Welcoming Winter

Usually about this time of year I secretly look forward to the colder weather and the darker afternoons and evenings. Sure, summer is my favorite season, but winter is the time when I get to recharge my batteries and have a little time to myself without feeling the least bit guilty about it. Winter is for reading books, binging on tv series or just curling up on the couch with hot chocolate or a glass of wine and watching it snow through the window. No one wonders where you are because they are all home doing just the same thing.

We have already been hunkered down and away from friends and family members for nine long months. At first there was some novelty to working from home and having more time for ourselves. We tidied up, started new hobbies, watched too much tv and found ways to make the best out of being home all the time. We’ve zoomed for work and then again for a cocktail hour after and we’ve even been creative about outdoor gatherings, when it was safe to do so. Now, nine months later, the pandemic fatigue we hear about on the news is setting in just as the cold, short, dark  days of winter are upon us. All anyone wants to do is to be together, to connect with other humans – in the flesh. 

But it doesn’t look like that is going to be happening any time soon, at least not safely. So I think we need to take a long, slow, deep breath and welcome the winter; welcome in the cold and the dark, the time and space where we will continue to stay home and do our own, very human and probably very needed, version of hibernation.

Winter is such a natural time to slow down. The trees and plants shed their leaves and sit dormant. The foxes and bears find a cozy hole or cave to nestle in for their long winter nap. The entire Northern hemisphere darkens and the cold encourages a slower pace. But us humans, we keep moving, and this time of year, it’s faster than ever. The excitement of the holidays, parties, events and other obligations often get in the way of us taking any such time for rest. While we race from place to place, we miss the opportunity to look within and reflect. We miss out on time to just simply be. 

“Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.”
–Pietro Aretino

This year, if you are lucky enough to be in good health, and have the luxury of a cozy place to call home, I want to encourage you to stop and welcome in these winter months. Instead of focusing your energy on what you can’t do because of the global pandemic, open your eyes to what your life could look like if you truly took a step back and slowed down. Be present in the moment. Be where your feet are.

I believe that the way we grow and improve is through honest self-reflection. Whether you reflect best through meditation, journaling or intimate conversations with others, here are some questions and ideas to chew on as you settle in for your long winter nap. May you find rest in this time of turmoil and may your reflection and commitment to you and your family bring with it renewed hope and energy to jump into spring and begin writing your next chapter. 

Reflection Questions

What is it that I need to ponder, reflect and wonder about?

How can time in the quiet of my own home restore me for what is to come?

What can I change, learn or do to grow?

What change might occur in me if I commit to meditating, or reading or ______________ for 20 minutes a day?

What can I be intentional about preparing or planning for?

What can I do to spend more time in nature each day?

What part of me is broken and needs healing?

How can I develop my gifts and talents to make a difference in the lives of others?

The Gratitude Project

Sometimes we just need to be kneaded…

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

It’s November of 2020 and the challenges of distance learning in the midst of a global pandemic are weighing heavily on all of us. As educators, it is essential to have self-care practices and scheduled time to recharge so that we can continue to bring our best selves to the important work we do each day.

Grateful.Thankful.Blessed

I think about the people who have touched my life in the last several months and spend some time reflecting and being grateful for one person each day.
Although working from home is not ideal, it does have some added benefits. One of those benefits is the opportunity to build new habits and re-create my morning routine. I still wake up around 5:00 each morning, but instead of rushing around the house to get everything ready, I am intentional about making time in my morning for me. Since I began working to establish these new habits, I feel so much more relaxed and ready to take on my day.

While my coffee is brewing I mix 2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast in warm water and set it aside. I add 1 1/4 cups of water, 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup honey to my mixing bowl. Then I level off 3 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour, add a teaspoon of salt and gently pour in the yeast. While the mixer does the tough work of combining the dough, I preheat the oven to warm up the stove and kitchen so my bread will more easily rise. When the ingredients are combined, I roll out the sticky ball of dough onto a lightly floured counter and begin to fold and press, fold and press, fold and press. While my hands work in a steady rhythm pressing the dough into the counter, I allow my mind to wander and begin to think about who I am making this loaf of bread for. I think about the people who have touched my life in the last several months and spend some time reflecting and being grateful for one person each day.

Let it Rise

After a few intentional minutes of my morning spent on gratitude, I shape the dough into a ball, place it in a bowl on the stove and cover it. During the first rise, I take time to read, TO READ! I used to try and read before I went to bed and I would ALWAYS fall asleep after only a few pages. Reading, something I love to do, was impossible to fit in to my busy schedule during the school year. I love that I am committed to reading each day. It helps me feel human. 45 minutes later the beep of the timer forces me to mark my place and put my book back on the shelf so I can punch down the bread, shape it and place it in the pan to rise again. During the second rise I do whatever needs to be done before beginning my work day. Exercise, organize, energize. The time flies by and all of a sudden the it’s time to put the bread in the oven.

Bake Me Happy

350 degrees for 40 minutes. There is so much research out there about gratitude practices and how they can increase your happiness. I didn’t measure my happiness before I began this exercise in gratitude, but I know that it is making a difference. Each afternoon I deliver the freshly baked loaf of bread to a friend, co-worker, aquaintance or stranger. And each afternoon I am blessed by the reaction and connection made. It’s not really about the bread at all, it’s more about the process. Perhaps now more than ever, we all need to feel connected. I am kneading that connection one loaf at a time. I just hope that as this bread is broken, a hint of gratitude will fill the air.