Winter Gardening

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Winter gardening tools

What kind of gardening appeals when the wind chill outside is -20 degrees F?

Garden planning. So pull out those garden design books and the seed and plant catalogs and a hot beverage and get to dreaming.

Marie Kondo Netflix Show

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Marie Kondo

I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up a couple years ago. As a long-term minimalist, I was underwhelmed. Partly it was her (or her translator’s) use of the words “always” and “never” when referring to what her clients were to do and how they felt about it. Except for the maxim that we will all die, I tend to see human feelings and behaviors on a continuum, not as absolutes. And then there was the chapter that had her attorney clients destroying all their paper documents. I have no idea what the requirements for document storage is in Japan, but I know that attorneys in the United States are required to keep client documents for years after they close their practices, as well as for an active practice.

So, I kind of wrote her off as a means-well minimalist, still too young to have gotten into too much trouble. I read she got married, and thought, “Okay, now things will get interesting.” Then she had a couple of girls, both under my radar. Now she has a Netflix show. And I am smitten.

First of all, she is just a joy to watch. She has a manner of moving and speaking that is a combination of serene and playful that makes whatever she is doing on camera fun. She smiles like the Buddha as she tells the cluttered Americans to pile all their clothing on the bed. And you know, you just know, that as the mountain of clothes reaches toward the ceiling, she is probably giggling on the inside knowing that she is going to give them the homework of touching every article of clothing before deciding what to do with it.

I love watching her “greet” the house, which appears to be a meditation where she connects with the energy of the house. Kudos to the one American family who greeted their house with her.

I could do less with the greetings of the humans at the doorways every time she and her interpreter arrive or leave. I would rather see more of the house inhabitants talking about their internal process as they deal with their accumulated stuff. But there is plenty of that too.

I like the variety of the families that have been chosen for the show: preparing for a baby, letting go of a deceased family member’s things, marrying the objects of young couples. There are lessons for all of us. And it was good to see her be flexible with one of her clients who wished to do this out of the “proper” order.

I like listening to Marie tell us and show us in her studio home how to deal with particularly challenging items like children’s toys and paper documents. And I like that she has apparently created a uniform for herself: White tops/jackets, skirts and dresses and black tights with black flat shoes. She is a charming persona and I am delighted with the show.

I still have questions about the Konmari folding. It seems to me that every time you pull out a T-shirt folded to stand on it’s end, it will inevitably have wrinkles in it. And lumping kitchen, bathroom and garage under a “miscellaneous” category seems unwieldly large to me. But I guess the shows producers can keep everybody on track for the length of filming. You would probably want to keep all those things separated out if you were doing your own place by yourselves, on the weekends.

How about you all? Are you fans of the book or the show?

Simplifying Christmas Traditions

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It makes a pretty light beacon if you are in the park.

I advise anyone overwhelmed by the frenzy of the December holiday season to spend a few moments in quiet reflection to determine the aspects of the season that bring you the most joy. No need to carve out a special evening to do so, just think about it while waiting at a traffic light or the line at the store to check out.

Then focus your efforts on these portions of the celebrations and avoid the others.

Here are some ways I have changed how I celebrate over the years:

~I think I have had the most changes over the years with the tree. In my first apartment, I hung Christmas cookies with fishing line from the overhead pipes in the shape of a tree. I’ve created tree shaped objects out of recycled materials. I’ve bought live trees that were planted outside in the spring. But I have struggled with the tree idea too. I don’t like the idea of killing a perfectly healthy tree in order to decorate it for a month and then toss it in the trash. For several years the amount of time it took to put up and take down a tree was difficult to find the in the business of raising children as a single parent. The above plastic tree was purchased off the display counter, saving it from the trash. I can reuse it for years. Yet, I am ambivalent.

~ I used to create a hand-made art card and sent one to everybody in my address book, including a personal note. Now, I send a hand-made art card with personal note to people who send a card to me. I especially like hearing from far-flung friends.

~ I used to bake dozens of cookies and give them away as gifts. I don’t really eat cookies anymore and many of the people near to me avoid sweets. Now, I don’t do any special baking for the holidays.

~ I used to make sure I had a hand-made or generic purchased gift for everyone that gave me a gift. I participated in the office Secret Santas. I kinda had the eight-year-old’s view that “more presents is always better.” Now, I only get gifts for my mom and my kids and grandkids. I tend to get consumable or practical gifts like socks. I try to find some little treat kind of thing that they would not likely buy for themselves.

~ I used to have themed gift wrap for every gift-giving occasion: birthdays, Christmas, weddings, etc. Now, I have one big roll of plain paper (this paper below was sold at IKEA as children’s drawing paper) that I dress up with ribbon, twine or hand made drawings. The twine, paper and cards below are compostable. It could also be used as drawing paper.

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Not fancy, just festive.

~ I used to change the décor on my mantle, hang the children’s stockings and put a wreath on my door. I never did put lights on my house (too much work) but I put the lit tree in front of a window so passers by could enjoy it. This year my stocking is on my front door and the tiny tree is in the window. That and a pile of presents are my only decorations.

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Note the memory box in the background as a prop.

~ I used to feel obligated to attend every family event I was invited to. That often involved a lot of driving in a short time on my part due to my work schedule and the kid’s visitation schedule with their father. One year, as I was driving my children through a blizzard from St. Louis to their dad’s house on Christmas eve, I realized how foolish that was and began to consider timing and weather and desire to attend before saying yes to those invitations.

The intention of these month long celebrations is joy and connection. I would love to hear how you have simplified your holidays to make them more meaningful and heartfelt.

 

Frugal Greeting Cards

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Who doesn’t like to get a personal greeting card in the mail?

And they can be as fun to create as they are to receive. No, really. Even if you have labeled yourself as “not artistic.” Which, by the way, you need to quit doing right now.

I have been making my own greeting cards for a long time. Sometimes I draw or paint the picture. Sometimes I use beautiful images that I have collected from various sources. All of these prints came from either old calendars or the Missouri Botanical Garden’s bulletin, which as a member, I receive for free.

I trim the images as needed, and apply them to blank cards that I have purchased for this purpose. Those pictured here were purchased from a craft supply store with properly sized envelopes for 50 for $10.00, so 20 cents a set. Even including the rubber cement that I use to affix the images to the cards, the stamp costs more than the card ingredients.

The images can be tailored to the type of card being sent. So for my Christmas cards, scenes with snow. For a sympathy card, a landscape with rain. For a birthday card, something with happy colors or something quirky that will have the recipient smiling.

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A few cards ready to mail.

Snow Day

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View from my window this morning!

When I was working as a hospice nurse, a snow day meant that I had to get up earlier than usual to shovel out my 100 foot driveway before I could go to work. Then the day’s driving would be more difficult due to snow and ice covered roads. But sick people don’t get better just because the weather is bad, and we were a pretty dedicated crew.

All that extra work and difficult driving made it hard to appreciate the magic of snow, like I did as a child. Back then, a snow day meant a day off school, sledding and hot chocolate. Triple fun!

This morning, when I woke to the falling flakes, I made plans to stay in. I watched the dogs frolic in the park from the warmth of my window seat. I sipped my steaming coffee as two bundled children made snow people.

This afternoon the sun is out and I may just put my boots on and walk to the store. I’ve got a hankering for some hot chocolate.

Remembering Why We Are Minimalists

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This orchid is beautiful even when it is not in bloom.

Remember why we started decluttering our rooms and our lives?

It was because there was too much and it made us anxious and tired and sometimes angry and out of control.

So we got rid of the stuff that we didn’t use and didn’t like and it felt so good to be that much freer that we made dates with ourselves to do it on a regular basis. And when we had edited our belongings to the place of “just enough” we noticed that our calendars were as crazy jammed as our physical spaces had been before.

So we dropped activities that were no longer fun or meaningful and we noticed that there were people who drained our energy whenever we were with them, so we started spending less time with them.

And we kept asking ourselves, what makes me happy? What activities feel meaningful to me? And if I can infringe on the trademark– “What sparks joy?” And then we do those things. And if you think that is a selfish way to live, I have news for you.

Three times in the past week, three different settings, a relative stranger has made the comment to me, “You seem so happy!” “I am,” I reply.

And that, my friends, is a gift to the world.

Balance

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These rentable scooters are popping up all over in the United States.

I am eager to try one of these rentable scooters that have begun appearing in most of the neighborhoods that I frequent. And yet, in my yoga classes, the poses I struggle with the most are the balance poses. And I have struggled to find balance between too much and too little work. My relationships have sometimes suffered for a lack of balance too.

Therefore, I feel that I should be cautious in new endeavors that require balance, especially ones that can cause broken bones if you don’t get the balance thing just right.

But I also know that we grow and get stronger and more resilient when we push ourselves a bit to try new activities or try a more intense level of something we have been dabbling in.

So, I am going to work on improving my balance in the yoga poses and when I feel more confident in that balance, I will borrow a helmet and rent a scooter and practice in a parking lot before I take it on the street. Probably next spring.

What new things are you trying?

Butterfly Garden

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Newly planted butterfly garden at the entrance to the Meeting House.

Earlier in the summer, I wrote a grant application for 137 native species plants for the Quaker Meeting House.

Last week, the plants arrived and we organized a work day to get them in the ground.

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Digging holes for the new plants.

I have registered our new butterfly garden with the St. Louis Milkweed for Monarchs foundation. Milkweeds for Monarchs

This project has been a win-win-win for us by 1) increasing the native species in our downtown city site 2) beautifying the neighborhood 3) building community and 4) helping me get some nice muscles and fresh air.

The world is such a delicious tangled web of interconnections, it is almost impossible to do good in one area, without it spilling over into others. Where are you doing good?

Play. Rest. Play. Rest.

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This is one of my favorite photos of all times. It’s from the internet, but I feel I know this kid.

I recently came across this quote, “Rest until you feel like playing, then play until you feel like resting, period. Never do anything else.” — Martha Beck

Did you see that flash of light? Followed by the low rumble of thunder? That was me, getting struck by lightening.

I have long understood that pacing mattered. If I had no meaningful work, I was bored. If I had too much meaningful work, I was exhausted. Finding the balance in this work/rest cycle has been an ongoing discovery. My interests changed. My energy levels changed. But I felt that I had a handle on the basic questions.

But this is revelation! It is not supposed to BE work. It is supposed to be meaningful PLAY.

Say, What?  Meaningful play? What does that look like?

Well, from the outside, it might just look like meaningful work. But from the inside, it’s just fun, fun, fun until you get tired.

Real life example from last week: Through the Quaker Peace and Justice Committee, I attended a training session on how to canvas a neighborhood of registered voters on two local ballot initiatives. I value the work these folks are doing, but the closer we got to actually going into the neighborhood and knocking on doors, the more my body was screaming, “NOOOO!” I personally did not want to knock on the doors of busy strangers and engage them in a political discussion. I bailed on the activity.

Fast forward five days and I am out in a 100 degree F heat index digging up an old footing. This footing is a remnant from the old meeting house sign, which was broken when a Bradford Pear [invasive species-bad, but has large canopy-good] threw down an especially large branch during a storm and broke the sign.

I am working to remove the footing, because we want to get the new sign posts in the ground before the native species plants arrive on October 6, so the new plants won’t get trampled installing the posts.

South St. Louis is known for it’s beautiful 1860’s brick buildings. What is not so well known is that when disasters struck in the 1800’s (think earthquake or large fire), the buildings that could not be rehabilitated were pushed down and the refuse buried.

So, the place where I am trying to dig out a footing has more broken brick and limestone parts than it does actual dirt. There is a utilities line close by. I start with a spade, but that proves ineffective and I end up working with a dandelion fork and gloved hands. It feels a bit like trying to escape Alcatraz with an ice pick and a teaspoon.

And yet, despite the heat and the sore muscles in my hands and the frustration of having to remove those broken bricks and stones one by one, it felt like play.

I have a vision in my head of this beautiful old building, cleaned and restored, as a place of worship open to all. And a vision of our landscape as a garden that welcomes both locals and visitors to the neighborhood.

So what looks like work from the outside is play. Lesson– I would rather dig in the rock and brick than do a political canvas of the neighborhood. Good to know.

Back In Class

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Gourd bird house decorated by me.

It’s September and I took two classes last week. On Friday I made this bird house out of a gourd. I’m going to hang it in the courtyard of the Quaker meeting house, which we have cleaned out and  started planted with native species. It makes for a better photo than the other class, which was far more interesting.

The first class I took last week was on “Rainscaping,” that is using bio-swales and other landscaping techniques, including moisture tolerant native species to slow down run off water and allow it to sink into the ground, rather than going into the sewer system. The Quaker meeting house borders an area that has high levels of pedestrian traffic, erosion, a sewer drain and multiple invasive species. I got lots of good ideas about how to landscape this area in the future to address the needs of the community. Plus I met some cool gardeners.