Serendipity – Revisited

Back in 2014 I chose Serendipity as my word of the year. It’s a noun defined as “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”

I miss that word. It’s fun to say and wonderful to experience. Without so much as a backward glance, I’ve decided to welcome it back into my life. Who says you can’t choose a word of the year in March? After all the start of a new season is just around the corner.

I will continue to resist, volunteer, and make my voice heard, but I’m also going to focus on the positives, the synergies and the serendipity in life, no matter how small.

Here are a few that make me smile.

I enjoy playing Words With Friends, a kind of online Scrabble. Most of my friends are high-scoring players, so though I often lose, I’m improving and enjoying the challenge. I played the word “Tui” in a game with my smart and clever friend Mary Elizabeth who wasn’t familiar with the word. Then a few days later she found these gorgeous tea mugs. Serendipity! ) Thank you once again, ME.

tea mugs New Zealand Tui

New Zealand Tui mugs from Mary Elizabeth

About a year ago, Marlene who blogs at In Search of It All sent me a stunning, machine-embroidered gift. Isn’t it lovely? I debated turning it into a pillow or framing it, so I just let it be for a while. Then I realized that the colors worked beautifully with a small throw pillow in the some-times guest room. (It’s my son’s room but he’s mostly away at college). I ironed the edges and hand-stitched the embroidery to the pillow. Perfection! When my son came home from college for the summer, I planned to store the pillow in a closet. On a whim I took into our bedroom. Serendipity! The colors go beautifully. Thank you once again, Marlene.

Marlene's embroidery

Embroidered panel, left, made into a pillow and modeled by Mouse the Cat, right

The third and far less interesting moment of serendipity arrived in a large plastic bag. It was part of the packaging for our new printer. Long story, but I’ve been meaning to make a cover for a mobility chair that lives in the garage along with dust bunnies and bugs. I bought it for my mom in her declining years to help get her to her medical appointments. I kept it after she passed and my sister was able to use it when she first returned from Iowa (she has MS). Last year it came in handy for outings when I was recovering from surgery. And I’ve loaned it out several times to a neighbor who’s had many surgeries herself.

So back to the printer bag. It’s an odd size, wider than a large trash bag but not that tall. On a whim I tried it out on the mobility chair, and you guessed it, serendipity! It’s the perfect size and shape. It saved me the trouble of making one, it kept the plastic bag out of the landfill, and I like that it’s clear.

mobility chair

Mobility chair with custom-sized cover

So how about you? Do you look for these special moments in your life?

PS

Lindy wanted to be including in this post. She insists that this shoe box is the perfect size for her girlish figure. Ah…serendipity?

Gardening From The Ground Up

After my forced break from the garden, I’m making up for lost time. I’ve been outdoors pulling weeds, sorting compost, preparing planting beds and doing general cleanup every day for weeks.

freesia collage

The freesia are in bloom all over the garden

I’m in the garden for a few minutes in the morning after returning from school drop-off. If I’m working with clients or have other appointments, then I put in my time at the end of the day.

lemon tree buds and leaves in the rain

Meyer’s Lemon Tree Enjoying the Rain

The weekend affords the luxury of a few hours in a row, even with our recent and welcome rain.

Chronic neck pain, a wonky hip and my tender ankle tend to dictate the duration. I enjoy working in the cooler weather and even the rain but once my various ailments begin to act up, it’s time to pack it in for the day.

About a year ago I bought a garden kneeler with handles. I’ve seen pictures of them in catalogs for years. I once used a foam pad for shifting around the garden, but it’s become increasingly harder to get back up without pain.

The pictures generally feature a “mature” woman using the kneeler. Only recently did it occur to me that I’m a mature woman. In my mind I’m perpetually thirty. How disconcerting.

I got over myself and bought the kneeler.

gardenease kneeling bench

Kneeling in the garden

Word of the Year

I chose “health” as my word this year. It’s interesting how much of life’s enjoyment comes down to our personal well-being.  I’ve reduced my consumption of sugar, with some slip ups here and there. I’ve kept a food and exercise diary through MyFitnessPal for the past 66 days. Now that I’ve been on such a long streak, I find that I don’t want to miss a day. Logging what I eat is also eye-opening. It feels good to be back to Pilates classes two days a week, and I’m back to long walks as well. The weight is coming off slowly though, which seems so unfair [insert pouting face here].  I’m not giving up, but find it disappointing when week after week the scale doesn’t budge and the pants remain snug. I think we’re conditioned to think that if we do everything “right” we should see the results. Does this happen to you?

The first day of spring in California is March 20th this year. I’ll be planting heirloom tomatoes, basil and maybe, just maybe, a few pumpkins. I have a new and improved watering system which I will share in another post.

When autumn rolls around, I say it’s my favorite time of year. Then spring unfolds and I’m in love with the color, the birdsong and the freshness of it all.

I think I’ve made up my mind: I can’t possibly choose sides.

Gardening Indoors: Paper Whites and Tulips

I planted Paper White Narcissus and Tulip bulbs indoors last week and they’re growing like weeds.

Just a month ago the idea of planting the bulbs seemed overwhelming.  It’s so good to have my energy back.

This beautiful vase holds Narcissus in our bedroom once again. The white flowers look gorgeous against the blue wall and their scent is heavenly.

indoor bulbs collage

Paper White Narcissus in our bedroom

A few more of the Paper Whites are growing on the kitchen windowsill, along with a vase of tulips. The tulips were a gift from a friend last year as a thank you for helping her move. After the flowers died back, I saved both the vase and the bulbs to replant this year.

Paper White Narcissus Blooms in the kitchen window

Paper White Narcissus Blooms in the kitchen window

What I didn’t notice until cropping this photo, is a bit of dusty mold. I’ve had the odd bulb rot while stored off-season, but the ones I planted seemed fine. I’m wondering if the water level is too high? I changed the water, “dusted them off” and returned everything to the vase. So far so good. It will be fun to see what flowers this year.

tulip bulbs kitchen window

Tulip Bulbs in a vase in need of some TLC

I think it’s fascinating that bulbs store their energy in that little brown orb, knowing when it’s time once again to grow. I know that eating healthier is helping my energy level, in addition to physical therapy and Pilates. I’ve been seeing the PT three hours a week, and I’m back to Pilates two days a week.

I’ve  been tracking every morsel of food to cross my lips since the first of the year through a free app called My Fitness Pal. You track food, water intake and exercise. The app tells you how you are doing in terms of healthy fat, protein and carbs as well as sugar and sodium. I’m hooked.

To further aid in my accountability, I’ve added the My Fitness Pal widget to my side bar. It shows my weight loss to date. There’s nothing like a bit of public accountability to keep you on track, eh?

Though I could happily eat chocolates tomorrow, the cravings have subsided. I’m better off without it for now, perhaps forever.

As January draws to a close, how are you doing with your plans and goals for this year?

Catching Up, Slimming Down and the Long Farewell to Sugar

Hiking Trail

Almaden Quicksilver Hiking Trail

The first Monday of the year rolled around and the house emptied out. My eldest son returned to college, his brother went back to high school and Mike headed in to the office. It seemed time for me to get off the couch and rejoin the world as well.

In late December I put on a pair of shoes for the first time in months. Then I went for a short, albeit painful walk around our local park. Meanwhile, my crutches, knee scooter and foot brace stayed home.

Though it will be awhile before I can hike on local trails, it felt good getting out for a stroll.

Then I saw my doctor on Monday.

She’s been pleased with my progress at every post-op appointment, but this time she looked concerned. Dr. Sheth said that I was doing too much, too soon, using polite phrases like “you’re an optimist” and a “go-getter” while telling me to slow down. The swelling I assumed was normal is actually my body’s way of telling me to please back off.

On the brighter side, she prescribed physical therapy to strengthen the foot and to reduce the edema. I’m going three days a week for treatment: heat and ice therapy, ultra sound, manipulation and exercises. Although the exercises are work, I feel pampered too. Drew and his team are a warm and caring group of folks. I’m learning how to get rid of my limp and I’ve also gained a better understanding of the healing process. Tendons do not have their own blood supply so they take longer to heal than a broken bone or an injured muscle. Who knew?

All this brings me to my word of the year: Health.

While I have many good habits, I have bad ones, too. Simply put, I’m a vegetarian who likes junk food. Shortbread cookies, rich chocolate of any kind, soft taffy and Red Vines. Raise your hand if you know what they all have in common.

Sugar.

I’ve been in a life-long, dysfunctional relationship with the sweet stuff. My height and rabbit-like metabolism kept me slim for many years, so I never gave it much thought. About a decade ago I started gaining weight and joined the ranks of dieters. I increased my exercise from four hours a week to seven. I lost fat, but I didn’t lose weight.

All roads lead to refined sugar. It’s a powerful drug, all dressed up in creamy chocolate, buttery cookies and chewy bites of candy. Swoon.

Sitting on the couch for the past eight weeks while recovering from surgery didn’t help. Extended couch-sitting during the “season of sweets” means I’ve started this new year ten pounds heavier. Add that to the extra fluff I’ve been struggling to lose and I’ve moved past slim to a weight that feels uncomfortable for my health and my self-image. Enough.

I want to focus my emotional energy this year on improving my health. Saying goodbye to sugar is at the top of the list. Some people can moderate their intake, but I’m not one of them. There are other areas I want to focus on this year.

  • I want to walk and hike pain-free
  • I want to return to Pilates two days a week
  • I want to add a yoga class
  • I want to return to my practice of Mindfulness

Hopefully those last two will help support the hardest of the goals: showing sugar the door.

Is there an area of your life that you struggle with despite your good intentions? What do you think about the idea of choosing a word for the year?

 

Connections: Our Big Beautiful World

Nandini and boys

Nandini and our boys

Sunday morning I spoke with my long-time friend, Nandini via Skype. She currently lives in Chennai, India. It’s wonderful to connect.

I shared this passage on Facebook:

Nandini and I worked together at a start-up called Pretzel Logic Software in 1995. We became fast friends, then first time moms when we had our boys just six weeks apart in 1997. We supported each other through those sometimes difficult and perplexing first months of parenthood. We met weekly for tea, pushed our strollers through the park, and enjoyed time at our respective homes. It was a sad parting when she moved back to Chennai in 2000 in order to support her aging family. I’m grateful for the technology that allows us to continue our conversations, and to marvel at the fact that those baby boys will soon turn 18.

That’s when all the connections (my word of the year) started rolling in.

When you tag someone in a photo on Facebook, their friends can see it too. After several lovely comments from my local friends, Nandini’s cousin, Sujatha left a few words. When she did, it showed that we had a mutual friend named Akila. Akila’s son attended pre-school with my younger son here in California. Incredible.

Akila joined the conversation, saying she knew Nandini’s cousin as a family friend. That’s when Nandini’s friend, Parvathi posted, saying she also knows Akila. Nandini knows Parvathi because their sons are schoolmates in India.

It’s been amazing discovering these connections throughout the day. I’m humming with the joy of it.

How about you? Have you uncovered an unexpected connection between a friend or colleague? Please share your story in the comments section, below.

Any one person is connected to any other person through six or fewer relationships, because it’s a small world. SixDegrees.org is about using this idea to accomplish something good. It’s social networking with a social conscience.

Word of the Year

I love the idea of choosing a word of the year. Unlike new year’s resolutions which seem doomed to failure, I like the transformative qualities of a single word.

This past year I chose serendipity, or serendipitously, the word chose me. You can read about that process here.
According to Wikipedia,

Serendipity means a “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”. It was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754. In a letter he wrote to a friend Walpole explained an unexpected discovery he had made by reference to a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The princes, he told his correspondent, were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of”.

As you know, once you focus on a word, theme or idea, you find examples of it everywhere. All year I noticed serendipity at play. It was energizing, so much so that I’ve decided to elevate it to word of the decade. I’m not letting that gem go!

2015 Word of the Year

I’ve chosen connections as my word of the year.

To connect is to:

bring together or into contact so that a real or notional link is established.

For my part, I like the idea of bringing people and ideas together in a positive way. The notion that a whole is more than the sum of its parts is appealing. The amazingly unexpected connections made through blogging gives me hope. Life is good. People are good. I will look for and make positive connections throughout the year.

How about you? Do you set your intentions for the new year? Do you choose a word or a mindset or a series of goals?

Please share in the comments below.

 

Meeting Serendipitously

Serendipity!  It’s everywhere.

A few weeks back, while sitting on our deck, a woman called to me from the curb . She was looking at our Little Free Library and wanted to ask a few questions. As it turns out, she wants to build one of her own.

We chatted for a while and discovered all sorts of things in common: our love of books was an obvious one, but she also likes making cards and she enjoys miniatures. It was fun sharing my fairy garden.  She’s also a gardener, and the conversation turned to a lovely book called Epitaph for a Peach.

Honestly, we could have chatted all day.

A week or so later I came home to find her lovely note, a handmade card and a copy of the book, graciously on loan from her own library. My heart swelled.

handmade card

Handmade by Jaci

Epitaph for a Peach is

A lyrical, sensuous and thoroughly engrossing memoir of one critical year in the life of an organic peach farmer, Epitaph for a Peach is “a delightful narrative . . . with poetic flair and a sense of humor” (Library Journal).

When Jaci reads this she won’t mind that I shared the first line of her gracious note:

I very much enjoyed our serendipitous meeting recently…

because of course she doesn’t know that serendipity is my word of the year.  I’m still smiling.

Little Free Library

Though the novelty of the library subsided a few months back, I’m still delighted when people stop by. Books continue to flow in and out.

Two recent additions include Beverley Canon’s A Tale of Two Tails and a copy of Robert Munsch’ The Paper Bag Princess.

A Tale of Two Tails is a gift from the founder of Friends 4 Pets. Beverley takes in unwanted cats and shelters them till she can find them a good home. My sister Sharon fostered a few cats for her as well.

A Tale of Two Tails

A Tale of Two Tails

Munsch’s children’s book is the tale of a  princess with a feminist ending.  How could I resist?  It flew home with me from Victoria, making it extra special. Spoiler alert: the last line of the book is “They didn’t get married after all.”

The Paper Bag Princess

The Paper Bag Princess

The Long View

Thanks for commenting and voting in yesterdays’ poll on photos with the long view. If you missed the post and you’re interested, please let your voice be heard.