrations, disappointments, delights. I don’t need approval for completed projects, but I do crave it.

I’m retired, so you would think my days might look like morning coffee, a glance at the morning news, drinking more coffee, then heading to the layout, then coming back upstairs to get more coffee. Nope. I have this constant nag that I should be productive, I should be doing something. And model railroading, for some reason in my mind, doesn’t fall into the category of productivity. Sure, it’s productive as far as my layout is concerned, but not productive in the overall scheme of needs. There is always something that should be done.

Actually, even writing this blog is part of that nagging. need to be productive. It’s something that is considered, started, re-started, edited, almost published, re-written, edited again, and then published. After which it is taken down and edited again. And yet, even with that, it’s not really productive because it’s not necessary to life. Neither is model railroading. But, on the other hand, model railroading is absolutely necessary because it can definitely contribute to a sense of accomplishment. I did it! That looks great! And it only has to look good to me.

So, the daily struggle continues. Some days are better than others, I just have to keep working at it. In the process, I will find time to work on the Maple Valley Short Line and feel good about it. Eventually, there will be trains moving. The scenery will begin to take shape. With this layout, I am determined to be incredibly detailed down to the smallest weed by the side of a shack. The win over anxiety is in the details. Little by little.

Model Railroad Therapy

Why would anyone go through all the work of planning, gathering, re-planning, gathering more, designing, deciding you haven’t gathered enough, redesigning, feeling discouraged, realizing gathering more would help you feel better, wondering whether you’re losing your mind, understanding that you’ll know you haven’t lost your mind when you see the things you continue to gather are soooo cool, completely changing your design, deciding the house you live in isn’t quite big enough to properly house the empire you are about to build, and finally settling on a manageable layout that satisfies you? Because it is great therapy. No, you don’t think of it that way, but it is. Model railroading is a microcosm of life the way we wish it was, or the way we think it used to be. No one builds a model railroad duplicating everything the way it is because as soon as you’re finished you realize something changed and now you have to rebuild. Model railroading works because you are in charge. No surprises, nothing unexpected, your opinion is the only one that matters. Reality isn’t like that at all. Model railroading is completely safe.

The secret to being satisfied with your work is not to compare yours with others. You can learn a great deal by watching how-to videos, reading books and magazines, but the bottom line in model railroading is deciding that what you have created is good. Not because it won an award, or was featured in a model railroading magazine, or your track-side photos had a million likes on social media, but just because you created it.

If you don’t have room to build a permanent (just kidding – no model railroad is permanent) layout, make that table-top empire great with what you have. Your imagination will work wonders with sectional track, snap-together buildings and plastic trees if you use it. When you’re done, put everything away and start dreaming about your next layout.

Okay, everyone, get started on that model railroad empire!