Wellness 2— Small Steps Toward Balance

This past week I chose a few small steps to commit to. Since I love vegetables I’m going to incorporate as many as I can into most meals. I had a good time singing along with 70’s country radio on Pandora while making a quiche full of veggies and some kielbasa. (Have you noticed that when you sing with the radio while you’re working in the kitchen then you almost unknowingly get in a few dance moves too?) I like a quiche that is mostly veggies with some meat and then glued together with the egg mixture. I don’t much care for a quiche that is mostly egg mix with a few veggies floating around in it.  You can see from the photo that the meat rose to the top during baking while all the veggies sank to the bottom where you can’t see them. Regardless, it was darn tasty. 

Kielbasa may not be the best choice of meat to use, but this is where the balance comes in for me.  The balance of healthy goodness with something not exactly healthy, but yummy, that also brings satisfaction. Because if you’re not satisfied then you crave something else and the vicious cycle of not getting what you want, then eating something else to get satisfaction, spirals out of control. This has been an issue for me in the past. I think if you eat mostly healthy you can incorporate the less healthy elements into it and be okay.  I try to make meals look appealing too. Sometimes you want a ‘wow’ type of presentation, like a platter of finger food arranged artfully and with good color— a plate of cucumber chunks hollowed out and filled with a lemon-chive neufchâtel cheese with smoked salmon on top and a sprig of herbs, with perhaps some cherry tomatoes scattered about the plate. Sometimes you want a visceral comfort presentation, like a hearty stew bubbling in a cast iron dutch oven on a cold day– it will fill you up, warm you up, and completely satiate you. Can you smell it? 

Fruit isn’t really a food I go looking for, but I like it well enough if it isn’t a melon. Since giving up coffee I’ve substituted orange juice for it. I’m trying to make this more of a habit but find that I forget it some days. Good habits take perseverance so I’ll need to keep working on this. I already drink a good amount of water throughout the day and wanted to incorporate something natural and healthy. Normally I don’t drink soda or sugary beverages (except for hot cocoa in the winter). Coffee and water has been most of my fluid intake (though I am fond of bubbly wine 😇 in moderation). 

The area where I need the most work is activity. Working a desk job takes its toll. 40 hours a week of sitting can be mentally and physically wearing.  I never thought I would say that about an office job. I mix it up by taking breaks to walk around the office and lifting the sit/stand desktop to get the blood circulating a bit, but it isn’t nearly enough to get through the workday. Some days I feel as if I’m going into a coma. In my younger decades I worked in factories and at physically active jobs and went home exhausted every day wishing for the physical relief of office work. Coming home each night sweaty, dirty, with hair full of metal dust and in need of a shower, made me wish I could dress nice for work and come out clean at the end of the day. I guess there are advantages and disadvantages to every job. 

We are always seeking to better ourselves and our situations but we need to remember that we will eventually find the things we don’t like about every situation and even about ourselves after we reach our intended goals. There is always room for improvement. I wish for a bit more activity where I could be up walking around during the workday. But truth be told I haven’t felt well for nearly a year and even a lunchtime walk downtown has been too much. Gasping for air on the return walk uphill to the office is not pleasant and shows me just how far my deconditioning has come. Sad but true. I intend to change that this spring beginning with short walks.

Today was perfect for taking a walk— mild 40’s temps, sunshine, barely a breeze. I didn’t go far but it felt good to stretch the muscles and get the heart rate & breathing up. It feels like spring has finally arrived even though it’s going to get cold again tomorrow for awhile before the real warmup. Tomorrow promises to be a busy day with errands and meal prepping for the work week (more music and bopping around the kitchen!). In order to get more walking in I’ll park further away from the entrances. Every little bit helps. 

Last but not least in my balancing act– the one thing that is imperative for me— my hour at the end each day. I might read, or watch an episode of Downton Abbey, or do some bible study, or make notes about my day, etc. I never miss my hour. This sets the example for how I want my other good habits to be: an imperative part of each day which will not be compromised. Baby steps now are my only choice on this road to wellness and that’s okay. Fatigue still plagues me to the point of being forced to lay down, but I’ll rise to the challenge. My spirit is strong and I have too much I want to accomplish to give in and give up. 👩🏻‍💻

 

Wellness 1– The Journey Begins

As I unfold from winter and reach toward spring the desire to begin a new path to wellness preys on my thoughts. Winter has taken its toll on my body, like always, and it becomes more pronounced with each year that passes. The cold and I are not on friendly terms, so I tend to be indoor oriented and sluggish all winter. I emerge much the same as a bear does, groggy but glad to be awake again. Add to that some health issues that I struggled with for most of last year and you can see why wellness thoughts have sought me out like a predator seeks prey.

Now it’s time to refocus my attention on outdoor activities, fresh air & sunshine, and building some muscles to support the flab. In order to achieve a thorough wellness of body and mind, I’ll need to balance the physical efforts with other activities that bring me peace and serenity. This is not about losing weight. Nor is it about how many steps I can take in a day, even though I do use my Fitbit as an activity motivator and a tool to check on my sleep patterns. This is about taking small steps to getting strong and improving my health. I would love for you to join me and post about your goals, your journey, and what tools you use to help you along.

The first thing I can tell you about here in post #1 is that I gave up coffee a few weeks ago. I’m very surprised that I don’t miss it. Seriously.  I thought I would be miserable without my morning coffee that I’ve been drinking each and every day for the past 30+ years. What I discovered is that I have much less stomach upset, decreased bouts of nausea, and have almost achieved zero intestinal cramping. I’m truly amazed that this beloved, yummy, warming morning beverage could have caused so much bodily upset. This one small step that I thought would be so difficult actually turned out to be effortless and quite an eye-opener. I think perhaps it was more the habit of it that I was dreading losing. It was the one thing I did faithfully every day, without deviation, to begin my day. I’ll confess that giving it up has allowed me to reclaim valuable time each day, time that was previously spent not feeling good enough to do anything, or running to the bathroom with stomach cramps. Then spending time waiting to feel better or to feel like I could go out without needing to be in close proximity to a restroom. All from coffee. Wow. What is your observation of your own coffee habits?

Wellness encompasses mind, body, and soul. As I travel along my path I’ll be writing about my adventures in all these areas. Let’s talk about your journey as well. 

  • What motivates you? 
  • What do you struggle with? 
  • How have you overcome challenges?
  • What do you do just for you that fills you with happiness? 

Join me as I document the journey. Please share your thoughts, experiences, successes, failures and most difficult challenges.  We could learn a lot from each other. I look forward to hearing from you. 👩🏻‍💻

I see you, and so does everyone else.

You are surrounded by glass windows and a glass windshield. Everyone can see you. You must know that. Apparently some folks believe they are invisible when they are behind the wheel of their car. I’ve seen drivers doing a lot of stuff as they pass by going in the opposite direction. And I’ve seen some funky things happening in cars behind me when I glance in the mirror.

Don’t misunderstand. Most of the time when I’m driving I don’t bother to look at people in other vehicles. I’m more concerned with the vehicle itself and our spatial relation as we pass on the road.  But as you and I well know, sometimes actions catch your attention.

Like the gentleman traveling behind me one day while vigorously brushing his teeth. I had to keep glancing in the mirror because he had his windows rolled up tight and I wondered where he was going to spit it. Yuk. I never did see the outcome of that. And that’s okay with me!  

Then there was the lady styling her hair with both hands. How do you steer with no hands on the wheel?

How about the man who was texting with both hands? He had his wrists resting on top of the steering wheel and that was how he kept it on the road.

I like to catch a glimpse of people who are singing and obviously enjoying themselves. That’s a bright spot in my day and lifts my spirits. I always smile to myself. And those who are laughing with a friend bring a smile as well. It’s nice to see random moments of happiness as I pass through the world. Especially in this age of tension. 

Sights I can well do without, but unfortunately see more often than anything else, are people mining for gold in their nose. I’m always astounded by the length of finger that can fit up there!

These things can be a bit distracting, but you really do need to keep an eye on the vehicles around you in case you have to do some defensive driving. Part of that is gauging how you should react to other drivers’ actions and whether they are paying attention. 

I would love to hear what you’ve seen in passing. Share your observations with me?  👩🏻‍💻

Notes From a Knitter

For years I wanted to knit socks and mittens but after growling my way through one sock or one mitten on double pointed needles I gave up. It was little more than an exercise in pain and frustration. Then I heard about knitting two socks at once on two long circular needles wrapped in circles and so I bought a book about it hoping that was the answer. Nope, that’s not happening either. It’s just too much for me. I like things simple and quick. Often I would wish that there were tiny circular needles. It never made sense to me that circular needles weren’t made smaller. I looked at every craft store I went to for the longest time and even mounted a search on the web with no success. 

Scrolling around on Pinterest one day, I discovered that there were tiny circular needles called Addi Turbo! I don’t know how long they have been available but I sure wish I had known about these great little needles years ago. No more fumbling with four misbehaved double pointed needles. No more ladders, loose stitches, needles slipping out of the work, etc. These tiny things are fantastic!

A few years ago I changed from straight needles to circular needles for all of my knitting projects. No more dropping one needle down into the couch cushions, prompting a head-in-the-sand type of hunt where I shove my entire arm down into whatever lives under there. What does live down there in the dark with the crumbs and cat hair? Will it bite me? I never expect to get my arm back! (For the record, I keep a very clean house. Crumbs and cat hair are notorious for climbing out of the vac at night and hiding under the furniture.)

There are two drawers in my sewing desk full of knitting needles and crochet hooks that I have collected over time from relatives, my grandmother, my mother, and also the ones I’ve purchased. Every time I open the drawer clouds of memories rise up to greet me. I appreciate all the work done on these old needles by family members over the decades and will pass these treasures down to my own daughter one day.  In the meantime I have this great set of circular needles (Takumi by Clover) with various size cords to attach to each. They twist on and never come apart while I’m working with them. This is a very compact and portable set so I always have the right size handy.

I love knitting socks now. It’s the perfect size project to tuck in your purse and take with you for those boring moments in waiting rooms, your lunch break at work, waiting for your car at the garage, or anywhere else you’d like the relaxation that comes with knitting a few stitches. Do you carry any small projects with you? What are you currently working on? Let’s talk patterns. 👩🏻‍💻

Simple Pleasures

After a long and mentally exhausting day at work, a coworker told me today that they were looking forward to going home to make a grilled cheese sandwich for supper. They thought that if that was the highlight of their day they must be pretty pathetic. I have an issue with that. Why does anyone have to feel that anything they do is pathetic? Pathetic to who? And who cares what anyone else thinks?

If your creature comfort is a warm yummy grilled cheese sandwich and it’s the bright spot in your day then what could possibly be wrong with that? In this age of social media we have become ridiculously concerned with appearing admirable to others. We place excessive value on being active to the point of being overextended. We place much lesser value on precious moments and small things that bring us pleasure.

Think about it.

What small things bring you pleasure and make you feel good inside?

Personally, I love a warm grilled cheese sandwich that is a tad bit black around the edges. Mmmmm. Warms my tummy and soul. I always make sure to appreciate the small things in life. Otherwise where is the joy of everyday?

  • I like to bury my face in my cats’ soft fur. Joy.
  • I like the smell of onions being sautéed in butter when my husband is cooking. Heartwarming.
  • How about the smell and feel of fresh sheets after they have hung on the clothesline all day? Fantastic.
  • How do you feel on the first warm day of spring when you roll the windows down in your car and turn up the radio? Freedom.

So why do we beat ourselves up when we indulge in simple pleasures? Where does this pressure come from? I’ll tell you what I think from my own observations. We place way too much value on what other people think. You just worry about enjoying the small pleasures in your life and never mind about anyone else. Try it for a week and see if it makes a difference for you. Let me know. 👩🏻‍💻

Making Peace with the Inner Bully

We hear so much about bullying these days. It’s everywhere. In schools, on playgrounds, at work, out in public, and on the internet. It seems that there is no place left where a bully won’t be found. We think we are safe from bullying in our own home (at least when we’re not being cyber-bullied). But I’ll let you in on something…….

I have an Inner Bully.  Do you? These days it’s called ‘negative self-talk’. You’ve heard the term? It whispers doubts in my ear constantly. It is scathing and negative and tells me that whatever I try will fail.  For decades I’ve scratched and scraped my way in this world in the accepted manner. I worked hard, lived week to week, and focused on staying one step ahead of the bill collectors while pushing my own happiness to the back of the bus, perhaps to enjoy later when there was more time. 

The problem is….. later never arrives. There is always something that comes first. Always something that is more important. You know the drill. You do it too. You work all day then you come home and do housework, yard work, go to appointments, battle your budget, get lost in your dreams for brief moments and then push them aside to get those ‘important’ things done first. 

Every now and then I have an ‘aha!’ moment. Something I hear or read or see will drive an obvious but overlooked truth home. I was watching an old comedy from 1957 called Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (Love those old movies.) At the end of the movie Tony Randall said, “……success is just the art of being happy.”    I felt my inner bully cringe. She didn’t want me to know this truth. She knew it would weaken her, maybe even eliminate her. My bully knows that I’ve always measured my success by being able to keep my head above water. Success to me meant self-sufficiency and independence. Dreams never figured into it.  Happiness was a by-product of success. 

I don’t know that I can really hate my bully though. She has kept me working hard and given me an incredibly strong work ethic. She has prompted me to be competitive and strive for excellence with everything I attempt to do.  She is a hard taskmaster who taught me how to keep my nose to the grindstone. Perhaps she is more of a drill sergeant than a bully. Maybe she has to be hard on me to keep me trying. I think I’ll let my Drill Sergeant hang around and keep her firmly in her place as my motivator. 

Will this knowledge change any of my habits? I hope so. Already I’m carving out  little spots of time to focus on doing things I like while pushing the tasks that can wait to the back of the bus. As I mentioned in an earlier post, when I was a child I didn’t worry about being good at things, I just did them because they made me happy. I’m going to find that little girl again and hold tight to her enthusiasm. Do you have an inner bully that you can turn the tables on and make work for you? 

What’s important to you? What do you always make sure to include in your day? If you could have your ultimate dream life what would it look like? Have you taken any steps in that direction? 

Spring Planting Catalogues are Arriving!!

The first spring planting catalog has arrived! My excitement knows no bounds! Even though we are in the frigid twenties today with wind gusts that are blowing the birdseed out of the feeders, I am thinking about various landscaping projects around the yard.

I can almost smell the soil as I envision digging into it to set sapling trees into their new home. The feel of the rich dirt compacting and filling the space under my fingernails is divine. I’m anticipating the potential of lush plants, ripe vegetables, fragrant flowers and their vibrant colors.  I’m feeling the sun warming my back as I bend over to fix the seedlings into the soil. Outside the wind is still trying to blow the roof off the house while I’m cozy and snug, dreaming of spring.

This year I really need to find some trees that grow quickly and also that the deer won’t eat. A hard task around here. I love watching the deer when they come into the yard, but I don’t need them to trim the privacy trees. Another aim of mine is to plant berry bushes. Maybe high-bush blueberries and a bank of raspberries.

We do like our jams that I put up each season. It would be pretty neat to grow some of the berries right here. Although, taking the 8 mile atv ride to our secret blackberry place will always happen! It’s a very enjoyable ride in the fresh northern Maine air and wonderful wooded scenery. You never know what you might see for wildlife along the trail.

Patience has never been one of my virtues. Spring cannot arrive soon enough. Until it does, I’ll continue perusing the catalogues as they arrive and plotting new plantings.

Do you have a favorite flower? Perhaps a favorite vegetable that you look forward to picking each year? Do you preserve your harvest? I’m always looking for ideas so please share with me in the comments.

Snow Day!!!

Oh the glory of the snow day! We never lose the excited, bubbling over happiness that we first experienced in childhood when school was cancelled for the day. The plow truck rumbles past the house with that unmistakable sound of steel scraping on pavement. You can hear it coming several minutes before you can see it. The wind is gusting the snow into drifts around the yard. You don’t have to get dressed for work. The comfy clothes go on and you snuggle in with your coffee for a relaxing day of watching the storm from the warmth of your home.

It’s like a gift isn’t it? In our multi-tasking world of “never enough time” the snow day is nature’s reminder to us to slow down and savor our time. I fill the feeders and watch the constant traffic of birds and squirrels. There are no distractions today. The tv is off— the only sounds are the blowing wind, bird chatter, the keyboard tickity taps, and that plow truck.

Walking around the yard and through the woods as the storm winds down is always restorative for me. I love the clean air and how the snow lays on the trees like a white down blanket. Finding fresh animal tracks is a treat. Coming into a warm house after a jaunt in the snow is so cozy, especially if there is a hearty stew bubbling on the stove. The savory aroma wraps around your head and pulls you in.

What did you do on snow days when you were a kid? Do you still do any of those things? We got our sleds out and zoomed down any hill we could find. When our homemade mittens were soaked and our socks soggy from the snow that kept getting into our boots we would head home for lunch and dry clothes. It didn’t take long to eat hot soup, get freshly wrapped in warm duds and be back outside looking for our friends and our next adventure.

The childlike excitement of those bygone days has stayed with me over the years. Simple joys like this keep me grounded and bring life back in focus. Share your snow day adventures— childhood or recent— in the comments section. I’d love to hear them!

What’s Her Story?

Driving toward the stoplights at the end of the road I saw her. She was standing on the center median strip in the rain with a sign in her hand. It said Homeless– Anything Will Help. She looked rough, soggy, dirty, and distrustful. Her eyes scanned the road and vehicles around her. In that brief moment as my car approached the red light I knew it was the right thing to give her a few dollars. As I stopped our eyes met and when I looked down to rummage through my wallet she knew what I was doing but waited, as if she was afraid to be disappointed should she be wrong. When she saw me begin to roll the window down as our eyes met again, she shuffled over to me and extended her hand to meet mine as I reached out. She shuffled back and the light changed and there ended the encounter.

Most folks don’t give to homeless beggars in traffic. Not a glance, not a smile, not a word of encouragement, and certainly not a dollar. I have never seen anyone extend a hand of kindness as they’ve driven by or been forced by the traffic lights to stop beside them. I behave the same way usually, averting my eyes and then going my way and forgetting about them as quickly as possible. I have heard that people drive by them and scream, ‘Get a job!’. Shameful behavior for sure from all of us, including myself for avoiding what’s uncomfortable to see.

So why did it feel right on that occasion to interact and say a kind word in the few seconds I was at the light beside her? What’s her story? Where was she born? Did she have a nice childhood and then fall on hard times as she became an adult? Or was she born to this cruel fate? Are her circumstances a product of bad choices? Was she forced into this lifestyle by circumstances beyond her control and then gave up? Was she continually beat down by people like you and me being mean or giving her disgusted looks, or simply by averting our eyes and pretending she doesn’t exist? Is she perhaps a product of all of us?

What do you think would happen if everyone who came across her gave her a greeting and a kind word, just as they would if she was a cherished friend? But they don’t. People say that the homeless just use their money for drugs and alcohol. While this may be true for some you certainly can’t place that blanket judgement on all of those folks. Think about that for a moment. Then ask yourself if you like to be categorized and then judged based on the actions of others. How does it feel?

The solution to homelessness is well beyond my ability to solve. Although most every town has shelters and places that try to help, the issue will never be resolved until it captures everyone’s concern and we all participate in finding some answers. One moment in my day– that took less than a minute– made me think quite hard about many things. Did my action and kind words give her a small lift of spirits at all? Or was it just another couple bucks from a stranger that was swiftly forgotten as she stood there in the rain waiting for the next small helping hand to reach out to her? If every single person who passes by a homeless person were to learn their name and greet them each time, what would happen? Would a sort of friendship form? Then what? If pleasantries and little bits of conversation were exchanged each time, what would happen? Would you learn about their life and who they are? Would they become more ‘human’? More like an acquaintance? Would knowing who they are and a bit about their life (health, dreams, family, etc.) make you more inclined to be kind and lend a hand?

So many questions from that one fleeting encounter. I could fill the page with so many questions that you might not find the end of it. Have you had any experiences at all with homelessness? Yourself or someone you know? What about the homeless in your town? Have you ever interacted with them or do you volunteer at shelters? Please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. 

Nostalgia-Inducing Writing Exercise

I was doing a writing exercise not long ago, about exploring your natural gifts through early childhood memories. The exercise asked that you go as far back as you can remember, when you had no fears and nothing was expected of you except to play all day. Then you use the common or dominant things to examine your adult life and help you see your natural gifts.

Admittedly, trying to conjure up memories of such early times is difficult. I remember playing quietly on the floor of the living room of our trailer. We had things like Lincoln logs, wooden blocks, Barbie dolls, and little metal matchbox cars. Some of them had doors that would open and close. I remember coloring with crayons and using them to make rubbings on paper of the patterns on the kitchen floor linoleum. I liked the smell of the crayons. Still do. I have vague recollections of playing outside with other neighborhood kids, though I see no faces, it was too long ago. We used to go to the end of the trailer park looking for frogs near a field I think, and sit in the big puddles after the rain. The water was warm and felt good.  I remember roller skates that were adjustable with a skate key and you buckled them onto your shoes. I was never very good but liked to go around and around on the patio.

One morning I was up early, before the chill was out of the air and you could see clouds of gnats hanging in the air. There was no one up and about in the trailer park but me so I walked around a bit and ended up on the patio of the empty lot next door. As the the sun got a little higher all sorts of spiders began crawling up onto the edges of the patio to get warm. I was just little and scared of spiders, so I let out a mighty scream at the top of my lungs. I’m pretty sure I woke the whole neighborhood and must have gotten scolded. I don’t recall who came running, perhaps the neighbor boy Brian. I stood there in terrified tears telling whoever it was why I screeched.

I got a big Raggedy Ann doll for my birthday one year. She was almost as tall as me. I was pretty excited at first when I opened the box thinking that I was seeing the end of a sleeping bag. Then pulled it out and discovered it was a dolly. I still have the photo of me hugging her with a big grin on my face.  I still have dolly, though I don’t know what happened to her clothes. She wears a dress that I used to wear as a baby. Mum made it for me. And dolly lives in my bedroom now, a constant reminder of earlier times.  

I can’t conjure up memories of things earlier than this. Even though the instructions asked for memories of before “peers or fears”, I don’t recall a time when there was no meanness from my sister. It was just part of life. Thinking about this I wonder if I should be feeling ‘robbed’ of a ‘normal & happy’ childhood. But I don’t feel that way. It certainly colored my entire life and reactions to everything in life, but I think I’m a good person– well adjusted, generally content, always striving to better myself and my environment. Anyway, it can’t be changed and I feel nothing when I think about it. It’s odd sometimes to think about things and have absolutely no feelings, like a hollow void where nothing exists. Do you ever feel that way?

Looking back over the memories, I mostly remember being perfectly content to sit and play by myself. I never felt the need to have anyone else around me and don’t recall looking for anyone out of boredom.  I didn’t worry about being good at anything, I just did it because it was fun and made me happy. When do we lose that? I recognize that from an early age I’ve had a peacefulness within myself. Is this what draws others to me and compels them to feel safe and secure opening up to me? When they do I feel patient and kind and caring and wish there was some way I could help. So is my gift then peace and empathy? Being a counselor is one of the jobs that is supposed to fit my rare personality type. I wish I had known that many years ago, when I could have gone to school for it and earned a very nice living helping others.

What are your earliest memories? Do they help you see what your natural gifts are? Can you remember when you began to lose your childhood happy-go-lucky mindset? Was it something specific? Leave a comment. I would love to hear your experiences.