Gluten Free v.2.0

I went gluten free, mainly to address joint pain,  in January of 2014 after reading the Wheat Belly book.   It was life-changing with regards to the joint pain I had.  Flash forward to last October.  I was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease after a really long journey with my doctors.  More than one of my doctors.  Let me just say that you know your body better than anyone else.  Be your own advocate.  I had to switch doctors to find one that truly listened to what I had to say about my body and how I felt.  I finally found a doctor that ran the right tests and not just a TSH.  What I found was that I would absolutely need to be gluten free.   I was already gluten free. No problem, right!?

Not so fast!  With some thyroid symptom’s worsening still, I was compelled to do a little more research.  Research that led me to a little thing called the AIP diet.  Well, it’s not so little.  It’s HUGE actually.  And daunting.

The Autoimmune Protocol Diet.  It would seem that there are actually proteins found in other foods that are similar enough to gluten to cause a reaction.  Who knew?  Not this girl.  Cross reactivity.  The list of cross reactive foods contains a lot of things I eat – including a few that I’d already suspected that I have an issue with.  Corn is not my friend.  I’ve suspected this for the past couple of years.  I thought it was an allergy but testing showed that it wasn’t.  I still eat corn because really, who can pass up warm tortilla chips and salsa?  But I knew that every time I ate corn I would pay for it later.  Ditto for potatoes.

So when this AIP thing showed up on my radar a few weeks ago I said, “Nope.  Nope.  Nope. Not doing it.”  You see, eggs are on that list.  And I have chickens.  Chickens that live in an adorable coop.  Chickens that I fought city council to have.  Chickens who should start laying in a month or so.  I am clearly committed to eggs.   But as I started to read more and more, I decided that I can try anything for a short time.  I’m not giving up everything on the list at once.  I’m going to do this gradually.  After spending a couple of days getting my head around it, I made a decision.  As of today, I will not be eating dairy, eggs, corn, rice, oats, or potatoes for the next two to three weeks.  Coffee either.  But I don’t have more than one cup of decaf a week anyway, so that’s no stretch.

But breakfast seemed to be an area of concern.  What the heck was I going to eat?

More research.  Google is my best friend.  A few clicks and voila:  Maple Bacon Sweet Potato Hash.  

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Yummmm.

I made a smaller batch and told myself I wasn’t going to eat much of it.  But it was just so good.  And just maybe this is going to be a little easier than I think.  At least if we eat at home.  Eating out may be even more of a nightmare than it was anyway.

So today begins another journey toward wellness.  And you know what they say about a journey:  The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step – Lao Tzu

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Vincent van Gogh, Path in the Woods. Paris, 1887 )

 

 

Kindness Begins With Me

A check list

From Sweatpants and Coffee.  There’s a lot of great wisdom there.

If you’re anything like me, you’re completely  fed up with the downright ugliness of social media.  To me, what it boils down to is this:

Who I voted for (or who you think I voted for)  does not make it okay for you to insult me. Or anyone else either.  If you disagree with me?  Again, it’s not okay to insult my intelligence, my integrity, or my compassion for others.  If asked for an opinion and I give it?  Let’s just say that STFU is not an appropriate response.  Yes, I’m a woman, but please don’t tell me what I should think just because I am a woman.

There’s a serious lack of filters out there these days and I hate it.  Part of it is social media widens our “circle” to see comments, attitudes, and opinions of perfect strangers who are nothing more than a tiny little box beside their name. For the most part, I think many of these strangers are far too comfortable being rude and insulting to people that they don’t know.  I ask myself this question all the time:  If this conversation happened in line at the coffee shop, would they say this to my face?  Or do they gather their boldness from the anonymity of the on-line arena?  I think it’s probably the latter.  The Pollyanna in me likes to find the good in people but lately that’s been difficult.  And it’s not just with respect to politics that I see the sad decline of civility.  Even on forums dedicated to something as wonderful as sharing the love for our pets, a disagreement over  advice to seek veterinary care often ends up with name calling and nasty comments about the poster’s appearance. (I know.  It’s crazy, right?  And mean.  It’s just mean.)  I bite my tongue on a daily basis rather than get involved in the ugly mess.  When I’m not successful and have lapse in judgment and think maybe my opinion does matter, well, there’s usually someone who comes along to set me straight.  In the end, I’m just not offering up my thoughts publicly all that often anymore.  There’s a lot of toxic comments and as a result, toxic emotions.  Hate is strong word, but there’s an awful lot of it out there these days.  And I have to ask, whatever happened to the Golden Rule?  (And guess what??  It’s not just a Christian thing either.)  This blogger has a great post about it and she is spot on when she says, “Stop for a moment and just imagine the impact it would have if every single one of us throughout the world took the spirit of these guidelines to heart and put them into practice in our day-to-day lives.

Finally, I know that there’s not a lot that I can do about it.  Except this:  I can be kind; kindness begins with me.  And hopefully more people, discouraged by the hate and incivility around us, will eventually opt to be the change they want to see as well.  I fear that without it, we’re sunk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are you afraid of?

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Fear.  We all have fears.

Psychologist tell us that all fears can be categorized as one of five basic fears.

  1.  Extinction.  Simple.  This is basically a fear of death or ceasing to exist.
  2. Mutilation.  This one is a little more complex.  It the fear of losing a part of our body, or losing a function of our body, or having its boundaries invades.  They say that many types of anxiety about animals, such as spiders and snakes, fall into this category.
  3. Loss of Autonomy.  Think about a fear of situations that we can’t control.  Being imprisoned, smothered, paralyzed, overwhelmed, or restricted.  Claustrophobia is a classic example but it can also manifest itself in personal relationships as a fear of commitment.
  4. Separation.  Fears of abandonment and not being wanted, respected, loved, or valued  can be devastating to a person.
  5. Ego-death.  Humiliation, shame, and self-disapproval:  the loss of worthiness.  This might manifest itself as a fear of public speaking.  Or perhaps the feeling that your blog might not be worth reading?

Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.  All fears invoke pretty much the same kind of biological reactions: sweaty palms, goosebumps, pounding heart, rapid breathing, etc. Fear is your survival response – the “flight or fight” thing you learned about in high school biology.

Some people actually enjoy being frightened.  Say what??  Horror flicks and Halloween “haunted houses” have never been my thing.  Ditto for scary amusement park rides.  But I will read a scary book.  Does that even make sense?   Hey, they’re MY fears, they don’t have to make sense.

With that in mind, what do I fear?

  1.  Spiders.  (Big or small they are all evil to me.  It’s not a completely irrational fear as I was bitten and had a pretty nasty reaction as a child.)
  2. Car accidents.
  3. Losing someone I love.
  4. Ladders. And heights to a certain degree.
  5. Not being able to scream when I may need to.

And while not a fear really, I really dislike crowds where people I don’t know might bump into me.  It doesn’t scare me – it is rather more of an dislike that irritates the heck out of me.

So what are you afraid of?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alphabet Advice

 

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Ask questions.

Be kind.

Create.  A poem, a garden, a quilt: create what makes you happy.

Doodle often and let your mind wander.

Explore the world around you.

Find happiness.

Go for a run.

Hug your kid often.

Inspire others to be their best.

Jump life’s puddles.

Keep it real.

Love well.

Make a joyful noise.

Never say never.

Open your eyes.

Pick your friends carefully.

Quit whining.

Read a book.  Read MANY books!

Slow down.  Breathe.  Create calm.

Think before you speak.

Use a napkin.

Vanquish negativity.

Write letters – the real kind.  Use a stamp!

X-marks the spot.  Find a place that makes you happy.

Yield when necessary.

Zigzag.  Take time to wander off the path.

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Writing. . . sort of.

 

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Photo taken from: http://centrum..org/programs/writing/

 

Many times in my life I have wished that I had the creativity and skills to write a book.  Specifically a children’s book.  Or a fun book.  That’s never happened.  I’m a “science person” so writing a text book would probably actually be much easier for me.  I write reflectively somewhat regularly, but never any “creative writing” aside from random poetry that pops into my head, usually when I am driving, and never ever makes it onto paper.  A few weeks ago, I began receiving a daily writing prompt email.  Most I ignore. But one sort of sparked my imagination.   What would betrayal taste like?   Hmmmm. Think about that.  Would it be bitter?  Or might it taste like something totally unexpected? I did my first “creative writing”  since I probably had to write a short story in high school.  (Does 778 words even count as a short story?) And putting it out here for anyone to read is – well a lot of things – scary being the biggest.

The Taste of Betrayal

Claire missed the signs.  They were all there in plain sight.  Well mostly, if she had only taken the time to see them.  She just missed the elevator as she headed home for the day, its door closing silently while its occupants avoided eye contact.  Deciding to splurge on a cab in honor of the occasion, she made a beeline towards the curb only to have her cab snatched away by a hurried man in a suit just as she approached.  Another car sped past creating a drenching spray of rainwater and city grime.  Claire found herself in a “Bridget Jones” moment.  Resigned, Claire popped up her umbrella and began the thirteen block walk to her apartment, her mind on the evening ahead.

Claire met Alex over a tray of appetizers at a party eighteen months ago, their attraction immediate and mutual.  The last year and a half had flown by as they got to know each other.  They spent quiet nights at home, long weekends out of town, Sunday walks through the park, lazy mornings in bed with coffee and the newspaper.  It didn’t matter what they did, they enjoyed doing it together.  Theirs was a relationship that made their friends green with envy.

Shaking the water off her umbrella, Claire stepped into her small apartment.  The gloomy fall afternoon light cast shadows over her small living room.  Snapping on the vintage lamp on her end table, a great thrift store find from one of her adventures with Alex, she rifled through the mail stopping at the pink envelope.  Real mail!  Not email.  Not a text message.  Not a rushed voicemail.  It was an honest, old-fashioned bit of correspondence, a birthday card from her favorite aunt.   “Claire, Do something fabulous on your birthday!  Much love, Aunt Martha.”

Today is Claire’s 30th birthday.  A milestone in life where, according to most people, she should have found herself in a house in the suburbs, married with a fabulous career, and 2.5 children.   Instead she lived in a small third-story walk up in the lower east side and worked as a receptionist for a small magazine.  But she had Alex.  She truly loved her job.  She had possibilities.

The last month had been challenging.  Alex’s corporate job often took him out of town for a few days at a time, but lately there had been even more travel, leaving a little Claire adrift.   But tonight Alex would be home and things could get back to normal.   Claire busied herself and changed into her favorite  black dress, a fitted illusion-sleeve bodice covered with whimsical dots and a gathered-at-the-waist flared skirt.  Beautiful, flirty, and classic all in one dress.  At the time, it was a big Nordstrom purchase on her small, overly-stretched budget.  But tonight, it seemed to perfect for the occasion:  a quiet dinner with Alex at one of her favorite restaurants.   Claire made a last minute check of her hair and makeup, grabbed her purse, and headed out to hail a taxi.

Arriving at the quaint bistro ahead of schedule, Claire was surprised to find Alex already there and seated at their favorite table. A bottle of untouched wine waited on the table while Alex checked messages on his phone.  Catching a glimpse of Claire, Alex rose and brushed her cheek with a kiss as she settled herself into her chair. These plans made two months ago, she’d been looking forward to this all day.  They chatted casually through dinner, the conversation of two people comfortable with each other:  work things, crazy wet fall weather, catch-up about friends.

But it was the mention of one particular friend over desert that caused the atmosphere to shift from comfortable and casual to something else entirely.  For a moment, Claire’s world shifted, a small tilt on its axis that caused her to stop, pause, and assess that tiny flip in her gut and those red flags starting to wave.  Alex avoided eye contact, was clearly nervous and fidgeted with his napkin.  The silence at the table uncomfortable as Alex shrugged off the waiter’s attention.  Finally, after several long moments, Alex spoke and attempted to explain himself, his words coming out in a rush, Claire only catching bits of the jumble.

“I never meant for it to happen.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Please understand. . . “

And the worst words of all,  “I’m in love with her.”

Claire gathered her belongings and calmly walked to the door, only rushing when she was sure he couldn’t see her.  In the taxi on the way home, as tears silently rolled down her cheeks, Claire realized that, forever after, betrayal would taste like lemon cake.

Run and Be Happy

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Rabbit.  Rabbit.  Rabbit.

Here it is February 1st already.  And I’m still staying true to my resolutions.  I have actually increased my yoga home practice as well as added some beginning Pilates.  But there’s one thing I haven’t addressed yet.   Running.

I ran track in high school.  I was a slightly above average “half-miler”.  We still called it the 880 then – that’s how old I am.  I trained more with the distance girls than the sprinters and occasionally ran a leg of the mile relay.  I was so NOT a sprinter!!! I have to admit that I loved the training for track but hated the races.  I wanted to quit almost every day of my sophomore year but it wasn’t allowed.  I had to stick it out.  I’m glad there was the no quitting rule at our house.  Today I am glad.  At the time I was miserable.

In college I ran for “fun”.  I know that some people think that’s laughable.  Or a lot crazy. Maybe both.  But I did find that when I was angry or troubled lacing up the shoes and hitting the road were really helpful.  I’m not sure it ever solved any problems but for that time I was running the issues weren’t issues at all.  And there was something quite peaceful about an empty track at night.

Fast-forward a few years and I was a young, working mother with no time to run.  I gave it a few shots but just found it really hard to work into a busy schedule.  When my son was in 6th grade he joined the junior high cross country team.  And that’s when my running “career” took off again.  It was a necessity.  Anyone who has ever been to a cross country meet knows that the only way to see your child run is to run yourself around the course to different vantage points.  After a few weeks of huffing and puffing, I knew it was time to make a change.  I was still teaching, but I committed to making it work.  In the years I’d taken off, a wonderful thing called the Couch to 5K had come about and it was just what I needed.  It’s evolved from just a plan to  a podcast to an app.  It’s my go-to app for starting up again after a few months off.

Once I left the classroom and had more time, I took my exercise much more seriously. I’ve never really been one for classes.  I’ve tried a few over the years.  Zumba was a disaster!  I learned to love running again.  And then on Halloween 2014 I had an accident that changed everything.  I crushed a vertebra, fractured my sternum, and broke a rib.  Doctors thought I’d been in a car accident and wasn’t telling the truth.  Nope.  I went down a slide.  A big, fast, curvy slide on a playground with a crash and burn landing at the bottom.  I know that I’m so very fortunate that I am walking and doing pretty much what I want. Initially I was told I couldn’t run for 6 months.  You know how when someone tells you that you can’t do something and then that’s all you want to do?  That was me.

The six month marker rolled around and I even then I knew I wasn’t really ready.  It was the middle of summer and I’ve never run much in the hottest of months anyway because of my asthma.  So I cooled my heels until September when I gave it a shot.  The first week went well.  So well that I was really quite thrilled.  The second week was hell.  EVERY SINGLE STEP hurt my back. I felt crushed.  That wasn’t helped by the unpleasant conversations with my doctor who told me  to “get used to the pain” and that my “life has changed”.  That’s when I turned to my surgeon and PT back in Germany and started making some changes.  (Yoga has been the biggest.)  But I hadn’t run again.  Let me tell you, fear really does suck!

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So today I woke up and started thinking about my day and what I was going to do. And I was tired.  And it was cold.  (Can you hear the whining?)  But I decided to give it another try because if I waited for the perfect time . . .  well that probably never happens, right?

Winter running 2

It went well.  I started with week 2.   But ran an extra 4 minutes at the end.  It was cold, but not too cold. I’ve always been more of a cold weather runner and that has it’s own advantages:

  1.  There’s just not many people out on the streets and sidewalks.  This morning I saw one other runner.  One walker and another walking her dog.   And since school is in session and I went after the start time, there’s not much car traffic either.  Avoiding the indoor treadmill at the gym means less exposure to those nasty winter  cold and flu “bugs”. (Treadmills have always hurt my back – even before surgery so I avoid them all year.)  I used to love running in snow but the fear of falling made me wait until our recent snow was gone.  But who know, maybe I’ll get brave and try it again some day.
  2. Cold weather running is far less stressful on your body than hot, humid weather and can improve your endurance plus you can burn more calories since your body is working more to keep your temperature elevated.  That’s a win-win situation.
  3. Running releases “feel good” endorphines that help elevate mood during the cold winter months so it’s a cure for those “winter blues”.  Plus you get your daily dose of vitamin D.
  4. It helps to trick your body’s metabolism to prevent the seasonal slow down that happens during the winter months, as well as fighting the winter weight weight gain that plagues so many people, myself included.

So there you have it.  Running “post-accident” part two.

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26 Books to Read in 2016

Reading Challenge

I came across this idea last year and thought it was a smashing idea…so I’ve crafted a list that makes me happy.

  1. A book with water on the cover:  The Lake House by Kate Morton
  2. A book set on a school campus:  The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont
  3. A book with a murder or mystery:  The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood
  4. A book about siblings:  The Frozen Lake by Elizabeth Edmondson
  5. A book with a great first line:
  6. A classic:
  7. A book you started by never finished:
  8. A book that will help you: Back Care Basics (A Doctor’s Gentle Yoga Program for Back and Neck Pain Relief) by Mary Pullig Schatz, M.D.
  9. A book you should have read in school but didn’t:
  10. A banned book:
  11. A book that will make you smarter:
  12. A book you loved – read it again:
  13. A book based on historical events: Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman
  14. A book you’ve been meaning to read:
  15. A book set somewhere you’d like to visit: 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helen Bertino.  It’s set in Philadelphia.
  16. A book you read with a friend: Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas
  17. An autobiography or memoir:
  18. A book set in your home state:
  19. A book you own but haven’t read:
  20. A book over 400 pages:
  21. A book you picked solely for the cover:
  22. A book of poetry:
  23. A book at the bottom of your “to read” pile:
  24. A book based on a true story:
  25. A book that will make you laugh:
  26. A favorite book from your childhood:

And I’m not off to a bad start…check back for updates.  What’s on your list to read in 2106?

 

It’s in the cards.

I dropped my little Doxie girl at the vet today for a dental and possible some tooth extractions.  I decided a little “girl time” was in order to keep my mind off worrying about her and I headed to my favorite local coffee shop in the hopes that some friends were there.  What a great way to start the morning – a hug from a friend, great coffee, and a card reading.  I know.  I know.  It sounds so weird to most people.  Even to me – since I hadn’t actually ever done it before. But that said, I did love it.  And it’s not all strange “voodoo” – weird – or “witchy” – or any other preconceived notions that some might have. (I suppose that’s possible, but it certainly wasn’t my experience.)

The deck itself was called the Spirit of the Wheel Meditation Deck.  The cards were covered with beautiful illustrations based on the Native American medicine wheel.  Medicine in the Native American culture isn’t a pill to cure what ails you, rather it refers to a force or power that is inherent in nature.  The wheel itself is many things on many levels.

According to Native American tradition it can be a sacred space, an altar, a centering device for one’s consciousness, a protector, a framework in which to honor the forces of nature, and as an aid to meditation.  If the medicine wheel is new to you, I encourage you to check it out.  There are many ways it can be represented using drawings, totems, stones, etc.  It’s often depicted in art and jewelry.  Used in  some ways it’s a bit similar to walking a labyrinth.  Another cool thing to look up if you haven’t before.

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I shuffled the cards and drew out 6.  Those six cards then refer back to a reading from a booklet that explains that card.

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Isn’t that a pretty card??  So what did I learn?  Some cards validated things that I already know about myself. . . that I’m gifted with instincts about others and that I’m an educator at heart.  Three of the cards I pulled illustrated the attributes of learning, sharing, and teaching.  I spent 25 years in the classroom so I found it interesting that three of the six readings focused on those ideas.  Another touched on honesty and emotion with a caution to slow down before speaking.  One card suggested that I had recently conquered something in my life.  I feel that way about my recovery after breaking my back at the end of 2014.  I’m still getting better, but I do feel quite accomplished and have a sort of “look at me NOW” attitude especially where exercise is concerned.  Other ideas were just nice points to ponder and put to use:  to assist elders with compassion, to share my gifts with others,  to nurture my strengths, and look beyond fears to venture into the new and untried.  Aren’t those lessons we can all take something from?

So my first experience with having my cards read was quite fun and interesting.  And as I told my friend afterwards, I found it to be “food for thought” and  a pathway to self improvement and awareness.  And there’s nothing weird about that at all!

 

Resolutions v.2016

 

Resolutions

 

I don’t always make formal resolutions.  But I do reflect.  This year, I chose some things to focus on.

I started taking a yoga class in November.  I love it.  My only regret is that I haven’t been doing it for years.  It’s been a huge help for my back pain.  And I’m getting stronger.  I also find that I’m practicing the breath and and awareness even when I’m not in class.  It’s quite a drive and time commitment to get to the class, so I’m supplementing with at home practice.  I have before, but I’m making it more of a  focus for the coming year.  I started today.

I have a huge attic that’s stuffed with the detritus of children and life.  I’ve made this a focus in years past with some success.  It’s time to work on it again.  It’s hard to let go of old toys that my son loved so much.  Most of what needs gotten rid of is toys and baby stuff.  Some I will keep.  Most will go.  And what’s left needs some organization.  This won’t happen over night, but will be an ongoing project.  It’s cold up there now but I plan to spend at least 30 minutes up there every week.  This will be the hardest goal to keep I think.

Travel more.  Last year didn’t see much travel for the simple reason that I wasn’t physically able to do it.  We took a road trip to the east coast in April that was a little much for me at the time.  A long weekend in Chicago recently.  And a weekend on the motorcycle this past summer.  But I’m healing and am ready to take on more.  Dallas, here we come!

Run again.  This is a biggie for me.  Since breaking my back in October of 2014, I haven’t run.  I wasn’t cleared to run until the summer and  I did give it a rather unsuccessful try in September this fall.  I called my doctor here only to be told by his nurse that I should expect my back to hurt forever.  Those were tough words to hear.  She was cruel and blunt about it.  After drying my tears, I reached out to Germany for help.  My (truly wonderful) physical therapist and surgeon in Heidelberg gave me some suggestions to try and I’ve taken them to heart.  (Yoga was one.)  I have friends who are constantly telling me that I “don’t need to run”.  That’s true.  I don’t.  But I want to run.  For me, I think it’s the thing that will finally mean that my post-accident life is back to normal.  I guess time will tell.

So there you have it.  Resolutions in black and white out there for the world to see.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

Monday Musings

Hello, peeps!  I’m having sort of a lazy Monday morning to finish off a pretty lazy weekend.  I had an acquaintance (notice how I didn’t say friend?)  ask me what I’d “been up to” lately.  I don’t cross paths with this person often so that’s probably a fair question.  A few answers came to mind.

  1.  Well, I’ve spent the last year recovering from a traumatic accident and surgery.
  2. I’ve been solving all the world’s problems like famine, disease, and terrorism.
  3. Spiritually? Physically? Socioeconomically?
  4. I’m alright, slight bruises here and there, nothing i can’t handle (this is probably close to the truth).
  5. Today I’m a rutabaga, but tomorrow I’m thinking I’ll be a coconut.

But what I actually said was, “Nothing much.  Same old stuff.”  This must not have been the answer she was looking for because after few more minutes she repeated the question.  And then followed up with the zinger:

Haven’t you gotten bored yet since you aren’t working?

WHAT?  Bored?  Me?  She must not know me well at all.  Now, you must keep in mind that I have never in 22 years known this woman to “work”.  She stayed home with her children (which is ALL KINDS OF WORK) but did not have a job outside the home.  Then after the divorce, she lived off support from her ex-husband and talked about trying to decide what to do with herself. She did that for years.  And all of that is fine. Fine for her, but apparently not for me because she was all sorts of judgmental about me not working  for the last 6 years.  Never mind that I put in 25 years teaching science to high school students!  In the end, I just shrugged her off and said, “I knit.  I read. I have hobbies. I keep busy.”

But last night at meditation class, a retired friend said, “We are’human beings’ not ‘human doings’.  The meaning of life is to live it fully in each moment.  Our worth doesn’t come from a job.” She makes an excellent point!!  And she also pointed out that they aren’t hobbies at all; they are passions.  And she’s right again!

So here’s what I’ve “been up to” in the last few weeks.

  1.  Hubby and I put in a no-dig fence for  the dogs.  It’s not a tall fence, but it looks nice and works for our two dogs.  The golden is too old and not a jumper or otherwise we would have needed a taller option.
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Shawzy looking out.  She’s adorable, is she not?

2.  I finished up a few knitting projects.  One,  a pair of socks for the hubby (to be discussed at another time) . The other is a baby sweater for a friend.  I think the sweater turned out quite cute.  Entirely made from leftover sock yarn.  One solid gray and the other a self-striping.  Thrifty and cute both.

3.  Exploring local coffee shops.  I take my dog to Pittsfield, IL to be groomed.  While I wait, I support the local economy.  There’s a gift shop, a diner, and a coffee shop that I love there.  Not to mention a few antique shops.   Free Press Coffee and Tea is a favorite.  Great atmosphere (and it’s attached to a historic hotel), good coffee, and even some gluten-free choices (with more to come).  It was pouring down rain last week when I was there so it was a cozy place to kill some time reading and enjoying a breve.  (We did have snow on Saturday though!)

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Free Press Coffee last winter.

While I was there I bought a cup to add to my hand-thrown coffee cup collection.  I love it.  It makes me happy having my tea in it.  Small pleasures.  Isn’t it a beauty?

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Cup by local artists at Crooked Clay Creations.  

4.  Yoga.  I’ve started a gentle yoga class to help improve my core strength in the hope it will alleviate some back pain.  It saddened me a little to feel like the youngest member in the class, but it’s okay.  I like it.  I love the instructor who’s very helpful at guiding me away from moves that might cause me trouble.  She’s one of the those people that you meet and know instantly that you could be great friends. AND, I’ve flexed my stiff spine in ways that it hasn’t been in over a year.  That’s a good thing.  I pay for it a bit afterwards, but that’s getting better too!   I’m only going once a week since it’s a 40 minute drive, but I bought a DVD to try to add a couple of days on my own at home. I’ve committed to 10 weeks and from there we shall see.  Maybe I’ll switch classes or add another class to the schedule.

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A class at my yoga studio.  Not MY class (notice the “youngsters”).  My class would look much more “mature”.

5.  Reading.  Always a given.  But this time I am reading a book that I have looked at many times but always put it back.  I don’t care for the circus.  Never have.  I’m not sure why either.  I just don’t like them. I’m not sure what kept drawing me to this book but I can’t tell you how many times I read the blurb on the back.   We have a locally owned bookstore that I try to support,  so last week I didn’t put the book back on the shelf.  Instead, Andy wrapped it up for me in brown paper.  (I love that old-fashioned nod to times past.)

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Isn’t it lovely?  Sort of like a living room filled with friends.

Anyway, the book that followed me home is The Night Circus.  It’s very well written.  Reads like a dream. . .both literally and figuratively.  It’s not what I expected.  It’s much, much better.  It’s not a dash to the end, it’s more of a slow contemplating read with stops to imagine the magical circus the author has created.  And I think it may be one of those books that I will be sad to see it end.

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6.  Watching Blackhawks hockey with the family!

7.  Getting my pictures in order so that I can begin the scrapbook of last year’s vacation.  I think I’m about ready to start it.  It’s an overwhelming number of pictures to sort through.  Plus the idea of telling the story which turned out so different than we had planned. I know I’ll cry often while I do it.   It’s daunting.  But soon I will get to it.

8.  Laundry.  Cooking.  Cleaning.  Grocery shopping.  And all the other mundane things we do to keep a house running.

9.  Tangling.  Doodling.  And drawing.

10. Cleaning up the yard and raking leaves.  I love my big trees – but oh my- the number of leaves to rake!

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The front yard leaves.  Doesn’t include the back yard at all.  That’s a ditch under there.

11.  Sometimes I just sit in my chair with the dog on my lap.  Small pleasures. (Again.)

So!  That’s what I’ve been up to.  It’s been pretty damn awesome too.  Part of me wonders if that acquaintance can say the same.