Five Minutes In Nature

As part of my new self care routine, I have been trying to start each day with five minutes in nature. That means five minutes in my back yard studying whatever I see.

Bees, moths, flowers and weeds are common subjects. Sometimes I snap phone pictures but the priority is always on enjoying the sounds and sights of these remarkable natural elements.

Yesterday’s five minutes were especially pleasant. When I walked outside, this guy was visible from inside the screen porch door.

Then I noticed this dainty little thing.

I was so busy studying these two that I nearly missed this character. Can you see that he looks camouflaged?

The purple balloon flowers are prominent right now and put on quite the show amidst all the rudbeckia and hostas.

Some of the flowers on my front porch got scorched a few weeks ago. Others are thriving but growing unevenly in the flower boxes. Isn’t that the way life goes? Even when we do well, it may not look how we expected.

All the same, the view is pretty at sunrise.

I just started doing my morning moment of nature about a week ago but it has quickly become a favorite part of my day. To steal away before work and simply absorb the sounds and sights of a new day is calming and good for the soul. I feel better equipped to face the day after a few deep breaths and a look around.

You should try it if you can. Really. It sounds nuts when your life is busy but time in nature has many positive benefits including sharpened senses and increased focus. Not to mention the stronger sense of life satisfaction that comes from being outside.

Morning works best for me but you should try it whenever it makes sense for you and see if it helps!

Self Care At Its Finest

Monday, 9:06 p.m.

My workday is complete, dinner dishes are washed and I’m lounging in a hammock on the screened porch. My parents gave me this hammock, a long ago Fathers Day gift that my dad never used.

It was in their way but it now holds a prominent position on my back porch. I just set it up over the Independence Day weekend and it has quickly become my new favorite hangout. From here, I can see trees and a slice of sky. From here, the birds and crickets, katydids and frogs are my only companions during many hours of the day.

After work tonight, I braved the heat to relax and read a magazine until I drifted off to sleep. It was hot but something about this hammock relaxes me and alleviates muscle pain. A short nap was exactly what I needed on this very long Monday.

That break was necessary and nice but not nearly as pleasant as this midsummer evening.

The air has cooled and the humidity has dissipated, almost like magic. A light breeze causes the treetops to sway and produces a gentle sound amongst the leaves. The shorts and tank top that were appropriate just minutes ago suddenly seem inadequate.

At 9:15 pm on July 11, it’s still light out but not light enough to continue reading my book. I do have white twinkle lights hung along the ceiling but getting up to turn them on would ruin the mood. Besides, the lightning bugs are just gearing up for their evening show and I hate to detract from their efforts.

I sit now in near darkness, except of course, for the light of my phone. An opossum just silently scurried past the porch. He paid me no mind but I wished him well. They eat ticks, small rodents and even prey on snakes. They are so ugly they’re cute and I welcome this night shift worker into my yard to help maintain my peaceful little habitat.

The birds are mostly quiet now, replaced by the gentle hum of locusts and occasional call of a distant Great Horned Owl. In the darkness, I can better appreciate the aromas of pine and soil and some kind of decaying wood.

Yes. This is my happy place and I am grateful for it.

As long as I’m expressing gratitude, I am grateful that these simple pleasures are even more luxurious to me than a day at the spa. This, my friends, is self care at its finest.

The Path Of Least Resistance

It’s Thursday of what is turning out to be a very long week. The path of least resistance is pretty darn appealing right now.

So, instead of actually writing something that requires thought and effort, here’s a pretty picture to remind you to schedule yourself for some rest or adventure or whatever it is you need this weekend. It’s a long holiday weekend for many of us. Try not to waste it all on yard work and Netflix. Instead spend time doing the things that make your heart and mind truly happy.

I really wish I had a pep talk in me today but I’m running low on pep. Just remember that self care is not an indulgence and it is not selfish. It’s a form of self preservation and you owe yourself that much.

So, go forth and take care of yourselves, friends. We will resume our trip through North Carolina next time.

When You Get Tired

When you get tired, learn to rest, not quit. I read this statement somewhere once and it really resonated.

I’m in a place right now that I badly need the reminder. Balancing everything everywhere is starting to resemble a plate spinning act on the Ed Sullivan Show. Forgive me while I regroup, rest when necessary and try to get back into a consistent writing schedule.

Meanwhile, here’s a picture of Scout practicing what I preach. He very wisely never misses a nap!

No Spend January Is Here!

January is a No Spend Month for me. It’s a fun little game I’ve played for the last few years where I pay for what is needed but there’s no frivolous spending (unless pre-planned), no impulse buying and no shopping for entertainment. Goodbye, antique malls!

So bills are paid and groceries are purchased but I work on using some things from the freezer and pantry. Yesterday, I stopped at the store for about $10 worth of produce needed to create meals for the week using things I already have. If I stop for gas, my reusable water bottle had better be full because I’m not running inside for a drink. Not even for just a dollar.

There’s a gift to buy this month and a planned dinner and movie with a friend that was postponed from the holidays. That’s all the extracurricular spending that should happen.

This month, I will spend a lot of time at home, using what I own, looking for creative ways to entertain myself for free and simply appreciating the life that I have built and all that I already have. The Depression era mantra “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” comes to mind.

After all the excess and gluttony of the holidays, a spending fast is a welcome relief to the bank account but it’s also a welcome break from commercialism.

We spend a lot of time making money to survive and on spending money on stuff to fill our homes but we don’t always go home and just enjoy the life we have.

It’s is an exercise in gratitude as much as anything else.

I wrote a Winter Survival Guide last fall and it’s here in January that these techniques are truly put to work.

Here’s what’s happening in my world right now:

Books are a priority this year and I’m finding that the more I read, the more I want to read. The problem is that there’s a new one that I’m dying to tear into. I usually have three or four going at once but want to focus on one at a time this year. It can be next.

Cooking is more fun. I always enjoy playing in the kitchen but winter is a great time to experiment with new recipes. This year is especially fun as I’m looking for plant based recipes for my new lifestyle. This week I made a potato corn chowder that was divine and the lunch leftovers were a welcome treat! I also made a pumpkin cookie that was disgusting but we’ll just call that an experiment gone awry and move on.

Organization and purging are another priority. I have a list of areas to hit – from the pantry to the sock drawer to the nightstand and all points in between. It’s shocking how much stuff accumulates over time even when you try to be tidy. The goal is to do one thing from the list every day. The purging extends into intangible areas too. One evening was spent purging emails while watching the Closer on TV. Brenda Lee Johnson caught the bad guys and I unsubscribed and deleted thousands of old marketing emails. The above picture represents a new set of Christmas dishes that need to be put away after some rearranging in the china cabinet.

Movie time! I can’t go to the movies but that doesn’t matter because there’s a stack of movies waiting for my viewing pleasure. One day I’ll make some homemade potato chips and hit the couch for a little movie marathon.

Self care is a priority. Outdoor activity is less common because it’s dark at quitting time but I am trying to prioritize some kind of exercise every day. Rest is also important. My philosophy for most of the year is that you can sleep when you’re dead. During winter, these cold, dark nights call for a warm blanket and an earlier bedtime.

Being happy with the Now is a common theme and resisting the urge to adventure plan involves daily internal negotiations. It’s much harder than it should be. However, the theme of this stage of the year is being satisfied with the abundance of everyday life. Adventure planning can wait a bit. I have started a list of day trip ideas based on suggestions from friends but that’s more about being forgetful than about planning. Being present in this moment rather than dream of the next adventure is a real challenge.

For me, a No Spend Month is an opportunity to get myself together for another year, to set new goals and intentions, to stop buying stuff I don’t need, to nourish my mind and body, and to practice gratitude for what I have.

It gets easier every year and, this will sound sound nuts, but I’ve been looking forward to January for weeks.

Want to do your own no spend challenge? You can set your own rules and make it what you want it to be! You might be surprised at how much money and time you save!

Cultivating a Better Life

I like to take vacation around the holidays. This period is perfect for a forced slow down, to transition from three seasons of busy into my season of quiet.

The rest of the year is occupied by a lot of running around but our unpredictable winter weather often makes it hard to get out. I look forward to this time of year- soft blankets and books, inside chores and quiet walks through the snow take the place of road trips, weekend adventures and breakfasts on the porch.

January is typically a no spend month for me. This organized spending fast means bills are paid and necessities purchased but making do is the common theme and there are no frivolous purchases. Recreational shopping is not allowed but that’s ok because there are many free ways to stay happily occupied.

I’m more apt to do puzzles, to go to bed early and to spin records while cleaning something on a Saturday afternoon.

Relaxation is key and I turn my attention inward, write more, focus on self improvement and on building a better life.

It’s a good time of year.

This vacation is about transitioning into that period. I spent a couple of days running around but today will bake Christmas cookies for my folks. From now until the New Year the plan is to be mostly domestic.

Although, if the weather is good, there may be one last little road trip for the year, a Christmas gift to myself. After Natalie died, I realized that life is too short to not live as we wish.

This week is also about refocusing on plant based eating, exercise and rest. The last couple of months have brought spurts of stress and busyness that have messed with my sleep and left me in a position that I’m glad to just eat vegetarian while away from home rather than the plant based food that makes me feel so good.

In other words, friends, I’m making this break exactly what I need it to be. My wish for all of you is that you get a few days each year to do that for yourself. Remember, today is a great time to start.