Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lessons From the Garden

Life is a lot like a garden. Ever-changing. Never perfect. Full of colour and texture. It's hard work, but rewarding.

Like life, a garden provides pleasure and beauty alongside sadness and disaster.

Scattering the Seeds

We sew seeds in life every day; seeds of friendship and enmity, of success and failure, of joy and despair.

Sometimes we sew them accidentally.

Sometimes we choose to sew the wrong seeds.

Sometimes the seeds we sew will die or turn out very differently to the way we had expected.

Sometimes seeds grow that we didn't sew ourselves.

Sometimes we sew the right seeds in the wrong place and they struggle to thrive. Or we call them weeds, tear them out and throw them away.

Sometimes we sew seeds and don't nurture them properly. We feed them with worry and water them with doubt. Or we neglect them and the weeds take over.

But when we sew the right seeds in the right place and we nurture them often, with just a little love and attention, the result is incredible. Little seeds soon become flowers of amazing, awesome, powerful beauty. Beauty to take your breath away. Beauty to melt your heart or soothe your soul.

As a flower scatters its seeds to spread beauty through a garden, we can scatter seeds of tolerance and compassion. Or positive thinking. Or creativity. Or justice.

Making the Most of What We Have

Creating a garden is all about working with what we have. We cannot change the location or the weather or the soil, just as we cannot change who we are, where we came from or what we have to work with in our lives right now.

But we can work with nature to create something healthy and happy.

We can work hard to prepare the ground and provide for needs.

We can choose to plant things that will thrive.

We can adapt to changes.

And we can change the way we look at it ...

Choosing Our Perspective

If we don't like the view, then we can easily change it. We can uproot and replant things. We can grow new things. We can take down fences and build benches. (And weave hearts.)

We can change the view or we can change the direction in which we look. We can decide to go and sit in a different part of the garden and appreciate a different view.

We can change the view or we can change the way we look at it. The wider picture, the smallest details; both are as important in the garden as they are in life. Looking at something from a different angle, from closer or further away, can make a big difference to the way we perceive it.

We can change the view or we can change ourselves.

Lessons From the Garden

There is a time for everything. And everything has its time.

Things happen. Not everything goes to plan. (Often, things work out even better than planned.)

Weeds are just flowers in the wrong place.

Hard work in the right place is doubly rewarding. It feels good and it pays off in the long run.

Things may or may not work. But they are always worth trying.

The things we truly love and nurture will grow the best.

Nature As Mentor

Nature can certainly teach us a thing or two!

Flowers teach us that rain is just as important as sunshine. In fact, without plenty of rain, flowers will quickly die. Flowers also look gorgeous in the rain!

Trees teach us how to live alongside each other. Walking through Bluebell Woods and around the Mere last week, I was amazed to notice just how many different trees were happily living side by side. The reason I actually noticed was because I had seen this lovely image, and read Rosa Say's inspiring words:

*Lōkahi. We can live in harmony and in unity.
If trees can do it, rooted together where they stand, then so can we!

Birds teach us how to greet the new day with a song. They don't seem to worry much about what happened yesterday, they are simply filled with joy at each new dawn. Joy at having worms to catch and a family to feed. Joy at being alive and being able to sing. And they share their joy with everyone around them.

Wishing you all a wonderful week, filled with riotous colour and jubilant song!

(The links above are all to images on flickr. It's much easier than doing battle with Blogger! I love sharing pictures with you, but still have real problems both with uploading and with spacing. Flickr rocks!)

* Lōkahi (loh-kah-hee) means harmony, unity and collaboration. For more on beautilful Hawaiian values, have a look at Rosa's fab Managing With Aloha Coaching.


Monday, May 19, 2008

May Full Moon, Moon Phase Gardening, the Recycled Garden and Monday Feelgoods

May Full Moon

The Moon will be Full tonight:

Sydney, Australia - 1.11pm AEDT May 20
Los Angeles, USA - 7.11pm PDT May 19
London, England - 3.11am May 20

(from Yasmin Boland)

There are lots of names for the May Full Moon:

Milk Moon (Colonial American)
Planting Moon (Chinese)
Panther Moon (Choctaw)
Bright Moon (Celtic)
Hare Moon (English Medieval)
Grass Moon (Neo Pagan)

Moon When Leaves Are Green, Moon To Plant (Dakotah Sioux)

Many of these are names that reflect the new growth of Nature. It would seem another great time to plant new seeds, literally and figuratively.

Planting Seeds

I'm busy planting seeds of all kinds at the moment. I am developing a new Channel on Helium, for Single Parents and designing the Student Mum website, both of which need nuturing and both of which I look forward to watching blossom. (Any suggestions for both would be gladly welcomed.)

There is also a new Mentoring Channel on Helium, another small seed filled with infinite possibilities. If you have mentoring experience of any kind, your insight would be much appreciated and valued.

A Recycled Garden

I have also spent lots of time in the garden over the past couple of weeks.

I am on a mission to create a garden without spending any money. This has included recycling the hedge cuttings. Youngest daughter and I have made little fences for borders in the flowerbeds, wigwams for peas and sweet peas, a bird house and a woven heart. We even made a usable bench from an old bunk bed, a large brick (hammer) and string ... no kidding! I've put the photos and comments on flickr because it's easier than putting them on here!

I'm a bit concerned for the safety of a pair of blackbirds who appear to be on a suicide mission. They're building a nest in the beech hedge on the other side of the path just outside our front garden. Not content with building a home in such a daft place, they've taken to thoroughly harrassing Tizzy!

For some strange reason, they spend most of the day dancing, right in front of her nose as she tries to chill out in the garden, hurling a barrage of abuse at her. So far she has pretty much ignored them, but I'm worried she's just biding her time until they have a nest full of babies to raid. Mind you, if they carry on spending so much time entertaining Mrs. Tizzywinkle, they'll never finish their nest.

I wonder if they're telling her they know she's there and they're not scared of her. But such a strategy is very risky ... all they've done is advertise their new home and thoroughly annoy the ur-cat at the same time!

Moon Phase Gardening

The phases of the moon have long been associated with agriculture and horticulture and are the foundation of Biodynamic Gardening.

The New Moon is considered a time to plant seeds. The waxing phase following the new moon, when the moonlight gradually increases, is said to be good for encouraging foliage growth. The waning moon following a full moon is said to be a time when root growth is encouraged.

So, on both counts I have made mistakes this week. I have scattered seeds left over from last year all over the garden and transplanted a hydrangea (I think) from an overgrown corner into the middle of the front garden. Not the best timing as far as lunar gardening goes, but the only timing I had available ... the results will be interesting.

The Benefits of Gardening

It's so lovely to get back into the garden, the therapeutic benefits are diverse.

Benefits to mental, physical and spiritual health are all available in the garden. Gardening is even used to treat illness or addiction, or to reintegrate people into the community after recovery. A garden is a useful place for teaching and learning. From basic literary and numeracy skills to social skills, horticulture is a useful educational resource.

This is something I know Dave Riddell will agree with. His Outdoor Classrooms projects embody the philosophy of natural learning alongside supporting the environment.

Fresh Air Feelgoods

Feelgoods to start your week, all about spending time reconnecting with nature or simply enjoying the fresh air:

* Buy a bag of rose petals from a florist and scatter them around your house.

* Go hunting for shells on a beach.

* Rent a canoe or kayak and contemplate life.

* Go to an outdoor concert.

* Go to an observation point or scenic overlook and get some perspective.

Have a wonderful week!


More from Yasmin Boland:

How long since you read this?

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we subconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

- Marianne Williamson (not as often believed, Nelson Mandela - Mandela read it out at one of his most famous speeches, but the text is from Willamson's book Return To Love)



Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Feeling Good: New Words, New Worlds and Outdoor Gardens

A quick Women and the Moon link for you, a little late (story of my life at the moment!):

A Woman in the Moon song by the lovely Chely Wright

Another lonesome night
Staring at the sky
But I don't help to ease an aching heart
The man up in the moon
Keeps on talking himself blue
And once again I'm left here in the dark

Let me talk to the woman in the moon
I think I need another point of view
That ol' man up there
Doesn't seem to care
Let me talk to the woman in the moon

Heaven's up above
I just want a little love
Cause I'm so tired of living all alone
Please lend a friendly ear
Cause I need some help down here
Somebody with the heart to be my own

Let me talk to the woman in the moon
I think I need another point of view
That ol' man up there
Doesn't seem to care
Let me talk to the woman in the moon

I can't help but look up there and wonder
Will I ever hold him in my arms
Please help me with this spell I've fallen under
Cause I can't seem to find my lucky stars

Let me talk to the woman in the moon
I think I need another point of view
That ol' man up there
Doesn't seem to care
Let me talk to the woman in the moon

Let me talk to the woman in the moon

Ha! I love the idea of talking to the woman in the moon!

Tuesday Feelgoods!

And a few feelgood links for you (well, it doesn't have to be Friday, I'm feeling full of feelgoods and always like to spread them around!):

I have recently learned a new word and new meaning within an old one.

The Hawaiian word Aloha is so much more than the hello/goodbye I had thought. It encompasses the Hawaiian value of love and inner spirit and it means, among other things, "I recognise the same breath of life within you." For more about the values within Hawaiian culture, from the inspirational Rosa Say, have a look at her lovely Managing With Aloha Coaching. Her site embodies a concept being widely discussed online recently:

I'm not sure what to call it, I'm not sure if it has a specific name (though many Hawaiian words express it) but I find it exciting and uplifting. It goes beyond ethical, includes creating (celebrating) the personal within the professional, the moral within the commercial, it speaks of respect and integrity in business life ... it is a holistic kind of approach to business, I guess.

To life, in fact.

And there is a word that sums it up:


Niebu is a newly-created, magical word that holds a whole new world within in it.

A word inadvertently created by James Chartrand of the excellent MenwithPens, by mistyping an early morning greeting to Dave Navarro on Twitter. Dave responded in kind and a new word was born. (More links to Niebu on Life is a Learning Curve.)

A humble typo has since developed into an awesome word/concept/philosophy. A wor(l)d full of positive possibilities, it means hello, goodbye, I hope you have a wonderful day, sending good thoughts ...

So, a very warm Niebu to you all! :o)

And a final feelgood (for today) is the concept of Outdoor Classrooms.

As Dave Riddell explains in his great post, not only do schools (and the environment) benefit from outdoor classrooms; there is a positive effect on the wider community too:

"Beyond the school, the construction of an outdoor classroom also benefits community members by providing opportunities to increase their environmental awareness and knowledge, while offering additional means of participation in both their child’s education and local environmental stewardship."

There has even been a positive effect on the level of vandalism:

"To date, no vandalism or disturbance of either the nursery beds or the native wildflower landscaping has occurred. This is significant, given that the schoolgrounds receive considerable traffic after hours and have experienced defacement and destruction of property in the past."

Tree nurseries, native wildflower beds and proposed constructed wetlands are all fantastic places to encourage the interest of children and their families in nurturing the environment. Such wonderful learning spaces benefit everyone and this idea really excites me, I hope it spreads far and wide like beautiful seeds on a helpful breeze!


Friday, May 9, 2008

Prioritising Priorities and Friday Feelgoods

What to do when you have too many things to do?

I have been suffering from Information Overload for a while. (Forever in fact, having never grown out of the curious child who constantly asks "But why ...?")

But it's increased from a molehill to a mountain this week. Think it might be something to do with the gorgeous weather. I'm finding it hard to stay indoors. Especially as I've been working in the front garden and it's now looking lovely and tidy ... and the house looks like a herd of elephants have been having a party here for a week.

So being outside today is nicer because the sun is shining, but also because I'm escaping the chaos. And I now have a lovely view of my neighbour's awesome cherry tree in blossom, having cut down half my unruly hedge (which took almost two whole afternoons!)

I also created an arch above the gate, and in cutting down the hedge, now have a collection of twigs to weave into a fence like we did last year ... much to Youngest Daughter's delight (Eldest Daughter just rolls her eyes at my 'creativity' in the garden.)

So, lots done this week, but always another job to do in the garden, and I could happily spend hours pottering.

Meanwhile things have mounted up elsewhere.

Things I need to deal with (RIGHT NOW!):

Catch up with posts (on all five blogs)
Respond to perhaps almost 20 important emails (daren't count them!)
Tidy (and scrub) the house top to bottom
Tackle the side and back gardens (still entirely jungle-like)
Get out Summer clothes/put Winter clothes away
Some work for Helium
Reading/commenting on other blogs
Answering comments on Towards 2011
Reading downloaded ebooks
Reading library books
Writing recycling article
Catching up with RSS feeds ...

And that's just off the top of my head, without actually looking at my List Of Things To Do Today!

Sitting with a coffee in front of my laptop this morning, I realised I needed to have a serious word with myself. The problem is that I have too much to do, so I don't know where to start. I've started things then been distracted by what appear to be higher priorities, so nothing has actually been done. Ok, so what to do? I decided that the answer was to just do one thing. Excellent idea! the only problem of course, is that I have so much to do that I don't know which thing to start with ... hmm, that didn't get me any further.

I even wrote a monthly plan last week. I have everything I need to do written in a notebook, so it's not cluttering up my head and making me feel pressured. But when I look at it all in writing, because there's so much and most of it needs doing right now (or yesterday), I feel sick and dizzy!

How to prioritise when everything is equally important?

I was trying so hard to work out which one thing was the most important. And spending far too much time not actually doing anything. Plus the sunshine on my step was calling and further distracting me. A friend turning up for coffee was a great excuse to sit outside and having shared my dilemma with her, she suggested I write a post about it and left me sitting on the step, scribbling some notes for it in a notebook.

Writing a post on here was one of my priorities and after all, in the end it doesn't matter what the priorities are if nothing gets done because of indecisiveness (otherwise known as dithering.)

So, I'm writing this post. Then I'm going to tackle my emails. Then ...

Then, I'll decide what to do next! If I start thinking, "Then I'll do A, then B, then C ..." I start feeling all dithery again.

I start thinking, "But really, C is more important. Or maybe, on consideration, B is more important. Oh, I forgot about Q completely, maybe ..."

Or, of course, I could just go out and potter around in the sunshine again! :o)

Some Friday Feelgoods For You

* Sing loudly to Aretha Franklin in the shower.

* Send someone flowers for no reason.

* Send yourself flowers for no reason!

* Dance to your favourite music (in front of the mirror, with a hairbrush!)

* Make a fruit salad using fruits of every colour.

* Visit the sea, or a lake or a river and dip your feet in the water.

* Go roller-skating in the local park.

The above are all adapted from The Woman's Book of Simple Delights by Kerry Colburn and Debbie Hanley (Running Press: London, 2003).

The following is courtesy of Joanna Young on Twitter. Thank you, Joanna, this is truly lovely:

* Stand in your garden with bare feet, feeling warm earth. Breathe in sunshine and breathe out gratitude.

So, back to my garden ... erm, email inbox!

Because I know If I just get something done, it will likely trigger off a whole load of other things. That one thing done will be one less priority, whichever order they're in.

But how is anyone supposed to resist this:

Do you suffer from information overload? How do you deal with it? How do you decide (or organise) your priorities? How do you choose where to start a To Do List?
For anyone else with the too-much-to-do syndrome, check out Dave Navarro's fantastic Rock Your Day!
Wishing you a weekend full of sunshine.
And no overloads!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Do Whatever Makes Your Heart Sing

Hope you all had a lovely Bank Holiday (in the UK)?

Lovely sunny weather in North Yorkshire so I spent most of yesterday in the garden. It feels like Monday today. I'm always a day behind, or a day ahead ... I get very confused after a Bank Holiday!


A Little About the Moon ...

It was a New Moon yesterday, a lovely positive New Moon, as Yasmin Boland explains:

This New Moon takes place on the Angelic Point known as "Creative Genius", no less! It's most certainly a chance for anyone with creativity burning a hole in their brain to start to actually do something about it.

And Conspiracy Planet explains that the New Moon is in Taurus:

It is time to ground and assess your personal goals.

What are your core values?

What makes your heart sing?

These are great questions. Spend a little time today contemplating what makes you tick and what makes you buzz ... sounds a bit like an alarm clock!

And don't feel guilty. At all.

Share Your Song

I saw Iyanla Vanzant talking on the Oprah show many years ago. Something she said about doing what we love, about nurturing our own spirits, has really stuck with me (I'm paraphrasing):

Spending time nurturing ourselves is not a self-ish activity, it's a self-full action.

When we do the things that make our hearts sing, our beautiful song is heard by others. And beautiful songs are catching. When we feel good, we're better at making others feel good.

My very wise Mum has often reminded me:

As a Mum you should always take take care of yourself first. You can't look after the girls properly if you don't look after yourself.

Good advice. Not that I have always followed it, it's not the easiest advice to follow. It's easy to get caught up in the struggle of daily life and neglect the small, important stuff (from eating and sleeping properly to nuturing our own spirits.) It's easy to run ourselves into the ground until we have nothing left to give.

Life today is very demanding.

Why is that?

We have so many time-saving devices, our days are longer, our world smaller ... yet we seem to have less time. Less time for the small things in life, the important things in life, for the people we love, and for ourselves.

Nurture You and Yours

But it's true that our children (in fact everyone in our lives) benefit from our being healthy and fulfilled, from our being able to spend quality time with them in good spirits.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's healthy for children to see we are sometimes sad or angry, confused or frustrated, that humans are not supposed to be eternally cheerful and always in control of life.

But besides all the benefits from spending quality time with us at our best, children also learn from us how to deal with the stresses of today's fast-paced life. If they see us take time out and focus on ourselves now and then, they are more likely to do so themselves.

Whether we have children or not, as individuals we must try to remember that we are one of our most important priorities. And I know it's not easy! But spend a little time on you today. Make a promise to yourself that you will do one thing that you love every day. The people in your life will appreciate it. They will benefit from it.

Another thought from Conspiracy Planet suggests that this is supported by the New Moon in Taurus:

If you work on your own issues with the greater good in mind during this lunation you will be greatly rewarded. There is great potential for a significant collective knowing, a return to caring and generosity among people.

Don't Always Go With the Flow

Sometimes, without us even realising, the flow becomes a raging torrent and we suddenly become aware that we are struggling to keep our heads above water.

Another thought from Iyanla, quoted in Louise Hay's Everyday Positive Thinking:

If you don't make clear and conscious choices, you'll be stuck with whatever shows up.

Choose to step out of the river sometimes and chill out on the bank, just watching the world go by. Soak up some sunshine for a while. Lie among the flowers. Do whatever makes your heart sing.

Have a lovely week!


Friday, May 2, 2008

Friday Feelgoods: May Days and Wonderful Weekends

I spent this morning at a Media Open Day at the local Recycling Centre (Material Recycling Facility.) Talk about stepping out of your comfort zone. Almost too scared to go and not a very good start, when I got out of a friend's wagon in the carpark and fell headlong in the dirt! But a fantastic day, fascinating stuff and a good reminder to face up to fears. Will share more about it on the Freelance Writing Curve over the weekend. (The most recent post on there is about Writer's Block ... it would be great to hear your views on that unfortunate affliction!)

Some Friday feelgoods for you ...

Welcome to the Magical Month of May

May was named after the Greek Goddess Maia, the mountain goddess "of the lively black eyes." She was also know as Bona Dea, the "Good Goddess," who was associated with healing - the sick were tended to in her temple gardens with medicinal herbs. Bona Dea was also associated with freedom from slavery and her followers were mostly slaves, low-class citizens and women.

In French and German folk tradition, people planted a tree in May to honour someone special. What a lovely idea. I can't afford a tree, but have decided to plant a seed for each of my friends and family. I'm looking forward to choosing something that has special meaning for them and planning making a list as something lovely to do this weekend.

See below for Deborah Ng's fab ideas for the weekend!

In British folklore, May is a generally unlucky month, it seems! Although with some great anniversaries. And thankfully there are lots of great days to celebrate in May:

Note: May 2nd is NOT Autism Awareness Day ... as I announced this morning. On Twitter! (Honestly, I'm not so much Twitterer as Twit!)

Wish I'd written this post first. Somehow I'd fogotten we were in May, and realising it was the 2nd, I posted a link to Autism Awareness Day, which was actually on April 2nd! Oh well, at least it means everyone has plenty of notice for next year. It's not the first time I've made such a public fool of myself (with evidence, in writing, online ... forever!) And it probably won't be the last. It's a good job I find it funny!

Every day in May (quite appropriately in my case) is a day of Mental Health Awareness Month, with this year's tagline: "Get Connected."

At least it is in the US. It seems we don't have one in the UK, but let me know if I'm wrong.

I think it's an excellent idea. Mental health is still such a taboo subject, yet one in three of us will suffer some kind of mental health problem at some point in our life. As someone who suffered from a total physical, mental and emotional meltdown a few years ago, I am happy to talk about it, if only to let people know they aren't alone (mental health problems are very isolating) and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

May is also New Zealand Music Month in NZ and Celebrate Older Adults Month. It seems we don't have one of those either ... what a shame! I strongly believe we should cherish our elders and feel passionately about ensuring they are heard, particularly women, as you might have gathered from my Crone post! Wikipedia have a list of individuals who became famous in old age, most of whom are, interestingly, women.

The third week in May is Bike-To-Work Week ... another fantastic idea. I don't possess a car, in fact I don't even possess a driver's licence. I currently don't possess a working bike either, but I do walk everywhere or use public transport and really believe it's a great way to help the environment. Easy for me, I know - there are times a car is necessary. Well, we manage without one, but it is very difficult sometimes and we do have friends and family with cars, so benefit from that when we visit them. It must be very hard to avoid 'unnecessary' use of a car if you actually have one!

The second Saturday is World Fair Trade Day, something else I think is well-worth getting involved with.

The second Sunday is Mother's Day in lots of countries.

So, May is overflowing with feelgoodness!

Everyday Indulgences

I have a lovely, tiny, pink book covered in gold writing and glitter (would post a pic, but Blogger is being mean again!) It's one of my favourite books. It makes me smile, because it is filled with more than 200 everyday indulgences:

The Woman's Book of Simple Delights written by Kerry Colburn, beautifully illustrated by Debbie Hanley (Philidelphia: Running Press, 2003)

It's not exclusive to women, all the ideas are great for guys too ... although perhaps not these three:

1. Paint your toenails a colour you've never dreamt of wearing.

2. Try on couture gowns at a fancy boutique.

3. Buy fishnet stockings and wear them to a meeting you're dreading.

Then again ... I have a male friend who'd be up for all of them! The thought of a nervous business man with fishnet stockings under his suit makes me giggle, at least. (So it probably counts as an everyday indulgence of mine.)

I'll share a few with you every Friday and try and think up some more. Let me know your own ideas too!

1. Take a salsa lesson.

2. Spend a full half-hour at a florist's or greenhouse (floral smells are a natural high.)

3. Make a list of the best compliments you've ever received.

4. Read your favourite childhood book.

5. Invite a friend over for jump rope and hopscotch.

Does anyone else remember a game with elastic? I think we called it French Skipping. Like a bigger version of Cat's Cradle ... remember that, too?

6. Skip rocks at the beach or riverbank.

7. Let yourself have total stillness for 15 minutes in the middle of the day.

Pass on the Feelgoods

Deborah Ng has posted a wonderful list of 26 Free Things to Do this Weekend as a Family.

My first thought was to share them with you by posting them here, adding one or two then passing it on like a meme. But a much better idea is to share a link to Deborah's Simply Thrifty blog. So you can check out Deborah's post (and the rest of her lovely blog) and leave her a comment with your own ideas, then share Simply Thrifty and your own ideas on your blogs if you want to.

To be honest, it wasn't easy to think of any more, Deborah's done a great job! But here's a few ideas:

1. Make a simple bird feeder or start a Nature Journal.

2. Write and perform a play.

3. Decorate plant pots (or old plastic containers, like margerine tubs) and plant an apple seed in each one ... for someone special.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!