What I Learned In April

Taking a cue from several other bloggers who wrap up each month this way, I am sharing things I learned or re-learned in April.

We are fragile alone and stronger together.

I’m recovering from two weeks of back pain and a cold, both of which left me physically weak and tired, and emotionally worn-down. The drive I wake up with every morning had abandoned me and I felt like I was in a fog of uncertainty, low confidence, and non-clarity. You know what helped me most (after extra sleep and rest)? Seeing the faces of my friends!

On Friday, one friend came over for lunch, shared what’s new in her life, transformation and personal growth that’s happening, her thoughts and feelings on work and family, her struggles and successes. It was so good to listen to her story and to share mine as well. And on Saturday, another friend came over, we discussed ideas for a class we are collaborating on, she shared her latest creative work, we talked about parenting, spirituality, relationships, and more. I felt inspiration returning as well as a renewed desire to keep going with my creative and business endeavors.

Muscle spasms are intense.

As I wrote about in this post, I just had one of the most painful experiences of my life: muscle spasms in my upper back. I couldn’t breathe, and could barely so I thought I was dying of something. The pain was so intense–no position standing or lying down would ease it. My greatest sources of relief were Alan’s massages every few hours and applying aromatherapy pain relief blends I made. The recipes are here. Two weeks later, I am still moving very carefully, walking, doing gentle yoga, and light resistance training.

A few days away from home can do wonders for rejuvenation and recovery.

A sweet couple whom we met last summer on one of our music gigs gifted us a two-night stay at their cabin on Keuka Lake. Since Alan had a cold and I was in a good amount of back pain at the time, we spent the time sleeping, reading, watching old movies, and taking life slowly. We visited a winery one afternoon and walked down Penn Yan’s Main Street. There was a lovely kitchen in the cabin, so we mostly made our meals and ate on-site, and went out to eat only a couple of times. It felt so wonderful to have no responsibilities of home and work and family. This time away was just what we needed! I will be sharing more about our stay at this cabin in a future post.

I’m still trying to figure out if I belong in a church.

On Easter Sunday, Alan and I visited a local church. In my imagination, the service would contain beautiful music and ritual and the minister would share an inspiring and challenging message. Instead, as what often happens in public places these days, there was an ill-behaved three or four-year-old boy that whined and cried and yelled and talked over the top of everything. His mother and grandmother just let him go on and on, ruining the service for everyone else. Finally, after most of the music and all of the readings were finished, and the minister was about to begin her sermon, the mother had enough and took him out. I couldn’t get my mind or emotions to focus for the brief remainder of the service. It was super frustrating!

I love film-noir.

Recently, Alan and I watched Murder, My Sweet starring Dick Powell and Anne Shirley. This 1944 film is one of the Philip Marlowe mystery series that included The Big Sleep with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. When we paused the film to get drinks, I said, “I love film-noir,” and Alan said he did too. The black and white low lighting, the suspense, the hard-edged crime the Some of my other favorites are Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon, Key Largo, and The Postman Always Rings Twice.

What did YOU learn in April?


5 Things I Learned In March

I am a wimp when it comes to books about tragedies and the strain they create on relationships. I really wanted to read The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey–the writing is so beautifully stunning I was re-reading passages by the second page. And the atmosphere is instantly palpable, but the depth of desolation and the emotional distance of the two characters was overwhelming. I’ve read a couple of sad books in a row lately and knew my sensitive heart was not going to be able to handle this tale. At least for now! (But if you are made of stronger stuff, please read it!)

Deadlines make me move forward. I knew I needed to put my aromatherapy certification to good use, so I scheduled aromatherapy events on Facebook and began inviting my friends, emailing folks on my list, and getting the word out. Terrifying, yes, but I’m such a perfectionist I would wait forever if I didn’t take Seth Godin’s advice and just “ship it”! And both my aromatherapy classes were so much fun–I am going to keep creating deadlines to challenge myself toward constant learning and growth, both personally and with my business.

The women in my second aromatherapy class.

I really can avoid a cold. All my life, I thought there was nothing I could do once that scratchy, sore throat started. But now I pull out my arsenal and fight back. My weapons of cold virus destruction? Essential oils such as Lemon, Tulsi, Black Spruce, Niaouli, Cypress, Frankincense, and Helichrysum gymnocephalum. All of them are immune strengthening, decongestant, anti-inflammatory, a lot of them are anti-viral, anti-microbial, analgesic, help with energy levels, etc. This last weekend, I diffused for several hours a day, made myself a personal inhaler, put some on my throat area (diluted, of course), and did self-massage. I also ate plenty of dark, green vegetables, stayed away from sugar (I usually do anyway), and drank tea (Tulsi, Throat Coat, Green). By the second day my sore throat was gone and by the third day, my energy levels rose. Because I want to be sure, I’ll continue to diffuse daily. Click here to read my post on Black Spruce and get some diffuser blends.

I actually like herbal teas. I used to just drink tea for medicinal purposes, but now I’m finding the taste is pleasant. This month I began drinking Lemon Balm when I’m feeling anxious or stressed. I definitely feel calmer. Tulsi tea is another favorite–it’s immune strengthening and it is an adaptogen, which means it should calm me when I’m anxious, boost me when my energy has slumped. I’ve only had a few cups so far, but it seems to have more of an energizing effect. Every body is different, though, so you’ll have to try it for yourself.

Live Streaming on Social Media is fun the second time around. I’ve set up a schedule for Facebook and Instagram Live for my business, Delicata House, and for our musical duo, The Inner Crazy. Since I’ve only done it a few times, I’ve felt unprepared, nervous, and breathless when I go Live on Facebook. Then when I head over to Instagram right afterward and go Live, I feel warmed up and more relaxed. (I know it’s possible to go live on both platforms at once, but I don’t have another spare device to do that right now.) Each week, it gets slightly better as I think about what went well, what didn’t, and how I can improve.

If you want to check it out, my Delicata House schedule is every Tuesday Facebook Live 12pm ET, Instagram Live 12:15 ET. I’m doing a series called “What Should I Do With My Oils?”. Our duo The Inner Crazy does a Facebook Live at 8pm ET and Instagram Live at 8:15pm ET every other Tuesday where we perform a couple of songs and talk all things music-related. Follow Delicata House on Facebook and Instagram and The Inner Crazy on Facebook and Instagram to stay informed of our Live events!

Alright, now it’s your turn! What have YOU learned this month?


How to Follow Through and Finish (What I’m Learning)

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Do you have one of those creative brains that goes at the speed of light? Are you constantly coming up with new ideas for yourself and everyone around you? A business idea, an exercise plan, a new hobby to start, an online course to take, a skill to learn, a project to tackle, another book to read, and on and on.

The books on my nightstand are a good example. I have at least a dozen started, plus a few on my Kindle. And I don’t just have books on my nightstand, they’re inside my nightstand and on top of my dresser in stacks. I’m never sure which is the right one to start or if I’ll wish I had that certain one right at my fingertips. Heaven forbid I have to actually go downstairs to the library to search for a book I’m thinking about; better to have all the books in my room and be able to start it the minute I think about it.

Because of my love of starting things, I have about three different courses started on Lynda.com (to be fair to myself I have finished about five this year) and a watercolor course from an Australian artist that I started in January and haven’t returned to since February.

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I am so close to finishing up my aromatherapy certification, but have a few loose ends to tie up and a bit more to study for the exam. Now would be a good time to sign up for a free four-day Aromatherapy summit next week, right? Um, no, but I did anyway.

Yeah, I love starting things, brainstorming new ideas, trying something new. I love dreaming about the possibility of whatever it is and the excitement that comes with starting. But I don’t admire other people who don’t follow through and I don’t admire myself for dragging my heels about finishing or dropping the ball on a project altogether.

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Follow through, follow through. These two words have been following me around for over month now, like a toddler at my heels, whining for attention. I took a good look at my life and wrote down all the places I need to finish something. Things I need to and actually want to finish! And I asked myself what was my problem? Why don’t I finish things?

Since I’d heard about John Acuff’s book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, I decided to purchase the Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done and find out what he had to say on the topic. I wanted to learn about the causes and the solutions to this huge and common problem.

Here’s what he had to say: perfection causes most of us to quit before we start. If we can’t do it perfectly, we won’t even try. Sounds dumb, right? But it’s true! Like, if I can’t blog every single day of the week, with beautiful pictures and amazing content, I should just give up. But you know that sets us up for failure. Acuff recommends cutting your goal in half. This way the feeling of success of meeting a goal will spur you on to something else.

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Also, we get it into our heads that we have to do all the things. The truth is, if we are going to really focus on finishing one thing, something else might have to take a backseat for a while. Maybe I have to not vacuum as often, or get together with friends less often or miss watching the latest Netflix series if I want to finish up my aromatherapy certification soon.

He also talks about how the lie of having to do everything ourselves instead of asking for help delays the finish. Perhaps I would get the labels printed sooner for the new natural body care products I’m selling if I would accept Alan’s help rather than learning Photoshop now and doing it myself.

Learning what is holding me back and figuring out how to move forward is what I need to follow through and finish. The message and tips within this book were super helpful: I am already making progress on the stuff I was procrastinating over. In the past week, I was able to cross off three items off my Bullet Journal To-Do list. Finish is a short, funny, and super helpful read, so if you’re like me and have a tough time finishing, go get this book!

* This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through one of the links here, it benefits me in a very small way at no extra cost to you!

Day 31: What I Learned In October

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Here is a practice that Emily Freeman started on her blog several years ago that has caught on with other bloggers. It’s a great way to reflect and share anything from the super silly and surface to the weighty and profound.

  1. Writing every day is completely doable; I’ve been simply procrastinating all this time. Thanks to the Write31Days challenge and community, I found my writing feet again and it feels so good. It’s so true that doing something daily becomes a habit. It’s also true that the more you do something, the more you want to and the more you do. I’m planning my blog posts a month at a time and writing several at once; I’m working on one book and am about to embark on another; I’m also writing poetry again, which hasn’t happened in many months.
  2. Menu planning never gets easier. I just need to keep myself inspired with food websites, blogs, cookbooks and magazines that contain plenty of delicious recipes to try.
  3. Eating fish a few times a week for dinner (for the sake of upping my protein intake) makes me feel better. I stay satisfied the rest of the evening and am regaining strength I lost after my back injury in August. Last Monday, I purchased four bags of frozen fish from BJs and have been trying them out: Sea bass, mahi-mahi, swordfish and flounder. They’re so easy to prepare. I’ll be sharing recipes soon!
  4. Adding more protein to my morning smoothie or having eggs a few time per week is helping me feel more alert, stronger and stay full longer. I plunked down the money for this pea protein powderand am glad I did. Two scoops does the trick.

5. I still love Stranger Things. Season 2 was no exception. We binged-watched it in two days, wishing there were more episodes and that Netlix would release more than one season per year. The actors can act and portray the characters believably, the plot is interesting, the monsters are scary and effects are well done. Can’t wait for season 3!

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4. Mothers will always miss their children. My mom still misses and wants to see me if it’s been a while; I miss my kids every day I don’t see them and try to stay connected through text and phone on the days I can’t have them with me.

5. Starting a business is an opportunity to learn. This month, I started a craft business selling home decor items, like pillows, ornaments, wreaths and natural body care products. I am getting into as many local craft fairs as I can, trying to keep my costs down, and improving the quality of my products all the time. At each craft fair, I meet people, hear about other fairs, learn what I can do differently, see what works and what doesn’t and go home a little wiser. I still have to set up my etsy store and Facebook business page and market myself. I have a lot of new things I want to make. It’s hard work, but I always love a challenge.

6. Being lactose-intolerant requires vigilance if I don’t want to get sick. On Friday, I purchased a bag of M&M-looking candies from Greenstar, thinking for some reason they were vegan. I got them in the car, ate three and felt a hint of queasiness. Glancing at the ingredients list, I was horrified to discover they contained milk in the candy shell. Ugh! Totally my fault for assuming, but all the same, I wish some more dairy-free options were out there. And while at Barnes and Noble getting a coffee yesterday, I asked the barista taking my order which of three drinks contained dairy. She didn’t know the answer to that. Her employers have clearly not bothered to educate her on the ingredients of the various syrups and mixes. She had to dig out a package and skim through the list so she could find out. It’s nearly 2018 and every establishment selling food and drink in this country should be able to clearly list common food allergens found in their products. Their employees should know what they are and be able to find the list instantly. Why isn’t this a thing?

7. I like working out with someone. After working out solo pretty much my whole life, Alan has joined me at the gym three or four days per week. I love going with another person. Not only do I feel more motivated when I know someone is there, the whole experience is actually enjoyable, even when I’m gasping for air. We usually start out on the treadmills and graduate to the weight machines and end with another round of cardio. But even if we’re doing completely different workouts, it just feels good to know he’s there.

8. I can read Stephen King even though I don’t like horror. I’m eight chapters into 11/22/63. This book is enormous–I guess all his books are. Time travel is definitely something I can get into.

9. Mixed drinks are so much fun! A Margarita once in a while makes the dinner hour like a party. I love mixing drinks and this one is so simple and always satisfying. When I decided learning mixology was on my list for 2017, a friend heard about it and bought me the Libbey Mixology 9-piece Cocktail Set. I enjoy an occasional Margarita or Espresso Martini and am plotting a couple of drinks to try out for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

10. I missed the library! Yesterday, Alan and I took a trip to Ithaca to see what Wizarding Weekend was like. Unfortunately for us, the rain drowned out the bulk of the fun and various activities and vendors were scattered to Hotel Ithaca, Coltivare, Center Ithaca and the public library. As soon as we stepped into the library, I knew I’d have to borrow a few books. So Alan sat on a bench and chatted to a friend and I looked up seven or eight books and checked them out. Oh, how I love it. The smell of books fills the air, it’s relatively quiet and the atmosphere lends itself to learning. I’ll be back.

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What did you learn this month?