June has been such a great month – I hope your June has been wonderful as well. Here are a few of the things I’m learning:
Gratitude is THE thing. Gratitude unlocks so much joy and contentedness, even in the seemingly mundane details of everyday life. I think I’ll be learning to grow in gratitude until I’m 90. I found this Bonhoeffer quote and put it up in the kitchen to remind all of us of how much we have to grateful for that we don’t deserve or haven’t earned: “In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.” Bonhoeffer reminds me that gratitude is a discipline that requires practice like any other discipline. A big part of the practice of gratitude is learning to be present, and, during this season, I’m intentionally trying to make time and space to practice being present in the moment.
The Buddhists have a name for the trigger that keeps us from being content in the present moment: shenpa. I first read about it in Pema Chödrön’s Taking the Leap (read it) where she says that “we have a constant unease with the present because we’re always trying to get the ground underneath us.” (That makes sense to me as a Christian because it sounds like the idea that our citizenship is to the Kingdom and that our present reality of the Kingdom of God is one that is “already and not yet.“) Shenpa is the urge to do something about that unease, rather than sit with it for a bit and figure out where it’s coming from and why. We all have these triggers, and they manifest themselves in different ways for each of us. Chödrön says it’s next to impossible to overcome your shenpa without meditation. So it seems to me that the way to grow in gratitude looks something like this:
Meditation and/or time spent in solitude and silence –>> Greater ability to be present in the moment –>> More capacity for gratitude
Summer is not just for kids. We hired a nanny to watch the kids on the days that I work this summer, and it is SO amazing for all of us. The kids sleep in late, so the nanny typically makes breakfasts and lunches, leaving Grant and I responsible for just getting ourselves ready for work in the mornings. It feels almost like vacation compared to the school year’s daily assault of activity from the time the alarm goes off until we’re running (yelling) out the door. August is going to be rough, but we sure are enjoying the reprieve. We’re brainstorming some ways that we can incorporate some of the summer benefits all year long.
Movement is most important. I am addicted to the gamifying of activity/fitness, so I love my FitBit. I typically don’t have trouble hitting 10K steps in a day (thanks gardens!), but on work days where I sit at a desk all day, I figured out (thanks to the new update on my FitBit) that I often sit at my desk for hours at a time without moving, which is dangerous according to new studies (and common sense). I think some of the activity trackers will remind you when you’ve been sitting too long, but mine doesn’t, so I created hourly reminders on my FitBit to spur me to get up and walk around at least once per hour on my normal work days.
Along that same idea, I have had trouble with the “all or nothing” approach to fitness my whole life. Actually, not just working out, I have these perfectionist tendencies about all sorts of things. “If I can’t do it 100 percent, I might as well not do it” has been my thought process, which I realize is just plain stupid, but old habits die hard. Since I’ve been trying to incorporate more movement throughout the day instead of just during my “official workout,” I find myself keeping up with it better, even when I’ve skipped several days worth of workouts, which used to derail my efforts altogether. I have a few bodyweight “quickies” that I’ll do throughout the day. I like to do them on bathroom breaks at work or while I’m making dinner or doing laundry. Here are a few of my two-ish minute go-to “routines”:
10 push-ups + 10 jump squats
50 reverse lunges
50 bodyweight squats
One-minute of deck squats – I only do these at home for obvious reasons and because I can always talk the kids into doing them with me
10 push-ups x 3 sets (each set a different variation)
3 x 60 second plank holds
What you seek, you will find. I listened to a few podcasts this month that both expanded upon this thought, so it hit home even though we have all heard this saying hundreds of times. It goes for pretty much anything: want more peace in your life, you’ll find it; looking for excuses not to do something, you’ll find them. You have to do the work to see the results, but it works the other way too.
Time disconnected is good for the soul. File this under the obvious category, but we went camping with some friends last weekend, and I was reminded how connected I am to my phone, despite my efforts otherwise. The adults decided to stash our phones in the car once we got there, which didn’t really matter because we didn’t get a signal in Shades anyway (reason enough to go there once a month!). We had a great time – despite the crazy heat, my bad map reading that turned a five-mile hike into nine+, and some crazy college kids one night – but, after the first few hours of being there, I noticed that I didn’t have that Pavlovian urge to check my phone. I wanted to take some pictures of our friend’s amazing campfire pizzas, but I didn’t and just enjoyed them instead. I wanted to take pictures of the kids romping in the creek catching “lobsters” (aka: craw fish) for hours straight, but I just sat and chatted instead. The pictures in my head are probably far better anyway.
As an occasional blogger, I find myself often caught up in the comparison game on social media: her pictures are so much prettier than mine, his writing is so much clearer, her recipes are so original, etc. I want to enjoy others’ creativity without judging my own, but, in a world so saturated with social media, I’m finding it difficult to practice. I do the social media for my day job and for Project Eden, so I tell myself that I can’t just quit. But I’m going to try to take a fast from Twitter and Facebook for the month of July. Anybody want to join me? Anything I post to those places will be automatic/scheduled ahead of time without having to actually log-in to those sites is what I’m thinking. I might let myself keep up with Instagram because I like documenting our family stuff on there for our Chatbooks, since the chances of me ever scrapbooking our kids’ childhoods is about .02 percent (use this code to get your first one free: HEF2TN37).
What I’m loving
ThredUP. As I mentioned already in this post, I love ThredUP. I cleaned out my closet last week and sent my cast-offs their way, so I’m anxious to see if I get some additional credits from that stuff. I did need to buy some hiking pants for our upcoming trip to Colorado (insert crazy happy dance GIF), and I found rankabrand.org a helpful resource to research which brands are better than others for new clothes.
Citrus Smooch from Natural Red. My friend Laura has been raving about Natural Red for months, but I hadn’t tried any of it yet until she gifted me some of this stuff. I’m a bit of a chapstick snob (especially after an unfortunate incident with EOS that left me looking like this on last year’s trip to Florida), and this stuff exceeds my snobby criteria. I’ll be stocking up now that I’m hooked.
Fresh herb season. I preserve our herbs in pestos and just freeze them, so I can use them throughout the year…but there is nothing like heading out the back door to snip some herbs before pretty much every meal.
Our place. I’m re-reading Slow Church because we’re hosting one of the authors at our place in a few weeks (come if you’re local!), and I came across this quote, “Place, like all things in life, is a good gift from God. Our calling is to come to know our places in ways that reveal God’s gifts to us and that evoke in us deep gratitude and rejoicing.” That so perfectly captures the four of us this season, especially Grant and me. A day doesn’t go by that we aren’t talking to each other about how much we love this place and how grateful we are to have found it. We didn’t know how fully a place could embody the feelings of home for us until we lived here. I loved this episode of The Simple Show on placemaking. The guest, Christie Purifoy, said that places are like people and that we don’t love perfect places or people. Our place is by no means perfect, but it is just right for us.
Reading. My reading time has suffered in favor of just getting the heck outside lately. I read A Prayer for Owen Meany back in April I think, but I forgot to mention it. I looooved it, and I think it would make a great vacation read, although it is not your typically light and fluffy beach material. I laughed and cried and will definitely come back to this one.
Watering the garden. You know how people say you have your best ideas in the shower? Turns out it’s actually true because you’re engaged but relaxed. I’ve discovered that the same is true for lots of gardening tasks, but especially watering. It’s pretty mindless, I like to do it first thing in the morning before it gets too hot, and I can totally let my mind wander. I don’t know if I’ve had any great ideas so far this garden season, but it has definitely been relaxing if nothing else!
Fluff. I stole this recipe from my mother-in-law. My sister-in-law is allergic to dairy, so I don’t think she makes it much anymore…but we waaaayyy more than make up for it by making it lots during berry season. It tastes like summer to me.
1 cup heavy cream (must be cold, directly from refrigerator)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups fresh berries
Using a stick or hand blender, blend the cream, sugar, and vanilla until it whips up. It needs air to “fluff,” so you kinda want to move the blender up and down, so that air gets into the cream. It typically comes together in about 3-4 minutes for me. Toward the end once it is sufficiently “fluffed,” I throw a handful of berries and blend it just a bit more, so that the berries are a little mixed in but not pureed. Our favorite way to serve it is over some angel food cake with the remaining berries or just over the remaining berries for a weeknight treat, but Grant has been known to eat it straight from the container.
Your turn – what are you learning and loving?