Friday, September 28, 2012

What's Inspiring

I used to take a lot of long trips by car. I would drive 6-12 hours like it was nothing. On those drives I would strategically plan my music for the trip. At times I have listened to audio books. Within the last year, I heard a radio show that was people getting up to an open mic and telling a story. I wish I remember the name of the show. The people on it were wonderful story tellers. They paused in the right spots, and had wonderful ways to tell their stories.
That night I went home and wrote like crazy. I wrote about big, significant events in my life. I wrote about everyday events in creative ways, and I made up things.
A lot of time I am inspired by people's writing, a good book, an amazing story.
I am also inspired (I am sure others are too) by nature. What is more inspiring than nature. From sunsets, to starry nights, to chirps of birds, to the dew on the grass, nothing compares to nature.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Life as a Writer

Besides eating Ramen noodles, life as a writer is an amazing life-upgrade. The life of a writer is like being given different glasses to view the world. I had the unfortunate event to not get glasses until I was in college. I had needed them since I was at least in 7th grade, but somehow I was either good at the eye-chart or nobody picked-up on it. When I finally got my glasses, it changed my world. I did not realize I was supposed to be able to see the details of the leaves on the trees, I no longer had to squint to see the other end of the basketball court to read my player's number, and I did not have to sit in the front of the class at school.
Writing is like that. Once I committed to my writing, it was as if I was carrying around a ficticious backpack to collect my creative thoughts for the day. I grabbed from conversations, things I drove by, stories people told me, etc. I built characters out of strangers I passed by.
My characters and plots run through my mind continuously. I wake and write, I go to work and take notes, before I go to bed I write. I actually considered motivating on my invention of the "time remote control" to freeze time for more time to write. I actually wrote this blog in .5 seconds due to the remote. It would have been quicker but I got peanut butter on the remote and . . . I won't bore you with details.
Write writer write.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How to Give Potentially Bad News

Lately as a supervisor I have had to give potentially bad news. Throughout our lives we have to give "bad news" to people. As a leader, it is tricky of how to deliver bad news. At times, you need to hold back your own emotions on the news, but also validate how this change or information impacts the team.

First: I was thinking of the phrase "potentially bad news." You first have to decide if this is actually bad news. I might think it is bad, but will my audience think it is bad? If it is only me who thinks it is bad, then I need to deal with it myself.

Second: You are confident the audience (your team, your family, your friends) will consider this bad news. Now you have to come up with a game plan. There are several tactics I have taken.
  • Downplay the news. This seldom is fully successful but might take some of the bite out of the news.
  • Distract. Tell the news but then change the subject.
  • Validate & Empathize. I think this always has to be an ingredient. It, however, cannot be overused and has to be coupled with "how are we moving on from here."
  • Donuts & O.J. Couple something good with the bad news. This back-fired on one agency. Everytime they had to tell people bad news, they brought a ton of food to the meeting. The workforce came to associate food with bad news.
  • Fictional Horrible News. You can tell them untrue bad news. For example, if you have to tell your staff that they have to sign-in and out of the office everyday, tell them they are are going to be given gps devices so you can track them. Okay that one is a little far-fetched. I have seen kids use this tactic on parents. There is the classic letter that was sent by a college girl to her parents stating: she moved across the country, married into some cult, got a tattoo, etc etc. Then at the end of the letter she writes, no I actually am just failing math.
  • Have a Plan. This is probably one of the most successful tactics I have had. If there is a change or some bad news, how are you going to weather this information? What is your plan moving forward? Have the team come up with some plans. This should be coupled with some accurate amount of empathy and validation.
  • Don't Say Change is Opportunity! That translation is wrong anyway. At least that is what I read.
  • Radical Acceptance. Teach people the DBT term. It means figure-out what you can change and not change. Change the things you can and find a way to accept then ones you cannot change. This is very similar to the Serenity Prayer.
  • Be supportive. If you are a strong leader, people will look to you. There are few leaders who I would follow into a raging inferno, but they do exist. I feel like my team would follow me blindly into a charge. I do not take that trust lightly. That is a big responsibility.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Best Wake-ups

My best wake-ups.

Above & below are pictures of a sunrise viewed from Cadillac Mtn. in Acadia N.P.
This makes me think of some of my favorite G-rated ways of waking-up.
Waking up in the Florida Everglades with tree frogs looking down at me through my tent mesh. Under a Utah sky in the middle of some random dessert.
In June falling asleep on the grass under a star filled sky in the Grand Tetons. Pulling my Sierra Design mummy sack drawstring so my eyes were uncovered and peered at the star above. Waking with my sleeping back covered in snow, me still warm, and sitting up to two moose 30 yards from me.
Waking facing the blue sky with a gunnel on each side of me and thwart in front of me as my canoe meandered around a small lake.
Waking after publishing my first book, Trail Swap.
The outdoors renews, revives, and inspires.

Best Way to Pack for Any Trip

I have taken many trips in my lifetime. I have had to pack 12 kids and 3 adults for a month long river trip, done roadtrips up the west coast, weekend trip to the beach, and various other trips. In that time, it has been second nature on how to pack for a trip. Here are my systems for packing for a trip that might work for you.

1. Having certain luggage already packed with basic essential. I have a duffle back and the side pockets always have the standard toiletries I need like a few pairs of contacts, Q-tips, hair brush, deodorant, travel toothbrush, etc.

2. If camping or backpacking, it is VERY helpful to have a bag or tote box already packed with all your standard camping needs. That will help motivate you to take more trips because you will have less work to do on the front end.

3.Not forgetting things: Think sleeping, eating, bathing, safety, environment, and fun. About everything fits in these categories.

4. Don’t overpack. Learn from previous trips. You didn’t need 3 sweatshirts last trip, so odds are you won’t this trip. Traveling lighter is better in my book. I once went from the U.S. to Germany for a week and all my stuff fit into one standard book bag that I carried on.

5. If going on a road trip and staying in a hotel, have a “hotel bag.” This is extremely helpful if traveling with kids. This way you do not have to lug 4 separate bags in. Put the whole family's clothes, toiletries, bathing suits, activities, etc you need for that one night in one bag. (My better-half's idea.) Genius!

6. Laundry: Consider if you want to do laundry on the trip. Even campsites these days have laundry facilities. Do you want to pack 2 weeks of clothes or just launder?

7. Learn how to pack efficiently. It can be annoying living out of a duffle bag. Organize it so that you can get to it easier. Should you put outfits together? Organize all the shirts together?

8. Buying or renting. What can you buy or rent there so that you don’t have to take it. I finally got a canoe, then the thought of driving 3 hours with it on top of my car was not too pleasing. I ended up renting one instead. It was better than a canoe flying down the highway. Even for smaller things, does it make more sense to buy or rent it there. Boogie boards at the beach, bikes, etc might fit in this category.

9. Do not pack right before the trip. Chaos, swearing, frustration and forgetting things come from this. If you can pack the car the night before, great.

10 List. I have a laminated list for trips. That way I am not reinventing the wheel each time I go on a trip.

How to Prepare for Camping

It just rained, the firewood is all wet, and everyone is hungry. It is no fun being unprepared for the outdoors. Sure there are a lot of Survival Experts out there who can live off of grass dew and buffalo eye balls. This article is for the average person who would like to be in the woods relaxing, inspired, and enjoying his/her time.
  • Alone or Companion: All camping and outdoor books and trainings I went through advised against going camping, hiking, canoeing, etc. I tend to enjoy the wilderness with others and that is my advice also. (If you do go alone, see my post on Traversing the Outdoors Alone) If not going alone, choose your companion. Will it be your partner, a friend, a family, a bunch of friends? Whomever it is, make sure you all are in agreement of the plan for the trip. (Camping with kids is a whole other story for a whole other post.)
  • Pick a time to go: Pick the length and right time of year (season) to go. If you stay too long, you may never go camping again. If it is too short of a time you spend more time setting up and breaking camp than relaxing.
  • Pick a place that fits your needs: If you are bringing children with you, be realistic about the conditions they are ready for. If you or your travel mate have back or other medical conditions, choose accordingly. Are you bringing a dog? Make sure the place allows pets. Are you and your travel mate happy with just sitting around the fire all day? Or do you need things to do in the community? Are you staying in a cabin, tent, trailer, lean-to etc. Where ever you choose to go, make sure you look at all the amenities and things to do. Read the reviews about the place.
  • Bring the right Gear: The gear will vary depending on the type of camping you are doing. Is there a bathroom available? Are there showers? A good way to think about what to bring is thinking of these categories: sleeping, eating, bathing, safety, environment, and fun. About everything fits in these categories. (See my other post Best Ways to Pack for Any Trip.)
  • Food & Drinks: A hungry + tired camper  = unhappy camper. If you choose to bring food you normally won’t eat, odds are you will not be happy. For instance, if you choose to bring dried fruit and canned spam, because that is what you think camping should be about, your tummy will not agree. Spend a good deal of time planning out the meals, and snacks. 1. Figure out how many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners you will have while on your trip. Bring plenty of water!! 2. Consider if you will have to transport the food. If you are car camping (camping with a car close by) weight is not a factor. If you are hiking during your trip, you should avoid canned food and fragile foods. Figure out how you will store your food. Is there is a lot of bear activity where you will be camping? Some outdoor enthusiasts spend a lifetime trying to outsmart animals in the wild. Don’t underestimate the critters! Also, it is your job to protect these critters from food they should not be eating.
  • Fun!: Don’t fool yourself. You will not be fishing, hiking, swimming, and sitting around the fire the whole time. Bring other activities to keep you busy. If kids will be coming, that is a whole other situation. (There will be another post for this also.) Think about bringing a book, cards, board games, nature books, camera, journal, sketch book, frisbee, baseball and mitts, wiffle ball, hackey sack, and other sports equipment.
       These are just some basic hints into beginning or continueing to enjoy the outdoors!

Traversing the Outdoors Alone

In my book Trail Swap Swap (the female main character) hikes alone from Georgia to Maine. Swap had a few close calls, but was aware of ways to be safe. If you are planning to hike, ever if for a few hours, you should take precautions.

Picturing a young adult withering away in the Alaska outback in the book Into the Wild kind of makes me not want to camp or long-time hike alone. I, however, have done it. The fears and worries that I went through, inspired me to write this article. If you are going to hike, even if it is a day hike alone please do it safely. There are few things I am weary of in the wilderness: weather, people, skunks, and dehydration.

  • ALWAYS let someone know where you are going and when you are planning to be home. Leave a message on someone’s answering machine/voicemail if you can’t reach someone. I have had several times when I was in the woods longer than expected and thought, “Nobody knows I am out here.” I have learned my lesson.
  • At least bring your best friend. Bring your dog. It is a nice psychological barrier to thinking you are alone. People with ill intentions are less likely to bother an individual who has a dog. (Now if you have a mini/small dog depending on their spunk, I am not sure if that would work.)
  • Bring plenty of water.
  • Bring the proper gear. Bring the right footgear, clothing appropriate for the weather, survival pack, a cellphone, police/ranger number, and a map. Remember there are several true and fictional stories where someone throws away a map and throws caution to the wind and ends up meeting their doom.
  • If there is a sign-in log at the front of the paths, sign in your name and a companion’s name. When I hike, I write down my brother’s name. I figure, he has the same last name, and people are less likely to think I am hiking alone. *Women/girls even who are hiking in pairs should consider putting a males name down on the registry.*
  • When hiking or camping and running into someone, if you can pull it off, don’t admit you are hiking alone. You can say things like, “Did you run into my husband/brother? He ran ahead to pull off the trail and go to the bathroom.” If you have your campsite set-up while pointing to the tent you can whisper to passing hikers/campers, “My fiance is sleeping.”
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Where would you go to for help? Where is the nearest road, house, etc. Be aware if there are any vehicles coming down the road as your path crosses a road. The less people who see you hiking alone, the better.
  • Carry some sort of protection. You have to decide on your comfort with this. Depending on state laws and park laws, you can carry pepper spray, a knife, or a gun. I have a friend who used to hike in NY State with a shotgun strapped to her pack. If that is not a deterent to people, I don’t know what is.
  • Know your ability. Don’t take any unnecessary risks (swinging from vine to vine, boulder jumping etc). You have less access to the hospital in the woods. If you are tired, slow it down, hydrate, and take care of yourself. People tend to get hurt in their first few days of hiking due to fatigue and injuries related to pushing themselves too hard. Don’t overpack your pack. Practice hiking with your pack before you go out.
  • Avoid skunks by avoiding dusk and before sunrise hiking. Avoid other nocturnal animals by stowing your food appropriately and not leaving food scraps around. Don’t bring food near or in your tent.
  • Stay on the trail!!! Besides your potty breaks, stay on the trail. Not only safe but it supports the “Leave no Trace” rule.
  • For more ideas, of how to be safe in the woods you can read my fiction ebook Trail Swap.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Creative Surplus

There is a lot of creative surplus. It has been surging through my veins, packed in my childhood footlocker, hanging in my closet, and stacked in my basement. Like those stocking food, weapons, medication, and supplies for the end of the world as we know it, I have been stocking it up.

It is time I start handing it out. Instead of dispersing it through an eyedropper, I have knocked over a water tower of it. It flowed through town so quickly and suddenly that everyone in this two-horse town had to take notice. The water tower is in the form of an ebook, TRAIL SWAP.
It is the first of many voyages my offspring will take. Thanks for starting off on this voyage with us. Not sure if we will make money or become famous, but we will share in a plethora of laughs.