Winter

It’s always been cold and unfriendly to me. Well, maybe not always. I remember snow-blown days of youth, several layers of clothes, two or three pairs of Gram’s hand-knit mittens, and a hand-knit hat pulled low to the eyebrows. Walking through the neighborhood with the snow swirling all around. Or sliding down the hill next to the house, stopping just short of the road where the snow was plowed up high. There was a steep incline on the other side of the house that was perfect for jumping off into mid-air and turning a flip, before landing with a poof in a deep snowdrift. A brief moment of weightless adrenaline. Then laying there for another snapshot in time, flat on my back, arms spread wide to the overcast sky, grinning. Floundering out of the soft snow, climbing back up to do it again. Sweet youth.

Ice cakes formed in the harbor and piled up on the shore. Huge, enticing, translucent light-filled aqua. A mystery that needed to be explored, but was forbidden. The heart pounding fear of sliding off of one into the smoking-cold sea kept us at bay. It meant instant death. Looking and imagining was all we needed. Winters were much colder then than they are now. Those big ice cakes no longer pile up on the shore, just small ones that are gone within a few days. Smoke on the water happens only briefly each season now. I remember long winters of a smoky harbor and ice cakes that formed in the water halfway to Greenings Island. My Mum shared memories of when the harbor froze solid and the men used to drive their trucks on it all the way across. It’s scary to think of as we struggle with climate change and all the changes that are coming with it.

Now for many years, winter means unbearable cold and stiffness in my body. Cold that touches my hands brings instant pain. My feet, layered in wool socks and heavy boots, still get cold quickly and have even more intense pain. When I was a young woman I would stick my bare foot out the front door into the first new snowfall, and take a picture of it, pink toenails on the white background. These days I shy away from the outside in winter and at the same time, remember the exuberance of youth and know that I’m missing so much. I push my limits with the technology of “hot hands” and “toasty toes” warmers that fit into gloves and stick to the bottoms of socks. But it isn’t enough. The wind pushes needles of cold through the fabric of my clothes, and down my neck. How does it do that when I’m wrapped so well, with so many layers?

This pain from cold brings its own blessings as it makes me realize all of the relationships around it. I appreciate the wood fire more, the shelter of the ice shack when fishing, the warmth of rum and good friends after a long snowmobile ride. I look at snapshots of us on the trail, smiling in the scenery, and can smell the fresh cold air. I wonder how many hundreds of pairs of wool mittens Gram made; her love for children woven into each stitch.

I still enjoy the quiet and solitude of a walk in the woods amid fresh and falling snow, surrounded by silence and steaming breath. Seeing fresh animal tracks in the snow and wondering how far ahead of me it is. I love the wonder that God gives us with the pure whiteness swirling around, falling from a grey and white sky, or the sun glistening on the new snow in blinding exquisiteness. 

You see, even pain brings a new perception if you look for God around the edges. I’ve found that He has always wrapped my pain with blessings, when I’ve taken the time to look.   👩🏻‍💻

If You Could Turn Back Time…

Take a moment to step back and view your life so far. Do you like what you see?

(This post is a conversation that I have been having with myself recently. I’m letting you in on it because I know that everyone has moments in their life when they reassess where they are, how far they’ve come, and where they want to go looking forward. If my self-talk helps you in any way then I’m happy– for you & for me.)

If you could go back to any point on your life’s timeline, knowing everything you know now, where would you land? What would you change?

Think about this for a few minutes.

  1. You’ve collected a vast amount of knowledge and experience during your time here on earth.
  2. You have a lot of ideas about how you want your life to be.
  3. You have weathered disappointments along the way or have given up some of your dreams.

Now think about where you are in the scheme of it all. Okay? Ready?

You still have a lot of good living to do. Don’t abandon your visions for your future. They are not the same dreams you had earlier in life and that’s to be expected. Your dreams and visions evolve with you as you walk through life. Looking at the rest of your life…..

    What do you want it to be like?
    How have your dreams/visions evolved?
    What steps can you take to guide it in that direction? Small steps are an excellent beginning & very motivational.
    What mistakes have you made, learned from, and don’t want to repeat?

I actually sat down and made a list of things from the past that I wish I could go back and change, or knowledge that I wish I had possessed. It was a wide-ranging list that included relationship-related things, monetary knowledge, career paths, activities that bring me happiness, health considerations, etc.

I spent a brief moment of time mourning those things that I wished had been different. Ultimately all my experiences have made me who I am though, and recognizing that made the slight sadness evaporate.

Begin taking those steps that will make your visions come alive. Live the life you see in your minds’ eye as closely as you can. 👩🏻‍💻

 

 

 

 

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.    👩🏻‍💻