Posted in Seasonal Sunday

Volunteer Appreciation

I have a special place in my heart for volunteers. They see a void and they fill it without being compensated.

It’s the same with the volunteer plants in my yard. I have volunteer bleeding hearts in the cracks of the driveway and volunteer petunias popping up where their parents bloomed last year. And then this.

At first I thought it was a cucumber. But the leaves expanded and the Vine got longer. So I thought maybe a cantaloupe. But the vine kept growing.

I now believe I may be growing a pumpkin vine in the middle of my herb and perennial garden. A seed, long forgotten by a well-intentioned squirrel, has volunteered its services just off my front door stoop. And I, having witnessed the conviction of the plant, am now guiding it carefully away from foot traffic and thyme, and dousing it with water in the summer heat.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned working at a non-profit, it’s that you need to take care of your volunteers.

Peace . . .

Posted in Well-being

Harmony

Those who seek balance are chasing a fleeting achievement. I’ve often described it as trying to relax on top of a ball. Once you are in balance, a mere breath will topple you.

If the world were balanced, there would be no ebb and flow. True balance allows for abundance and drought; a constant correction of direction. I spent years seeking unattainable balance in my life.

Then I began my quest for peace. Peace is attainable. It’s the calm of meditation. It’s the acceptance of imperfection. It’s the courage of authenticity.

Some people say peace is the same as happiness but I think it might be closer to harmony — The yin and the yang. Knowing there’s good in the hardships and downsides to every opportunity. And accepting them both in stillness and gratitude.

If balance is like sitting atop a ball, peace is like floating down a river. There will be rapids and quiet waters, but you can rest assured youre still in the water.

Peace . . .

Posted in Throwback Thursday

The Apolitical Cookie

Happy Fourth, everyone! Nowadays it seems there’s a lot to unpack when you think about our country and what it means to feel patriotic. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone wants to feel safe. Everyone wants what they think is best for themselves and their family. Everyone wants to be loved and feel needed. Everyone wants to belong. Everyone wants to be healthy and thrive.

See? We aren’t so different after all.

So I decided to make some cookies this afternoon. There’s a correlation here, so bear with me.

I’d wanted to try Laura Bush’s Texas Governor’s Mansion Cowboy Cookies, first published in Family Circle magazine in 2000, for a couple of weeks now. I was assured they’d be the best cowboy cookies I’d ever made. Never having made any at all, this promise was a likely guarantee. With the holiday off of work, today was a perfect excuse to whip these babies up. It wasn’t until I had the first cookie sheet ready to slip into the oven that I realized how appropriate the recipe was for the Fourth of July.

As expected, the cookies baked up Texas-sized. The edges are light and crispy with the coconut giving it texture and chew. It’s also entirely possible there may be a little magic involved. The recipe yields 24 cookies. I down-sized it by a third and, using the recommended 1/4-cup measurement per each, I still baked 24 cookies. Sorcery!

I got to thinking about baking the Laura Bush cookies. I wasn’t very political-thinking back when she was our FLOTUS. I can’t even tell you who I voted for. But I can tell you unequivocally, Laura knows her way around a cowboy cookie. It’s not political. It’s not partisan. It’s just a damned good cookie.

Happy birthday, ‘Merica!

Peace . . .

Posted in Whimsical Wednesday

I’ve been challenged

She texted, from her humble abode on the west coast, “What do you think about you and I doing a 30-day stint on our blogs like we did before?”

“I could be enticed…”

“How about the month of July?”

“Might be super busy for me, but I can try.”

“No try. Do.” She was using Jedi logic on me. Shameless she is. “You know . . . we have fans. Just sayin’. We gotta give the people a little sumpin sumpin.”

Today is — what? — the 3rd? I’m a black and white kinda person, so yesterday I realized I missed posting on the 1st, and deemed the whole month a big fat failure. I tripped coming out of the gate, and now I’m just watching her hooves kick up the dirt.

I received another prompt this morning. “Not going to join me in the blog run?” After reading my texted excuses, she replied, “People need your wisdom and humor Lady!”‘

“I’m sure they think I’ve died.”

“It happens to all bloggers!”

Cue puzzled look. Death? Or writer’s block? I shrugged. Both, I guess. With no further adieu, here I am, quite alive and healthy as it turns out. If you’re up for it, I’ll be aiming for a 30-day . . . ummmm, make that 28-day, July challenge.

And if you care to check out the lead horse in this race, please follow the link to In Search of Whales

Posted in Throwback Thursday

My own little captain underpants

It was 1992, the year I would later be pregnant with my fourth child. The oldest, a girl, was at preschool, and I remember sitting on the floor at home with the boys. The elder of the two would be three in a few days, and he suddenly announced that he’d like to wear underwear.

Though toilet training was one of my least favorite obstacles as a parent, I was not caught off guard. After all, he was almost three and the suggestion had been made a number of times, with no interest on his part. Despite a drawer full of underpants, when he made the proclamation, I thought a celebratory trip to Target was in order.

I let him choose whatever style, color, and character he wanted. Not to be outdone, the younger boy decided he, too, wanted some. And if you’ve been a parent, you know — anyone showing interest gets underpants, ready or not. Before long, they had each chosen briefs depicting their favorite Power Rangers.

Once we were all buckled in the car, the older son began to forage through the bag. Finding his garments, he ripped into the plastic and tossed it aside. He held them firmly in his grip above his head. Leaning forward to his brother, and shaking them powerfully in the air, he exclaimed,

With these we can rule the world!

That was 25 years ago, and although they’ve outgrown their underpants, I think they’re still working on their world domination.

Peace . . .

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Posted in Tiny Awesome Tuesday

Non-toxic beetle control

Here’s an up-close and personal look at one of the pests I love to hate. This is the first of thousands of Japanese beetles that will alight on my Virginia creeper this year. Left unchecked, with their insatiable appetite, the beetles will strip the large plant of each and every leaf.

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If you don’t want to spray several applications of poison to control the population — and I don’t — the experts say one can simply pluck the bugs off the plant and thrust them into a bucket of soapy water. I’ve devised a more efficient and less intimate strategy.

I fill a Shop-Vac with a few inches of soapy water, hook up a long extension cord, and quite unceremoniously suck the buggers up the nozzle. It’s especially satisfying if you can catch them copulating, but that’s just me.

With their iridescent green head, I can see where one Japanese beetle mind find another utterly fetching. And if they weren’t so destructive, I might be inclined to agree. But as one who had the unique experience of feeling a Japanese beetle floundering along my scalp at 65 mph down the freeway, I will be the first to say they are completely unwelcome.

Peace . . .

Posted in Meditative Monday

The movement movement

Movement is the new exercise. Exercise is pedaling nowhere watching the miles click by on a monitor. Movement is breathing the fresh air, nodding to your neighbors and feeling the sun on your face. Movement is dance. Or stretching the kinks away, or even mowing the lawn. Movement can even be lifting weights in a sweaty gym, but not for me.

Movement is physical activity, no matter how small. Exercise is a type of physical activity, but implies counting reps or miles and following a program in the hope of achieving a level of fitness.

I love the idea of movement. But lately, I’ve been trying to be a little more vigorous about my movement without slipping into exercise. I have some autumn goals I’m looking toward, and I want to be strong and capable when they get here. For me, it’s a slippery slope to exercise. And I hate exercise. If it becomes exercise, (pardon my French, NIKE) I’ll just never do it.

Last weekend was hot and humid. It was my least favorite weather. And for a Minnesotan to say it was the worst weather of all, is saying something.

I strapped a water bottle to my bike with the intention of cycling just a little bit farther than I had the time before. And I did. Until, on the way back, I ran out of gas, so to speak. My water was warm. It was hot in the shade. Even after resting, I had trouble swinging my leg over the crossbar without losing my balance. To make a long story short, I eventually made it home safely and was fine after resting in the back yard.

Since then, I’ve had every excuse in the book why I can’t hop on my bicycle for even a few blocks. I’d ruined it for myself.

The days of rest gave me some space to assess the situation. I hadn’t practiced mindful movement. I’d made the mileage the goal. I’d turned it into exercise, which I personally equate to mental, physical and emotional torture.

So I pictured a meter. At zero is rest. At the far right is death. In between, the needle moves from leisure to torture. The sweet spot on the meter is where I find challenge. If I want to continue getting stronger, I need to push past leisurely movement and try not to venture into torture. The minute I hit torture, I’m going to shut down — physically, emotionally and psychologically — I’d literally rather sit on the couch feeling horrible about myself.

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Torture = feeling too sick, hot or tired to continue; cursing myself because I can’t do what I think I “should;” playing mind games to keep myself moving

Leisure = feeling good to get up off the couch; smiling at flowers or bugs along the way; shaking off stress

Challenge = awareness of breath and body; gratitude for the ability to move and breathe; mastery of presence — finding the sweet spot on the meter

For me, running a marathon or training for the Olympics sounds like self torture. I simply want to walk a 5k without limping across the finish line. This is the movement movement. It’s personal, it’s mindful and it feeds the body, mind and soul.

Peace . . .