Sleep

January 9, 2020

How did you sleep?

My husband and I always start our mornings asking each other how we slept because we both know a sleepless night will affect everything about our energy, moods, and even appetites.

If you are one of those lucky souls who has never known insomnia or a sleepless night, you might want to skip to a more interesting blog. But if, like me, you’ve ever struggled with falling asleep, staying asleep, or even recuperative sleep – let’s talk.

I am feeling very lucky because last night I got super sleepy around 10:30 and fell fast asleep right then. I didn’t have any appointments this morning and my considerate husband let me sleep in. It’s been forever since I had a huge night of sleep like I did last night and I woke up refreshed, relaxed, and happy. I had energy to exercise and my mood is wonderful.

Sadly, this is not the norm for me.

My sleep problems started about 15 years ago when I had a very stressful job. The night before a big meeting I usually couldn’t relax, imagining all the awful outcomes that might occur. One night, I slept not one hour, and I was in tears when the alarm went off. It was an awful way to start the day – especially when sharing the bed with a sound sleeper.

I left that job and enjoyed regular sleep once again, only to have perimenopause kick in and with it, a different kind of sleep problem. For a long time I’d fall asleep but then wake up around 2 am. I’d be awake for about two hours before falling asleep. Although I could usually cobble together a respectable number of hours of rest, the disruption always left me dragging the next day.

Thank God for naps. And coffee. Although seriously, if you don’t sleep, all the coffee in the world won’t really wake you up.

If you are suffering, I’d encourage you to tell your doctor. My husband went with me to the doctor’s office where I burst into tears when talking about my problem with sleep. For whatever reason, I felt like this was my fault for reading my iPad before bed and not meditating or something. The doctor kindly listened and talked about a whole range of options. He also gave me a prescription that I never use, but it is a comfort to know I’ve got something in case I really really need it. I am very sensitive to medication and have to balance the benefit of drug-induced slumber with a slight hangover vs. not enough sleep. I usually opt for a short night of rest vs. the drugs. For me, six hours of unmedicated sleep are better than ten hours under the influence.

My doctor didn’t give me Ambien or any of the other traditional sleeping pills. But let me share with you what I do take in case any of this helps you:

  1. No exciting movies (or big activities) late at night. I’ve been known to come home from the theater at 11 pm all revved up from a fun movie and have a hard time falling asleep. Try to give yourself time to “come down” before hitting the pillow.
  2. Limit high intensity exercise after 6 pm. I used to go to a gym class at 6 pm and some nights I’d still be jazzed up at 10 pm. Now I save those for earlier in the day.
  3. Limit or eliminate alcohol. I’m sorry to say this, but alcohol disrupts sleep. I love a good drink but more than one typically means I won’t sleep well. Lately even one disrupts my rest. The good news is no doctor will ever find fault with you for skipping out on the booze.
  4. Try melatonin. I sometimes take 3 mg and it seems to help, especially if I’m jet-lagged.
  5. I’ve had good luck with Gaia Herbs. They make three different varieties to support sleep. I read many reviews online about these and they seem to help many people. I get all three of them and take one of each variety at bedtime. I have them auto-delivered from Amazon.
  6. Some people have luck with magnesium, but please talk to your doctor. Magnesium has a calming effect on people and animals, and we sometimes give it to horses that must be on stall rest. Proceed with caution but it might work for you.
  7. Magnesium – also known as Epsom salts – can also be used in the bath to help muscles relax. You might find a hot bath is a nice way to relax at bedtime too.
  8. I’m sure if you suffer from sleep issues you know the advice about having a cool room, limiting screen time before bed, and ensuring the bed isn’t used for activities like work. My doctor called this sleep hygiene.

If you don’t sleep, you may also take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone! Sometimes I go onto Facebook at 3 am and there we all are, killing time until we snooze again.

Good rest to you friends.

Have A Take-it-Easy Christmas

December 5, 2019

Remember when Christmas was just a fun holiday?

As a child, celebrating was pretty straightforward: we always bought a cut tree off a lot, pulled out our collection of traditional ornaments, and decorated the tree together. My mom made fruitcake and stollen, and we exchanged gifts on Christmas morning. When we were quite small, we hung stockings, put out cookies for Santa, and my dad read T’was the Night Before Christmas to us. It wasn’t complicated and it certainly wasn’t stressful. And – just to add to the mix – my birthday is four days before Christmas and my mother managed to throw a family party with home-made cake and birthday gifts for me each year. Not once did she skip it because it was a busy time.

When did Christmas become such a stressful, stuff-oriented holiday? I see people rushing around, running to get the best deals on mostly junk. I like to buy some nice things but I”m not going to lose my sanity for an extra 10% off. Seriously.

The madness starts early too, with holiday decorations up before Halloween. The stores were fully decorated before I’d even carved pumpkins. I wasn’t ready to start thinking about Noel until Thanksgiving was done, and I have only now started to decorate.

I’m no Grinch. I love the holidays, and all the traditions. I truly love all of it, from watching White Christmas to seeing Santa at the mall. I like to focus on the spontaneous pleasure of baking cookies when I feel like it, decorating for the joy of it, and buying gifts to show others how much I appreciate them.

This year, I’ve slowed way down with Christmas. I have many gifts purchased and will likely pick up some more stocking stuffers. I love getting my husband something he didn’t expect. He’s a good gift-giver too.

As for those sales, I did get some good deals on stuff for the house I’d been thinking about getting: a few end tables we needed.

I am focusing on practicing gratitude this holiday season. My husband and I joined a choir too and it’s been fun performing at the local senior living home. We drove through a local lights display at a hotel last weekend. I also picked up some fruitcake from a German bakery. I’ll likely bake some gingerbread because it’s my favorite too!

What traditions mean the most to you this holiday season? How do you stay balanced in the middle of all the busy-ness?

To you and your loved ones, much peace and joy to you as we approach Christmas!

 

Doing Less

November 21, 2019

I am a member of Generation X, and grew up during a time of deep transition in our culture. As a child of the 1970s, most of us were left to roam and play freely. We made up games. We watched TV until our mothers unplugged the sets. If any of us had talent for sports, we didn’t discover it until at least middle school. Even then, all that meant was that we signed up for public school team sports.

The same was true for music, art, and academics. Nobody I knew worked on anything outside of school. Despite the alarming negligence of our talent development, one of my friends from high school went on to play professional baseball. But I don’t remember him doing anything different than anyone else.

Around the time I was in high school, self-improvement began to be a thing. People starting doing “aerobics” to lose fat and get in shape. Kitchen table haircuts were a source of embarrassment, and even kids began going to hair salons. Drugstore makeup was no longer good enough, we needed specialty stuff from Clinique. Even our dogs (mutts in those days) no longer ate table scraps; our purebred puppies now ate Science Diet. Suddenly kids were going to science camps, parents were hiring soccer coaches, and math tutors were abundant. We couldn’t even pluck our eyebrows ourselves, we had to hire professionals to do our nails, show us how to lift weights, and get into college. I remember the first time I heard someone talk about their child volunteering only to beef up their college admission application.

Sigh. No wonder we’re all so stressed out. Marketers have convinced us our collective “before” photos are shameful and we’re all just one makeover away from fulfilling our true potential in all areas of life: work, relationships, nutrition, parenting, home, entertaining, vacations, beauty and more.

I will admit, at first, I bought into much of this hook, line and sinker. I went to the gym. I bought self-improvement books on tape (so I could listen while driving). I tried to learn Italian. I paid nice ladies a lot of money to paint my toenails and pluck my eyebrows.

Until one day…. I realized I really didn’t want to. Life had begun to feel like a never-ending to-do list, with hateful chores that felt like a fix-it assault on my well-being. I slogged through my days off running errands, when all I wanted to do was … lie around and watch TV for a few hours. Or read. Eat a HoHo. Or just…..be.

A friend of mine once told me that “I don’t want to” is an acceptable response – it’s even an acceptable feeling to have. “I don’t want to.” Try it. It might sound foreign if, like me, you’ve stopped listening to your heart’s desire.

For me, I realized I’d become deeply resentful and downright crabby quite a bit of the time. I envied people who weren’t rushed. I found myself asking myself what the whole point was to all of it.

So….I stopped. I didn’t really intend to, I just couldn’t muster the heart to keep doing all of it anymore.

I quit with the extensive (and pricy) salon visits.

I don’t do ten-step skincare regimens. I wash my face with (gasp!) soap.

I walk and ride horses for fun, not because I hate my body.

I eat real food, and I eat when I’m hungry. I don’t drink nutrition shakes that come in a packet.

Sometimes, I take a nap.  Or read a book. Or just think about stuff.

Most importantly, I’m not ashamed about it either.

Now that I have hopped off the punishing wheel of self-improvement, I took a watercolor painting class and finally (!) after all these years, I painted something. I’m pretty good too, even if I never had much coaching (haha).

So you see, by doing less, I’m actually doing more. More of what I want.

Try it.

 

The Comfort We Take

November 2, 2019

It’s a sunny, cold Saturday morning here in Wisconsin. We had quite a bit of snow on Halloween – six inches – but now it’s melting unprettily, leaving random patches of healthy green grass looking every bit ready for another go at summer. The maple trees that line our driveway still have golden, orange and yellow leaves, so the snow truly looks out of place. Weather.

I had dinner with a friend last night who is going through a separation and most likely divorce. She is feeling all the awful emotions that come – predictably – with that experience: fear, sadness, longing, guilt. She wants children; he does not – and that was the tipping point in their eighteen-year marriage. Up until this impasse, I would have said they had a perfect marriage. They’d weathered all of their 20s together, from college and backpacking across South America to building successful careers, and finally home ownership. Through it all, they seemed like one of those couples you wish you could be.

Note to self: things are not always what they appear, and even adorably perfect smart talented wonderful people have problems too.

Each of us possesses a special skill or ability, perhaps something you discovered about yourself in grade school. Brad H could bend just the very tip of his index finger at a 90-degree angle from his finger. I never had that kind of talent, but one thing I’ve discovered I’m good at is helping others find their voice. I don’t just mean literally – although I do that too – I mean sometimes wading through and figuring stuff out, what you want, navigating the right thing to do, and then how to move on.

In grade school, I remember discovering that if I had a question for the teacher and raised my hand that others would sometimes thank me for asking what they’d been thinking but were too shy to ask. That was the first clue speaking up was a gift to share. I was often called upon to read out loud in class. In college, a journalism professor read my work and asked me if I ever thought of becoming a writer, a comment that thankfully reinforced my budding hopes and dreams. Today I make a living in business communication and I also gravitate toward helping friends articulate their thoughts and feelings. I believe most people are relieved when they can put words to what they think and feel. Sometimes, they just need permission to feel something. It’s gratifying to help.

But I think many of us have a hard time accepting help. Or even admitting we need help. As much as we may feel great about stepping up for others, it can be difficult to accept kindness and understanding even when we need it. Perhaps we feel ashamed, or simply vulnerable.

My friend is struggling with allowing her soon-to-be-ex-husband to pay the mortgage for a few months while her business is ramping up. She started a small business with his blessing when they were married and now it’s going well, but she’s not pulling a salary yet. I encouraged her to allow him to do that for her just as she had paid their bills when he was making a career switch 10 years ago.

Give and take. We need to do both, don’t we? Just like spring needs winter, it’s all part of some cosmic plan. If we never let others help us, we’re depriving them of that gift too.

I’m not great at allowing others to help me but I’m getting better. A boarder at our barn offered to ride my horse while I was on vacation. I was reluctant not because I didn’t trust her, but because it was hard to receive that kindness. I finally owned up to my angst and she put my concerns to rest. “I love riding her,” she said. I was able to remember that it is in giving that we receive. Of course. Helping with my horse was enjoyable for her, too. Duh.

What about you? Do you accept generosity from others with an open heart or do you find it a challenge? Is it something you work on?

Have a great weekend friends.

Such a Shame

October 21, 2019

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What is your first reaction when you hear the word “shame?”

I think immediately of a small child, head dropped, feeling badly. Or maybe the half-joking morning after walk of shame. I think of shame as something you feel when your behavior is deeply hurtful and/or not in keeping with who you want to be. It doesn’t matter if the behavior is intentional or not.

My husband and I went to see Elton John last weekend; great show by the way. Midway through the concert he shared some personal stuff with the audience, and he did it very poignantly. He said there was a point in his life when he was filled with shame about his behavior, and he realized he could either continue on the path he was on or change. He chose to change and went on to tell us about that journey, and how overwhelmed he was with the love and compassion extended him when he asked for help.

I have been thinking about his choice of words, and how shame isn’t a word I hear much anymore. It’s certainly a strong feeling. We don’t toss it off casually either. I might say I “love” french fries but the depth of that feeling isn’t confused with my adoration of my dad. We might say we’re embarrassed or feel badly about something, but I rarely hear someone admit they are truly ashamed of themselves.

That’s not to say people aren’t feeling it. Maybe we feel shame about feeling shame?

Shame conjures some strong, bad feelings for me. There were a few times in my life I acted poorly that still sting when I think of them. Once when I was about 18, I forgot my parents were coming to see me at college (an hour’s drive) with my grandmother. I truly forgot and had gone to see my boyfriend’s family out of town. By the time I remembered and called them it was too late – and they made the drive there and home. I’m still devastated when I think about how angry and disappointed they must have been. No matter that I was struggling with my own issues at the time, I wish I could do that one over.

I think shame can be used to drive us to be better. If there is something I might do that I know I wouldn’t be proud of, I won’t do it. I generally try to avoid the really hurtful stuff I can control, but sometimes, I do or say something where I unintentionally hurt someone. Shame lands on me then, hard.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I’ve gotten better as an adult about making amends with people I’ve hurt. I do it regardless of the response. Sometimes I have received surprised gratitude; other times, no response at all. Either way it’s ok, it’s the apology that makes me feel better.

But shame can be deeply damaging, mostly when it comes from outside ourselves. If I feel judged and shamed by another, that feels worse than when I do it to myself. I believe shame has long been a culture’s last resort when someone behaves really, really poorly. Public shaming must be deeply painful for the recipient.

I also wonder if our culture couldn’t use a little more fear of shame? I was at the airport recently waiting for my flight and noticed how rudely and selfishly many passengers behaved. The gate agent had to actually ask people to not block the exit area so deplaning passengers could get off the plane. Several people parked themselves annoyingly on the floor near the door to the plane nonetheless. It bugged me. I guess I believe how we treat others on a daily basis is indicative of who we are, and it matters. Perhaps shame is a strong word to use for such a relatively minor offense, but I’d rather be the person who makes way and helps another vs. the one who gets yelled at for being clueless.

For me, the best antidote of shame is kindness. I try to be nice to others, especially when it’s least expected. I feel better about myself in general when I’m practicing gratitude, patience, and love toward others.

I’d love to know what other people think about shame. Do you have things you’re ashamed of? How do you deal with those feelings?

 

In a Rush

October 9, 2019

Oh how we love to be in a hurry.

I was reminded of this recently while I was driving. Now that I’m an old lady driver, I tend to do the speed limit, a habit that isn’t popular with other drivers. Some days, I marvel at how insistent others can be about passing me – even on narrow, two-lane roads deep in the country. Gotta get there. “Get out of my way,” they seem to say as they shove their bumper just close enough. Thankfully, my days aren’t as rushed as they once were and I am able to shrug it off and let them pass. Who cares, I think? Go. I’m even capable of ignoring the bullies, no matter how close they get. I used to get upset; now I just figure that’s their paradigm, not mine, and I don’t need to participate.

Isn’t it a pleasure to set old habits down? To just let go and not care?

I lived in a rush for many years. It was sort of a joke that I was always 7 minutes late. The truth is, it was selfish of me to act as though my time was more precious than others’, and I’m not proud of that. I failed to allow enough time for transitions, but I felt unable to change because I felt like every minute was so very valuable, and that there weren’t enough of them. My lateness may have also come from a deep feeling of resentment that I spent my whole life doing things I had to do and not nearly enough doing what I wanted.

I know, that’s a lot. But it’s true. I started working at 12, full-time all summer, with very few vacations or time off until very recently. I missed a lot of life because I was working three jobs. It’s easy to feel bad when you’re working super hard and still don’t have money for things you want.

I also drank alcohol in my 20s. Maybe that goes hand in hand with simmering resentment over the direction your life is or isn’t going. Or maybe it happens when a glass of wine is the closest thing you’ll get to a vacation. So I was stuck in a downward spiral, you see; rushing to get done with all my obligations but then medicating with alcohol to enjoy my brief time off. I was that girl who’d return from a day off needing a day off.

Drinking is also something I’ve let go of right along with rushing. It used to trouble me a bit, reading the advice that we shouldn’t drink more than one glass of alcohol a day, knowing I could put away five cocktails on a Friday night. I could watch a movie and drink a bottle of wine. I live in the Midwest and we used to laugh at those guidelines, asking ourselves, “who really drinks just ONE drink?” Seriously?”  Well, ladies and gentlemen, I do. Somehow, like forgetting to fold my socks, I just forgot to drink anymore. Maybe I started doing more things that made me happy, like riding and working out.

I have forgotten all kinds of things as I age, behaviors and knowledge in equal measure. Much of it I’m sorry to have lost. I no longer remember, sadly, most of the history, math, and botany I learned in school. My consolation prize is the PhD I now hold in life lessons. I finally, finally got the important stuff down – like the fact that I always have choices. The reality that my life is a direct result of my choices. And very few things actually happen to us without at least some of our own participation. Even then, when proverbial lightning does strike, we get to choose how we deal with the aftermath.

I rarely rush anymore. I usually leave on time or within five minutes of it, and spend far less time worrying about what I’m wearing as I walk out the door. I try to eat before I leave. I even remember to bring a hostess gift if I’m going to someone’s home. Sometimes I am distracted as I drive, which is just as bad in its own way as rushing, but I no longer have a need to sweat out a two-minute-earlier arrival time. I’ve relaxed and I’m usually on time these days.

Yeah, you read that. I’m usually on time these days.

Safe travels, friends.

 

Falling

September 23, 2019

Autumn is one of those seasons that people seem to have strong opinions about. It’s either love or hate, without much in the middle. “Oh I love fall,” I’ve heard dozens of times. “It’s my favorite season!” My husband is one of those. Everything about this time of year makes him happy, from apple cider, to hunting, football games, and cool sleeping weather.

I’m on the other end of the spectrum. There are things about fall I’ve come to appreciate, but I can’t shake the dread, knowing we’re all just fooling ourselves if we think it’s anything other than a slow, horrific death march toward winter. First the cool nights – which at first feel so refreshing – that turn into cooler days, then cloudy days, then rain, then sleet, then a first frost… then -50 wind chills. The garden will die, the ground will freeze, the wind will howl.

I have never been a person who could just enjoy the ride without focusing on where we are going. I kind of want to shake people who say enthusiastically how they love fall. “Don’t you SEE!” I want to say, full of conviction. “IT’S COMING.”

But I want friends, so I don’t do that sort of thing.

Spring, on the other hand, can be a miserable wet mess weather-wise and I’m happy. It can be raining like crazy and I will be dancing around saying to anyone who will listen that it’s good for the garden. All I’m thinking is how the flower bulbs will be sprouting soon, the trees will bud, and the days are getting longer. Springtime is like being reborn!

One day I might try to be a “snowbird” and steal away for the worst part of winter, but for now, I’m learning to love what I have. I’ve been walking outside with the dogs, taking pictures and eating my weight in apples. My husband is roasting root vegetables right now and it smells lovely in the house. I am making pumpkin vodka, which is simply raw pumpkin chunks steeped in vodka with pie spices. It’s delicious when served over ice with a splash of creamer and soda. And I do look forward to chili, roast chicken, and Thanksgiving.

Perhaps we’ll have a mild winter? A girl can hope.

What do you like best about fall?

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Barn Lessons

August 27, 2019

_M3A0561I have been a boarder at my current barn for less than two years.  It’s an important part of my life. I go at least four days each week – not always to ride, sometimes just to fill supplement bags or hand graze my horse. Always to chat with others. The mares and geldings take turns on the big field, alternating days of free grazing. I was there Sunday morning and realized she was grazing on grass until 1 pm. So instead of riding, I let her know I was there and left her alone.

This is my first experience as a horse owner, and it’s been 18 months of firsts. I learned to put her in her stall when I bring her in so she could pee in her stall before riding. I never knew that was a thing. We had our first lameness issue, which resolved quickly. Her first injury, which took forever to heal, taught me about cold hosing and Bute. By the second scrape, I was an old pro with the betadine and Wonder Dust.

The barn is a good metaphor for life. I long ago realized I was called to ride because it requires me to bring my authentic self to the experience. And in return, the relationships I have there are very personal and real – which means they’re humbling, joyful and educational. What have I learned?

  1. Show up. There’s an old quote I love that says “90 percent of life is showing up.” I can’t guarantee perfection but I can guarantee I’ve opened the door to good experiences when I make the effort to be there. Sure, some days suck, but some days are amazing. Go.
  2. It’s not about me. Sometimes it’s hard to connect with other people or my horse. Maybe my friend is stressed about work, or my horse is sore. Either way, I try not to dwell on it and recognize what is mine to own and what is not. I can listen and I can truly hear another without taking it personally.
  3. It’s not a competition with others. There are many other people at the barn who have been riding for decades. They can ride circles around me, and their horse knowledge is often mind-boggling. Rather than letting that make me feel stupid, I try to remember I’m learning and growing, and I’ve come a long way. Comparing myself to them is pointless.
  4. There’s no point in endless self-criticism. Our culture tells most of us (women in particular) that we’re never good enough. We are encouraged to be perfect in all aspects of our lives, and if we aren’t, we need to fix it. Insecurity and self-criticism doesn’t do a person any good in the saddle. It’s smart to be aware of what you want to change when riding, but see the good too. I’ve had to acknowledge I’m a pretty good rider. I can and should take pride in what I can do while working on my right shoulder falling in and putting more weight in my left stirrup. My mistakes don’t negate my strengths.
  5. Be present. We all know we should try to be present in life, but it’s so hard. We live in our minds and when we don’t have anything to think about, we make up things to worry about. Riding has helped me turn off my monkey mind and dwell in my heart. My routines at the barn are soothing to me, from grooming her to warming up in the ring. The days I’m most aware are the best days.

 

None of this is anything groundbreaking or new.

What do you do that helps you be your best version of yourself?

The Joy of I Want

August 23, 2019

I grew up poor.

That’s a strong statement, I know. If I were to utter those words in mixed company, I am quite sure I’d get a skeptical side-eye, as I did once after too much wine and a conversation around education. (Don’t get me started about access to education, but that’s another blog post for another day.)

When I say “poor” I don’t mean destitute or poverty-stricken. I mean in the mid-1980s, while I worked at my $3.35/hour retail job (full time all summer and 20 hours/week in the winter), my parents gave me a paltry $10/month as my clothing allowance. That was to cover shoes, coats, underwear, back-to-school clothing, and special occasion clothing. Needless to say, every penny I had once I turned 12 and was earning babysitting money and all the way through high school went toward dressing myself.

Even in 1983, a decent pair of leather Topsiders were $40.

In case you think I”m exaggerating, I was barely allowed to use the phone because we had a cheap plan where you could only make two local calls a day. Long-distance was out of the question. We didn’t buy milk in gallons, they made us drink reconstituted powdered milk (which is cheaper, and revolting). I wasn’t allowed to get my drivers’ license because my parents’ insurance would have gone up, and besides, I wasn’t allowed to touch the car – which Dad needed to get to work. We never had cable, went to Disney, and one particularly lean year, I remember our pantry being empty: no cookies, no snacks, just saltines. My parents did the best they could, but they never seemed to get ahead. My dad worked but was laid off more than once. My mom worked a part-time, minimum-wage job that probably paid the phone bill, but not much more. We had a house and a car, and were fed. So I realize my version of poor was much better than many.

I was lucky then. I was a good student, was able to borrow to go to college, and ultimately made about the same salary as my dad did right out of college – which was a life-altering kind of realization. We all seek to have at least the same life we grew up with. By 25, I surpassed them both in my education level and in income. I was even able to travel for work.

Growing up that way colored my perspective. Anyone with a house on a lake to me was “rich.” I deeply envied the kids who cared so little about their own wealth that they duck-taped their Topsiders together when they came apart.  I now recognize they were fighting their own battles of self-worth, social acceptance and sense of purpose. But back then I was sure having money was the cure for all my problems.

I’ve been lucky now, too. I have never been without work. I married a guy with a job, who makes decent money.  I haven’t suffered deep setbacks like crushing health debt or bankruptcy. There but for the grace of God go I.

As a kid, watching Gilligan’s Island or Love Boat and observing the wealth in our small town, I thought being wealthy meant a specific lifestyle that included sailing, fancy cars and ski vacations. Remember Mr. and Mrs. Howell on Gilligan’s Island? Remember how they spoke and dressed? That was what “rich” looked like to me.

I recently had a bit of a revelation: having money isn’t about being some phony golfer wearing a tuxedo and acting snooty (unless that’s who you already are.) Having wealth is about being able to enjoy more and better of what you already love. Like gardening? Get that cedar greenhouse (with heat!) you’ve been coveting in the catalog. Like to bicycle? Yes, you can have that custom Trek you saw at the bike shop. You will use it and enjoy it every time. Are you a whiz in the kitchen? Having extra in the bank allows you to buy that pizza oven you wanted, and even the fancy olives you saw in the shop to go on your pizza. I could go on and on with examples, but you get the idea. Wealth to me isn’t about a Maserati; it’s about paying off my credit card every month and buying an extra pair of riding boots just becasue I love them.

Growing up poor means I”ll wear the hell out of those expensive boots but love them every time I do.

Having extra may also allow you a little time to enjoy life, if you can hire help or take a step back from work. I’m deeply grateful I have time to ride my horse, putter in the garden, and sleep in occasionally. Those are the biggest gifts of all. I have coffee at home in the morning with my husband. We have time to walk our dogs on our property, and notice the change of seasons.

I hope whatever makes you feel “rich” is within reach for you.

A Back to School Feeling

August 14, 2019

Summertime has always been a magical time for me, a love affair that started when I was a child. The combination of a respite from school paired with barefoot activities, long days of sunshine, and my natural love of climbing trees, swimming and biking … well, you’ll never hear me say winter is my favorite season.

As an adult, we say goodbye to playtime. We lose recess in grade school, and summer breaks disappear after college. For years I tried to squeeze summer into twelve short weekends, usually with disastrously disappointing results. Summer is not to be rushed, and trying to hurry fun is just a bad idea.

I’m grateful that these days, my flexible work schedule and convertible let me spend ample time outdoors. I’m suntanned and my hands are dirty from picking wildflowers.

Nature has its own calendar, regardless if we make time to notice. The woods near my house are beginning to show a hint of decay buried beneath the pine. Nights are cooler and the last few mornings, fog has covered our fields. Corn and zucchini are in season, and the prairie sends goldenrod, that last blossom of summer. Despite my earnest focus on making the most of summer days, I’m feeling an ache deep inside, a remembered relic from years of downheartedly returning to school each August. My last school days were 30 years ago but my heart is telling me recess is over. It’s an outdated reflex – nobody is forcing me to to do anything. But I feel pained acutely when I encounter pencils and backpacks filling the stores.

Once fall is here, I’ll relish the apples and pumpkins, hayrides and a return to favorite sweaters. There is a lot to love about fall.

But today, right now, it’s summertime. Why aren’t you outside?