Start Your Engines

Wrapping Things Up

After last week’s “deep dive” into spring cleaning, it’s time to get going. 

Yep. It's time to …

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. . . with a spring cleaning wrap-up post full of (what else?) a few more tips to motivate you and possibly make your spring cleaning life easier.

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First, just as I was putting the finishing touches on last Friday’s post, The Atlantic came up with a special spring cleaning playlist! You can read all about it here, or jump right to Spotify to start listening.

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Next, many of you shared terrific spring cleaning tips and suggestions last week. As promised, here’s a summary of blog-reader tips for you to try:

  • Kat suggests doing a two-for-one when it comes to spring cleaning chores (although I won't say she enjoys doing it. . . ). She takes her curtains down for a good washing in the spring, and while she’s at it, she tackles the blinds. 
  • Vicki likes to bring the spring sunshine in by washing her windows - and especially the kitchen window. 
  • Carole swaps out her curtains and changes up the décor on her shelves and mantle, and she opens all the windows to air everything out.
  • Carolyn opens the doors and windows for fresh air, too. She adds that she does a good porch-scrubbing several times a season. (She also mentions that hosting parties and guests is a good motivator for her to clean her house, but that hasn’t happened in a while . . . ) (Same here!)
  • Mary tells us that having your house’s interior painted is a great way to organize and deep clean, no matter the time of year. She also suggested a @gocleanco (Instagram) for great cleaning tips and hacks. (I see that @gocleanco will be hosting a 6-week spring cleaning challenge beginning . . . now. Check it out.) (FYI - I printed out the free download. This is a 6-week cleaning challenge with each week focusing on a different area of the house. It is far less intimidating than some of the lists I shared last week.)
  • Sarah and her daughter do a seasonal closet switch-over in the spring. Sarah says it’s a great time to figure out what still fits her growing daughter, and helps them figure out what new clothes she’s going to need for the season ahead.
  • Margene offers some great advice: Do the best you can!
  • Dee mentions turning on some music!
  • Jane likes to approach her cleaning a little bit at a time all year long. She also hires outside help to clean her windows (because none of us need to be up on ladders anymore) (and neither do our "helpers;" leave this one to the professionals).
  • I included a tip last week about keeping track of the expiry dates on your makeup and skin care products. Kat added that it’s also a great time to clean your makeup brushes (here’s a link to makeup brush/sponge cleaning how-tos from Good Housekeeping), and Mary told me that she sets up a reminder on her phone whenever she opens a new mascara so she knows when to replace it with a new one. (Wondering how often you should switch out your mascara? At least every three months! Here’s a great list of replacement dates for all kinds of personal products and makeup from Everyday Health.)
  • And, lastly, Carolyn sent me an email that included some great housekeeping advice: "If I don't like to clean it, or clean around it, I get rid of it." Carolyn followed this up by explaining how she switched out her glass shower door (fussy to keep clean) with a shower curtain (easier to keep clean). I think this is great advice -- if something is too hard or too maddening to deal with . . . get rid of it! 

"Housekeeping is like being caught in a revolving door."
   — Marcelene Cox

Thanks for coming along on my spring cleaning adventure last week. I hope you’re motivated -- at least a little bit -- to tackle your own home projects this spring.

Here’s to a good (and productive!) week for all of us.

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Links to other posts in my Spring Cleaning series:

An Introduction and Some History of Spring Cleaning

Rolling Up Your Sleeves and Coming Up With Your Strategy

Finding Your Organizational Style

Taking Care of Closet Business

Spring Cleaning in the Garden


Mark the Day

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"There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish."
    --- Michelle Obama

Today . . . is International Women's Day. I thought it might be fun to celebrate the day together.

International Women's Day (celebrated every year on March 8) is a United Nations-sanctioned global holiday celebrating women’s contributions to society, raising awareness about the fight for gender parity, and inspiring support for organizations that help women globally.

While you've probably heard of International Women's Day, you might be surprised to find out that it's been around (in some form) since 1909. Yep. Back in 1909, the Socialist Party of America took to the streets to honor garment workers who had protested against inhumane working conditions the year before. They called it National Women’s Day, and it took place on February 28. The following year, the Social International established Women’s Day in Copenhagen to celebrate those working for women’s rights and universal suffrage. In 1911, Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland celebrated the first official International Women’s Day on March 19. More than one million people attended rallies focused on suffrage, representation, education, and workers’ rights. Over the next few years, more countries in Europe marked the holiday on March 8. It wasn’t until March 8, 1975, when, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations celebrated it as an official holiday. Since 1975, the holiday has gained awareness around the globe as a way to recognize women.

This year, the theme of International Women's Day is Choose to Challenge (#ChooseToChallenge), which highlights the importance of challenging biases and misconceptions in the interest of creating a more inclusive and gender-equal world.

Today's Google Doodle. . . 

How can you honor and celebrate the day? Well. I have a few ideas for you!

You can learn more about International Women's Day by clicking here. This link will take you to the official IWD website, where you can learn more history about the day and find out what's going on around the world.

You can find - and stream - events happening around the world celebrating International Women's Day. One of the "silver linings" from the pandemic is that we all have greater access to events through sharing and streaming. Click here for a comprehensive list of events happening today - and all month long.

You can pick up a book and read. Click here for Lit Hub's list of 33 Life-Changing Books in Honor of International Women's Day. Or click here for The Independent's list of the 8 Best Books to Inspire Change this International Women's Day.

You can celebrate the stories of strong women around the world right on your own television.  Click here for a great list of movies and TV shows you can stream all month long.

You can make a financial gift in support of organizations helping women and girls around the world. Click here for a list of 10 worthy organizations to consider. Some other organizations you may want to consider: ACLU Women's Rights Project, Women for Women International, Girls, Inc, or the National Women's Law Center.

You can do a little shopping . . . while also giving back. Click here for a list of 33 product/non-profit organization partnerships. There are some pretty cool products in the list. (I'm tempted by the RBG-themed wine trio myself. . . )

And . . . after all that . . . you can toast the day with a beer! Click here for a list of 40 women-owned brewers in the United States.

"Every woman's success should be an inspiration to another. We're strongest when we cheer each other on."
    --- Serena Williams

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Happy International Women's Day!
I wish you a happy Monday -- and a great week ahead.

 

 




Love in Action

Love Week continues.

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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). 

 

 

 


Love: Philosophically Speaking

Love Week continues!

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There's a well-known Margaret Atwood quote out there . . . 

"The Eskimos have 52 words for snow because it is so special to them; there ought to be as many for love."
    --- Margaret Atwood

Well, Margaret. There may not be 52. But the Greeks have at least 7 words for love!

Eros. 
Eros (which is named after the Greek god of fertility) represents the idea of sexual passion and desire. Lust. Pleasure. Romance. Passion. It's driven by attraction and sexual longing. Think of this one as . . . falling "madly" in love; losing control, sort of . . . dangerous and fiery! The Greeks were a bit afraid of Eros love. (Too intense.)

Philia. 
Philia is friendship. Loyalty. Sacrifice. Sharing. This one is deep friendship -- the kind forged through intimacy and knowing; it's a soul-mate kind of friendship. Which could be with a platonic best friend or a romantic partner. This type of love was most revered by the Greeks.

Storge. 
Storge (related to Philia) is unconditional, familial love. It's the protective and kinship-based love you experience with family members. It's based on allegiance to family. You many not like your brother, but you still love him . . . it's that kind of love. Storge can also describe patriotism toward your county, or allegiance to your favorite team.

Ludus.
Ludus is that playful, flirtatious kind of love. Infatuation. A fling. Having a crush and acting on it. It's casual, sexual, exiting . . . and there are no implications of any future obligation. It's love . . . but "light."

Philautia.
Philautia is self-love. There are two faces to this one. When it's a healthy, feelin'-myself kind of love, it's all about postive self-esteem - and that's a good thing. But Philautia can also be a selfish, me-first kind of love, overly focused on pleasure or fame, highly concerned with status and what other people think. Philautia . . . can be the root of narcissism - not a good thing at all.

Pragma.
Pragma is longstanding love. It's the kind of love that's built on commitment, understanding, and long-term best interests. Think . . . mature, realistic love commonly found in long-established couples. Maybe it started as Eros, rooted in romantic feelings and passion . . . but, over the years, it morphed into Pragma as a couple grows to honor, respect, and cherish each other, accepting differences and able to compromise.

Agápe.
Agápe is selfless love -- the love we extend to all people, whether close to us or distant strangers. ("Agápe" was translated into Latin as "caritas," which is the origin of our word "charity.") It's a general feeling of empathy and love toward humanity itself. It involves caring for and loving others without expecting anything in return. Agápe is the foundation of great societies, communities, and most religious traditions in the world.

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The Greeks considered Philia - deep friendship - to be the most valued kind of love. Aristotle further classified Philia into three categories:

  • Friendships of pleasure, which bring people together based on a shared hobby or activity. When the shared activity ceases, the relationship does as well.
  • Friendships of utility, which offers a tangible benefit to both parties. When the ability to meet the shared need is gone, so is the relationship.
  • Friendships of virtue, which draws people together because of the quality of their character and their selfless best wishes for each other. It takes time and intimacy to form, but it's powerful and enduring. This type of friendship is the most valued.

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What do you think? Did the Greeks get it right?

And where do you think the love of . . . things, actions, pets . . . fall into this scheme?

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"True love is singing Karaoke 'Under Pressure' and letting the other person sing the Freddy Mercury part."
    --- Mindy Kaling


It's Love Week!

Here we are . . . in February.
It's cold and still dark and winter and, well . . . spring feels a long way off right now.

At least there's Valentine's Day!

Now, I'm not a true fan of Valentine's Day. There are many things about Valentine's Day that make my skin crawl. (The whole commercial focus. The over-emphasis on having a "valentine" in a romantic sense. The feeling "less than" if you don't. That kind of thing.) But. I AM a fan of letting people know you love them and that you're thinking about them. I'm a fan of kindness. I'm a sucker for cute little hearts.

I also think it's a good idea to have all that red and pink show up in the middle of winter, y'know?

Anyway. This week? It's gonna be all love, every day here on my blog!

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I'm just going to start by asking you . . . What do you think of Valentine's Day? Fan? Not a fan? Happy memories? Painful memories? Don't like red? Do you send valentines? Do you like to receive them? What are your best memories of Valentine's Day?

For me, I loved Valentine's Day when I was a little girl. My mom used to put red food coloring in all the milk in the house (right in the containers), so when we poured it out on our cereal in the morning, the milk was pink! She always feigned surprise in a Most Convincing way -- and told us the cupids must have done it in the night, spreading love. My sister and I were delighted! Every year. (She did this with green food coloring on St. Patrick's Day, too . . . claiming the leprechauns must have visited in the night, making mischief and and turning our milk green.)

I also loved designing and making my Valentine mailbox for my classroom party -- the shoebox, the construction paper, the doilies; so much . . . possibility! And I loved pouring over my little cards, deciding just who to give which Valentine card to (you didn't want to send the wrong message, y'know?). It was such a fun day for me. Until about 5th grade and it all began to unravel. But we don't need to go into that.

Once I did find my romantic "valentine" (who is a very low-key kind of celebrator when it comes to any holiday or "special" day) and I had kids of my own, I kept things simple. Wear red. Cupid-milk. Heart-shaped candies. And an emphasis on love. (And, as Erin reached middle school, kleenex for the hurt feelings.) (In our house, there were some serious gender differences when it came to Valentine's Day. . . )

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Last week, I started thinking about the "Five Love Languages" (remember those?) Dr. Gary Chapman has created a whole "thing" (I hesitate to use the word "empire," but that is the word that first came to mind) around this love language concept, positing that "relationships grow better when we understand each other." He suggests that there are five basic ways people prefer to give and receive love -- the "love languages" - and that when we understand them, we can communicate love to each other in better and more effective ways. I have actually never read his original book, but I've heard and read enough about the concept to understand. I think there's something to it.

I took the quiz last night.

Turns out, my primary love language is "Words of Affirmation." I'd have to agree that it's . . . spot on. (My quiz showed zero points for "Receiving Gifts." Also very accurate.) (Lucky Tom.) Basically, then . . . tell me something nice, and I'm good to go!

How about you? Have you ever taken the love languages quiz? And if you did, what did you think of the results?

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So. There you are.
Welcome to Love Week!

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"Love is the answer, and you know that for sure. Love is a flower, you've got to let it grow."
--- John Lennon

 

 


Start Your Engines . . . With Goals and Intentions

Good morning!
Grab a cup of coffee and join me to chat about . . . goals and intentions.

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So, you say. Here we are on a Monday morning . . . in late January . . . and the topic is goals and intentions???

Really?

Sure. Why not.

I mean, I know we’re all much more interested in that topic at the beginning of the new year. But . . . January 1 is just an arbitrary date, y’know? It’s ALWAYS a fine time to set your intentions and goals! Any day works!

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."
        --- John Lennon

So. Let’s start here:

What’s the difference between . . . a resolution, a goal, and an intention?

A resolution is something you determine to do from this day forward. Example . . . “Starting today, I will get in shape.”

A goal is focused on a specific achievement or destination in the future. Example . . . “I will run in the Capitol City 5K in September.”

An intention is focused on the inner relationship you have with yourself, here in the present moment. Example . . . “I am active and healthy.”

In other words, intentions reflect how you want to BE; how you want to live your life. They provide integrity and unity in your life right now, in the present moment. Goals are all about an outcome, getting you where you want to be in some future moment. (And we’re just going to let resolutions sit right where they are . . . in the bottom of your champagne glass back on New Year’s Eve.) 

You need both. Intentions AND goals. (Also strategies and habits and a plan for how you’re going to get there, but that’s for another day.) Your goals and intentions should line up. If your intentions reflect what matters most to you, and your goals align with your intentions, well . . . you have a much greater chance of success at achieving your goals! (And you’ll be happier along the way, too.)

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As for me . . . I spend quite a bit of time throughout the month of January each year figuring out what I hope to do during the months ahead (my goals) -- and then plugging those goals into my personal intentions. While I do review my intentions in January, too, I find they really don’t change much from year to year. Then, as the year rolls along, I review my intentions and goals with each new moon cycle to see how I'm progressing.

For the last several years, my overarching intention has been to . . . Live my best life for the rest of my life. (I like it. I haven’t seen any reason to change it.) Then, I come up with 8-10 “mini-intentions” to support it. (I try to compress my intentions into the fewest words possible that still support my meaning.) My goals for the year plug in to at least one of my intentions.

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It’s a process that works for me. I know what I want to do (my goals) . . . and I know WHY (my intentions). That “why” part? That makes the goals much more likely to happen -- or, if the goals need to be changed or released or expanded during the year, it doesn’t throw me off so much.

(Those photos above are from my "root" journal for the year. You can see my overarching intention on the little envelope in the first photo. The envelope is filled with the cards you see in the second photo -- those are my "mini-intentions" for the year. On the back of each card, I've written out some of my goals for the year.)

So I’m curious.
What do YOU do?
What’s your process when you think about setting goals and intentions for the new year?
And does your process work for you?

Share your tips, suggestions, and frustrations in the comments. It's never a bad time to set (or review) your goals and intentions!

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Want some more information about goals vs. intentions?

The Heart’s Intention by Phillip Moffitt from the website Dharma Wisdom. This article is a bit long, but does explain the differences between goals and intentions really well.

The Science of Setting Goals by Nadia Goodman from the website Ideas.Ted.com. This article is more about setting good goals and the interplay between goals and intentions.




Revving Up For a New Year

Happy New Year!
Happy Monday!

In an attempt to keep things  fresh, relevant, and fun (for me . . . and maybe for you, too), I'm going to be making a few changes here on the blog over the next few months. Nothing drastic (although you never know . . . ). Just different. Change is good, y'know? 

On Mondays I'll still . . . 

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but not every Monday.
Just some Mondays. 
And it'll be just a little bit different.

"Change only happens in the present moment. The past is already done. The future is just energy and intention."
               --- Kino McGregor

So here we are, at the beginning of a new year. A time when many of us make resolutions or goals or intentions for how we want to move forward in the new year. And I know a lot of those resolutions or goals or intentions have something to do with . . . moving more. Getting stronger. Improving our balance and flexibility. Working on our fitness.

Maybe even . . . trying yoga.

So today, I'm going to Start Your Engines with some yoga talk. Because if there's one thing that revs me up and gets me moving, it's yoga!

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I've been doing yoga for a long, long time. I actually credit yoga with . . . saving my life. WHUT? Yeah. I do. If not for yoga, I doubt I'd be doing most of the things I do today.

I don't talk about it much, generally, and I think I've only mentioned it once or twice here on the blog, but I have rheumatoid arthritis. I was diagnosed with it shortly after Erin was born, and it took a while before we got it under control and I could move again without pain. Of course, some of my joints are completely trashed now (both wrists - and especially the right one, and one of my knees), but thanks to a combination of good medical care, new drugs, a decent attitude, and commitment to moving every day . . . here I am . . . 30 years later and still able to do (pretty much) anything I want to do!

At a time when I could barely lift my arms over my head (let along think about sitting on the floor), my rheumatologist suggested I try . . . yoga. I thought he was nuts. I had done yoga before my RA diagnosis, so I really couldn't imagine it would be possible again. But I gave it a try. It was really hard at first. I took it slowly, though, and kept at it. Before long . . . I was moving easier and feeling better. My flexibility increased; my pain decreased. I got more confident about moving again, and I saw how important a regular and consistent commitment to moving (even when it didn't feel so great) was for my body. It changed me; it saved my life!

So . . . I am totally committed to practicing yoga.

Yoga offers so many benefits. Gentle movement is good for your joints. It builds strength - and especially core strength. It improves balance and flexibility. It makes a mind-body connection, which is helpful for reducing stress. It can offer spiritual growth/self-actualization if that's your jam. It is a great thing to do at any age -- but it is particularly beneficial for aging bodies. And more recent studies are showing it can even help reduce brain shrinkage, which is a huge benefit. (I've included a link to a Psychology Today article in the "curated resources" section below.

Before the pandemic, I went to studio yoga classes once or twice a week. I did stretches and sun salutations at home every day, but mostly my yoga was studio-based. The pandemic changed all that, of course, and I had to scramble to figure out an at-home way to do yoga. I tried a few for-pay online based yoga programs (they often offer "free trial" periods), finally making my way to Yoga With Adriene. And there it was: My new at-home yoga "studio." Now, I do yoga every day, and I love it. (This is one of my pandemic silver linings.)

I know a lot of you are already familiar with Adriene, but for those of you who aren't . . . here are a few things to know: First, Adriene offers a huge and ever-expanding catalog of classes for free through her YouTube channel. Next, each month Adriene pulls together a collection of her classes organized around a "theme" and publishes a calendar with links to the daily classes. Again, free. And then, each January Adriene offers a brand new 30-day yoga series featuring all-new classes suitable for every level of yogi. And, again . . . free. (There is a for-pay subscription option, where subscribers get access to Adriene's Find What Feels Good app and a few other subscriber-only goodies. I have chosen this option after enjoying her classes for a couple of months. I feel like what she's offering is worth my financial support. But the fact that her classes are offered free - and ad-free - is just . . . amazing.)

I know several of you are thinking about giving Adriene's online yoga a try. Or maybe you haven't really given it a thought before. But today, I'd like to give you that little friendly nudge - to Start Your Engines and . . . Try it!

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Right now, Adriene is offering a brand new 30-day yoga series called Breath. It's free. It's YouTube based. It's for every body. It's for YOU. (Click here for more information or to sign up for daily email reminders.) It's a great way to stick your toe into this whole yoga thing . . . or, if you're already a yoga-person, it's a great immersion into yoga breath technique. 

"Yoga is not for the flexible. It's for the willing."
            --- Anonymous

If you're thinking it's too late now because  you missed the first days . . .
I say . . . Nope. Your "day 1" can be any day you choose! Who says you have to start on January 1?

If you're thinking 30 days is just too much. . .  
I say . . . No worries! No one says you have to do 30 days in a row. You can set your own yoga schedule and spread the days out however you want.

If you're thinking your body isn't a "yoga body". . .
I say . . . Every body is a "yoga body." (Even if arthritis has trashed your joints.)

If you're thinking you aren't "flexible enough" for yoga . . .
I say . . . We do yoga to become more flexible, not because we're already flexible.

If you're thinking you don't have the right clothes or equipment to do yoga . . .
I say . . . Got sweat pants? Got a t-shirt? A yoga mat is helpful, but you can just do yoga on your floor if you want.

If you're thinking you can't do those moves . . .
I say . . . Yeah, at first very few people can. But if you keep at it for 30 days, you'll be amazed at what you'll be able to do! And Adriene suggests modifications, so yoga can work for everyone.

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So, what do you think? Have I convinced you?
Are you ready to roll out your mat and give yoga a try?
Start YOUR Engines . . . and c'mon along.

"The body benefits from the movement, and the mind benefits from stillness."
            --- Sakyong Mipham

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For further exploration, check out my Curated Resource List:

 


Dark Mornings

It's so dark when I wake up these days!
Cold, too.
It's hard enough to get out of bed in the morning, but the dark makes it so much harder.

But, y'know. . . twinkle lights help.

As much as I miss the daylight (and I do miss the daylight), sitting in the magical glow of my twinkle lights in the morning, sipping my coffee and beginning the day . . . just isn't all that bad. Mornings just seem more gentle and peace-filled when the twinkle lights are turned on.

It's Monday. Turn on some twinkle lights, and let's . . . 

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On Mondays, I usually share a few tidbits and miscellaneous things I discovered over the weekend. A little of this, some of that. Things to amuse, amaze, entertain, or inform. Maybe even something to rev you up! 

This week, I've got some holiday inspiration for you. So. Let's get to it!

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"Winter is a season of recovery and preparation."
            -- Paul Theroux

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Recovery . . . because it's been such a long and hard year.
Preparation . . . for whatever comes next. 

When I found that quote last week, I thought it was perfect for how I feel about the approaching winter. Rather than dread its arrival, I'm trying to embrace it as an opportunity to reflect and figure out how to move on.

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This week, it's all about inspiration for the holidays. 

I know that for most of us, the Chanukah/Christmas/New Year's holidays look very, very different this year. We're celebrating in isolation. We're not traveling. There are no parties, concerts, parades, or celebrations. Things are quiet. Really, really quiet. 

But that doesn't mean we can't have any fun!

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Eat

Try this charming antipasto wreath for your next Friday Night Snacks or holiday home happy hour. It's festive AND tasty! Practice making it for yourself to enjoy at home this year -- so you'll have perfected it for next year . . . when you can take it to a gathering with your family and friends.

Drink

Have you always been curious about making your own homemade Irish Cream? Maybe this is the year to give it a try (using this quick and easy recipe from Smitten Kitchen). Next year, when it'll be safe to share food with our friends again, you'll be all ready to give the gift of tasty, festive beverages, having tested it out this year.

Be Merry

Just because we're isolating ourselves for the holidays doesn't mean we won't be giving gifts. Are you stymied trying to figure out how to deliver gifts while still practicing appropriate social distancing? Are you looking for some creative ways to bring the gift-giving magic to a pandemic holiday? Well, check out these suggestions for "doing gifts" in 2020.

Deck the Halls

Finally, I'll leave you with . . . Claus Dalby. Claus is the "Danish Martha Stewart" -- only he's a lot more charming AND he does his own stunts. I started following Claus on Instagram over the summer. His garden design work and his photography are simply stunning. Over the last few weeks, he's been posting his holiday creations -- flower arrangements, wreaths, gift-wrapping -- all with Claus' unique flair and Scandinavian style. Just wonderful stuff. Spend some time in Claus' world . . . and be inspired! (Next year I'm definitely going to try making one of his wreaths. They are amazing.)

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And that's it for me on this dark Monday morning!
Here's to a good Monday -- and a great week -- for all of us.


Is It Just Me?

Or are the days flying by??? Because . . . how can it already be Monday again?

But it is!
Time to . . . 

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On Mondays, I usually share a few tidbits and miscellaneous things I discovered over the weekend. A little of this, some of that. Things to amuse, amaze, entertain, or inform. Maybe even something to rev you up! 

So. Let's get to it!

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"Nothing ever seems too bad, too hard, or too sad when you've got a Christmas tree in the living room."
        -- Nora Roberts

(Ain't that the truth?)
(Even if it's not a traditional Christmas tree. And it's just . . . lights?)

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Winter . . . is coming. Here in my corner of the world, the snow hasn't cranked up yet. We've had a dusting, sure. But nothing that sticks around. Yet. I know it's coming, though. Those snowflakes! They WILL pile up! I'm sure that, like me, you've heard that "no two snowflakes are alike." But did you ever wonder where that profound "factoid" came from???

Turns out . . . it was Wilson A. Bentley who made that discovery! Wilson -- or "Willie" as he was known to his friends, was the first to collect and photograph snowflakes -- over one hundred years ago. You can read all about it here. It's a fascinating story, and the photos are amazing . . . considering it was so long ago, and all he had was a "bellows" camera!

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(Public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

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Here are a couple of interesting "book-ish" links for you to check out this week:

First, I found this really interesting list of (pretty much all) nonfiction titles put forward by Smithsonian scholars as their "favorite books of 2020." This is a fascinating collection of books -- and especially for those of you who enjoy reading nonfiction.

Then, in the totally go-ahead-and-judge-a-book-by-its-cover category, I found this list of the the 89 best book covers of 2020. I'm always intrigued by book cover designs, so I love these kind of lists . . . even if it takes more than a "pretty face" to get me to read the actual book! Which one is YOUR favorite???

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(Speaking of books . . . be sure to tune in tomorrow - Tuesday - when Bonny, Carole, and I reveal the next Read With Us Book selection! Exciting news!)

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Every once in a while, I share an Instagram account that is particularly fun to follow. This week, I'm going to suggest @lizandmollie. Follow along for delightful "comics" that will make you smile . . . and feel BETTER!

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One last thing!

As you're looking for holiday gifts this year, don't forget to visit Green Hat Woodworking for some unique, interesting gifts. (Yeah . . . the Green Hat Guy IS my son. I have no problem with shamelessly promoting him.) You can find him on Etsy at Green Hat Store or on his website.

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And that's it for me on this Monday morning!
Here's to a good Monday -- and a great week -- for all of us.

 

 

 


It Sure Feels Like a Monday

That means it must be time to . . . 

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On Mondays, I usually share a few tidbits and miscellaneous things I discovered over the weekend. A little of this, some of that. Things to amuse, amaze, entertain, or inform. Maybe even something to rev you up! I don't know about you, but . . . it seemed like quite a long and leisurely weekend to me. I really need to get things revving and moving this morning.

So. Let's get to it!

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"There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want."
        --- Bill Watterson

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It's been a while since I've featured a word here to . . . start your engines. Let's dig in, shall we?

First, it's time for the folks at Oxford Languages to select their Word of the Year for this dumpster fire of a year. I don't know about you, but I've been anticipating their selection for 2020. Could it be . . . "Blursday?" "Doomscrolling?" "Lockdown?" "Flatten the Curve?" Nope! Turns out . . . instead of choosing a word for 2020, the Oxford folks have decided to highlight the entire pandemic's swift and sudden impact on the English language! Instead of choosing just one word to represent 2020, they have created a report: The Words of an Unprecendented Year. (Personally, I think "unprecedented" could have been the word for 2020. . . )

Next, I found this fun look at 25 words that are their own opposites! (Seriously. If you have fun with words, you're gonna LOVE this one.) I had never heard the term "contronym" before . . . but I am absolutely intrigued - now that I know it.

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It's been a tough several months. And it looks like things are going to remain that way -- dark, isolated, kinda scary -- for awhile yet. Oprah to the rescue! Yes. Oprah has put together her list of seven books that help her "through the tough times." Check out her list here, and maybe find something that will help you get through these tough times. 

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Sadly, it looks like our best (and safest) options for travel . . . will continue to be from our own armchairs - and computer screens - for a while yet. Here are a couple of interesting destinations for you:

First, let's head to Turkey! Click here for a look at the fabled honey forest in northeast Turkey. This adventure comes to us via the New York Times as part of their The World Through a Lens series -- launched early in the pandemic as a way to help us visit some of the world's intriguing sites without having to leave our homes. This is a fascinating look at beekeeping traditions in a most beautiful corner of the world.

Then, for something completely different, let's take a quick peek at a preview of The Costume Institute's upcoming show (currently postponed) (I think you can guess whyAbout Time, which shows us how fashion has changed in the last 150 years . . . and how it hasn't. Looks intriguing!

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And now . . . for a wonderful little claymation short film . . . that reminds us all that nobody is normal, and that however weird you feel inside you're not alone.

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Click here and then click in to this sweet little 80-second film by Catherine Prowse. It's a great way to start your day!

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And . . . that's it for me on this Monday morning.
Here's to a good one for all of us!