Archive | June, 2016

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5 Ways to Improve Your Mood

Yesterday I woke up in a bad mood, or as I like to say, “I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.”  There was no particular reason for it.  It was just one of those days and every little annoyance of life was even more annoying, whether it was the person that walked into me on a busy city sidewalk because they were texting instead of paying attention, the long line at Starbucks for some morning coffee, or that co-worker that just didn’t “get it” when I tried to explain what I needed her to accomplish that day.  There are always going to be some days like this and rather than have the whole day ruined (although sometimes that is inevitable), I have found a few things that can help turn my mood around.

1.  Exercise.  Exercising is probably my number one way to boost my mood.  If you Google “exercise” and “mood” over 47 million hits come up, so if Dr. Google says it then it must be true.  Seriously, exercise releases endorphins in your body which are chemicals that reduce pain, enhance your mood and help you sleep better.  Studies have found that not only do you get a short term benefit from exercise, but if you suffer from depression or anxiety, exercise can help with those conditions over the long term.  I find that a good sweaty gym class or a yoga class give me the most benefit when I am struggling with my mood.  But if my schedule doesn’t allow that, then even a simple walk can alleviate my mood and I feel so much better when I return.

2.  Write It Out.  I recently started a habit called “Morning Pages” which is discussed in a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  This habit has come about because I have been participating in a couple of online courses for writing and creativity.  The best way to explain Morning Pages is that you sit down first thing in the morning, before doing anything else (I always have to make my coffee first otherwise I’m a little too blurry for this) and you write in a notebook for three pages straight whatever comes to your mind.  No stopping and no thinking, just longhand writing.  As Julia Cameron explains, “Pages are meant to be, simply, the act of moving the hand across the page and writing down whatever comes to mind.  Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid, too weird to be included.”  The idea is to get rid of all of the “junk” in your head so you can be more creative and productive the rest of the day. “We are victims of our own internalized perfectionist, a nasty internal and eternal critic, the Censor, who resides in our (left) brain and keeps up a constant stream of subversive remarks that are often disguised as the truth…. Make this a rule: always remember that your Censor’s negative opinions are not the truth.”

Some mornings I feel that I have nothing to write about (and there are mornings I really do not), but I try to write something.  I sometimes start with my to do list just to get started and I am always amazed with what I eventually write about.  Yes, my pages are often whiny and messy.  However, no one else is supposed to read them and depending on who and what you are writing, you may just want to shred them when you are done.  In fact, you are not really supposed to go back and read them.  These are not the things you journal about because you want to remember them.  This is the annoying things that circulate in your brain.  It is interesting because I find that I often write about the same complaints day after day after day.  This tells me that I need to change the situation I am complaining about or if I cannot, then change my attitude about it.  However, in any event I find that on the days I skip Morning Pages, my mood is bleaker, and lighter on the days that I have the time to do them.

3.  Breathe and Meditate.  This is a hard one for me to remember to do.  Try and notice your breath the next time you are stressed on anxious.  You will find that it is shallow and short.  It is wonderful if you can block everything out for 15 or 20 minutes and just meditate, focusing on your breath.  However, it is hard and if your mind is churning a million miles an hour it is difficult to turn it off.  And depending on where you are, such as your desk at work, you know that you are not going to get that time without the phone ringing, an email coming in or someone otherwise interrupting you.  When I am at my desk and notice I am feeling stressed, I just close my eyes for a moment and take five or six deep breaths, focusing only on the act of breathing in and out.  This very short exercise immediately make me feel less anxious and able to focus easier on the task at hand.

4.  Hang Out With a Friend.  I was fortunate yesterday because May was coming to the city to meet up with me in the afternoon.  I knew that this would help my mood.  When I am in a bad mood, often I do not want to socialize with anyone.  But being with a person whose company you enjoy is a great mood alleviator.  We combined our time together with a very long walk in the city and we may have enjoyed a libation on top of a rooftop bar (having a drink can help your mood too but not the healthiest of choices), but more important to my mood was the company.  It is wonderful to spend time with someone who you can vent to, discuss unimportant topics and laugh with.

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5.  Go Back To Bed.  And when all else fails, just go back to bed.  There is that old saying that “things always look better in the morning.”  Sometimes this is true and all you really need to improve your mood, is a good night’s sleep.  So go to bed early and wake up the next morning.  Hopefully, things will look better and you will feel better.

Do you have any favorite ways to improve your mood? –June

We are as happy as we make up our minds to be. – Abraham Lincoln

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Our Backyard Bird Babies

There’s so much going on in nature this time of year. Yes, we have all the spring and summer blooms making their grand entrance into the season. Right now my yellow day lilies are starting to open, always in full bloom for the 4th of July holiday. Lately, I’ve been seeing all the sweet animal babies out and about on my walks, and weekend bike rides. Yesterday, I shared the bike path with a gaggle of fuzzy goslings, and while walking that same path, I saw some ducklings swimming on the lake, with mommy and daddy close by. Of course, what they say about rabbits has to be true because there are baby bunnies absolutely everywhere!! I’ll never forget a few years back, my doodle Molly came to the back door wagging her tail with a baby bunny in her mouth. Needless to say, I was horrified. I calmly took the bunny from her mouth and realized it was not only still alive, but uninjured. I found the nest and put it back with it’s brothers and sisters, and Molly was kept on a leash until they safely left the yard. We have a lot of bushy trees in our backyard, which are perfect for nesting birds. Every year we have cardinals in our large boxwoods and robins in our evergreens. This year, however, a particularly stubborn robin decided to build a nest under the eave of our house, over the patio. I really wasn’t thrilled with that location because we are always going in and out there, birds are messy, it’s above concrete so if a baby should happen to fall, it probably wouldn’t end well, and of course we have a frisky labradoodle named Sawyer. Anyone with a dog, especially the hunting variety knows this isn’t a good thing. Every day she started building, and every night I took it down. This went on for several days until I woke up one morning, looked out the kitchen window, and not only was the nest built, she was sitting in it defiantly staring at me. I swear she pulled an all nighter! At this point, I decided to leave her alone.

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The nice thing about having a tall husband is his ability to reach places that are very difficult for me. He was my official bird photographer for this nesting robin and he got some great pictures. I have to say, as much as I didn’t want her nesting on my patio, I thoroughly enjoyed having this bird’s eye (ha!) view of our newest tenants. I’m up early, so every morning I made my coffee and watched all the activity out my kitchen window, or while sitting on the patio. Our robin quickly got used to all of us, even Sawyer who other than sitting below and watching the nest a few times, didn’t give it too much of his attention. Now I would hardly call myself a bird watcher, however I did check out a few facts about robins that I thought I would share with you, along with some photos.

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Robins do not mate for life, however they remain together for an entire breeding season, although many return to the same territory in the spring and often end up together.

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Robins usually lay 4 light blue eggs over the course of several days which incubate for 2 weeks. Most pairs of robins will try to raise at least 3 broods of chicks a year, and both parents care for their young.           IMG_4206

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Chicks open their eyes 5 days after hatching and will fledge one at a time, when they are between 14 and 16 days old.

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As you can see, it was getting a little crowded in there. I thought for sure one was going to tumble out, especially when they started flapping their wings. I’m happy to say they all survived.

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Interestingly, juvenile robins are still cared for by their parents for about 10 days after they leave the nest, until they are more skilled at flying, and ready to be on their own. They also remain with the same group of birds. I have to say, I missed them after they all left the nest, but am happy to report that a new nest has been built, this time in a tree in the front of our house, and so we begin again.

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. ~Frank Lloyd Wright

Have a great week! ~May

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The Children

June Books

We find that summer is one of the best times of year to read, whether it is sitting on your porch, or taking a book on your beach vacation.  And there are always a lot of new books released in the summer to meet this demand.  Today we have three new books, The Weekenders: A Novel by Mary Kay Andrews, The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett, The Children: A Novel, by Ann Leary

 

The Weekenders: A Novel by Mary Kay Andrews

The Weekenders

From Amazon:

Some people stay all summer long on the idyllic island of Belle Isle, North Carolina. Others come only for the weekends-and the mix between the regulars and “the weekenders” can sometimes make the sparks fly. Riley Griggs has a season of good times with friends and family ahead of her on Belle Isle when things take an unexpected turn. While waiting for her husband to arrive on the ferry one Friday afternoon, Riley is confronted by a process server who thrusts papers into her hand. And her husband is nowhere to be found.

So she turns to her island friends for help and support, but it turns out that each of them has their own secrets, and the clock is ticking as the mystery deepens…in a murderous way. Cocktail parties aside, Riley must find a way to investigate the secrets of Belle Island, the husband she might not really know, and the summer that could change everything.

Told with Mary Kay Andrews’ trademark blend of humor and warmth, and with characters and a setting that you can’t help but fall for, The Weekenders is the perfect summer escape.

May’s Review: This was my first novel by Mary Kay Andrews and it was a perfect summer read. When I first picked up the book, I was a little surprised by the 451 pages, but this novel is light, uncomplicated, and reads quickly. The book begins on Memorial Day weekend on an island in the Carolinas. A murder has taken place and all the weekenders on the island are gossiping about the widow, Riley, and her daughter, Maggy. Now, if you’re expecting a big thriller, this is not that book, but if you’re looking for something with romance and a little bit of mystery, you’ll enjoy The Weekenders.

June’s Review:  I always like novels by Mary Kay Andrews for a fun, light, “beach” read.  This is one of those novels.  The story is a light romance and mystery rolled into one which is perfect for a good read by the pool or just enjoying a warm summer day.  There is even a few steamy scenes if you like that in your beach reads.  My only complaint is that the novel is a little long and slow to get started.  I found the second half of the book to be better than the first half.  However, it’s a pretty good beach read.  Also, if you have not read any other books by Mary Kay Andrews and this is all checked out at your local library, I would recommend Savannah Blues but generally you cannot wrong with any books by her if you need a beach read.

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

Versions of Us

From Amazon:

In one moment, two lives will be changed forever . . . and forever . . . and forever.

The one thing that’s certain is they met on a Cambridge street by chance and felt a connection that would last a lifetime. But as for what happened next . . . They fell wildly in love, or went their separate ways. They kissed, or they thought better of it. They married soon after, or were together for a few weeks before splitting up. They grew distracted and disappointed with their daily lives together, or found solace together only after hard years spent apart.

With The Versions of Us, Laura Barnett has created a world as magical and affecting as those that captivated readers in One Day and Life After Life. It is a tale of possibilities and consequences that rings across the shifting decades, from the fifties, sixties, seventies, and on to the present, showing how even the smallest choices can define the course of our lives.
May’s Review: This is a debut novel for Laura Barnett, and I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of a movie I loved, called Sliding Doors starring Gwyneth Paltrow, about two parallel universes and how the main character’s life changes, based on whether or not she catches a train. In this novel, there are three different versions of a story that begin when a man, Jim, comes to the aid of a young woman, Eva, whose bike has a flat tire. Each chapter is a different version of their lives based on different paths taken. You need to take your time with this one so you don’t get confused, but with that said, I really liked this novel.
June’s Review:  I was a little skeptical of this book.  I was afraid it was going to be a confusing mess with three different storylines or it was going to fall within the realm of a Choose Your Own Adventure book (which my brother loved), but it was surprisingly good.  Eva and Jim meet but in each version make a different choice which for the most part leads their lives on a different path.  Towards the middle book, the different versions did get a little confusing because there were many similarities to where Eva and Jim were in their lives in each version.  I did like how the author ended each version with the exact same event but slightly different depending on the path the characters had taken.  I think what held my interest through this book is that, I personally have a fascination with how single choices can change your own life.  This is a good read but takes a bit of concentration.
 The Children

From New York Times bestselling author Ann Leary comes the captivating story of a wealthy, but unconventional New England family, told from the perspective of a reclusive 29-year-old who has a secret (and famous) life on the Internet.

Charlotte Maynard rarely leaves her mother’s home, the sprawling Connecticut lake house that belonged to her late stepfather, Whit Whitman, and the generations of Whitmans before him. While Charlotte and her sister, Sally, grew up at “Lakeside,” their stepbrothers, Spin and Perry, were welcomed as weekend guests. Now the grown boys own the estate, which Joan occupies by their grace―and a provision in the family trust. When Spin, the youngest and favorite of all the children, brings his fiancé home for the summer, the entire family is intrigued. The beautiful and accomplished Laurel Atwood breathes new life into this often comically rarefied world. But as the wedding draws near, and flaws surface in the family’s polite veneer, an array of simmering resentments and unfortunate truths is exposed.

With remarkable wit and insight, Ann Leary pulls back the curtain on one blended family, as they are forced to grapple with the assets and liabilities – both material and psychological – left behind by their wonderfully flawed patriarch.

May’s Review: I had read Ann Leary’s book The Good House, which I enjoyed and was looking forward to her latest read. I really liked the character of Charlotte (Lottie), the story’s main character who is a bit of a recluse and a successful blogger on the internet. This is the story of a wealthy, quirky, blended family in New England and how their relationships change after the death of the patriarch Whit Whitman. There were a lot of characters in this book and all were interesting. I loved that all the characters had a touch of darkness to them which kept the book interesting all the way to the end. There were only 256 pages to this book which made it a good weekend read.

June’s Review:  This is a well written book.  I did not realize that it was going to be a bit of a suspense novel when I picked it up and it ended up being that way.  However, it is not an over-the-top suspense novel like many marketed that way.  Instead you know something is not right within the family and various relationships.  The novel does a pretty good job building up to the big reveal and the secrets come out.  The ending is not overly satisfying but probably realistic to real life.  I do recommend this book.

Have a good weekend. –May and June

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Birthday Reset

My birthday is always a tricky day.  I tend to deal with them with a mix of excitement (because it is my birthday and I usually get a gift or two and wishes from loved ones), and a feeling of dread.  I hope I am not the only one.

The dread comes from two places.  First, I do not especially like being the center of attention.  It makes me uncomfortable.  I am sure I cried more than once as a child on my birthday because of all of those people singing Happy Birthday and looking at me.  Second, I often use my birthday as a goal post marker to evaluate where I am in my life.  Many times my life at a certain age was not what I imagined when I was younger.

However, I read a quote by Emily Dickinson that said “We turn not older with years, but newer every day.” It got me thinking that I should approach birthdays with a sense of possibility.  I heard someone say that they set resolutions on their birthday rather than January 1, because this is a new year for you.

So this year I am thinking about my birthday, that occurred  last week, a little differently.  I am going into this year looking forward to all that may happen.  The experiences I have over the next year will make it so that I am not exactly the same person that I was on June 16, 2016.  Yes, I will be another year older and I may age a little more, but what other things can I achieve this year that will make me different?  What experiences will become another part of my story?

My heart has been wrestling with a few things lately.  So I am opening myself up to possibilities in the upcoming year and praying for the wisdom to recognize them when they appear.

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I hope that when you reflect on the day of your birthday, you open yourself up to the amazing experiences that may come your way. –June

Today is the oldest that you have been and the youngest you will ever be again. Eleanor Roosevelt

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A Dirty Doodle Secret

We have a Labradoodle named Sawyer. He is eight years old and we adopted him just shy of his fifth birthday, and love, love, love him. He is sweet, affectionate, and loves belly rubs. Where my female doodle, Molly, was a bit of a snob and carefully chose who she would give her affection to, our boy Sawyer gives it to everyone. He shares a bed, (often taking up most of it) with our youngest daughter Alyssa, usually leaving the quiet sanctuary of her room to come wake me up bright and early for his morning walk.

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Ahhh, the morning walk. This is usually my favorite time of day when I like to get my body moving, feel the sun on my face, and prepare my mind and spirit for the coming day. I actually wrote all about how much I love to walk in a previous post, The Magic of Walking. What I didn’t share with you, was how my sweet lovable dog turns into Cujo  (ok, I’m exaggerating a bit) the minute another dog crosses our path. This is nothing new. It has been a bit of an issue since he joined our family, and he’s been a “work in progress” ever since. Now that the weather is nice again and more dogs are out walking, I’ve noticed an increase in his naughty behavior, and he behaves poorly no matter who has the leash. If there aren’t other dogs around, he’s great. He sits at every corner and we often stop by the parking lot of a nearby school to stimulate his mind a bit, working on basic commands. He is good about walking next me, however, his radar is always on. If another dog or god forbid, a rabbit, shows itself, all bets are off and basically I just hold on to the leash for dear life. He’s 72 pounds of pure muscle, and I don’t stand a chance.

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Yes I know, it’s hard to believe.

We would love to take him to the farmers market or to Starbucks on weekend mornings, but there are always other dogs there and well….. I’ve had dogs all my adult life, and have been through the training process with all of them, so I know the basics of dog obedience, but this past week pushed me over the edge. Overall we had a nice walk, and were two houses away from home (so close!!!), when a couple and their very well behaved dog came jogging past us. Usually, if I have enough warning, I’ll often distract Sawyer by turning the other way, taking a different route. It was too late though, he had seen the dog and there was nothing I could do but beg him to be a good boy. Ha!!! He was so riled up, he tripped me up with his leash, knocking me right down on my derrière. Physically, I was fine but my pride, not so much.

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I think I needed that fall to finally get me off the fence to do something, so it probably wasn’t a bad thing. I was just putting it off. My walks aren’t doing me any good if they are filled with stress and anxiety, and Sawyer deserves to get the training he needs so he can be his best as well. I did some research, talked with some people, and long story short, Sawyer and our family are going to be working on his manners (or lack of), with a trainer. During the first consultation, the trainer said that overall we have a “very nice dog”, and that his issue with other dogs isn’t that uncommon.

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Most importantly though, he said there is hope for our doodle although it is going to be a journey that will require some time and commitment. We all agreed that Sawyer is worth it and we look forward to more enjoyable walks in the near future. We’ll provide updates as we go so that you can hear about Sawyer’s progress. Wish us luck!!!!

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The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.
—Samuel Butler

~May

 

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Another Birthday Happy Hour

As you know, we have our birthdays in successive months.  So today,  it is time for our second installment of Birthday Happy Hour.  Keeping  to the theme of doing a Happy Hour based in the decade of the birthday girl’s birth, we had to go back to the 1970s.  However, the 1970s was not the best decade it seems for iconic memories.  And while Saturday Night Fever was certainly popular, June was a little young and did not really identify with the disco era, so instead we went for the cheese factor.  And we based our Happy Hour on a very memorable Saturday night television show, The Love Boat!!!

The Love Boat

Love, exciting and new
Come aboard. We’re expecting you.
Love, life’s sweetest reward.
Let it flow, it floats back to you.

The Love Boat soon will be making another run
The Love Boat promises something for everyone
Set a course for adventure, your mind on a new romance.

And love won’t hurt anymore
It’s an open smile on a friendly shore.
It’s love!
Welcome abord
It’s love!

June remembers watching the television show, especially when she and her family went to visit her grandparents for the day, because she was allowed to stay up late and watch it with her aunts.  Looking back on it now, it sure was a cheesy show.  And most of the guest stars were people who were on the downslide of their career.  But at the time, it sure seemed glamorous to my younger self.

Because we were going for that tropical cruise ship feel we decided a fruity slushy cocktail was in order.  So we enjoyed some Frozen Sangria.

  • 1 pound (16 ounces) frozen mixed berries
  • 1 2/3 cups dry red wine
  • 1/3 cup Cointreau (or any orange liqueur, or brandy) – we used Grand Mariner but next time we are thinking orange flavored rum
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly-squeezed lime juice
  • 1-2 Tablespoons sweetener – we used agave
  • ice, if needed to thicken

Add ingredients to the blender.  Pulse to smooth.  Add more ice to thicken if needed.  Add more sweetener if needed.

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Our plan was to get into the spirit of The Love Boat and sip these while floating in May’s backyard pool.  We were going to pretend it was the Ledo Deck.  However, because we are in Chicago and sadly not in the Caribbean, the weather was fickle and it rained.  Instead, we enjoyed a view from the dry sunroom and just looked at the pool.

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From May….To my dear friend June. We’ve been on this ride for almost a year now, and along the way we’ve had plenty of laughs, a few tears, and lots of hours creating. I can’t wait to see where this crazy journey takes us next. You are my partner in crime and a true soul sister. I wish you the happiest of birthdays. XO

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(Imitation of Charo who seemed to guest star on the show every other week)

Have a good weekend!  If it is warm out this weekend this drink is sure to cool you off.  –May and June 

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Einstein

Where Do You Think Best?

Do you have a favorite place to think?  A place that when you are trying to figure out a solution to a problem, you can find that clarity to figure it out?  I find it interesting that my best “thinking places” are places where my mind has the space and time to wander.  They are not, and really never have been, traditional places like my desk, a library or an office.  Here are some of my favorite places:

Einstein1.  Walking.  Often I will sit at my desk at the office trying to figure out a particularly sticky problem, and nothing comes to me.  It is when I walk to or from the train, that I suddenly work out a solution.  I also find a lot of answers when I am out for a walk with Gatsby.  I think  the repetitive motion of walking combined with walking a familiar outdoor route lets my mind and body relax enough that my sub conscience is able to work on whatever issues I might be having at that time.

IMG_41552.  My Yoga Mat.  I know yoga is supposed to be all about the present moment and leaving all of the problems and tasks outside the door,  and I do try and honor that during my yoga practice.  However, I think because my mind is not churning up the million little thoughts it has every minute, I happen to come up with some pretty good ideas during practice.  Of course, the trick is not to focus on them and then remember them when I step out of class.

3.  My Back Porch.  I have talked about my back porch here before.  It is a place where I feel relaxed and inspired.  So I often write and read on the porch, which gives me plenty of good ideas.

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4.  Barefoot in the Yard.  Walking or standing barefoot in the yard allows my brain to have some good thoughts.  I wrote some time ago about my habit of walking in my yard barefoot to say prayers.  The grounding of yourself to the earth helps your body and brain to relax.

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5.  The Shower.  It is very weird how often I think in the shower.  The hot water is relaxing, and once again relaxing seems to be the best way to think.  Also, it doesn’t hurt that you really feel like you are alone in the shower.  You cannot hear the phone or the doorbell or even someone calling your name.

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In looking over my list, it is apparent that I do my best thinking when I am relaxed and not really trying to resolve anything.  Do you have any unusual places where you find you do your best thinking? –June

 

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For My Dad

The month of June is in full swing. School’s out for the summer and for our family, a high school graduation. We’ve celebrated a birthday or two and are now heading toward the third Sunday in June, a day to celebrate fathers and father figures, those men that have loved and continue to love us, and who have made such a contribution to shaping our lives. This is for my dad.

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My Dad

I love picking out cards for special occasions, and Father’s Day is no exception. I’ve always been able to find just the right one that says how I’m feeling at that particular time. Sometimes my Father’s Day cards are all mushy and sentimental, and sometimes they are hysterically funny. While I was recently at the grocery store, I found myself perusing the cards when the reality hit that I would be buying one less card this year for Father’s Day. This past January 18th, my dad passed away after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer last fall. It still feels strange every time I acknowledge that he is gone – like if I don’t say anything, maybe it won’t be true. At my dad’s request, there was no funeral service, just a private celebration of life with family and his closest friends. I didn’t post to Facebook because at the time I was so overwhelmed with grief, I didn’t think I could handle all the kind words and condolences. So now, we are having that year of firsts. He would have turned 75 this past April, still a young man by today’s standards. Sunday it is Father’s Day, my first without him and although time does heal and as a family we are doing better, I find the grief I still carry in my heart bubbling up all over again. With that said, I don’t want this to be a post about loss, rather I want you all to know who my dad was, and why he will still be celebrated on this special day of dads.

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My dad was the first man I loved. I was trying to think of some of my earliest memories with him and the first that came to mind was raking leaves with him in the fall. At that time we lived in the city, and leaves were regularly burned on the curb. I had my little rake and used to love helping him.  (Although I’m sure it took him twice as long with my “help”.) Sometimes we would make piles and I would hide in one and he would pretend not to find me, or I would run through them.

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During the warm months, he would always take my hand as we walked to the nearby park after dinner, and sometimes we stopped to pick up milk. He spent a lot of time pushing me on the swing and I always hated when it was time to leave. My dad also taught me how to ride a bike. I can still picture him running along beside me up and down the block until finally, I was flying down the sidewalk on my own, hearing him cheer me on. I was a Girl Scout back in the day, and every year there was a father daughter dinner, and every year he attended with me. I’m sure he was thrilled when I decided that Girl Scouts was no longer “my thing”. My dad was a light sleeper and on those occasions when I woke up from a bad dream, or if I wasn’t feeling well, he always came into my room and rubbed my back, reassuring me that everything was ok. My dad traveled a lot for business, often overseas and he always brought me back a little souvenir spoon from the state or country he traveled to. I still have the collection displayed on my wall today. Of course my dad taught me how to drive. His car, a Honda Accord, was a manual so he would take me to practice in an empty business lot on the weekends, and I still remember the terror I felt when he told me to drive it home, making jokes whenever I stalled. My dad walked me down the aisle when I got married, telling me right before the music started that he loved me.

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As a little side note to my wedding day, because it was December, my dad thought it was a good idea to put on self tanning cream the morning of the wedding, so he didn’t look so white in pictures. This was so unlike him… Anyway, he didn’t realize how much he was putting on, and long story short- his face was a lovely shade of orange. He looked like a ripe summer peach!  I’ll never forget standing at the back of the church, staring at him as he came to walk me down the aisle, and thinking, “What the Hell?” We laughed about that for many years.

In my adult years, my dad was always a voice of reason when my emotions got the better of me, and he was always so damn practical. Always. 🙂 He had a wicked sense of humor and could make me laugh so easily, even if I was having a bad day. I was never allowed to take myself too seriously.

As wonderful as my father was to both my brother and me, my dad shined when he became “Papa”.

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He was a wonderful grandfather to all his grandchildren. I remember when my boys were young, my dad would play Santa Claus every year until one Christmas, my oldest son wanted to know why Santa was wearing Papa’s shoes.

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He felt such pride when that same son joined the Army, always supporting him and talking about him to all his friends. When the boys were teenagers, my dad would stop by every Sunday morning with a box of donuts, fresh from the bakery, just for them. Speaking of friends, my dad had lots of them. He made friends wherever he went and I still remember last fall, we went to the store together, and the employees were all calling him by name, and stopping to chat. Those same acquaintances have been so saddened by his death, sharing stories about my dad with my mom.

It’s funny, as we all get older there seems to be this role reversal that happens with our parents where once they took care of us, we now take care of them. For the last few months of my dad’s life, I was taking his hand on walks, helping him on the stairs, and rubbing his back for comfort, reassuring him that everything was going to be ok. I guess that’s part of the circle of life. I miss my dad every single day, and yet I feel him every time I see a dad at the park with his kids, or teaching his child to ride a bike, or even when one of our girls sits on her dad’s lap. Although we won’t be making new memories, I will always treasure the old ones. I carry his love in my heart and there is a comfort in that.

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Happy Father’s Day Daddy.

I hope you all have a wonderful Father’s Day this weekend, and on a personal note, I’d like to wish a Happy Father’s Day to my wonderful husband, and my little brother.

~May

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Cute and Casual Summer Dresses

We love summer! It’s the season for baseball games, picnics, swimming, and alfresco dining. Of course every girl needs a few great summer pieces to hang in her closet and it appears that this year, we are seeing a lot of cute and casual summer dresses and pretty skirts being displayed in store windows.

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Recently, after an unusually grueling pilates session, May and June decided to head over to Loft, to forget about their sore tired bodies and look at their wonderful selection of lovely skirts and dresses.  We both love that stores are offering more options in summer clothing, especially for women who want to wear something that’s cool, comfortable, and feminine. These are great options if you don’t feel comfortable wearing shorts.  Loft is a great store for clothing that you can wear to the office, or out for lunch with friends. There are so many options and the best part is, there are always great sales. In fact, it just so happens that there was a store wide sale the day we stopped in. We fell in love with the dresses, and thought you’d like to see some of our favorites.

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Maxi dresses have been around for a few summers now, and are always a great option with a cute strappy gladiator sandal. We love that Loft offers petite styles too, especially for these longer styles.

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Wrap dresses are also popular this summer and very figure flattering.

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We are also loving these tunic style dresses. May loved this little red one.

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There was a great selection of skirts and June purchased an adorable little black one, while May bought that cute chambray dress in the picture above. We went into the store just to look, but you know how that goes.

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If you haven’t updated your wardrobe for summer yet, definitely check out a Loft store near you. The summer sales are starting.

We hope you enjoy your weekend. Soak up the sun and walk barefoot in the grass. ~May and June

I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.
— L. M. Montgomery

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Letting Go

Am I the only one who finds letting go so incredibly difficult?  Recently, I took on the chore of switching out my closet for the summer season.  This involves sorting through the winter clothes in my closet and also the summer clothes that I stored away last fall.  I found myself surrounded by piles of clothes.  A t-shirt with a hole in it, but it had been bought on a favorite vacation.  A pair of pants that were a size I wish I wore.  A hoodie that I never wore, but was my favorite color pink.  A sweater that was a little out of style, but was warm and cozy when worn.  It was so hard to let go of these items.  I knew they were things that were not doing anything more then taking up room in my closet.  Yet, I had trouble putting them in the bag for donation or throwing them away.  So, some items simply were hung back into the closet, even though my storage space is limited.

We all have to let go sometimes.  It could be letting go of something as simple as that stretched out well-worn college sweatshirt.  Other times it is bigger, like a career or a relationship that is no longer serving us.

It is hard to let go of the “shoulds,” “coulds,” the “what ifs” and the “if onlys.”  It is hard to let go of the way we think our life should look when it does not look that way.  It is letting go of our ideals of perfectionism.  It is hard to let go of comparing ourselves to the picture perfect Instagram lives of our friends.

Sometimes we have to let go of the fears and misconceptions that are holding us back.  Sometimes we just need to let go of a social obligation because we know we need a quiet night at home to rejuvenate.  And we have to let go of the guilt that goes along with saying no to that invitation or request.

Sometimes it is letting go of hurt feelings and of past wrongs.  It is letting go of mistakes, either our own or others.

Sometimes there are things we want to let go of that we cannot because they are a necessity.  Personally, I would really like to let go of the grocery shopping, but unless I want let go of eating, I should probably continue that chore.

I have found that letting go is often a hard and agonizing process.  And sometimes being able to let go of letting go would be a relief in itself.

At a recent yoga class, my teacher read a poem that struck a chord with me.  I was fortunate that this poem is widely online.  The version my teacher read replaced “Five-Step Spiritual Mind Treatment,” with “social media account,” which I think is more apropos in this day and age where so many overshare their many trials on Facebook.

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I have re-read this poem a few times in what seems to be an especially busy season for me right now.  I hope that you read it and are able to sit with it for awhile because here’s the thing, if we can find the beauty in letting go, there is more room in our lives for all of the things we truly need and desire.

She Let Go

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of fear. She let go of the judgments. 
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely, 
without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a 
book on how to let go… She didn’t search the scriptures.
She just let go.
She let go of all of the memories that held her back. 
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward. 
She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go. 
She didn’t journal about it. 
She didn’t write the projected date in her day-timer.
She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper. 
She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope. 
She just let go.
She didn’t analyse whether she should let go. 
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter. 
She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment. 
She didn’t call the prayer line. 
She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.
No one was around when it happened. 
There was no applause or congratulations. 
No one thanked her or praised her. 
No one noticed a thing. 
Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort. There was no struggle. 
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. 
It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be. 
A small smile came over her face. 
A light breeze blew through her.
And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

The author of this poem is Rev. Safire Rose.

May you have some time of quiet and peace in this upcoming week and room for all of the things you desire.  –June

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Enjoying a different view in our Downward Dog

Hi everyone!!  We haven’t had a yoga Monday for a while, so I thought today we’d learn more about a posture that’s part of every school of yoga, and one that’s familiar to most people, whether you’re a yogi or not. Today’s posture is Downward Facing Dog ( Ado Mukha Svanasana). I absolutely love this posture and practice it almost daily. It’s a standing posture that builds strength and it’s also a mild inversion, plus it stretches the entire body- all in one pose! There are also some fun variations you can do with this posture, one of which I’ll reveal at the end of this post.  I so wanted to show you a picture of Sawyer, our doodle demonstrating his downward dog pose, but it was too difficult, and he wasn’t going to do it on demand- believe me when I tell you I tried. I did find this cute stunt doodle to stand in for him though.

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A Doodle Downward Dog

                    I like to begin this posture in a basic table top pose.

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Nicole in Table Top

Turn your toes and as you exhale, begin to lift your hips up and back, while reaching your chest backward toward your knees.

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Slowly straighten your legs. As you breathe, continue to press your chest backward, toward your feet, until your arms are even with your ears. Begin to press your heels downward, and don’t forget to breathe. Try to stay in the posture for a minimum of six breaths, before releasing the knees back to table top.

Downward Facing Dog strengthens the upper back and arms, while fully extending the spine. It improves upper back posture and opens the chest. Because the internal organs are inverted, they are given the opportunity to become repositioned, which can improve digestion. The quadriceps are strengthened while the hamstrings are stretched.  If you have tight hamstrings or sciatica, this posture can be done with bent knees, while maintaining all the wonderful benefits.

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Mentally, Downward Dog allows us to see our world from a different angle, giving us a different point of view which is sometimes helpful when we are struggling with an issue. It boosts self confidence, reduces anxiety and depression and you ALWAYS feel wonderful in body and mind after experiencing this posture, even if it’s just for a few breaths.

The girls and I thought it would be fun to do a Downward Dog pyramid of sorts. It took a little practice and there was a lot of laughter……but we made it!!

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Have a wonderful week!~ May

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

This is our favorite time of year here at May Meets June. Of course the fact that it’s our birthday months may have a little something to do with that, but to us, it’s also the most beautiful part of the spring/summer. Everything is so green and lush and there is a constant array of blooms. We feel that every home should have some type of garden, whether it’s for vegetables or flowers. The great thing is, you can have an elaborate landscape of blooms, or just simple containers on your balcony or patio, and even flower boxes for your windows. They add a pop of color to any space, plus you can grow tomatoes and herbs in pots as well.

May has always had a vegetable garden. When her boys were little, they would experiment with different seeds and loved watching the plants grow, enjoying a wonderful harvest by the end of the summer. One year they even had a pumpkin!!  Several years ago, May’s yard underwent a huge transformation and alas, the veggie garden had to go. However, all was not lost. An area at the back of yard that didn’t yield great soil, had wonderful light and so, as a Mother’s Day gift, May’s boys built her a contained garden.

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These type of gardens are wonderful if you don’t have great space. You can even buy these contained gardens at Home Depot or Lowe’s, and put them together yourself. These days, May just plants tomatoes and herbs.

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Just planted these a few weeks ago

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Last year’s plants

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Last year’s harvest…yum!

There is nothing like a tomato picked fresh off the vine still warm from the sun.

June did not inherit her father’s green thumb and she hates to weed, but she loves flowers and likes to cook with fresh herbs.  So, she restricts her gardening to low maintenance perennials and container pots with annuals and herbs (and then of course Faye, the fairy, planted her own garden too).

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The lovely peonies are blooming.

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Some basil.

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No idea what this is but it is pretty.

June also has window boxes on the front of her house which require a lot of annuals to be planted.  The boxes face south and get a lot of sun.  After several years of trial and error, June has found that sun loving resilient plants such as zinnias, dahlias, verbena and vinca vine work best up there.  They also need lots of water.  In July, when the heat gets intense and sometimes rain is sparse, the window boxes and often the pots in the back of the house require a good soaking both in the morning and in the evening.

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The plants are little right now.

 

As far as vegetables, June appreciates all the farmers’ hard work at the local Farmer’s Market and the hard work of her family and friends who are gardeners.  Are you listening May?  June hopes you are planning to use some of that tomato crop to make us some ratatouille this year.  She promises to bring a bottle of wine.

Have a great weekend! And, if you haven’t done so already, enjoy the weather and go play in the dirt. –May and June

 

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Ferris Bueller

Ferris Bueller is 30

On June 11, the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is celebrating its 30th anniversary.  I am now going to age myself because I remember when I first fell in love with Ferris and saw him at the movie theater in the summer of 1986. I am not exaggerating when I tell you I watched the movie 8 bajillion times after on either my VCR or DVD player.  As someone who came of age in the 1980s, I was certainly part of the John Hughes generation and loved all of those movies including Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Some Kind of Wonderful. Ferris Bueller was definitely at the top of the list.  In honor of the 30th anniversary, I sat down this weekend to watch it again after a long hiatus to see if it still held the same magic that captured my attention through my teenage years.  I am happy to report that the magic of Ferris still exists so many years later.  There are many reasons to love Ferris Bueller, but here are just a few.

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  1. Ferris is cool.  In the movie, Ferris is a senior in high school and when I first saw the movie, I was a few years younger which alone made Ferris cool.  However, Ferris is still cool even 30 years later.  It is true he is a little scheming and conniving, but he has a certain presence and most of his transgressions are pretty harmless.  I think he is quite the debonair dresser as well.
  2. Ferris has amazing confidence.  Ferris believes he can do anything and he convinces other people of the same.  Ferris gets his best friend, Cameron to participate in his ditch day and take his dad’s prize Maserati for a joyride.  He convinces the snooty maitre de at the restaurant that he is Abe Froman, “Sausage King of Chicago.” Ferris jumps on a float in the middle of a parade in downtown Chicago and entertains the crowd with his rendition of Danke Schoen and Twist and Shout.  At one point in the movie, Cameron, and Ferris’ girlfriend, Sloane are discussing what they are going to do after high school.  While they do not know what they are going to do, they figure Ferris is going to “be a fry cook on Venus.”  That type of confidence is amazing and while I will not be caught dead performing on any stage, having that type of confidence to convince someone that I am the Queen of the Best of Something, is definitely on my list of things to do.
  3. The city of Chicago is a wonderful part of the movie.  As someone growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I loved that the movie was filmed in Chicago and the suburbs.  It is always exciting when your hometown makes it to Hollywood, and Ferris made the city look so fun.  At the time the movie came out, I was not allowed to go to the city on my own, but it was something my friends and I dreamt of doing.  We thought it would be so fun to have a day just like Ferris and his friends.  Of course, knowing what I know now, there is no way you could fit that much into one day.  It is logistically impossible.  They drove 30 miles to what was then the Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower) and enjoyed the Skydeck.  Afterward, they viewed many masterpieces at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Then, onto lunch probably on the Gold Coast, off to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, and finally back to the Loop for a parade.  After all that,  they had to drive back home 30 miles to the North suburbs all before 3:30.  Despite that, the City of Chicago looked beautiful and the landmarks recognizable to this native suburban Chicagoan.
  4. The dialogue is memorable and funny.  My friends and I had a tendency to quote lines from the movie.  How many times did someone say “Bueller..? Bueller..? Bueller…?” in Ben Stein’s monotone voice.  Or the secretary describing Ferris to the vice principal who has it out for Ferris, “Oh, he’s very popular Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads – they all adore him. They think he’s a righteous dude.”  When I watched the movie this past weekend I was still able to remember so much of the dialogue.
  5. Ferris Bueller is a believer in the present moment.  The movie opens and closes with this quote “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you might miss it.”  When I first saw this movie (and the 8 bajillion times after), I don’t think I appreciated the significance of this sentiment.  However, now I certainly do.  Today is the beginning of June which means it is the beginning of summer.  So as we start summer let’s remember to live like Ferris.  Let’s soak up the long days of sunlight.  Eat ice cream.  Catch fireflies.  Skip our chores for an hour of sitting on the porch.  Play hooky from work.  Laugh with our friends.  Have barbecues.  Read a book.  Run through the sprinkler.  Walk barefoot.  Smell the freshly mown grass.  Cut a bouquet from the garden.  Sip a glass of chilled wine.  Take a nap.  Do nothing.  Stop and really enjoy summer because if we don’t, before we know it, the summer will be gone.  It starts now.  –June

 

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