Just Life

Shake Things Up Once In A While

We have a little patio right off the kitchen at our house. In the summertime, it's a true extension of our house; our outoor living room.


(Here's Jenny, giving you a warm welcome earlier this summer.) It's comfortable and easy and there are patio lights hanging for evenings. Tom's grill is out there; my herb garden borders one side of the patio, and there is a garden path on the other side leading to a large garden bed.  Because it's on the east side of our house, it's shady in the afternoon and evening, and - somehow - always comfortable, even on the hottest days. Tom and I meet there every evening for a drink on the patio.

But the other night? We shook things up!

You see . . . we have another patio in our garden. It's in a more remote corner, and far from the kitchen (although easily accessible through a slider in our basement). We call it "Tom's garden" -- because Tom built the brick patio and put in a small retaining wall to make the space happen in the first place.


It's kind of a ... secret garden.
Secluded and private -- and cool and shady, there under the "umbrella" of a golden redbud tree.


Earlier this week, we decided do something different . . . to meet in "Tom's garden" for drinks instead of on the patio. It was so nice back there. Such a treat to shake things up -- just a little bit.


(Yeah. Tom built a fire pit. But we don't really use it.) (Long story.)

Sitting there, relaxing, we realized we were seeing our yard from a whole different perspective. It got me thinking about . . . what we do out of habit and routine. And how a shift of location - even just a slight shift - can help you see things in whole new ways.


Like . . . I had no idea you could see our tri-color beech tree from that back patio! Such a lovely surprise in the very early evening light.

Anyway. This is a long and rather drawn out way to say that -- especially these days - it's important to shake things up however we can. Use my patio story as a reminder to . . . 

  • break out of your daily patterns and habits
  • try something just slightly different: move to a different room -- or chair or corner
  • see things from a new angle


Give it a try! Shake things up!


(Can this really loose ramble of a post qualify as a Three on Thursday post? Maybe?) Be sure to check out Carole's blog today for more Three on Thursday fun.




Out of Whack

I've been feeling a bit . . . discombobulated . . . lately.
It's not a big deal. It's just kinda . . .there.
I'm not sure exactly what it is.
But probably part State of the World, part Global Pandemic, and part Always-Burning-Toxic-Dumpster-Hellfire. Coupled with just some general, everyday, bland personal malaise.

Basically, I'm out of balance.

Too much yang. Need a little yin.
(Or vice versa.)


So I've started the day with yoga.
Followed by a long meditation session.
Now I'm gonna put in my best balancing earrings. . . 
and keep my head down for the rest of the day while I try to find my flow.

What do you do . . . when you're feeling out of balance?



About New Tricks

I love June. 

It is, hands down, my favorite month of the year! The weather is pleasant and the garden is bursting with blooms and the air smells like wisteria and the birds are singing. Just . . . so many of my favorite things everywhere I look.


But I've noticed something different about June this year.

And it's a good thing.

If this was a usual-June and not a pandemic-June, I'd be scrambling like a woman with her hair on fire right about now . . . trying to make the MOST of June. I'd be preparing for our annual summer solstice party (cancelled) and prepping for a major fundraising event (cancelled) and going on my biking tour in Scotland (cancelled) and getting together with friends (nope) and killing myself with the garden work (no party; no ridiculous attempts at perfection) and fitting in my workouts (gym closed) and feeling bad about not going up north (because who has time).

This June?

It's June as I always imagined June to be. Relaxed. Spacious. Quiet. Joyful.

Sure. I'm missing my friends. I was really looking forward to that bike trip in Scotland. I love hosting our summer solstice party in my garden. But I'm also noticing something else. And it's something really BIG, actually. I've noticed . . . that I don't miss these usually-highly-anticipated things nearly as much as I expected I would.

The pandemic stay-at-home period has given me some clarity around what I'm doing and how I want to live the rest of my life. Do I really want to be part of the organization that usually hosts the big fundraising event in June? (I'm thinking maybe no.) Do I still want to host a summer solstice party? (I'm thinking yes. But maybe not at quite the scale it has been in the past.) What about travel? (Yes . . . but probably not for a while.) Do I need to belong to a gym? (Shockingly . . . no. I don't.)

I'm loving this quiet and more relaxed June. 
I blame the pandemic.
Because I'd never have made these drastic changes to my life and calendar otherwise. 
(Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?)


Risk Management

Well, folks. Here we go. 

We're all entering this new phase of Pandemic Life . . . the part where we open things up again and go back to "normal."  This seems particularly scary to a lot of us -- because the ongoing risks of the pandemic haven't actually changed.  It's still a very nasty virus that we don't fully understand or know how to treat -- and it can take a lot of unpredictable and frightening twists and turns once it gets into your body. Sure. We do seem to be out of the "acute emergency" stage of it (for now). And I can understand that it's time to make a shift toward developing strategies that allow us to resume some parts of our old lives.

But . . . yikes!  We've got some risks to manage.

I'm feeling pretty lucky to be living in Michigan right now.  We have a tough governor who is standing up to attacks from all sides AND holding the line on a thoughtful and phased-in re-opening process. I feel slightly more confident about the integrity of the process than I might if I lived in . . . well . . . one of those states jumping right in with both feet.


(My new hat . . . )

I'm paying a lot of attention these days to what public health experts are saying about disease transmission AND I'm listening to their advice about managing personal risks when it comes to the coronavirus. Considering the short period of time this virus has been in the world (remember back to the new year? when none of us had even heard of this thing yet? yeah - short period of time), we've learned a whole lot about what it is, how it seems to transmit, and what it can do.

What we know about transmission:
(Although I've read several articles, this one by Dr. Erin Bromage is the best when it comes to a straightforward explanation.)

  • COVID-19 spreads via droplets which are expelled when infected people cough, sneeze, scream, shout, sing, talk . . . or just breathe.
  • The tricky thing is that people begin to expel droplets full of virus up to 3 days BEFORE they experience any symptoms.  This is particularly bad news in virus-world -- because healthy-feeling people are out there . . . breathing . . . for days before they feel sick enough to stay at home.
  • To get the virus, you need exposure to an infectious dose.  Dr. Bromage's simple formula looks like this:
    Successful Infection = Exposure to virus X Time
  • The longer your exposure to the virus, the more likely you are to become infected.
  • The factors that contribute to virus transmission are:  enclosed environments, poor air circulation, and a high density of people -- and these factors are all boosted by time.
  • The main sources of infection: home, workplace, public transport, social gatherings, restaurants, and indoor sports.

Basically, then . . . we're better off out there if we're:

  • Outside.
  • Around a limited number of people.
  • At a distance.
  • While wearing masks.

All of that . . . doesn't change now.  Even though we've flattened the curve and come out of the woods enough that most states (and a lot of people in them) feel comfortable moving about again.  But like I used to tell my kids as they were growing up:  Just because you CAN, it doesn't mean you SHOULD.

As Michigan opens up, I'm thinking long and hard about how I want to (and whether I want to) move about again.  I'm going to think about what we know about transmission, and I'm going to use that information to manage my own risk.  For the most part, I'll consider the environment -- is it a closed space? are there a lot of people in the space? are they wearing masks? -- and I'm going to ask myself if I really NEED to do this thing/be in this space? or can it wait?  I'm going to pay attention to "the numbers" and the trends in my area. I'm still planning to stay home as much as possible (although we are planning to "double our bubble" with Brian and Lauren). I'll keep wearing my mask. And washing my hands. And disinfecting all the surfaces.

I'll try to figure out ways to support my local businesses as they open up, but I won't be . . . 

  • eating at restaurants
  • getting a haircut
  • going to the gym
  • strolling through the farmers market
  • meeting up with friends
  • going to a movie
  • traveling

These are all hard things for me. Because I love doing ALL of those things. And I miss doing them.

But I also really don't want to get COVID-19 (and especially before they have the treatment protocols a bit more under control). And I don't want Tom or my dad or my kids or my friends or any of the people who work at the businesses I support to get it either!

For me . . . it's all about managing my risk.

How are you planning to manage your own risk as things open up again? And how are you making your decisions? Do you feel like you have enough information to navigate your Pandemic Life? 


Here are a few other articles I've read about what public health experts have to say about making choices and managing the risks as our communities open up again (I'm not certain, but some of these may require subscriptions to read):

From The Atlantic: As Restaurants and Stores Reopen, What's Safe

From the Washington Post: Where Public Health Experts Will - And Won't - Go as Businesses Open Back Up

From Vox: Coronavirus: When Will It Be Safe To Work Out With Other People Again?

From Vox: Lockdowns Worked. Now What?



Listen to John Muir

I'm up north this week.  

Usually, I don't come up to our little cabin this early in the season (although Tom does, regularly, to fish).  Spring comes slowly here in Michigan, generally.  But it comes even s-l-o-w-e-r up north.  It's hard to take a big step backward when it comes to springtime, y'know? So I usually skip these May trips.


But this year? Things are different. (Oh. So. Different.) And I decided to come along this week.  Bare trees and all!

And even though it WAS kind of shocking to see how far spring is lagging behind up here . . . it's been refreshing, in a way, too.  

Yesterday (a day, mind you, that started with bright blue skies and a temperature of 21 degrees F), I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes: 

"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."         
                                                --- John Muir


When JoJo and I set out for our daily walk, I didn't expect much; I wasn't really seeking anything.  Just some exercise.  And a chance to get outside for both of us.

But I received far more than that!


Our time in the trees . . . kind of hit a RESET button in my soul.  I enjoyed the gifts of sunshine and cool breezes.  I marveled at the emerging leaves.  I took big breaths of fresh forest air.  I felt myself relax.  I sunk into spring emerging all around me.  And I realized how lucky I am to be able to watch spring unfold for a second time this year! 

These are challenging times.  The world seems a very confused, scary, and incredibly frustrating place right now.  After yesterday, my advice to you . . . is to get outside!  
Spend some time in nature.  
Allow the magic to happen.  
Listen to John Muir!  

You'll receive far more than you seek!

Neighborhood Joy

(Today's post features Really Bad Photos.)
(But it's a nice story all the same.)

In my neighborhood, our mailboxes are all out at the street at the end of our driveways.  That way, the mail deliverers can just drive up and pop the mail in our boxes, easy-peasy.  A lot of people have little garden beds around their mailbox posts, so in the spring and summer I like checking out the plantings to see what's blooming. (I often have to resist the urge to pull other people's weeds, but that's another story). It's a bit early for all that right now, though, so mostly I don't notice the mailboxes at this point in the season.


Last Saturday, I was out for a walk in my neighborhood with JoJo.

As we were walking, something brightly colored caught my eye.  Too early for blooms!  Turns out . . . it was a little painted rock at the base of a mailbox post.


As we walked a little further, I noticed another . . . 


I found painted rocks at the base of signposts, too. . .


They weren't at every mailbox, nor were they at every post.  But there were enough of them that . . . I started looking!


There was even one at the foundation of our neighborhood "landmark" (a big metal barn just down the road) . . . 


I have no idea who placed these painted rocks, or if they're meant to be part of some activity for kids in the neighborhood, or a sort of Easter egg hunt maybe???  All I know . . . is that they brought me great joy as we walked!

I was kind of sad . . . that I hadn't noticed  a painted rock at the base of MY mailbox.  

But when I got to my corner, I caught a little flash of orange!


We live on a corner, and have a city-installed brick retaining wall next to the sidewalk (which the snowplows hit every winter, so the city has to replace the bricks every spring) -- and there was a sweet little orange rock on the retaining wall.

I was SO excited to find it there!  A bright spot on my corner!


I have no idea who is behind these bright and charming painted rocks in my neighborhood (probably a crafty mom cooped up with her kids and desperately looking for things to do. . . ), but they have been a wonderful sight on my walks!

These days, it's really all about the little things that brighten our days.  
(And especially unexpected painted rocks embellished with glitter and pipe cleaners!)

Ritual of Spring?

This weekend, we'll be "springing ahead" with our clocks.  In less than 2 weeks now (it's March 19 this year), we'll be celebrating the Spring Equinox.  The birds are singing, and I've got daffodil shoots pushing through the ground.  Spring is definitely on the way!


Let's talk about spring cleaning for a moment.


Is spring cleaning part of your annual spring ritual?
What do you consider "spring cleaning?"
Do you have any tactics, tips, tricks or simply-must-dos?

I want to know -- and I'd really like to hear from you.  Please share your spring cleaning thoughts/tactics/tips in the comments.  I will synthesize them into a helpful spring cleaning blog post later this month.

In the meantime, enjoy your weekend!  (And don't forget to set your clocks ahead!)

So Much Better

Some of you are probably already familiar with (which means "following," of course) Stasia Savasuk.  And if you're not?  Well.  You just might want to!  Stasia is a "style coach" for the "everyday gal" -- and she says things that are just . . . outrageously wonderful. . . about finding your own personal style and loving the body you have right now.  (Because, as she says all the time, "your body is not the problem.")

Really.  Read her story.  You might want to watch her TedTalk.  And then follow her on Instagram (because she's hilariously on point).  And sign up for her newsletter (although that link wasn't working for me this morning. . . ).  She even hosts Stasia's Style School - an online course - if you're so inclined.  But just listen to what she is saying about matching up your inside . . . with what you're choosing to wear on the outside.  Because it's something we ALL should hear.

Last week on Instagram, Stasia had a perfectly fine sweatshirt that just didn't make her feel good while she was wearing it.  She was going to donate it and get it out of her closet.  But then she stopped . . . and asked what if I cut it up and made it fit/feel differently?  And . . . it worked better for her.

So I tried it.

I had this sweatshirt that was perfectly fine.  But everytime I put it on . . . I ended up taking it off.  Because it just didn't feel right. Here it is . . .


Perfectly fine.  But . . . not.

I think it was the turtleneck.  I am not a fan of turtlenecks, generally.  And especially not on a sweatshirt.  But I also didn't like the contrast on the cuffs.  The seam felt weird and the cuffs were wide around my wrists . . . so they were always getting in the way of things.


(Looks like I'm picking my nose . . . but I'm really trying to show you the turtleneck. . . )

So I cut around the seamline of the turtleneck . . . And I cut off the contrast cuffs.


Much better!  It felt so much better -- and looked more like . . . something I would wear.  

But still not quite.

So I decided it would look better without that contrast at the bottom.  And maybe . . . cropped.


So.  Snip-snip!


Now I have something I WILL wear to the gym!

Thanks, Stasia!  (Do check out her website/Instagram feed.  She has a great story to tell!)

And have you ever taken a pair of scissors to something in your closet before???  
I highly recommend it!  (Because what have you got to lose?)


Be sure to head over to Carole's today.  She's hosting the first of our 3 Read With Us discussion posts!  We can't wait to hear what you think.





Happy Friday, everyone.  The world is looking sunnier this morning (even though its really not) because I am definitely on the upswing!


After gallons of orange juice, many cans of Progresso Chicken Noodle Soup, mugs upon mugs of tea, and more sleep than I usually get in a month . . . I am feeling (nearly) human again.  I've even declared myself ready-for-prime-time, and I'm headed out for a much-need and already twice-rescheduled haircut.*  (The first reschedule was not due to The Sickness.  But the second one was.)  

I especially want to thank you all for your kind words of support and sympathy during The Sickness.  It helped to know you all were out there, cheering me on and sending the juju.  XOXO

And now . . . let's get out there and have a great weekend, shall we?


*About that haircut.  I've been working on growing out my WAY too short pixie cut for about a year now.  It's slow going, and my hair stylist has been helping me keep things looking (pretty) good through the tedious grow-out phase (as is right, as she is the one to blame for the WAY too short pixie cut in the first place) (you'll look like Jamie Lee Curtis she said) (uh . . . not really, so thanks for that).  Anway, I have now reached the most awkward stage of the grow-out . . . The-I-Look-Like-the-Quaker-Oat-Man-and-I-Can't-Do-a-Thing-With-It Phase.  (Help!)