Is it the right time?

I planted spinach last week.

First I googled What does as soon as the ground can be worked mean and Is it crazy to plant spinach in March in zone 5B? Answers were non-conclusive as might be expected. I wanted an OK to start planting even though it feels crazy early. Didn’t get one.

Gardening, like life, often doesn’t have clear cut, black and white answers.

The weather has been telling me to get outside, start planting. I find it hard to trust this weather though—and for good reason. March is notoriously fickle. I’ve been tricked before into packing away snowsuits only to have several inches dumped on us. Last week, I sat on the porch sipping coffee and reading and writing a letter. Yesterday, snow.

Most years the ground can’t be worked this early. It’s frozen or a sodden mess or still covered in snow. But this year, it’s tempting and well . . . maybe it’ll work.

Either way, it’s going to be OK.  Seed isn’t expensive.  And I’ll plant more spinach either way. Is it the right time? I’m not sure, but it’s not a big risk to take.

Two years ago today, I wondered if the time was right for something else. And then, like the spinach, I decided to go for it. I signed on to work with a business coach. I sent the email, made my deposit—and wondered what the heck I was doing.

I started freelancing in 2000 after a layoff, and while I’ve learned a lot in that time, I never invested much in my business—a new computer, one fabulous conference years ago, the occasional workshop.

Seven years of babies and grief and changing markets left me knowing I wanted something different. But what? And when?

“Maybe,” I thought, “I should wait until both kids are in school.” It was just a few months away. Maybe I should wait for more clarity. But, no. I was stuck. I needed to DO something.

Sometimes you plant your seeds. You water and wait and hope. Usually things sprout. If not, you try again. Two years ago, the seeds I planted flourished. The spinach from last week? I’ll let you know next month.

What seeds are you ready to plant?

Step outside

Step outside in the still dark morning. Close your eyes. Listen. Morning glories stop me in my tracks—what stops you and makes you take notice?

It’s changing. The summer sounds are fading. The wild cacophony of spring that shifted into the confident, strong sounds of summer is muted. Not done yet .  . . not done yet . . . not done yet.

Step outside early in sky brightening morning. Feel.

The grass was not silver-tipped this morning, though grass was heavy with dew. Your feet begin to ache like they do at the beach when the wet sand tells you it will be hard to get into the water.

Step outside under a sky pale with clouds. Look

The basil is starting to get anemic and you need still to make more pesto. The crabgrass loved this dry summer. Your feathery cosmos were felled by the heavy rains a few days ago. Your dahlias still smile, even where they droop. A bird darts across the garden and then away.

Turn back to the house where your feet will be warm. Turn back to the house where hot coffee waits for you. Turn back to the house and see one—two—three—four morning glories singing praise the day. Stretch back, raise your face to the sky.

Breathe deep. Forget the change in night sounds and the tired plants. Breathe in this moment, the cold dew, the deep red, the feather fronds, the sky-blue trumpets. Open to this day.

I’ve been starting my day this week by stepping outside and just noticing—the smell of damp earth, the rattle-clank of a truck sounding Writing prompt: Step outside right now. What do you notice?particularly loud in the half-darkness, shape of the trees still bearing all their greenery.

Step outside. Be still. What do you notice?


Blowing bubbles beneath the lilacs

“Gold! Gold! Gold! I’m catching gold!”

My big girl ran up and down the driveway popping bubbles, saying each one turned to gold as if she were in a real-life videos game collecting prizes.

The little one blew, or tried to blow bubbles, in the gustyLilacs for Charlotte wind. I kept turning to keep the soapy spheres from flying back in my face. All the while, the deep scent of lilacs wafted over me. I stood in the bright, cool sun of that moment, noticing how big my girls had gotten, their enthusiasm, their smiles.

I stood under the lilacs bubbles wafting off my wand and held space for two friends and the little ones they had lost. The scent of lilacs always brings to mind Charlotte, born and gone in this time of their flowering, and her mama Carol. The bubbles are for Hudson, a tradition started by her mom Mandy, such a sweet way to remember her little girl.

Breathe deep the lilacs, smile as you blow some bubbles, hug your kids tight, send out a little peace to those who can’t.

I am so grateful to have met these women and have them part of my tribe. You can find part of Carol’s story here and Mandy’s here.


Is snow really really white? Mindfulness for writers

picking blueberriesThis morning we had waffles with blueberry-maple syrup for breakfast, and even as I added more wood to the fire and looked out over the more than knee-deep snow, I remembered the bright sunshine on my back and the rhythmic work of this day. One of the reasons I love canning is pulling out a little summer in the dead-cold of winter. What canning captures in a jar, writing can capture on the page if we really connect to our senses and our experience.

To get that kind of detail on the page, we need to start by really paying attention in the moment.

Last night I was reading a mindfulness activity from this book. In this simple activity you ask kids to pretend they are Martians seeing something from Earth for the first time. Hand them a familiar object, and remind them that they have never seen it before. Ask them to look, touch, smell, listen, and taste and describe their experience.

The example uses raisins and kids taste them, feel them, even listen to them. They really notice them for the first time in their lives. Are there things you see, eat, hear every day without really noticing?

I could tell you I looked out over the white snow, and yesterday in the blinding sunlight it looked that way. It’s white mostly, but yellow where the dog peed and a little dingy and speckled where the snowblower flung it early this week. It’s scattered with debris from trees and footprints that become violet-gray hollows as the light shifts. But sometimes I need to stop, look close, forget “snow is white” to notice that.

It’s new to youWriting Prompt: Be mindful. Forget what you know and really notice what you experience with all your senses.

Try this mindfulness exercise yourself. You can use any object: raisins, your morning coffee, a dirty sock from the floor, a handful of snow. Imagine you’ve never seen it before.

Forget what you know or how you feel about this object, and simply observe it. After experiencing the the object fully and without judgment, write about it if you choose.

What did you notice?


Right now I’m loving {5}

Right now I’m loving:

  • This gift from my neighbor and its reminder that spring will come eventually

Write What You Love: I love this hope for spring

  • Gaiters and long johns (since spring is no where near here yet)
  • My wonderful neighbors—and their snowblowers
  • These cookies (equally good made with coconut oil instead of butter)
  • Seed catalogs (more spring dreams)
  • Anne Lamott’s Small Victories
  • My moka pot
  • Our latest batch of chili (in a bowl with rice, as a dip for blue corn chips, or on homemade pizza)
  • Seeing people joining me for Write What You Love

There’s still time time to join us. We start tomorrow! Sign up here.
Write What You Love is a free, three-day writing practice

What are you loving right now?



What don’t you need this December?

What don’t you need this December?

Three kids went home sick from my daughter’s class yesterday. One threw up at school. I’m obsessively washing my hands, reminding the kids to wash theirs, and trying to remember not to eat scraps off their plate.

Still, this morning, my stomach felt off. I don’t know if I’m on the verge of something or if I’m just fearful of getting a stomach bug.

I’ve been thinking about fear and the trepidation with which I approach December every year, and wondering if some of that is just habit.

December pulls me hard between dark and light, joy and sorrow, birth and death. All year I hold these things together, but in December, the tension is strong.

Next week I will celebrate my older daughter’s birthday. A few days later, her little sister will blow out her own candles.

And on the 17th, we mark the day Henry died.Simple traditions

I still feel trepidation when this month rolls around. My body tenses as we move into December, wrapping tighter as we move closer to that day.I feel the pressure of birthdays and holidays on either side of Henry’s day. I feel that weight sinking in the center between them.

I have slowly reclaimed this month. I moved from having no tree to putting up a mini tree to telling my girls the stories of the ornaments as we hang them together on a big tree. I’ve slowly reintroduced traditions like baking cookies and making ornaments. I’ve added new traditions like our Christmas story advent calendar.

Along the way, I’ve found light again and joy. My girls have helped a lot with that, their enthusiasm and excitement lighting my way. I want to follow their light, bask in it’s glow.

I want to let go of the trepidation this month brings.The weight, the darkness, the sorrow may come—surely will—but I don’t want to give it extra time.

The past few Decembers have been about building—adding in traditions and celebrations. This year, I want to start to let go of  anxiety and anticipation, so even more light can come in.

 What can you let go of this December? What can you make room for?

Maybe you’ll let go of a tradition you never liked or an event you grumble about every year to make room for a new tradition that brings you peace or joy.

Maybe you’ll let go of getting “perfect” gift and enjoy spending time with loved ones instead.

Maybe you’ll cull your Christmas card list and write a note to a few friends.

Maybe you’ll throw out the to do list and sit by the fire and sip your eggnog.

Not sure? Try journaling about what you love most about the holidays.

Whatever you do, I hope you find more joy and peace and light in this season.

Share in the comments what you want to make room for this month and one thing you can let go of to get there.