Overthinking Overalls

When I was in high school, I had a pair of denim OshKosh'b'Gosh overalls. I wore them a lot back then - and especially during the summer at outdoor swim meets (because I could just throw them over my suit - easy-breezy). I embroidered all over them . . . in that freestyle, mid-70s kind of way. (Lots of rainbows, flowers, and peace signs.) I couldn't wear them to school (we had a dress code that allowed us only to wear "dress denim" on Fridays, which meant . . . no embroidered denim overalls), but I did sew myself a pair of corduroy overalls (thus acceptable for ANY day of the week per the school dress code), and even one of my cheerleading uniform options . . . was a pair of overalls (also dress code acceptable).

So. I was enamored with overalls -- and especially my OshKosh pair. Comfy. Groovy vibe. Unexpected. When I went off to college, though . . . they didn't come with me. I don't know what happened to them, and I don't seem to have a photo of me wearing them anywhere. But I really loved them.

Which means. . . that even as a nearly-62-year-old woman, I have a soft spot for overalls! 

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(Look! The Selfie Project continues . . . and I inexplicably put on mascara the other day for no reason at all except I felt like it. What is happening???)

Over the last couple of years, I've noticed . . . more overalls on the fashion scene, including lots of sewing pattern designs. (Jumpsuits, too. But it's a hard no on the jumpsuits for me.) I looked. I contemplated. I considered. But . . . nah.

Most of the designs I saw were more . . . fashion-y than I wanted. Or they were really simplified versions of standard, work overalls. And there seemed to be a lot of little futsy details: sideways pockets or paperbag waists or wrap around ties. I did succumb last summer and purchased this pattern. (I think I saw a pair that someone I know had made on IG that looked really great for summer - and without the fussy ties . . . ) But I never sewed them. (Too busy with masks.) (Sigh.) 

Besides. There was that silly little critical voice in my head that would whisper you're too old for overalls now when I got thinking about really making - and wearing - overalls. (I know this is NOT TRUE. I can wear whatever I damn well please, thankyouverymuch.) (But that voice still whispers, y'know?)

I haven't thought about overalls for several months now. . .  
Until last Tuesday!

I had ducked in to my favorite garden nursery for a quick breath of spring. They sell houseplants during the winter, and were having a sale to clear their stock in preparation for the gardening season ahead. I wanted to pick up a few succulents and maybe a plant or two for my house . . . y'know . . . to get me through the next couple of months inside. Anyway. Guess what I saw there????

A smart and sassy older woman with very cool silver hair . . . ROCKING A PAIR OF OLIVE GREEN DENIM OVERALLS!

If it hadn't have been the pandemic, I would've grabbed her and gotten all the details on her most awesome overalls. But it is the pandemic, so I admired her from over 6 feet away.

Ever since? I've been dreaming of a pair of olive green denim overalls for myself! Although, let's be honest. I've not been dreaming. I've been overthinking those overalls. . . 

I looked at ready-to-wear options online. But nothing seems to be what I want . . . in a reasonable price range. (And there are some WILD options out there -- including skinny-leg overalls with those ripped up legs. I kid you not.) I looked at farm-and-fleet store overalls online --  but they're just a bit too functional for me. (I don't think I need 96 pockets or articulated knees. . . ) And I looked at sewing patterns. Again. Most of them really are more fashion-focused than I'm wanting. Or there are some other details about them I'm not particularly liking. (The back, for example. I'm apparently very particular about how I want the back to look. And the pockets need to be Just Right.)

And then I found this pattern. . . 

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This is the Harlene from Merchant & Mills.
And it is EXACTLY what I want.

Ohlordhelpme
I'm going to sew myself a pair of olive green denim overalls.

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Don't forget: the Read With Us Zoom book discussions are coming right up -- Tuesday, March 2. Be sure to let Bonny, Carole, or I know if you'd like to join us for the Zoom that evening at 7 pm Eastern. (Just comment on any of our blogs to RSVP, or send us an email!)

 


Making Great Use of Her Time: A Fitness Story

Way back in 2019, I started a "conversation" here about wellness -- specifically about fitness, and especially as we age.  Based on your comments, it was pretty clear back then that we all pretty much fell into one of two camps:  

(1) those of us who have discovered strategies to make fitness a part of our lives, and 

(2) those of us who would like to.

Throughout 2019, I asked some of the folks in the first camp to share their fitness and workout strategies with those in the second camp.  First, I shared my sister Diane’s story– about developing a walking routine for the long term.  Next, I shared Carolyn’s story – about mastering a self-directed fitness/video routine.  Then I shared Patty’s story – about developing a fitness/support community to stay active for the long haul. And finally, I shared Claudia’s story about getting strong and becoming a fitness advocate for yourself.

Last fall, I checked back in with each of them to see how they were doing with their fitness through the pandemic. (You can read their updated stories here: Diane, Carolyn, Patty, and Claudia.) 

Today, I’m happy to bring you another personal fitness story.  This time, I’m going to introduce you to Karen. . . someone who has made the absolute most of her “pandemic time” to not only up her fitness game, but to change her entire lifestyle. I met Karen here - through my blog - and we’ve followed each other on Instagram for several years. As the pandemic dragged on, I enjoyed following Karen’s fitness progress on IG. I think you’ll be as inspired by her story as I’ve been!

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Kym: To get started, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your life — how you spend your days, what you like to do in your free time, what makes you happy . . . that kind of thing.

Karen: I’m 58 years old, married, with 2 sons who are both married and I have 5 granddaughters! I work in the nonprofit world as a controller for a statewide organization that funds legal aid programs in PA. I have always worked in nonprofit accounting and grant writing. As someone who ‘crunches’ numbers all day you don’t always get to see how your work impacts a company. In the nonprofit world I have been able to see how the work I have done impacts the community around me. It is very fulfilling. The work our programs do - especially in these crazy political times in our country - is needed even more than ever.

As empty nesters my husband and I have enjoyed camping, hiking, and kayaking. We bought a small camper after years of tent camping with our sons. And we took up kayaking about 5 years ago. We love to visit wineries and breweries. My husband actually started brewing beer a few years ago. I love to knit (this is how I found your blog years ago), garden, craft – especially with my granddaughters, travel, cook (especially as a new vegetarian), and take pictures.

Kym: Tell us about what you used to do about fitness in the Before Times, and how that changed during the pandemic. What inspired you? 

Karen: As a kid I was always super skinny. I could eat whatever I wanted and never gained weight. But in my 20s that changed. I slowly started gaining weight, and honestly have been overweight the past 25 years. That is hard to admit. I have dieted for years. Tried everything! Same old story – lost and gained over and over. And each time I gained I added more lbs.  

I struggled with health issues related to being overweight – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep issues, joint pain, etc. I was a couch potato for years. In recent years I had worked off and on with a personal trainer. And while that was wonderful and I gained strength and learned so much, I never changed my eating habits.

When the pandemic hit in March and we were sent home to work remotely on March 16, I knew this was dangerous for me. I knew the anxiety of the situation as well as being home 24/7 with access to the kitchen could take me down. I kept hearing people talk about the “COVID 15” – kind of like the “freshman 15.” I made a very conscious decision to use this time to take better care of myself.  

Kym: What does your fitness routine/regimen look like now? How did your fitness routine come to be? Do you follow any kind of program or plan, or did you just make it up on your own?

Karen: Several people I follow on IG mentioned that we were given a gift in that those who had a commute before the pandemic now had that time back. I thought that was a brilliant idea!  While my commute only amounted to about an hour a day I decided to use that time to walk. I started slow, maybe a mile or so a few times a week. I was slower than mud. But the movement combined with the fresh air cleared my mind and was unbelievably good for my soul! Little by little I walked a bit faster, a bit longer. My goal now is 5k a day. Sometimes, especially on weekends, I walk or hike longer. 

And then I added in strength/weight training. I use a program through Beachbody on Demand called LIIFT4. It combines HIIT (high intensity interval training) with lifting. It’s 4 days a week for about 30-45 minutes. What I love about it is they always show a modification to the exercises, which is good for me as I have knee issues – like need 2 knee replacements issues.

And I also changed my eating habits. I had been dabbling with eating whole food, plant based (WFPB) for a few years. March 17 I decided to really work hard at this way of eating. I will say I am about 98% compliant. I do eat some cheese once in a great while (yum – pizza!).

Progress

(This is a progress photo of Karen wearing the same hand knit sweater.)

Kym: How do you stay motivated?

Karen: What keeps me motivated is the way I feel! The combination of exercise and healthy eating has worked – who knew? I am down 55 lbs with about 20 more to go. But it is more than the number on the scale. I feel better than I have in over 20 years. My painful joints are gone. My terrible knee pain – gone – despite walking 25 miles a week. All of my health numbers – except my BMI sigh – are wonderful. My doctor is thrilled.

As the weather got colder and the daylight hours changed it was harder. I now walk M-F at 5:00 pm in the parking lot of our local high school. It is well lit, safe and has a killer hill at one end of the school. And three times a week my husband runs at the same complex. On weekends it is easier as I don't have to be up as early. 

The old me would have used the lack of daylight as an excuse. The new me found a way around it as it is important to me.

Kym: What advice or words-of-wisdom do you have for others trying to get started — or keep going with — a new fitness routine?

Karen:

  • Make the time for yourself. As a woman, wife, mom, I think we sometimes put ourselves last. We take care of everyone else first. And for years I let my job rule my life. It still does in some ways and working during the pandemic has actually made work harder and at times meant longer hours – new funding sources, complicated revenues, finding new ways to work from home – have complicated work. But I schedule my workouts – put them on my calendar and 99% of the time I can follow through. 
  • Stop making excuses. I am the Queen of Excuses. I could find so many reasons for not exercising – too hot, too cold, too windy, my knees hurt, I need to work, I’m too tired. 
  • Start slow. Too many times we go all out from the start, get hurt or end up overly sore and that tends to make us stop.
  • Find something you love to do. Who knew I would love strength/weight training? It is empowering!
  • Get outside – no matter what the weather! This is one thing I strongly encourage to anyone who will listen. My husband and I get as much fresh air as possible each day, every day. This article on the Norwegian concept of Friluftsliv speaks to this. Kind of like the new hygge! I love walking in the rain and snow. We eat outside on our deck as often as possible – sometimes all three meals a day. Our neighbors think we are nuts as we can often be found having early morning coffee on the deck when it is 35 degrees outside, bundled up with a blanket over our legs and wooly caps on. The fresh air every day has kept us sane during this crazy time in our country. And as most of us are working and living in the same place it is good to get a change of scenery by getting outside.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. My husband is a runner. I am constantly comparing my meager miles at a much slower pace to his.  It is not a good thing to do. Instead think about how far you have come. I track my mileage in a spreadsheet – yup the accountant in me!  I have walked/hiked over 1000 miles in the past year.  This from a former couch potato.
  • Be active with others. That can be hard right now as we all continue to social distance. I will admit I really like walking on my own. It clears my brain like nothing else. I like setting my own pace and exercising at my convenience. But I also enjoy being active with others. I spent last summer hiking, hiking, birding and kayaking with my husband and sometimes family. All are great social distancing activities if you time it right. 
  • Realize you are worth it.  Oh this is a hard one. We all deserve to be healthy and happy. Make the time to be healthy. Find out what makes you happy.

Conewago Trail

I’ve really enjoyed watching Karen’s progress through these pandemic days. Her story is so powerful and inspiring. And you know what else is powerful and inspiring here? Her words of advice! They’re so very good! But I want to really highlight a few of them that have come up in each of the fitness interviews I've posted since beginning this focus on fitness.

First, make time for yourself. This is always tough, because we fill our days with "stuff" and never feel like we have time. But making time for fitness now . . . will pay off as you get older. (And we're all getting older.)

Second, start slow. And this applies to all aspects of fitness programs. Start with just a few minutes minutes. Lighter weights. Fewer reps. Then . . . build up to more mintues. More days. Extra miles. Longer planks. Let it happen gradually. (No burpees on your first day. . . )

Third, don't compare yourself to anyone else. Period. We're not trying to be competitive athletes here. We're just trying to become more fit . . . so we can feel better, age more comfortably, and stay healthy. It doesn't matter how anyone else is doing. It matters how YOU are doing.

As we were working on this interview, Karen told me that she almost felt guilty that the crazy pandemic has been "good" for her. She says it made her slow down, and it made her want to be her healthiest so if she did get sick, she'd be able to fight it. Talk about a silver lining!

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When I do these fitness interviews, I always ask about Gretchen Rubin's "Four Tendencies." In Karen's case, she told me she is an Obliger . . . which is why it's been so hard to put herself first this year. 

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How about you? Are you making progress with your own fitness goals?

 


Fer da Pup

So . . . I have a little "grand-pup" . . . and she is about the cutest thing ever.

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Her name is Ferda (after an oft-used phrase in the TV series "Letterkenny" . . . "fer da boys" . . . hockey humor). (Also, I am not recommending this show to y'all. Unless you like your humor rather obscure and of the hockey locker room variety. Then go for it.) Brian and Lauren adopted her as a little pup a couple of months before the pandemic arrived. I've not seen Ferda nearly enough . . . sigh. Anyway. Ferda has . . . a personality to match her cuteness! She is full of energy and curiosity and eagerness. She is a bounding, joy-filled pup.

She also . . . likes clothes! (And comfort.)

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When Brian and Lauren first brought her home, it was winter and very cold. And she was a skinny, sick little pup. They put her in little dog sweatshirts to keep her warm in their drafty old house. She likes wearing clothes now -- and has a growing wardrobe.

But she doesn't have a handknit sweater from her "grandma."

Yet!

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She will by the weekend, though! 

I'm knitting Ferda the Lucky Dog sweater (Ravelry link here). I did a lot of researching dog sweaters before I landed on this one, because dogs? They're kinda hard to fit, y'know? What I like about the Lucky Dog design is . . . ribbing in the "undercarriage" area, where dog sweaters tend to pull. And short rows through the chest to accomodate that chesty "dog shape." I'm knitting Ferda's sweater in Teflon-coated (not really) Encore Tweed (mostly acrylic, but also some nylon and a touch of actual wool) because you need something sturdy and washable for an active pup.

I'm nearing the end (quite a bit farther along than the photo I took yesterday), and I may even get a chance to try it on her this weekend.

That Ferda. She's one lucky dog!

(And if you want to see more Ferda, you can check out her Instagram account @the.ferds here.) (Because of course she has her own IG account.)

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How about you? What'cha making?

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If you want to read more Unraveled blog posts today, hop on over to Kat's for a link-up.

 


Getting at My Roots

"Fortunate are the people whose roots are deep."
--- Agnes Meyer Driscoll

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This month, I decided to do a little digging to check out my roots: The Roots of Me. I wanted to start looking for answers to questions like  . . .
Who am I?
What roots me to my environment?
How can I create healthy growing conditions so I can thrive (especially as I age)? 

In the garden, I'd just take out my little shovel and take a look at a plant's roots. Not so easy with . . . myself. So I set up a little exercise. Early in the month, I started an open list in my journal where I could jot down random things as they came to mind that might help me build a picture of . . . who I am . . . down at the roots.

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It was kind of fun, actually . . . to start really thinking about I AM. (And, yeah. The Who song ran through my head all month long. It was my constant soundtrack.)

I listed things that are easy, "label-y" kinds of things . . . 
woman
mother

knitter
friend

I included various personality "categories" . . . 
INFJ
Enneagram 4w5
Questioner (who tips Rebel sometimes)
Aries sun, Sagittarius moon, Gemini rising

I listed things I like . . . 
"I could eat cheese every day and never tire of it."
"I like appetizers better than dessert."
"I like checking things off my to-do list."
"I love poetry."

I listed things I don't like . . . 
"I hate to be misunderstood."
"Things I hate: small talk, manipulations, deceit/lying, chaos, rudeness, cruelty, and compromising my values."
"I don't like stories where animals are at risk. And I am not a fan of stories set in prison. Or torture. Also war movies are not my genre."

I listed my tendencies . . . 
"I'm always trying to figure myself out. I'm very introspective."
"I get done what I set out to do. Eventually."
"I'm not a perfectionist, but I do have high standards."
"I'm an introvert, for sure. But I'm an 'extroverted introvert.'"

I listed things I'm good at . . . 
"I'm good with creative problem solving."
"I see the forest AND the trees."
"I'm good with color and proportion."
"I'm comfortable with ambiguity."

I included things that . . . well . . . probably bug other people . . .
"I can be stubborn and a little impulsive."
"I'm not fun to be around when I'm hungry."
"I'm not a fan of confrontation, but I can be very direct."
"I'm bossy and I like to take charge if allowed. If not allowed, I'll step back. But I may not engage. And don't expect me to take orders."

And I listed goofy things about me . . . 
"I like to plan parties and give them, but I'm always worried no one will show up."
"I'm one of those people other people stop to ask directions of. Even as an American . . . traveling in Europe."
"I don't mind knowing what happens beforehand in books, movies, and TV shows."
"I don't mind public speaking."

Over the weekend, I typed up my list and printed it out. In the end, I had come up with 99 things that answered the question . . . Who am I? I had Tom check it out, and he thought I'd created a pretty thorough and accurate list for myself. (And he knows me better than anyone so I think he'd know.)

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This was a really interesting exercise. By taking a good look at the roots of ME, I feel like I'm in a good place to move forward . . . strengthening my own root system, figuring out how to create an environment where I can thrive. I'm not trying to change anything, really. Just trying to understand myself and take care of myself.

As any gardener knows, happy roots = happy plants.

(And aren't you glad I didn't make you read that whole list!!!)

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Carolyn is hosting a monthly one-word link-up. Click here to see what other bloggers have to say about their words this month.

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If you want to follow along with my word journey this year, you can click here to find all my posts related to "root."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Old Dogs, New Tricks

A couple of months ago, Vicki told us all about this very fun online cooking class she and her sister took together. And that got me thinking! My sister's birthday was coming up (at the time; it's a month passed now) . . . and maybe I could give her an online cooking class that we could take together! Wouldn't that be fun?

So I got more information from Vicki . . . and started digging around. Now, New Orleans style cooking (the class Vicki and her sister did) probably wouldn't appeal much to my sister. While she likes to cook, that's not really in her wheelhouse. I needed to cast my net a little further. . . and then I found that Sur La Table has a huge selection of online cooking and baking classes.

BINGO!

My sister loves to bake -- so I signed us both up for a 2-session croissant baking class. My thinking was that neither of us would attempt croissants on our own. They're technically difficult and the recipes/directions are totally intimidating . . . so it seemed a class setting might be the best way to learn how to make them. Plus . . . croissants immediately remind us of our travels together (and our shared love for Louise Penny's "Three Pines" book series).

We had our class this past weekend.

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It was really fun! The advance materials were good, and we were able to get ourselves prepped and ready to go before the class started. (Reading too far ahead, though, was still totally intimidating! Laminated dough is not for the weak of heart . . . ) The pacing was good, so we were able to keep up with the steps along with the online instruction.

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The tips and tricks were invaluable. And for me, the professional tips on rolling out dough . . . worth the price of admission right there!

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And by the end of Day 1, we had laminated croissant dough proofing in the refrigerator . . . 

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. . . all ready for Day 2. Which was all rolling, cutting, and shaping our croissants. More proofing . . . 

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And finally . . . baking!

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And, in the end, we each had a delicious batch of croissants!

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They were seriously GOOD.

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And I feel confident enough to make them again . . . on my own!

My sister had great success with her batch of croissants, too. It was a lot of fun to take the class with my sister. Although we couldn't see each other during the class (neither of us turned our cameras on), we texted and shared photos with each other throughout both sessions. Maybe I'll be able to talk her into another baking class soon . . . French Apple Tarte Tartin, maybe? Or Raspberry Macarons?

You really can teach old dogs new tricks!

 


Quick Reminder

Just a little Friday reminder here.

Our next Read With Us book discussion is coming right up!

Read With Us

First, the book . . . 

Leave the World Behind

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam. If you haven't had a chance to read it, you still have plenty of time. It's a quick read and quite a page-turner! (The tricky part is getting hold of a copy, if you're relying on your library. It's a popular book right now, and wait times can be long.)

Then, the discussion.

We'll be talking about the book on Tuesday, March 2 -- both on our blogs and with a Zoom meet-up. 

  • Bonny, Carole, and I will each post a different discussion question on our blogs on Tuesday, March 2. Feel free to post your thoughts about the book by commenting throughout the discussion week.
  • Later that same evening, we'll be hosting a Zoom meet-up at 7:00 pm to discuss the book "live" and in person. (Yeah, I know there are limitations with the timing, especially if you're on the west coast. But Bonny, Carole, and I are all in the Eastern Time Zone . . . and we turn into pumpkins if it gets to be too late.) If you want to join us (and we hope you will; we all had a lot of fun with our last Read With Us Zoom), all you need to do is . . . let us know! Just RSVP by leaving a comment on any of our blogs beginning today -- or you can send us an email. I'll be sending out the Zoom information prior to the meet-up -- AND I'll be sending out some background information about the book and the author that will deepen our understanding of the book prior to the discussion.

If you've read the book - or are still planning to - we hope you'll join us for the discussion on March 2.

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I wish you all enjoy a restful weekend, with plenty of time for reading.

 


Tending

I love the word tending. As in . . . to care or look after.

It's such a gentle word.
So soothing.
It just exudes love-in-action to me.

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I think about the word tending most often when it comes to gardening. I love to . . . tend . . . my garden. I like to care for my plants. I'm one of those gardeners who actually prefers the tending kinds of tasks - weeding, deadheading, picking off pests - more than the planting and harvesting kinds of tasks.

That's what I miss most about my garden in the winter: Puttering around and tending.
(Well. That's not really true. I mostly miss just seeing it all unfold and being IN it.) (But tending is a close second.)

So I'm biding my time until garden-season by tending to my little indoor garden for now . . . 

First, there's my Aerogarden. Which is really coming along nicely!  Not much tending to do with this one, actually. It really is a Just-Add-Water kind of thing. But fun to watch all the same -- and soon I'll be able to harvest fresh herbs for my cooking.

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Then, there's this first-ever possibly-re-blooming amaryllis bulb. This is very exciting for me. I've never been good at saving my spent amaryllis bulbs from one season to the next, but last year I followed Bonny's instructions . . . and look!!! A green shoot! (I stuck it next to the Aerogarden, so maybe the light is helping it come back to life?)

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And then, there are tulip bulbs that I picked up at Costco last week. They don't require much tending, either, really. Another Just-Add-Water project. 

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But a winter delight for this gardener all the same!

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Are you tending any plants in your indoor garden this winter?

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Be sure to visit Carole for other 3-0n-Thursday posts today.


Cut and Paste

If you've ever joined Ali Edwards for her One Little Word year-long workshop, you know that February . . . is vision board month. Some people really enjoy making vision boards; some people hate it. Me? I LOVE it! (I make little vision boards for myself all the time, in fact.)

There is nothing I find more centering . . . than sitting with a pile of magazines in front of me and a pair of scissors in my hand. Just clipping out images and words that resonate in some way. 

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It's not about your "word" (if you have one) - or any other "goal." It's just about choosing what inspires. Words that speak to you. Images that appeal to you. It's a way to . . . see what pops up.

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I ended up just creating my vision board this month right in the pages of my word-journal. 

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I really like the way they turned out. A little introspective. Quiet. Kind of grounded. The way I want to feel this year.
(And - bonus! - I have plenty of extra clipped images to make more pages later.)

How about you? Do you like to cut and paste? Have you ever tried making a vision board?


Sometimes Mondays Are for Questions

This year, I came up with a few things I wanted to "explore." And by that I mean . . . Consider. Learn about. Chew on. Maybe even fold into my life in some way.

And one of those things is . . . ritual.

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(Does "ritual" have anything to do with that photo? No. It does not.)

(And does "ritual" have anything to do with my one-little-word for the year? Not on the surface. Although I'll probably find some connection. Because that's what tends to happen.)

Anyway.

I've decided to explore . . . ritual. And, so far, here at the beginning of my exploration, I'm asking a lot of questions. Yesterday, I decided it might be interesting - and maybe even fun - to throw a few questions out into the universe and see what YOU think.

So here are a few basic questions I'm asking myself right now, as I get started down this "ritual" path. I'd really like to know what you think, so I'm hoping you'll share your thoughts in the comments.

When you hear the word "ritual," what do you think?
How is a "ritual" different from a "habit?"
Or is it???

And there you have it.
A few questions . . . on a (cold and snowy) Monday morning.


Love in Action

Love Week continues.

Love week

My mom was not a forceful woman. She was quiet. Very loving. She laughed easily and often. And she was very, very kind. To my sister and I, for sure, but to all the people she interacted with. This didn't mean she liked everyone she interacted with. (Because she didn't.) But she was always, always kind to people. 

She used to say two things over and over (and over) as I was growing up:

Treat others like you want to be treated.

You catch more flies with honey.

Oh, how I hated it when she would repeat these mantras. Because as a middle-schooler (for example), I didn't find them to be true. I WAS nice. People weren't nice back. (Such is the way of adolescents.) But I did listen. And although I had hurt feelings a LOT of the time as I was growing up, I did embrace her mantras (even bestowing them on my own children when the time came). I tried hard to be kind. I still do.

Because that's what my mom was talking about.
Simple kindness.

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Kindness and empathy help us relate to other people (even strangers) and help us have more positive relationships with our friends and family, too. I'm sure that's not news to any of you who regularly read along here. It's common sense; it's life sense. (And I'm betting my mom wasn't the only one with those mantras, either.) But did you know that acting with kindness . . . is also good for your health?

  • Kindness releases feel-good hormones. When you do something nice for someone else, you get a little hit of serotonin (the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of satisfaction and well-being). Kind of like when we work out, altruism releases endorphins . . . so we feel better emotionally when we do something nice or helpful for someone else.
  • Kindness helps ease anxiety and stress. I don't know that an act of kindness can stop a panic attack, but it has been proven to ease social anxiety. A study on happiness from the University of British Columbia found that participants who engage in kind acts displayed significant increases in "positive affect" (positive moods like joy, interest, and alertness). The study found that even small gestures can make a big difference when you're feeling a little anxious. Additionally, helping others helps us take a little break from our own life-stressors.When we can get "outside ourselves" - even for a brief period - it helps us build coping mechanisms for dealing with the stresses in our own life. "Prosocial behavior" (any behavior that builds your relationships with others) is an important component of coping with stress.
  • Kindness is good for your physical body. Sure, acting with kindness can "warm your heart," but it also turns out that it can affect the actual chemical balance of your heart. Kindness releases the hormone oxytocin, and according to Dr. David Hamilton, "oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and therefore oxytocin is known as a 'cardioprotective' hormone because it protects the heart (by lowering blood pressure)." Oxytocin also reduces inflammation in the body, which is associated with also sorts of health problems. Studies have shown that you're at greater risk of heart disease if you don't have a strong network of family and friends in your life. When you're kind to others, you develop more meaningful relationships and friendships . . . which, in the long run . . . can help you live longer.

Bottom line?
My mom was right!
It's simple: Treat others like you want to be treated, and you catch more flies with honey.
Kindness . . . is love in action. So . . . 

  • Be kind to yourself. (We all make mistakes and take missteps.)
  • Lead with compassion. (Recognize our shared human condition.)
  • Choose kindness. (We can't control others, but we can control the way we respond.)
  • And remember that kindness begets more kindness! (Be a good example.) (Which was another of my mom's mantras, actually. . . )

"Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind."
 --- Henry James

Have a great weekend, everyone. May it be filled with love and kindness!

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In my research for this post, I discovered that February 14-20, 2021 is Random Acts of Kindness Week. You can learn more about the week by clicking here (Random Acts of Kindness Foundation). The site includes several ideas for specific acts of kindness you can plan for the week, including writing "love notes" (thank you notes) to people who have changed your life for the better and creating "blessing bags" to distribute when you encounter someone in need (filled with small items that might be useful to someone temporarily displaced from a permanent home, for example).