Preparing for a Season of Dormancy

This past weekend was one of those gorgeous autumn days with warm weather and blue skies. Because we had early snow and frost, we decided to spend this beautiful day winterizing our garden and yard. I had already pulled our vegetable plants after the first frost but we went through our containers, tilling in the compost we had been turning since last winter. We spread mulched leaves over the tops, tucking our garden into bed until spring. I trimmed our perennials back, cut the vines down, and Frank cut down our sad and struggling peach tree.

To the left: garden beds, trimmed and covered with mulch, ready for winter. To the right: a double barrel compost turner

A couple days later, we woke to an inch of snow and seeing how neat and tidy it looked over our gardens made me happy. This feeling is deeper than my check-box personality, though seeing everything exactly as it should be does give me joy. Really, spending the day working in our yard was redemptive. This time last year, Frank was recovering from losing a third of his blood and spending three days in the ICU due to an ulcer. We were also recovering from the mess and repercussions of a drunk driver running through our backyard fence and into our yard.

Last year, gardening was the last thing on our to-do list. We let everything just kind of die and settle into the winter. But we saw the impact this year. Our vegetables never thrived and even our tried-and-true perennials were a bit lackluster. All spring and summer, I was reminded of the importance of doing the work that leads to rest.

I needed this tangible reminder the planning it takes to enter a season of dormancy and unseen growth. I just returned from a week in Israel-Palestine, listening and learning about the region. It’s an understatement to say all that we experienced was complex. It’s not a two-sided issue or one with easy answers but a constant reminder of the importance of listening to multiple narratives.

I went on this trip expecting it to be a culmination of sorts. A year ago, in the midst of all that home chaos, I left for the Ruby Woo Pilgrimage. It was the longest I had left my family and the first time I had done something this big for my own learning. Like any true pilgrimage, I left with more questions than answers, more realization that it was a step along the journey. From there, I enrolled in a class about Indigenous Voices, learning how I can better balance the narrative taught by school and society. Another stepping stone on the way.

I suppose I wanted this trip to Israel-Palestine to bring about all that I had learned. I wanted to walk away with tangible takeaways and next steps. Instead, I entered into the complexity of stories. I traveled with a liberation theologian, who has listened to multiple sides but choses to stand with the oppressed. I met a women who is working in Hebron, one of the most antagonistic areas in the region, listening to her stories of daily aggressions. And I had the privilege of meeting a women whose job is developing curriculum to teach about peace heroes, those men and women who bridged the divides and worked toward mending what seemed impossible.

Again, I left with more questions than answers and wondered what the next steps on this journey would entail.

I like the process and understand its importance but if I’m honest, I often use the journey as a means toward the destination. I like the sound of the journey being the goal in itself but the reality feels so much different. I want to know that all these markers aren’t just for me. But maybe it’s ok if they are. Maybe all that does need to change and deepen is my own perspective.

I was thinking about this past year as I dug our compost into the garden beds. Everything takes so much time. Our compost had been turning and added to all year. We saved our scraps, filled the bins, turned them, and turned them, and turned them. Compost itself takes a long time to make. And then to till them into the soil. To prepare it for six months of quiet and refueling. If you were to visit our home, I doubt you would look at those garden beds in awe. You would see bins of dirt, waiting for spring. All that work for something that looks very similar to what we started with is unseen, unnoticed.

I’m remembering to mark the process on this journey. I don’t know what all of these moments will mean – from our family’s crisis to my own journey to how it impacts the way we parent and raise a new generation. What I do know is that the unseen work of composting and tilling and of getting a garden ready for winter is what reaps benefits in the spring.

Maybe next year we’ll plant a garden that is abundant because of our preparation. Maybe we’ll let the ground lie fallow for a year, letting the nutrients rest and recover. Either way, I feel settled knowing that the work has been done to prepare for that time.

After a year of intense journeying, I’m wondering if I need my own season of lying fallow. Of reading fewer books about these big topics, of staying closer to home, of letting all that I have seen and learned sink it and re-nourish my faith and my outlook.

What are some markers in your own lifelong pilgrimage? What are you learning about the importance of all perspectives and narratives?

Six Lessons for the Short Days of Long Winter Months

I’ve been learning a lot in the past six months. Really, I should say that I’m unlearning a lot. I’m unlearning things I thought I knew well, unlearning history and even my own beliefs. There will be more to write about these things in the future but right now, I’m letting these unlearnings settle and sort.

For quite a while, I was content leaning into this space and holding it quietly. Writing has been put on hold as I let these ideas and shifts weave their way through my thinking. But I’m also starting to get that itch to write regularly again. Jumping back in after months of sporadic posts seemed overwhelming so I’m starting with a list of things I’ve learned this winter.

Some of these are big things, others are small reminders of what works during these long months of short days.

What I’ve Learned This Winter

What I've Learned This Winter: Six Lessons for the Short Days of these Long Months in a white text box. The background is a stock photo of snowy mountains.

Routines Make Me Happy
It seems that every winter my sleep cycles get disrupted. When the girls were tiny, I blamed it on their six-month growth spurts but now everyone is sleeping through the night and I still wake up at 2:00, thoughts whirling. I’ve always been a routined bedtime person but in an effort to optimize my sleep, I’ve become stricter. Even adding a few more boundaries to my bedtime and wake-up routines have made my days better. Maybe the middles don’t go as planned but I know that I’ve bookended the day well, which makes me happy.

Learning Something New Is Good
Frank and I are heading to Paris in May to celebrate our tenth anniversary so I’ve broken out my old Rosetta Stone curriculum, downloaded Duolingo onto my phone, and subscribed to the Coffee Break French podcast. Every day, I practice French – somedays more than others but it’s rare that I skip a day’s practice in some form. I don’t know if this counts as learning something new, as it’s been more of a review but I love remembering things I used to know. After our trip, I’m eager to switch over to Spanish and continue this language adventure.

Experiential Dates are Essential
Frank and I have found that starting tax season with a series of experiential dates sets the tone for these three months of busyness. One year, we took three weeks of cooking lessons. This year, we spent two weeks learning the Cha Cha. Spending two hours fumbling through unknown steps, looking at each other in the eye was exactly what we needed in a season that’s so easy to miss fun connections.

When Stretched, Turn to the Wisdom of Others
I was recently asked to share my story and then pray for the MOPS International board members. Sharing my story is something I’ve practiced and felt comfortable doing. Praying in front of a group is something I’ve never enjoyed. I’d much rather pray one-on-one than in front of a crowd, especially of strangers. So I turned to Jan Richardson’s phenomenal book of prayers and reflections, In the Sanctuary of Women. Starting my own prayer with the wisdom of another woman gave me the words and courage to continue on my own.

Elle, a fleece-pajama clad 3-year-old with purple bifocal glasses is using her hands to stretch her mouth into a "silly face."

Embracing the Moment Doesn’t Mean I Can’t Dream of the Future
Elle has officially given up her afternoon nap and it’s been quite the adjustment. Suddenly my quiet afternoons are gone. In some ways, I like this – we can run errands and catch up on things that felt rushed in our morning hours. I’m remembering that the next year and a half before kindergarten is going to zip by and I’m embracing these “unproductive” moments. I’m also eagerly awaiting the next phase, remembering the both-and of motherhood.

Filling the Well, Turning the Compost, Leaning into the Quiet is Uncomfortable
As I’ve said, this has been a season of unlearning. I’m leaning into this time of growth and turning and yet I’m antsy to just learn the lessons! I want to step forward and apply all I’ve gathered. I know this process takes time and I’m holding this tension, sometimes gracefully and sometimes with impatience. I wish I could draw conclusions quickly and profoundly but I’m a slow processor and so am remembering that this quiet season will produce fruit.

What about you? What have you been learning this season?

Inspired by Emily Freeman’s quarterly question, What Have You Learned This Season?

Being Grateful for All Winter Has Taught

Elle and I met a friend at the Botanic Gardens on Monday. The weather was chilly but warmed up after about an hour. Most of the plants were still dormant and the staff had just conducted a controlled burn in the wild grasslands section so everything was brown and dry. We spotted a few fish in the pond, though nothing like the swarms we see in the

debby-hudson-574253-unsplash
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

warmer months. But as we walked, we saw signs of spring: Crocus and wild iris have started pushing through the brown. A small daffodil bloomed near the cacti and succulents building.

My friend and I talked about how the gardens are lovely to visit, even on these bare almost-spring days. There’s something so peaceful about this space of cultivated nature right in the middle of the city.

It’s a reminder, too, not to wish for spring too quickly. Before we know it, blossoms will be everywhere and we’ll experience the open-window weather followed by a blizzard that springtime in Colorado offers. I love spring, I do. I love having the fountain running and barefoot girls dashing about. I love sipping rosé and eating runny cheese outside.

But I’m also learning not to wish away winter. There’s something so hopeful in the barren landscape. When I walk around our yard on warm days, I imagine the potential that spring and summer bring. We have a lot of perennial plants I’m looking forward to revisiting and I’m thinking about the annuals we’ll put in pots.

I want to savor this anticipation and remember that, without the dry winter weather and brown landscape, spring wouldn’t carry the same magic that it does.

I’m learning to look at my own life for these almost-spring experiences. What needs to be dormant, just a bit longer before it can blossom? What do I need to give time to rest and restore before it bears fruit? How can I appreciate the dry landscape and pause to anticipate before I get my hands dirty with actual planting?

I love looking back in reflection. Connecting the dots over a variety of experiences can be so life-giving. But I’m also learning to pause in the midst. To take time to breathe, reflect, and be still before moving on to greener seasons. I’m hoping that, by practicing a love for almost-spring, I’ll cultivate a pace of recognizing signposts at the moment instead of hindsight.

I’m still looking forward to spring – to open windows and consistently sunny days. To meals outside and daily check-ins with neighbors as we live out front. But I’m also loving these last three weeks of March before spring officially arrives when I can breathe in this change and remember to be grateful for all that winter has taught me.

Are you anticipating spring? How do you prepare for a new season?

Small Things That Are Big Lifesavers

We’re partway through winter, though it’s hard to believe around here. Maybe the groundhog’s prediction of six more weeks will mean that we’ll have an actual winter? Though we’ve had a couple snowy days, it’s been an incredibly dry and temperate couple months. While I’m not complaining during our daily walks to school, I know we’ll wish for more snowmelt during those dry summer months.

IMG_8319I’ve loved looking back on the past few years of participating in Anne Bogel’s question, What’s saving your life? From lotion to neighbors to habits and learning, each year brings small things that are keeping me sane. I like keeping these lifesavers a bit mundane – things that happen nearly every day, that are reminders that life is good.

Online Book Clubs
Last fall, I made the hard decision of quitting my book club of over a decade. A lot of factors contributed to this decision and it was a good choice for our family. But I miss the camaraderie of reading a book in a community. There’s something about going deeper into a text. Enter: Facebook. I took over an online book club last year and it’s been incredible picking books, leading discussions, and digging deeper with women from all over the globe. I’m part of another Facebook book club that does a quarterly read-along. During the last week of the quarter, questions are posted on an event page and we discuss a book together. This quarter, we read The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, a stunning novel set in 1920’s Alaska. It’s a book worth reading on its own but I got so much more after discussing it!

Bold Lipstick
I’m not much of a makeup person at all but I read somewhere that a bold lipstick draws attention away from tired eyes. Yes, please! I wanted to look more put-together, even on days where my only outing is the grocery store. I’m still not much into makeup, but my two shades of bright lipstick have given me an unexpected confidence boost!

Party City
I’m not a crafty person at all. But I’ve slowly found myself looking for reasons to celebrate small and big holidays. We have some random hooks behind our dining room table and I’ve started hanging decorations from them – ornaments at Christmas, stars for Epiphany, hearts for Valentine’s Day. I don’t have decorations for every holiday because there’s something wonderful about an empty space most of the year. But during these winter months, I love having bright kitschy hearts hanging from those hooks. Because I’m not going to make them myself, I’ve found that Party City almost always has what I’m looking for – inexpensive, a little bit gaudy, brightly colored. Now that Bea understands the calendar more, it’s fun to feed into her excitement for new decorations.

Meal Planning
I wish I were creative and confident enough in the kitchen to just throw a bunch of stuff together for a fantastic dinner. Even typing that sentence caused some stress. We’ve been meal planning consistently for a while now but I was recently reminded what a stress reliever it is, knowing I have everything I need for a week’s worth of meals. Especially now that tax season is here, having our meals planned is one less stress.

Grace
We’re in an interesting season with the girls. While it’s still very hands-on, they’re also getting to be pretty independent. We’re establishing good routines and I’m feeling more comfortable leaning into new opportunities and adding goals to my plate. Of course, the moment I decide we’re in a good place to add something, life gets hectic or someone’s sleep patterns shift, or we need to huddle in as a family. I’m learning to give myself grace in those moments. It’s not that I need to scrap my goals or commitments but I’m allowing myself to mess up a little. To not always give as much time and attention as I imagine I can. And I’m learning that things continue; that no one cares as much as I imagine; that my commitments are still met and everyone is just fine. I’m learning that the circumstances will never be perfect, so what can I do in the meantime? It’s given me a lot of permission to continue pursuing opportunities without stressing about perfection.

I know there are many more things saving my life right now – from near-daily conversations about life and theology through Voxer to the accountability and care of our neighbors to my community gearing up for tax season with us. My life is constantly being saved by those small but big things.

So, as we’re on this downward slope to spring, what is saving your life right now? How do you pause in the midst of winter to reflect?

Linked with Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy for her annual life-saving linkup. 

For the curious, here are my lifesavers from 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Books Referenced in this Post:

41w+Snjfi-L._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Midwinter Lifesavers

It’s that time of year. January and its resolutions and catching up is over, February the longest shortest month of the year is ahead. Tax season is looming. It’s a good time to stop and remember all the things that are saving my life this winter.

Last year, my list included walking and the Mamaroo; the year before the list had a TV show and nesting into our new home. This year, we’re in a different stage with the girls and a different season as a family. In many ways, things seem a lot easier and we’re in a good life-groove. In other ways, the girls miss Frank a lot more, which makes this time of year and its schedule tougher for him.

I’m loving this practice of taking note and reflecting on the things that are saving us right now. So, in no particular order, here are my new lifesavers:

1) Cooking Classes
For Christmas this year, I gave Frank a series of 3 Sur la Table classes called Becoming a Confident Chef. Each Tuesday we met with others to chop, sauté, and learn all those skills that make cooking easier. Having a set date night three weeks in a row, right before tax season was probably the best gift I could have given. I could see making this an annual tradition. Bonus? We made friends with our hotplate partners and have already had dinner at their house. Serendipities definitely save my life!

img_32922) Neighbors
This made my list last year and I hope it will make my list every year. Our neighbors are truly incredible and I’m so thankful to have a community during these cold, hibernating months. From texting with my across-the-street friend to shoveling snow with our neighbor who owns a snowblower to checking in with Elle’s favorite, “Jooji” I remember that we have people in close proximity who are looking out for our family. It’s pretty incredible.

3) Facebook
I know, these past few months have seen most people renouncing Facebook and closing their accounts. (At least, temporarily.) And, while I’ve put tighter boundaries on my consumption, I am thankful for this crazy online world. I’m inspired by my friends who are out marching and protesting. I’m stretched by my friends who pose different opinions. And I’m reminded that ultimately, we are all in this together. I’m not sure I would remember that without this loud conglomeration of strong opinions all in one place.

4) Whole30 Habits
It’s been about 3 months since we finished our Whole30 challenge. In that time, we went back to Philadelphia for a week, had a month of holiday celebrations, and have started scheduling dinners and brunches with friends before tax season really hits. And through it all, we’ve been pretty good. Of course, we’ve had more alcohol, eaten more cake, and have ordered pizza for movie night. But we’ve also kept a fairly good meal planning schedule and have included a lot of our favorite Whole30 recipes in the rotation. I’m sure we’ll be doing a reset in May, but I also feel like we’re starting tax season with healthier habits in place.

5) Listening to My Gut
I’ve made some decisions lately that logically were easy to rethink. But, my gut kept telling me to make space, to slow down, to focus on this moment. It was hard to listen to this tug, but I am so glad I did. I feel like I need to be open to this year. I’m not sure what that means or how that will actually look, but by making these shifts and changes, I feel better positioned for whatever comes about.

What is saving your life right now?

Linked with Modern Mrs. Darcy – check out her linkup for more mid-winter lifesavers!

What is Saving Your Life?

Last year, Anne Bogel posed the question, What is saving your life right now? Taken from Barbara Brown Taylor’s Leaving Church, the question is used to reframe our winter doldrums mentality to one of something more positive – more life-giving.

Five ThingsLast year’s reflection stayed with me. As the seasons changed, I wondered what new things were saving my life in that moment? I started practicing the idea of marking a moment, an event, even a possession that helped me through a season.

Anne is asking the question again, a year later. It’s a good time of year to reflect and take inventory. The holidays are over; the lights are finally off the house; it’s a season of slowing down, snuggling in, and reflection.

So, here are five (new) things that are saving my life. (I think the old ones are still applicable, but I liked the idea of adding to the list.)

1) Learning Something New
I usually depend on nonfiction books to fill my need for learning. But, the 6 month-18 month stage of life is pretty nonstop. From sitting up to standing to walking to discovering, we are entering a very active year that needs a lot of supervision. (Because of that, I’ve set no reading goals for myself.)

While books may be a bit tough at the moment, I can do self-paced lessons and videos while Elle is playing next to me. Earlier this year, I signed up for Micah Murray’s Clumsy Bloggers’ Workshop. Each week, a new lesson is delivered to my inbox and I can complete it at my own pace. It’s been great for tweaking the look of my blog to learning about social media to becoming part of an encouraging Facebook group. While I’m happy with the low-key-ness of this space, I always like learning new things and this has helped.

A friend and I also signed up for Skillshare, a website that has thousands of 1-2 hour long lessons on a variety of topics. I watched one on how to market yourself as a freelancer (not very applicable but so interesting) and just started one on calligraphy. I’ve saved lessons on how to code and build my own website to a knife skills class. I love the idea of learning something completely different and out of my natural focus, and Skillshare has opened up that opportunity. (If you use the links to sign up, I think we both get a free month.)

IMG_9883.jpg
Bonus: Warm weather in January

2) Our Neighborhood
Right after I posted my blog about planning for tax season, our neighbor texted, We’re all in to help during tax time! That night, we had dinner over at their place while the girls played. I could not have imagined more amazing neighbors if I had tried. Moving to this area may not be the trendiest place in town, but I don’t think we could beat it for the community we’re forming. Even in the middle of January, our kids bundled up and rode bikes around the cul-de-sac before dinner. It makes me look forward to summer months and these guys growing up together.

3) Mamaroo Bouncer
This has been saving our lives for the past six months. Friends lent it to us and Elle spends quite a bit of time snoozing in this space-age “swing.” If I had one, I’d probably sleep as much as she does… (Future parents: Definitely register for this or check it out used. It’s amazing!)

4) Saying “no”
This has been the toughest one but the most important and, perhaps the one that is most life-saving. After years of being in multiple book clubs, I’ve pared down to one in town and one online. (If you’re looking for great books and discussion from the comfort of your home, checkout the Red Couch, hosted by SheLoves.) I’ve had to say “no” to other things, but these book clubs were part of my identity and it feels a bit weird to step back.

5) Weekly Walks
I’ve written about my walking buddy, Robyn before. We have been meeting weekly for years and I can’t imagine getting through life without these moments. Now that it’s tax season, my parents take the girls and we do a three-mile loop from their house. That hour of adult time, without a baby strapped to me or a preschooler interrupting, is what I need to make it through the week.

What about you? What is saving your life right now?

Linked up with Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Five Things Saving My Life

I don’t usually get the winter blues. Yes, I’d prefer sunshine over gray skies, but in Colorado we have about 300 days of sunshine each year. This means, even if we get a gray streak, sun is just around the corner. That being said, the colder weather, tax season, and general post-holiday laziness definitely affects my mood in different ways than a sunny June day.

Anne, over at Modern Mrs. Darcy, recently asked the question, What is saving your life right now? Taken from Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, Leaving Church, the question is meant to switch from the mentality of what is killing us to what is giving life. I like the idea of looking at the little things that are life-giving right now, in this moment.

1) A nook of my own
We have a large upstairs landing, and my little desk fits perfectly in one corner. While I don’t always write or journal here (though I did for this post), I love having a little space in the house just for me. At our old house, we had a combination guest room-office and it never felt like it was a place for me. Having this small area makes me happy.

My landing nook
My landing nook

2) Painting
The previous owners of this house had some… unique… decorating ideas. (Lots of sharpie murals…) While the decor was unlivable, it pushed us to paint rooms quickly, and our house is feeling more and more like our own. We decided on a few rooms that had to get done before tax season: The basement living room, Bea’s room, and Frank’s office. So far, my favorite is Frank’s office. It’s a partially finished space in the basement. We added carpet and painted over the concrete walls. Frank’s walking desk and weight equipment fit perfectly. What I love about it is the symbol of more family time during tax season. Even though hours will still be crazy and most will still need to be done at the office, late nights and weekends can be done from home.

3) OK to Wake Alarm Clock
With the freedom a “big girl bed” offered,  Bea’s wake-up time was pushed as early as 5:45. Not OK!! This clock came highly recommended by a variety of friends and I love it! It works most of the time, and Bea is so proud of running into our room at 7:00, clock green and ready to go. It’s definitely made my mornings more pleasant!

Alarm clock + Bea's mural
Alarm clock + Bea’s mural

4) Parks & Rec
With winter, tax season, and pregnancy brain, watching reruns of Parks & Rec on Netflix have been a perfect way to unwind each night. We needed a light, short show to watch after clean up and a bit of reading. I love that there’s only a 20 minute time commitment, meaning we still get to bed at a decent hour. Plus, sometimes dramas are overrated and we just need to laugh.

5) L’Occitane Lotion
This is a total splurge that always finds its way into my Christmas stocking. During the summer, I don’t mind using grocery store lotions but there’s something about smearing rich shea butter into my hands each night that helps me sleep a little better. Especially in the dry Colorado climate, this lotion keeps my hands from over-drying through the night.

What about you? What are some things that are “saving your life” right now?

Linked up with Modern Mrs. Darcy.