Love the one you’re with

Hellebores are a new favorite in my garden.

Gardening in your environment

My biggest takeaway from the Master Gardening program that I completed many years ago is that you need to adopt a beginner’s mind when moving to a new area. You have to learn the rhythm of the seasons, the microclimate in your yard, the native plants. Sometimes this means letting go of some of your old favorites. But I can assure you: you will be dazzled by new choices. In my Pacific Northwest Maritime garden, that new-ish favorite is Lenten Rose or Hellebore. A plant that looks good all year and blooms in winter: how can you not fall in love with a plant like that? Hellebore was the first plant that I bought here, and I’ve bought many since – I even discovered a few volunteers in my yard.

The other thing that will save you a lot of frustration: work with your climate. If you have a short growing season like I do, focus on growing things that work where you live. Growing for your zone often means that you need to unlearn what you know from another climate. If you live in Arizona, you have two growing seasons, neither of which is in the summer (northern hemisphere summer, that is). If you live in a place that gets a lot of rain, choose varieties that love wet feet.

Not sure where to start? 

In the U.S., Find your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone. Check out the resources from your state and county cooperative extension. Cooperative Extensions are part of Land-Grant Colleges and Universities in the United States. Land-grants have a mission to provide science- and research-based agricultural information at the county level; this includes home horticulture and the Master Gardener Program. Your local cooperative extension will offer many free resources like this one Home Vegetable Gardening in Washington State

Check out seed distributors in your area and look for local varieties. For me, in Western Washington, that’s Uprising Seeds, Adaptive Seeds, and Deep Harvest Farm

How do you decide what to grow? It helps to think about your climate and pick appropriate varieties, but it’s also helpful to think about what is better to grow versus buy. Check out this list of High-value home crops. Tomatoes are universally on lists of varieties to grow yourself. 

Tip for Arizona gardeners who want tomatoes: go for small, short-season types. I love this list of vegetables for short seasons by Northern Homestead:  Annual Vegetable Varieties for a Short Growing Season.

Plants everywhere

Lots of plants

This year I tried my hand at making my own seed starting mix. Last year’s mix of peat and vermiculite seemed too lean to me, so I went with my gut and added clean potting soil out of the bag. I am happy to report success. 

Here are proportions that I used:

  • ⅓ potting soil
  • ⅓ vermiculite
  • ⅓ coconut coir*

I clean my seed starting pots with soap and water before reusing them to be on the safe side. (I use Dawn dish soap.)

This year, I used reusable 2-inch pots instead of small paper cups. There are pros and cons to both methods. Being able to peel away the paper cup is a significant advantage, but the reusable pots don’t disintegrate, so I’m on the fence about which is the better option. I also purchased some new 10×20 trays. I like the extra strength trays from Bootstrap Farmer – nothing else compares. 

I was wildly successful with some seeds — others, not so much. It might have been me or my set-up–might have been the seeds. I say this as encouragement to not give up even if things don’t go as planned. If something doesn’t work for you, try something else. Experiment! Failure is part of the learning process. Would you expect to be able to play Stairway to Heaven the first time you picked up a guitar?** Probably not. 

*Because of the environmental concerns about peat moss, I recently switched to coconut coir.

** Playing guitar is probably not in the cards for me, but maybe the Kalimba version is a possibility.

Plants everywhere

Lots of plants

This year I tried my hand at making my own seed starting mix. Last year’s mix of peat and vermiculite seemed too lean to me, so I went with my gut and added clean potting soil out of the bag. I am happy to report success. 

Here are proportions that I used:

 ⅓ potting soil, ⅓ vermiculite, and ⅓ coconut coir*

I clean my seed starting pots with soap and water before reusing them to be on the safe side. (I use Dawn dish soap.)

This year, I used reusable 2-inch pots instead of small paper cups. There are pros and cons to both methods. Being able to peel away the paper cup is a significant advantage, but the reusable pots don’t disintegrate, so I’m on the fence about which is the better option. I also purchased some new 10×20 trays. I like the extra strength trays from Bootstrap Farmer – nothing else compares. 

I was wildly successful with some seeds — others, not so much. It might have been me or my set-up–might have been the seeds. I say this as encouragement to not give up even if things don’t go as planned. If something doesn’t work for you, try something else. Experiment! Failure is part of the learning process. Would you expect to be able to play Stairway to Heaven the first time you picked up a guitar?** Probably not. 

*Because of the environmental concerns about peat moss, I recently switched to coconut coir.

** Playing guitar is probably not in the cards for me, but maybe the Kalimba version is a possibility.

What if you are enough; what if you have enough

person holding dandelion flower

At about this time two years ago, I read What if this were enough? a book of essays by Heather Havrilesky. After a prolonged self-improvement/professional development rampage, I was having a bit of an existential crisis and that somehow led me to Havrilesky’s book (along with Oliver Burke’s delightful The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking and Anne Lamott’s essential book, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope).

My kitchenette remodel notwithstanding, I have started to train myself to be satisfied with what I have and who I am. Our society is a bit relentless and promoting the ongoing pursuit of acquiring more and more and becoming better and better. It’s exhausting. 

We all need a time out. Or maybe we just need an out. 

Something about this book sticks with me in a way that others often don’t. It’s a cautionary tale about striving for a perfect state of perfection. Havrilesky reminds us there is no ideal version of us waiting in the future. All we have is our imperfect selves in the imperfect now.

You don’t need to be thinner, richer, better dressed, a fancier car, three vacation homes, new jewelry, an Instagram-curated life to love yourself as you are right now. It’s a standing invitation that we can accept at any time.

So why not now? Love yourself. You can still grow and improve if you want to, but you deserve love right now. 

Check out this PBS Books interview with Heather Havrilesky.

The Minimalism Experiment Continues

Coffee cup on a white background

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure how I stumbled upon The Minimal Mom on YouTube, but now I’m a regular viewer. I have taken many small steps toward minimalism, including reading The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker. I now know that I misunderstood a key tenant of minimalism. It’s not the same as minimalism in art, and it doesn’t mean forsaking all possessions (although it might). It means having enough. It means having what you need.

I can now see that my particular challenge is in having multiples (10 pairs of jeans, three sets of flatware, five Christmas trees, three sets of queen size sheets …. and we no longer have a queen-sized bed!) and also in keeping things that I no longer need either because they are nice or because I spent a lot of money on them. But they don’t pass the “do I need this?” test.

Here’s the interesting thing: now that I have started, it’s becoming increasingly easier to let go of things. This video on coffee cups (at the 9:44 mark) really hit me because I love coffee, and I have many, many coffee cups. So many that some that go unused. She mentions that coffee cups need to fulfill their purpose. But I only use a small subset of my coffee cups. That means I had about a dozen cups that weren’t fulfilling their purpose. WE CAN’T HAVE THAT! Coffee cups must fulfill their purpose! 

And now I can’t stop. We’ve Freecycled and dropped off two loads at Goodwill, and two stacks are waiting by the door. 

And I have found that by taking away what I don’t need, I see what remains more clearly. And I appreciate it. And it stands out and all remaining coffee cups are fulfilling their purpose.


Cover Photo by Weronika Karczewska on Unsplash

Put it down in a letter to yourself

Red envelope on a golden yellow background.

Holidays and especially the new year are times for rituals of introspection and reflection. It helps to write it out and talk it out. I think we can all agree that 2020 did a number on us, and we need these rituals more than ever. The exercises below are both inspired by a coaching friend. 

The high five list is your year-in-review list. Instead of (or in addition to) resolutions for change the new year, catalog your current awesomeness! What went well in the past year? What deserves a high five? Take 10 minutes and see if you can come up with 10 things to add to your 2020 High Five List. 

I feel pretty strongly that if ever there was a time to lower the bar, it’s 2020. If you kept a decent stock of toilet paper on hand, give yourself a high five for that. Learned to navigate grocery store pick up? High five, my friend! Did you make masks? High five! Become a champion hand washer? High five!

The letter to yourself is a tradition that I learned about last year. You write a letter to yourself and tuck it in with your holiday decorations to be opened in a year. I wrote my letter in early January before all hell broke loose and completely forgot about it until I unpacked the holiday decorations a few weeks ago. I thought the letter would be one long, sad joke given the dumpster fire of a year that we’ve had, but I was pleasantly surprised at the many things I did and learned. It was a reminder of the power of hope. The aspirations and goals I set for myself in 2020 weren’t all for naught. Finding that letter was definitely a highlight of the holiday season.

The syllabus of life

Aurora meeting in Kirkjufell, Iceland by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

I had this thought recently about creating a syllabus for life, a list of things to learn, and read and do. It’s more work than a bucket list, perhaps, and there will be many tests, but it’s good work if you can get it. 

  • Know yourself.
  • Learn to love yourself. 
  • Exercise.
  • Eat well and develop a healthy relationship with food. 
  • Find and respect your boundaries and limits. 
  • Volunteer.
  • Learn another language.
  • Travel outside your comfort zone. 
  • Keep learning.
  • When starting something new, remember you will suck at it. Push through the suck.
  • Consider your spiritual life. 
  • Know that you are enough. 

What’s on your syllabus of life? 


Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Who I am

The Temple of Apollo in Greece surrounded by green mountain and field

Last month, I shared my list of Who I’m Not. I don’t know why it was easier to start there. On the other hand, many a consulting project has started with the phase. “I know what I don’t want” so maybe it’s not a surprise.

There are so many conversations about values, being authentic, and knowing who you are here, here and here. (Plus, Moana.) And “know thyself,” is one of the maxims* inscribed at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. So we’ve been wrestling with this need for knowing for thousands of years. There are no hard and fast answers. It’s a struggle until it’s now. Often it’s a journey we make alone. It seems to be a recurring assignment on the syllabus of life.

Do we even know who we are?

There is so much noise in our lives. These are unprecedented times. It’s hard to be still and know. It’s hard to know who we are separate from what we have been trained/conditioned/socialized to be. Maybe that’s why it’s easier to drop into our bodies and know viscerally what we don’t like and what we don’t want to be.

Who am I?

Jeans-wearing tree lover, plant lover, dog and cat lover, quilter, painter, gardener, strong-willed, soft-hearted, fair, reliable, learner, reader, lover of the commons, fan of economics and economists, vegetarian, daily tofu eater, major coffee BBQ rub fan, reuser, recycler and upcycler, lover of beauty, and egalitarian. COFFEE DRINKER AF.

Who are you?

How do you know? How can you discover and uncover the answers?

P.S. *Good to keep in mind that the other two maxims are “Nothing in excess” and “Surety brings ruin.” We are all works in progress. We are all becoming.

P.P.S. Who I am? What I am? This is exactly the type of nerdy wordy conversations commonplace under my roof.

flat lay photography of eight coffee latte in mugs on round table

Virtual coffee date

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Negotiation, Creativity, and Inner Peace

Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash

I always have a stack of books and a long list of online classes. Here’s what’s come to the top in the last month.

I just finished Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator. My big takeaway from the book is that negotiation is a big part of our lives, and our aversion to it doesn’t help us in the long run. Voss builds on the research of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky–I wasn’t expecting a continuation of Thinking, Fast and Slow when I reserved this book at the library. Check out his talk at Google for the TL;DR alternative:

I am a big fan of LinkedIn Learning and just finished Banish Your Inner Critic to Unleash Your Creativity with Denise Jacobs. I attended an online summit several months ago and heard Denise speak about the inner critic. Then about a month ago, she was featured on a LinkedIn live event on creativity. 

I have been making my way through How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie (best known for his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People). As Jen Sincero of You Are a Badass fame would say, it’s an old-timey book. What surprised me is how relevant a book first published in 1948 feels in 2020. Carnegie’s work is filled with practical advice and was amazingly well-read and dedicated to helping people improve their lives.


Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash

Keep Learning

Stylish woman working on a laptop. Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

I am a big fan of LinkedIn Learning. Many of the video segments are 5-10 minutes so almost everyone can fit a little bit of training into their day. I find that even when the topics are familiar, these online classes offered a great refresher and even new insights. 

LinkedIn purchased Lynda.com a few years ago, and you may still see it referenced that way. Lynda.com was my go-to source for software training for a very long time.

Here are some of my favorites:

LinkedIn Learning may be available through work as a professional development opportunity or as an electronic resource through your local library. Check it out!


Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash