Lost, Then Found


                                                by Neal Lemery

(Published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, May 17, 2023)

            Life is always teaching me lessons. I can get lost, or lose something I think is important, a treasure that is valuable to my life. In the process of the “hunt” of what was lost, I learn something about me. And that can either be insightful, or humbling, and usually both of those thought processes, both of those “evaluation of self” experiences. 

            I was out in the woods the other day, looking for flowers to photograph. It was an amazing spring day. I was soon in the “zone” of looking for the perfect flowers, the ideal forest scene, complete with dappled sunlight and warm breezes.  Time disappeared and I was having a bonding experience with my camera, thinking I was capturing some great images and improving my photography skills.

            Happy with my results, I came back to my truck to stash my gear.  Joy and contentment quickly turned to disappointment and a feeling of disgust with myself.  A lens cap had disappeared.  I’d been proactive, attaching an elastic cord and to the cap and the lens, so the item wouldn’t stray.  Part of my photographic rituals is to always recap my lenses, to the point that I’d call myself obsessive about that.  

            Now, the lens cap was gone, and the only one to blame was me.  I’d gotten in a hurry, got distracted, and got myself lost in the photographer’s “zone” of trying to capture the perfect photo.  I retraced my steps in that spot in the woods, coming up empty.  Mentally, I retraced the last hour, remembering that I’d had the cap at the previous stop, that I’d felt it come unattached, and that it hadn’t been on the camera at this viewpoint.  I also realized I hadn’t been paying attention, that I’d lost touch with my tools, and my creative process.

            Like most times I lose something, it was my doing, my responsibility for getting distracted, sidetracked by whatever creative process or action I was trying to accomplish in the moment. I quickly shifted into “coulda, woulda, shoulda” thinking, blaming myself for being an idiot, careless and forgetful.  I can easily catastrophize the most insignificant events, and invite the Grim Reaper to show up, telling myself I am an abject failure at life. 

            I’m good at that self-blaming, and not allowing myself to be kind to me, to engage in some old fashioned and much needed self-forgiveness. 

            We are talking about a $10 item, at most, and it is not like this was a life and death mistake, or that the world would come closer to an untimely end because of my stupidity. I can be harsh with myself, and I’m not a gentle taskmaster when it comes to my own actions or mistakes.

            I had to stop a minute and have a little talk with myself, calming myself down. It was not the end of the world. It was not a tragedy of significance. It was not a major character flaw on my part, bringing me to shame and great moral blame. I wasn’t going to need to get down on my knees and beg anyone for forgiveness.  And the Sheriff wouldn’t need to show up and look down on me or take me to jail.  Life would go on.  And, not anyone else would even bother to look up and listen to my tale of woe.

            I went back to the earlier scenic spot I’d come from.  In a minute, I spied the errant lens cap and elastic strap, lying on the path where I’d dropped it, where it had parted ways from the camera lens, evading my attention.  It was no worse for wear, just a little dusty from the path.  I reunited it with my camera lens and all was right in the world.  The earth hadn’t stopped revolving on its axis, the day had continued.  No one else seemed to be upset, or angry, or even affected by my little act of negligence and forgetfulness.

            Again, I learned the lessons of self-forgiveness, understanding of what happens if I don’t pay attention, or get distracted.  And, most importantly, I again learned the lessons of appreciating magnitude, the relative importance of what goes on in our lives, how we deal with the stresses of modern life, and how we can so easily turn a minor event into a full-blown disaster, when that level of reaction is so not appropriate, and so unnecessary. 

            I can easily go from zero to sixty in a heartbeat, moving quickly into panic mode, into beating myself up, into an all out blame game.  

            Or not.  It has been a been a beautiful day. I was out in it, enjoying it, trying to capture some of the beauty for others to enjoy.  And, I quickly jumped into disaster mode, losing sight of what was really happening, how I could easily manage this “disaster” and move on with my life.  

            I learned again some good lessons about me, how I respond to an act of distraction and forgetfulness, that I am worthy of treating myself gently, with kindness.

            And, I got to revisit a beautiful place.  I took some more pictures. They were better pictures than what I had taken during the first visit.  I accomplished better photography, with a renewed appreciation of the values of patience, and understanding of me.  In all that, it was a good lesson, and a good day. I’d lost some of me, and then found something even better.  

Towards Purposeful Work

                                    (published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 3/29/2023)

                                                            by Neal Lemery

            “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

____ Steve Jobs

            In every job I’ve had, I’ve tried to find purpose, joy, and a sense of worth.  A worth in both the task and in shaping me into a better, more skilled and knowledgeable person.  

            “Did I create value today, did I make it better?” 

            And “it” has many different meanings.  Did I improve my boss’ business? Did I serve someone well? Did my work better some condition or circumstance? Did the community benefit? Did someone else benefit or grow? Did I grow? Did I develop better skills? Was there value in what I did? 

            On a deeper level, did I advance myself, or others? Did I advance a better idea? Did I teach? Did I learn? Did others learn? Is the world a better place for what I did today?

            Now when I fill out government forms, I say I’m “retired”, but that’s a misnomer. The nearly full calendar on the refrigerator and the to do list tells me that I’m anything but “retired”. I’m busy as I want to be, and that’s the real gift of retirement.  The person who schedules my life isn’t someone else in the office. It’s me.  I get the final say.  And, if I don’t like what I am doing, the buck stops with me.  My whining won’t play well on Facebook.  

            I do take the occasional day off, and I sometimes stop doing something simply because it no longer brings me joy.  Hopefully we all do that, and we follow Steve Jobs’ advice, feeling free to be able to move on to better ourselves and the community. 

            Some friends who apparently don’t know me very well ask what is there to do in a small town.  I can only laugh.  While we have fewer people and maybe fewer outlets for volunteers and the ability to be involved than the big city, there seems to be unlimited potential to contribute, and to change the world, at least change my village.

            As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

            If I want to be rebellious or ornery (or, to be polite, “purposeful”), I’ll engage with just a few people, and foment a different idea or a radical thought or action.  It might catch fire, and thereby change things.  If I want a more satisfying life, or a better community, I need to look into the mirror and take action.  

            As we were leaving a now regular community event that several people had recently started up, a new resident remarked, “You need to make your own culture here.” Yes, in many ways if you want something to happen, it often starts with yourself, or your determination to find what you want to do right here.   

            We’re here to make a difference, and the time to act on that is today.


Work Your Hard


                                                                                    by Neal Lemery

(Published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 3/11/2023)

Sometimes, it seems easy to skip over the hard stuff, to ignore the “to do” list, those nagging chores and obligations, and go do something else, anything else.  

I’m full of excuses.  Yesterday, I got most of that chore stuff done. Most of the “to do” list is done, it’s not my night to cook dinner so I can take it easy.  I deserve some time off. I’m retired so I don’t have to do that.  I need a break.  I did a lot yesterday so I can goof off today.  I need some thinking time.  I’m waiting for a new idea. 

That’s not due until next week.  I can slack off.  I’m waiting for someone else to do what they need to do first. 

That’s an impressive list of excuses.  I should keep that around. It might come in handy. 

Yet things crop up.  Situations come up demanding a response, an action, and I usually bite on that.  The old work ethic kicks in and I start to feel responsible again, accountable for what I did today.  

Yesterday, a friend sent me a blog post they had crafted.  It was compelling, moving, and completely caught me off guard.  The ideas, the sentiment touched my heart, and I wept. Should I respond?  How could I not?

I had a mission now, a purpose to my day.  I had thought what I had already done in the day had been enough, that there were enough check offs on the to do list to merit a “well done today”, a day that was purposeful, and now I could just float.

But, no, my friend had to send me that amazing piece of writing, and stir me up.  I had to respond in my own words.  The topic provoked a long time story in my own life.  I needed to write my own story on the topic. And, I realized it was now the time.  I couldn’t be putting it off, because my friend was calling me out, daring me to respond, to react, to put my long-simmering jumble of thoughts into action, into something I needed to express. 

Not that my friend was nagging me.  They are not a nagger.  They lead their life by example, by “showing, not telling”, living the writer’s creed of “show, don’t tell”, the core of good writing.  They’d be offended if I said that they made me sit down and work on the story I needed to tell, to find the right words, and to actually commit thought to what needs to go on paper, or in a computer file.  

If there’s a nagger in my life, it is likely me.  I can be a strict taskmaster.

I sat down and did the work.  It was easier than I thought. I realized that my brain had been working on this for a while, that it was half-written by the time I created a computer file and started to type.  I dove in, slipping into that creative space where time warps and bends, the blinders go on, and I ease into my own little world. 

In such times, the magic comes, and whatever conscious filter I might employ to fine tune and craft my ideas becomes blocked, and what is truth and what I really need to say emerges.  Writers can call that their Muse, and writing becomes a metaphysical, spiritual experience.  I move into the “zone”. 

That was my destiny yesterday, and I was doing the work that truly needed to be done.  Later, I emerged, genuinely surprised and pleased with the project, with my work.  My soul had done some hard work, and I half expected to see bloody fingers and crying eyes. 

This morning, I read my work again, and was pleased.  It was good work, long overdue, and much needed by me.  I had been able to write what I had been struggling with in how to tell this story, for many months. Well, to be truthful, for it was a story of family life and family secrets, and how I needed to respond to all that over much of my life.  It was a long overdue storytelling.  

My blogger friend had suggested a place for such stories, and I followed their lead, sending my work to a place where it might do some good, to help others understand and to heal their own wounds.  

The day turned into a wondrous productive day, and something came of it that was unexpected, and worthy of a useful, meaningful, and beautiful day, no excuses needed.


Quiet Time and Simple Gifts


                                           by Neal Lemery

(Published 2/26/23 in the Tillamook County Pioneer)

I had a lot of quiet time this past week.  A vigorous snowstorm moved in, dumping nearly a foot of snow, followed by temps in the teens.  The power went out for about thirteen hours, rendering the usual distractions of technology silent.  

            We moved to alternative energy sources, still able to make coffee and dinner, and to keep somewhat warm by adding sweaters, coats, and blankets.  The world grew quiet, and I found myself frequently looking up from my book to watch the snow fall and the world turn whiter.  

            The daily drive to town for mail and some errands was put on hold as the pickup became buried in snow, and roads turned into a slippery mess, with the Sheriff urging everyone to stay home. Businesses closed and parking lots and side streets went unplowed, buried in the new white fluff. What had been demanding and insistent obligations became something for next week. Now, it was time to stay home and be quiet.  What had been important and compelling just was put off until “later”. 

            I dug out my headlamp for evening reading, and savored the instant coffee heated by the propane stove.  The neighborhood kids flew up and down the lane in their ATV, squealing with delight, failing to make a snowman in the powdery snow, yet finding laughter in their dog’s discovery of this new white stuff.  

            I contemplated happiness and the new slowness in the day, as snowflakes drifted down, adding to the grandeur of white. 

“The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.” —Bertrand Russell.

I moved between two books and a notepad, writing down some random thoughts. A friend had written that he was focusing on loving himself now, and finding new direction and ease in that mind shift, that reshaping of “purpose”. 

Ah, loving myself. There’s an idea for a snow day, a day of moving the often urgent “to do” list down the road, just taking time to watch the snow fly, and the birds crowd the feeder, savoring the suet and the sunflower seeds I’d set out this morning, as I tramped a snowy path to their lunch spot. 

My ukulele called, and I started playing some old songs.  “Simple Gifts” caught my eye, and reminded me that everything about this day was a gift, that I was, indeed, in charge of my day and I could take time for what brought me joy, what brought me openings in life where I could appreciate what was right in front of me.  The simple gifts of light, snow, quietness, contemplation, and some good books to savor.  

Soon, lunch and a nap filled an hour.  I had nowhere to go, nothing I absolutely had to do.  I wrote a birthday card to a friend, and put in in the mail basket, not really caring that it wouldn’t go out today, but maybe tomorrow. I was OK with that. Life was slowing down to a manageable pace. 

The power came on just before bedtime, assuring us of a warm winter’s night, and that the dishwasher would run tonight. We would have clean coffee mugs in the morning. I finished my book chapter by real electric light, finding new appreciation in the modern miracles of electric power and the internet. 

The next morning, while making the bed, I raised the blinds.  The overnight temp had dipped to a seasonal low of 19 degrees, and I spied the light from the sun, about to peak over the snowy mountains.  I noticed hoarfrost on the window, spidery designs crawling up the window, silhouettes against the morning skyline.  

I grabbed my camera, framing this artwork and capturing it, just before the sun rose and began to melt this “only for me” beauty.  The camera made it more spectacular than I had originally seen, and I decided to share it with friends. 

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This is what I do, apparently, when there is quiet and solitude, finding the spaces in my life to look for beauty in the simple things.  Simple gifts, indeed.  I only have to look for them. 


Doing the Right Thing


                               by Neal Lemery

published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 2/10/2023

            Sometimes in our lives there is a moment where we have a choice, an opportunity. When we see the door open, or the fork in the road, or an opening in a conversation, there is that moment that is magical, pregnant with possibilities, a place to make a real shift, a real change.

            I can often sense that moment, and I haven’t regretted taking advantage, and moving in to take action.  “Opportunity knocks” and I often feel called to respond. Often, it is a chance to speak real truth, or speak deeply from the heart, to go deep. Too often, I’ve let the moment pass, and soon regret my inaction, my procrastination, and my perpetuation of the awkwardness, the unhealed relationship, the shunning of real truth.  And, so, I don’t grow, the disease that needs healed remains infectious, and I stagnate, the relationship stagnates and festers. Life withers on the vine and my life’s garden does not grow well. 

            So many of our interactions tend to be superficial, and have little consequence.  We slip through our day, and end up feeling we haven’t accomplished much.  We’ve done our errands, but we really haven’t made a difference, or acted in a profound, important way.  

            We need to.  We need to often take advantage of the opportunities we have to be the supportive, trustworthy friend who speaks deep truth, who is the catalyst for fundamental change, to be supportive of the enlightenments that await us all as we struggle through the challenges of daily life.  How often are we confronted with real truth, with a call to do something important, life-changing?  And, do we act on that, and move our lives forward?

            Or do we let it slip past us, letting the opportunity to die on the vine, to ignore the elephant in the living room, the problem that is calling out for a solution, for action.  Sometimes, it is time to end the pain, to clean out the wounds, and to move forward with healing and acknowledgement that the truth, while sometimes painful, needs to be heard. Remedies need to be applied, and we need to move on to a better world.

            Life is, indeed, short. We have many missed opportunities, and our relationships are often not as fertile and rich as they could be.  In this chapter of my life, more friends are growing ill and dying.  We don’t often share how much we love them, or speak the deep truth between friends that needs to be shared.  We throw away the possibilities of our emotional lives and the enrichment of relationships and community.  The list of regrets and “if onlys” grows, creating sorrow, disappointments, and disappointment in our own potential to be fully loving and kind. 

            I just sent out a number of Valentine’s Day cards, not that I’m a fan of the commercialization of a holiday that is supposed to be all about love and relationships.  I used that opportunity to tell people I care about, that I love them, that yes, they are loved and my relationship with them is important and cherished.  How often do we do that? Do we really need a holiday to make that statement?  

            When they are gone, I will regret not saying that more often, that I will regret not spending more time with them, and speaking to each other our deep truths and emotions. And that regret is my own doing.  I am reminded that it is up to me to change that, to re-prioritize my “errand list” of the day, to make truth telling and relationship building my number one priority.  

            On my way to run some errands, I took the back road and did some bird watching, finding myself face to face with several magnificent birds.  I captured some exciting photographs and experienced the joy of fabulous birding and the glory of our community’s spectacular beauty.  I felt the peace that only being out in nature can give.  

            Why don’t I do that more often?  Why do I not take advantage of some time on a back road, a foggy morning, and birds showing off their beauty? There are so many opportunities to be appreciative of a few minutes of peace and contentment, of savoring the world around us. And, I forget to do that, forget to see the truth that is all around us, and to share some of that with friends.  

            I need to do the right things in my life.  If I’m honest with myself, that is really a priority, that is a deep need we all have.  Putting our emotional houses in order requires that each of us take action, that we put away our procrastination, and to act to build relationships, to speak our truth, and to call on everyone, including ourselves, to rise to the occasion, and live full and complete lives.  We need to share our love with the world, in each and every moment we have.


Through the Eyes of a Child

                                    Through the Eyes of a Child

                                                by Neal Lemery

published 2/1/2023 in the Tillamook County Pioneer

            “Through the eyes of a child you will see the world as it should be.”  –Anonymous

            In recent days, I’ve experienced the simple joys of being around several kids who have been fully engaged in simply enjoying life, with simplicity and without condition.

            I visited some friends and thought I should bring a present to their two year old. While buying a bouquet of flowers for the parents, I spied a stuffed puppy, its cuddliness capturing my heart and appealing to my desire to bring some joy into the world.  The day’s news had been the typical fare for our times, and matched the grayness of the January sky.  

            I wondered if I was really buying the stuffed animal for the child, or for the child inside of me.  

            We adults had a good visit, discussing the day’s news as well as our reasons to be optimistic about the unfolding of the new year.  Yet, our attention was pleasantly diverted to the antics of their child, whose giggles and smiles filled their home with the simple joy of the toy, and our collective sounds of what we thought a barking puppy might sound like.  The child’s laughter was perhaps all about the joy with the toy, but more likely in response to the funny antics of the adults, obviously inept at being accurate puppy talkers.  

            We adults should practice our animal noises more often, and laugh more, too. We need to take some daily lessons with children, who seem to effortlessly find simply joys in the simple pleasures of life, in the sharing of laughter and funny noises, cuddly stuffed puppies and shiny toy cars. 

            This morning, while sipping my coffee at the neighborhood coffee shop, I was being serious, trying to concentrate on writing something meaningful in response to today’s deluge of politics, mass shootings, and other ugliness.  Again, a child reminded me of the simple joys if one just pays attention to an opportunity.

            A toddler squealed with delight, as he repeatedly tossed a toy car on the linoleum, making a noisy clattering.  A few times, the toy bounced off my shoes, and I’d slide it back to him.  He’d catch it a few times, but mostly, he’d toss it and it skittered along the floor to the delight of the child. I found myself chuckling, joined by others watching the fun. 

            His parents spoke to me, worried that his antics were bothering me. Yet the simple joy in his eyes and his squeals of laughter brightened the morning.  I decided I needed more of childish joy in my day, rather than perusing the day’s news and commentary.  Perhaps the real news of the day is that life is fun and there can be instantaneous joy in ordinary things. 

            These few sweet and precious moments, freely given to me by the youngest generation, was a gentle, yet persistent reminder that life is both precious and beautiful, that we need to pause and be less serious and find laughter in the simplest of things. We need to share those moments with everyone, needing to be kids as much as possible. We should play with our toys and make new friends.  


Special Moments With Jim

                                    published in the Tillamook County Pioneer

                                                by Neal Lemery

            Last week, I learned that a good college friend had passed away.  He wasn’t a particularly close friend in the usual ways with college friends. We did not often keep in touch, like many friends from our past.  We’d run into each other at gatherings every several years. Now I realize he was a mentor and a counselor to me, roles that were much different than the usual college classmate ways.  

            He had a deep impact on me in college.  Jim was a sensitive guy, and instinctively knew when someone was emotionally vulnerable and hurting.  

            I was one of the guys Jim felt that with, and he reached out to me several times, the darkest of times.  I kept my emotional life close to me, letting very few people know that I was hurting, that I needed some kindness and some compassion.  Young men in our culture don’t want to appear vulnerable. American men are skilled at building walls and keeping our self-doubts and fears well hidden. Such wall building is what is expected of real American men, and of course I was expected to fit in. It’s the manly thing to do.

Jim was different. He had that ability to sense my pain, and would pull me aside, find a quiet corner and look deep into my soul.

            He had that way about him, that instant trust and insight to pull out of me the dark thoughts, the self-doubts, the emotional pain that I thought I had been so clever in hiding from everyone, including myself.  He could open me up and he would listen, deeply and without judgment. 

            Jim would normalize my feelings and give words to what I was wrestling with, repeating my fears and doubts so that I could hear what I was thinking and fearing, that I was not really crazy or on the edge of going nuts, that I was a human being who needed some compassion and friendship. I admired all of that in him, and I wanted to be much more like him, his vulnerability and his confidence in being a trustworthy and helpful man.  

            He had that gift, and I often saw him use his skills and his humanity to help others, to guide people into self-understanding and to find their passions and place in adult life.  Not one to seek adulation, he did this work quietly, always protecting privacy and avoiding gossip.  He was a trust builder and a healer, and practiced his skills on the fringes of college life, places where the walking wounded would go to seek out anonymity.  

            Jim went on to do other great things in his life.  An overseas study trip took him to the Middle East where he became involved in charity and economic development work.  He returned to campus, to change his major to international business.  He went back to the Middle East, where he devoted his life to economic development and helping the needy, making a profound difference in the lives of others, being the Good American in a region where that was a rarity.  He did well, because he was kind and charitable, because people could trust him, and because he lived what he believed about people.

            We didn’t need to be in regular communication with each other, or meet at all the reunions.  I knew Jim would be there for me if I needed him, and that he was still having his “Jim Moments” with people on the other side of the world.  

            I found myself following his example in my own work, reaching out and engaging people in their dark moments, having those quiet conversations and going deep into their emotional lives, offering respect and cultivating compassion and mutual positive regard.  And in that work, I found the blessings that such work gives a person, the rewards of making a difference, by being a kindly, truthworthy friend and an advocate for decency and understanding.  

            In such moments, I’d chuckle to myself, realizing I was following Jim’s footsteps, that I was in the middle of a “Jim Moment”, that his teachings to me had been a profound and vital lesson, one of the most important lessons I’d learned in college.  I’d ask myself, “What would Jim do?” in this situation. That would open the door for some productive conversations and effective steps forward. 

            I’m mourning Jim’s death today, and wondering how best to remember him, to continue on with his legacy.  I’m realizing it is in those “Jim Moments” that he came back to me, when I would again feel his big hugs of friendship and compassion.  This world needs more of those “Jim Moments”, when we open our hearts to someone, to truly listen and suspend our judgments, when we are accepting and open to others’ pain, when we can practice empathy, and help develop a plan on moving forward.  

            Jim will live on in such kind acts, and in the bonds that are made with others in times of uncertainty, confusion and self-doubt.  I’m comforted by knowing that, and, more importantly, by getting out into the world, being more aware, and carrying on with Jim’s mission, and his “Jim Moments”. 


Savoring the Silence

                        Published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 12/24/22

                                                by Neal Lemery

            I’ve arrived in the holidays.  Normal obligations have either been taken care of, or completed, or postponed until “later”, which means whenever we feel like getting back to the daily routine.  This week’s ice storm has added new reasons to stay at home and enjoy some peace and quiet. 

            Schools are closed, people have left their jobs for a while, and are instead moving into the “holiday spirit”, which is deliciously undefined and without boundaries. Outside, the weather is described by the song lyrics of “frightful”.  The days are now cold, with impending snow and ice, shortened by darkness of the Solstice.  There are frosts and chilly rain, snow in the mountains, and weather forecasters anxious about icy roads and howling winds born in the Arctic. Winter has also officially arrived.  

            It is a time to hunker down, wrapping yourself in a fuzzy blanket, sip hot tea and lose yourself in a good book, all without guilt or remorse for neglecting garden chores and the demands of a normal work day. Expectations for a productive day are limited to reading a few more chapters, maybe wrapping the last of the presents, and planning some fun adventures for the next few weeks. But, that can wait. It might be time for a nap.

            I join the community at the post office for that inevitable last minute mailing of packages and other finished projects.  We are all in a jovial mood, with the projects completed, and nothing left that’s urgent today, knowing that “it’s in the mail”, and our treasures and good works will arrive in “the usual course” of the mail.  We can relax. Our work is done, and all that is now out of our hands. Whatever we needed to mail today isn’t all that urgent, anyway. Last week was “panic week” and now we are on holiday time. 

            We are temporarily relieved of the obligations of our normal routines, able to push back and simply say “later”.  After all, it is everyone’s vacation time and our normal deadlines take a back seat to the excuse of “it’s the holidays”. 

            I find simple joy in reading cards and letters from relatives and dear friends, catching up on their lives. I like the fun of picking up a last minute present or two, and assembling the fun little presents for stockings. I can sit on the couch and enjoy a happy hour of a holiday show, without too much effort. 

            There’s also time for a little planning for next year, writing in birthdays and anniversaries on next year’s refrigerator calendar, and thinking I need to have a commitment to next year’s list of great books to read.  Not that I’m always successful with such a list, but my new year’s always starts off with good intentions.  Maybe this year, I’ll actually be somewhat methodical on what I read, rather than reverting to my old ways of spontaneity and randomness.  

            I’ve already written up my annual list of favorite books of the year, and sent it off to my  book loving friends, whether or not they are really interested in what I’ve been reading this year.  I send off the list, in hopes of inspiring them and giving them some ideas on some good books.  A trip to the library this week, to stock up on some books before the ice moved in, reminded me that the local library is truly a treasure in my life, a resource I rely on and find invaluable as a way to satisfy my curiosity and keep my mind occupied and challenged.  

            This time of being “off” and not on a schedule is a time to regroup and maybe think about being more organized on how I spend my time.  After all, being “retired” is a full time job, requiring a lot of intentional and methodical scheduling and planning. There are times I wonder if I should engage a planner, a scheduler for me, so I can use my time more efficiently, and be more organized in my life.  Then, I realize that is my job, well one of many jobs I now have.  Being retired, it is hard to keep up with all I have to do, all that I want to do.  There really isn’t enough hours in the day to fit it all in.  

            And, that’s the joy of retirement.  Not enough time to play. 

I recently talked with a friend who is going to retire in a few weeks.  They are anxious about what to do, how to “fill their time”.  They are worried that they don’t have a purpose anymore, not having a job description and a way of feeling accomplished, not “earning their keep”.  For me, I get that satisfaction in looking at what I do now, in “all my spare time”.  I told my friend there is lots to do, lots of accomplishments out there that will need their attention. Just start picking a few to take on and soon, filling your days takes care of itself, and you will find yourself needing to do some serious organization and planning of your time.  

            We Americans often don’t do much reflection and contemplation.  We don’t take enough time to play.  Many of us don’t take all of our vacation time, nor do we spend enough time with our loved ones.  I’m not sure of the value of what we’ve sacrificed for that, what we’ve given up.  Maybe we need to think about that, what we’ve given up, what we’ve lost, for that “more time at the office”.  I’d argue that exchange is a bad business deal, an unsatisfying trade in the marketplace of our lives.  

            The days now are supposed to be getting longer, though the physical proof of that still seems lacking, as the dark nights and the long gloomy twilights of winter afternoons still close in on me.  I’ll drag out the seed catalogs soon, and I’m already starting to think of some gardening projects I want to take on.  Some day, hopefully sooner than later, I’ll stash my flannel shirts in the back of the closet, fold up the fuzzy blanket on my chair, and start building up the gardening callouses and weed out the flower beds.  

            Until then, I’ll take advantage of this winter rest, this pause in the frenzy of our lives, and focus on where I’m headed into the new year. 


Yet Another Review of my Book, from the Tillamook County Pioneer

Neal Lemery’s New Book: Be the Change – One Random Act of Kindness at a Time …

Editor BooksNeal Lemery. Tillamook County Pioneer, 12/18/2022

Everyone needs this book.  The title was often used around our house. One could not complain about this or that without being asked if they could do something about the situation… and if so, then “Be the change.”  Pioneer readers are blessed to have Neal’s “Words of Wisdom” on a regular basis, and this book takes many of those commentaries and puts them in an easy-to-read book that will help you to help others, one act of kindness at a time. Neal tackles tough issues, suicide, mental health issues, grief with his usual directness and candor, but with a matter-of-fact sense that provides direction, healing and help. It’s the perfect holiday gift to give to yourself.

“In his outstanding new book, Be the Change, Neal Lemery shares with his readers a series of life experiences that signal a need for change. He then gives the reader some small and large ways we can all use to be a person of change. To help others and yourself begin on the road to change, I recommend everyone read this book.” (5 stars)

Each of us can make a difference in the world, starting with ourselves, our family, our neighborhood, and our community. That difference, that work of being an agent of change starts with one person – you.  One person and small groups are the true change agents in the world. One person can make a difference, significant and often monumental.

This book is a collection of thoughts, expressions of optimistic intentions, to make a difference, to be a force to be reckoned with.  I believe in the empowerment of one person to bring about fundamental change.

You and I can change attitudes and can help people reform their focus, their life force, to bring about basic, lasting change.

This work starts with one person who has a strong sense of idealism and purpose, who wants to make their life, and eventually, the world a better place.

That aspiration can be daunting, but it begins with one step, one small change. A person who is committed to an ideal and has a plan of action, is a force to be reckoned with, a game changer, and one of the most powerful forces in the world – a committed agent of change.

Neal’s new book is now available. On Amazon: Be the Change: One Random Act of Kindness at a Time . On Barnes and Noble.


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