The Promises of June

IMG_2052The first day of June ushered in blue skies, warm sunlight, and whispering breezes temporarily halting days of cool,damp, and rainy weather. I am in love with June.

 

June is calling out to me today, reminding me of all its sweet glory.  It gently takes my hand leading me back to childhood when losing myself in the moment came without effort. Long warm days fade into mild and magical twilights beckoning us to find the first fireflies of the season. On cooler, clear nights the stars awaken us to the wonder and awe of our world and ourselves. Lying in the hammock listening to the leaves rustle and watching the clouds roll by invites stillness. Soaking up the sunlight while lying on the grass restores us. Serving fresh strawberries, iced tea, s’mores, and popsicles bring us together creating memories that bind us. And then, when we feel we’ve had our fill, June sends us sun showers, rainbows, and puddles of warm rain water to refresh us. Sigh. I hope June, wherever you are, is generous to you.

-Jen

Better Late Than Never

Beautiful May is upon us. The trees are flowering, the birds are building nests, and allergies have wiped out three out of five members of the Miller family. I am one of the two lucky ones not to be affected by the misery. While the other three stumble around with bloodshot eyes and stuffed noses I have been busy decluttering these last seven days. We had a dumpster brought in last Friday to haul away a rotting shed and swing set that we finally laid to rest. In the meantime, I’ve been combing through every nook and cranny of my house looking for stuff to toss as this opportunity only lasts seven more days before the dumpster is removed. This mad exercise in decluttering, sorting, tossing, and donating have thrown me off my game for the month of May. So here I am, four days in, and I do not have a 30 day goal. And I really don’t have any intentions either.

Ah, the guilt. The guilt of not sticking to my New Year’s plan to create goals and intentions for each month have been eating at me these last few days. I do know that I want to continue to declutter and either make donations or toss that which is unusable. I know that I won’t be able to really focus on anything else until I am done with this.  It is an obsession. It seems appropriate then that I should only focus on that for the month of May.  It is enough. And when I am not decluttering I’m just going to do the next best thing…whatever that may be. Besides, the never ending rotation of domestic responsibilities makes sure I am never bored. So it appears I’m free styling the month of May and it promises to end with even more physical space both inside and outside my home.

Happy May!

-Jen

Life Through My Microwave

The other day I popped open my microwave to heat up my lunch and I was immediately overwhelmed. Just the sight of sauce splattered all over the inside filled me with defeat. “Now, I have to clean this too”, I thought to myself as a whole month of feeling out of sorts came to a head. My spirit sunk. Most of April was a mental struggle for me.

I’ve been wanting to write and stay true to the intention of my blog but I fell flat every time I tried to bring myself to write. I told myself I had nothing worthy to say. In addition, I never felt truly inspired by my monthly goal nor my intentions for April. I remember I struggled to come up with a goal and intentions that were meaningful and I was uncertain I had chosen correctly. I desperately wanted that feeling of certainty and motivation to appear. Neither were present.

Despite feeling disconnected from my April challenges, and uncomfortably fixated on a host of other things I have limited control over, I mostly persevered.  I did read more (In Farleigh Field: A Novel of World War II) and I had over 200 photos printed from my iPhone. They’re scheduled to arrive today! I also found new rackets and birdies for our bad mitton set. And I spent two wonderful days hiking with my son at Laughing Brook and Fannie Stebbins Wildlife Sanctuary.  I must say, just the act of writing down what I did accomplish changes my perspective in a most positive direction. I just realized this.

Well, the microwave has yet to be cleaned, but it didn’t fill me with dread when I opened it this morning. I guess that’s a good sign. I will give it a good scrub soon! And I’ve learned that monthly goals and intentions are worth it even if you don’t “feel” them. For me, just having them gives me direction and yields positive results even if I don’t notice them right away. And the act of writing is a powerful medium through which one can see more clearly.

I’m looking forward to May with the knowledge that how you feel and what you can accomplish don’t always match up and that’s OK.

 

-Jen

 

Happy April!

We are so lucky today in southern New England because it is a fabulously beautiful spring day – a complete 180 from the winter storm that brought more snow and tons of sleet Friday through Saturday. Last night, my friends and I all commiserated over the winter that won’t stop and through talking we came up with some great ideas of things to do together this spring. I feel hopeful and spring-like, as if the winter clouds have lifted and retreated.  (Well, they literally did, today.) Friends are good medicine. I’m also excited about my new 30 day challenge and April intentions.

For my 30 day challenge for this month I will be reading a book for a minimum of ten minutes each day for 30 days. I love to read, but during the last two months I’ve almost completely stopped reading books. I read a lot of news articles and blog posts but they don’t bring me the satisfaction that a good book brings. It’s like eating potato chips all day and rarely eating a proper meal. Anyway, life is so crazy with three kids that I feel I really need to make reading a priority.

My April intentions will revolve around creating stronger family ties. I pledge to edit,  upload, and develop our photos from our trip out west this past February and create an album for everyone to reminisce. I also plan to buy ladder ball and a new badminton set to play outside with the family as the weather will soon be nice enough to spend more time outdoors.  And I plan on taking my son hiking throughout the next several months so we can observe the changing seasons together.  I am so excited for April! And naturally, I plan on spending as much time outdoors as possible.

I hope April where you are is full of warmth and signs of new life.

Until next time,

Jen

Waiting for Spring

Today was the first day the sun appeared in at least five days casting long shadows across my yard as it rose over the mountain. Unfortunately, big puffy clouds rolled in by mid morning alternately hiding and revealing the sun in a game of peak-a-boo. I took the opportunity, nonetheless, to take my walk outside hoping to capture the power of the sun’s intermittent light to energize me and bring me out of my funk. The leftover snow from the last winter storm was finally melting giving way to a short ragged lawn. A flock of robins spread out looking for early spring worms in our large side yard. I tried to sniff out the smell of spring but I  was left disappointed by the absence of anything discernible to my sense of smell.  I reached the end of my street and turned around to give it another go. My heart and legs got a great work out thanks to the steep hill on the next street but my spirits never lifted and I felt even more lousy than I had before I took the walk. This is highly unusual for me to feel so dispirited after a walk outside. It only added to my sense of melancholy. I soon felt a headache coming on so I took some pain medication and lied down on the couch and caught up on a couple of shows I had missed.

Winter started late here in New England and it just doesn’t want to go away. The forecast is calling for another winter storm this weekend. Sigh. I haven’t even found a single crocus blooming anywhere. I really think this weather is getting to me. The days are longer and the birds are singing but the weather has not received the memo. But then again, March has never really caught onto spring.  Despite this fact, I am desperate to feel the heat of the sun, to take in the scent of the warming earth, to see the swelling of buds, and witness the first spring flowers come into their glory.  It seems the older I get the more I want spring to arrive now! I simply am unable to accept what is and therein lies the problem. I guess I’ll go light a candle and make a cup of tea.

How is the weather where you are? Are you experiencing the glories of spring or are you still entrenched in winter? I would delight in your beautiful spring or commiserate in your never-ending winter;-)

On the Right Path: My March Review

IMG_1992I discovered a myriad of trails up in the mountain at the end of our street last fall.  I was so excited when I discovered this bridge that led to a beautiful trail near the top. There’s something mysterious, adventurous, exciting, and hopeful about discovering new trails and following them into the unknown. —

 

Despite this long, cold, snowy, and dreary March I have been extraordinarily focused on my intentions to be an active listener, responsive to bids for attention, ready with a warm smile and greeting for all who cross my path, and to be less sarcastic.  But I must admit that I wasn’t perfect. PMS dragged me off the path last week and I was a bit grumpy and I needed a lot of personal space just to stay sane. I felt bad about not responding kindly to my husband whose every move and question directed at me was sometimes seen as smothering and annoying. And I jumped down my daughter’s throat over a couple of things she did surprising myself over how quickly and loudly I reacted. Not a good feeling. Thank God that passed. I’m sure everyone else is glad too. I have since doubled-down on my intentions and continue to make lists to direct my energies each day.

I am very pleased with my 31 days of making lists of things to do. I am getting more done during the day and freeing up my mind from having to think about what to do next and worrying that I have forgotten something. In turn, I have gained more energy to focus better on my intentions which, with the exception of a few days last week, have become more routine and a part of my everyday interactions with my families and those around me. It has allowed me to be more mindful. I love that! I will not be giving up list-making anytime soon. I plan on continuing to employ it and expanding it to help master different areas of my life. I also plan to carry my March intentions into April with my next set of intentions.

At the beginning of 2017 I wrote that I wanted to cultivate new daily, monthly, and yearly habits to enrich my mind, body, and soul. I chose cultivate as my word of the year. The dirt has been turned over and the seeds have been planted. And I can feel the seeds swelling with potential. I am looking forward to tending to The Garden Within over the next several months. Spring can’t come soon enough.

-Jen

The Power of List-Making

I have been making myself a daily to-do list since March 1 as per my 31 day challenge. I reasoned that producing and using a to-do list would help me better enact my monthly intentions. See Matters of the Heart: Take Two. Ironically, my to-do list had absolutely nothing to do with my intentions. It contained mundane things like change sheets in master bedroom, sign paperwork, pay bills, clean and organize desk, rsvp to the party, etc.  Sometimes I listed everything I needed to do. Other times I listed only the most pressing things I needed to deal with. Writing down what I needed to do freed my mind from constantly having to remember everything allowing me more energy to connect better with my family. Or, at least, that’s what I’m betting on.

First and foremost, making lists reduced my anxiety. I am a very anxious person and I have a tendency to avoid things that are new and unfamiliar. Just this morning I conquered the first thing on my list, which for most people, would not produce a fight or flight response: researching how to register a new used car. Yup. But as soon as I started to research the steps I needed to take I felt better. Unfortunately, tomorrow I need to actually take the steps and that alone gives me anxiety. I rarely deal with either my insurance agent (I think that’s good news) or the RMV (I do everything online). Ugh. Somehow putting it on my list takes the edge off.  And if you’re overwhelmed by too many mundane tasks a list can help you prioritize.

The other benefit I discovered from making lists is how focused it keeps me. Sometimes, when I finish one chore or errand, I go blank. I have to think about what I need to do next.  Time is possibly  wasted or worse, I may even forget to do something.  I have been a more efficient person since using my to-do list every day. I now have special lists for certain days of the week that keep certain areas of my life in check.

The other wonderful benefit of making lists and using them (Yes, you actually have to use the list!) is the increase in my satisfaction with my day and myself. Crossing off each thing as I complete it makes me feel accomplished and in control. But I also don’t fret if I don’t get to everything. The list is a guide, not a punishment. Undone errands can be forwarded to another day. Life is messy and things change. We just got hit with a massive blizzard that has resulted with all three kids being home from school both yesterday and today. Let’s just say my to-do lists changed these last two days. Oh, and they have St. Patrick’s Day off too. Uncle!

I believe the power lies in making and using this list EVERY DAY. Even if all you get done is one thing. Don’t wait until you’re inspired or feeling overwhelmed and then forget about it when you return to your “normal”. I use a pretty inexpensive spiral bound journal. I write down the date and write down things as soon as I think of them. Sometimes I write my list before I go to bed or before I start my day and I add to it as I need to. I carry it into the kitchen and place it next to my coffee-maker so I can refer to it during the day.

Now, has it helped my to connect with my family better by freeing up mental energy to better focus on my intentions? Well, I cannot offer any scientific proof, but I do know that when I’m anxious and feeling overwhelmed I would be less likely to respond to bids for attention from my family, greet them warmly, not be sarcastic, and practice active listening. I believe I am calmer and I will continue to make my to-do lists and I will let you know my final thoughts at the end of March.

What about you? Do you make daily to-do lists? How do they work for you?

-Jen

 

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