Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Clean Sleep

Clean sleep.

To me, that means

sleep that is refreshing and satisfying.
sleep that fits the natural rhythms of my body
sleep that keeps me in tune with the rest of the world
sleep that feels good.

Now I've been a delayed sleep phase sleeper since I was a toddler, so I'm always struggling to maintain healthy sleep habits. But in the past few weeks, that goal has been even more elusive than usual. So I'm experimenting with some changes.

1. Clutter-free nightstand

No artsy stacks of books, 
no vases of flowers, 
no glasses of water perched on cute coasters. 

By sweeping this surface clean of clutter - even pretty clutter - my mind feels equally clean and clear as I prepare to sleep. 

2. Electronics-free sleep zone

On the best of nights, my phone used to sleep on my nightstand; worse and more often under my pillow. And while the scientific jury is still out on exactly how our devices impact our sleep, Iknow for a fact that my phone exerts a constant if subtle pressure on me to check in what's happening in the world.  I don't need that distraction, so my phone and his charger have been moved on the other side of the room. 

3. Old school alarm clock

Yes, my phone has indeed served me very well as a handy alarm clock, but that is a technology rabbit hole into which I will no longer fall. A simple clock with a straightforward alarm suits my purposes perfectly well and my phone can mind his own business. 

4. Diffuser at the ready

Eucalyptus-infused air rushes me off to dreamland and soothes my breathing - I've long known that. So rather than house this amazing machine across the room, I've brought him right alongside my bed. 

5. Silky support

For Christmas, I got this simple silk pillowcase and it is a sensory delight. When I first lay down my head, the silk is cool against my cheek; it quickly warms to a comfortably cozy temperature that lulls me to sleep. If I wake up during the night, a quick flip of the pillow allows me to reboot the process. And though my side-sleeping preference makes a slippery little eye pillow fairly useless, since it just slides off my face, I keep this one on hand for nights when a little something extra is needed to help me relax and fall off into sleep. 

* * * * *

Will any of these changes make the critical difference of getting me some clean sleep?  I can't say for sure. But the simple act of making these changes gives me a calm confidence that anything is possible, and that is a wonderful first step. 

clock | amazon
diffuser | amazon
eucalyptus oil | amazon
pillowcase | amazon

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Life Changing

Can $18 change your life? Yes. The answer is yes. 

Unscrew the lid and breathe in. 

Grapeseed oil.

The fragrance is fresh and light and natural. 
Smells like clean.

Pour some out into your hand. 

Pleasingly silky and smooth. 
Rich and just the right amount of thick.

Spread it in your hair.

Feel your scalp tingle
Gently rub it through your hair.

You can almost hear your hair saying, "Ahhhh. Thank you."

Rinse it out and towel dry. 

Feel the comb slide through tangle free hair
Look in the mirror and notice an immediate difference.

Know that your life has changed.  

* * * * *

Look, I like a good beauty product as much as the next girl. But I'm quite lazy about seeking them out.

You know, it's easy enough to select the first thing that jumps out at me in the Target aisles or more likely, buy whatever my daughters are using. But every now and then, I realize that there has got to be a better alternative to my current shampoo and actually do some research to sort out my current hair dilemma:

Dry, listless locks.
A decided lack of previously springy curls
An itchy, burning rash on any part of my skin that my current shampoo and conditioner touch. 

It took me many months to get here but it finally dawned on me that I needed something different.

This realization led me on a happy Google search that has blown my mind.

My hair doesn't need shampoo at all. 

And now that my hair is smooth and soft and happy again, it is no stretch at all to say that my life has truly changed. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Confessions Of A Crazy Plant Lady

Page Doctor Freud.
Dial up the crisis hotline. or
Cue me up a podcast that will help me learn to cope

Because I have got a serious problem.
With houseplants.

Allow me to illustrate.

As you walk through my front door, this is what you will see:

A series of four big jungly plants standing in a row and soaking up sunshine along my living room window. Each plant is supposed to be crisp and distinct; the overall effect is designed to be orderly and clean.

However, there is a fatal flaw in the execution of this plan that becomes quite apparent when you look a bit closer.

Several dozen interlopes have wandered in. 

Tree types
You name it

During the dark Pacific Northwest winter, these invaders have all come here seeking a place in the sunny south side window. In order to fit them all in, a second table has been wedged in behind the first, and still  plants overflow onto the floor. Together, they create a muddled, unseemly mess and I don't like how this looks at all. 

But let's be honest. These plants didn't walk in here on their own. I stashed them here because they desperately needed more sun than they were getting elsewhere in the house. And as much as I like to pretend that someday I will move them back, I also know that is not true. These plants simply will not thrive anywhere but here, and that gives me a huge problem. 

I have more plants than my house can handle. 

Not one or two more plants.

At least twenty too many.*

I hear what you're saying. 

Give them away. 
Find new owners on Craigslist or pass them out to your friends. 
Lots of people would love a free plant. 
They will be happy in their new homes

And I see the wisdom of that. But I can't.

They are my children, my gorgeous leafy and sometimes prickly green children, and they love living here in this glorious sunshine.

I can't part with them. But I can't live with them like this either. 

And so I contemplate my problem and try out new arrangements and consider buying grow lights, and those are all reasonable ways to resolve this mess.

But here comes the dysfunctional part. 

I want to buy more plants. 

Oh yes, I do.

And if someone doesn't come and take away my debit card, or possibly break my arm, I'm going out on Monday to buy one more plant.

And when I say one, I probably mean five. 

So please, someone tell Doctor Freud to fluff the pillows on his couch and keep the inkblots handy because I truly, desperately need help.

* There are at least ten more interloping plants currently being held in my bathtub upstairs. I don't know what to do with them, either. 

Look Who's Three!

Three years have passed since my bouncy baby, Gracie, wiggled her way into this world. Seems strange to realize that she has still lived most of her life without me, but we are changing that with every passing day.

You may recall that Gracie was born in Florida to a litter of eight - four girls and four boys. At a tender age, she and one of her sisters flew across the country to Oregon, where they settled into life with four other dogs and their mistress on a horse farm outside Portland. In many ways, life there was idyllic - and I know that because I've see the photos - but Gracie longed for more human companionship. So after about a year, she was sent off to live as the one-and-only dog of a man in the Seattle suburbs. Sadly, last summer he was diagnosed with cancer, and through a series of serendipitous connections, Gracie found her way to us.

To me. 

My fourth-born sent me this photo when I was away in South Korea for two weeks this fall. For all her blind devotion to me, Gracie thrived while I was gone and I'm proud of her resiliency. 

I didn't think I was ready for a new pup. My heart was still wrapped up in the lovely life I shared with my good dog, Ranger; still fragile from fighting the long shadows of death as they had slowly crept up and overtaken him. 

Still, I knew right away Gracie was meant to be mine. You should have seen her the first time she came into our house. Wanting to see how she would respond, I allowed her to nose through the front door, pulled off her leash, and turned her loose to explore. She sailed though every room in the house, upstairs and down, exploring every corner, her tail on maximum wag. Happy and excited, she bubbled with enthusiasm and joy.

I do love me a high-energy dog. 

My favorite (so far) photo of my dog on the run at Kalaloch Beach. 

A few fun facts about dates:

Gracie came to us on July 9, 2017. Exactly eight days after Ranger's birthday on July 1. 

And her birthday today, on January 12, is exactly eight days before the day that Ranger died, January 20, 2017.

You may call that coincidence, but I see those numbers as a lovely trail of bread crumbs laid out by God to remind me that life leads to death leads to life. 

Taken on our walk today, just after we passed the girls. 

Every day with my girl, Gracie, is an adventure in high spirits and infinite spunk. Here is a birthday story that shows exactly what I mean.

We were out on our walk this afternoon as the last light of day was fading from the sky. A damp drizzle fell quietly upon us as we strolled along the deserted sidewalks. Unfazed by the gloom, Gracie bounded up the drive from the high school practice fields, through the perimeter fence, and sprinted up the slope to see if there was any action on the soccer field today. 

It's been months since she was rewarded with the sight of humans kicking a ball around but she is an eternally optimistic girl.

I noticed two high school girls walking along the lane toward us, both wearing bulky backpacks and carrying clarinet cases. 

I watched them watch my dog putting on her little show, and even in the almost-dark, I saw smiles on their faces.
In a flash, Gracie realized the field was empty yet again, and giving up on that pursuit, came barreling back toward me. As she circled around, she finally noticed the two girls coming toward us, and in her usual instinctive way, she froze in her tracks to observe the girls. Wagging her whole body from her shoulders to the tip of her tail, Gracie beamed at them, radiating happiness and delight 

The girls noticed the effect. One of them called, "I love your dog!"

As we walked past each other, I added, "And I can see she loves you, too."

In the darkness, I once again saw their faces light up with smiles.

This is why I celebrate every day with Gracie, and I look forward to seeing what happens in her fourth year of life!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wellness Of The Soul

Eliminating the things you love is not wellness. 
Wellness feeds your soul and makes you feel good. -Iman

Here we are, ten days into the new year, and from what I can see, the resolution game is still strong.

Wellness seems to be a hot topic for 2018 resolutions. I'm seeing granola bars and tangerines in my students' family cookie plates and candy dishes, and folks wearing fitbits walking briskly around the neighborhood whom I have never seen before. 

And that's good. Diet and exercise matter. I am all for fresh fruit.

But I wonder if there is more to wellness than pulse rates and BMI counts. 

To be honest, I'm done beating myself up over the state of my body. I do the best that I can to eat right and exercise, and I am learning to forgive myself for my inevitable imperfections. 

I am more concerned with the wellness of my mind and my soul. 

Quite by accident, I listened to a podcast yesterday that suggested the following exercise: 

Define three things about yourself that have always been true. For a point of reference, look back to who you were in kindergarten, and connect the dots between that person and who you are today. 

Here's what I came up with:

1. Visual storyteller
2. Compassionate listener
3. Organized doer

The idea is to let those qualities lead you into making decisions about your life. Let them become your own personal North Star, a true and unchanging picture of who you are, and a guide to where you should go. Move in the direction of those parts of yourself; set priorities so that you can not only exercise but grow in these characteristics. 

It's been less than 24 hours since I formulated my list but I've already noticed that my head feels clear and more certain. I see which parts of my life connect with this newly defined concept of who I am, and which parts do not. I'm energized to try new things in 2018, confident that I will be able to tell what's good for me, and what's not so good.

To me, this new picture of myself feels like the emotional equivalent of at bite from a fresh, snappy apple. It's only a first step, but my soul feels well indeed

Birthday Roses

These are my birthday roses. 

Now normally, I prefer the simple roses that grow in my garden. Just five or six petals, easy and carefree, they glow in the sunshine and flutter like light-hearted butterflies.

But my birthday roses show me something far more complex. The rows of ruffled petals circle round and round, doubling back on themselves, repeating patterns but never quite the same. Some lie in deep shadow, others fan out into the light. Each petal is different and contributes to the beauty of the overall blossom in its own way. And at the center, a new petal waits, still tightly curled but ready to stretch and grow, adding one more layer of fullness and beauty to the flower.

My birthday roses inspire me to love all the birthdays of my past, and prepare me for an exciting new year to come. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Good And Right

"I love to cook, and I love to have all my family around the dinner table." -Julia Roberts

A few years ago, I started another tradition. See those photos at the far end of the table? They are members of our family who were born in January and have now passed on to the next life. I like to have them with me too.

With my third-born back home for a week over Christmas, I quickly and easily slipped back into my old habit of setting six plates on the table. It felt good and right to do so.

Now it's January. Even though my adventuring daughter has long since hopped a plane back to South Korea, I am still setting a place for her. This may seem silly, odd, or downright neurotic to those who do not have offspring living on the Asian continent, but for me, it feels good and right to do so.

I reset the table every night after dinner and swap the plates around so the sixth plate 
doesn't get dusty. Because that would be weird.

Her plate silently reminds me that, in time, she will be back. And that too feels good and oh, so right.