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T.J. BROWN BLOG

Operation Renewal

I’m currently sitting up on the side of a mountain in a house that some of our best friends built. Hubby is off skiing and after a a short walk through the snow covered hills, I am sitting in front of a fire, feet up, water at the ready and my puppy lying on the couch. My dearest Annie is reading nearby, toasting her feet in front of the fire. We talk on occasion, but are mostly quiet, matching the silence of the forest that surrounds us. We are miles away from other humans and the solitude is palpable.

As I grow older, I find myself turning more and more to nature to heal and renew. Too much time spent in the city, even a city that I love, makes me anxious and unsettled. I need the relaxation that only communing with the natural world can bring. My only problem is that in my real life, I don’t get this enough. Perhaps I should make the adjustments in my life to make this more of my reality.

That’s it. That’s the blog.

Long Week, Longer Weekend

It’s Sunday and I haven’t blogged since last Sunday. I was hoping to hit twice a week, but when a week is as heavy as last week’s news cycle was… I let blogging slide with no regrets. I wasn’t really in the mood to talk, write or otherwise make nice.

I’m tired of making nice… and yet, what’s to be gained by allowing myself to slide into anger and recriminations. Nothing. So I’ve pretty much implemented no politics weekends. I try not to read or share, though, there are a few commentators who I will always read and share because the information is vital. But for the most part, I avoid social media that is overtly political. I need the time to rest so that when Monday comes, I’m ready to write the post cards, attend the meetings and make the calls. But the weekend’s rest is vital.

This weekend, rest would be relative. I took off Saturday morning and drove up to Centralia to meet up with an old friend for lunch… like me she’s a writer, like me, she’s lost and found her mojo many times. It was so good to catch up.  We may be critiquing one another’s work again, because we’re both low key about it… plus, she’s really, really good!

I picked up the grandchildren on my way back home… Sweet Pea and Chaos stayed overnight. Sweet Pea, age ten, is a great help with Chaos, age three, but it’s still exhausting. I hate the television and they’re so good about not asking to watch TV and, for the most part, are far too busy to want to watch anyway. Case in point, in the 24 hours that they were here, they helped me make homemade bread and soup for dinner, played candy land and Yahtzee, put together a science kit, read stories, hiked a couple of miles in a nature park, went out to lunch at Subway with Papa and helped me make cream scones for breakfast. No wonder they love to come to gammy and papa’s.

No wonder I’m exhausted.

But it was a nice break from politics and a reminder of why I do what I am doing. There’s nothing quite like a three-year-old stopping in the middle of her play to say, “I love you, Gammy!” to put things in perspective.  On the other hand, while I was reading the directions for the science project, I accidentally said slide the “dick” in instead of “disc” and it was quite disturbing that Sweet Pea practically fell out of her chair laughing. The fact that my ten-year-old baby granddaughter knows what dick means is just so discombobulating…

Next weekend is a long weekend and hubby and I were all set to head east to Baker City and stay a few days with our besties for some rest and relaxation. So of course, the main interstate is closed due to a 100-year flood.

So this week’s intention is acceptance. Knowing when to accept the things I cannot change. Allowing it. If I can’t get to my friends this weekend and have to wait until March, I will survive. Breathe. Accept. Move on.

Have a wonderful week, friends.

February Intentions

Basically, February is a continuation of the good work I started in January only sharper and more focused. Without further ado…

  • Continue to attend WW meetings. This is a part of my overall year long focus on being grateful for my body and treating it with more respect.
  • Write the synopsis for Puppet and finishing editing the proposal.
  • Start researching my next adult book.
  • Continue my study of herbs-how to grow and use them.
  • Continue to deepen my meditation practice.
  • Go to Baker City for a long weekend with our besties.
  • Attend the local democratic meeting to start working on the 2020 election. That is going to be one of my focus areas this year.
  • Hit the gym several times a week and remember to do the PT exercises for my shoulder. (More body gratitude stuff.)
  • Finish reading Voyage of the Sable Genius by Robin Coste Lewis and then pick another poetry book for my magical mornings.
  • Continue to change systems at my work to better help my students and streamline the YTP process.
  • Start planning for the Dali Summer launch!
  • Finish reading and working through You Were Born for This by Chani Nicholas.

That’s it. Short month, short list. These lists are easier to make than they used to be because I have put joy at the center of them… what do I need and want to keep living my daily life in a way that has meaning and moments of joy. It’s transformative. Happy week, all!

January Recap

I promised myself that I would look back on January and see how I did and I’m going to do just that in spite of recent political events, so here goes…

*Get back into the habit of prepping meals. I love cooking and making sure there is healthy food in the fridge for lunches and the week’s dinners are planned gives me a sense of satisfaction and contentment. So four times this month, prep food for the week. Nope. only hit two weeks and did my eating show it.

• Take my YA novel, Puppet out of the proverbial closet, dust it off and go over it. Does the story still excite me? Am I heart-writing or just dialing it in? Did it! Still considering it.

• Continue to study plants and herbs and how to grow and use them. YES! I’m growing basil and sweet potatoes in the house!

• Create a ritual filled morning of meditation, journaling and poetry. Yes, poetry. Yep. Every week day morning! I LOVE it. It’s kept me grounded this month and shown me some surprising insights.

• Get back into a regular fitness routine. Running brings me joy and as I’m currently too out of shape to run, I need to start the baby steps that will get me back up to speed. (No pun intended.) I’m thinking three days a week for the next three weeks and then re-evaluate. And get in my ten thousand steps daily. Didn’t quite make this one either, but did much better than in December. That’s something, right?

• Start attending WW meetings. Yep!

• Learn how to make salves, balms and lotions. My oils aren’t finished yet, so I haven’t done this.

• Write two essays for Medium. Done! You can find Not the Mama, Pain Joy and Judgement here and my essay on Body Gratitude here. 

• Make out our yearly vacation calendar—Baker City in February, my cousin in Tacoma, my cousin on Whidby Island, my husband’s cousins in San Diego, my aunt and uncle in Davenport, Washington and my husband’s aunt in San Francisco. And figure out how to pay for it all. Kinda? We have to rethink some of these because my husband’s schedule changed.

• Continue with my activist work. This helps me feel as if I am connected to the wider community in creating a better world for all the grandchildren. I’m cutting back to three days a week to make more time for writing, so I want my activism to be more focused and meaningful. Still working on narrowing my focus. 

• Spend a couple hours at the library just browsing and reading. This brings me JOY! Just once.

• Talk my daughter into going to the hot springs resort and getting a massage after with me. Shouldn’t be too hard. Happened on Feb 1st, but I arranged it in January. That counts, right?!

• Work through Mel Robbins Best Decade Ever series. Done!

Not bad. Going to figure out February’s intentions today!

Saturday, baby girl and I headed out to Carson Hot Springs resort in Carson, Washington and spent a blissful morning of soaking, being wrapped in linen, sitting in the sauna and, in the case of the soon to be birthday girl, getting a massage.  I spent the day politic free and haven’t been this relaxed in years. After returning home, I made  this lovely Lavender & Rosemary Poppy Seed cake and listened to Celtic music. What a wonderful celebration of Imbolc:) Enjoy your weekend!

Weekend Shenanigans

My intention for last week was to meditate every morning and I believe I made it… a couple of days I didn’t use my app so I can’t track them, nor can I remember them but I believe I did. I’ve arranged my mornings so that the magic comes first. Well, okay, feeding the cats is first. They insist in a writhing mass of fur, loud meows and, from my formerly feral cat, a deep grateful purr. But the next fifty blissful minutes are mine and mine alone. What do I do? Meditate, journal, ponder, practice, poetry, gratitude. Breathe. No news, no social media, no planning. Only after I’ve done those things do I grab breakfast, more coffee, plan my day and get ready for work. That time is pretty much sacred.
Good thing too, because last week was incredibly busy. I had the vocational rehabilitation counselor out to the school to work with some of my students, several IEP meetings and a presentation, among a ton of off campus school meetings. Thursday alone, I had six meetings. SIX.

In spite of that, the mornings kept me grounded and I had less stress than you’d expect. And best of all, I managed to adhere to a fairly healthy diet and hit the gym three days.

Until yesterday. My husband is one year closer to retiring and to celebrate we bought tickets to see Kathleen Madigan and rented a hotel room downtown. I really love staycations… it’s close, you get to see and do new things and you can find great food that you generally can’t get out in the burbs. Yesterday included a peanut butter pickle burger at Killer Burger and a late-night snack of wings, grilled bread smothered with warm goat cheese and fig compote and chicken bites. Not exactly Weight Watchers friendly but so good. I imbibed in just a touch too much alcohol, though, and felt heavy headed this morning. Oh, and if you get a chance, go see Kathleen Madigan’s Happy Hour tour. Dear god, that woman is funny.

Best off all, that was my only obligation for the entire weekend. Saturday and Sunday will be dedicated to cleaning, baking, cooking and planning out my week. Maybe a couple walks with my puppy. Choosing between Lidia Yukanavitch’s The Chronology of Water or Chani Nicholas’ You Were Born for this. And maybe writing. No, definitely writing. Enjoy your weekend all!

Doing What I Like to Do

The reason I love weekends, well, the reason everyone likes weekend, is that you get to do what you like to do. Especially if you are beyond the running your children to sporting events, birthday parties, etc. With that stage done, most of the things we do on the weekends is stuff we choose to do. Of course, when the time comes to actually do it, you may have second thoughts…I totally get why elderly people stay home so much… they are living their best life!

Yesterday, I went wine tasting with the hubby and some friends of ours. The day started with brunch at one of our favorite restaurants and then on to a wine event at Alexana Vinyards in the Dundee Hills AVA… they had valet parking which was really nice because it was seriously drizzly. Then because we were so close, we ran over to Lange Winery and had a charcuterie board and tasting. We whiled away a good portion of the afternoon, just talking and relaxing in front of a fire. It was lovely. After departing from the winery, our friends went home while we went to Alan’s dad’s place for a quick check up. On the way home, we stopped at a winery we had never been to in the Ribbon R,idge AVA. Actually bought a bottle of Riesling which we never do… but it was so good! When I got home, though, I felt strangely over-peopled and shut myself in my office to recover. I studied, read poetry and planned my week.

I got up early this morning, as is usual, and did some great work on my Medium essay Cultivating Body Gratitude. Super important topic and I want to do it justice. I also made the menu and grocery list for next week and ran to the grocery store early enough to beat the crowd but not so early that I had to play frogger with the forklifts. Stocked up on a lot of veggies as I’m trying to move back into healthy eating. Spent most of rest of the day cleaning. Which is something I really like to do. I know, it’s weird, but I love my house to be tidy and organized. I’m still working on the organized part, but most of the time, I feel good about my progress. I also cut up a good portion of the veggies needed for this week’s recipes and enough to grab for snacks and lunches.

Cleaning, cooking, planning… this is all stuff I like to do. I’ve embraced that part of myself because it makes me so happy. Back in ancient times, I would have been a cottage or kitchen witch:) Speaking of kitchenry, I’m a little disappointed in my infused oils… they don’t smell as strongly as I would like. The lemon infused oil is lovely with chicken and salads, but the cinnamon, lavender and rosemary don’t really have a strong scent yet. I read that I was supposed to use dried rosemary instead of fresh, so that may explain that, but I have no clue as to why the cinnamon and lavender don’t smell yet. They are both dried and very strong. Maybe they will be ready in another week or so.

I took mom on a trip to the library for a fresh batch of movies and then out to coffee. Usually I don’t drink coffee in the afternoons, but the best part about this weekend is that it’s a three day weekend so it doesn’t really matter if I sleep or not tonight as tomorrow is another day and all I have on the agenda is baking some bread and finishing up the essay. I might even open my work in progress!

Almost forgot my intentions for next week…I want to hit every morning for meditation… My practice is very important to me and helps with staying mindful, so I want to work on that. Also, hit the gym four times!

Enjoy the three day if you get one and if you don’t, I am so sorry!

Mid-Week Mid-Month Check in

So how am I doing on some of my lofty January intentions? Let’s take a look…

*Get back into the habit of prepping meals. I love cooking and making sure there is healthy food in the fridge for lunches and the week’s dinners are planned gives me a sense of satisfaction and contentment. So four times this month, prep food for the week. I’ve done it for two weeks, so check.
• Take my YA novel, Puppet out of the proverbial closet, dust it off and go over it. Does the story still excite me? Am I heart-writing or just dialing it in? Nope.
• Continue to study plants and herbs and how to grow and use them. Nope
• Create a ritual filled morning of meditation, journaling and poetry. Yes, poetry. Yes. BOOM!
• Get back into a regular fitness routine. Running brings me joy and as I’m currently too out of shape to run, I need to start the baby steps that will get me back up to speed. (No pun intended.) I’m thinking three days a week for the next three weeks and then re-evaluate. And get in my ten thousand steps daily. YAS!
• Start attending WW meetings. YAS!
• Learn how to make salves, balms and lotions. Nope
• Write two essays for Medium. I’ve written one, so I am right on track.
• Make out our yearly vacation calendar—Baker City in February, my cousin in Tacoma, my cousin on Whidby Island, my husband’s cousins in San Diego, my aunt and uncle in Davenport, Washington and my husband’s aunt in San Francisco. And figure out how to pay for it all. Um, sort of? Still more to do on that.
• Continue with my activist work. This helps me feel as if I am connected to the wider community in creating a better world for all the grandchildren. I’m cutting back to three days a week to make more time for writing, so I want my activism to be more focused and meaningful. Meh
• Spend a couple hours at the library just browsing and reading. This brings me JOY! Not yet.
• Talk my daughter into going to the hot springs resort and getting a massage after with me. Shouldn’t be too hard. I haven’t made the reservations yet, but I need toooooo!
• Work through Mel Robbins Best Decade Ever series. I am all caught up!

Not too bad, actually. As for midweek… I really need to work more on my listening. I talked right over a co-worker today in a meeting and I felt awful after. How rude. I really need to make this a daily focus. I am doing much better with students, but could still improve.

And a very cool thing? I felt real joy at the gym today. I did my mobility exercises then walked on the treadmill. My Pandora station was rocking it today and I kept closing my eyes to meditate on the music and the experience of elevating my heart rate. It’s the first time I have ever done that and it was fabulous. Highly recommend!

I hope you are all rocking your intentions, resolutions, goals, etc!

New Week, New Intentions

The weekend was good, though not nearly as restful as I had hoped. I really wanted to deep clean my house. I got quite a lot accomplished on Saturday afternoon, but watched my grandchildren in the afternoon and was so tired after that I couldn’t get back into the swing of things. Sunday is all about kitchen magic and as we had company to watch the football game in the afternoon, I needed to get the grocery shopping done early. I’m glad I did as hubby had to get a couple of items that I had forgotten and Sunday madness had ensued made worse by the forecast of snow. I made Moroccan stew for my lunches, and cinnamon rolls, salmon dip, blue cheese dip and wings for the big game. Which we lost, but we had a good time anyway, so no matter.

This week intention is vulnerability/openness. I always strive to be open when I’m working with students. It’s the only way to know what they really need. Listening intuitively instead of thinking about my to do list, is the only way to do my job effectively. Because my word for the year is connection, I’ve been thinking a lot about how being open, being vulnerable, is the only way to true connection with others, whether it’s my students, co-workers, or family. Being open and vulnerable is even connected, (see what I did there?), to my community activism. Openly allowing myself to feel the pain and joy of others gives me a impetus to carry on.

I haven’t finished all my Mel Robins Best Decade Ever homework, but am close. Last week was all about dreaming big and I’m surprised by what I’ve unearthed. Speaking of dreaming big… I haven’t opened my novel yet this month but I think this is a good week to do it. I’m a little worried by that…. what if it’s no good at all? What if I’m no longer in love with it? Deep breaths. Talk about vulnerability! Onward!

That Mythically Long Week in January

For anyone who works in education, the first full week after winter break is typically brutal. Teachers and students both have gotten into poor sleeping patterns and most of us are cranky. Then there’s the heavy load of resolutions, goals and intentions we’re carrying around. Not a good combination. But my week was pretty okay. Better than okay, actually. If it hadn’t been for the state of the world, it would have been stellar, but it can only be so good with our current administration.

But… one of my students graduated early this week and gave me this:

So, yeah, my week included happy crying, as well as angry, current events crying. It’s gratifying to know that my hard work makes a difference.

Thursday night’s Weight Watchers was actually awesome. It’s a good group of educators. Of course, we went out for a beer after, but I am happy to report I chose the hummus plate over the Bavarian pretzel and fondue. So I’d call it a draw. And the beer was Barley Brown’s Ratchet Strap, so worth the points.

I’m working on an essay for Medium on being grateful for the body. I need to hone and sharpen the thesis before getting to the nitty gritty, but it’s percolating.

One of the things that has kept the week from being too long is my magical mornings. Remember how I used to have a routine that would “power up” my day? Yeah, I don’t do that anymore. I do some of the same things (journaling and meditating), but the point of my mornings is no longer to be as productive as possible, it’s to create as many magical, loving, creative moments in my day as I can because all of those moments strung together make up a life. Hurrying on to the next moment wastes the moment you are in and that can end in a life that hasn’t been enjoyed or meaningful. So magical mornings that set me up for a day that is mindful of each moment is my new intention and in addition to the aforementioned journaling and meditating, include gratitude, poetry and dreaming big. Totally worth the hour. So my week, while long and tragic, was good.

Last night, the hubby and I cooked a lovely dinner of salmon with crostinis and quinoa and roasted pepper salad and washed it down with a glass of white. Mom tactfully retired soon after so we could spend some quality time together finishing up the bottle of wine and doing some planning for the next decade, a decade that will see his retirement and some big changes.

My intention for the week was to get rid of some of the minutia and that totally happened. My word for the year is connection and that is going well on all fronts. Enjoy your weekend, people! I’m going to enjoy mine!

Drowning in Minutia

This week’s intention was to be mindful of the minutia that’s weighing me down and take care of some of it. I’m happy to report that the plan is working! I signed my mom up for her online medical stuff, sent an RSVP to a wine club, made my PT and endocrinology appointments and paid my writer friend the postage I owed her. None of it took up very much time, but sometimes I get bogged down by the details. I don’t know about you, but the more piddly stuff I have hanging off me, the harder it is for me to maintain any kind of zen, so to speak. It’s like brain clutter. I still have to polish the letter of recommendation a friend asked me to write for them and set up a blog tour for my May release, (SQUEE!), but I already feel better about the week–calmer and more relaxed.

One of my students graduated today through high school completion and gave me the sweetest thank you card for helping him these past two years. Almost made me cry. I told him not to thank me too quickly, now the real work begins and it all has to be self generated. No one is going to make him do the things he needs to do in order to go into the trade he wants. Of course, I’ll be around to help him with the transition. He has a strong and supportive family and I think he’s going to make it. Plus, who doesn’t love a teen who says thank you!

The news yesterday about the missiles being launched at Iraqi bases housing American personal hit me in the guts like a two ton heavy thing. All I can think about is how close we are to war and the phone calls going out to wives and mothers. The thing is, it doesn’t matter if the casualties are American or Iraqi to me… all are human. All have mothers, wives, sisters, daughters. Then the airplane crash… definitely a disturbance in the force. Sometimes having a bleeding heart sucks.

I am succeeding in making my mornings more about ritual than routine and it’s really helping me deal with how unsettled our world is. Get up, start the coffee pot and retreat into my office/sanctuary. Light a candle. meditate, journal, read some poetry, (my way of bringing more beauty into my life) and only then do I plan the day. It takes about an hour but worth it to start my day off being contemplative rather than rushed. My new gym opens up tomorrow! Yay! I’ve been waiting for it to open. I’ve decided that I am not going to try to get there in the morning because I don’t want mess with my rituals. Instead, I’ll stop on my way home from work. I’m also going to my first weight watchers meeting tomorrow with some of my work buddies. That’s both connection and health, right there!

Wishing you all love light and magic in your lives and don’t forget to pray for peace and then call your members of congress!

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