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Make Your Own Sunshine

Can we just put that in quotes and attach my name to it please? Haha! Cuz I just made that up, but it’s so true!

I have always has a strong connection to the light. The first time I remember coming to my own realization that sunshine is medicine was in high school. One day, we had a study hall out in the courtyard, and I just soaked up the sun for about 45 minutes. I remember going back into school and feeling…different. I can’t quite explain how it made me feel except to say I felt lighter and refreshed. I made a conscious connection then between the sunshine and the satisfying feelings I was having, long before people started talking about seasonal affective disorder.

To the contrary, when I worked third shift in college, I started to feel the effects of sunlight deficiency. I never got used to third. Our bodies are not naturally in rhythm with that schedule. I had trouble sleeping during the day, I was morose about missing daylight, and I was so unhappy it made my teeth itch! To feel this opposite end of the spectrum was just as enlightening. I knew exactly how much the sun affected me and I knew that I never wanted to return to this darkness.

I’ve noticed too, that all my worst bouts of anxiety have happened in December, February, etc. So, at my last appointment, I asked my doctor what she thought about light boxes. She gave me an enthusiastic, “I love them!” She whipped the one she carried in her purse out to show me, and a few minutes later I had a script for one in my hands and am now the proud owner of a light box to remove the SAD from winter in Wisconsin, where exposure to sunshine is scarce. And my preliminary observations are that it’s working:

There’s a whole lot of science behind this. Here’s an enlightening article about the sun and health.

So, here I am with a therapeutic 10,000 lux sun maker. I really am making my own sunshine!! I love the sunshine and being in the light. I’m drawn to sunny windows like a cat (new poem about that to come). The sun’s energy just penetrates me in places that no other drug or uplifting tool or mood-boosting strategy could touch. And that, my friends, is a great metaphor for anyone who strives to make each day a little better…and brighter. Heh! Make your own sunshine!

Just thinking out loud, but now that I’m starting to make videos, I’m wondering if my new light box will make a good light box for shooting videos too. Haha!

Do you use a light box? If so, how has it affected you?

Surviving My Long Drive to Work

Our recent move to our country home took us far away from the city, from work, from my mom’s house, from stores, from everything. That’s what we wanted, of course! To be away from the frenzy of the city. But the drive is something that is taking some getting used to. I shouldn’t complain, but when you go from a 1 mile commute–walking distance–to a 25 mile one, you really have some adjusting to do.

While I’m not too keen on driving in general (I LOVE being a passenger) or paying the astounding extra gas costs, I’m trying to find the positive aspects of this long drive. Since I’ll be making this long drive for the foreseeable future, I might as well learn to love it, right?

Now, when I’m driving, I’m trying to really “see” what’s going past the windows. I’m trying to not take the passing scenery for granted and really notice the cool fog effects, the waking animals, the sunshine. Oh, the sunshine! One of the most pleasurable parts of my drive now is lifting my face toward the sun. Now, I am potentially getting 60 minutes of sunlight on my drive versus the quick flash of light when I was only going 2 miles and sitting inside the office all day.

Thinking and decompressing before walking in the door has been another benefit of a long drive. That 1 mile commute sometimes left me feeling bombarded. All the thoughts that I had rolling around in my mind at the end of a day weren’t processed in that short of time, and I had to shift focus within seconds to children and husband and pet, all converging on me. This new drive is a more gentle transition and leaves me time and space to process all the information of the day and leave what I don’t want behind me. I have been coming up with great ideas while driving now, and think I’m going to have to invest in a recorder soon:)

No haters please, but I’ve also been catching up with friends on the phone since I have 35 minutes of uninterrupted air time. I am a much better friend now because I have that time to chat without feeling guilty that I’m neglecting anyone at home. It’s hard to find that uninterrupted time to call long-distance friends, but my new drive has opened up chat time for me.

I have also been catching up on podcasts. At first, I was really excited because we have an old CD player in the car and I thought “great, now I can catch up on myriads of books on CD from the library.” I was so excited to catch up on all the classics and some self-development–it was really one of the only things I was looking forward to. Well, wouldn’t you know, right before we moved, the car CD player seized up and no longer works. Total bummer!!! Well, to make up for it, I found an FM tuner at Best Buy and I have been downloading podcasts with free Wifi at work to listen to with it, and it doesn’t cost me data on my phone either.

And finally, when I’m not listening to podcasts, I’ve been listening to uplifting or informational radio, like KLove and NPR, which satisfies my constant need for information and positivity. I never thought about it before, but there is not one single “downer” song on Christian radio, making it a great way to feed my mind good things.

What do you like to do on long drives alone? What other options might I have?

My Favorite Planner Notebook: Staples Arc System

Oh, the Arc System, how I love thee. I was first introduced to these notebooks when I was searching for a graduation gift for one of my interns. She was an uber-organized, Type-A person who I knew would appreciate what these had to offer. Once I found them and bought one for her, I knew I absolutely had to have one for myself. I used the notebook as a reward for myself for when I passed my NASM exam.
Meet the Arc System. I’m having a love affair with them. Don’t tell Hubster.
Check out this video to peek into my planner on YouTube.
Staples and Office Max both have their own versions of this notebook, as do Levenger, Rollabind and Martha Stewart. In fact, they’re all compatible with each other. What these notebooks consist of are circular disks (which come in various sizes) that the paper attaches to. But each page is entirely removable and then replaceable. What makes that so amazing is that its a perpetual notebook that works forever. You can continue tearing pages out and buying refills as needed. And you can combine all your notebooks for all your different projects in one so you don’t have to carry them all around separately.
You can also purchase all different kinds of fillers from graph paper to calendars to regular lined paper. Believe me, I stood in that aisle for a good half-hour weighing my options. Ok, probably more like an hour. Not only can you buy different fillers, but you can also buy file folders, page dividers, small list pads, sticky notes and other things that work with the disks too.

You can also use any of your own paper to refill the planner. To do that, you just need to pick up a compatible paper punch. The big hole punches cost upwards of $50, but you can get this “portable punch” from Levenger for just $16 like I did.
I only punch a sheet here and there so this works perfect for me. One such sheet is this page of scriptures that speak to my anxiety so I can reference it when I need it.
I like to use cute printables for my calendars instead of the ones that Arc puts out. Just do a quick search on Pinterest for calendar printables and you’ll find something in your style. Right now, I’m liking these.
I also have a small Rollabind version of the notebook that I found at work. I love the portable size! I use this notebook to record the workouts that I’ve been designing.

We had another sale at work where I found a few more Rollabinds and I snatched 3 up right away because I love them so much. They’re stashed away for a day where I decide I need another notebook for something. I’m a writer. It happens.
I encourage anyone that loves notebooks, planners, organizing, printables, etc to pick up one of these systems and choose a few inserts that suit your taste. Then, come back here and tell me how addicted you are. What are your favorite planners/notebooks?

American Tanka

Once upon a time, I submitted some tanka poetry to American Tanka and got a “these are close” comment. Now, if you know anything about submitting your work in the literary world, you know that automated rejection slips are proliferate. To even get a personal note back is rare. To get a “these are close” comment is as close to getting published as possible. I am proud:)

Now, tanka is similar to haiku in its form as a short poem that packs an entire experience into very few words. There are 5 lines and the typical syllable pattern is 5-7-5-7-7.  But American Tanka doesn’t completely adhere to these stringent rules due to the differences in the language structures between Japanese and English. My poems below don’t adhere to the syllabic rules, but they do point to very concise, precise moments. Enjoy!

Nothing we can do
but wait until they drip dry-
those icicles 
tight against
our power line.
 
 
Hand-in-hand we 
pass holes in a
winter-beaten road
beside the discomforting 
rip in your jeans.
 
 
The note he left
was stacks of collected
white paper
he never could
penetrate.
 
 
She fashions
title and border
for her pictures,
poems and letters
to surround the vacant hour.
 
 
The sparkle faded
from her eye
as she detected
a dish, dust mite
and ripped fabric.

Insights From Nature as Spiritual Practice

So, I was perusing the spiritual section at the library and came across this made-for-me book and quickly checked it out. Nature as Spiritual Practice. Yes, yes, yes!

I am so excited about this book!!! Out in the counterculture, there is much written about nature and it’s connection to the metaphysical. This is where I always end up landing somehow when I’m trying to find articles and insights about connecting to nature. But the metaphysical and magical don’t interest me. I’m always on a quest to find something that aligns with my beliefs. Nature has always intuitively been something that I’ve wanted to explore on a spiritual side. We had a Bible study at church about finding your purpose, and nature kept popping up for me, but I wasn’t sure how to merge my spiritual life with nature. Now I am equipped to do that, and take it so much deeper!

After reading the first chapter and exercise, I immediately put this book on my Amazon Wishlist…and shortly thereafter, let’s just be real here, I bought it, along with its companion field guide.

I hadn’t even gotten past the “How to Use This Book” section before I came to some overwhelming, mind-blowing realizations. This book was exactly what I didn’t even know I was looking for!

Every leaf and flower bear the marks and give witness to their Creator…Perception of this reality requires contemplative attention, the eyes of the heart, and the wonder of a child…It is a book that assumes that the glory of the Creator is discernible in creation’s ecological material, sacramental, and spiritual realities.

This!

Creation speaks, and the language of creation shapes, forms, and transforms relationships. Our human/creation relationship is born of our common parentage, the relationship is realized in practice. Still pulsing through the lifeblood of this human/creation connection are common genes–common genes whose function seems to be the nurturing of mindful attention, wonder, and shared longing to return to their Creator. Through the eyes of the senses and the eyes of wisdom and the eyes of faith, we behold the Easter in the ordinary, the mundane in the sacred.

And this!

Nature is Christian practice: she is the teacher and she is material and she is spiritual–the everyday and the sacramental.

So much this!!!
I’m reminded of Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” All these little miracles in nature are evidence of God!!!!
I can’t wait to explore more of this book and dig deeper. I especially can’t wait until the weather changes to be more conducive to this life-bearing exploration.
What are you reading? And what is it teaching you?

A Nature Poem

Would You Rather
I’d rather trip over spindly tree roots
than a box on a concrete floor.
One more reverent and warm
than the parched other.
The birds and pinecones soften the fall
instead of the plastic wrapped around a
ceramic statue that signifies
the profitable violation of a holiday.
The same sky holds them in place,
but the difference is between
tender or tethered.
When crackling twigs break my fall,
when I’ve finally gained my footing on the
tangled outcropping in fertile soil,
I still leave unguarded.
I still leave with an unbroken spirit.

Let’s Talk About New Years’ Resolutions

But it’s only December 15!!! Right?

Well, I propose that you start drafting your new years’ resolutions right now. In fact, I propose you even consider starting on them right now. The reason is simple: ANY DAY is the right day to start following your dreams.

What is the direction that you want your life to go? That is the most important question you could consider when it comes to exploring your life’s purpose. And the question takes a lot of consideration and brainstorming to answer.

So, get out a pen and paper and start. Give yourself a solid 30 minutes to 1 hour to really dig in. Write out a list of the things that you value most: your family, God, your home environment, helping people, etc. Write out what your goals are as they pertain to each of your values. Your goals and values should be aligned so you’re not just starting new projects arbitrarily. In other words, don’t adopt another goldfish if your life’s ambition is to travel and don’t spend an extra hour at “work lunches” every day if your family life is a priority for you to cultivate.

The benefits of defining your goals right now is that you’ll have a head start come the new year. You can get all the details prepared, you can “test” out your resolutions and refine them, you can narrow your focus, and you can build up your excitement and motivation.

I would also strongly recommend going through Chalene Johnson’s 30 Day Push to refine your goals. It’s a free online program that will push you toward your life’s goals. It will help give aim to your ambitions.

Now, if you have fitness goals for this year, please contact me and I would love to help you reach them.

Stick Chest Stretch

Family Recipe Binder

If you’re anything like me, you know how important it is to keep a file of all the recipes you’ve tried and enjoyed or use on a regular basis. I tend to forget some of my family’s favorite meals if they’re not listed in front of me, so having them all in front of me saves time and brainpower when it’s time to meal plan for the week.

Our favorite (mostly healthy) recipes had been printed and thrown into an ugly crinkly folder for YEARS. I’ve had intentions for at least the last 5 years to get our recipes in some kind of better order, but never quite had the interest to do it. Somehow, recently, I finally got hold of some recipe book inspiration and ran with it. Even Hubster is appreciative of the outcome.

Before
And after

What I did was put every recipe inside a plastic page protector. I love the page protector idea because I tend to obsess about not spilling things on recipe pages. Instant splash protection! Then, I organized the recipes by meal and put them in a simple white binder.

I found some stylin’ file dividers and labeled the meal types so everything is super easy to find. I can’t tell you how many times I flipped through the pages in that red folder searching for recipes when they were all just thrown in there.

Finally I searched for “retro nature border” on Google (cuz that’s how I roll) and did a little editing and added text to turn it into a cover sheet. I cropped a small part of that same design to create the spine title.

I love that this book is completely customized to our family’s taste. You know how when you buy a cookbook and you only use a handful of recipes from it? Yeah, me too. That’s why the binder idea works best. You only keep what you love! Seriously, besides this recipe book, the only other cookbook we’ve always kept is the timeless Better Homes and Gardens one.

I was going to scan all the recipes and create a digital file of them all. But who am I kidding? I don’t have the patience for or interest in that. I love referring to paper copies and usually end up printing recipes off anyway. I am a very visual person when it comes to food, so I wasn’t very attracted to the idea of little recipe cards either. Must have pictures!

I also started a list on a Google Doc with all our family favorites listed out on one sheet. That way we can choose 5 or so dinners per week at a glance instead of trying to search our brains for ideas.

It feels so good to finally have our recipes organized! How do you organize your recipes?

A Drum Circle Experience

There’s a little bit of hippie in me and every once in awhile it comes out in a free-spirited blend of essential oils, a backyard tepee, a flowy bohemian skirt, or a community drum circle.

This past week, Kayne and I participated in our local drum circle. He had experimented with drumming at the farmer’s market and was willing to give the drum circle a try. Plus, I like to treat him to special one-on-one time when I can, and this was a great opportunity to do that. I’ve always thought he might enjoy something like this.

The drum circle was set up at a park in town instead of their normal headquarters in a nondescript storefront. The outdoor setting had a nice nature/community/open air element to it. Passersby would stop to watch and passing kids were handed maracas and other noise-makers to try.

I love what it says on their website: “Rhythm is universal. It is inside and all around us. From our heartbeat to the cycles of the seasons, it is more a matter of opening ourselves up to remembering and feeling than a music lesson…Using creativity we all possess we will make beautiful music ‘in the moment.'”

Drum circles are really both a physical and emotional experience. I’ve been trying to incorporate more spiritual and mental fitness into my life, and I think drum circles encapsulate a whole bunch of wellness practices:

1. It’s a community builder and great social activity. You’re meeting people and you’re all working together to build something pleasant. A drum circle is a very open group of people.
2. It’s a practice in mindfulness. One of the frontline treatments for my anxiety-related issues is mindfulness. Meditation not only lowers your threshold for stress, but it also helps you live in the present and let worrisome thoughts pass on by. It may sound a bit new-agey, but it’s really grounding. And it’s really effective. It sounds too simple to be very effective, but it is profound!
3. It’s creative.
4. It’s physical and gets me out of my head, where I spend too much time ruminating and analyzing.
5. It’s therapeutic. There are studies about the use of drum circles, and music in general, as an effective form of therapy.
6. The being outside part is also therapeutic.

Bottom line: I’m kinda hooked!

So now, when I’m at work, you might find me listening to drum circles on YouTube which sort of produces calm energy and helps with my concentration. It’s like the musical rhythm gets me into a good work rhythm too. Ok, hippie moment over…