Winter Review & Spring Hopes

I have a hard time deciding when is the best season for setting goals.  The winter has all the New Year’s resolutions hype, new calendars and year-in-review stuff.  But as a teacher,  I often find myself making new goals in the fall as I prep for a fresh new year of school.  Still the spring has all the blooming and things coming back to life and that feels like the perfect time for some new plans.  As soon as daylight savings time kicks in and I don’t feel like I need to go to bed immediately after work, I’m ready to come out of hibernation and I’m pumped to make some spring plans.

I think about setting goals fairly often. It was kind of the basis of how I started blogging the first time. I’m often dreaming of new things I want to try, new ways of being, acting thinking.  To grow and learn and improve.  Plans I want to make, places I want to go, things I want to do.  I’m kind of a dreamer like that.  The change of seasons feels like a good time to reflect on the past few months and look forward to the next few. Maybe every season is a good season for setting goals.

Back in January, I made a little list of goals for the winter and I didn’t do too badly in making them happen.  In that post I also wrote about when goals don’t happen, so I’m okay with the ones I haven’t accomplished yet. It’s the trying.  Here’s the list I made and a little update on how things went:

  • write – I’ve written a post every week so far this year.  Last weekend was my 50th post on this blog.  This make me very happy.  I really enjoy the process of writing.  I do it mostly for myself, but I’m very appreciative to my family and friends and even the strangers who read here.  I like hearing that you enjoy my writing and I’m glad when a lesson I’m trying to learn is something you’re working on too.  Makes us feel even more connected.  Thanks for reading, friends!
  • hike – I did not go hiking this winter.  I had envisioned the beauty of snow covered trees and trails, but I underestimated the lovely lure of warmth.
  • go to a few new (to me) restaurants – YUM!  I wrote about that here.
  • host some gatherings at my house – I didn’t host any parties or dinners this winter. That’s what I was picturing – gatherers around my dining room table.  I had visitors, but nothing like I’d planned.  I can’t wait to open the patio soon though.  Patio party anyone?
  • take a spin class – This didn’t happen either.  Some amazing friends of mine wake up before the sun and make it to spin class before work.  I’ve managed to be up and work out in the super early morn,  but not quite getting out of the house for it yet.  Some day friends, I will join you.  I think you are amazing!
  • log a few hundred miles on my bike trainer – Just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling, pedaling, pedaling…I didn’t make it to Canada, but I’ve been spinning my wheels.  Can’t wait to move that bike outside!
  • continue learning yoga – I only missed one of my weekly classes this winter.  I continued learning along with my first graders and have dabbled a bit with practicing at home.  Yoga is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do. And it’s teaching me a lot.  See here.
  • do something that scares me – This.  This blog here scares me a bit.  Putting my thoughts and feelings out onto the interwebs and in front of my family and friends is a little scary.  I worry what people will think of me.  But I do it anyway, because I have to be me-er.
  • plant a terrarium – Ugh.  Why do I want a terrarium again?  Why can’t I just buy one already planted?  Did I ever tell you about the time I had my library privileges revoked on account of a book about terrariums?  I kept it for a year but still didn’t plant the dang thing. I’m a bit of a procrastinator.  And I’m busy.  You too?

I did and didn’t do a lot of other things besides those on the list and those I’ve written about here.  All in all, it was a very good season. I made a lot of changes this winter.  The spring gets a bit more full with commitments for me.  I coach a girls running group, I have to kick things into a higher gear with the bike riding and school gets a lot busier before it winds down into summer vacation.  Those things will fill up my days with happy outdoor time and work, but I’m still hoping to make time for some spring hopes to come true.  Here’s a little list for the season ahead:

  • keep writing
  • hike
  • learn to take better photos
  • break out the kayak
  • try some new yoga classes

It feels good to take some time to consciously think about how I’ve spent my time and how I want to spend it.  While I want to be open to where the flow of life will take me, I also want to live on purpose and make some things happen.  Here’s to spring happenings!

Thank you for reading!

Thank you for reading!

Advertisements

Seasons

As I begin to type this post we are preparing for some more snow to fall here.  Also, it will be the first day of spring.  Are these two things really happening on the same day?  It’s got me thinking about seasons.  The literal season change from winter to spring of course, but also, the bigger seasons of our lives, which don’t change as predictably or on designated days.

I live in a location where we get to experience all four seasons.  And lately they’ve been a bit extreme, especially the winters – record low temperatures, like just one measly degree, and a parade of snow and ice storms.  One might ask why people would choose to live in such weather when there are plenty of places in the world where the sun shines and the air is warm most of the days.  In fact, I am that “one” asking the question to myself many a day as I strap on my glacier-grade coat for recess duty.  On those days, if I’m just considering the weather, it feels like there is no good answer.  I might nearly be tempted to start packing a U-Haul and head south.  But then…then…

…then comes this time of the year.  The light changes, the sun hangs out longer and one magical day…I don’t need a scarf!  I can see the grass again, it starts to turn green, the songbirds serenade the sunrise and little buds pop out on brown branches.  The winter seems utterly unbearable at times, but the spring always comes.  And after all, as John Steinbeck wrote, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?”

I’m sure that people who live on tropical islands do enjoy the warmth of their yearlong summers just fine without ever having to pull on their mittens, but there’s something to be said for coming through the cold and dark season.  It’s such a good lesson from Mother Nature to us about our own lives.  A few years ago I went through a pretty tough season which, (even though I do believe that nothing “just happens”) happened to coincide with winter, and a wonderful coworker-friend of mine gave me this beautiful book called, “Collect Raindrops: The Seasons Gathered.” It’s filled with inspiring words and pictures by artist Nikki McClure. And to accompany the gift my friend wrote a heartfelt note to me in which she encouraged me to take comfort in the rhythm of the seasons.  She wrote, “just as the trees and the rest of nature, you don’t have to flower right now, you just need to survive.  Every day from now, the days are getting longer and you are heading out of the darkness.  Be guided by the healing power of nature which is always renewing itself.”  A little while later, she gave me another thoughtfully chosen card and it said, “Then, when it seems we will never smile again, life comes back.”

That was years ago. And she was right.  That season passed for me and life came back and seasons have come and gone in between. This winter was not at all like that one a few years ago.  Though the weather was a bit rough at times, my life actually had a good amount of growth, lots of good times and flowering.  But every spring since my friend gave those beautiful words to me, I have thought of them.  So if winter tries to linger on and keep us inside with one more day of dark and snow, or if life throws a storm of unwanted stuff our way,  we don’t have to worry,  the spring will come.  Even when it seems like it won’t, we can rest assured,  it will. It will.  Perhaps we just got a few extra dollops of sweetness for the warm days ahead.

photo-85

This morning– the sun shines, the trees are dotted with sweetness…”Be conscious and hold on as we spin around the sun one more time.” ~Nikki McClure

 

 

Bend Toward the Light

To start, I’d like to say that if it should ever seem like I’m telling you what to do as I write here in this space, such as maybe with that title up there and maybe towards the end of this, I want you to know that I’m not.  I am not at all telling YOU what to do.  I am, however, telling someone what to do, and that someone is ME!  Writing helps me wrangle and sort through all the thoughts and ideas that swirl around in my mind trying to catch my attention while I’m doing other things. When I put my thinking onto paper or the screen, sometimes I notice that a pep talk pops out.  Now I don’t know if you need a pep talk and I don’t wanna shove an advice column down your throat, but maybe if I tell you a little story and something I write sounds like something you might want to try, well then, best of luck, we’re in this thing together.

So, right before the new year, I went to the grocery store to pick up some, well,  groceries. And as I was walking to the checkout line, I passed the flower department.  There was a table full of little glass jars, and each one had a bulb sitting on top.  Thin white roots were hanging down from each bulb into some water and a few short green leaves had sprouted up out of each one.  I thought to myself that a growing plant might be a nice thing to have around the house as the new year began and the winter season kicked into high gear.  It could be a  little reminder of life and green while the world outside was gray and bleak.  So I bought one and placed it on my nightstand next to my bedroom window. I happily watched the thing grow over the next few days.  It sprouted buds and, as plants do, the little guy began to slowly bend itself toward the window, toward the sunlight, so that its leaves were curved a bit and leaned to one side.

One morning while I was sitting in my chair, the plant on the table next to me, as the sun was rising and beginning to shine through the blinds, I absently turned the jar around so that it’s leaves were now curving away from the window and then I said to the plant, quite out loud, “Go ahead now, bend yourself back to the light.”

Don’t you dare even judge me for talking to a plant!  Because it did exactly what I said.  Now we both know it wasn’t because I told it to, but because, that’s what plants do and it occurred to me that we can do the same thing.  We can turn ourselves toward the light, toward happiness, toward good things, toward joy and love. We can do it whenever we need to, whenever something comes along and spins us in the wrong direction. We can do it every day just for good measure.   And so, even though I wasn’t in dire need of a pep talk that morning, I was quite happy and content, but still, I spent some time making a little list of things that bring me to the good stuff — time with my friends and family, reading, running, cooking, hiking, riding my bike, gazing at the sky, yoga, meditating, doing kindness for another…just to name a few.

I recommend every day.  Every day think of that plant and give yourself a little reminder–YOU can bend yourself toward the light! Now go do it!

IMG_5115

I tried to recreate the bending for my students, however we are blessed with big classroom windows that let in lots of sun and so this plant grew straight and tall and bloomed right where it was.

I tried to recreate the bending for my students, however, we are blessed with big, wide classroom windows that let in lots of sun, and so this plant grew straight and tall and bloomed right where it was.  PS — That ‘You’ rock was from a little school kindness lesson, totally unrelated to this post, but it fits well, doesn’t it?

 

 

Seeing the Sweet Stuff

“…and he realized that friendship is one of the most satisfying things in the world.”

-Charlotte’s Web

E.B. White

 

Sometimes I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about things I want to happen in my life, but for one reason or a million, just aren’t happening right now. When I get stuck in one of those times and I find myself focused on wanting and lack, I know I need to do something to shift my perspective. One thing that almost always creates that shift for me is writing a list of things I’m grateful for, things that ARE in my life right now. It might sound corny, but I’m telling you, it really works.

IMG_5136

The author Glennon Doyle Melton once wrote a blog post in which she described putting on her “perspectacles” in order to see all the good things about her kitchen instead of constantly focusing on what needed updating and remodeling. My sweetie here called these things “goculars” which I believe do the same thing as perspectacles –only show the good.

And you know what I see consistently through my goculars and on my gratitude lists? My friends — all the fun times we’ve had together, the funny texts they send me, hugs and laughs in the hallway at work, FaceTime sessions, walks and runs and bike rides together, trips we’ve taken, sharing soup and cookies and festive meatballs, laughter and tears, memories and plans and so much more. I feel incredibly blessed with old friends, new friends, work friends… true friends.

Last weekend I was so happy to visit with one of my best friends from college. We met in our dorm freshman year and later shared a house with 4 of our other best friends for the last two years of school. Those were some fun times! (which I shall not describe in too great of detail here because social media did not exist back then. We are ever so grateful for that and intend to keep it that way.) I can’t quite believe that almost 19 years have gone by since we met, but it’s true. There are careers, kids and gray hair to prove it. We don’t get to see each as often as we’d all like, but as soon as we’re back together, it feels like we’ve never been apart. These girls have seen me through the best of my days and the worst. These girls can make me laugh until I pee my pants and cry tears of joy because I love them so much. Just knowing that they think of me can lift me through a tough time and the good times are a million, trillion times sweeter when shared with these ladies.

The sweetness was in overload last weekend because I got to meet my friend’s brand new baby! I just love, love, love holding a newborn baby! And this guy is the cutest little bundle of baby boy, even when he cried a little bit and even when his dad made me change ALL the dirty diapers. When I looked at his tiny adorable face, I thought about how I knew his mom before he was even a thought in her mind and I sent out a wish to the universe that he would know the same wonderful friendships that his mom and I are blessed with.

IMG_5163

I think his adoring big brother might be the first of those beautiful friendships.

Here’s a bit of what showed up through my goculars last weekend…

We drove out to the tip of Long Island and took a winter walk on the beach at Orient State Park.

We drove out to the tip of Long Island and took a winter walk on the beach at Orient Beach State Park.

We got swallowed up by a giant bluefish!

We got swallowed up by a giant bluefish!

We had a girls only lunch with wine and truffled cheese--truffle anything and you've got yourself a good day!  No matter how loud someone's kid is being in the restaurant.

We had a girls only lunch with wine and truffled cheese– just go ahead and truffle anything and you’ve got yourself a good day! No matter how loud someone’s kid is watching Thomas the Train videos in the restaurant.

This sweetie read books to me.

This sweetie read books to me.

And I was a total baby hog!

And I was a total baby hog!

Thank you for a wonderful visit, friend! I am forever grateful for you and all our girls and I’m so glad I was able to come spend time with you and your beautiful family! Love!

In the Way of Beauty

So, I stayed in on New Year’s Eve and didn’t do much of anything.  Well, to be honest, I did quite a few things, but not your typical New Year’s Eve agenda. It was relaxing, fun and even a little productive.   I made a really nice dinner–salmon with orange and ginger, roasted on a cedar plank, along with sauteed spinach. I also vacuumed. And I was asleep before the ball dropped. I did other things too, but since I already confessed to vacuuming,  I’ll try to save myself from appearing extra, extra dorky here and not list them all.  Let’s just go with my regular amount of nerdiness, ok?  Along with resolutions, I feel like there’s a lot of hype and expectation surrounding a person’s New Year’s Eve plan.  This wasn’t the first time that I’ve stayed home on New Year’s Eve though, so I knew that I could not go out and still be ok.  Better than ok actually. We all agree that waking up with no hangover is better than ok, right?

Still, I wanted to do something to celebrate and welcome the new year, to begin 2015 in a special way.  So here’s what I did…

IMG_4951

I woke up early,  I went out in the cold, I drove to the beach and I watched the first rays of the sun peek over the horizon and shine light on this new year.  It was beautiful!

I got the idea the day before when I was thinking about a quote I heard recently.  It’s from the movie ‘Wild’ which is based on the memoir of Cheryl Strayed.  I wrote about that here. I think this quote is in the book too, but I couldn’t find it when I went back and looked for it.  In the movie, Cheryl recalls her mother telling her, “There is a sunrise and a sunset every day.  You can choose to be there for it, you can choose to put yourself in the way of beauty.” That’s good stuff, right? And what better day to soak up some beauty, than the very first day of the new year?

I’m so glad I went!  I kind of felt like doing some sun salutations right there on the sand, but it was a little chilly for that sort of thing. (22 degrees!) And the Alaskan-grade boots and coat I was wearing don’t quite allow for maximum flexibility.  Then,  I remembered something that Elizabeth Gilbert (of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ fame) has talked and written about – creating your own ceremonies to mark the beginning of a new year.  So I just made up a little new year sacrament.  I thought of some things I’m hoping for in the year ahead, for myself, and for my people.  I found a little piece of a shell and I wrote those things in the sand. Then as the waves came in and washed the words away, I made a little wish and entrusted my hopes to the world, to the universe…

Now, I worried that admitting this little ritual publicly would move me a few notches up on the dork-o-meter, but I don’t care.  Because it made me pretty happy and because I have some big dreams for this year, and I started right there at the very crack of dawn making them come true.  Happy New Year!

IMG_4979

I’m hoping for joy, love, health and beautiful moments for me and mine and that we will be truly awake to really see and feel all of these things this year.

 

IMG_4986

I also went for a little walk…

 

IMG_4976

… and found a heart-shaped rock, not a perfect heart shape, but that’s kind of the point, right?

IMG_4983

Sunrise, January 1, 2015 – “There’s a sunrise and a sunset every day, and you can choose to be there for it.  You can put yourself in the way of beauty.” ~Bobbi Lambrecht, Cheryl Strayed’s mom