17 Lessons of 2016 for Bridging into 2017

Happy New Year, everyone!

New Year is supposed to mean New  You, right? It’s the time we get to wipe the slate clean and start all over again. Get rid of the junk. Remove the toxicity. Dream. Set forth a plan.

In essence, it’s a do-over.

For some people, that works. I, however, have never been one for New Year’s Resolutions. They never seem to work out well. New Year, New You seems to end with more frustration and disappointment than success. It’s too much expectation. We have the ability to change or do anything we want at any time! No need for all of that pressure. We don’t need a new year to dawn in order to work on ourselves, clean up our lives, dream, or do something new. As one of my favorite professors in college pointed out to us at each lecture: every day is a do-over! That power is ours at every moment of every day.

I’m a proponent of “New Year, New Growth.” Instead of resolutions, I like to use the changing of years to reflect on the year that is waving a fond farewell, to see take inventory of lessons I learned and how I continue to grow as a person. As I stare proudly back on what I have learned through the year’s ebbs and flows, I get myself excited about what lessons the new year will bring. It’s a very conscious shift in perspective to bring gratitude and self-love to New Year traditions. Instead of looking at a list of goals and weighing what I didn’t do, what didn’t happen, or what went poorly against to what I did do, as my brain will inherently do, I give myself a hand and feel pride and gratitude for the lessons I learned, no matter how many or how few. (Though, it is amazing how many lessons that you learn in any given year, when sit in silent reflection, digging each up!)

In the moment, lessons may not feel beneficial. They can feel yucky. They can hurt. They can be anxiety producing. Sometimes, they are a cool drink of water after walking in a desert or the first steps after being stuck for too long. (I tend to fluctuate between the grateful child, singing “thank you, God and Universe!” for every lesson and the frustrated, pouting, temper-tantrum-threatening child, who is grumbling and dragging their feet despite God tugging me forward, because I’m so done with this lessons-shiz.) Whatever form the lessons take, no matter how beautiful and sweet or mucky and painful, their is a blessing in their opportunity expansion. Like the beautiful lotus emerging from the mud, each sticky lesson is for your own growth, so that you can rise above the muck and blossom, shining your light to the world!

17 Lessons of 2016 for Bridging into 2017

For me, like many of us, 2016 was full of many hardships and challenges. These hardships and challenges served as channels for many, many lessons. Writing down  a handful of lessons learned is my way of harnessing gratitude for every step along this year’s journey.  To recognize the presence of a lesson is to acknowledge the light in the darkness. For the joyous lessons, the gratitude adds to the light’s brightness, making that lesson sweeter.

Here is my list of 17 of the most prominent lessons that arose throughout 2016, some reoccurring from years to prior, some new. The number 17 felt right, a number to tie the lessons of 2016 into the new year, where they, hopefully, will be replaced with new ones. (I can only wait with baited breath to see what 2017 will bring for lessons and growth!)

  1. You and God have two different time tables. Your timing may not be divine timing, so, just because something doesn’t work out in your specific time-frame, doesn’t mean catastrophe. Sometimes, the largest blessings come from “failed” plans, if we can see past our own disappointment to God’s greater glory.
  2. When people show you who they are, believe them. There is beauty in always being able to see the light in others. This gift should be cherished and nurtured, always. But it will do you, nor those around you, any good if you cling to that spark of light when it is only a fleeting spark, too often drowned in toxic darkness. See the light, love everyone, but do not live with blinders or rose-colored glasses, keep your eyes open.
  3. Embracing uncertainty is terrifying, but is the ultimate reliever of anxiety and stress.  This one, although valuable, has not been easy for Type A: Planner Katie. I continue to get constant lessons in going with the flow. One day at work, I pulled a “The Unknown” angel card, urging me to not fear the unknown as it is a time of exploration. God has a sense of humor, friends.
  4. Don’t wait until you have courage to do something; the #1 way to find confidence is to do something that terrifies you, that is out of your cushioned comfort zone. The confidence follows in the steps of the pride in knowing you faced your fears.
  5. Focus on the dash. On an episode of The Middle I was watching one afternoon, Mike mentioned that we all have a dash on our headstones. A simple “-” between two dates, our birth and our death. The important part is in how we live that dash and what we do with it. What do you want your dash to mean? How will you fill your life? (With accomplishments, career, family – how?) Thinking in terms of that dash helps me keep a focus on making life richer in every aspect!
  6. Stop rushing! There is time enough to get everything done you wish in life. Rushing only leads to problems or accidents.
  7. My self-talk is toxic; I need to be as gentle, motivating, and supportive with myself as I am to those I love. If I wouldn’t say it to my child, my friend, or another loved-one, I shouldn’t say it to myself.
  8. Whatever you desire, whatever your dream is, if you want something bad enough, anything is possible. This ties in very nicely with….
  9. You are always capable of so many amazing things, far more than you believe. You have every tool to that you need to climb whatever mountains encounter your path. You will hit a wall. You will despair, for sometimes despair is a necessary precursor to success or transformation. And then, suddenly, you will find foot holes until you realize you are sitting atop that wall.I had a very wise calculus professor named Balcomb at my first college. Prior to a very difficult examination period, he gave us a few sage words of wisdom, including: “You will never know your true ability unless you push yourself to the brink [of what you think you can accomplish].”Push yourself to the brink and break through to the other side.
  10. Surround yourself with people who inspire you to be a better human / person/ you. These people will hold you accountable and, most importantly, lift you up in the most positive of directions.
  11. Self-care isn’t a luxury, it is a necessity.  If you want mental-emotional wellness, if you don’t want to feel burnt out, you need to have regular self-care rituals.
  12. Be a goal-getter. (But don’t be afraid to revise your goals or break them into smaller, more manageable pieces along the path!).
  13. Be your own advocate. People don’t know what you need if you don’t tell them and if it is really important, keep advocating! (Naturally, everything needs balance… don’t be afraid to compromise, either.)
  14. We all need a Mental Wellness Day. Some days we just gotta blanket burrito with a mug of hot cocoa or stroll on the beach or get lost in a book or wander in the woods.
  15. Trust your inner knowing; stop seeking outside validation. You already know what you want or need, you just have to clean off the gunk that life, other people, or society has smeared over that knowledge in order to remember.
  16. I am not a victim. I am an active participant in life.  If something happens, I have a responsibility in that, even if it is simply holding someone to a version of them that was untrue or not standing up for myself or others.
  17. Taking responsibility is NOT blaming yourself. Blaming is shaming yourself, which is literally the opposite of taking responsibility. Think of shame in the terms of the dark side of the force. Blame leads to Shame. Shame leads to self-loathing. Self-loathing leads to suffering. Suffering leads to hate. Hate leads to the dark side.Okay, so, maybe it is slightly exaggerated there; but, it is a fairly accurate portrayal nonetheless. Blame and shame are rolled up tightly together in this messy, gooey ball that makes it difficult to distinguish where one begins and the other ends. Blame and shame involve feelings of being bad. Shame is toxic and self-esteem crushing, involved in every emotional state from anger to depression.Taking responsibility is different than blame. It involves acknowledging an action was bad, but still feeling you are inherently a good person. Accepting responsibility allows for acceptance, connection, growth, apologies, and the ability to admit one’s imperfections and work on them.(If you are intrigued by this topic, I highly recommend Brené Brown’s novels The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly.)

Now that you know my 2016 lessons, what were some lessons that came up for you in 2016? Are there any repeating lessons that you notice overlapping from previous years, indicating an area or issue that you need to focus on so the repetition ceases? Share with me in the comments!

xoxo,
Katie-3

Self-Care for the Holiday Season

“I’m exhausted” appears to be the universal mantra as we wind down 2016 and gear up for 2017. As I speak with friends, family, and even strangers everyone seems to be at a consensus that we are in need of naps and possibly a week of nothing but Netflix binging. Especially right now. The holidays, though wonderful, can be draining. Let’s change this mantra!

The holiday season at its best is joyful and full of memories; at its worst it is chaotic, stressful, and even lonely or painful, for some. During such a busy and emotionally taxing time of year, it is extra important to keep on top of self-care so that you don’t feel run down! Here’s a little list of what I recommend.

Self care for the Holiday Season

  • Keep your self-care rituals. For 5 minutes, forget the shopping, the baking, the house that is a mess, the relatives coming, instead take care of you. Whatever your ritual is, keep it. This is your gift to you this holiday season. If you are alone this holiday or if a special someone is departed from you this year, this is incredibly important, as is the next self-care tip.
  • Keep (or make) your traditions. Traditions are one of the things that make holidays special to me. They have fond memories intertwined in them and always leave room to make new ones, spreading joy by the bucket loads. So, I find it important to keep them. If you can’t keep them? Make new ones! That’s the wonderful thing about holiday traditions… anything can be one at any time! Whether its curling up with a mug of cocoa to watch a favorite movie, reading a special book, listening to music while baking, volunteering somewhere instead of celebrating, or anything else that works for you, embrace it and make it yours.
  • Stay grounded and in the moment. How many times have I misplaced me wallet or keys in the past few weeks? I’ve lost count! Absent-minded (and tired) I have dropped them down somewhere numerous times. Cue a volcano of anxiety and a lot of wasted time spent searching. Staying grounded and making sure you are very purposeful in your actions, like reminding yourself as you place your keys down, “I’m putting my keys ___,” may seem silly in the moment, but guards against later stress.
  • Stay hydrated. Whether you are on the go-go-go, sipping on peppermint mocha, or you are enjoying your time celebrating, drink your water! Your body will thank you later. The easiest way for me to stay on top of this is by drinking a large glass of water first thing in the morning and then making sure I refill my water bottle several times a day.
  • Prioritize. Okay, so, I know you want to do everything, but do you need to? Organize what needs to be done first, starting with the most pressing. Do those first – then turn to the wants. Rank those by priority as well and start with what is most important to you. This will gradually decrease the stress and anxiety by helping you feel more accomplished, organized, and in control. Even if you don’t get to cross off all the wants, at least your must-be-dones are done.
  • Balance Sweet Treats with Veggie Delights. It is easy to be led down the Holiday Treat rabbit hole into the land of Pies with candy cane lined streets of cookies. Balance is key here. With a sweet tooth myself, I never skimp on holiday goodies. My strategy is to A). make them healthier when I can and B). eat everything in moderation. I limit myself to only a few sweets a day, usually one or two, which allows me to indulge but not regret it later. I also limit when I can eat them – while sweets are easy to grab first thing in the morning when I am being a lazy arse, a substantial breakfast it does not make. Usually afternoon after lunch is when I will eat my sweet treat, so that I don’t have a sugar spike first thing in the morning (which will spell energy crash in neon letters for me in the afternoon) or at night (which will make restful sleep impossible). At meals or snack time, eat lots of vegetables and whole foods that are nutritious and delicious, to give your body the fuel it needs to get through this hectic time. Balance, balance, balance. Nourish, nourish, nourish.
  • Get your rest. This year everyone seems to be feeling very run down. Make sure you get plenty of rest. You need it! Give yourself some down time. If your mind is reeling with what still needs to be done, write down these things before bed so they are off your mind. (It also helps you jump right into what you need to do in the morning)  Use relaxing essential oils on your bed pillow, read a book, meditate or deep breathe, journal – do whatever you have to do for your self-care ritual prior to bed to ensure you get rest. And if you still aren’t getting enough rest, my personal favorite recommendation: nap! You are never too old for a good cat nap.

Do you have any other self-care tips for the holidays?

xoxo,

Katie-3

Recipe Corner: Healthier Twist Old-Fashioned Molasses Cookies

Recipe Corner- Healthier Twist Old-Fashioned Molasses CookiesHappy holidays!

If you follow me on Instagram, then you know two things: I love the holidays and I love cooking. Mix them both together and what do you get? A very Joyful Katie! Baking is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. While I love to cook and bake all of the time, there is something magical about flipping on a Christmas CD and dancing around the kitchen while making peppermint cookies and fudge. Joy in the little things!

The holiday season is, however, a place where it becomes easy to derail off of the healthy eating track and right into the land of Sweets and Inflammation. My body sees sugar and gluten-free grains coming and gears up for an inflammation superstorm. (Inflammation superstorms are guaranteed joy suckers!)

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One of my father’s (and my own) favorite holiday cookies are old-fashioned molasses cookies. In the past I have made delicious gluten-free, lowered sugar versions which were enjoyable. This year, though, I endeavored to make them healthier, if even by a tidbit, using what we had in our cupboard at the time: garbanzo bean flour, garbanzo beans, blackstrap molasses, and sucanat.

The result was pure deliciousness!

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These old-fashioned-style molasses cookies melt in your mouth and are rich in deep flavor. They are not too sweet, gluten-free, and at least a little “guilt-free,” too,  given the substitutions there were made. I love to eat one or two alongside a mug of tea, hot cocoa, or coffee – although they are scrumptious just on their own.

In the past I have used garbanzo bean flour in place of gluten-free all-purpose flour in muffins, so I was familiar with it. I was first introduced to the concept of using either garbanzo beans or their flour in recipes due to tasting a friend’s rendition of Chocolate Covered Katie’s Deep Dish Cookie Pie; ever since I have loved experimenting with them in my baked goods. Both the beans and their flour add fiber and protein to this molasses cookie recipe. While this does not make these cookies as healthy as a summer squash by any means, it does makes them a healthier alternative to traditional molasses cookies.

I use organic, unsulphured blackstrap molasses in all of my recipes because it packs the most vitamin and nutrient punch, as well as not being as sweet as regular molasses. I adore its robust flavor!

In place of brown sugar, I used organic sucanat which, for me, is less aggravating to my system than refined, processed white sugar. Sucanat’s flavor makes it an excellent replacement for brown sugar. My other favorite replacement for brown sugar is organic date sugar. You can easily directly substitute date sugar in this recipe if you do not want to use sucanat.

Let me know in the comments if you try it and what you thought!

What are some of your favorite holiday treats?

Print Recipe
Healthier Twist: Old-Fashioned Molasses Cookies
A gluten-free, healthier twist on old-fashioned molasses cookies that melt in the mouth and are rich in deep flavor! They are excellent sided with your favorite mug of tea, coffee, or hot cocoa.
Servings
dozen cookies
Ingredients
Main Ingredients
Optional
Servings
dozen cookies
Ingredients
Main Ingredients
Optional
Instructions
  1. In a food processor or in a KitchenAid mixer, beat the garbanzo beans until a paste is formed. There may be some chunks of garbanzo beans still visible but overall the mixture should be a smooth paste. If this is done in a mixer, mix on very low until the beans have broken down, otherwise they will jump from the bowl. If this is done in a food processor, pulse to begin with, then, as the garbanzo beans break down, blend until smooth.
  2. Combine the butter, sucanat, garbanzo bean paste, molasses, and eggs in a large bowl. Using a mixer, beat these ingredients until the mixture is creamy. Pause frequently to scrap the bowl. It is especially important to ensure that no garbanzo bean paste is sticking to the bottom of sides of the bowl.
  3. Once the mixture is creamy and the ingredients are well combined, reduce the mixer speed to low.
  4. Add in the garbanzo bean flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and salt. If you choose to use instant coffee granules (optional), now is the time to add those as well. Beat these on low until combined. Transition to medium speed and beat until the ingredients are well mixed.
  5. Cover the bowl and transfer to the refrigerator. Allow it to chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line cookie sheets with unbleached parchment paper.
  7. Using either a cookie scoop or your hands, shape the dough into 1 inch to 1 1/2-inch balls. Drop them 2 inches apart on the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
  8. Flatten the cookies using your palm, fingers, or the back of a spoon. Optional: sprinkle the top lightly with more sugar.
  9. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.
Share this Recipe

Xoxo,
Katie-3

Recipe Corner: Creamy, Herbed Eggplant Soup

Recipe Corner- Eggplant Soup 2

I’m a member of OGA: Overambitious Gardeners Anonymous.

It’s not a bad thing to be part of. If you’re a gardener, you may have found yourself a part of it as well. You go starry-eyed when looking through a seed catalog. Forget Christmas – the best time of the year is when your local garden center starts lining aisles with varieties of seed packets, irrigation systems, and bags of fertilizer! Suddenly, you find yourself with armfuls of new seedlings you’ve bought or grown, enough for a small village, and are beaming with glee…

…except you only have a tiny raised bed and only a small number of mouths to feed.

And, if you’re me, you forget to stagger your garden so that you have an even crop throughout the season. So, mid-to-late summer comes and it is squashes, tomatoes, and eggplants, oh my! You are faced with three decisions: let everything rot in despair, donate to your local food shelter, or get creative.

This year I planted six or so eggplant plants, both Black Beauty variety and a few oriental varieties. Compared to my 20+ tomato plants, this was nothing. The problem is…I’m the only one in my house that likes eggplant! I took it as my personal mission to change this. I started cooking eggplant a handful of different ways until I found recipes that we could all like, determined to bring my family to the Eggplant Is a Great Vegetable side of the tracks. Eggplant lasagna, eggplant fries, baked breaded eggplant…I did it all!

My creamy eggplant soup was the biggest hit, by far. In our household, the hardest part of eggplant to adjust to is the texture. Depending on how it is prepared, cooked, and what variety the crop is from, eggplant can be kind of… squishy. Creamed soup eliminates the texture complication!

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After several requests, I am sharing the recipe! I hope you all enjoy it as much as our family has.

This is a dairy-free smoky, herbed eggplant soup that is full of subtle flavor. It is especially perfect for a cool fall or winter morning (especially when you add a dash of cayenne pepper to it!). It is a thick and smooth soup; I adore hearty creamed soups. If that is not your taste, it can easily be thinned with the addition of more broth.

Let me know in the comments if you try it and what you thought!

Print Recipe
Creamy, Herbed Eggplant Soup
A dairy-free, smoky, herbed cream soup that is hearty, full of subtle flavor, and perfect for a cool fall or winter morning.
Cook Time 45 to 60 minutes
Servings
cups
Ingredients
Main Ingredients
Optional Toppings
Cook Time 45 to 60 minutes
Servings
cups
Ingredients
Main Ingredients
Optional Toppings
Instructions
  1. Place a large pan on the stove over medium heat. Add the coconut oil, eggplant, potatoes, celery, and onions to the pan. Stir this mixture well and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir frequently. Cover the pan and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until everything is tender.
  2. Once the potatoes and eggplant are tender, add the chopped garlic, cumin powder, dried basil, dried oregano, dried parsley, dried thyme, tomatoes, and garlic. Stir the mixture well to combine and cook the mixture uncovered for another 5-10 minutes. Stir frequently.
  3. Remove the large pan from the heat.
  4. Add the cooked vegetable mixture a little at a time to a blender or Vitamix. Add ½ C – 1 C of vegetable mixture with approximately ½ C of broth at a time. Blend until smooth. Repeat this until the soup is completely blended. (If needed, add another cup of broth, for a total of 4 C, if the blender is having a hard time blending. The soup will just be a little thinner if you need to make this adjustment. )
  5. Pour the thick soup from the blender or Vitamix into a large pot and add in the non-dairy milk, tamari, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until well combined and then cook uncovered on low to medium heat for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Turn off the heat and serve or chill in the refrigerator overnight. (For the best flavor, allow to refrigerate overnight.)
Recipe Notes

I chose to use vegetable stock to keep the recipe vegetarian, but if you wanted to add a meaty or smoky flavor to the soup, chicken broth or homemade bone broth is great for that. Or, you can even add a smidgeon of smoked paprika!

Enjoy plain or topped with goat’s cheese or non-dairy cheese, chopped bacon, and/or add a dash of cayenne pepper.

Share this Recipe

Xoxo,
Katie-3

Join Me for #GivingTuesday

*finishes baking all of the squash*

*pulls out all of the gingerbread cookies*

Happy Holidays!

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, I’ve got the hot cocoa, holiday jewelry, and Christmas music in full swing at Joyful Headquarters. I am scheming what to make for baked goods, where decorations will go, what planning my 25 Days of Christmas movie schedule will be. (Have I mentioned I love nearly every holiday? Cause I do. Very much. Like it was my purpose in life to do – celebrate.) That said, it is not only The Santa Clause and “Jingle Bells” that have my heart fluttering around Christmas time. The spirit of giving is my favorite part of the holiday season. In a world where we are too often wrapped up in witnessing atrocities and greed, this season is a breath of rejuvenation for weary hearts.

This is one of the reasons I love #Giving Tuesday.

Rather than participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday, the past several years I have been participating in #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday takes place every November on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. It is a globally recognized day to celebrate paying it forward by giving back to local, national, or global organizations and charities that help make the world a better place. While giving is a year-round event in our household, a little bit at a time, I still enjoy the collaborative nature of a special day dedicated to one of my favorite activities – giving back! I’m a firm believer that if you want to cultivate joy and gratitude, one of the best ways to do it is to get outside of yourself and help others. Doing good is an instant shot of happiness!

This year, I encourage you to join me in giving back on this #GivingTuesday in whatever capacity you can.

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#GivingTuesday has a search engine that allows you to find local events, charities, or organizations that you can donate time or money to in the spirit of the day. If you are unsure of an organization in your area, this could be a great resource. Also, ask around! Facebook and friends can be a wonderful resource to find out about charities and organizations in your area that you never knew existed. (When it doubt, there is always the Almighty Google, too.) Whenever you can, go local!

I also adore Charity Navigator , which allows you to browse charities based on categories of interest or plug in a charity of interest and view independent evaluations and ratings regarding the financial transparency and accountability of these organizations. If you are unsure about an organization to donate to, they are a great resource!

Here are some Things to Consider regarding choosing a #GivingTuesday event, organization, or charity:

What are you passionate about? If you’re passionate about clean water, children’s literacy, veteran’s, the homeless – whatever it is – there are different charities for each.

What can you give? Time, money, non-monetary donations! Give whatever you can give.

One of my favorite local ways to give is non-monetary donations. My family and I collect items for the local food pantry or animal shelter when we find them on sale and donate a bag or two to them all throughout the year; this is a great way to give back on #GivingTuesday, too! If you’re able to knit or crochet, local homeless shelters or organizations that welcome military men and woman home from tours abroad often have a need for donations of hats, gloves, scarves, and/or socks.

I’ve also donated monetarily the past few years to various organizations. Even a $5-10 donation can make a difference!

If you can give of your time, do it! That is the most impactful way to get an instant shot of happiness. Volunteering at your local food pantry, shelter, habitat for humanity, animal shelter, or other charities and organizations gets you out in the community, witnessing and feeling first-hand the difference that you are making! Be warned, though, giving back and volunteering are addictive in the best of ways. That little shot of happiness that comes with doing good will have you craving for more. You do it once and you’ll want to do it more!

Think outside the box! Don’t get cornered into one way of giving back…Giving back can come in many forms. Have fun with it!

In the spirit of #GivingTuesday, here are (just a few of) the organizations that I adore and am passionate about that you might be as well:

 

Let me know what you did for #GivingTuesday!

Keep doing good, every day of the year.

Be the light. The world needs more light.

Xoxo,
Katie-3

Turning Sorrow into Smiles

To say my 23rd birthday had a plot twist was a bit of an understatement. First, the original plans we had for the day had to be postponed and rewritten due to rainfall (which we desperately need). Instead of going to the Common Ground Fair, I grumbled my way through more organic chemistry and then we went on another adventure, to a local, delicious restaurant called B. Good (that I am wholly obsessed with and was more than happy to share the obsession with my parents), as well as looked at laptops – because my baby, Skywalker, is on its last legs. It may not have been what was planned, yet, it was every ounce of fun and relaxation needed.

And then we came home.

I had decided that a good way to end the night was to clean my hurricane of a wreck of a room.

Here is where I should backtrack a bit. See this little guy?

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This is Pele. Sometimes called Master Pele or, even more fitting, the spazz or Mister Attitude (all in love, of course), he is full of quirky, independent ‘tude. A kickboxer in another life, Pele was a never ending source of energy and entertainment. When he felt he wasn’t getting the attention he deserved, like when you are trying to have a conversation near his cage and he wasn’t a part of it, or you try to leave the room for five minutes, he gave you hell. Squawk, squawk, squawk!

For that matter, who needs an alarm clock when you have this little guy waking you up at the first sign of morning light? (That whole “put a blanket over your bird and they won’t make a peep till you uncover them” trick that bird parents all know – that didn’t exist in Pele’s world.)

A shelter-born Parakeet, he was the smallest little guy I’d ever seen, but had a personality and vitality large enough to compensate. After months of (stubbornly) refusing to bath in any water we put in front of him, he chose the time that was right, on his terms; a refreshing dive into my dad’s glass of water.

Fear was not a word in his vocabulary. Despite the fact that he was incredibly tiny and my dog’s teeth incredible huge, he was insistent on finding his way to them every time he was out. He’d crash-land on the ground and scurry to wherever they were. Sometimes, I’m certain he thought he was one of them. The other times, he just wanted to bury his face in their fluff. (Thank goodness fear is in their vocabulary and they ran the other way as if he was a Doberman).

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He had a love-hate relationship with his toys (he spoke sweetly to them one moment, whacked them violently the next) and was in terribly need of flight lessons. He knew how to run around on the ground, kicking his toy balls and getting stuck in paper towel rolls long before he learned how to turn on the brakes while mid-flight. He preferred it that way. He chose to climb when, you know, birds are supposed to fly.

And, let me tell you, he was a ham for the camera. He’d waddle all the way across a room for a close up!

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To put it simply: he’s quite the character.

True to male parakeet fashion, he wasn’t keen on having his toys changed in his cage and he was even less inclined to snuggle. In fact, trying to hold him to clip his nails or even just trying to stroke his feathers resulted in squeaker, death-warning noises that you just knew translated to “don’t you touch me, don’t you touch me, don’t you touch me!”

One of the only people who could get away with touching him in any other form than him perching on your finger (I say “get away” loosely), was my dad, who, after his accident a few years ago, spent every day with Pele on his shoulder for hours while he was working from home. They were birdie buddies.

We didn’t have the snuggly-best-buddy relationship I wanted with my bird, but, I loved him, even if he preferred his perch to my shoulder. We always found our own ways to have fun.

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Due to house construction, Pele has been my downstairs companion for the past several weeks. Normally, he doesn’t like that, because I don’t have the same view of the bird feeder as he has upstairs, but this time around, he was incredibly pleased. He would talk to me a lot in-between homework and even happily exit the cage when I opened it for him, so he could fly around the room, take a seat on my shoulder for a while, or, his personal favorite, perch on my laptop monitor. At night, when I would be getting ready for bed, he’d hop onto my finger, then my shoulder, and take a snooze with me. Because he can be moody and temperamental, going through periods of “please, let’s be friends!” and “don’t you dare come near me, I just want to hermit in my cage!” I was thoroughly happy to have him be my little buddy.

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When I got home on my birthday and began cleaning, Pele began squawking and jumping around the cage – his tell-tale giving of hell for not giving him attention. I laughed. I apologized for being forgetful and not taking him out sooner and then I took him out and placed him on his play gym. Just as he did every night, he eagerly took flight, to do a few un-even laps around the downstairs.  And just as he always did, he crash landed. The little tumor on his chest, the results of a love of seed and refusal to eat the healthy, lower-fat diet his vet insisted upon, plus his weak wing muscles always made for a haphazard flight pattern.

This time it was different.

He scurried over to my hand when I bent to help him up, just as normal. Yet, after a moment of perching on my hand he lost balance and fell backward into my palms, limp, and unable to pull himself up. With no way to reach our vet until morning, we tried seeing if he needed food or water for strength, he refused. We stopped trying.  We tried to make a comfortable spot in his cage for him, but he wasn’t impressed by it and preferred being out. We let him sit on the couch between us.

That was his pattern for the rest of the night – wake up, stand up, squawk, fall over, sleep, repeat. He continued to keep his ‘tude and refused comfort cuddles with his expected sass.  He even sassed the couch a few times, for coming out from under him.

That is, until he passed away in my dad’s hands, surrounded by love and comfort.

At first I felt horrible. I went through the normal “what could I have done?” questions. I felt terrible that I had let him out and this had been the result. But the more I let it sink in, the more relief I felt and the more I began to find things that I was grateful for, amidst that sadness.

From the moment he began acting off, my biggest concern was something happening to him at night while we were asleep, or him hurting himself when he toppled over.  That didn’t happen. He was calm, surrounded by love and safety. I was relieved that we had been home; our original day plans may have left us getting home much later, possibly returning after he passed away.  He had been able to get out and soar – just one more time – and had been so happy about that.  For years, he had been suffering with this tumor, of which there was no help for, and which affecting his balance and kept him from being able to do some of the games he loved. There is relief and joy in knowing he is free of that restriction.

The next morning, we cleaned up his cage and all of his toys and brought them into the animal shelter.

His first home.

They took every piece with gratitude. It felt good – right – to give back what we could after losing what we had. Although he wasn’t exactly one to share, I think Pele’d approve.

The point here is that in every sorrow, regardless the size, it is possible to find some gratitude, even if it takes a little effort to find that inspired perspective. Some people would find the fact that Pele passed away on my birthday tragic. But my cousin framed it in such a beautiful that captures just how events in life are a matter of perspective. “I think that he and God chose this day – your birthday – for him to pass on, because it is such a special day. He is now flying free but has made sure you will never forget him and hopefully remind you to also fly free – to soar as high and as far as you can, as much as you can, for as long as you can until you meet again.” Not only were we able to be there for him, he was able to fly one last time, and he was freed from circumstances he hated, he left me with this beautiful reminder, courtesy of my cousin Kelli.

Certainly, there is sadness and there were tears.  His quirky personality is missed. It’s strange not having him chirp to alert the dogs to bark and announce my dad coming home from work every night.  It feels a bit empty every morning, opening the living room door and not having his tweets to greet me or warn me that I better open my windows for some sunlight, else I am not his friend any longer.  Those are the melancholy little nuances that we remember fondly.

Oh, but, boy, are there smiles.

I’m so grateful that he was mine, if only for a little while.

xoxo,
Katie-3

I’m Feeling Twenty-Two

Well, at least for one more day, anyway! In honor of the fact that I turn 23 tomorrow, I felt I should reflect on what I have done in my 22nd year of life. Life has a way of whizzing by. I never took that whole “time flies by the older you get” thing to seriously. It seemed to be something adults told kids in order to get them to learn patience, more than reality. Plot twist! Time runs by like a dog chasing a car made of bacon. Who knew? Sometimes, memories and moments blend together and it feels like not much actually happened. A year-in-review is a great way to pause that run away dog and show that yourself that you did a lot more than you may think. It is a great exercise in reflection, gratitude, and self-love. Every little thing counts. Be proud of yourself!

22nd Year: A Year in Review

– Got my passport! Now, I just need an adventure.
– Fulfilled my Life-Long Dream of Becoming a Crazy Chicken Lady, Chicken Momma. You can imagine the looks I receive when I inform people that my college graduation gift was chickens! I wouldn’t trade my quirky flock of Garden Thieves, Escape Artists, and Yard Clean-up Servicers for anything.
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– Got my first job! This gets a triple “yippee!”
Fed my Broadway-Addiction with Beauty & the Beast National Broadway tour for the second time. When you mix one of your nearest and dearest friends from high school with a mutual passion – musical theater – the only product is pure happiness.
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– Found my Blog Tribe. The part of blogging I have always loved most is finding soul sisters all around the country. I am so happy to have found an amazing, support-and-lift-each-other-up, Warrior Queen-filled blog sisterhood. Collectively, we helped one of our sisters, Pam, from Hodge Podge Moments bring her creative vision, Project Build Happiness, to fruition.
– Locked my keys in my car and finally had to use AAA for the first time. Is this what adulting feels like?
– Otis D. Bones came to visit. He’s one hip skeleton who loves the month of October and going on adventures!
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– Passed Organic Chemistry I.
Many pencils, packs up loose-leaf paper, whiteboard markers, highlighters, and post-it markers met their demise as a result of this feat, but despite the tears and the occasional desire to throw my textbook in the river and dance as it washed away, it all worked out! Which means that I….
– Graduated with my B.S. in Health Sciences in a double minor in Holistic & Integrative Health and Biology. This one also gets a triply “yippee!” and a happy dance.
Got the privilege of watching my oldest nephew graduate high school! How many aunts can say they and their nephew graduated in the same year?
– Received my Official Maine Master Gardener Volunteer Certification and then participated in the Maine Harvest for Hunger program, volunteering with my fellow Master Gardeners at local farms, gleaning produce for local food pantries and shelters. There is no better way to start a day than a cool morning in the field, up to your arms in dirt and vegetables, and knowing you are doing good. Forget coffee. I call it an “instant shot of happy.”
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– I can finally touch my toes! Okay, so, maybe that is a bit random for you. Given my health struggles over the years, my muscles have been notoriously tight. When I tried to bend at the waist, I could barely reach mid-shin. After starting a daily morning yoga practice this past year and walking 3x a week, I can finally bend and touch my toes!
– Took a yoga class IRL with a dear friend. I can’t wait to do it again!
Visited my first graduate school (the first of many).  More Adulting. Cue the Imperial March, because life just got real.
Was a contestant coach for Alpha Xi Delta’s Autism Speaks Xi Man fundraiser at my (now) alma mater. It was an amaXing experience!
Joined the Ugly Christmas Sweaters Squad. After years of searching, I finally got my hands on some Christmas-themed sweaters. I cannot tell you how much joy it brings to run around the month of December with a red sweater featuring a reindeer’s head, red pompom nose, and bells on its antlers. It is even better when you match (on purpose) with your Maltese.
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– Played Tourist in my Own State. After years of wanting to, I finally went for some walks on the Wells Reserve at Laudholm Farm trails, visited the Saco Heath, saw part of Kennebunkport’s Christmas Prelude, wandered the town I work in with friends and with family, and went mini-golfing three times (that never happens!).
Took entire advantage of fall. My parents and I went apple picking for the first time in years, which led to making my first butterscotch pie and my first ever apple pie with homemade crusts. I devoured warmed apple cider with cinnamon sticks daily. (Sorry, pumpkin spice, but you can’t hold a cake to Apple Spice.) I took photos of fall foliage. On some cool, crisp nights we took advantage of the season and had bonfires. The Fall Baby in me was ecstatic!
In a Galaxy Far, Far Away… I saw Star Wars: Episode VIII with the man who unknowingly made a Star Wars fanatic the moment he sat me down to watch the series, so he could have someone to watch Episode I and II with. From that moment, it was down the wormhole for me, with paper-towel roll lightsaber battles and yearly marathons.
12698199_10207678559096158_1767200439891254956_oGot my light-up-the-world Little and Rosebuds in AXiD. I love them all so much.
– Fulfilled my Lifelong Dream of Owning Greenhouses (and Created the “Little Garden That Could”).  They might be “pop up” greenhouses made of plastic, not large and winter-ready, but I couldn’t be happier. They grew beautiful transplants! In the past year, my Little Garden that Could has grown my first ever crop of Brussels Sprouts, corn, bunches of squash, pumpkins, eggplant, kale, assorted chards, lettuce, and more! My green thumb is rejoicing!
– Succumbed to my inner Bio Nerd… and saw Body Worlds!
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– Binge-watched all 6 seasons of Numb3rs with absolutely no regrets. The next on my list is Murder, She Wrote.
– Started my own business…
and mentored two amazing people through their Reiki I class. (My first “students!”)
– Saw the Harvest Full Moon at the beach. The salty air, bright moon, and roaring surf were pure bliss. 

What is your Birthday-to-Birthday year in review list ?

xoxo,
Katie-3

Project Build Happiness

What does happiness mean to you?  What does it look like?

Happiness is a journey, not a destination. It is the culmination of many items or moments that bring us joy. It even means learning to love yourself and your own presence enough to find joy in just “being.”  It is pulling on high boots to wade through the beautiful rivers and muck of life while practicing moment-to-moment gratitude. These are just a few components of my personal Happiness Philosophy.

Happiness has a different meaning for everyone, yet it is universal. Everyone wants happiness.

Project Build Happiness

Do you want to figure out your own happiness philosophy, build happiness in your life, and join a supportive, uplifting village of women?

It is my pleasure to announce Project Build Happiness; it is the brain child of Pam from Hodge Podge Moments and a passion for all of us who are helping her host it.These women are some of the most inspirational, uplifting, charging-forth-into-happiness-and-their-dreams women I know. From the moment she mentioned the project to us, we all jumped on board with love and enthusiasm. And we want to share that with you!

The project is a 30 day happiness challenge beginning in September. The project focuses on defining happiness, forming a supportive and uplifting atmosphere, and providing tips for building happiness in your life. One of the best parts? It is completely free. For those of you who are beginning back-to-school preparation, this project is a great way to find grounding and joy in a time when things can be stressful beyond measure. The tools learned in the project can be applied the rest of the semester, year, high school, college, and life. For those of you who aren’t in high school or college, this project will give the foundations and toll to build happiness upon in any aspect of your life. Your happiness journey begins here!

Interested and want to hear more? Check out Pam’s introduction post that contains further details on the project and then jump on over to our sign up page, give us your email for the project newsletter, and you will be on your way.

Xoxoxo,
Katie (3)

Virtual Tour Across America: Guest Post on the Coastie Couple

Guest Post on the Coastie Couple Maine Nature

A good friend of mine, Pam, is hosting a Virtual Tour Across America blog series on the blog she and her husband share, The Coastie Couple. I am honored and excited to have represented Maine as part of this tour.

Summer might almost be over, but it is not through yet! If you are looking for a few more adventure spots to fill your time with, or are looking to plan your destinations for next spring and summer, then go over to The Coastie Couple and check out my guest post, “7 Maine Nature Spots to Adventure In.”

Don’t forget to check out all of the other states’ posts as well!

Keep smiling,
xoxo,

Katie (3)