What I Learned This Winter

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

When do you take the opportunity to look back? We often do it at the turn of the New Year, or at the end of a time commitment, like a month-long fast from shopping or alcohol. We live in a 24/7 world where everything is available, all the time. Without the natural breaks in the world around us (like blizzards and the seasons I wrote about recently), it is all too easy to stay swept up in the energy and movement of the world, never stopping to ask, “how did that go? What am I grateful for? What did I gain? Where was I weak?” and committing to improve in the next go-around.

So, along with a small sector of the internet, I want to participate in a quarterly reflection considering what I learned in the past season. I share it with you and invite you to share your list with others. This winter, I learned…

How to say, “I miss you” at the grave of my stillborn child.

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To ask that person to coffee.

I met at a woman who is a former broadcast journalist. After recalling the coaching from a “Real Simple” magazine feature years back, I sent an email asking her for coffee. There I learned her tips and recommendations to help me improve interviewing.

A voice recorder is an amazing interview asset.

Rather than stare at the screen of my phone to find the voice recorder application, I purchased a recorder (life is better with buttons). Using it, I relaxed and felt able to fully listen and hear the story of the interviewee. Too much energy had been spent worrying if I would remember the facts. Knowing they were safe, I loosened up and focused on meeting the person. Amazingly enough, when the recorder malfunctioned, I lost the interview but still remembered everything I needed to…except the names! Paper and pen will still accompany me.

Post-holiday blues exist.

During Advent, I threw myself so heavily into to crafts and the buzz of the holiday season. When it passed, I saw how empty I’d become. Things were so good, I had forgotten to pray, to seek silence, to slow down, sit a while and read to my children.

My first-vocation comes first.

In the fervor of a new career, the career of my dreams, I dived deeper and deeper, letting writing work seep into every still moment of the day. Then I missed the moments with my children, and their behavior reflected that. I stepped back, edited my schedule and stopped spending so many evenings out.

The glory of morning chores is real.

We practiced consistent discipline, used catchphrases to remind them what good behavior means, and implemented morning, afternoon and evening chores, on a list for each child. We knew what to ask of them and they anticipate what will be asked of them. When my son and I hit the road to San Francisco for a brief hospitalization things were okay at the Casey House.

Use Turbotax to file self-employment taxes.

Remind myself to be patient.

Little moments of impatience took hold without me realizing it. It is much more peaceful to be a patient person (or to pretend to be a patient person).

If another layer of my support system is peeled back, I will be okay.

We learn the tools for coping, of often through the help of another person. When that person is gone, we still have the tools, we just need to remember to use them

Take relationships at face value, believe people who say they care.

There is baggage around that one. Often, recognizing the pattern is the first step.

If you decide to list a handful of things you learned this season, feel free to share it with me at Writer@kathrynannecasey.com. I’d love to hear from you.

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Photos from the Week

As a new experiment, I will share with you my photos from the week. Some are photos from home and others are from my work with the newspaper. Because the paper is not online, I have been considering the best way to share. I photograph with an old DSLR camera that does not have wifi, so Instagram is not an option. If you have a recommendation or feedback on this new format, please feel free to make recommendations in the comments section!

For now, let’s try a weekend sharing…

After our first decent rainfall of the season, Starn Lake made its first appearance before quickly disappearing.

We photographed the kids’ in order to make labels for the cubbies. The labels are made, but not installed, so clean up continues to be a bear. Peter would not stop posing for the camera. Fitting, his second birthday was the day before.

The last shades of Christmas are fading from the Casey house. The remnants of our wreath were a bit too intricately wired for me to be able to remove by hand.

Pink buds began to sprout reminding me it has been nearly one year since my Celeste died. These bulbs were the ornaments of her funeral reception.