Sunday, December 29, 2013

What Have I Learned?

It has been a whirlwind of a year with extreme lows, extreme highs, and everything in-between. The constant need to make decisions seemed to accelerate with each passing moment. At times, circumstances came with a heavy heart, but I moved beyond the weight and found what it meant to celebrate what is. In a year with much diversity, I ask myself, what have I learned?

... to look forward and allow this word to guide me throughout the year.
... to feel like a kid again by embracing the joys of Jell-O.
... to leapfrog grief after the loss of two dear friends.
... to bring more focus to my life by paying attention and looking both ways.
... to take the pressure off and relinquish priorities to a bit of putzing.
... to protect what’s mine after a prowler poked around my home.
... to accept the choices of loved ones after the loss of my brother.
... to celebrate what commitment truly is on our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary.
... to move my book closer to publishing by getting it done.
... to look up and engage my senses.
... to find a glimmer of hope in tough love.
... to give thanks by looking ‘em in the eye.
... to get out of my own way with simplicity, one less thing, and box worthiness.
... to clear a path forward to the future.

I feel the whirlwind of this year moving me into next year. Follow me as I continue to find my way through the lows, highs and everything in-between by celebrating what is.

Twirl through the flowers photo courtesy of Anita Hart

Monday, December 16, 2013


In the home I grew up in, we had a large front room window my mom would adorn with her annual Christmas scene. I’m not just talking about strings of colored lights, spraying snow on the glass or stenciling Glass Wax patterns; she would come up with a theme, make sketches and work out the logistics. Then the creation would come to life with her paints, brushes and colored films. I always loved these scenes. When I was a child, it wasn’t Christmas until the window came to life.

My favorite scene was when she created the Nativity, birth of Jesus, out of a stained glass patterned contact paper. It was amazingly beautiful. Her windows were always labor intensive, but this intensity allowed my mom to share, not only her artistic talents with the neighborhood, but her love of Christmas and what it meant to her. More importantly, with each window she created a unique gift of passion and love of Christmas for her young children.

Viewed from the inside or the outside, day or night, these windows tiptoed into my memories of a child at Christmas. I may not remember all of the gifts I received over the years, but I will never forget the Christmas windows of my youth.

As we close in on this holiday season, one never knows what it is others will remember in the years to come. But as I reflect on this subject, doing one thing that stands out for you, may very well stand out for others. It's not about running around hither, thither and yon, or pushing yourself beyond your limits to create a perfect Christmas. Pick one thing and do it with passion and love.

Wishing you and yours all my best this holiday season!
Christmas reflections courtesy of Chris Costes

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Past

Christmas and family go hand in hand. But it is this very family that causes what can be the best of times and the worst. Our expectations of others and the desire to hold things as they once were get in our way. Then again, maybe you long for the perfect holiday celebration that never was. While you may think you are on the right track, you cannot compel others to do or be on the track with you. That is why it is important for you to let it go and do and be for you.

As we get older, family dynamics can become more difficult for countless reasons, and it is disappointing. When you feel this way, you are mourning the loss of what was or could have been with each disappointment. Sometimes you just need to take a step back and remove yourself from the picture. If you don’t, you may make it more difficult for everyone; but more importantly, you will make it more difficult for you.

If this holiday season brings on the feelings of loss and disappointment, for whatever the reason, now is the time to embrace change by making new memories, starting new traditions and shaking up the holidays. Before you know it, you will be able to look back on this Christmas and know you were on the right track. I promise!

1957 Christmas photo courtesy of Valerie

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


I am currently working on a number of projects that need to be addressed. My refrigerator freezer is not working, as it gave up the ghost back in September, so now I need to buy a new one. Obviously, I haven’t been in any hurry to tackle appliance shopping. I have a contractor who will start working after the first of the year, so I am involved in picking out toilets, tiles and faucets to update the bathrooms in our house. Yes, I am still moving, but this is what you must do these days so the house will sell in a timely manner. And oh, there’s the holidays, and this and that, and on and on.

I am not Super Woman, although I have been known to try my darndest at times. These days I focus more on the priority at hand⎯instead of getting wrapped up in everything at the same time. I don’t know about you, but I don’t seem to get anywhere when I allow that to happen. By giving full attention to one thing at a time I am able to accomplish whatever needs to be taken care of⎯and not get my tinsel in a tangle this time of the year, or any other time for that matter.

In a month filled with want-to-dos and have-to-dos, I am choosing to focus. Focus gives me the space to do whatever I need to do. It cuts out the nonsensical and allows me to move forward. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll even get around to buying a new refrigerator this month.

Cattail photo courtesy of Rebecca Goodwin - my sister!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


With just a few days before the annual shopping frenzy, when you begin feeling more holidazed than any one person ever should, take a moment to give thanks to the people and world around you. When I say give thanks, I'm talking about face-to-face, look 'em in the eye connection. It's not as hard as it may seem, and it would mean more than you know to the person you are thanking.
  • Thank those who touch your life in simple ways.
  • Thank coworkers for showing up, doing their jobs, and going the extra mile.
  • Thank friends and loved ones for being a part of a much bigger picture.
  • Thank the universe for the greatness unfolding in your life each day.
How does one look the universe in the eye? That's the easy one. All you have to do is close your eyes and silently give thanks, or shout it out then give yourself a moment to consider all you are thankful for. That being said, I would like to thank you for allowing me to give you something to think about each week.

Photo courtesy of Dan Foy

Monday, November 18, 2013

Box Worthy

Yesterday, we removed all of the boxes labeled Christmas from our attic. Because I no longer decorate as much as I used to, I haven’t seen most of these boxes in years. While I still trim a tree and toss a bit of tinsel around, the decorating I do is simple, gives a holiday feel to our home, and does not take massive time to set up or take down. In an attempt to follow through with shedding and eliminating, we are beginning with the attic. What a perfect time to go through these boxes with the Christmas season just around the corner.

I am looking forward to the memories I will uncover; nevertheless, I will determine whether each memory is box worthy for future holidays. It may sound like an impossible task, but I am at a point in my life where I know it's time to give some of my decorations to others to enjoy. Many of us have a holiday d├ęcor nightmare hiding somewhere in our home. Follow my lead and make this holiday season the year of box worthiness.
Ballagio Christmas photo courtesy of Scott Ellis

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It’s Complicated

"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated."

I have a tendency to overthink many things. Over time, I developed ways of sorting out the insanity in an attempt to move forward.
  1. I am a maker of lists and sticky note fanatic; and I’ll be honest, I enjoy checking items off my lists and tearing up sticky notes. I liken it to a momentary celebration of one less thing! Yay!
  2. I am a researcher extroidinaire. When I am buying something, I have a tendency to research it to death until  I have collected so much information I am on overload. No celebration there.
  3. I am an analytical thinker. When lists, sticky notes or research just doesn't cut it, I go into flowchart mode. My analytical mind is a buzz of if this, then that, until I figure out just what I need to do. This slows my mind and breaks things down into logical steps.
With all this overthinking, there is a point when I am just complicating the whole matter, even if I am merely trying to buy a new refrigerator. Over the years, I have gotten better at catching myself when I have reached the tipping point.

Either out loud, or in my head, I say, stop, enough, or give it a rest girl!

When I hear myself say this, I abruptly stop and let go. I see the moment for what it is ⎯insanity. In that moment, I refocus. Sometimes, I simply stop whatever it is I am doing in order to regroup at another time before I shutdown on the matter altogether. I’ve gotten rather good at shutting down when I am overwhelmed with how to move forward. The truth is, shutting down permits me to procrastinate. But, sooner or later I have to revisit whatever it was in the first place. When I do, I hear myself say, simplify, simplify, simplify. In other words, I allow myself to get out of my own way.

I think most of us have a tendency to complicate the matter, whatever it may be. We refuse to get out of our own way. Whether it's lists, sticky notes, research, flowcharts or whatever you do to sort out the insanity, it comes down to one word: simplify. Break the insanity and simplify. It is your choice, and is as simple as that.
Berry Good photo courtesy of D. Sharron Pruitt

Monday, November 4, 2013

Puzzling Moves

Next spring marks the twentieth year in our home. Over the past few years, my husband, Dennis, and I have been talking about where our next home might be located. We also discuss whether it will be a house, condominium, townhouse or who knows what. We have no clear path to what the answer is to any of those questions. What we do know is this⎯it will be smaller, and it will be sooner rather than later. 

When we first moved into our home, we planned on being here twenty years. My how time flies. With our love and sweat poured into this place of ours, we have improved the house and the five surrounding acres, and have made it into what it is today. We still enjoy the peaceful location, the home itself, and the land, but our hearts are not into it as much as they once were. Maintaining it has now become more of a burden than a joy. When you find yourself saying, I would rather, more often than not, it’s time to reevaluate.

It has been frustrating to think about moving, so we don’t. It’s like having a pile of puzzle pieces that don’t quite fit together. Recently, I had the realization⎯we aren’t ready to move. As in, if we are going to downsize, we need to start shedding and eliminating. In other words, we have too many puzzle pieces⎯we need to purge and clear a path forward! While we aren’t keepers of all things, and we get rid of stuff on a regular basis, we need to go deeper and get rid of the pieces that will not fit into the next space of our lives, whatever that may be. We will prepare for the possibility.

Currently, we are both of the mindset⎯we are moving! This thought alone is freeing and will help us move forward. I firmly believe, when we are ready, we will know it. Then we will be able to answer the questions we have been going round and round about, and the remaining pieces of the puzzle will fall into place. In other words, when we are ready, the path will clear and something will come up and be just right for our needs. We’ll know.

Can you trust in the unknown? Can you develop a forward mindset and start putting the pieces of the puzzle together without knowing what it looks like? Can you find a way to your path? Can you trust, by simply moving forward, the answers will come? When your heart is not in it, whatever it is, it is time to reevaluate, purge and move forward. You’ll know. Prepare for the possibility.

Puzzled path photo courtesy of Magnus Akselvoll

Monday, October 28, 2013


I quite often pause to notice a sunrise or sunset, but daybreak is another matter. Depending on the time of the year, and where in the world you are located, it is not always easy catching the first light of morning. In August, I started heading outside about forty-five minutes before sunrise in order to experience this magical time of the day. Folded into a soft blanket, sitting back in a comfy chair, drinking a big cup of steaming coffee or tea, I have now witnessed daybreak on a number of occasions and in a few different locations. I found I was not only witnessing daybreak, but also the last moments of night. I get goose bumps just thinking about it.

You don’t need a view to experience this phenomenon, but I must say it enhances the magic. Recently, while traveling in Switzerland and staying at around the 5,000 ft. level, I was able to fully appreciate the Lauterbrunnen valley and surrounding mountains in a different way. Observing the stars punctuating the night sky, and the silhouette of the snowy mountains at daybreak, was jaw-dropping beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes as the sun kissed the tips of the peaks. All I needed was the sound of a choir hitting a high C note. For lack of a choir, I clapped my hands with joy.

When I initially began my daybreak quest, I had not realized how much it would involve the senses. Here are a few observations of mine from home:
  • Quiet, as if someone said, "Shh"
  • Moon and stars vividly mark their time then fade as the morning light seeps in on a clear night
  • Contrast of dark and light as the silhouettes of trees come into view
  • Light fog rising and falling above the ground
  • Cool dampness producing the sharp smell of dried leaves and grasses
  • Faint foghorns from the ferries moving through the water miles away
  • Heavy dew falling from the trees like rain
  • Ebb and flow of muffled train whistles in the distance
  • Light stretching and yawning across the morning sky
  • Bats flit about before they retreat from the light
  • Spiders leave the center of their webs, as if on cue
  • First bird song of the day
  • Small flocks of birds taking flight here and there
  • Croak of a nearby frog
  • Roosters heralding the morning
  • Full light of morning reminding me it is time to start moving with the rhythm of the day
  • Tummy growls telling me it is time for breakfast
  • Drops of dew shining like a million diamonds across the lawn
  • Sense of peace and calm settles over me as I begin a fresh, new day full of awareness and inspiration

Creating space for ourselves is not easy, especially if it means setting the alarm a bit earlier in the morning. If I can do it, so can you. Involve your senses and join me and the rest of the menagerie of birds, frogs, spiders and bats, and hit a high C note, crow like a rooster or just clap your hands with joy as day breaks in your corner of the world.
Daybreak photo courtesy of Mary Anne Enriquez

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tough Love

Over the past year, I have cared for twenty-one little potted trees so they could develop a stronger root system. Fall is the ideal time to disturb the roots and allow them to take hold of the damp ground. So, a few days ago, in the cool, thick fog, with shovel in hand, all  trees were set in place on our property. It’s going to be tough love for these saplings. With soil comprised of clay, rocks, and roots from mature trees, they will need to fight for every inch of solid ground and forge their own space. They must also adapt to the ever present need to change in order to battle torrential rains, the snows of winter, the heat of summer, and munching rabbits and deer. You may be wondering why anyone would even bother.

As I wandered the property searching for a place to strike my shovel, it dawned on me that I wasn’t merely planting little trees; I was planting hope⎯hope for the future. If all goes well, by spring they will be on their way slowly spreading their roots. It will take a number of years for them to achieve their true growth potential, but that is what hope is all about. Since we will probably move sooner rather than later, I won’t see these trees grow into the lovely specimens they are, and that’s okay. I would not plant them if I did not hope they had a chance to somehow thrive and grow.

Why bother? Because we all need the glimmer of hope in our lives. If something has disturbed your root system, that is the signal to change, thrive and grow. It's not easy, but like these little trees of hope, we must create our own space, forge a strong root system and adapt to whatever comes our way. Each one of us struggles with some form of tough love, but tough love is all about the possibility, and that is endless.

View from Below courtesy of vastateparkstaff

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Looking Up

I have had a tendency to look ahead, side-to-side, and down in order to watch where I am going. These days I am looking up more and more. Looking up is not just about improving my prospects. When I am looking up, I am taking in the whole of the world around me. Like most kids, I enjoyed lying in the grass and watching the clouds go by as I tried to figure out what shapes were being made. I still do, but

Now I look up to...
  • Stretch my neck and elongate my spine
  • Greet the day
  • Watch the fog, rain, snow or whatever Mother Nature has to offer
  • Observe birds, bats and insects
  • Take note of man-made flying activity
  • Celebrate the moment
Looking up…
  • Gives me a new perspective
  • Causes me to pause and take note
  • Reminds me of peace
  • Makes me smile

I mentioned looking up not being just about improving my prospects, because looking up refines my vision of the world around me, and my place in it. Looking up is a choice, a choice we all have. Choose to look up and give yourself a new perspective. Are those poodles on parade I see?

Summer is over and Fall has returned. I am once again back to my weekly postings. When I left you last I was concentrating on my book. While I am not exactly jumping for joy as planned, the book is a bit closer to realization. I will continue to Get It Done one way or another. I’ve missed you and I look forward to my fourth year of blogging. As we move forward, if you enjoy this blog or a particular post, email it to a friend, blog, tweet, share or recommend it. It's all about spreading the love!

Sky 2 photo courtesy of Dennis Hill

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Get It Done

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. From now until Labor day, people plan picnics, go camping, get together with friends and family for barbecues and hit the road in a frenzy to get the most out of whatever time we may have for that summer way of life.

As for me, I am intending to wrap up a major loose end this summer. Recently, I have been working on publishing my book, It Is What It Is. Making decisions as to what each page of the book layout will be is a bit daunting. What font do I want to use here and there? Where should the page numbers land? How should the chapters sit on the page and on and on. It’s all those things book readers don’t have to consider. I have also been working with a graphic artist on the cover, and once again more decisions.

It has been a bit difficult to give the time needed for the book layout while continuing to write my weekly blog. I usually take some time away from the blog during the summer, this year I will be starting a few weeks earlier. Since I won’t be publishing weekly, here are a few things you can do:
  • Set a weekly alarm and go back and enjoy earlier posts
  • Forward some of your favorite posts to others to share the love and grow our subscriber base
  • Pick one thing to get done this summer
Is there something you want to put a wrap on once and for all, or perhaps there is something new you would like to do to shake things up a bit? What’s the first thing that came to mind when I mentioned picking one thing? That’s it! Get it done with me this summer. I know by fall I’ll be jumping for joy just getting IT done. There will be one less loose end while we all continue to move forward and get it done this summer.

See you in the fall,
Jump for joy photo courtesy of Scott Ableman

Sunday, May 19, 2013

One Less Thing

For the last ten years I have focused on keeping my life as simple as I possibly can. While I am not a hermit living in a cave, I do pretty well rolling through my life from day to day by adhering to this principle. When I hear myself thinking, This is getting way too complicated.” That’s when I know I must back off or stop whatever it is I am thinking or doing and reevaluate.

With simplicity in mind, I love being able to say or think, “One less thing!It’s one less thing to consider, worry about, clean or maintain; it’s one less gotta-do! But here’s the rub, before you can determine whether you are one less thing worthy, you have to consider all possible scenarios. What do I mean? Are you just using the one less thing mantra on something you haven’t thought through? If so, it will come back to haunt you, and more times then not, with more things to do or consider than you had to do or consider in the first place.

Shocking! I know. You can’t just make rash decisions in order to check another “thing” off your list when you may be creating more work for yourself. We all like the less is more feeling, and may get sucked into the moment without considering the elements of one less thing. What’s a person to do?

  • Think it through!
  • Consider possible outcomes.
  • Are there consequences and are you willing to deal with them?
  • If you do this, how will you feel?

Before you know it, you will be one less thinging left and right. You will feel good about your less is more decisions, you will feel the weight of whatever it is lift and feel a sense of satisfaction as you move forward. Please note: if you one less thing yourself into a cave, and that works for you, make sure it's well stocked.
Cave photo courtesy of John Carl Johnson and Creative Commons

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Breakfast With a Snake

When the early morning temperatures reach the upper forties, I grab a cup of coffee and head to my front porch to welcome in the day. Until the cooler, damp weather of October, my porch allows me to commune with nature and feel the sense of peace one can only find as the sun rises in the early morning. This time of year, there is a riot of chatter from numerous birds, rabbits bound around the yard as if they are late for a very important date and a garter snake slithers around in my front beds. Yesterday morning, as I sat enjoying the sun popping through the clouds, I noticed the movement of said garter snake. He, too, was enjoying the sun as it warmed him on the sidewalk below me. It is a rather colorful creature with bright green striping and orange dashes reminiscent of a garden hose.

I don’t know for sure, but I figure it must be the same snake that has shown up in this area the past few years. There have been times when I could swear it follows me around⎯seriously. When on my hands and knees in my garden beds, I shake the plants I am working near to let this snake know I am in the vicinity. While not venomous, if stepped on or grabbed, it may just strike out and bite me. Frankly, I wouldn’t blame it if it did. If someone stepped on or grabbed me I would react too, and I have, but that’s a story for another day.

As I drank my coffee and enjoyed my breakfast, the snake decided it was curious about me and placed its little head on the edge of the stair. I couldn't help but smile, but kept a wary eye on that forked tongue bugger. While I enjoy communing with nature, I really didn’t want this scaly reptile getting too friendly. By the time I finished my last sips of coffee, it was time for me to get on with my day. The snake seemed to feel the same way and slipped into my garden.

I love anything that can put a smile on my face, particularly first thing in the morning, because that smile is likely to follow me throughout my day⎯even if it comes from a limbless reptile with no eyelids. Just don’t step on or grab me! I guarantee there won't be a smile on my face then.
Garter Snake photo courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Creative Commons

Sunday, May 5, 2013

In Celebration

My husband, Dennis, and I are marking our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. To me, wedding anniversaries show the commitment and strength of long, enduring friendships. These are friendships like no other for they demonstrate the test of time while living under one roof. This is not an easy accomplishment at all, because not everyone figures out how to do this. So, how do married people find their way?

  • Respect
  • Patience
  • Communication
  • Sharing
  • Giving

Learning to truly love comes with time and can get better with time, much like a fine red wine. Over the years, I have fallen in love with Dennis over and over again. As the years multiply, we know we are in the minority and smile gently at one another as if we have a deep, dark secret.

We will celebrate our occasion with a quiet dinner for two. In the next few weeks, my uncle and aunt will be celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary with a big bash. However you choose to celebrate, it is important to understand just how special each passing year with one another is.

Monkey love above, unable to find attribute

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Soul Searching Paths

The last six months have been full of events and issues in my life that are somewhat difficult to mentally wrap my brain around. Sometimes life can go along with minor ups and downs, other times it is hard to believe all life can throw at you.

Yesterday, my brother took his life. Mike was a man relentlessly struggling to find his way. Throughout his life, he would pull himself up by the bootstraps, reinvent himself if necessary, and carry on. It was an amazing ability he had. When something this tragic occurs, one can only surmise he felt he had no other choice. It was his way of taking control over something he felt he had no control over. It is difficult to fully understand the depths of his despair. I can only hope his pain and suffering have ceased, and he now finds the peace and happiness he has long searched for.

It is important for us all to find a path leading to peace inside. Whether dealing with unsurmountable problems or trying to understand what has been thrown your way. As we search for answers, we can seek the help and support of others, but we must ultimately look within.

Sending love and light to you dear brother,

Cloud trail photo courtesy of pfly under the Creative Commons License

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Stuck In Your Own Story

What’s your story? You know, the one you constantly share with others, the one you play over and over in your head but do nothing about? Don’t know? Think about it…
  • Are you the person who repeatedly tells others about all that is wrong in your world?
  • Are you the person who always runs-on about your aches and pains?
  • Are you the person who continually blames others for your problems?
  • Are you the person who never follows through on making the needed changes in your life?
  • Are you that person?
If you answered yes to any one of those questions, GET OVER IT and move on! I know, I know, you have so many reasons why you can’t. That, my friend, is why you are stuck in your own story. So, today, right now, create a new one. And don’t try and tell me it’s not that simple. I’ve heard it before and you are wrong! I have been there, done that and reinvented aspects of my life more times than I can count. It is that simple and here’s what you need to do…

Believe in your own abilities,
Believe you can,

It is your choice, and with this choice you can change. Change may be hard, but don't let fear of change make you that person. Take control of your life today by starting here: Once upon a can fill in the rest, just believe it.

Once upon a time photo courtesy of UNE Photos

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Protecting What’s Mine

Friday night around 7:30 p.m. my husband, Dennis, answered our front door. When he closed the door he said, “That guy is not looking for any Kimberly.” When the guy left in his truck, Dennis jumped in his jeep and followed this fellow to see what he was up to. Sure enough, he was driving around the neighborhood, stopping, making notes and stopping some more. Dennis made a few notes of his own and notified the sheriff.

The next morning, Dennis pulled up video from our newly installed outside camera system. This is what we saw: Prowler Guy backing into our driveway with his truck, sitting for a bit, opening truck door and sitting for a bit more, standing outside his truck awhile, walking over towards our shop and looking around, then he walked to the front of the house and knocked on our front door, as he leaves, he continues scanning everything he walks by from plants to garden gee-gaws. Now, I know we have a lovely yard, but what the heck are you planning Prowler Guy?

The neighborhood we live in is not a crime area, but in the last few years there have been more incidents of stolen mail as well as a few break-ins⎯thus the installation of our secure mailbox and a camera system. Yesterday, I grabbed my anger by the balls and did something about it. With thirty copies of Prowler Guy and his truck, I canvassed the neighborhood. No easy feat as this hillside has four dead ends and everyone has five or more acres. It turned out to be a rather interesting and amazing day. I met people in other cul-de-sacs I have never met before. We talked about the incident, we exchanged phone numbers and I heard various stories about this and that. Yesterday, this neighborhood became just a little bit smaller, while we close ranks and protect what is ours.

When the sheriff’s office opens tomorrow morning, they, too, will have a picture of Prowler Guy. My neighbors will be posting Prowler Guy’s picture on their front doors as if to say,
“We know what you look like, what you drive and your license number. Are you really sure you want to be in this neighborhood?"
 I know this was a wake-up call and we are snapping to attention. This is not something I intend to be fearful about, and I won’t take this lying down. Being proactive helps me maintain a sense of balance and allows me whatever control one can have in a situation like this. Done and done!

Good things come out of potentially bad things and I will not forget the day I met the entire neighborhood. Now when I head out for a run, I won’t just be waving at the people who live in the area, I will be waving at my new friends as we look out for one another.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Taking the Pressure Off

My Grandma Mary used to can various fruits, pickles and relishes. She would take out her pressure cooker and “put-up” these tasty treats for when the “good stuff” was no longer available fresh from the garden or orchard. As a kid, when she took the pressure-cooking beast out, it scared the ever-lovin’ daylights out of me. You see, Grandma always made sure she gave me instructions whenever we cooked, canned or baked together. The only thing is, I really didn’t care to hear about all the people canners had maimed or killed when they weren’t handled properly.

Grandma would load up the canner, add the required amount of water, insure the gasket seal was in place and crank down the lid locks. Then she moved it onto the heat of her cook stove⎯yes, I said cook stove as in wood and fire. As the water began to boil, steam would form inside the sealed canner, thus creating a sort of kitchen bomb, as she referred to it. Again, frightening! As steam would start to hiss and escape the vent in the lid, she would set a weighted indicator over the vent stem. Based on canning time and steam pressure readings, Grandma made small adjustments as necessary in order to keep the lid on, complete her canning and keep us all safe and sound. In her way, my grandma knew just how to take the pressure off.

We all need to take the pressure off from time to time. How we go about keeping the lid on before we create our own hissing bomb differs from person to person. For me, taking the pressure off can be as simple as getting the miscellany out of my brain by bringing some sense of organization to my life. This allows untroubled quiet in my head, as opposed to the voice that is constantly reminding me of all those things I am trying not to forget. How do I keep a handle on my pressure readings?
  • Sticky notes (this only works if you have a few, at one time I had those little stickies everywhere and thus reminded me of nothing but a sticky, colorful mess)
  • Daily/Monthly calendar reminders (on my computer, cell phone and the “old fashioned” method using a pencil on an actual printed calendar)
  • Files (I have files for recipes, traveling, health topics, receipts, gardening⎯you name it, and chances are I can put my fingers on it)
Doing these things seem so simple, but you have to take the time to do them in the first place. I am still surprised by the number of people I talk to who are trying to remember everything⎯only to forget something causing further pressure to rise. Taking the pressure off helps keep me focused and feeling like I have some measure of control in my life.

As I told my grandma years ago⎯you can show me all you want to about canning, but I am never having one of those bombs in my kitchen! Please note: I have never used a pressure cooker to this day. No hissing bomb here! I don’t like to do anything that may get me steamed somewhere along the way. So, get it off your brain and it will be a load off your mind. It's as simple as that.
What to do... photo courtesy of Nina Mathews

Monday, April 1, 2013

Have You Putzed Lately?

Putzing is what I enjoy the most⎯doing a little of this, that and whatever moves me by relinquishing the priorities of life for just a bit.

After a lovely week of warm days and garden time, I gradually felt spring fever creeping into my bones. Unlike weeks ago, when I was catching up from fall and winter in my yard, this week I found my garden priorities shared with a good amount of putzing as I wandered here and there.

While taking time to hold a tree frog in my hands, I decided putzing must be a priority in my life beyond spring fever as I move forward this year. If I hadn't been putzing, I would have missed the opportunity to see the frog let alone hold it. This is my choice and it is now one of my priorities as I give myself permission to putz.
  • Putzing allows me to slow down the frenzied pace of living
  • Putzing enables me to enjoy my garden, home and life more
  • Putzing gives me a sense of balance with the world around me
  • Putzing creates a space in my life
Who knows what you will do or where you'll end up when you give yourself permission to simply putz.
Free Loading Frog photo courtesy of tobyotter

Sunday, March 24, 2013

When All Else Fails, Throw Your Boot!

While at a recent wine tasting, my new friend Jody plunked herself down and began to share the story of her frustrating day. She made an appointment with a new doctor over a month ago. She drove the 35 miles to her appointment only to find they would not accept her medical insurance⎯even though they had taken the insurance information at the time the appointment was made. Frustrated, she asked if she could just pay for the appointment as an out of network patient⎯again, no. She asked if she could simply pay for it herself⎯no, cash⎯no, no, no! At this point she left the doctor's office and happened to run into someone she knew. She relayed the story to her friend. He was running an errand at a retail cell service store so she tagged along. While he was completing his transaction, he was told they would not take cash! Both Jody and her friend just looked at each other. That was too much for Jody. She bent over, grabbed one of the boots she was wearing, pulled it off and proceeded to throw the boot at the huddle of store employees.

I’m sure you can understand Jody’s maddening day. She wasn’t even sure why she did it. It’s not like she goes around throwing footwear at people, but at that moment it seemed like the thing to do. She wasn’t aiming at anyone and fortunately did not hit anyone. After throwing her boot, she calmly walked over, picked it up and left the store.

Was it the right thing to do? It certainly made for good story telling, and undoubtedly punctuated the moment for Jody and anyone else in the store. But here’s the thing, she needed to do something then and there for her own sanity. I liken her story to throwing down the gauntlet, but instead of an armored glove of the days of yore, she issued a challenge by throwing down her boot. Nobody accepted the challenge, but it definitely destabilized her emotional mindset then and there.

It's fun just considering this expressive outburst, and I will undoubtedly think of Jody’s boot flying through the air when attempting to hold onto my sanity. Just thinking about it will certainly destabilize any moments of frustration I may have, but I’ll make sure I follow that thought up with a few deep breaths and a quick nod of thanks to Jody and wine tasting. Cheers!
Frustrated Shannon photo courtesy of Shannon Kringen

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Looking Both Ways

A few months ago, a man driving a truck ran into my husband, Dennis, as he walked across a busy intersection. He was in a crosswalk, walking at the appropriate time, when a driver turning left failed to yield the right-of-way. Dennis was hit on the side of his right knee, flew up onto the hood of the truck and slammed his right hand into the hood; the driver of the truck hit the brakes and Dennis slid back off the hood landing on his feet. Other than being a bit shook-up, Dennis was fine. His right hand ached a bit, but there was nothing broken and no bruising. Amazing⎯yes, miracle⎯definitely!

Did Dennis look both ways as he entered the intersection? Did the driver? Life moves at a rapid pace. In a split-second everything can change. We are all so busy all of the timewe lose focus and don’t pay attention to the world around us anymore. We get so used to doing whatever it is, we no longer can remember if we even thought of looking both ways. We need to quit paying attention to everything else and focus on what it is we are doing right NOW. A focused life is a much better way to live.
  • It puts emphasis on every minute of every day
  • It makes whatever you are doing a priority
  • It centers you
It really isn’t hard to do, and is somewhat a relief from the rapid pace we get sucked into. When you are centered⎯you feel less rushed. When you feel less rushed⎯you pay more attention. The fact my Dennis was able to walk away from something that could have had dire consequences is nothing less than a miracle. But it reminds me, and should remind everyone, to simply slow down and always look both ways. Pay attention to the world around you. Commit to living a more focused life. Become your best self and focus on NOW. Looking both ways could be your new metaphor to a more centered life. Think on that⎯you may save a life, and who knows, it may just be your own.
Look Both Ways photo courtesy of J. Mazzola

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Breaking Ground

My daffodils broke ground weeks ago, and seemed to be inching slowly upward, until last week when they shot up four inches! Yes, spring moved in last week like it was making up for lost time⎯with tree frogs croaking up a storm, the neighbor’s peacock informing everyone that mating season has arrived and the return of the migrating birds singing their praises each morning.

With a few days of sunshine, temperatures “soaring” into the fifties, and sixteen hours lovingly tending the gardens around my home, I should have a serious case of spring fever. It hasn’t even come close to hitting me yet. Even though the frogs, peacocks and various migrating birds would beg to differ.

With all the rain we have had, I have not gotten a chance to do my normal fall and winter gardening. So, last week I made gardening the priority and began the annual chores with fall and winter catch-up work, then moved onto spring-cleaning in an attempt to get ahead⎯maybe, just maybe. I enjoyed breathing the fresh-cut grass smells, and getting up-close and personal with my flowerbeds once again. I indeed have broken ground by following the frenetic rhythm of spring⎯as evidenced by the soil stains on my jeans. But with this burst of garden exuberance, there seemed to be more back breaking than ground breaking!

I don’t usually try and take on everything at once, but with the forecast showing another wet week ahead, it is in my best interest to do what I can in the garden now. I hadn't planned on breaking ground quite so hard this week, but like the daffodils shooting upward, I shot forward in my garden.  If we can just string a few more killer days of sunshine together, I know spring fever will hit me⎯it always does. And, maybe, just maybe I won’t have to continue breaking my back by squeezing so much garden exuberance in all at once. Instead, I can break ground at a more reasonable pace as spring officially rolls forward in the weeks ahead.
Always Works photo courtesy of cogdogblog

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Eating to Live: Avocados, Coconut and Flaxseed

It has been nearly a year since I last reported on my never-ending food journey. With science, being what it is today, there are many reports of eat this, not that; only to find, years later, you should eat that, not this! What’s a person to do? I, for one, am trying to eat as healthy as I can on a regular basis while still enjoying those things that are not actually considered healthy on a not so regular basis⎯white chocolate chip, macadamia nut cookies anyone?

Without going into an exhaustive explanation about saturated and unsaturated fats, and the average American diet consisting of an overabundance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids, and that this imbalance contributes to inflammation in our bodies, you just might be interested in the following: 

I have always loved avocados, but considered them to be a high caloric food, so imagine my surprise when I found they had gotten a bad rap. Yes, high in calories, but mostly heart-healthy unsaturated fat, and avocados are considered a nutrient-dense food! Knowing this, I eat avocados on a regular basis now, and because I only ate them occasionally in the past, I have some catching up to do.

I’ve heard about the wonders of coconut oil for many years, but once again was looking at its high caloric content and stayed away from it. It wasn’t until the last few years, when coconut products seemed to be popping up everywhere, that I started to investigate coconut oil more thoroughly. Let’s just suffice it to say, I am successfully using coconut oil, when baking, in place of butter or shortening in recipes. While it is still a saturated fat like butter and shortening, it has a low Omega-6 content, and antioxidant properties that help fight inflammation. Does this mean I should be eating more Mounds bars?

Note: Coconut oil is a solid with the consistency of a firm vegetable shortening. We have been taught, over the years, that all fat solids are considered saturated and therefore bad for us. Science may be proving that some saturated fats are actually good for us, as may be the case with coconut.

When I tried a gluten free diet a few years ago, I came to know and love ground flaxseed. I sprinkle it on many foods and eat it by the spoonful. Since I do not eat a lot of fish and am probably low on my Omega-3’s, eating ground flaxseed not only adds more fiber to my diet, but also adds the necessary Omega-3’s. The flavor is surprisingly nutty and you will find it is a great fiber addition to smoothies along with the noted coconut oil and avocado above.

I rather enjoy this never-ending food journey of mine. It helps me explore foods and improves on a healthy approach to living. This in turn helps to move me forward in a positive direction. But, don’t be so shocked the next time you see me eating a basket of fish and chips, something I love. I just make sure I don’t enjoy this basket of goodness often. Also, it has to be the very best, not just any old basket of fish and chips. Oh, and the best⎯panko breaded.
Laughing photo courtesy of nosha.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Leapfrogging Grief

We all experience various forms of grief throughout our life. Years ago, I was listening to a recorded lecture by Dr. Wayne Dyer, and he mentioned the following story I share with you now:
A father, who recently lost his son, attends a wedding. At the reception, he is seen dancing. His friend told him that he did not expect to see him at the wedding, let alone enjoying himself. The father replies, “I can choose to be sad or move beyond the sadness and get on with my life, and I choose to get on with my life.”
After the death of my family members, Lee and Barbara, I could feel the specter of grief begin to take hold and follow me like some looming cold, dark shadow. I knew, from experiencing grief in the past, I could just let it happen. I could allow it to move through me by observing it and trying to understand it. But this takes time and I did not want to experience grief like that again. I’ve never forgotten the story about the father choosing to get on the other side of his grief, choosing to get on with his life. I decided I would not let the cold fingers of grief take hold.

While I felt the weight of deep sorrow and heartache, I hadn't given into many tearful episodes.  One morning recently, I resolved to allow myself to fully grieve⎯in order to see if I could not only move through it, but beyond it. I love to listen to meditative chanting music, so I played my favorites by Snatam Kaur and sat in a variation of a lotus pose, cross-legged, on my yoga mat. As I began listening to the relaxing chants, I allowed myself to cry my eyes out, chant, sing and sob. There seemed to be a type of ebb and flow to all this grief, so I just decided to ride it out. When all was said and done, my tears began to dry up, and I felt an amazing sense of peace come over me.

I no longer feel the profound sadness engulfing me. I honored my feelings by bearing witness to my emotions. I can now consider both Lee and Barbara and only feel the love I have for each of them. This leapfrogging of emotions is powerful, inspirational and moves me forward. What do you need to let go of, move through or get on the other side of? Move forward and honor your feelingschoose to get on with your life. Leapfrog anyone?
Orange eyed green tree frog courtesy of rainforest_harley