Monthly Archives: October 2016



Such an odd post this is going to be. Just a warning straight out of the starting block.

Bowls — I adore them. They do such hard work in my kitchen. This time of year I’m eating oatmeal in the morning, Buddha Bowls for lunch, and soup for dinner.

My favorite dishes are my Fiesta Ware. They are so colorful and cheerful looking on a shelf. However, they are really heavy. Also, they get really hot when you’re holding one full of warm food.

I love to sit on the porch with Jasper (usually in the glider) and eat my morning meal. This means I’m normally holding my bowl, sometimes wrapped in a napkin for easy wiping and keeping the heat from getting to my hands. Unfortunately, the combination of heat, holding, and damage to my thumb means I often drop bowls. Fiesta Ware does not bounce very well. Just a few weeks ago I broke 3 bowls in the span of 6 days. Not good and not sustainable either.

The answer for most people is a plastic bowl. But, I don’t do plastic. I say no to plastic bags, plastic spoons/forks/knives, plastic cups . . . So I faced the challenge of finding a bowl that I liked, that wasn’t plastic, that could be filled with hot food and not scorch my hands, and could, if necessary, take a tumble and still remain whole.

First up: bamboo fiber bowls from Target. I love the idea of these. They look like plastic, feel like plastic, but aren’t plastic. They are colorful. They are a great size. However, they really transfer the heat to your hands. Also, while they handle a fall from your lap to the porch, they do not handle falling from the counter. Nor do they handle a full fledged thumb spazz — as Hannah so gleefully tested and proved. I still have one and I’ll use it for things like popcorn. Lastly, I’m not really sure how you would recycle these. I’m pretty sure they can’t go in the compost bin, and they definitely can’t go to the local recycling place, and that means any fragments just become garbage. Not cool.

Second up: Acacia wood bowl from Pacific Merchants. This bowl I adore. It is a beautiful wooden bowl. The size is perfect for oatmeal, Buddha bowls and soup. It can handle the heat, but due to the thickness doesn’t transfer it so quickly. I can normally eat the whole bowl of oatmeal before I notice the bowl is warm. Thankfully I haven’t dropped it yet, but from reading reviews I think it will be fine. And if one breaks, it is easy to recycle — straight into the compost bin.

I’ve been using it for a week and taking care of it is quite simple. I rinse it out immediately, then wash with warm soapy water, dry thoroughly, and once a week I’ll coat it with a bit of sesame oil. It is also great because it gets me in the habit of washing my dishes immediately after eating. In fact, I generally make the dish water as I head to the porch or table so it is ready as soon as I finish.

Working at Play

Remember how I said I’m not very good at play (October 6, 2016 post)? As I read that section in The Gifts of Imperfection, I realized that it has been a long time since I played. A long time since I let myself be that vulnerable to the world.

Brene Brown’s definition of play was that it is purposeless — meaning we play for the pleasure of playing, for the sheer joy of doing (whatever it is we’re doing), just because we love what we are doing. That’s actually a pretty meaty definition.

I joked in that post that I wondered if binge watching my shows count as play. It turns out that is a pretty good question to ask. I think I, unintentionally, got to the heart of the matter. Watching a show (in a solid chunk) is something that actually gives me a great deal of pleasure. So using that as a basis I asked myself a couple of questions. 1–What do I do that I love? And 2–What do I currently do as a “task” that really should be play.

I spent a couple of weeks logging time in my journal. I noticed a couple of interesting patterns.

Pattern 1: While I wore a Fitbit (like for 10 years) I logged a walk by the number of steps/number of miles I walked. After taking off the Fitbit I began to describe my walk by amount of time I spent out on the road or where I turned around, what the weather was like, and I started taking a picture each morning during my walk. I began putting the pictures on Instagram. I’m not walking because I need to log the steps, I’m walking because I enjoy being on the road, taking in my surroundings, and taking the picture. I’m not trying to be good at walking. I’m not trying to take good pictures. BOOM! I’m playing! My morning walk is play.

Pattern 2: I read a lot. My books typically fall into 2 categories: reading for pleasure and reading to learn. When I’m reading for pleasure, I’m not trying to check a book off a list, I’m not trying to learn something; I’m simply enjoying the pleasure of being transported to another time, another place, another reality, another me. So reading for pleasure is playing.

Pattern 3: Again, there are two types of watching that I do: watching for pleasure and watching to learn. Watching a show just because I love the storytelling is just about the same as reading for pleasure, it’s just a little more passive. Some people feel that passive is bad or not worthwhile, but I disagree. There are times when I just want to sit back and let someone else drive. Watching for pleasure definitely fits the bill. So watching for pleasure is playing.

I’m still playing with the puppy (and apparently still calling him a puppy) and I’m slowly starting to think of it as playing for me too and not just burning off his energy or trying to teach him something new. And interestingly enough, he’s learning to come much better now that “come on” isn’t the point of running around the yard.

Seasonal Shift

We are knee deep into October and our chores around here have shifted from the warm weather plant-grow-cut-grow-cut-sweat rhythm to a more relaxed pace.

My warm weather days all start the same:  get up and take a walk.  Because if you aren’t out there with the rising sun you are going to bake, sweat, and deal with humidity best left to southern states (in my opinion).    Everything else can wait or if it can’t then the walk just doesn’t happen.  I might just jump on the rebounder, or I might use a video, but normally for me it is walk or don’t walk.

The rest of the early day is spent trying to keep up with all the living, growing, needy things:  grass needs cutting, weeds need pulling, plants need tending, rabbits need feeding/watering/cooling down. The afternoon becomes a time of hiding from the heat and humidity and attempting to get the housekeeping chores done.

I welcome the cooler weather with open arms, sweatshirts, and leggings.  I love autumn temperatures and the slowing down of the summer pace.  Michael just cut the grass for what is probably the last time, the garden has been left to itself for a couple of weeks now, and all the berry bushes have been trimmed.  The rabbits are moving into their more weather proof homes and enjoying the sunshine that filters down to them through the rapidly falling leaves.

I still rise before the sun, but now it is for yoga and meditation.  I’ve been following the morning routine that Ayurveda recommends for Vata people.  Which means I also get to enjoy a nice warm bowl of steel cut oats before heading out for a walk.  That gives the day a moment to warm up and the oatmeal helps me keep warm out there too.   I like that now my daily walking gets divided up to shorter walks after each meal.  This shift feels much more healthy to me and for me.






Joy & Happiness vs Fear & Scarcity

In The Gifts of Imperfection Brene Brown says that we don’t fix (fear of) scarcity with abundance but with sufficient (enough).

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. I’ve been drawn to voluntary simplicity for a decade now. It began as a spiritual practice and has influenced all areas of my life. I had never considered that I might be drawn to it as an answer to fear of scarcity.

However in reading through this section, again, I noticed that I often feel a lack of . . .sleep, time, and health. So while I’ve gotten control of fear of scarcity concerning money and possessions, I’ve never addressed these other more nebulous areas.

I think it is easy when dealing with an auto-immune disorder to chalk a lot of feelings up to how you’re physically feeling each day. It does seem that days when I wake up achy, dull, and swollen that is much harder to express courage, compassion, and even connection with others. I often just want to curl up into a ball and have the world go away. And on those days when I wake up feeling great everything just seems to fall into place and it’s easier to be the authentic me.

I’ve been working for a little over 4 weeks (at the time I’m writing this) with an Ayurvedic counselor. The work has been enlightening from a purely physical viewpoint, but also because it brings to mind so much of what I remember from this book. Physically I am feeling better than I have in a very long time. The dietary and lifestyle changes put into place were difficult at first, but as I began to build routines and habits they are becoming almost second nature. As I have felt better and better, I’ve noticed that all that soul work really laid the groundwork for this endeavor.

I’m learning how routine creates a sense of “enough” in the areas of food, sleep, time, movement, and health. As I sense “enough” in these areas, I feel the gifts of happiness and freedom flowing back into that area of my life again. My story continues to include this disorder, but slowly it is being pushed into a corner where it can inform but not control my sense of well-being.

Since happiness is an emotion based on circumstances, I realize that it was never my joy that this disease was taking. It was my happiness. When I ask myself what would make today awesome and then when I journal what made that day joyful, I think I have been focusing more on happy than true joy. As I read back through my journal I noticed these were all things that effected my emotions.

Happiness comes and goes, but true joy is a bit like a light in my soul. It is there just waiting for a chance to shine. So starting today I’m going to work on having two lists. One for what would make me happy. The second for where I saw true joy displayed in my life. I think the distinction is important and this is one way I can acknowledge that distinction.

Shampoo Bar

Shampoo Bar

Shampoo Bar

*Note: I was not paid to review this product nor did I receive the product for free. I bought it as a normal customer in need of a product.*

My journey to this particular shampoo bar is long and winding.  For years I used regular shampoo and never worried a bit about it.  Then a friend of mine in TN began making shampoo bars and I loved them! Seriously loved them.  Life happened and she quit making them.  Then I found a local place that made them with milk and lard as two of the ingredients.  I used it for a while, but always had trouble reconciling my usage with the treatment of pigs I saw at Fair Oaks Farms (which was horrible).  So I finally quit using that particular bar.  Then came Burt’s Bees Gud Shampoo.  This was a nice alternative,  but it still has a few ingredients I’m not super happy about.

Finally I stumbled across this brand:  Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve.  Setting up an account and ordering was a breeze.  Shipping was prompt and delivery was USPS. Communication with the company through emails was streamlined,

The Dead Sea Spa facial soap is simply heavenly.  Smooth as silk and rinses so clean.  I’ve been using it in the evening before bed followed by my face serum (homemade using Argan Oil and essential oils).  I ordered a sample and it was quite big.  I’ve been using it a little more than a month and haven’t even put a dent in the bar.

The Ayurveda Shampoo Bar is out of this world fantastic.  I heeded the advice card that came with it and used an Apple Cider Vinegar rinse everyday for the first week.  It made the transition seamless.  I’ve been playing around with the frequency of the ACV rinse and have settled on every third day now.  I may go back to every other day as the air gets drier in winter. It is so nice not to have static!  My hair feels incredibly soft; it is super shiny; and best of all it feels thicker.  This shampoo produces a rich lather that I use to wash my face in the shower –but, it also makes for a great shaving soap.

I hate to admit it, but I haven’t used the Cafe Moreno shampoo bar yet.  I’m so in love with the Ayurveda one I cannot imagine shampooing without it.

I highly recommend this company and these particular products. I also bought my daughter the sea salt and seaweed facial soap.  I will try to get a picture of it and her thoughts in another post.

The Gifts of Imperfection, part 3

Today is my final post in this series on the book The Gifts of Imperfection. Three short sections to work through and then a wrap up /book review.

Calm and Stillness:  Letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle. Calmness is perspective and mindfulness while managing emotional reactivity. Stillness is time for meditation, prayer, quiet reflection, and alone time. Both of these are practices that give us an emotionally clutter free space.

Calmness — I am an “under-function-er” when it comes to stress, particularly emotional stress. Some people might take the bull by the horns, get all up in your business, and generally take charge. Sometimes whether or not you want all that help–in fact, usually without even thinking you might not want that.

I, on the other hand, I under-function: I get less competent under stress; I withdraw; I sleep; I hide. Meditation is very good for me. When I feel that first tingle of emotional stress, I take 3 deep breaths and if possible sit my butt down on blanket and breath some more. I’ve learned to say things like, “I need some time to think about that.” Email and texting are super awesome for someone like me. Nobody knows for sure when you see an email or text and so if it is an emotional land mine for me, I take a step away from my phone, sit down and breath, and then come back to it.

Stillness — There are two things that give structure to my day and also allow me time to be still.  I start each day with a morning routine that includes the morning devotion and Bible reading from the Book of Common Prayer and then straight onto the floor for yoga and meditation (I use Headspace).  Each day ends the same way, only in reverse–yoga, meditation, and then Compline (again from the Book of Common Prayer).

Meaningful Work: Meaningful work is sharing your gifts and talents with the world in whatever way you can. It doesn’t have to be sexy, it doesn’t have to be full of hustle, it just has to be something lifegiving for you and for others. For me, right now, meaningful work is helping my son through a difficult time; answering text after text from moms with kids recently diagnosed with ASD; writing this blog (that reaches all 4 of you 😉 ); and working with my parish on a grant project. None of these things brings a single penny to our family budget, but they are all lifegiving to me and I hope to others.

Laughter, Song & Dance: Letting go of being cool and always in control. Laughter, song and dance are three ancient forms of self-expression. Everyone does them and not everyone does them gracefully. They remind us we are not alone. I have my polite public laugh and then I have my “Oh my God, I’m snorting water through my nose and holding my sides, trying not to pee in my pants” laugh. Occasionally the signals get crossed and the public gets to witness me in full on laughter.

I can sing with the best of them. Unfortunately the best of them don’t want me singing out loud. I somehow missed the memo on how to make your voice do notes that are similar to the notes those around you are singing. So I mostly keep my singing to times when I am alone (although Kelly, Michael and Hannah have to listen — it’s in our family contract). There is nothing that lifts my spirits more than belting out a boy band song (or some classic Donny Osmond) while hoofing it up a hill on my walk or when scrubbing toilets or when cleaning the fridge (my two least favorite household tasks).

Church presents a unique form of torture for me . . . . Have you ever attended an Episcopal church service (or Anglican for my Brit readers)? Good Lord, they can sing. I think it must be something they put in the baptismal font, which would explain how I missed it, I was baptized Methodist. Dang! My heart wants to belt it out, but my brain says “hey man, step back, be cool, don’t kill Kathy (she sits in front of me) with that awfulness.”

I know, I know . . . The gifts of imperfection. Embrace your vulnerabilities. I’m trying, really I am. This book came to me at the perfect time. I’ve done a lot of soul work over the past 20 months and was ready to step beyond it. This book reaffirmed what my counselor from 30 years ago and my counselor from 20 months ago told me. The skill sets are the same. You are enough and your gifts of imperfection are those things that help you embrace your story.

Courage, Compassion, Connection:: My story matters because I matter.

**edited to add:  Since I wrote this post in September, I’ve tried moving seats in church.  This way nobody, especially Kathy, sits in front of me and I feel free to attempt a more vocal participation in the singing.**

The Gifts of Imperfection, part 2

Part 2 of my summary of The Gifts of Imperfection.

Garatitude and Joy:  Both gratitude and joy are spiritual practices. This means they are not attitudes (which are just ways of thinking) but practices (which are ways of being). Happy (emotion based on circumstances) is not the same as joy (which is often felt in spite of circumstances). You must choose each day to be grateful and joyful.

One way I do that is in my journal. Each morning I ask what can I do (realistically do, not dreamily wish for) to make today joyful — it helps to phrase it “What would make today awesome?” Then as the day progresses I check in and incorporate those things into my day. Each evening I list those things that made the day full of joy. Sometimes my morning list and my afternoon list are very different. Joy comes in surprising places. I’ve always kept a gratitude list in my journal. Most people say you should write your list down each evening. I prefer to start my day reviewing the things I am grateful for from the day before or even things from the middle of the night.

Brene Brown says the opposite of joy is fear (and specifically fear of scarcity). We see this in our lives as worry, anxiety, fearfulness . . . and we don’t fix scarcity with abundance but with enough. For the past 10 years I have been practicing voluntary simplicity. I have found in it a realization that enough is more than adequate.

Intuition and Trusting Faith: Intuition is a rapid fire, unconscious associating process. Observe-scan for existing patterns-reach conclusion; occasionally this is so fast it just seems as if you know without knowing how you know. Sometimes the answer is clear and sometimes the answer is more input needed. Anne Lamott says, “The opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty”. I think what this means to me is that some things are a mystery and I just have to have enough courage to to believe what I cannot see.

Creativity:  I don’t normally think of myself as a creative person. I can’t draw, paint, sing (well, I can sing, but nobody wants to hear it), write a novel, or any of those things that are typically thought of. What I can do is cultivate and curate meaning. I like to make sense of things — not like science facts, just life. I like to see the patterns in life and express those patterns. For me this often takes the form of journal type entries on this blog,

The biggest hinderance to creativity is comparison. Comparison is all about conformity and competition. And I have to say I am NOT into conformity or competition. So I was thrilled to learn that my cultivating and curating meaning is a form, my form, of creativity. It has opened doors of freedom that I’ve kept pretty close to the vest all these years. I’ve even been doing the Headspace meditation pack on creativity. Some pretty interesting thoughts come out of my head. Thoughts that I used to let others squash or ridicule me for are now embraced and given a voice.

Play and Rest: Play here is defined as purposeless. In other words, we play for the sheer joy of play, not to learn something, not to get in our exercise. Rest is downtime. Rest is not necessarily sleep, although we definitely need to make sure we are getting in enough sleep. I’m pretty good at the rest aspect of this — because of my auto-immune disease I make sure my day has time set aside to just rest and renew.

Play isn’t something I’m very good about doing though. I’ll romp through the yard with the puppy (I really need to stop calling him that; he is 18 months old now). I love a good bike ride, but only if someone else is riding with me and talking. Does binge watching my favorite shows count as play? I’m really asking here. . . .

Next up: Calm and Stillness; Meaningful Work; Laughter, Song & Dance