Just Life

Rocking the COVID Hair

The New Yorker did a special photo feature last week . . . The Unexpected Beauty of COVID Hair. It's pretty fabulous to see all that gray!

Several of my local friends decided to just let their gray hair grow out during the pandemic. A couple of them are leaving it; a couple of them have decided to go back to coloring. As for me? Well. I already had the gray thing going with my hair. (That was a post-chemo thing for me, when I decided I didn't want to waste my time, energy, and money coloring my hair any more, so my hair has been gray since 2009 when it grew back.) But it's been fun to feel "in sisterhood" with all the others using the pandemic as an opportunity to grow out those roots.

I didn't need to "go gray" during the pandemic (since already did that), but I did use the pandemic as a "cover" while growing my hair longer.

I had actually decided to grow my hair out some months before the pandemic arrived. I had a style in mind back then -- something "to grow for" -- and my hair stylist was helping me "manage" my hair so I could get there - eventually - without looking like a feral animal in the process. 

Here I was . . . back in mid-February 2020 . . . right after (what - surprise! - turned out to be) my last haircut for a very long time! (I thought it was long then. Just sayin.)


I didn't get my haircut again until I had it trimmed up a few months ago. By then, I'd gone through several awkward stages, grown out my bangs, and completely given up on that style I was working toward before the the pandemic hit. (Because who needs to fuss with a round brush and flat iron every day, huh?)

My hair now? At this end of the pandemic?


My hair hasn't been this long since, oh . . . 1983?

Friends ask me . . . what are you going to do with it now that you can get a haircut? And I have no answer. I just don't know. I have no plan for my hair. It's far easier to deal with now than it was when it was fussy and required styling every day in the Before Times. I like being able to pull it back in a ponytail. And I got through the hard part of growing it out when I wasn't going anywhere or seeing anyone anyway. (Besides, Tom says my hair reminds him of Emmylou Harris now. And that is NOT a bad thing.)

So I think I'll just keep going with it for awhile and see where it lands.

(Kinda like I did after chemo.)
Apparently I mark challenging times with a change of 'do.


How about you? Are you rocking any COVID hair?


Don't forget: TOMORROW - Tuesday June 8 - is Read With Us book discussion day for Shuggie Bain. Visit Bonny, Carole, and I on our blogs tomorrow to check out our discussion question posts AND then . . . join us for the Shuggie Zoom later that same evening at 7:00 pm Eastern. Let me know in the comments (or email me) if you'd like to join the Zoom so I can include you on the invitation.





R-E . . . or The Word That Got Away

Although it’s very welcome, the “re-opening” of . . . well . . . nearly everything sort of knocked me for a loop. I knew it would happen eventually . . . that once enough people got the vaccine, we’d surely be able to start moving around and doing things, taking off our masks and worrying if we had anything stuck in our teeth again. (Y’know.) But it just came about so quickly! And it’s been confusing, sort of. Do I wear a mask? Can I eat inside? Should I travel? What is safe, really, anyway?

It’s just . . . a lot of change.
After so much change.
And it’s hard to process and manage. Sure. I’m thrilled. But I also want to be . . . thoughtful. After all, now is one of those Big Chance times in life . . . an iedeal opportunity to rethink the way we live our lives -- and maybe to make some changes.


The other day, Tom shared an article with me about just this kind of thing: taking off our masks and moving forward, but maybe just a little differently. I read it and immediately thought . . . 

YES! It’s a real Re. . . . . .

Ummmmm. What????
Yeah. When I read the article, a word - a perfect word - came to mind for what this article described. Taking off our masks and moving forward, but maybe just a little differently . . . was going to create a Re. . . . .

The perfect word had been there for me, but it was one of those words that turned out to be elusive; one of those words that flickered away before I could grab hold of it. (Don’t be alarmed. This happens to me sometimes with ideas or words. Not a lot, but once in a while. And it has for years and years. It’s not a sign of dementia, and I’m not losing my mind. It’s just a thought that flickers in and out on the periphery of my busy brain before I “catch” it in some way.)

Anyway. It was bugging me so much that I couldn’t remember this word that so perfectly described my feeling when I read that article . . . that I stopped thinking about the article and focused on the dang word! Then, of course, when I was doing something like working in the garden or carting laundry around . . . it would flicker in again, but just for a second. So annoying. And I WANTED that word!


I knew it started with R-E . . . so I started thinking about R-E words. (There are a lot of them, by the way.)

Reorganize? Realign? Reorder? Restructure?

No. It was none of those. Although they could actually work, because they perfectly describe how many of us feel about putting our lives back together, post-Covid.

Remake? Rebuild? Repurpose? Revamp?

No. It was none of those either. But, again, they also perfectly describe our efforts at picking up the pieces after the last year-and-3-months. So . . . they could work, too.

Reconnect? Reconvene?

Nope. Not my word. But most of us are looking for ways to get together with people we’ve missed and gatherings we long for. So those words are also appropriate.

Reiterate? Reignite? Regenerate?

No. Not my word. But, again, yes. That IS what we’re looking to do.


No. But I think . . . closer?

And then, quietly . . . it snuck up on me!


Yep! That’s the one! 

Taking off our masks and moving forward, but maybe a little differently . . . is creating a great RECKONING for us. It’s an opportunity to think about what we want to let go of, what we want to hold onto, and how we want to step out - masks off - into this changed world.


Now that I’ve Reclaimed my R-E word, I’m ready to think more about my own post-Covid Reckoning

Stay tuned!


Speaking of a Great Reckoning . . . Tom’s little “pandemic project” has come to an end! It was fun while it lasted, but he was several exits past “ready” for a haircut.

Before (15 months of no haircuts) . . . 


After (goodbye ponytail). . .


I Blame My Mom

(Not really.) (But kinda.)
(You'll see.)

Last month over in Ali Edwards' One Little Word workshop, the prompt was all about letting go . . . of something. Or multiple somethings. These are the kinds of prompts that I generally roll my eyes at a little bit. (Okay. Maybe it's really the craft part of the prompt that I'm rolling my eyes at. Hard to tell.) But . . . they're also the kind of prompts that get me thinking.

Letting go.
Such easy words to say or type. So hard to put in practice!

Over the last decade+ I've had a enough life-changes thrown my way (a cancer diagnosis, empty-nesting, Tom's work changes, my mom's death, my own "retirement," the pandemic) that I've had a lot of practice with  . . .  letting things go. In fact, I've successfully let go of many, many (many) things. Ideas. Notions. Habits. Activities. Commitments. Plans.

But. There is one thing (and it's a big thing, actually) that is still hanging on. And it is time for me to Let. It. Go.


What is that thing, you ask?

Why . . . It's Arbitrary Rules!

And what is an Arbitrary Rule, you ask?

Well. They are rules I made up for myself. Completely made up. No one made me adopt them. (Well. Maybe my mom.) There are no "stakes" involved for these rule. And yet, for whatever reason, my arbitrary rules are Strong and Powerful. I follow my arbitrary rules To. The. Letter. I stick to my rules, damnit! 

Can you give us an example, you ask?

Sure! Here's my favorite, all-time paralyzing arbitrary rule: "You can't have fun until your work is done." (Variations on this theme include "No dessert until you eat your vegetables" and "No TV until your homework is finished.")

And, yes. Those are totally things my mom said when I was a kid. I'm not saying she was wrong. There are times when you need to buckle down and get the hard stuff done before you do the fun stuff! And there are times when you can use the fun stuff as a reward for getting through the hard stuff. But . . . carrying that arbitrary rule forward and making it a lifestyle choice? Not so good.

I mean, my mom? She was trying to instill a strong work ethic in my growing heart and soul. She was helping me learn to set priorities, and make sure I became a responsible adult who would understand the importance of getting the unpleasant-but-necessary stuff of life . . . done. And it worked. I did become a responsible citizen of the world, able to meet deadlines and make unpleasant choices and take care of the urgent tasks of life.

But there is a way to take that rule . . . too far. To give it power it does not deserve. To turn a good rule-of-thumb-for-living into a hard-and-fast arbitrary rule. The issue? It's when you substitute the word "should" for the word "work."

Here's how that arbitrary rule plays out in my life all too often:  Let's say . . . I want to play around and paint in my sketchbook (fun stuff!). But I also should clean my bathrooms (work). According to my arbitrary rule, I can't play around with my sketchbook until I've cleaned my bathroom. But I really don't want to clean my bathroom, and there is no urgent need for me to clean my bathroom . . . but . . . arbitrary rule: I must do the work before I can do the fun stuff. So I pick up my phone and scroll through Instagram instead. I don't clean my bathroom. But I also don't pick up my sketchbook.

Is this stupid-thinking?
Oh, YES.

Do I know it?

But my all-powerful arbitrary rule tells me . . . I can't do the "fun stuff" until I do the "work." Even when the work is really just a should. (This rule bites me in the butt so often I can't even believe it.)

And that's not the only arbitrary rule I have. There are so many others:
Make sure you know what you're doing before you begin.
Don't start a project if you won't be able to finish it.
Don't make a mess on the dining room table.
Always finish what you start.
Clear your plate.
Don't bite off more than you can chew.

Sure. These rules make sense in some contexts. And I know my mom didn't mean any harm in knocking them into my head. (Trust me. She lived with plenty of her own arbitrary rules  . . . ) But there you go! Deep-seated, completely arbitrary rules that have the power to paralyze me. And it's time for them to go!

In the spirit of Ali Edwards' One Little Word prompt, I'm working on letting go of my arbitrary rules.

Step one . . .  is naming them and figuring out what they are (which was much harder than you might think).

Step two . . .  is giving myself permission to ban them from my life! (I started by making visible reminder cards I can stick on my bulletin boards.)

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I'll keep you posted! But early signs are good. Figuring out what holds you back is a powerful force. (How do you think I got those overalls stitched up? I definitely had to "eat dessert first" on more than one occasion.) (And that felt great!)


How about you? Got any arbitrary rules you'd like to get rid of???



Sometimes Monday

. . . begins far too early.

In fact, this Monday morning . . . is beginning very early for me . . . with a visit to my ophthalmologist. (Like . . . what-was-I-thinking early.) By the time you read this, my eyes will be dilated and I'll no longer be in any state to use my computer. So I thought I'd just throw out this lovely thought from the poet Maggie Smith. Something to think about . . . until my eyes return to normal.


I really like this question she's asking . . . What else is possible? 
Isn't that a great way to start the day?

I hope your Monday is off to a great start.

Checking In

Last fall, and then through much of the winter, I struggled quite a lot with what I thought might be depression creeping in. I wasn't sleeping very well. I wasn't excited about much of anything. I felt like I was slogging through my days. But I still had some hope. And I could still find things I enjoyed doing every day. I kept scrabbling along . . . 

And then things started to brighten. The vaccine news was good. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris arrived on the scene. Spring was coming. I started to sleep again, and much of the sloggy feeling was ebbing away.

Most days now, I'm feeling hopeful and ready to move forward with purpose.
Some days, though? Well. Not so much.

Turns out (as I'm sure many of you have undoubtedly already heard) there's a word for this now. . .

Yep. Languishing is the name for the blah I still feel sometimes. Because even though I generally feel pretty good, there are times that I still feel a lack of concentration and focus. When I feel a bit aimless. When stagnation and emptiness creep into my day. When I've lost my mojo for things I normally like to do. As Adam Grant said in his article about languishing for the New York Times, it's like "looking at your life through a foggy windshield." Languishing is the absence of well-being. There are no real symptoms of mental illness, but . . . it's not the picture of mental health either.

It's like not functioning at full capacity.

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And what's the flip side of languishing? That would be . . . flourishing. Flourishing is operating at peak physical, emotional, and mental fitness. It's mental health at its finest. It's feeling fulfillment, purpose, and happiness. If you're flourishing . . . you can't be languishing.

I feel like there have been days this spring where I have been flourishing. And there have been days, too, where I've definitely been languishing. This week, for example . . . for some reason . . . has been a languishing week for me. I don't exactly know why. (But I'm blaming the crap weather pattern we've been stuck in for the last 3 weeks. Too much cold wind. Too much freezing cold temperatures. Altogether too-much sweater-wearing for May.)


It occurs to me that it doesn't really take much to tip me from languishing to flourishing these days. Sometimes I even move from one to the other in the same day. But mostly, whatever "phase" I'm in tends to last for a few days at a time. So I decided to research this flourishing thing; to find out how we can move ourselves out of the languishing category and into the flourishing category.

Apparently, the best thing to do when you find yourself languishing is to find "flow" -- or absorption in a meaningful challenge where your sense of time, place, and self melt away. This "flow" state could be from . . . anything. Doing the New York Times crossword puzzle every day. Binge-ing Ted Lasso (again). Weeding. Painting. Reading. The challenge with this, though? Well. It's hard to get into a "flow" state when you're low on mojo. And it's hard to stay there if you can't focus.

What to do? Here's what the researchers suggest doing, for a start.

  • Give yourself some uninterrupted time (that means no distractions) (like . . . put away your phone) and allow something (anything, really) to grab your full attention. No pressure that it needs to be something "big." Really. Ted Lasso will do it.
  • Focus on small challenges that you know you can manage -- and find success in the completion of the task. Baby steps. Success begets more success. Maybe it's just . . . fold the load of laundry that's been sitting in the dryer for days. Or weed that bed for 15 minutes. Or cut out that top you've been wanting to make. Something small. Again, no pressure.
  • Acknowledge that you're languishing. Give voice to it. Admitting (to yourself or to others) that you're feeling the quiet despair of languishing actually helps light a path out of the void -- for yourself and for others. So . . . talk about it.

It's been a rough go. A long year. An emotionally taxing time. We can expect to move in and out of languishing for a while yet, I'm afraid. Sometimes (like it did for me this week), it sneaks up on you when you think you're setting up permanent residence in the flourishing camp. Sometimes it hangs around for a while. 

So I thought I'd just check in. How are YOU doing? And if you find yourself languishing, what helps you move forward? What helps you hold things together?


Gardening. So Much More Than Pretty Flowers.

"A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself."
        –May Sarton (2014). 'At Seventy: A Journal'

You learn a lot of things when you garden. 

And I'm not just talking about soil composition, color balance, last-average-freeze-dates, pruning skills, or how to properly mulch a tree. That's all vital information for a gardener, but I'm actually talking about . . . 
Secrets of the Universe.
What Makes the World Go Around.

That kind of stuff.


Case in point.

See that gorgeous, flowering redbud there in my front yard? It makes my heart leap a little bit everytime I see it out my front window . . . or whenever I walk the dogs up the hill in front of my house these days. I love it so!

And you know what?

I didn't plant it.
Neither did Tom.

It's a garden "volunteer!" It just . . . showed up one year. I was weeding out in that particular bed (which I refer to as the "Deer Salad Bar" because they eat whatever I plant there) (except for the hellebores) (because as far as I can tell, that's the only plant in my garden deer WON'T touch), and I noticed a little tree sprouting up. The leaves gave me pause . . . because they were heart-shaped . . . and I wondered if it might be a red bud that somehow ended up among my Austrian pines. I decided to just . . . let it be. And find out.

(Note: I get a LOT of "volunteers" growing in my garden. Many of them - the dreaded buckthorn, for example, or the English ivy my neighbor planted as ground cover, etc. - I dig out as soon as I find them. Others? I've learned to just . . . see how things go. It's easier that way.)

Anyway. Now, several years later, I have this rather glorious redbud in my front yard!

It gives me great delight every spring.

And it makes me think (a lot) about the very essence . . . of gardening. 

I mean, gardening . . . is really trying to tame a bit of nature for yourself. To make your little plot of land . . . do something it might not want to do, given its own rhythm and the whole "nature" thing. It takes a lot of work to keep formal, tidy gardens looking formal and tidy! I always tip my hat to those gardeners who manage to keep everything looking tip-top because . . . it ain't easy! Shoot . . . if you do what "good gardeners" do and create the soil conditions to grow whatever it is you want to grow (vegetables, flowers, shrubs, whatever), well . . . you're also going to invite the things you don't want to grow (weeds, volunteers, insidious ground cover). Because (nearly) every plant is looking for great soil and plenty of water, y'know? Nature finds ways to keep doing what it wants to be doing. And it wants to put down roots. To grow. To keep on keeping on!

Back to my rogue redbud.


(It really is a stunner, isn't it?)

This redbud is giving me more than just beautiful blooms right now. It's also reminding me that . . . 

  • You really can bloom where you are planted.
  • Sometimes the right answer is to just . . . let it be.
  • It's okay to be curious and see what happens.
  • Nature will do what nature does, and often, it disrupts.
  • Life is easier when we can allow ourselves to go with the flow.

Gardening is so much more than pretty flowers, y'know?

"The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway."
        – Michael Pollan (2007) ‘Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education’


Enjoy the weekend!
I hope you find some beautiful, blue sky blooms in your corner of the world.





Sometimes Mondays

Feel like whiplash!


Because . . . all of a sudden . . . everything is different!

I had kids . . . in my house this weekend! Unmasked. Eating food I cooked for them. And sleeping overnight in my guest room. They can play chess with Tom . . . live and in person (instead of over an app). Their little pup can run free in my house. And I can hug them goodbye when they leave.

And my West Coast kid . . . just got her first vaccine. And is currently figuring out a date to come home for a visit.

I'm going to sign up later today for an in-person drawing workshop.


Everything feels so different!


"The moment of change is the only poem."
            --- Adrienne Rich


Happy Monday, everyone.

On the Board

The bulletin board, that is. 
True confession: I cannot imagine life without bulletin boards! 


If there is a "theme" in my home organization "system," it is . . . the bulletin board . . . which I apparently embrace as a way to inspire, remind, and capture all the "random" bits and bobs of my life.

I first started thinking about how I utilize the humble bulletin board back in March, when I was writing my Spring Cleaning posts and shared the Clutterbug information about organizing styles. I realized that my Clutterbug-style - a visual, macro organized "butterfly" - would, naturally, gravitate to the bulletin board as a strategy. Of course! I want/I need things right out in front for me . . . where I can see them.

So yesterday I counted up exactly how many bulletin boards I have scattered through my house.
I have eleven bulletin boards in active use in my house.

There's the one above, on the side of the "wall" that houses my refrigerator. It is a catch-all for silly things that make us laugh, mostly. And directly across from that bulletin board . . . is another one. 


Which appears to be where business cards, "important" phone numbers, and the detritus of our pockets end up.

I have bulletin boards in my laundry room (two of them, actually). They collect random buttons and care instructions and postcards and photos. I have a giant bulletin board in my back hallway for a calendar and schedules and important pieces of mail. My sewing area has two (mostly for useful stuff: needles, swatches, threads, unused pompoms, instruction sheets, conversion information, etc.)

My "art room" has two more. They're much more  . . . colorful.


There's another one over my desk . . . 


Clearly, I am big on visual inspiration!

Tom (who is also a "butterfly" when it comes to organizing styles) embraces the bulletin-board-as-organization-and-inspiration-tool, as well. Here's the bulletin board over his desk. . .

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Very neat. Very inspired. Very visual. I love to read all of his notes and quotes (even when I can't make heads or tails out of many of them).

How about you?
Are you a visual person who makes use of the bulletin board for organization and inspiration?
Or does all this make your eyes twitch?


Have a great weekend, everyone. Here's to organization with plenty of inspiration for us all!


Magical . . . and Totally Over the Top

It's been a couple of weeks since my birthday now, but it's not too late to share the gift I got from my sister. Because it was awesome. And totally . . . over the top.

First, I'll just say that my sister was . . . kinda cagey . . . about this particular gift. She warned me that I'd have to "do something with it" when it arrived, and she mentioned the words "right away" more than once. So I was pretty curious from the get-go. Once she knew the delivery date, she checked in with me about my schedule (which - of course - is wide open these days. . . ). And once she had confirmation that it had been delivered, she texted me right away. "Open it now," she said. 

Curiouser and curiouser. . . 


As I opened the box (which was quite large, I'm gonna say), I unpacked flowers. 

Lots of flowers.
Live flowers.
Really gorgeous BIG flowers.


Also bunches of evergreen and herbs and snapdragons and roses!


By the time I got everything unpacked and stuck in water . . . it looked (and smelled!) like my kitchen had been transformed into a floral shop.


What my sister had sent me . . . was a "posy kit" from floral expert and slow-flower artist Teresa Sabankaya!

After consulting Teresa's book (which came with the kit) and then after watching her excellent instructional video (I got a link as part of the kit), I was ready to try and create my own posy!

I set up "shop" in my dining room, and followed Teresa's instructions. You build the arrangement while you hold the flowers, bouquet-style, rather than arranging them in a vase. It would have been helpful to have a third (or fourth, even) hand. But I think with practice, it would get a lot smoother to do with only two.


Here's my finished posy. . . 


I even had plenty of flowers left over to make a second.


It was an absolutely magical birthday gift. Lovely flowers -- AND I learned a new skill. You can bet that I'll be creating more posies from the flowers I cut from my garden this summer -- and even from the bouquets I pick up in the future from the grocery store or Trader Joe's.

Over the top.
But just right!


Here's to a great weekend for all of us.
See you on Monday.


NOTE about the posy kits. If you get inspired to send someone a posy kit, it's important that you do just what my sister did: Make sure the recipient is home when the kit is delivered, and available to open and "release" those flowers right away. This is a very time-sensitive gift, and the recipient is going to need to dig in right away.