Downright Pavlovian

For the last two years, I have been making an intentional and focused effort on reducing the amount of . . . stuff . . . I own.  Call it KonMari-ing or Döstädning or simple de-cluttering . . . I've been On It.

I've cleaned out my closets (multiple times).  I've reduced my personal library (by 30 banker's boxes of books).  I've cleared out my yarn stash (and I'm not done yet).  I've given away bedroom sets and kitchen supplies and linens and holiday décor and bric-a-brac.  

And I've tried to reduce the . . . stuff . . . at the source -- by curtailing what I bring IN to my house.  I've cut down on gift-exchanges.  I've reduced my shopping.  I've gotten much better at telling myself NO.  I recycle catalogs and magazines before I even bring them through the door.

There is so much less . . . stuff . . . in my house now than there was a couple of years ago.  But I still have more work to do!

And then, last week, I had a bit of an epiphany.  About shopping.  (Yes.  It's another True Confessions moment.)



So I've been a loyal Estée Lauder fan for pretty much my entire adult life.  (It's pricey -- but it works.  My skin is in great shape for a woman of my age-and-stage in life.  Just sayin.)  It all started back in the early 1980s.  When I was lured . . . by one of their free give-away deals.

You know how it works.  You spend $XX on a regular product, and they send you home with a bag of generously-sized sample products and a free-with-purchase make-up bag.  And, in Estée Lauder-land, they do this 4 times each year.  Because the products really do last a long time (a little dab'll do ya!), even a poor grad student's wife (back in the 80s) could indulge in special make-up and skin care products now and then.

The years unfolded.  I continued using the products.  I built relationships with the women at the Estée Lauder counter.  I got moved up to "preferred" status.  Now they even give me a call to let me know it's almost "free gift" time -- and I receive special passes to come in and get my "free gift" a few days before the promotion actually begins.

In other words . . . they treat me like I'm Special.

You know why?

Because I tend to buy at these promotions!  Even if I don't need anything immediately, I will pick something up to have on hand. . . and get the "free gift with purchase."  By this point, my make-up and skin care inventory is full-to-bursting.  I will use the . . . stuff . . . eventually.  But, for now, I definitely have an inventory on hand.

Yesterday I pulled out my entire inventory of EL products. This is stuff that I have on hand, but I'm not currently using. As you can see . . . plenty.

So when this quarter's promotional brochure (and "valuable coupon") showed up in my mailbox last week, I decided to skip it.
To just sit this one out.  
To simply not show up.
I'd just pop the brochure in the recycling bin on the way into the house.  
Because I don't need any products right now.

This is my current inventory of Advanced Night Repair. A great product, sure. But this amount will last me for years.

But you know what happened?


I didn't put it in the recycling bin.

I took it into the house.
And opened it.
And wrote the promotion dates on my calendar.
And pulled out the coupon-card to put in my wallet.
And started thinking about what I would buy.

And then I yelled at myself.
And put it in the recycle bin.

And pulled it again out the very next day.

And then it hit me. I have been completely conditioned (in the Pavlovian "classical conditioning" kind of way) to respond to "free gift" time by . . . buying.  Even when I don't need anything.  Even when I know that I don't need anything.

This is NUTS.
This has to STOP.

I finally did recycle the promotional brochure.  And the accompanying coupon.  And I erased the dates from my calendar.  (Because I do not NEED any Estée Lauder products right now.)  (I repeat:  I do not NEED any Estée Lauder products right now.)

This all made me realize how conditioned I am to buy . . . when I've been "trained" to buy.
At "free gift" time.
With "birthday bonuses."
Because they sent a generous coupon.
At the change of seasons.
For the holidays.
Before a vacation.
At fiber festivals.

But now I know.  I'm getting it in a whole new way.  (Thanks, Estée Lauder.)  
It's time.  
I'm going to break free of my shopping Pavolvian response!  

(Please tell me this happens to some of you, too.  When do you buy because you've been conditioned to buy?  And . . . how have you taken charge of your response?)

Shaking It Up

I'm taking another drawing class this semester.  This time, it's a colored pencil technique class, and the whole point is to stretch our drawing in new directions.

Here is a little something I did in class last week.  It's a Lake Michigan sunset using wax-based colored pencils on sandpaper.  


Yep.  Sandpaper.

Sometimes it's good to just shake things up a bit and try something completely unexpected.  
In art and in life!

Next Up: Adventure

Last month I told you about Jen Tulson's Sacred Invitation Deck -- a set of beautiful cards I won in a random drawing -- that I'm using as a tool in creating an "area of refuge" for myself.

The first card I chose was . . . savor.  And the card did its magical work!  Every time I glanced at it, I found myself thinking about simple things that I savored in my life (looking out the window at the snow, being able to throw a hand knit shawl over my legs when I was chilly, the smell of food cooking in the kitchen . . . that kind of thing).

I liked the savor card!  It brought me comfort and a daily gentle reminder to notice the little things.  I was in no hurry to switch it out with another.  And so it remained, sitting on my desk (in a little stand-up card holder I had stashed away in my junk drawer) for nearly a month.

Until it wasn't.

Over the weekend, it must have fallen to the floor under my desk.  And this pup . . . 


normally so well-behaved - but with a strange penchant for cardstock (and only cardstock) that she finds lying on the floor - decided to, well . . . savor it herself!


I decided, then, that the time had come for me to choose another card!  


But I'm gonna be honest here.  When I saw my new card - adventure - I was disappointed.


In the middle of February?

I mean, seriously?  Adventure . . . conjures excitement and new and plans and going somewhere.  Not . . . exactly what my life looks like right now, y'know?

But I stuck the card in the little holder on my desk anyway.  I'm going to live with it for awhile and see where it takes me.
Because hmmmm.  
You never know.


A Real Non-Event

On Tuesday I had my annual check-up with my oncologist.


(Of course, I will mark and celebrate these nine years many times over the next several months.  Nine years since my diagnosis.  Nine years since my "port" was installed.  Nine years since my chemo began. Nine years since my first clean scan.  Nine years since the end of chemo.  Because . . . really . . . there are so many anniversaries to "celebrate.")

Anyway.  The appointment.

All. Good.


See you next year!

IMG_8765 2


Other than the appointment being a Big Life Marker . . . it also made me realize something I never-ever imagined possible in those raw-and-shining days just out of chemo . . . 

Having cancer is just not something I think about much anymore.

This is unfathomable to me.

I can go days now . . . maybe even weeks . . . without thinking about cancer or treatment or that I had it or worrying that it might come back.

I can hear about someone else (or someone's sister) (or someone's sister's ex-fiance's mother-in-law) (or someone who just happened to be a friend of someone's sister's ex-fiance's mother-in-law) (etc.) being diagnosed with cancer without that trap-door opening and sucking me down into the depths. 

I can think . . . I am a nine-year cancer-survivor.  And just be grateful for that -- without feeling guilty because of all the other cancer survivors who never made it to nine years. 

I can allow myself to trust in a future again, as much as any of us can.


I've passed some huge milestone of "survival" somewhere along the way to nine years.  I'm not exactly sure when or where I did that . . . but I did.  I'll never kid myself.  My experience with a diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma back in the fall of 2008 changed me . . . forever and for good.  

I have no illusions.  

I know that every day is a gift.  

And that life can change on a dime.

But after nine years . . . I'm grateful that my annual oncology check-up is just routine for me now.

A real non-event.

Deadheading: Good for More Than Gardening

In gardening, deadheading is a particular maintenance practice that prolongs blooms, prevents seeds from spreading where you don't want them, and keeps things looking neat and tidy in the garden.

Basically, it means pinching or snipping off spent blooms -- those blooms way past their prime.  (My favorite gardening mantra:  If it's brown, cut it down.)

Some gardeners hate this chore, but I love it!  I find it very meditative and centering -- and it's a great way to keep in close touch with what's happening in my garden.  


(That's a look down into my bucket after a good deadheading session last weekend.)

So, last weekend - as I was deadheading my perennials and containers - I started thinking about the value of getting the spent "stuff" out of the garden.   

It certainly makes things LOOK better.  (Because a clump of dead daisy heads is really not attractive, y'know?)  

And when you pinch off dead-and-dying blooms, you provide more energy for the plant to produce NEW blooms -- or to grow deeper roots if the blooming period is really over.  (Roses respond especially well to deadheading.  And those daisies?  Once I deadhead the dead daisy heads, I get a second round of blooms.)

And deadheading allows you to gather seeds to share or to plant where you want them.  (Rather than the wild self-seeding that can happen with some plants if you're not careful.)  (I'm talking to you, Japanese anemone.)

All good things . . . for the garden.


Isn't the same true of our lives?

Perhaps we should also be doing some "life-maintenance" once in a while. . . deadheading out the "spent" stuff in our lives.


With regular deadheading, we can create space and energy for our own new growth.  We can keep old, negative seeds from spreading and growing where we don't want them.  We can keep our minds neat and tidy . . . and ready for new blooms.

Deadheading.  Turns out it's good for more than just garden maintenance!

In the Bag

Until a couple of years ago, I had kind of a Thing . . . for bags.  Handbags.  Totebags.  Wallets.  Clutches.  I had quite a collection . . . far too many to use, truth be told.  (I actually started hanging some of my favorites on doorknobs -- as "art objects.")  (Because I think I was taken more by their design than their function.)

And then . . . I discovered the Marie Kondo method (Kon-Mari for those in the know), and discovered that most of those bags just . . . didn't bring me joy.  They're gone now.  Seriously.  Gone.

And replaced by the completely unattractive yet highly functional Baggalini Everywhere Bagg.


Yes.  For two solid years now, THIS bag has been my only bag.  (I do actually have it in two colors -- black for the cold months and blue for the warmer ones.  Same bag.  Different colors.)

Although I thought I might die from bag-boredom early on, I can now say that this bag is the perfect bag for me!  Every. Day.

It has functional pockets --- that I actually use.  For my phone, for my lip gloss, for my bullet journal, for my cheaters, for my umbrella.  There is ample storage for those times I want to bring my iPad or a small knitting project along.  Everything fits.  Everything has it's place.  Shoot . . . there's even a hook for my keys.  And - maybe best of all - I can throw the bag in the washing machine and freshen it up if I need to.

It's time for me to switch out my bag . . . from the black version to the blue version.  Perfect timing for this week's Think Write Thursday topic!  Want to see what I keep in there?


Let's see . . . 

We have my wallet (which doubles as a clutch if I don't want to haul the entire bag around -- it even has room for my phone), my grocery-list-memo-pad, my horribly hideous umbrella (I'm really hard on umbrellas; this is a free-with-purchase umbrella that came with some random totebag along the way), cheaters pair #1, bullet journal, wet wipes (just in case), my quick-sketch pad and pencil, some Imodium (because you need to be prepared, y'know), Altoids, spare hearing aid batteries, tissues, a decent pen, keys, hand lotion, lipgloss, and my phone.  (I just realized my cheaters pair #2 missed the photo . . . because they were on my head.  But they belong in the bag too -- right in the handy side zip pocket, perfect for cheaters or sunglasses.)  That's pretty much it for me.  I like to travel light . . . but also be prepared.  

And, with that . . . I've switched over to my warm-weather blue version of the Everywhere Bagg! 


How about YOU?  What's in YOUR bag?


Today's post is part of Think Write Thursday.  To see what other bloggers are carrying in THEIR bags, click here.  And to sign up to receive weekly prompts, click here.


Living with Intent

Every year, in January, I come up with a list of intentions to guide me through the year ahead.

I don't consider them resolutions or even goals.  Just . . . intentions.  Ways I want to live.  Ways I want to BE.

And I try to distill them down to just two or three words.  So they're simple and concise -- and open to interpretation (re-interpretation?) as the year unfolds.  Here's my list for 2017:


Now that I've been living with these intentions for a few weeks, I wanted to take a close look at them again -- as a review, and to see if I wanted to make any adjustments to my list.

I think they're good, though.  I can already feel them taking root; guiding my thoughts and actions.

I'm off to good start . . . at living with intent!

Slipped My Mind

Tom was away over the weekend - to curl in a bonspiel up in Canada.  Before he left, he reminded me, "Don't forget about the wine sale on Saturday."  (Because Tom manages our beverage inventory - and would usually hit the sale himself.)


I had every intention of stocking up at the wine sale.  But I got busy with other things.  And, well.  I missed the wine sale.  It just slipped my mind.

It wasn't until yesterday that I realized . . .
the wine sale wasn't the only thing that had slipped my mind!

Saturday - February 4 - was also the 8th anniversary of my final chemo treatment.  A Big Day.  A Red Letter Day.  A Day I usually set aside for some serious reflection and celebration.

But it slipped my mind, too.  Completely.  I never even gave it a thought.

I think that's really significant. 


Looking Back

As I mentioned the other day, there is nothing magical about turning the calendar to a new year.  The beginning of January does not erase current situations, ongoing projects, or existing problems.


There is something about the fresh start of a new year that brings reflection -- a summing up and moving forward kind of feeling.


For me, the beginning of a new year is a time to . . .




Where am I?  And where do I want to be heading?

Ideally, I'd do this reflecting before turning the calendar over to January.  Y'know?  To be ready to hit the ground running when the ball drops?  But that never seems to happen for me.  (I blame the hub-bub of the holidays.)  

So January . . . serves as my time of reflecting.

It's great to look back over the just-finished year -- to face last year's mistakes and disappointments; to leave guilt or despair behind; to get closure on projects or ideas; to assess what worked - and what didn't.

It's also a perfect opportunity to pause -- to just breathe; to allow my mind to wander; to read poetry; to clear some space for new thoughts and ideas.

All of this helps me gain perspective -- on who I am now, and where I want to head next.

And, although I don't really set any "resolutions" for myself, I certainly do set intentions -- for how I want to live and what I want to especially focus on during the upcoming year.

I guess it's a good thing January is so gloomy and long!  It gives me plenty of time to reflect. . .

Enjoy the weekend.




The Beginning

“We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives...not looking for flaws, but for potential.”

---- Ellen Goodman


I'm always a sucker for a fresh start.

A blank journal.  A new calendar.  A freshly turned garden.  Casting on.

Especially after a rough go of things.  

And 2016 was certainly that.

I spent the day yesterday drawing up a list (as Ellen Goodman so artfully says) of work to be done, cracks to be patched . . . and potential.  So much potential.

I have no illusions that turning the calendar to a new year will bring any magic.  But it does provide a sense of beginning again.  A summing up, so to speak.  An opportunity to assess and reflect and start anew.

So.  Welcome 2017.

Let's do what we can . . . to make you a good one!