Tag Archives: Sunday Self-Care

Sunday Self-Care: Making the beds

As I mentioned several weeks ago, I don’t stop gardening in the winter. Time spent working in the sunshine is a necessity if I’m to keep seasonal depression at bay, and winter is an ideal time to work on a garden’s infrastructure. My focus this year has been adding raised beds. I had six last year, and my goal is to have a dozen by planting time this year — a task that should be accomplished easily enough, as we generally buy one every paycheck, and we’re still five checks away from Planting Day.

I think the bird's-nest concept takes up too much room to work in the garden itself, but it'll be cute around a raised bed in the front yard later on.
I think that bird’s-nest concept takes up too much room to work in the garden proper, but it’ll be cute around a flowerbed in the front yard later on.

I’ve been filling the beds with compostable materials, peat moss, and finished compost. A third of a bale of peat on the bottom provides filler as well as drainage and aeration, and three bags of compost on top will just about fill up the bed, for a total cost of about $8 per bed.

I can’t say enough good things about these beds, which are just plain old 36-inch fire rings. They run between $30 and $45 apiece, depending on where you buy them and whether you catch a sale, and they’re lightweight, easy to position (just roll them where you want them), and make planting and weeding very easy. I installed them out of necessity — the juglones from the neighbors’ black walnut and pecan trees have rendered the soil in my backyard worthless for growing most vegetables — but they’ve proven so advantageous in so many directions, I’m not sure I’d go back to traditional rows even if I had the option.

As you can see in the picture, I’ve also started mulching with cedar shavings in between beds. They look neat, discourage pests, and smell nice when I walk over them.

Emily

P.S.: The tin cans you see in one of the rings in the top picture are leftovers from last year’s plantings. Besides being a good way to start seeds, the cans help protect young plants from marauding squirrels, which love to dig through my raised beds in search of nuts. My tomato plants wouldn’t have survived without them last year.

Sunday Self-Care: A virtual ride down Route 66

I have kind of a long-term goal — nothing really pressing, but just something I’ve thought might be cool to do — of pedaling the equivalent of the length of Route 66 on our stationary bike. About a year ago, I got on Google Maps and planned rides in increments of anywhere from 7 to 35 miles, following the road from landmark to landmark. I entered that information into Excel, printed out a chart, and hung it in the basement, where it’s been sitting, mostly ignored, for months. I noticed it a couple of weeks ago when I was testing out the new bike Ron bought after the old one broke down, and I decided to give it another go, just for fun.

I’ve logged over 100 miles in the past couple of weeks. It was easier than I expected, even with the tension turned up on the bike, and it’s a comfortable way to burn a few calories and generate a few much-needed endorphins while I wait for spring.

I don’t have the time, money, or endurance to go out and take a real ride down Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles right now, but this virtual trip is kind of a nice way to revisit favorite attractions in my head and daydream about where I’d like to explore on our next road trip.

By the way, 100 miles puts me somewhere south of the Route 66 Museum in Pontiac. If I were really on Route 66, I’d have started at the “Begin 66” sign in Chicago and passed the Berwyn Route 66 Museum, the site of the late, great Wishing Well Motel, Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket, White Fence Farm, Haunted Trails, Route 66 Raceway, the Gemini Giant (pictured above), the site of the fabulous Riviera Roadhouse, Ambler’s Texaco, Odell Station, and the Pontiac Route 66 Museum.

Emily

Sunday Self-Care: Countdown to spring

“The one constant through all the years … has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past … . It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.”

— Terence Mann, Field of Dreams

The 2016 World Series champion Chicago Cubs* have announced their spring-training reporting dates. Pitchers and catchers are due to arrive in Mesa on Feb. 14.

In other words: It’s 37 days to spring.

We are SO having Chicago-style hot dogs for lunch on Valentine’s Day. And probably either gooey butter cake or Ted Drewes’ Frozen Custard for dessert, because Ron’s Cardinals report the same day.

Spring is coming. I am at peace.

Emily

* I promise I won’t be insufferable about this, but I really never expected to utter that phrase. Let me have my moment. If history is any indicator, it may never happen again in my lifetime.

Sunday Self-Care: Hand me the wine and the dice

I’d planned to make a long list of goals for 2017, but if there’s a lesson to be learned from 2016, I think I found it the other day in the lyrics to a song from one of my favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals:

If death were given a voice,
That voice would scream through the sky:
“Live while you may, for I am coming!”
So …

… Hand me the wine and the dice.
The time is racing away.
There’s not a taste that’s not worth trying.
And if tomorrow it ends,
I won’t have wasted today;
I will have lived while I am dying.

— Don Black and Charles Hart

“Hand Me the Wine and the Dice” is sung at the funeral of one of the central characters in Aspects of Love, a wealthy painter and patron of the arts who is driven, perhaps by the premature death of his first wife, to enjoy every day to the fullest.

After losing so many people I admire last year — some I knew personally, and some I knew only through their work — I found myself thinking about that song the other day.

I’m often guilty of spending so much time regretting yesterday or worrying about tomorrow that I miss today, and it literally makes me sick: I wasted a big chunk of 2016 battling tension headaches and muscle spasms I suspect were entirely stress-induced.

I’m not doing that again.

My goal for 2017 is to do less.

It feels strange — selfish and unproductive — to say that, but just last week, I found myself passing up a volunteer opportunity because I wasn’t confident I’d be healthy enough to pull it off. Taking care of myself isn’t selfish; it’s necessary if I’m to be of service to others.

My hope is that a few months of systematically removing stress from my thought — resting more, being more present in the moment, and giving myself space to enjoy the life I have here and now — will improve my health and recharge my batteries to full power.

If it doesn’t? Well, as the song says: “I won’t have wasted today.”

There’s something to be said for that.

Emily

Sunday Self-Care: Christmas edition

We spent yesterday in central Illinois, visiting Ron’s family, and today in Southern Illinois, visiting my family. My nieces and nephews decorated the cookies pictured above.

Besides spending time with family, I decided self-care this week would involve the opposite of self-care most of the rest of the time: I ignored my Fitbit’s admonitions and ate whatever I wanted instead of insisting on optimal nutrition at every meal or trying to jam extra workouts into an already busy holiday schedule just to compensate. If I gain an extra pound or two, so be it; I’ve got the rest of the winter to watch Star Trek on the treadmill.

Here are some pictures of the munchkins:

Hazel shows off one of her presents. I don't really know what it is because I'm old.
Hazel shows off one of her presents. I don’t really know what it is because I’m old.
I'm pretty sure I have a picture of Jamie making this same face when he was a toddler.
I’m pretty sure I have a picture of Jamie making this same face when he was a toddler.
Martha models the Christmas-light necklace she got in her stocking.
Martha models the Christmas-light necklace she got in her stocking.
Ollie turns a pair of bows into an impromptu Princess Leia costume. The Force is strong with this young padawan, and he wishes General Organa the best as she recovers from her recent health scare.
Ollie turns a pair of bows into an impromptu Princess Leia costume. The Force is strong with this young padawan, and he wishes General Organa the best as she recovers from her recent health scare.

Hope you had a good Christmas, wherever you are.

Emily

Sunday Self-Care: White noise

About a year and a half ago, a friend recommended a smartphone app that generates white noise to help people sleep better. She said it was great because it offered a lot of different sounds, which you could mix and match to create combinations that remind you of places where you feel comfortable.

I’d never considered the possibility that I might sleep better if I drifted off while listening to sounds that remind me of places I love, but the idea was intriguing enough that I downloaded the app and discovered my friend was right: It is great.

I spent the first couple of weeks staying up later than I’d planned while I dinked around with the app, trying to find just the right combination of sounds to make me think of wherever I wanted to be right then, but the end result was a nice assortment of places more soothing than my bedroom.

Several combinations were evocative of places I’ve stayed on vacation: the Blue Swallow during monsoon season; the Ocean Park Motel in San Francisco; the Lincoln Motor Court in Mann’s Choice, Pennsylvania. Others reminded me of places or situations from years past: a snow day when I was teaching; a trip to the laundromat on a rainy day; a visit to the late, great Nature Company.

As useful as white noise is for falling asleep, I think it might be even better for relaxing while I’m working on other things. I’m prone to muscle spasms in my neck and shoulders and tension headaches, and I think a lot of that is because I tense up when I’m concentrating. Sometimes I put on headphones and listen to music while I’m working, but the other night, I got the bright idea to take it a step further and listen to white noise.

I can’t say it solved the whole problem instantly, but between that and a cup of chamomile tea, I was a lot less tense and a lot less irritated by the usual barrage of annoyances while I was working. I expected the combination of white noise and chamomile to make me sleepy, but instead, I think it just helped me relax and filter out distractions so I could focus on what I was doing.

I’ll definitely use that strategy again this week and see how it goes.

Emily

P.S.: In case you’re interested, the app I use is Relax Melodies by Ipnos Software. I like it a lot, but I haven’t tried any other white-noise apps or machines or anything, so I don’t know how it compares to other options.

Sunday Self-Care: The Doctor is in

I had a long list of stuff I planned to get done yesterday. I did some of it, but I ran out of steam by the end of the evening and decided it was time for a break, so I let a candy cane and three marshmallows melt into a cup of hot cocoa while I settled in for an appointment with the Third Doctor.

I can think of much worse ways to spend a cold evening than sipping cocoa and watching the Doctor’s most elegant incarnation protect the Earth from Silurians, Autons, and rogue Time Lords while my dogs sleep on the floor beside my chair.

Emily

Sunday Self-Care: Christmastime Is Here

Maybe it’s the election.

Maybe it’s the way people treated each other in the months leading up to it, or the way they’ve behaved in the weeks since.

Maybe it’s the weather.

Maybe it’s the usual seasonal depression settling over me.

Maybe it’s some combination of the above.

Whatever the reason, I haven’t had much enthusiasm for the holidays this year, and I really considered leaving my Christmas tree in its box in the garage and letting December go by more or less unacknowledged.

I considered it. But that tree is aluminum, straight out of the late 1950s, and it’s got a color wheel to light it up and a set of matte-finish red and green ornaments to hang on it, and for the first time since I bought it, I have a living room full of furniture that goes with it. How could I possibly pass up a chance to see how that Marshmallow sofa looks with a real mid-century aluminum Christmas tree glittering beside it?

And if I’m going to take myself back to the era immediately preceding my own existence, shouldn’t I have period-appropriate music to listen to while I assemble the color wheel?

Yes. Yes, I should.

tiltshiftchristmas
Behold the magic of a mid-century modern Christmas.

So I downloaded the A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, set my iPhone inside a coffee mug to amplify the sound, and let Vince Guaraldi soothe my frazzled nerves and erase all the grown-up worries and fears and frustrations from my mind.

“Christmastime Is Here” is one of those songs I took for granted for years. It wasn’t the sort of Christmas song you’d hear at church or sing in school or hear on the radio stations that switch their format to “all Christmas, all the time” during December. But it was always part of Christmas, and the older I get, the more I appreciate the way it strikes a balance between grownup melancholy and childlike wonder.

This year, finding that balance has been more difficult than usual, and I’m grateful for Guaraldi’s help finding it as I settle into a replica of a rocking chair that predates the Peanuts gang’s first animated special by several years, sip a cup of peppermint cocoa, and listen to piano and triangle and children’s voices mingle with the hum of the motor on the color wheel turning gently behind the tree.

Christmastime is here.

Emily

Sunday Self-Care: Seed catalogs

It’s the third-most wonderful time of the year.

The most wonderful time of the year is the first Saturday after Tax Day, when we put the garden in the ground.

The second-most wonderful time of the year is the day Cubs pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

But the third-most wonderful time of the year is now, when the companies that sell seeds for the garden and beekeeping equipment for the apiary start sending out catalogs, which means I can start dreaming about spring in specific detail and figuring out how many times we’re going to have to eat enchiladas or sauerkraut to save up enough cans for all the seeds I intend to start. (Tin cans with the bottoms cut out make the world’s greatest seed-starting pots/squirrel deterrents. Unfortunately, about the only products that still come in cans with identical tops and bottoms are Ro-Tel tomatoes; certain brands of sauerkraut; and most enchilada sauce. This means for about two months every winter, my grocery list revolves around my gardening needs.)

Gardening and beekeeping catalogs are my saving grace every winter. Gray skies and short days don’t do anything positive for my mental health, and after a while, I start to wonder whether I’ll ever get to put my hands in the dirt and bask in the sunshine again. When that first seed catalog lands in the mailbox, I see the first glimmer of hope.

We got catalogs this weekend from Seed Savers Exchange and Betterbee, so I’ll spend the next few months dogearing pages and circling varieties that sound promising and drawing scale diagrams of the garden while I dream of spring.

Emily

Sunday Self-Care: Four-legged bed warmer

Since the temperatures started dropping a couple of weeks ago, Ron has started doing something that lifts my spirits: When he goes to bed, he brings Lillian with him and lets her sleep on the bed with us.

His motivation is largely selfish: Dogs have higher body temperatures than humans, so Lillian is basically a space heater with feet. But she’s also very sweet, and very cute, and very good at making me smile every time I wake to find her snuggled up against me or curled up like a cat at the foot of the bed.

I have to stifle an “awwww” when one of us rolls over or moves the covers, and Lil whimpers softly in protest.

I laugh, remembering our late retired racing greyhound’s morning routine, every time Lil tells us she needs to go out by simply staring at one of us until we wake up, our subconscious apparently having realized we’re being watched.

I laugh again when Ron gets up, and Lil — who loathes him but cannot abide the thought of being left out — sits up, watches him intently for a moment, and then scrambles off the bed and dashes out after him.

And on nights when I’m tense or sad, I stroke the fur on top of her little head, soft as a baby rabbit’s, and feel my blood pressure dropping and my mood settling as my sweet little Chihuahua-Italian greyhound mix soothes me to sleep with her presence.

I love our whole pack, of course. Song is a big, sweet goober. Riggy is a funny little ball of irrepressible energy. And Walter is Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser rolled into one. They are our world, and we love them all immensely. But Lillian is the only member of the pack who can and will sit still long enough to cuddle with me on a regular basis, and that’s a Very Important Job.

If you don’t have a snuggly little dog in your life, I highly recommend adopting one. They’re worth their weight in gold.

Emily