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Posts Tagged gratitude

Experience Life Magazine

Learning to Trust

I envy those who are able to walk through life like teflon, letting the worries of “what ifs” roll off their backs, and yet still remain present, compassionate and full of life. My thoughts are often far too many steps ahead of myself, scenarios of “what ifs” down numerous paths with differing outcomes that will most likely never be. However much I try to be present and calm and take time each day to slow down, being so many steps ahead of life (which by the way is a giant illusion) inevitably hinders my ability to fully appreciate the now.

Last week I was home, reading and glanced up to see small sun patches stretching across my floor. I sighed, smiled and watched shadows overtake them intermittently as wind blew the curtains over their light. And I noticed the light seemed thinner, less vibrant, a little cooler in temperature. I recognized that light. It was the color scheme of fall. Just like that I felt the entirety of this very short midwestern summer pass with the next flap of the cotton curtain hanging over my window. Now that I listened more intently, I could hear the scuttle of dried leaves in the driveway more prominently than the hushing sound of full, lush, green trees. Fall is my favorite season. It brings a crispness, freshness, and for me, the overall feeling of possiblity. The air even smells like change. And yet, that evening, I felt my heart drop a bit. I had pushed through the long, long, long winter here, with the final 16 inches of snow falling on May 2nd (the snow so heavy it broke power lines), and the long, wet, chilly spring.  A mere few weeks ago summer finally arrived. And now it was gone.

As the week progressed I began thinking of just how temporary everything is in life. Most of my jobs have been for small jaunts of time, and I move often. I often feel I’m living in the temporal. The thought of living in the same building and city and working at the same job for 5 years literally is in-comprehendible to me. (Not because it’s something I don’t desire, but rather, something I have no experience with. Since graduating high school 10 years ago, the longest I’ve lived in one apartment has been 2 years, with those summers spent in other places.) There are graces that come with this, but also anxieties. I started listing things in life that were temporal; like friendships, every single relationship I’ll ever have, my car, the length of time tires stay on my wheels, each year I turn older, each day that passes, all my clothing and comforts of living, the things I loathe and the items I love, dreams, desires, wants, the expiration dates on real, whole foods, and of course, seasons. They too shall pass.

Although this may seem like a depressing thought pattern to some of you reading this, for me it was more of an enriching process of appreciating, noticing, letting go and learning to trust that the next steps in front of me will be good. Unknown, and probably unexpected, and much different than I’m imagining. But they will be there. All the more, as each day we move forward in our lives, and look back on the days that have passed and the steps we’ve taken, that we have been taken care of. That up until this very point of just a little over 28 years, I have made it. So why do I fear the next day so much? The next season? I have issues with trust. Maybe someday my loathing of winter and snow will turn to love with all those here who prefer a white, frozen, crystal landscape to a lush, sunny, humid one.

To help me live in the “now” and grow in noticing all the good things in my life each day, I’ve started a list, counting each day (some in word form, others in sketches or photographs). These can be small things like someone’s laugh, or a good cup of coffee. The book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp inspired me to do this (and I confess I’ve read it 11 times). Some of the good things I’ve written down (in no particular order):

1,207. Open spaces, breeze, lush green grass

1, 212. Condensation on mugs

1,182. Red wine, swirling in glass

1,190. Fresh berries, homemade whipped cream

1,195. Windows open, breeze blowing, summer

1,123. Window washer fluid

1,137. Rough road of life

1,146. That I have enough

1,101. Hole in big toe of socks

1,075. Warm tea

1,058. Orange sun setting softly in 19 degree weather

1,022. Clean bathrooms

1. High heels clicking against pavement

21. Blue guitars with red capos

127. Pink sky between trees

818. Fireflies filling path to little house at night

872. Brokenness

In honor of the now, I created a slideshow of my last few months. Of summer. But more importantly of life. And when I struggle in the future, I hope to look back on this, and remember to trust.

  • Cherry Tomatoes, Sliced

    Cherry Tomatoes, Sliced

    While cooking, I love to pause and notice the shape of the food I’m using. Here, I love the shadows.

  • Lake Pepin

    Lake Pepin

    One of my favorite places in Stockholm, WI.

  • Grass Landscape

    Grass Landscape

    I love the greens and yellows in this photo. This day was warm, humid and sunny. I love how this one item is in focus.

  • Being on the Lake

    Being on the Lake

    I love the peacefulness of being on the water, alone or with friends. This was a chilly summer day, but the sun was out!

  • Carrots

    Carrots

    This was taken right after they were pulled up from a friend’s garden.

  • Condensation on a Mug

    Condensation on a Mug

    This was early one morning while I was having tea. I especially enjoy the blurred lighting.

  • Looking Up

    Looking Up

    This is in Omaha, NE. I looked up while walking around, and fell in love with the leaves, architecture and reflection in this window.

  • Vino in the Valley

    Vino in the Valley

    One of my favorite outdoor dining experiences. The sky and lighting in this makes me appreciate the little things.

  • Flagstaff Mountain

    Flagstaff Mountain

    This view in Boulder, Colorado.

 

Experience Life Magazine

What’s Your Valentine’s Day Tradition?

Ironically, I’m posting on Valentine’s Day — I may be the holiday’s least popular  fan. I don’t like hearts (not a fan of the  shape), the packaged candy (don’t enjoy bad chocolate or chalky sugar), balloons (they shrivel, squeak and make that awful popping sound), singing grams or stuffed bears holding I Love You hearts (cue red face and dust mites), or the expectation of receiving/giving something.

Even as a child, Valentine’s Day stressed me out. It all seemed to be a frenzied hoopla. I did, however, look forward to one thing: receiving my Grandpa’s cookies in the mail.

A rugged German farmer with a knack for building furniture who always expected lunch at exactly noon and whom I never heard say “please” the length of his life, my Grandpa made the most delicious Valentine’s cookies I’ve ever had. He decorated them in layers of cookie and pink and white frosting, with delicate looping borders. The man was a calligraphy frosting genius. There was something about those cookies that were genuine, simple, and ever so lovely.

At some point in college I became more jaded (possibly through a series of horrid breakups), and at the peak of my growing hatred for the day, I remembered those cookies, and how I missed them. And how they brought me joy through my first 16 years. I decided Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about enjoying something with people you care about, not last-minute dinner reservations or pink lace.

So I thought about what I enjoy: war movies, eating fantastic homemade food, staying inside when it’s freezing cold, and having an altogether no-pressure, relaxed evening. That’s been my Valentine’s Day tradition now for the past six years, and I have to say, my hate of the day has lessened. I even look forward to it now.

My nontraditional take on the holiday got me wondering how other culture’s celebrate it. A quick search at http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/02/13/valentines-day-traditions-around-the-world/slide/more-lists showed that although American traditions have influenced many cultures, they’ve also added twists of their own. In Thailand, couples celebrate weddings by hanging off cliff sides and sky-diving. Women also lay red roses and candles in the Trimurti shrine at the feet of the Hindu deity in hopes of finding a husband. In Guatemala, people dress up in masks or Mayan attire and participate in a senior citizen’s parade. In Germany, they make giant heart-shaped gingerbread cookies and hang them around their lover’s necks. In the Philippines, Valentine’s Day has become a time when hundreds of couples have mass marriages. In Japan, chocolate companies are bombarded by the obligatory tradition of women giving chocolates to their male colleagues, known as giri-choko (obligation chocolate). In return, men give women white chocolates in March.

Whether you love or loathe this 14th day of February, I hope you do something you enjoy with someone you love, even if it involves Russell Stover, heart balloons, jewelry, chalky candy, last-minute dinner reservations, stuffed bears, singing-grams, or a new tradition. Or even your favorite cookie.

What’s your Valentine’s Day tradition? For unique ideas to celebrate those you love, check out Experience Life magazine’s compilation of articles on relationships at http://experiencelife.com/newsflashes/unique-ways-to-celebrate-love-and-relationships/.

Resources

Image: Found on Etsy.com, these cookies bring back memories of my Grandpa, and are quite similar to the fantastic frosting decorations he once created.

http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/02/13/valentines-day-traditions-around-the-world/slide/more-lists

Japan

http://voices.yahoo.com/valentines-day-around-globe-other-cultures-805047.html?cat=16

http://www.thenational.ae/deployedfiles/thenational/Articles/2012-02-14/Arts&Life/AL_1402048_ALART.pdf

Guatemala

http://newshopper.sulekha.com/guatemala-valentines-day_photo_673359.htm

http://photoblog.nbcnews.com/_news/2011/02/11/6035921-colorful-seniors-celebrate-saint-valentines-day-in-guatemala?lite

Germany

http://www.journey-to-germany.com/valentines-day.html

Philippines

http://newshopper.sulekha.com/philippines-valentines-day_photo_672730.htm

Thailand

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/day-340176-valentine-world.html

http://travel.cnn.com/bangkok/play/six-uniquely-thai-ways-celebrate-san-valentino-736132

Experience Life Magazine

A Few of My Favorite Things

One of my favorite movie scenes is when the viewer gets taken on a journey of Amelie’s likes. My favorite is that Amelie likes the sound of crème brulee cracking!

In the spirit of Amelie and in celebration of 2012, I thought I’d look back at my favorite things of 2012. One amazing thing I found is that it was very hard to limit it to only 12!

At the beginning of 2012, I resolved to be more creative. I couldn’t do, see or be involved in enough creativity this year. I read books on the subject, I “instagrammed,” I made prints, I made necklaces, I talked about “what being creative” means with friends, I took in art shows, performance art and shared my poems with more people than ever.

I rode my bike more in 2012 than ever before and loved every second of it. Thanks to ­­­Sir Walter (my trusty vintage touring Raleigh 12 speed) for all the great trips. Shout out to friends who pedaled to places far and near with me. Hope we pedal together again in 2013!

The sound of music permeated my ears this year. I took in 45 concerts with my concert-crew (you know who you are!) in 2012 and they were mostly all wonderful. Glen Hansard and St. Vincent – both at First Avenue, THE best concert venue in the U.S. – stand out in my mind at the moment so I’m listing them as my two favorites.

More music to my ears was being reunited with my vinyl record collection. I pulled it out of a storage unit in Salt Lake City and my friends helped me spin the dust off in fine form for my 40th birthday vinyl party. We had some great five-song playlists and danced the night away in my pal Karen’s garage with disco lights and all!

Speaking of 40th birthday parties, turning 40 definitely makes the list. I believe I understand the phrase “getting better with age” now. I don’t know what it was about turning 40, but I finally feel like I know, accept and like myself for the first time. I care a lot less about what other people think or who they want me to be. Or, maybe I have a better ability to establish healthy boundaries. Whatever happened a few months ago, I’m grateful for the wisdom, inner peace and sense of “home” within that I finally feel I have.

Getting into the swing of working out with kettlebells was an unexpected pleasure this year. If you want a fun and efficient cardio and strength workout, learn how to use a kettlebell. I’m living proof that you’ll get fit fast.

I had fun working out outside with my State of Minnesota parks pass. Who knew a sticker could be so fun!? I was given the parks pass as a gift and was it a great one! It was the impetus for more than usual outside time and led to some camping, hiking, biking, snowshoeing, swimming and even stargazing. I discovered several parks very close to my house that I didn’t even know about! 

I learned to drink up with green tea. This year I did a detox diet and one of my favorite drinks, coffee, was forbidden while on the diet. Green tea was allowed and I learned that it is a tasty drink – whether served iced or as a tasty latte mixed with almond milk. Even my friends at Peace Coffee know how to whip up a tasty variation.

Speaking of tasty variations, Mojo Monkey Donuts, an independently-owned, St. Paul (donut) hole-in-the-wall has my vote for best donuts ever. Just because I work at a health magazine doesn’t mean I don’t like a little sugar and fat every now and then!

I began practicing daily meditation again after about a twelve year break. It has helped me be more aware of my thoughts and feelings and become much less reactive. Having the support of other meditators via my weekly trips to a local meditation center helped me stick to my daily sessions. Plus, I’ve gotten to meet a lot of really awesome people!

This was the year that I made a conscious effort to embrace my job as the Community Engagement Specialist for Experience Life magazine. I stopped looking at it as simply “I tweet stuff” and began understanding just how important the job of engaging our online and offline communities really is. I found myself thinking and saying “I can’t believe I get paid to do this” on more than one occasion. I’m truly grateful for this opportunity.

By far my favorite things of 2012 were the adventures I had with family and friends. There’s no way to list them all, but much love and thanks to all of you who took time to hang out with me in 2012 – whether for five minutes or five weeks. I appreciate all the shared hugs, laughs and tears!

What were YOUR favorite things in 2012?

Experience Life Magazine

Reimagining Creativity

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties. ― Erich Fromm

I spend a lot of time (some people would argue way too much time) thinking about “the meaning of life” and for me the idea of “creating” is a big part of it.

I’m not typically a goal-oriented person, so I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions. But, I thought 2012 would be a good time to try something new and make one and challenge the assumption that I’m not a goal-oriented person. It was also a good way to stay focused on getting in touch with understanding the meaning and importance of creativity in my life. So I resolved to “Be More Creative.”

In order to do that, I had to figure out what that meant. I used to think “creativity” was having a piece of art or some other item you could see, touch or smell after you performed some creative act. Sure that can be part of it, but now I define “creativity” as an every day act. Think about it. We are creating things every minute.

Part of my creativity-defining journey included reading what others thought about creativity. My favorite books on the topic are How Music Works by David Byrne, The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp and Just Kids by Patti Smith.

I also participated in this fun project called, “30 Days of Creativity“. The challenge was to literally spend time intentionally creating something every day for 30 days. You can check out some of my projects on my Tumblr page, where I still share many of the things that I create.

A picture of the first page of my journal from January 3, 2012.

I did a lot of writing about creativity as well. I went back through my journal and organized my list of things I wanted to create more of at the beginning of 2012.

 Goal: “Be More Creative”

What does that mean? Making things, sharing things, opening up to people, accepting myself, accepting change. Remember you create your own experience!

Things I want to create:

  • More friendships/deeper friendships
  • More vulnerability
  • More positive work environment
  • More kindness
  • More imagining/dreaming
  • More curiosity
  • More possibilities
  • More authenticity
  • More empathy
  • More poetry
  • More art
  • More music
  • More hikes
  • More laughter
  • More fun
  • More volunteering/time spent helping others
  • More love
  • More hugs
  • More bike rides
  • More adventure
  • More travel
  • More gardening
  • More peace of mind
  • More presence
  • More physical strength
  • More effective communication
  • More reading
  • More writing

What I realized after writing the list and spending a year working with intention on incorporating more of each into my life is that I had all of these things already. What I really needed to do was to redefine my stale definition of “creativity,” find a way to keep appreciating all the things I already have as well as the people that help me create them by encouraging me to make more prints, write more poems or by giving me a hug, sharing their own stories or taking a bike ride with me.

That being said, there’s something glaring missing from my list. Do you know what it is?

More gratitude.

Many thanks to all the people in my life who spent time with me this year. You each help me create this wonderful, challenging adventure we’re on. Can’t wait to see what we create together in 2013!

Heidi Wachter is the Community Engagement Specialist for Experience Life. 

Experience Life Magazine

6 Simple Things That Make My Life Better

1. Library — For about six years, I forgot the library existed. Then one day, several years ago, I drove by the library and thought, “Whoa! I can get books there for free.” I’ve been doing that ever since. It’s awesome.

2. Books on tape — For about 20 years, I forgot that you could listen to a book as well as read it on the page. Then about nine months ago I was taking a car trip and thought, “How am I going to pass the time?” Then I thought, “A book on CD!” I checked out a couple murder mysteries (from the library, of course) and it transformed a drive that’s usually a long slog into a suspense-filled pleasure. Now I download books onto my phone and listen all the time: when I walk the dogs, when I do the dishes, when I lay on the sofa staring at the ceiling. It’s awesome.

3. Homemade chai — For about ever, I’ve been a tea drinker, and while I liked the chai I could order in coffeeshops or buy in tetra packs in the grocery store, they were always too sweet for my taste. (I also dislike store-bought boxed chais, which always taste too flat and uninteresting.) Then one day I thought, “Gosh, I bet I can make this at home from scratch.” And I did. And it was awesome. Here’s the loose (adjust any/all ingredients for taste/strength of tea, etc.) recipe I follow:

  • 10-cups water
  • ½ cup black tea
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 15 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 15 whole cloves
  • about ½- inch grated ginger root
  • about ¼ teaspoon crushed coriander
  • about ¼ teaspoon crushed cumin
  • about ¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • a smidge of ground nutmeg

(For the “crushed” ingredients, I use a mortar and pestle to coarsely crush the whole pod or seed, but you could just buy them already ground, if you wish)

Then I toss it all in a big pot, boil for 20 minutes, strain out the spices, and drink. Sometimes I add a little honey, but most of the time I just drink it straight with a dash of turmeric and extra black pepper.

4. Old-fashioned reading — Yep, I could read all my news on the computer, or on the iPad, or on my phone. But when the weekend rolls around, I like my news and articles the old-fashioned way: on paper. It feels slower, easier, more absorbable. Plus, my eyes get a break from all the pixels.

5. Piano lessons — I’m never going to be Chopin, but its fun. And it makes me feel smarter.

6. Dogs — Because they like to cuddle and take long walks. Also, they can double as your piano teacher.