September = Fresh Start

September Unfolding

Here we are.  September . . . unfolding all around us.


Last week, I wrote about my "September feeling" . . . and the fresh start effect that often accompanies a new season (and especially the back-to-school season).

Since then, I've spent some time looking back over the plans and intentions I set for myself at the beginning of the year.  Usually I set up intentions for the year based on my one-little-word (this year's word = focus), and this year I also made an "18 for 2018" list (along with many other listeners of Gretchen Rubin's Happier podcast).

I was pleasantly surprised when I went through this reflect/review exercise.  I can actually see that I'm making consistent progress toward most all of my goals and intentions.

Some of the plans I set out for myself were very concrete and easy to measure:  painting my dining room, for example, or re-configuring the path through the garden.  (Happy to report that both of those goals are in the books for 2018.)  

Most of my intentions, though, were much more open-ended:  "follow your heart," for example, or "chew slowly."  Although I know that I've made good progress regarding both of those intentions, it's harder to measure such nebulous goals. (When I set these intentions, I start with broad statements, and then I whittle them down to just two or three word phrases for myself -- so they aren't quite as nebulous as they sound.  I do have some something to sink my teeth into behind those catch phrases.)


The best thing about my recent review, though, is the fact that I can see just where I want to/need to focus my efforts for the rest of 2018 -- when there are still a solid 4 months for me to work on my goals and intentions.  Now, I can put together a road map for where I want to be by the end of the year -- and, in some cases, I can even chart out where I want to go next . . .  as 2019 rolls around.

How about you?  Have you put together a road map for the rest of the year?  Anything special you're hoping to accomplish before January?

Following that September Feeling

Yesterday I mentioned that I've started feeling that "September feeling" . . . and it seems that many of you are feeling it, too!

Based on the comments you left yesterday, lots of us consider Labor Day - along with a change in temperatures and the loss of daylight - to be a turning point or symbolic start of a new year.  Some of us feel a bit restless -- anticipating the change of season, but not really feeling it yet (because weather), and many of us feel energized -- ready to embrace the coming autumn, and feeling a sense of renewal.

I'm up north this week, and while yesterday was super hot and humid (I felt like I was in the deep tropical rainforest instead of the north woods. . . ), today is cool and rainy-rainy-rainy.   Fall is definitely coming.  


September has a back-to-school vibe that is hard for me to ignore - or escape.  Even though I haven't sent my kids back to school in nearly a decade -- and it's been far, far longer since I've gone back to school myself -- I just can't escape the "September feeling" of a new teacher and a new classroom, fresh pencils and unmarked workbooks.  September will always, always feel like a brand new start -- full of possibility -- for me!

Author Gretchen Rubin first remarked that "September is the other January" in her book Happier at Home -- where she set up her home happiness project to coincide with the academic calendar.  Gretchen noted that "each year, Labor Day was a milestone that provoked . . . self-evaluation and reflection."

That definitely happens for me, too -- just like it does at the (calendar) beginning of the new year.  I find September to be a great time to reflect on my year so far, to recommit to (and sometimes to even remind myself of) goals and intentions I set for myself back in January, and maybe even to set some new intentions for the remainder of the year.  I really do see it as a chance to renew myself.

Psychology research even shows that there is such a thing as the "fresh start effect."  It turns out that people are more likely to look at their lives differently afer a "temporal landmark" or milestone events in their lives.  These events can be as major as a medical diagnosis, a new job, moving to a new place, getting married, etc. . . . OR as commonplace as a birthday, the start of a new season, or even a new month.  These "temporal landmarks" (which can really be from nearly any life event. . . ) bring about feelings of change, of new-ness, of a clean slate.  They become a way of measuring our lives (before I had cancer/after I had cancer; before I graduated/after I graduated; during the summer/now that it's fall) -- and new ways of living them.

Think about it how often this happens in your own life . . . 

  • Maybe "summer you" lived a more easy-breezy schedule and got out of her regular routines (ahem. . . ) -- but "September you" is going to recalibrate and get back to business!
  • Surely rested and relaxed "vacation you" is ready to transition back to "work you" (often after an uncomfortable vacation-jet-lag couple of days . . . ).
  • And doesn't it always seems that "holiday-what-the-heck you" is eager to get back to "healthy you" after the parties wind down and the cookies are (finally) gone?

Basically, we can conjure a new start any time we want.  But for lots of us . . . it coincides with the start of the school year.  September!

And what do we do with this "fresh start effect"?

We reflect.
We resolve.
We recalibrate.
We hit re-set.

I'm going to be spending some time during these last days of August . . . looking back and thinking ahead.  I want to embrace the changing season with a renewed sense of energy.  

How about you?  Any plans for September . . . the "other January?"




Sometimes Mondays

. . . feel like change.


It's in the air.  Can you feel it?

I call it my "September feeling" . . . and it's the point when I finally accept the inevitability of the end of summer.  

Not necessarily the end of summer-as-a-season.  I know the weather will remain summery for quite some time yet, and that I'll be wearing my flip-flops for many, many more weeks to come.  I'm really talking about a change in my own summer-as-a-season-mind-set.  About how I spend my days and where my brain starts going . . . as summer winds down.

How about YOU?  Do you get this "September feeling?"  If you do, what triggers it for you -- and what changes do you make in your own life as a result?

Curb Appeal

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  Our yard is weird.

Our house is built into a cross slope, which means . . . we have a steep, downward slope -- in two directions.  Because of the hill, our front yard is completely dominated by this (rather extreme) hill.  To manage the sloping front yard, we depend on retaining walls.  There are two:  A long, high stone wall that moves across much of the front of the yard, and then a two-tiered timber wall up at the front of the house along one side.

In the nearly 30 years since our house was built (we've been here for 14 years), the original retaining walls have gotten a bit . . . tired.   These two retaining walls have been evolving into, well, eye-sores for a while now.

(Just as a side note . . . I don't garden much in the front of our house.  The gardens I spend most of my time growing and tending are in our backyard.  Where the slope is less extreme, and where we spend most of our time.)

Here's a photo of our front wall taken early last spring as Tom was . . . considering and assessing the situation.  Which wasn't good.


English ivy (planted by the former owners) had taken over the rock wall.  Should we pull it off?  Would it look better?  (No.)
Weed-trees had rooted themselves between the boulders.  Impossible to pull them out, though.  The only option was to cut them back.  (Ugh.)
Boulders were dislodging and rolling off the wall and into the lawn below.  (Landslide waiting to happen.)
Ground bees had nested behind the boulders.  (And there were likely snakes comfortably sitting behind that ivy.)
Plus . . . the whole thing was just not attractive anymore.

And up at the house?  Things were no better.  The timbers were ugly -- and rotting.  There were gaps.  And weeds.  And bees.  Plus, the wall was no longer . . . retaining!  Soil was washing out, and our front porch was collapsing.

Tom - always willing to tackle a challenge - watched a few You Tube videos about building retaining walls.  But with a job of this scope, he knew right away that he was out of his league.  So we called in a landscape architect last spring.  He gave us options and designed new walls for us.

And then we waited.  With the wedding and other summer vacations and plans, we asked to be put on the schedule for fall.  Knowing that we were going to be tearing the front yard up come fall, we just let everything go, garden-wise, up front . . . all summer long.  (Which was kind of freeing, y'know?)

Here are photos from the morning the work began (and after we had rescued the few plants I wanted to save).  




The work itself took about two weeks.  Two weeks of mess, noise, and WAY more tearing up of our lawn than I anticipated.  (Because I just failed to realize what two bobcats would do, y'know?)


The project is finished now, though.  And I must say . . . it turned out better than I ever imagined!  





We love it.

(And . . . look at that blank gardening canvas, would you?)

If you're ever in the neighborhood, be sure to come around front, okay?


Dear Self

The One Little Word prompt for September involved writing a letter to . . . yourself.  Here's mine.

FullSizeRender 26

Dear Self,

I know you were looking for . . . something . . . when you chose the word JOURNEY for 2015.  I know you wanted to wander (a little) off the comfortable and well-worn path of your life.  You used the words "shake up."  You used the words "explore" and "discover" and "get a little lost."


(You did.)

And, as usually happens with this One Little Word thing, you get what you're looking for.  (That's why you sign up every year, right?  That's why you put up with all the prescribed arts-and-crafts scrapbooking bullshit and commercial "kits," isn't it?)  Because, turns out, the process - and the monthly prompts - all work for you.

So, yeah.

OLW strikes again.

Life took you on a JOURNEY you weren't quite expecting when you signed on to this gig.  You landed in some kind of wilderness - one that you wouldn't have picked for yourself and really didn't expect.  And -- AH! -- that's the real beauty of a JOURNEY.  Sometimes you know where you're headed, and sometimes you don't. I kind of remember . . . that you were hoping for a JOURNEY where you didn't quite know where you were headed.

And.  Well.  That's what you got!

Now that you're moving again -- out of that wilderness and onto a path you didn't know existed back in January - you've learned a few things.

Like. . . 

Heading out on a JOURNEY when you don't exactly know where you're going . . . is risky.

Getting lost . . . means being uncomfortable.

And (like with any trip), it's important to pack lightly.  Which means . . . letting go.  Getting rid of what you don't really need.  Ideas.  Objects.  People who drag you down.  Commitments you shouldn't have made in the first place.

Because being lost -- really being lost -- and wandering (even flailing) in the wilderness for a while might just be the best way to find out who you are, what you might want to do, and how you want to live the rest of your life.

When you set out on a JOURNEY - any kind of journey - you should expect to come back changed.  And, y'know, you don't get to direct what that change will be.  It just . . . happens.


Here's to "getting lost."  And "exploring."  And "discovery."  Here's to "shaking things up."

Keep going.



"Cherish your wilderness." -- Maxine Kumin


Working on My Fitness: A Fresh Start

(Okay.  So you may wonder what this photo . . . 


has to do with fitness.)  (Read on.  It will become clear.)

Way back in January, when I was setting my intentions and goals for the year and thinking about the whole JOURNEY thing, I stated that I wanted to "shake up my fitness routine this year."  At the time, way back in January, I knew this would be a challenge.  Not the fitness part (because that's easy for me) -- but the shaking it up part.  Because I liked what I was already doing:  running, dancing, kickboxing.  But it was beginning to feel a bit . . . automatic.  (And besides, I was noticing a bit more arm-jiggle and knew I needed to add some weight training.  Or something.)  So.  Shake it up.

But how?  Because, as it turned out, I didn't really want to give anything up. . . 

Enter:  LIFE.

First, there was the ankle tendinitis issue.

Then, there was the knee issue that flared up as a result of fixing the ankle tendinitis issue.

That'll do it!

No more running.  No more dancing.  No more kickboxing.

BIG shakeup.  Nothing BUT shakeup, in fact!  I needed to strip everything away (except yoga and spinning) and start from scratch.

I started swimming again.  I got back into Pilates.  I discovered that the elliptical machine can be okay in 30 minute bursts.  I found another good spinning instructor.

And this morning - at 5:45 AM, mind you - I found out that I like Power Yoga.  (I might like it a little more if it were offered a bit later in the morning, but oh well. . . )

And THAT . . . is how the photo of the sun rising over my butterfly garden relates to a blog post about fitness.  Because this morning, after Power Yoga and some time on the elliptical machine, I arrived home in time to SEE the sun rise over my butterfly garden.

Although it has been a disappointing year, fitness-wise, in many respects (I really did love my dance class, y'know, and I was kind of getting into the running thing), it's ending out just fine.  The forced time off - and the resulting "re-thinking" about how to protect myself from further injury - have paid off with a fitness Fresh Start.

I'm finally getting that 'shake-up' I was looking for back in January!  (Still trying to get that arm-jiggle under control, though. . .


Lessons from Inside the Parentheses

Today . . . is the first in a series of personal "anniversaries" marking the beginning of my cancer diagnosis and treatment.  Much as I try to put these dates and events out of my mind, they tend to make their presence known . . .  down at my very core.  

And especially in September.

So forgive me while I revisit these ghosts of my past . . . and try to make sense of my experience seven years ago.  (It seems to happen every year in September.)


Recently, I read a rather wonderful analogy of personal crisis (be it a cancer diagnosis - or any one of the myriad other Things That Go Wrong).  The author suggested that "catastrophes provide a pair of parentheses in which to live apart from real life, depositing you rather abruptly on the sidelines for a bit while normal life continues to eddy downstream."*

This description completely resonates with me.  When I was first diagnosed with cancer, and then for the long months of chemo, I craved only one thing: my normal life.  All I wanted was to live outside those parentheses again!  Back then, in the midst of treatment . . . I swore I'd never take the ordinary-ness of my days - the normal stuff- for granted again.  I looked forward to celebrating the little inconveniences of every day life.

And - for a time - after treatment, I did.  Because cancer is a very good teacher teacher.  It forces you to face up to what you should have known all along:  that life is fleeting, there is little time, and no room for regrets.

At first, after treatment, I felt . . . shiny and new, sanded and polished, incredibly fragile.  I knew - for sure - that I would never experience life in quite the same way again.  While I stepped lightly - but purposefully - away from The Edge, the colors seemed brighter and the boundaries sharper -- and everything tasted much, much fresher.  I took more risks, I reached out, I tried new things, and I spoke out louder and sooner than ever before.

But then one day . . . I was stuck in traffic.  I got impatient.  I yelled in frustration.  And then I realized . . . that I had gotten normal back.  I had moved away from The Edge, and out of the shadow of my cancer ordeal.  I was - once again - cranky about a routine traffic jam, something absolutely unimportant!

I had moved outside the parentheses -- away from the catastrophe and back to normal life.  (It's amazing how resilient we really are.)  But sometimes, it's good to revisit those lessons we learn inside the parentheses.

That's where I am right now.

It is September, after all. . . 


*Lynn Darling in Out of the Woods: A Memoir of Wayfinding









September = Fresh Start (And, yeah. You're in the right place.)

And suddenly you know:  It's time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.
                                                                                                     ---Meister Eckhart


If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you may remember that I think of September as the beginning of the year.  (I guess that old academic calendar is firmly embedded in my psyche.)  

September . . . just always reminds me of new shoes and fresh crayons and a new lunch box. Starting over in a new grade with a blank slate and a year full of possibilities.

So now seems like the perfect time to roll out a fresh look for my blog!  There will likely be some further tweaks as I work with this new format, but it's a good start.

September.  Let's begin!


My special thanks to Vicki, who designed my new blog banner and provided much-needed technical support along the way.  XO Vicki!   

Wade On In

A little Eva Cassidy for your day. . .


Although I complain about it while I'm doing it, I love to knit lace.  It's so magical!

You start with a pile of knitting. . .


You give it a good, long soak. . .

And, then . . .




You've got lace!

And, ahhhhhhh.  The water's just fine.

(Ravelry details here.)


(And, if you're counting, that's #4.  I did it!  I wrapped up all 4 knitting projects in September.  Now I can start something new!)

Laugh With the Sinners

Today, let's enjoy some vintage Billy Joel. . .


When I was a little girl, I loved pocketbooks.


I had a little white, vinyl pocketbook . . . and a little black, patent leather pocketbook.  I could only use them for special occasions.  Like going to church.  Or maybe for family events at my Grandparents' house.  I loved them. 

I have very fond memories of my little pocketbooks.

Which is why, when I saw this bag, I just had to make it!



Stupidly expensive.

Futzy beyond imagining.

But.  It's an adult version of my little, patent leather pocketbook.


And have it, I must.

Like all Noni bags, the knitting is easy; the construction a challenge.  The devil is always in the details with a Noni bag!  And the hardware (and face it, it's all about the hardware) is ridiculously expensive.


But still.  I love it.


I'm a total sucker when it comes to nostalgia.


(I still have that teddy bear, too.  His name is Billy.  He is threadbare beyond belief.  And, these days, he watches over my sewing machine.)

Ravelry details here.