self care

My favorite things: nature

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Sharing an heirloom variety nasturtium flower from my vegetable garden with my granddaughter brought me great joy!

As far back as I can remember I have been curious about nature, both flora and fauna.

Behind our little house in South Miami, when I was in junior high, I had a container garden. I had taken an old picnic table bench, a few pots, and soil from the area around our banana trees in the backyard.

I grew tropical plants, but also cultivated bonsai.

In our front yard, we had a huge ficus tree. One of my favorite things when I was between 8 and 13 was to climb among the tree’s dense foliage and hide. I loved looking down upon my family members knowing that they couldn’t find me.

But it was mostly the shade and cool leaves that refreshed my tired and stressed soul. This tree fed me in ways that food couldn’t.

 

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When I was in my 20s, we moved to the Texas Hill Country. I learned to enjoy day hikes and fishing. I loved to pitch my tent in one of Texas’ amazing state parks and sleep among the live oaks, cedar and hunting, scavenging amardillos.

When I was in my 30s I purchased my first digital camera. While I captured my children playing, climbing, jumping and celebrating holidays and birthdays, I as often pointed my camera at my garden plants, the plant life I encountered in my yard and on neighborhood walks, and the occasional egret, pelican and seagull (because we were living in St. Petersburg, Florida).

Many, many years later, I landed in Connecticut where I am still (but only until this summer where I will join my heart which I left in Texas in 1992).

Connecticut is beautiful.

I remember clearly the moment in October 1999 when we reached the state of Connecticut with a minivan full of kids, a cat, and our suitcases. I declared  that the whole state is like a park.

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My years here, though painful in many ways, have given me access to a level of nature I had never known before, especially when we moved to a small town to live on a few acres of land in the woods.

After becoming sick with Lyme disease and not recovering, I was reminded that nature could be cruel.

What I had once loved became frightening for me as I was reinfected with Lyme disease multiple times.

One day I just decided that I was going to go outside and walk in the grass again. I had hidden from nature for years  out of fear of reinfection.

I decided to grow a vegetable garden again. I planted some ornamental plants in the flower beds and began to spread wildflower seeds from plants that popped up around the property.

And I photographed it all.

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Yes, I found deer ticks on me, but I was sick already. So what?

My time in the garden fed my soul.

I took walks on many of the hike and bike trails in nearby towns.

My body ached, but my soul was nourished.

And I knew that no matter what happens in life, I must never again stay away from nature, because it is definitely one of my favorite things.

 

My favorite things

I have been singing “My Favorite Things” from Sound of Music all morning.

 

When I became a mother I believed that my children had to come first, no matter the cost to myself. For awhile this devotion made me happy.

I bought into the motherhood = martyrdom myth.

I have since dismissed this particular concept and replaced it with one that is much healthier.

I believe in the importance of my own happiness and its pursuit. And the hard truth is that no one else is going to make me happy.

Although I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, I have decided to make the focus of 2017 my own happiness.

This is not the same as discovering what causes unhappiness.

This is a much more positive focus.

What makes me happy? Is it stuff, experiences, choices or money?

What do I need to do or not do to be happy? Is it an active pursuit or merely learning to appreciate what I have?

I will try to share something at least once a week as I make discoveries. I would love to hear what you do to make yourself happy, too.

What will make you happy?

Sharing an heirloom variety nasturtium flower from my vegetable garden with my granddaughter brought me great joy!

Sharing an heirloom variety nasturtium flower from my vegetable garden with my granddaughter brought me great joy!

My daughter is in town for two weddings. One has occurred, the vows spoken, the first dance danced, and the couple away on their new life. The other is this weekend.

In a quiet moment, I asked my daughter if she was happy. I was sad at the response I got but we talked about what to do to pursue that happiness.

Women have been slaves to the institution of marriage and family for thousands of years. The biggest change that has occurred in the past century is that women can examine their lives and ask themselves, or let someone else ask them, if they are happy.

If the answer is in the negative, women have the power and opportunity to change the course of their lives in pursuit of happiness.

There is nothing selfish or ugly about asking yourself if you are happy. If you are, wonderful! If you are doing exactly what you want to be doing, or are content being where you are, excellent!

But, if you are not sure, if you are feeling discontented, unhappy, or are in an abusive situation, it is time to ask the question and then honestly evaluate the answer.

I will not say that women have a right to be happy. We all know that is a pipe dream. Happiness is a fleeting feeling, one that eludes most of us most of the time. Yet, if we are not happy, women have the right to pursue happiness just like our beloved Founding Fathers expressed in the Declaration of Independence. They were so forward thinking that they didn’t even realize that that document included women and minorities. But it did. Just like the Bible speaking to and of man means mankind, male and female, equally.

Women are masters at martyrdom. We know how to suck it up, do what’s right, and meet needs right and left. We care for others, put the needs of others before our own, and neglect ourselves in droves. We are so good at it that we don’t even realize that we are unhappy.

What makes me happy? College makes me happy. Spending time with my kids helping them find their voices makes me happy. Nature photography and gardening make me happy. Having control over my own life makes me very, very happy. So I focus on those things. They are all challenging, which is a big part of the happiness factor in them. I paid a high price for the right and ability to engage in these activities. It was well worth it.

What makes you happy?

Extreme Multitasking

IMG_0340It is the end of the semester, almost. Standing between me and closure on this semester are two research papers, one final exam, and a myriad of tasks for the honor society, including attending an event.

The list of what I have already accomplished this morning is long. Yet, I don’t feel as though I have accomplished anything because each task completed was merely a small part of larger projects, and none of my big three To Do’s have been given enough attention (yes, I am being extremely self-critical).

You see, I am a task-oriented individual. I do not consider activity, even small accomplishments, as true accomplishments. A completed project is a true accomplishment to me. As much as I talk about the journey being my focus, the part of me that is task-oriented is still very much alive. This creates conflict within me a lot.

When I have a really long list of responsibilities and projects looming before me, I then get overwhelmed. My ADHD doesn’t help with this, either. Nor does three days of eating poorly.

What do I have going?

IMG_0341I have two projects opened on one of my laptops: the honor society newsletter and one of my research papers waiting for formatting in MS Word and a revision.

I have two monitors connected to my desktop computer: Monitor 1 has another research paper open. Monitor 2 has this blog post, Google Drive with honor society doc waiting for composition (I typed the title), scholarly sources chosen for the research paper on Monitor 1, research for an honor society project, the honor society’s Facebook page, and Gmail.

Ah, my phone just began making this wonderfully relaxing sound reminding me to stop and “Breathe.” I stop whatever I am doing and take at least 5 deep breaths at 9:30 a.m. every day. Sometimes I only take three. Today I took four.

Something has to give. I am closing the research paper document on the desktop computer. The first research paper on my laptop needs a revision and formatting before this afternoon’s class where I hope my professor will give it a quick scan and make suggestions — ding ding — a priority. The honor society newsletter needs to be completed and printed out for tomorrow’s event, but is not urgent for today. I need to close that. I will complete this post in a few minutes and close this tab. I will close all of the research tabs because I have downloaded those sources to my computer. I will type up what is essential in the Google Doc I started.

There, that’s better.

I brought some order to my insanely disordered workspace. Hopefully, this will also help my brain focus better.

A few more deep breaths and ten minutes on my recumbent exercise bicycle is a must. Oxygen to the brain . . . yes, I need oxygen.

Extreme multitasking is not a good idea. Closing tabs, exiting applications, creating a little more order, and taking care of ME were the order of this woman’s morning. Yep, that is much better.