For the past 3 months, my sister and I have been walking the dogs every morning. We are becoming known around the neighborhood as the crazy dog ladies (at least that’s what I think we must look like while walking 4-5 dogs).
Good Morning Sunshine!
You’d think that after 3 months of doing this, I would be getting used to it! But each morning I feel like I have to drag my butt out of bed. Luckily, my sister is patient enough with me to continue to drive into town to make me do this. This activity is a much smaller version of what we do while on vacation.
When we go on vacation each summer, she and I will get up at the ass-crack of dawn to walk all the family dogs (5-6 of them). We will go on a 6-mile walk (or “death march” as I lovingly call it). Usually, Lisa is bright-eyed and refreshed when we come back from the walk, but I’m a purple-faced sweaty mess!! We don’t go fast at all, but it gives the dogs a chance to run on the beach and play in the water, thereby making them tired dogs upon returning to our cabin. (Tired dogs are happy dogs – and happy owners!)
“Hey, how much do you charge?”
On our walk during vacation, people frequently look at us like we are crazy because we are walking so many dogs. We’ve even been asked if we are professional dog walkers. People are surprised when we tell them that these are just the family’s dogs. LOL!
I need to keep moving before vacation to get in shape for our death marches. But right now, my knees are aching just with the thought of having to get up and walk tomorrow morning. Some mornings I just want to sleep and say forget it to walking, but I know if I don’t go, I’ll disappoint not only my dogs but my sister as well… and that just doesn’t sit well in my mind.
Have you seen any kids lately wearing those Hallmark-style yellow raincoats? Me neither. Spring here in Wisconsin seems to be one wet, cold, windy day after another. Kids still love their umbrellas, but we all seem to be wearing damp jackets and holding our breath…just waiting for summer to arrive.
Have you heard of Wisconsin’s eleven seasons? Winter, Fool’s Spring, Second Winter, Spring of Deception, Third Winter, Mud Season, Actual Spring, Summer, False Fall, Second Summer (one week), and Winter.
Spring is sooooooo long. We feel impatience. There is a restlessness in the air.
So, how do you get your mind in a place of appreciation, mindfulness, and gratitude?
Many people have heard of the Danish word for coziness, contentment, and well-being by appreciating a simple life–hygge. But I’m learning that the concept doesn’t end when the snowflakes stop flying, the cozy blankets are put away, and the hot chocolate is all gone. Yet, I’m still feeling the need to consciously cultivate gratitude in my life… for my life. The Danes actually have seasonal variations for hygge throughout the year.
Forårshygge – Spring-hygge
Sommerhygge – Summer-hygge
Efterårshygge – Autumn-hygge
Vinterhygge – Winter-hygge
Here in Wisconsin, spring is in full bloom. After the wet, dreary, grey days of early spring, every sunny mild day is a sign of approaching summer.
When I taught First Graders, we would regularly struggle to keep the kids in their coats at recess in the spring. Once it was sunny and above freezing, the kiddos would toss their outerwear on the pavement as they played catch&run with the football or swung from the monkey bars.
One of my favorite activities from teaching was exploring seeds and growing things with my class. We studied the germination of lima beans and started sunflowers in recycled milk cartons.
One of the reasons I’m feeling so good about my post-teaching life is that I am still planting seeds and growing stuff.
This growing stuff and appreciating growing things is a huge part of Forårshygge for me. (Side note: Do you have any idea how to actually pronounce this word? As I write this, it’s really bothering me that I don’t.)
I’ve seen a few other posts about what people are doing in the spring to experience and live “Forårshygge”. The common thread that I see is honoring growth and renewal.
Here are other ways I am growing things and renewing my life this spring…
I planted seeds in trays weeks ago and set them by my basement window on heated mats. The tomatoes are a disappointment, it looks like somebody sat on the coleus, but the peppers look strong and healthy. It was a month ago that we moved the flats out into my little greenhouse. I’ll transplant them into the garden as soon as it stops raining outside.
Spring Cleaning Anyone?
Open the windows and clean spider webs out of the corners at the ceiling. When I was teaching, I either didn’t notice the cobwebs when I cleaned up in the evening–or, it was too much effort to get them down from the high corners. Well ladies, now. is. the. time! I also open the windows to let in the spring air, the house feels fresher. This can totally be ramped up if you hang washed bedsheets out to dry. (I actually hang mine on the deck railing since I don’t have a clothesline.)
Is it still alive?
Move and group houseplants from inside to outside. Most of the greenery in my house is more than a decade old. They thrive from May to October outside and then rather hibernate in a north-facing breakfast room during Wisconsin’s frigid months.
A Little Vase of Something
But the most important of all the Forårshygge in my life is located on my nightstand in the bedroom. Beginning at the end of April, I bring a small, fresh blossom or mini bouquet and put it in a tiny vase. Spring begins with yellow forsythia twigs and in quick succession leads to pink tulips, yellow daffodils, miniature lily of the valley, and fragrant lilacs. This little display, along with a lamp, a pile of books, reading glasses and the vase makes me happy.
It is like a neon sign to my brain reminding me to pause, smile, and breathe when I glance at it
Spring is finally here and there are no raincoated kids holding umbrellas in my life. Are these real for anyone? Instead, I have shrimpy seedlings waiting to be planted, soggy jeans drying for hours on my porch railing, and dirt circles on my carpet where a pot sat through winter.
We can only do what we can, moment by moment, to cultivate coziness… contentment, and…well-being.
Years ago when I realized I had inherited the gardening gene from a favorite uncle of mine, I lived in a different house, on a different street, and had different sun exposure.
There was full sun on all sides of my just-built house. It was fun planting flowers such as snapdragons, marigolds, zinnias, geraniums and I achieved a profusion of flowers and consistently brilliant colors. I spent hundreds of dollars every spring purchasing annuals to accomplish this result.
Then, we moved, and guess what? I now live in a house with mature maple and birch trees. This translates into a yard with almost no sun. Can you say…gardening challenge? As noted before I was used to lots of sunlight and could grow almost all sun-loving plants.
So now I am limited to impatients, begonias, hostas, and whatever else thrives in shade…ummmm,(mushrooms anyone?). Unfortunately, I find this rather limiting, not to say, quite boring and rather unrewarding.
I decided that the areas that I created were far too extensive for annuals, and most annuals need…say it again, SUN. So, a perennial shade garden would be the way to go.
To make a long story short, I was gifted a couple of beautiful ferns. Probably two or three and planted them. I enjoyed the fact that once you planted them, you didn’t need to stake, fertilize, or replant yearly. In addition, they added a lushness, a cool, soft, green to my garden.
Bring on the ferns!
Well, now several years later, guess what? I have so many ferns that I don’t know what to do with them. And, once ferns take over, they produce so much more shade that they block other shade-loving perennials from flourishing. Now, this could be pretty if you don’t like a variation in your garden, but since I need variety, this just doesn’t work for me.
Another problem… they are beautiful in the spring, most of the summer, BUT when it gets to the “dog days of summer” they turn brown and look like shit – really ugly, brown, dry, crumply leaves. The result, a really uninviting garden.
So, this spring I have been trying to keep on top of this problem by digging out ferns by the bag, bucket, and garbage can full. So far, I have dug out around a hundred and fifty ferns and there appears to be no end. Just a note–this needs to be done when the ferns are first coming up otherwise they tend to flop over and look quite stupid for the duration of the summer.
I have a feeling that I am doomed to have this be an unending problem. So gardeners beware… don’t plant ferns unless you want a “fern garden”!
Or, look more on the positive side and trust gardener and blogger Janet Kilburn Phillips at cronesgarden.com when she says…
“There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.”
In our neighborhood, there is a person who lives at the corner who hangs dog treats on the bushes next to the sidewalk. A small sign tells dog walkers to “Please take one.”
She is putting a little love out into the world.
The other day, I saw a woman in the grocery checkout line who was wearing a dress identical to one that I own. I thought that it looked nice on her. A few minutes later, as I was driving out of the parking lot, I saw the same woman. She was walking to her car with her shopping cart. I rolled down my window and hollered “Hey, I just wanted to tell you how great you look in that dress. I have the same one at home and I love it.” She replied, “Thanks, I got it on sale at Kohls.” I answered back, “Yeah, I even wear it just like you do, with leggings and a jacket”.
Just putting a little love out into the world.
“I love humanity but I hate people.” poet Edna St. Vincent once famously wrote. In the same way, I often really need to make an effort to connect and engage with people. It is so much easier to talk with my family or work on my own shit rather than engage with the people I meet every day.
With that being said, it brings me happiness, even joy when others go out of their way to interact, engage, or reach out to me.
Writing thank-you notes was not taught or encouraged when I was a child (or perhaps I just don’t remember). As a teenager, I hated the little triangular-folded notes that friends passed at school to one another. As a young adult, I knew I wouldn’t keep in touch with friends after I moved.
But I’ve saved and charished EVERY note, letter, and spontaneous correspondence that I’ve ever recieved.I have a collection dating back over 40 years! I store sweet notes from friends in a nightstand drawer. When I was dating my husband-to-be, I printed and saved every email from that first year. I still have every love note from my high school boyfriend. Every letter my ex-husband penned are tied together with a string…in a box…in my closet.
It is time to reconcile this dichotomy in my life. I want to be appreciative, thankful, and supportive. (I should have probably begun this project at the beginning of the Covid shutdown.) But anyway, my sister Michelle suggested that what I was talking about was “happy mail”.
So I conducted a Google search.
I found blogs and You-Tube videos dedicated to sharing appreciation to small business customers. There are also scrapbookers and “junk journalers” who share stuff with each other unexpectedly through the mail. These were BEAUTIFUL and inspiring works of art that people were sharing with each other in an effort to “share the love”.
I found it totally overwhelming!!! Some of these creations must have taken days or weeks to collect and construct.
I don’t consider myself a fluent writer. So I write a sloppy copy before I transfer the words into a notecard. It relieves my writer’s block and prevents me from stressing about making a mistake.
What I am proposing is buying and using store-bought blank notes and writing something thoughtful and direct like this blogger.
I also don’t believe that these notes need to be sent in the mail. They can be surreptitiously stuck under a windshield wiper, taped to a house door, or placed anonymously on a co-worker’s desk.
My mom calls these “Iris letters”. They are the less familiar cousin and the opposite of “onion letters”. (Glinda versus the Wicked Witch of the West.) An Onion letter is what you might send to a business to complain about the mess the plumber left after fixing your toilet or the rude comment the customer service rep made when you returned an item at Wal-Mart. Onion letters help a business correct wrongs. Iris letters acknowledge and appreciate service workers or businesses that go above and beyond.
I should have sent an Iris letter a few years ago to my local Aldi.
After checking out all of my groceries, I realized that I had neither cash nor credit cards in my purse. Upon realizing this, the cashier volunteered to pay my $80+ bill until I returned. She said that she knew I was a regular customer and that I’d be back.
Profusely thanking her, I instead asked her to just put my cart of groceries to the side. I zipped home. Returning a half-hour later, I had cash in hand. Thanking her again, she smiled at my appreciation, and I vowed to myself to write a note to the manager. I intended to appreciate, honor, and celebrate her good deed.
My goal was to share a little love and bring recognition to this kind woman.
In our family, we all like to help each other with projects, especially home projects. Just one word of warning. If Sandy is creating be sure you understand the parameters of the project. We were asked to help wallpaper Michelle’s bathroom. That request sounded tame enough. Right??
While we are all trying to improve ourselves and make the most out of our lives, one thing that we must keep in mind is to be true to yourself. Following what society expects or desires you to be or to look like or to accomplish does nothing for you if you don’t agree with those expectations. All you end up doing is frustrating yourself. Here are 5 things to consider when trying to fit into society’s expectations and also be true to yourself.
When I was growing up, I always thought relationships had to be 50/50. Give and take needed to be equal or the relationship would not succeed.
In reality, what I discovered was that relationships almost always consist of an unequal number of contributions. If one person is having a great day, they might contribute 80%. If the other person was having a bad day or a troublesome day, their contribution might only be 20% or less. The goal was to have the total equal to 100%. Unfortunately, that didn’t always happen.
Almost 7 years ago, we began by introducing ourselves, “Sidetracked Sisters are Sandy & Judy (sisters) and Lisa & Michelle (sisters). We are 4 sides of the same coin…(hmmmmm – how is that possible?). Some say we are very much alike, yet others say we are as different as they come. We are family and LOVE to torment each other.”
But you probably know that already if you’ve been following us for a while.
Sidetracked Sisters started as a home-based crafting group. After several years, we began writing our blog where we shared thoughts and 178 writings on random topics.Continue reading →
Here are six tips for having a good relationship with your mother-in-law.
Doris wasn’t just a mother-in-law, but a fabulous friend. Personally, I feel she had quite a bit more to overlook in me in the beginning as I was selfish, opinionated, and just plain stupid. Example – I had my second child and was not up to par. It was spring and, of course, flower planting time. I being the perfectionist (and this is where stupid and selfish comes in) did the unthinkable… To be nice she planted a peachy/pink bed of petunias in an area where I would usually put, I think, red. Would you believe that when I felt up to it, I actually replaced her petunias with my preferred color? When I think of that today I just cringe. She never said a word, but I’ll bet she was not impressed with me.
Tip 1 – Be thankful for the little things they do for you and be gracious
When my husband and I started going together we were of different religions. I was with a girlfriend that was Lutheran, the same as my mother-in-law, and she said to me. “Why doesn’t Art find a nice Lutheran girl to date?” At the time I was appalled. Today I think it is pretty funny as later in life I turned to Lutheran and she turned to the religion that I had been for her second husband.
Tip 2 – Don’t sweat the small stuff. There is always tomorrow and things change
The two of us came from entirely different backgrounds. She was a farm girl and I was a city brat. Her taste was totally different than mine and we had a good time teasing about my exotic, or just plain different taste than hers. One time after putting up a half-moon mirror in my family room I asked her what she thought and she replied, “I think it looks totally stupid.” O.K. then!!! I had grown up enough by this time to actually laugh it off and I still have that totally stupid mirror still hanging in my family room.
Tip 3 – Appreciate true honesty and don’t take it personally
She was always there when I needed her, or just a phone call away. She actually got a warning ticket for speeding on Center Street to come and wash my kitchen floor. I was getting ready for one of the girl’s weddings and she thought I could use some help. The officer asked her where she was going in such a hurry, 50 in a 25-speed zone, and she said to wash my daughter-in-law’s floor. He gave her a warning, but I’ll bet there were a few laughs down at the station after that. I hope none of them knew me so as to judge me, expecting this poor older lady to wash my kitchen floor?.
Tip 4 – Appreciate the things they do for you even if it is not necessary
When I planted my perennial garden I worked during the day and had to get my plants in after dark for some reason. My mother and mother-in-law sat on logs in my backyard with flashlights to help me see what I was doing. My backyard neighbor had to hang over the fence in the morning to see what the hell was going on.
Tip 5 – Appreciate the big things they do for you
I could go on and on. She has since passed on and I miss her terribly. I miss our late evening gab sessions on the phone. Her stories that went on and on, and her being there for me was so enjoyable. Sure, she made me a little crazy sometimes, but I learned to overlook her differences and she overlooked mine. When she told me that I was more like a daughter to her than a daughter-in-law that was the ultimate compliment.
Tip 6 – Enjoy their differences and learn from them
They seem to have a book of knowledge that they love to share. Remember that they also compete with your own mother on most occasions and also learn how not to tread on toes.
Who thinks that Halloween is strictly for kids. I have noticed that a lot of adults sure know how to enjoy themselves. I have had a couple of fun memories that still make me laugh about Halloween!
First of all, you have to know me to know that I have a really weird sense of humor. I love to pull practical jokes. I get totally hysterical when I get a funny result to the point, you know, where you have to bend down on one knee so as not to pee your pants!!!! This, of course, does not make me the most popular person to anybody, including my family.
Picture this – I was at Walmart with my daughter and her youngest son, Nathan. He was 3 years old. He was fascinated with all the scary masks and was totally engrossed to the point he didn’t hear me when I kept calling to him. I put on the scariest mask I could find and kept calling him to look at me. He didn’t pay attention. So, I got down on my knees, got close to him, and said, “Nate!” He finally looked at me and when he noticed me, he let out the most awful, blood-curdling, loud scream and proceeded to run away from me, racing down the aisle to get away from the monster I had become. My daughter, with her baby girl, Jessica, in tow in another aisle, heard this and thought he got killed.
Another time that I still find myself laughing hysterically is when my oldest daughter was two years old. She had on a red snowsuit, with a sign that said, “trick or treat”. Plus she had on a silly witch mask Being she was only two, she was really dazed and confused as to what was going on. It was dark out and I took her to a neighbors house. Put her up on their porch. At this point, a group of other trick or treaters came and kind of pushed her aside. When the lady opened the door Lisa was behind it and was pushed off the porch and fell onto one of the bushes. Trust me, she wasn’t hurt, but when she looked back at me with this dumb, no expression, witch mask I totally lost it. I, of course, was kneeling down on the road so as not, you guessed it, pee my pants, laughing hysterically. The lady at the house thought I was totally nuts, to say the least. As I write this, I still break down with hysterical laughter much to my daughter’s dismay.
As I said, Halloween is just as much for adults as kids. Maybe with jello shots, putting bunny ears on your dog, put on a witch hat, own it, let yourself be a kid, and have fun.