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April 2019

Intention: Now With Extra Action

During April, my word - intention - took a decidedly action-oriented turn.


At least . . . if you can call "inaction" "action." ;-)

On April 1, I launched myself into a 30-day digital de-clutter, à la Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism book.  (You can read my original post about my digital declutter here.)  I wasn't THAT bad when it came to my digital habits.  I mean . . . I'd already removed Facebook from my life (which brought me much happiness and no regrets at all).  But there were a few tendencies that I wanted to disrupt; bad habits I wanted to break.  (And I will admit to being shocked at how much time I DID use my phone every day . . . when I was finally brave enough to really look at the stats for my screen time!)

This digital declutter meant I had to be very intentional about how I was going to use my phone and the rest of the digital tools at my disposal (my laptop and my iPad).  I set up rules for myself.  I removed the most troublesome apps from my phone.  I committed myself to . . . just leaving my phone in its pocket in my bag.  It also meant I needed to be very intentional about what I would do instead of picking up my phone.  (Always having something handy to read really helped here.)

Every single thing about my digital declutter has been intentional.  And now that I'm at the end of it, I'm going to be equally intentional about what I allow back into my digital life.

Here are some highlights from my digital declutter:

  • I reduced my daily phone use to under an hour each day.  According to my at-the-end-of-the-digital-declutter screen time stats, I now only pick up my phone to use my camera, to check the weather, to meditate (I use an app called Insight Timer), and to communicate (text or phone).  And that's . . . pretty much it these days.  

    Now that the digital declutter is over?  I want to keep it that way!

  • I have completely disrupted my tendency to "Google everything."  (My kids used to call me Google Mom.)  Seriously, before the declutter I would pick up my phone and Google any "I wonder" thought that popped into my head.  (We're not talking Useful Information here.  We're talking Really Stupid and Inane Things that I don't even really care about, but that were mildly interesting in a passing way.)  I have learned to let this stupid stuff just . . . go.  

    Now that the digital declutter is over?  I don't see this tendency making a return.  I'm just not interested anymore.

  • I took email off my phone completely.  Turns out that checking my email . . . was my "gateway drug" to using my phone.  I'd check my email "real quick" . . . which would lead to a scroll through Instagram, then maybe checking out what Pinterest was recommending for me to look at, and then a scan of today's headlines -- where I would probably click in to a story or two (or three or four).  And then, well . . . maybe I should check my email again???  Total. Waste. Of. Time.

    Now that the digital declutter is over?  I'm leaving my email off my phone, unless I'm traveling.

  • I took away the "headline news" feature on my phone.  I cannot even begin to tell you how much this has boosted my happiness.  And it's not like I'm living in a cave now, completely unaware of what's happening out there in the world.  Now I pick up my news through once-daily digests from my favorite news sources.  I access the information when I'm ready to check the news, and I find that I am more than adequately informed.

    Now that the digital declutter is over?  No news headlines.  Ever. 

  • I took the Instagram and Pinterest apps off my phone..  They did remain on my laptop and iPad, but, like I discovered with Facebook a couple of years ago, I found that I just didn't access either of those sites very often during the 30 days.  (I think I never looked at Instagram, and I know I pinned two things to Pinterest from my laptop.  But that's it.)  

    I do miss Instagram.  A lot.  I miss seeing what my friends are up to, and I miss sharing photos.  What I don't miss?  People I never should have been following anyway.  (No surprise there.)  

    What I miss most about Pinterest is having it available as a reference.  I pin a lot of "inspirational" ideas that I like to access in my art classes or when I'm sketching or when I'm with my friends and want to share things I've seen  -- and not having access on my phone is a pain.  Somehow, I need to balance the handy reference feature of Pinterest with my tendency to scroll to see what ELSE is out there.

    Now that the digital declutter is over?  I'm putting both apps back on my phone.  I'll begin engaging on Instagram again tomorrow, but on a limited basis (maybe just once every couple of days).  I'll also "unfollow" people who make me roll my eyes.  As far as Pinterest goes, I'm going to have to be really careful.  I'll monitor my use, and if it becomes a problem for me . . . I'll have to take it off again.

Bottom line?  

I did this digital declutter to take control - with intention - of my digital tendencies and habits; to get my digital use "in line" with how I want to spend my time.  The declutter was super valuable for me in doing just that!  I disrupted tendencies and patterns of use, I broke habits, and I gained a TON of perspective.  You know what else?  I discovered that I have so much time for DOING . . . when I'm not glued to my damn phone.

From an intention standpoint, it was an ideal exercise for me.  I will be more purposeful and deliberate (more intentional!) about the digital parts of my life from now on.


How about you?  What did you learn from your word this month?


Also -- be sure to check back on Friday!  I'll be . . . Asking Questions!  
(Are you curious????)



When Spring Gives You . . . Snow

On Saturday, we had a freak Spring snowstorm in the forecast.  

My first thoughts went to my garden.  Everything that is blooming or budding right now can take cold temperatures (our average last frost date isn't until mid-May after all), but heavy, wet snow?  That's enough to crush delicate blooms, for sure.  

I kept my fingers crossed that the forecast was wrong (as it often is. . .).  But once I saw the first "snow chunks" falling, I ran out into my garden to Save the Daffodils!


I cut every blooming daffodil in my garden and brought them all inside.

They made quite a bouquet -- and it gave me a chance to really see all the varieties play together, gathered in one spot as they were.

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I'm so glad I cut them and brought them in!  We ended up with enough snow that they would have been crushed under the weight of it.  (And I still have at least as many daffodil buds out there in my garden, so there are more blooms to come.)

In typical, fickle Spring fashion, the sun was shining brightly on Sunday morning, and by early afternoon, all the snow had melted.  (But for a while there on Sunday I did something I've never done before:  I gardened while there was snow on the ground.)


When Spring gives you snow . . . make lemonade!


(Be sure to visit this space on Friday!  Something new and exciting is coming . . . and you won't want to miss it.)


Fridays in April . . . Discovering Poetry

As you already know, during April (National Poetry Month), it's been my intention. . . to share some of my favorite poems and poets with you.  Poems and poets that you may not be familiar with yet.  Poems that are accessible and insightful.  Poems I think you'll like.

Like this one . . . 


Good Bones
by Maggie Smith
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I've shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I'll keep from my children.  The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that's a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake.  Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind 
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children.  I am trying 
to sell them the world.  Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones:  This place could be beautiful,
right?  You could make this place beautiful.
I first discovered this poem back in 2016.  I don't remember if it was after yet another mass shooting or after the presidential election, but in a time of sadness for me, this poem came along.  You may have discovered it then, too.  The Washington Post wrote an article about it - and its author, Maggie Smith, in 2016, calling it "the poem that captured the mood of a tumultuous year."  (You can read the article here.)  And Public Radio International called it the "official poem of 2016."  (You can read that article here.)  Anyway, this poem led me to discover the beautiful poetry of Maggie Smith.  Her book Good Bones was published in 2017, and it is a gorgeous tribute to motherhood.  You can learn more about Maggie Smith and sample some of her poetry here.
The poem Good Bones first appeared in the online literary journal Waxwing in June 2016.  It is also included in the author's book Good Bones, published by Tupelo Press in 2017.  Copyright Maggie Smith.

All It Takes

. . . is a bit of sunshine and a couple of warmer days to get things popping in my garden!  

A couple of years ago, I planted a big bag of "mixed daffodils," not really sure what I'd end up with when spring came around.  Now, I love the variety -- and I also love that they bloom in waves.  (Some are early-bloomers, some are late-bloomers.)  Here are three different types that are blooming in my garden today:


I just love them!  And I love their glorious steadfastness, too -- standing straight and tall through heavy rains and roller-coaster temperatures.  (Those spring bulbs are tough!)

What's blooming in your garden today?


Unraveling . . . A Bathroom

When we bought our house (almost 16 years ago) (which is freakin' unbelievable), the owner had to give us a significant "renovation allowance" . . . because there was wallpaper EVERYWHERE.  I know it was high-end wallpaper, professionally installed and (I'm sure) very on-trend when it was first done.  In 1989.  But it wasn't me and it didn't go with my stuff and it wasn't what I wanted to look at/live in every day.

So I spent every cent of the"renovation allowance" hiring professionals to remove and paint the major living spaces before we even moved in.  (Ahhhh.  So much better.)  But I ran out of "renovation allowance" before I ran out of rooms (because I also recarpeted) (priorities).  Three rooms were left . . . for later:

And then, there was one.  Which means -- Yes!  It's time to re-do the guest bathroom!

Right now, it's in a state of . . . unravel.


I'm (slowly and painstakingly) removing the (truly gross) wallpaper.


There is a lovely new sink and a new granite countertop -- but no fixtures.  (Plumber coming later today!)


And soon, the shower fixtures will be new and up to date.  (See plumber, above.)

I still haven't decided on a paint color, but I've narrowed my choices.  And I have a little time.  (Because I still need to get the rest of the wallpaper off the walls.)

It won't be long now . . . and I'll have accomplished what I set out to do nearly 16 years ago:  Blot out the memory of all that hideous wallpaper!

(Unraveled, indeed.)


Everything Counts

What do you think COUNTS . . . as exercise?

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  • Do you think you have to be doing something for a certain amount of time for it to "count" as exercise?
  • Do you think you have to be breathing hard and sweating and otherwise pushing yourself to the limit for it to "count" as exercise?
  • Do you think you have to be in a gym on miserable pieces of equipment for it to "count" as exercise?

Well.  If you do, you're not alone!  But I'm here to tell you that . . . what "counts" when it comes to exercise is different from what you think.  

In days gone by, there were some pretty specific recommendations for physical fitness and health that were, basically, large amounts of high intensity activity several times a week.  This was a very one-size-fits-all approach that didn't end up working for most people.  And many of us, even now, still carry this mental image of what counts as exercise in our heads.  Which is why we feel like we "fail" when we don't exercise like that.

But way back in 1996, the U.S. Surgeon General came out with a report on Physical Activity and Health that drastically changed the official notion of what "counted" as exercise.  The updated report gave us the go-ahead to:

  • Accumulate our physical activity throughout the day (it's not necessary to do all our exercise in one go)
  • Be less intense in our activity (we don't have to sweat or breathe heavily for exercise to be effective)
  • Count as exercise those activities we do naturally in daily life (walking, gardening, house cleaning, for example)

Somehow, though, we mostly choose to ignore that report, instead sticking with our old, outdated notions of what "counts."  And then . . . we continue to feel like we're "failing."

Let's work at breaking down one fitness barrier this week:  Let's reconfigure our notion of what "counts" as exercise!  (Trust me.  After working on removing the wallpaper from my guest bathroom this weekend, I can tell you it definitely "counts.")  It's a start.  Because if we can break down this mental barrier to fitness, we can move forward together from there.

So.  What do you say?
What do YOU do - on the regular - that you didn't think was exercise. . . but might actually be exercise?


Sometimes Monday

. . . is also Earth Day!


(And sometimes it even lines up with a beautiful spring weather forecast.)  

Make it a point to get outside today - no matter the weather. 

Take a walk.
Work in your garden.
Just sit and enjoy the fresh air.

Or . . . do all three!
(That's my plan.)

Celebrate Earth Day.  Get outside!

"In nature nothing exists alone."
            --- Rachel Carson

Even More Poetry

Wasn't it wonderful yesterday -- filling your pockets with poetry?  I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did!

During April (National Poetry Month), it is my intention. . . to share some of my favorite poems and poets with you.  Poems and poets that you may not be familiar with yet.  Poems that are accessible, insightful, and even FUN.  Poems I think you'll like.

Like this one . . . 


Pulling Up Beside My Husband at the Stoplight
by Marjorie Saiser

We are going to the same place
but we take two cars.
Sunday morning and there’s not much traffic,
so I pull up beside him at the stoplight.

There he is, in his car,
beside my car,
the profile of his face in the window,
the brown of his hair against his neck.  He turns
and blows me a kiss.
I watch it float on by. . . . I ask for another.

I remember then how he wakes me on the workday mornings,
his boots across the carpet of the dark bedroom,
the scent of his face when he locates me in the covers,
kisses my eyebrow and the corner of my mouth,
tells me the weather report
and the precise time of day.

So. . . I roll down my window, whistle in my throat,
pull my glasses crooked on my face,
do my best baboon snorting,
pound the horn as if it were bread dough.
There is only the lady in the white Buick,
but he is embarrassed, glad to see the green.

Me--I’m stepping on the gas, catching up,
wondering what I can do at 56th and Calvert.


Marjorie Saiser is one of my favorite poets -- and another voice from Nebraska.  (I think there's just something about the Great Plains - the heartland - that inspires hauntingly beautiful poetry.)  I first discovered Marjorie Saiser's poetry when I picked up her award-winning "novel-in-poem" Losing the Ring in the River.  Since then, I have greatly expanded my list of Marjorie Saiser favorites!  I love the poem I'm featuring here today - Pulling Up Beside My Husband at the Stoplight - because (in the words of the poet herself, in the introduction to the poem on her website) "poems, like life, should be sometimes nothing but fun, don’t you think?" Ms. Saiser has won numerous awards and critical recognition for her poetry, including an Academy of American Poets Prize, the Vreelands Award, the Nebraska Literary Heritage Award and several Nebraska Book Awards. She was named 2009 Distinguished Artist in Poetry by the Nebraska Arts Council. Ted Kooser (featured in my post earlier this month) has said that "no contemporary poet is better at writing about love" than Saiser.  Check out more of Marjorie Saiser's poetry here.


The poem Pulling Up Beside My Husband at the Stoplight is from Beside You at the Stoplight, published by The Backwaters Press Press in 2010.  Poem copyright Marjorie Saiser, and printed in this blog post with the author's permission.


AND . . . don't forget!  It's your LAST CHANCE to leave a comment if you're interested in my April Stash Giveaway!  (The deadline is TODAY at 5pm EST.)  (The winner will be notified by email tonight.)


In My Pockets

What's usually in my pockets?


Used tissues, a lipstick, and poop bags. 

What's in my pocket today?


A poem, of course!  

(I printed several to share with my art class this afternoon and my book group tonight.)

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


I hope your pockets are full of poetry today!


If you have a minute and 10 seconds to spare today, here's a real treat:  Mary Oliver, herself, reading this poem.  (So worth it.)


In Season

I am not a terribly speedy knitter.  
And I'm a pretty dull knitter.  Meaning . . . I pick something I want to knit, and then I knit it.  Almost always until it is finished.  And I'm usually just devoted to one knitting project at a time.

And that means . . . I'm usually off by a season whenever I end up knitting something to wear.

Like, well.  Just before I knit the bunnies, I had decided that I wanted to knit this.  In wool.  (I even swatched.) Because it's still cold.  And a new wool pullover appeals to me pretty much any time except in summer's heat. 

But I know what would happen.  I'd get started, and then I'd finish.  But it would be the end of May.  And then I'd have to put it away until fall.  And, sure.  That's a fine thing.  Because next fall, I'd open my drawer of sweaters and be so pleasantly surprised to find a new one, ready and waiting.

That's what happens to me all the time!  (Just last week, for example, I was delighted to open my sweater drawer and find a lovely linen Tegna -- all knit up but never worn, waiting to greet the spring.)  (Because I finished it in October as the temperatures were plummeting and winter was calling.)


I decided to try something new.

I decided to . . . knit in season for a change!


I'm making this sweater in this yarn.  It will be perfect for the warm weather months.  Maybe even the soon-to-be-here warm weather months!

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Now wouldn't that be nice and seasonal?


Be sure to stop by over at Kat's today for more Unravelled posts.  AND . . . don't forget to leave a comment if you're interested in my April Stash Giveaway!  (The deadline is this Friday at 5pm EST.)