Rethinking Birthdays

We mark our passage through time each year on our birthday by celebrating ourselves and the fact that we have been in the world for x amount of years. It seems foolish that we don’t also celebrate our parents (and their ancestors) with thanks and respect each year on the date of our birth. We are not the ones who did all the work of creating our little bodies, which grew inside of our mothers. All we did was appear when it was time. We should include paying our respects to our parents for all that they did to bring us into the world and raise us they best they could. The sacrifices they made, the dreams they set aside, the love they gave, the guidance they provided— and continued to provide long after we grew to adulthood and flew from the nest.

I know, I know, there is Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but they seem so separate and cold. Forced almost, like some holidays. Wouldn’t it be cozier and more loving if we acknowledged our birthday as not only achieving another year of life, but as a family appreciation event as well?  

 From now on I’ll be spending a good part of my birthdays thinking about my parents and all who came before them. If not for every single one of them I wouldn’t be here.  Even though Mum & Dad are both long gone from this world, I can still appreciate them, think of them, and take the time to look at my life from their loving perspective. I appreciate the work they did to keep the bills paid, a roof over our heads, and good food in our bellies. I appreciate all that they taught me— right from the first breath of life and into the decades beyond. 

 Think about it. Think about the myriad of skills you were taught or learned by watching your parents. 

Some of the basics from my early years: Learning to walk, using a toilet, taking a bath, using silverware, playing nice with others and not cheating at games, learning to turn the other cheek when the kids at school were cruel, writing thank you notes, being considerate of others and sharing toys and food, learning to save money in a piggy bank, being honest and doing my best at whatever task I was faced with, working hard in school, and of course, the freedom to explore any book I wanted to read no matter how ‘old’ it was for my age because Mum recognized the value of knowledge and self-learning.

Some of the valuable lessons of my middle and older years: being on time for appointments, keeping up with healthcare, eating healthy, looking for the good in even the most difficult situations, caring for family not just every day but through the tough times too, and preserving & building on the family history that will be passed down through the generations so that family will know a bit about their ancestors.

 Many lessons are just the basics of everyday functioning. But others have to do with character and being a strong, independent person. One thing Mum always said that has really stayed with me no matter what is “Better days are coming.” It’s the first thought I have when I have a bad moment, a bad day, an issue to work through, or whatever challenges me. Better days are coming. And it’s true. All things pass and circumstances usually improve or at least change to the point where you can get a fresh start. Solutions are found. New scenarios are had. These four valuable words keep me going when things get tough. Just four simple words passed along by a woman who had experienced much during her decades here on earth.

What wisdom has been passed along to you? 

If you were to rename the birthday experience to include the celebration and appreciation of our family members what would it be called?  👩🏻‍💻

There’s Something About Autumn

Labor Day weekend has come and gone. The tourists are beginning to clear out along with the mosquitoes. There’s a nip in the air every morning now that has me putting the big, fuzzy slippers on and tossing a shawl around my shoulders. Hot cocoa tastes like a dream as it warms its path downwards and makes my innards quiver with delight. 

Autumn is here. It’s my favorite time of year. Brisk breezes, walking on beaches and trails that are no longer overcrowded, hearty stews and soups, sweaters and fleece mixed in with Indian summer days and star gazing evenings by the firepit. 

All of these things make me want to pull out the projects I work on in colder weather: wool socks, afghans, scarves and hats. A quiet evening next to the window with a movie playing while knitting….. 

What do you do to let go of the non-stop hectic at the end of the summer? 

Wellness 9—– Subtracting

We’ve talked a lot about adding things to your wellness toolbox. But we haven’t yet discussed eliminating things from your life. Such as stresses, bad habits, toxic people, clutter, etc. I think we get so involved with building up areas of our lives that we forget it’s just as important to discard, oust, or phase out things too. 

What is there in your life that you feel is holding you back?

  • Is there a bad habit that you know you should get rid of? Like smoking, eating poorly, not drinking enough water, alcohol, drugs, or avoiding activity?
  • A partner who isn’t on board with your efforts or doesn’t understand what you’re trying to do?
  • Your own fear of failure?

What might be making you anxious? 

  • An issue at work that needs resolution? 
  • An area of clutter at home that you need to tackle?
  • A situation that you know needs to be dealt with but you’ve been avoiding?

Are there people that stress you out every time you encounter them? 

  • The toxic friend who likes to stir up trouble at every turn?
  • The relative who starts a fight at every family gathering?
  • The venomous coworker who puts effort into everything except work?

I’ve been working diligently over the course of the past couple years to eliminate the conditions that cause me stress and anxiety. So far, it’s been very successful and that success is what keeps me motivated me to continue. Dealing with one thing at a time is the key. If you make a list it’s bound to be lengthy and can appear quite daunting or even overwhelming. Stomp that feeling down right now. Just pick the thing that bothers you the most and think about how you’re going to deal with it. Then do it. The relief you’ll feel after you deal with that one thing will give you a wonderful sense of accomplishment. And that, my friend, is what will have you working your way through your list with a whole new vigor. 

The more you accomplish the more you will feel as if weight is falling from your shoulders. That buoyancy will keep you motivated. 

The most difficult thing I did was to ditch a couple of malicious people. Ridding myself of their toxicity and destructive behaviors was like opening a window on a warm, sunny day and letting the fresh air in. What a relief. When you have that bright spot in your day you tend to feel as if you can tackle one more thing and keep the momentum going. It’s an amazing feeling. 

Admittedly some things are harder to deal with or even impossible to eliminate. However, there are always ways to reduce, curtail, or lessen the problem. Stop and think about the issue. Can you minimize it in any way? What will make it better? Let’s take the example of the relative who starts a fight at every family gathering. You know you can’t change their behavior. You know you can’t change others reactions to him/her. What can you change in this situation? You can change your proximity to this person— just walk away and go talk with someone else. You can change your reaction to this person— don’t engage in the behavior. You could even skip the event if you choose. You have options. You also have an imagination so put it to good use. 

Stumped about something? Ask advice from friends, coworkers and relatives. Do some research online. Do whatever fits the situation and can help you make a good decision. A total eradication may be what is needed or perhaps only a partial elimination will make you feel better. Sometimes it’s a regular task that needs to be tackled. Like my refrigerator. Ugh. Always overloaded to the point where it gets unmanageable. I live with a hoarder and this includes food. It’s so trying. When I open the fridge door and things fall out I get so frustrated. Every now and then I just have to purge it. It’s one of my most despised tasks. I recognize that I can’t change the husbands behavior, so I just have to think of ways to keep it under control. How can I make it better? Maybe I could do a mini-purge weekly. Then it wouldn’t turn into the big, overwhelming, hour long task that it becomes. 

I hope these examples give you a starting point for your own “subtraction” process. Keep your goals in sight. Deal with one thing at a time. Don’t let your fear stop you. Look forward to that wonderful sense of accomplishment. Enjoy your results!   👩🏻‍💻

Food Insecurity & the Edible Landscape

I saw on the news this morning that Americans waste 40% of their food each year. That’s a lot. Now think of this: as of 2017 (according to Feeding America) 41 million people in the Untied States were dealing with food insecurity. That’s 12.3% of households or 1 in 8 families. Yet we’re throwing food away at an alarming rate. 

It seems like there should be more effective ways to deal with this. I had a thought— which I’m sure many others have thought of before me— why don’t we spend less money & effort growing manicured lawns and spend a bit of effort planting vegetables and fruit in our yards? While many of us have small vegetable gardens, or grow herbs & such, these are only a small fraction of our yard space. We could all be so much more independent and helpful to our neighbors if we used the bulk of our ‘lawn space’ to grow food instead. Think about that for a minute.

You say that not everyone can do this. You’re right. Some folks have physical limitations and can’t do it. So if you’re their neighbor can you help them? Or can you share with them in exchange for something else? Maybe a group of neighbors can get together and all help with planting and weeding, etc, and then all share in the bounty. Now think about that. You can imagine any amount of various scenarios that would work right in your own neighborhood.

For every roadblock or limitation there is a way to work around it or overcome it.

Apartment dwellers. Do you have a porch? Or a communal yard space? You can grow vegetables in pots. Or on rooftops. No land, no space? What if cities and towns set aside parcels of land for folks to have communal gardens? Or along sidewalks? In front of businesses?

In my mind’s eye I can picture all of this in place. I can see people helping each other and interacting, building friendships. Real people dealing with each other in real time. People outside working side by side without having their faces bent into their cellphones. I miss seeing people actually looking at each other and having conversations.

I’m a bit old school. I remember life before cell phones. I remember the phones attached to the wall with a limited amount of cord coming out of them. You had to get up and run to the other room to answer it. When your parents wanted you to come home they yelled for you out the window or called your friend’s mother.  The point being that people interacted more and knew how to have actual relationships. I miss seeing that when I drive through a neighborhood. So what if we began building our human relationships again? Beginning with growing food is an obvious choice. People would compare notes on growing techniques, swap plants and food overabundance with each other. We would be doing something proactive about our food insecurity. My theory is this: if we spend time & effort growing some of our food we will appreciate that food more and waste less. All while growing our relationships and strengthening our society. Instead of reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ we could be living them! 

I watched a Ted talk a few years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. It’s the inspiration which allows me to envision the bounty in each yard and public space that I pass. Given by Pam Warhurst from England (https://www.ted.com/talks/pam_warhurst_how_we_can_eat_our_landscapes#t-765782 ) it  showed me how they made this work in England. A simple group of volunteers made such wonderful things happen. It made incredibly perfect sense. There were places everywhere where people grew vegetable plants in front of businesses, by the sidewalk, and anyone walking by was free to weed around them and take a share in the harvest if they wished. This is the kind of community I’d like to see. How awesome would it be to finally read a news report that showed us our efforts had eliminated hunger in America?

We have the power and we CAN.

We live in a world where we feel powerless every time we watch the news. The latest political outrage, mass shooting, drugs, disasters, etc. We can make a difference in our world in spite of all this. We can teach the next generation that changes can be made by individuals. We can show that when those individuals come together they are a very powerful force for good. We can all learn about this and be on the same page. We can come together and just do it. Talking about things and then letting them fade away is not the answer. The most powerful phrase that Pam used in her Ted talk, “we are all part of the solution” should inspire each and every one of us to do something. Watch the video and see if it inspires you.    👩🏻‍💻

Small Stream Fishing

It takes but a moment next to the burbling, rushing water to be immersed in the sound and mesmerized by the sight of it. The scent of the water, the soil, and the forest completes the immersion. It wraps around my body, invading every cell, obliterating everything except this moment. The rest of the world falls away, disappears, and I’m absorbed into the earth and water as if I were always there, with no thought of ever leaving or being anything else.

I could let go of my body, emotions, and the earth itself and fall into the river, softly, soundlessly, instantly absorbed by the rushing current, welcomed as if coming home at last. Overwhelming— enveloping— peace and comfort. I could be the water, rushing over the rocks, my laughter splashing and catching the sunlight and throwing it around as reflections.

Instead, I continue to cast my line upstream and let it float down past me, over the rocks, in hopes that a trout will bite. I walk downstream to each likely looking spot thinking that there must be a fish next to that rock or in that eddy. I cast as close as I can without getting tangled in the low branches that hang over the giggling water. No fish bite today. I reel in my line and lean the pole against the rock I’m sitting on. A slight breeze makes the branches whisper and the sunlight dance in patches. I breathe the fresh air, bat the mosquitoes, and get lost in my thoughts.  It will be time to leave soon enough. 

How Driving led to an Unexpected Perspective

Let’s take a break from the Wellness series this week. Today I want to take you for a Mothers Day drive and share an enjoyable encounter I had last summer. C’mon, hop in, let’s drive:

I’ve noticed that sometimes when I’m on a long drive that my mind wanders off while my body continues driving. It’s amazing how the mind can be perfectly aware and in tune with the physical environment and also be working in the background in an entirely different place. I can go for miles (driving safely mind you) but not remember the scenery going past. I think that is because my focus is on the road and driving conditions only, and the portion of my brain that normally passively notices the scenery was actually galloping off in another direction. Might this be an example of the multitasking that we have all become so adept at? 

With most things I find that multitasking is tiring, at least when it’s physical tasks that I’m trying to do simultaneously. But who among us can control where our mind goes traipsing off to? Sometimes it’s anxiety related, like when you have pressing issues or situations that you’re worried about. Other times it’s much more pleasurable, such as daydreaming or looking forward to an upcoming event. 

It all came together one day when driving home from camp, on the very last leg of the journey on the Indian Point Road, I came up behind a man on a motorcycle. He seemed to be a middle aged or older man, in no hurry.  At first I thought he was lost, perhaps looking for a certain driveway or road. He was going slowly and looking around.  As I hung back and trailed along behind him I came to realize that he was just enjoying the ride and looking around in wonder at the scenery he was passing. I watched him for quite a few miles and his pure delight at all he passed was infectious. Observing him as he so clearly took pleasure from his slow comfortable ride made me forget that I had been driving for several hours and I ached all over.

I was reminded that I should take the time to see my everyday environment through fresh eyes. I didn’t care that we were going so slowly. It was well worth it. Thank you Mr. Motorcycle Man for unknowingly sharing your peaceful, beautiful ride with me.

Thinking about how this one person affected my mood, my perspective, and my awareness made me wonder if I have ever affected someone else in a similar way. Has anyone ever been inspired by me? I would feel blessed to have impacted even one life in such a way. Just one moment in time. Have you had a moment when you observed a stranger and had a change of perspective? Would you change anything about your everyday behavior if you knew your actions could have a positive impact? We all have an effect on each other every single day, in every moment. But we forget. In the busyness of our days and the stresses of our world we forget that we have this incredible power. Let’s use it.

Let’s spread it around and see what changes we can make. 👩🏻‍💻

Wellness 8— My Wellness Toolbox

Have you ever heard of a wellness toolbox? It’s all the things you do each day to attain or maintain a healthier lifestyle. In only eight weeks I’ve placed a bevy of tools in my wellness toolbox:

For the body:

  • increasing walking
  • eating more veggies
  • eliminating coffee
  • using a Motiv ring to track activity and sleep patterns
  • beginner yoga moves
  • staying well hydrated
  • meal prepping for the workweek
  • yard work…. 

For the mind and soul:

  • Bible study
  • writing
  • creating my accessories line
  • letting the housework take a backseat sometimes so I can do more pleasurable things
  • tackling nagging tasks to get them off my mind
  • recognizing that the bad behavior of others is not directed at me
  • gleaning nuggets of information from self-help books
  • taking time to assess each week to see where I did well, where I failed, and how I can improve going forward
  • de-stressing tools
  • periodic reassessment of goals
  • Pinterest board for visualizing goals….

Many of these things I’ve been doing for years. Putting them in a list that I can look at lets me clearly see the myriad of ways I can help myself.  During those times that I’m frustrated I can pull up my list and focus on the ones I need for that week, month, etc. If nothing on my list seems to fit the situation I seek out new tools. This keeps me aware of what’s out there and how research & the times are changing. 

Don’t ever think that you’ve run out of things to try. Make time to re-examine things you’ve rejected in the past to see if they’re a fit now. Examining tools I’ve rejected in the past has been important to me. Take yoga for example. I’ve always brushed it off as not for me. As I get older and stiffer though, I’ve found that the gentle stretching is beneficial.

Also, try something you may normally shy away from. Last year I took a free class offered by our local hospital that met weekly for a few months. Normally this not my cup of tea. But I decided to explore and see what they had to offer, knowing that I could drop out anytime. I was pleasantly surprised by the way everyone in the class opened up and shared their experiences and how they were dealing with their challenges. We all learned from each other, respected each other, and exchanged suggestions where appropriate. That new perspective gave me a lot to think about as well as some new tools to use. 

You can create a Pinterest Board and name it Wellness Toolbox (like I did for my Visions/Goals board in Wellness 7), or you can create a list of your wellness tools in your phone’s Reminder app. I have numerous lists in my reminder app and find the app itself to be one of my most valuable tools. You can set an alarm to remind you or you can plug things into your calendar app and set an alarm there. With a world of technology in our pocket at all times I think we can find ways to use it to get healthier. 

On to the week:

There is a world of tools out there I can use on this journey to a healthier me. A very important one that I used this past week was talking with my healthcare provider. When I reach a brick wall that I just can’t get past on my own I turn to her and we try to figure it out together. Which is exactly what we’re doing now with the constant fatigue that has been plaguing me. It will take a bit of time but I’m confident that we’ll get to the bottom of it so I can get my energy back. My inner eternal optimist keeps me going even when it’s overwhelming. 

This week I forced myself onto the treadmill again. Monday I managed an entire half hour. The determination and fierceness I felt reinforced my motivation to keep going and be as strong as I can be.  The husband and I also managed to get in a long hike through the woods, which reminded me that the next tool I’ll be adding to my toolbox soon is a new pair of sneakers. Footwear is so important. It supports your entire frame and needs to be in good condition. I tend to wear my sneakers way beyond the point of no return, which is bad. The frugal part of me wants to milk every step from them, even after my feet and hips begin hurting because the shoes are so worn out. I need to work on striking a better balance in this category. 

I didn’t do the yoga as much as I intended to just out of sheer forgetfulness. New habits are hard to remember so I have to find the right tool to help me with this. The Reminder app on my phone might be just the trick for this. Do you see what I did there? I used one tool to remind me to use another tool. Take that and run with it. 

What’s in your toolbox? 👩🏻‍💻