On the Plus Side of Things – A Further Step Away From Facebook

Yes, I spend a lot of time reading - even when I go to the beach

Yes, I spend a lot of time reading – even when I go to the beach

Life has been a little different these days. I spend most of my work day trying to discern patterns of one sort or another in the data we gather on students and classes. I have a HUGE office, of which I use maybe a little more than half of it. I never had anywhere to hold meetings with students when I was teaching. Now I have an office large enough to add another person with no problem. Yes, I traded a three mile drive for one close to fifty miles. Both of those measurements are one-way directions. But I have health care benefits for the first time in my life since 2006. I am capable of paying off my bills now, and getting a full cart of groceries — rather than trying to decide between eating, and paying a few of the bills. I am even planning a trip to Scotland and England for next year. Yes, life has changed a lot for me.

And life continues to change in other areas. Some of you may be reading this from a link you found on my Facebook page to WordPress. However, you have likely found that I am not posting that much on Facebook, and have removed all of my photos from there. Yes, I am placing Facebook in the corner. I have seen very little benefit from it since I joined back in 2009. For the most part, I am playing games, or reading meme after meme. or there is the bashing of some politician, some political figure, some religious figure, some belief system, or some sports figure….or something else along those lines. And when someone voices a differing perspective, they get denigrated for it.  Frankly, I have had my fill. However, I am not going to move along….I’m just not going to make Facebook into my priority Social Media location. Instead, I will split my time between Google-Plus, where my posts will be more public and closer to just talking about my daily life, and Ello, where my posts will be a little more introspective and “quieter”. I’ll still have the Facebook presence, just not as utilized as before.

I have only just started this yesterday (Friday), but already I have seen benefits from it. I spend far less time hunched over my keyboard – which I also blame for a lot of my shoulder and neck issues. I spend more time doing other things around the house – and reading. Gods, I have missed reading. Now that I am not spending tons of time on Facebook, I can pour that free-time into other things that have more meaning in my life. Like my Druidry studies. Reading. Spending time with friends. And sleeping.

Now, I hear folks saying – “why didn’t you just stop spending so much time on Facebook?” I imagine that these would be the same folks who would look at my cross-eyed when I noted that after stopping my soda drinking, I started to feel “normal”. “Just stop doing that stuff.” Its easy to talk about.  Its also easy for some folks to do. For others, such as myself, its hard.  Particularly, when you start associating comfort and necessity with those activities. And that was precisely what I have been doing.

I am under no illusion that completely quitting both will not happen. Soft drinks are everywhere, including work. I am having to educate co-workers on the point that not everyone wants to drink soft drinks. That – perhaps – bottled water would be a better option for many folks there. And with something that seems like 99.99% of the planet seemingly on Facebook…its hard to completely quit when there are so many folks I know there – and in some instances, ONLY there. Thus the reason that I am not simply deleting my account.

Nor am I advocating that you – the individual reading this – should do the same thing. This is my choice – it might not be the right choice for you. For whatever reason. That matters not to me. I am not here to look down on you for choosing to use something that I am beginning to move away from. In my opinion, that would be the wrong thing to do. Your choices are right for you at whatever moment that you make them. Just don’t snub me because of the choices that I make.

Anyways, for those trying to find me:

Google-Plus:  https://plus.google.com/u/0/110049757322376115517/posts

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/t_elfster

Ello:  https://ello.co/tommyelf



Barcharts, Data, Leaves and Colors….

Everything has been a run-run-run mode for me over the last three weeks. Every time I turned around, there was something else that needed to be done and completed – and there simply was not enough hours in the day to do everything. This weekend, however, has been a complete opposite of all that. So far, I have had the opportunity to take a walk – even though it was a misty rain, I decided to go walking anyways. I have had the chance to sit down and do a few meditations – one guided and the other just me finding my center.

I’ve mentioned before, my job with the college is Data Analysis – essentially finding patterns in data that is gathered and compiled by the college. Its actually a lot fun – I get to try and talk to the database, and learn its query language, I get to look at the data that gets compiled, and try to find patterns to present to upper management. The challenge is not to present the material with my own bias. Just present the data and let them make their own minds up as to what it says or does not say. But I continually find myself putting the lessons I have learned in both Cat Treadwell’s Druidry class, as well as the lessons I have learned from the Gwers in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids’ Bardic Grade course into practice.

Data can be presented a variety of ways. You can put your own spin on what data points are important. You can highlight particular data points with certain colors in charts.  For instance, red is a major standout color – so any data point you may wish to highlight can be placed into that color mode. Also, if you wish to de-emphasis a data point, putting it into a grey color in that same chart can have a similar effect. The red color draws the eye, while the grey color is dismissed to some degree by the individual’s eye.

This fits some of the perspective in understanding and relating to one’s environment, in my opinion. Take a walk and just observe everything around you. Your eye will be drawn to the bright oranges and yellows of the changing leaves, but will you notice the more subdued colors of the branches and trunks as well? I’d wager that most people will not. Just as the eye is drawn to the budding colors of the emerging green leaves at the start of Spring or the full foliage in the start of Summer. The leaves get the press coverage because of the brightness of their colors played out against the browns, blacks and greys (for the most part) of their respective trees.

Have you ever noticed that many of the animals in the forest have coats of subdued colors? Many times, people will not even notice some animals are nearby because their eyes slide over the subdued colors. Instead, their catches on color and movement. When I was taking survival training in the United States Air Force, this was one of the lessons that was taught. Staying still and remaining in subdued colors will help you blend into the background far more than finding an excellent location to hide your entire frame. Patience and endurance are keys to learning that survival methodology.

To be completely honest, I never dreamed that my Druidry studies would show me a new way of looking at how my daily life ties so closely to my own immediate surroundings and environment. There are days that I wish I had uncovered this way of looking at Life when I was far younger – but then if I did…I wouldn’t be who I am now.


You Spin Me Right Round, Baby, Right Round….

This afternoon, I stopped doing my work for a few moments to catch up on the news.  A few moments. That’s about all the time that it really took as well. Just a quick look at the headlines at http://news.google.com – a deeper look at the Technology news – and then I was back on to doing my work. it took a few minutes for me to realize how little time I spent reading the news.

In the past, I would spend literally hours reading the news – bouncing between four different news sites. Now, I spend far less time reading the “news” as it gets presented to me via the web browser. The other time frame that I gather news is the hour drive to and from work – with my local National Public Radio station on. Once I am out of my car, that’s just about as far as I go for the news.

It used to be, the news reported a large variety of stuff — but now its seemingly nothing really worthy of my time. A political spin on events from one aspect of the political realm or another. The true meaty bits of information tucked between the slices of bread that spin the information this way or that. The news is interpreted by whatever political bend the writer has. And to be honest, if I have to read between the shitty bits of spin just to glean some small facts of what the story is, I just don’t have that kind of time to spend. Nor do I have the patience for it any longer.

I’m not sure who may have said it – but I am starting to see the merit behind the statement:  “true news reporting is dead.” The media – big and small, corporate and independent – report the stories with spin designed to give you the facts with the appropriate tint. Red or Blue, Democrat or Republican, with a cup of Coffee or a cup of Tea. No need for you to think…just read, and swallow the party line.

Honestly, I would rather sit outside underneath my big tree in the backyard – and listen to the Gods and the Spirits of the Land whisper in the leaves and branches above. I would rather feel the sun on my face, and the grass and dirt between my toes. This is where I get my daily recharge from…and honestly, I trust this far more than any media person or politician….


Continually Understanding “Me”

Well, with the mid-term elections over – all that’s left is to sweep up the confetti that the winners left behind, and try to console the losers over whatever bitterness they might be feeling. Personally, I’m glad the election cycle is over.  All the negative ads from both ends of the campaign trail can now get off the TV and radio…not that I watch much TV or listen to tons of radio these days. But I am not a fan of the negative, and expensive campaigning that coincides with an election – and all just to curry the votes of a handful of people that might have been swayed towards one choice or another. Personally, I think the time, money and effort could be spent more productively and wisely…just my pence worth there…toss it into whatever well you want…

Most of my time is spent driving to and from my job – 45 minutes one way. And while it is an interstate highway, I do get the chance to watch various aspects of Nature that I wouldn’t normally see in my suburban home. This evening, I happened to drive by, while a bunch of calves were getting their “dinner” from their mommy cows. I didn’t get a chance to take a picture – that’s hard to do when you are driving at 65mph with other drivers around you at various speeds – but it did bring a smile to my face. Just another reminder for me, that the Wheel turns into a new year, every single day. And I will get to watch these little calves continue to grow throughout the Winter as I drive back and forth to my job.

Do you know that Jack lives in the Green,
That things are never as they seem,
And life is more than the money that you earn.
—Damh the Bard, Pagan Ways

That one little song lyric is carrying so much meaning for me these days. While I do make my living as a Data Analyst now, my job is not the defining aspect of who and what I am. It took me a little while to realize that – and when I made the job switch from teaching to Data Analyst, it really sank in. Yes, I miss teaching, and while it is something that I truly loved doing – its not who I am. That was a ways to an end — a paycheck. Which allowed me to stay alive, fed, clothed, with a roof over my head. I am a capable teacher, but its not who I am. I’m a Pagan – its the part of me that lives every single day, experiences the world anew from every sunrise to bed-time. My job doesn’t define me. My connection to the world around me through my Paganism, and my Druidry studies – that is what makes me who I am. How I interact with the world around me is because of that framework.

…honestly, it took me long enough to figure that out. There’s still a lot more to experience…

No Need For a Calendar

For me, this is the time of year that I “cocoon”…or a better way to draw the understanding is that I turn towards a more inward focus. Its just a product of how I view Samhain. For many, its the symbolic moment where the year turns from one year into the next – the Pagan New Year, if you want to call it that.  I can see that – and I understand it, but if you turn that logic over and over in your head – you might come to the same conclusion that I have:  every day is the turn of the wheel from the old year into the new year.

Traditionally, folks believe this time of the year is when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest. In many publications, I have seen it noted that this is the best time of the year for contacting those who have gone beyond. Except that I already have a healthy connection to the ancestors of my blood. It only takes a few moments of grounding, centering and placing myself into the right frame of mind to be able to re-establish that connection. Just concentration, not a time of year.

Then there are the folks that love the costumes, the partying, the gathering of their tribes – that one time a year when everyone sets things aside and draws closer together. I get that. But we can pick any point on the wheel of the year to establish that. Yeah, I am the spoil-sport when it comes to Samhain.  I’m the wet blanket when it comes to Halloween.  I’m the bad guy.  And to be honest, I’m ok with that stigma.

paganquietSee, I’m just me. I make my way along my chosen Path every day. Each day brings new challenges, each day brings another moment to experience my connections in the world around me. Each day holds a chance to discover new connections as well. I like the idea of the Wheel of the Year, I like the setting of celebrations and moments of remembrance at particular moments in a calendar year. But if we erased the calendar year, and managed life without the man-made concept of time…I’m ok with that too. I already live my life structured in that way. I only keep time and dates because that is what is required of me for my job, and other aspects of being in polite society.

Have you ever stood outside in your yard when the morning sun slips above the horizon?  Stood in a cold, foggy, morning mist – and listened to the quiet around you? Walked through the fresh snow in the woods, and heard nothing louder than your own breath or the faint whistling of the wind in the bares tree limbs above? Sat and just listened to the world around you on a warm Spring afternoon?  Heard the song of the Robins, Blue Jays mixing with the angry cries of the Crows and Grackles? I honestly do not need a calendar or a specified point in time for that. Just sit, be quiet and listen. Its already there.

Writer’s Block….

I am sitting here listening to music as I type on my keyboard.  And erase what I was about to say, and start over again. And again.  And again. Its been a lot like that recently.  I have a lot of thoughts in my head, but that isn’t getting translated down to my fingers. Its a rather odd moment; I am currently enrolled in a Creative Writing class, and find myself struggling there as well. Part of it, I know is that I typically shut down around this time of year. I am reminded of the lyrics of a song currently playing in my headphones:  “Can’t Find My Way Home” by Blind Faith.

Well, I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time
And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home

I’m not literally wasted – its been a good four years or more since I have had even a beer. When you are a diabetic, you are careful about what you ingest. No, I’m wasted in the sense that I have been brain-dead….literally stuck at a point where my brain is completely full, and I WANT to write things down…I WANT to record a podcast and just talk and talk…and I just am stuck. I can’t make my fingers write the stuff in my head. And when I sit in front of a microphone…I dance all around the topic.

I hate to blame everything on Samhain…but this is seriously the time of the year that I go offline for a few weeks. Its why I don’t typically attend Samhain rites…I literally check out and go diving deep into who I am. This is the time of year that I spend internally, turning over the rocks in my landscape to see what’s been living underneath them.

I know there’s a lot of people who may consider this way of working with my daily life and the wheel of the year as a “strange” thing…but that’s ok…I’ve been weird for a large part of my life. I’m ok with it, even if you aren’t.

[Poem] Blackbird Mysteries

Blackbird Mysteries

You are everywhere I look,
Beating wings and crackling sound
Bringing to me things you took
It is you, the Blackbird I found

Screaming Grackles in bush and tree
The thieving Magpies carrying away their loot
The inevitable Crows whose beady eyes see
Visions of Hitchcock begin to take root

With reputations of a thief or eater of the dead,
I often wonder if that is deserved.
Or are those just tales that we have been fed
Lies and propaganda that we are served?

I watch you in the backyard feeder and bath
Hopping from foot to foot screaming at others
I wonder – can you count or do basic math?
Do the Blue Jays gripe about manners to your mother?

It matters not, as I watch you eat and drink
What mysteries do you hide in your verse?
Yet as I spy on your gatherings, I bethink
What will be said when we once again converse?