I never dreamed of being a tap dancer, so I was surprised, a few years ago, when the listing for “Tap Dance: Beginner” caught my eye. The schedule was good (Saturday mornings from 10:00 - 11:00), and the price was reasonable: $12/lesson for drop-in, less if you sign up for the full eight week session, and shoes. Shoe prices start at $25, though for beginners smooth-soled shoes were acceptable.
But I wanted the shoes.
It took three orders to get a pair that fit properly and I was ready.
Or at least I thought I was.
I was dizzy after the first class, excited after the second, and felt doubt creeping in after the third. The fourth class was the best. We learned new steps and the routine at the end brought things together nicely. I felt like I was starting to get it.
But it didn't last. Partly because the class moved too quickly for me to keep up, and then the pandemic hit.
Starting a new hobby is an exciting adventure. But it can also be rife with doubt, confusion, and questions.
• What does it cost to get started?
• Are you willing (or able) to make the investment?
• Can (or will) you commit the time it will take to master whatever it is?
All of these questions are important, but what I've learned is, we can't know until we try. And when we do, it may just lead to something else.
Is tap dance for me? I don’t think so. But I'm glad I gave it a go. And the shoes? I haven't parted with them ... yet.
Are there hobbies you've tried that have or haven't worked out as expected?
I'm working on a series of field guides ... interactive workbooks to help you explore new hobbies and interests. The first is slated for next month: all about summer. Ideas to feed your curiosity, help you step away from technology and explore the world around you.
What do you look forward to when summer arrives? Tell me about what it is and why you enjoy it.
Alarm bells sounded high and low, all around the pond. From a distance we heard the persistent screech of the blue jay, then the urgent squawk of a duck, and as we neared the pond, the bong-bong call of the frogs.
What, we wondered, was going on?
Stopping at the edge of the pond, we scanned the water, the trees, and the sky, listening and looking.
And then we saw it. A big owl, a Barred Owl (yes, we had to look that up when we got home), perched in a tree on the edge of the pond.
I'm not sure if the frogs were sounding an alarm, mating, or doing what frogs do, but the duck and the blue jay were visibly agitated. The ducked paddled frantically from one area to the next squawking all the way. The blue jay, in full screech with fanned tail, was swooping down at the owl ... from the left, then right, again and again and again.
But that owl.
Talk about composure. It flicked an ear and spun its head at the bluejay's aggressive fly-by graze, but otherwise it remained still. Focused.
Fascinating stuff ... and the final entry for the day in yesterday's good things journal:
3. the owl in the woods
I started the good things journal last month. A list of three good things I see, experience, do, or feel during the day. Every day.
It's a matter of semantics, really. Like me, you've probably seen the prompts to keep a gratitude journal (and maybe you already do), but somehow that never materialized for me.
Until I read about a "good things list."
It's simple. I keep a small notebook and pencil within ready, on a table in the living room. The idea is to make a list of three different good things you experience every day. Short entries, a few words each.
Here are some of the entries I've made (with the original numbering):
3. clean sheets
4. trip to the library
5. takeout pizza from Otto
2. raking the yard
1. the sun is shining
2. almond flour chocolate chip cookies
4. Wordle in two
1. a good night's sleep
2. got the laundry done
3. the own in the woods
Like the owl, despite the unexpected swoop of outside influences, I've remained focused.
One entry at a time ... on the good.
And yes, it feels good.
Sometimes I write one thing at a time as it comes to me during the day, other times I write my list at the end of the day. And more often than not, once I get started, I'll remember something and add that to the list, coming up with not just three, but four or five, sometimes six or seven good things about my day. Not monumental, over-the-top exciting things, but small pleasures that, in remembering and recognizing them, make it a better day ... today and tomorrow.
It seems I just can't help myself. Every time I make pancakes, which isn't all that often, I use the end of the batter to make heart shaped pancakes ... for anyone who's getting a plate. Doesn't matter how old you are.
Last week I made pancakes, and when I put the plates on the table (for just the two of us), there were smiles all around, including mine.
It's a silly thing and I sometimes say, nah, don't bother ... or, that's for kids, don't be so goofy. But then I do it anyway ... because even though it's silly and a bit corny, it shines some extra light on the day.
So let's not worry about being silly or corny or sappy(!) and do it anyway because it feels good ... no matter how old you are.
We never had a dog when I was growing up. There were a few cats, a snake even, but never a dog.
I can't even recall knowing any one dog all that well, but there came a day when I wanted one.
So I went looking for one, talked about getting one, did my research on bringing a dog home, and finally got one. A basset hound.
Why a basset hound? I think it was the ears. They have big, beautiful ears. Velvety ears. And they are solid dogs, well-tempered, and laid-back.
Unfortunately, they are not great about walking in a straight line, moving along from here to there ... at least not Agatha. Nope, she'd walk a few paces and stop. Sniff, move on, and stop again.
After reading the most popular and recommended books about having a dog, I understood the importance of daily exercise, and made sure we went out. Every day. We went in the woods and around the neighborhood, but it was always the same ... a herky-jerky trek from here to there.
Now, granted, I wanted a dog that was easy-going, but when it was time to get her out for some exercise, it became an exercise in frustration. For me and the dog.
The frustration, I realized, came from expecting Agatha to power walk, get moving, and do what I wanted her to do ... to go against her nature. Bassets are after all, scent hounds. Sniffing is what they do. Once I figured that out, I enjoyed our time outside.
What I learned
I learned to take myself for a walk first ... alone. And to accept what Agatha was teaching me ... to slow down and notice things.
In the coming weeks, I'll be releasing a new picture book, Things I Notice When I Walk The Dog.
It's a picture book memoir. Agatha's legacy ... and part of mine.
Think memoir's not for you?
If you think memoir is not for you, think again. People love stories and you've got some good noes.
Stories you can share in a collection or how-to book.
Remember, memoir is not an account of your entire life. It's the account of an experience or event where some kind of understanding, lesson, or insight occurred.
How did you get started doing what you do? What does someone entering the field you're in need to know? What do you wish you knew? Share it and help someone in the same position.
Have you completed a self-initiated challenge where you learned something you didn't expect?
What do you do in your spare time? Are you a mast chef, a marathon runner, or member of a band? What's that like? Let us know.
Your insights and experiences are unique. And that's why we want your take on how it's done and why it matters.
Once you get started, you'll be surprised a what you can share.
Writing about your experiences can feel self-indulgent or out of reach in the beginning, but you tell stories all the time. The challenge is putting them down on paper.
Want to ease into writing? Check out these new tools.
The Hello Dahlia! printable stationery and journal papers.
The FREE workbook to jump-start your writing.
If you're working on a project, hang in there. Try something different. But most of all, don't give up. Give it time.
This cactus is my only plant. I'm fairly certain the only reason it survives is that it is a cactus and it doesn't need a lot of water. And that's a good thing, because I forget to water it.
All the time.
Dry as a bone when I take it down off the shelf. So I water it and talk to it and earnestly try once again to remember not to let it go so long.
It was a little starter plant when I brought it home. Just a few sprigs. But it was healthy. It blossomed and flowered ... and maybe even more than once a year, I think.
Is that possible?
When it grew too large for the starter pot, I re-potted it ... and then again when it outgrew that pot. It did well and continued to flower. Year after year.
Until it didn't.
It just stopped flowering and I don't know why. I talked to it, I paid more attention to watering and fertilizing, and did some research. But nothing. For years.
I tried moving it from one room to another, some with more light, some with less, but it never made a difference. Last year I put it in yet another location, high up on the top of a book case.
And something shifted.
It came back to life with a whole bouquet's worth of flowers. More plentiful, joyful, pink, and beautiful than ever.
Was it a fluke? Would it flower again? I wasn't sure.
It was not a fluke. It blossomed again this year with another round of fireworks ... new blossoms opening day after day.
I'm not sure what made it stop flowering, and I'm not sure what made it blossom again, but it reinforces the idea that we have to hang in there. Keep trying different things until something clicks.
I heard the train this morning, just like I hear it every morning.
It rumbles through the woods at the end of the street at the same time my alarm sounds ... 5 o'clock sharp. Every day.
Some days I wake before the alarm and hear the train, some days I hear it after the alarm. But they always sound within seconds of one another.
This morning it made me think of New Year resolutions ... and how I've decided I'm not going to make any.
No, instead, I'm going to make like the train and create a schedule. And stick to it.
There's a schedule when the train leaves and when it arrives. No vacillating. No saying, "Eh, I think I'll hang here for another hour or so and leave when I'm ready."
That's how it gets from one place to another.
There are places I want to go (literally and figuratively) and hobbies I want to try, and the only way to get there is to stick to the schedule and the plan. Sure, things may change and adjustments can be made, but once it's decided, the train will leave the station when it's suppose to.
Are there places you want to go? Let's get there together.
Our local meteorologist makes visits to local schools ... often very early in the morning.
Last week he made an appearance at one school at 5:30 a.m.(!) and gathered a group of shy, sleepy, hands-in-pockets grammar school students and asked them, "What do you like most about Thanksgiving?"
The first few weren't sure what to say and simply shrugged their shoulders. The next student, one ... who had a minute or two to think, said "family," which was followed by, "all the food."
The next few mimicked the previous answers, but the last kid in line ... the one who had the most time to think, had the best answer, "I like wishing on the wishbone."
I love that he said that, I love how he phrased it ... and I love the sentiment behind it.
Whether you'll be wishing on a wishbone or giving thanks in some other way, I want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.
And as Thanksgiving week gets underway, I want to say ...
I am thankful for you!
It means so much when you write comments, open my emails, and like my posts.
If you're interested in making note of what you're thankful for this Thanksgiving, click on the image above or right here, to download and print the "Today I Am Thankful for ..." sheet. There are two to a sheet so you can print extras for yourself ... and others.
What's your favorite thing about Thanksgiving?
But does it hold water?
I can't remember the name or subject of the class, but when I was in high school, one of our assignments was to give a demonstration speech.
One boy brought in a hockey stick and explained how to put a curve to the blade. It was a hat-trick* presentation ... 1) he was prepared, 2) he delivered his presentation with enthusiasm, and 3) with before and after hockey sticks on hand, he had relevant, engaging props. Even though I've never played hockey, I enjoyed the presentation.
When it was my turn, I initiated a hands-on origami exercise. The class followed along and we all folded a square sheet of paper into a cup. I recall some murmuring and a few moans and groans when I passed out the paper, but I won them over when I poured water from a pitcher into my cup and demonstrated that it would in fact, hold water.
It was the start of an origami obsession.
My next goal was to fold an origami crane and when I had that figured out, I challenged myself to fold one without looking at the directions. Still can.
Today is World Origami Day. If you want to ease into the art of origami, learn how to fold a cup that holds water: get your instructions here.
*In hockey, a hat-trick is when one player scores three goals in a single game. That kid put it in the net.
Some still hang
bright and red
others make like
polka dots, red on
The ones that
fill the gutter
line up like bowling
balls in the automated
Is it the imperfections,
or it it because they're not
already picked, in a bag,
in a store?
I wish it was my
Off to a good start?
Do you make your bed? I know my mother encouraged it when I was growing up, but it was my grandmother who found a way to make it happen ... and I think of her still when I change the sheets.
There was no pestering or pleading, she simply set the scene ... with new bedding. It was the best after-school treat I never imagined I might crave.
It was mid-afternoon when I arrived home from school and found the mismatched jumble of pillows, sheets, and blankets I'd left on the bed earlier in the day replaced with perfectly plump pillows and coordinated sheets tucked under a matching comforter.
I was spellbound.
Nothing but the bedding had changed, but there was new order to my small room, and I was all in.
The 11th of this month is Make Your Bed Day (get your calendar of days through the link below). Some do, some don't ... some only when company's coming. But there's evidence that suggests it might be a good idea. It was also a key point in Admiral William H. McRaven's popular commencement address delivered to the 2014 graduating class at the University of Texas.
"If you make you bed every morning," McRaven says, "you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another and another."
He goes on to say that even if you have a miserable day, when it's time for bed, you will be reminded that you did in fact accomplish something that day ... you made your bed.
I made mine. Did you? (Tucked or untucked?)
p.s. The same could be said for any project or goal you're working on. Try to work on it early in the morning, at the same time of day, or the same day every week. The routine/scheduling can help you move forward. Try it and let me know how it goes.