I got an email this morning from a new friend.  It told the tale of a mother, speaking to her newlywed daughter.  The mother gives this advice, “’Don’t forget your sisters… They’ll be more important as you get older. No matter how much you love your husband, no matter how much you love the children you may have, you are still going to need sisters. Remember to go places with them now and then; do things with them.”

My friend added this note, “Remember that ‘sisters’ means ALL the women…  your girlfriends, your daughters, and all your other women relatives too. You’ll need other women. Women always do.”

This email reminded me of something I had read in Self Nurture by Alice Domar.  Dr. Domar writes,

“Two generations ago, American women… grew up in stronger, more supportive social networks.  The web of interconnections was broader, and our communities were comprised of tightly knit extended families.  Despite their often constricted roles and marriages, our mothers and grandmothers had their emotional and spiritual needs met by many more women—their sisters and aunts and female cousins and grandmothers who either lived with them or in their neighborhoods.  These women cared for each other in crises, and on a daily basis.  They took care of each other’s babies, cooked meals for each other, and shared each other’s joys and sorrows.  By the 1970’s, the fabric of family unity and support began to fray, and with that sociological development came a new wrinkle on the old man-woman story.

“Before, women were wholly dependent on men to meet their economic needs, but primary emotional needs were often gratified by the nearby community of women.  In the past three decades, massive social changes have enabled women to become more economically independent, but the breakup of traditional extended families and neighborhoods has made it harder for women to have their emotional needs met by other women.  We began to think that the men in our lives should meet all our needs.

“It’s taken women several decades to recognize that no man, no matter how strong or sensitive, can meet all our needs.  So women of the new millennium find themselves stuck in a bind:  we no longer have the same strong-knit communities of women, nor do we have the illusion of perfect multifaceted men who can take care of us financially and emotionally.  Who, then is going to satisfy our many needs and desires?  The best answer I can offer is an old Wall Street pointer:  diversify, diversify.  We should recognize that different needs will be met by different people, including our partners, family members, friends—and ourselves.  This realization is liberating in an era when it’s too much to expect any one person or institution to fulfill every part of our complex selves. (15-16).”

To this I say “YES!”  One of the best ways to nourish ourselves is by recognizing that while we need many types of relationships in our lives, the relationships among women, whether formed by family, neighborhood, job or friendship, can be the most helpful.  Don’t believe me?  Check out some of these articles.  And remember, a friend is a gift you give yourself.

Women and Friendship:  Female Bonds Have Both Psychological and Physical Health Benefits

The Importance of Women’s Friendships

What are Friends For? A Longer Life

Note:  Today’s post is a little longer than usual.  It should take about three minutes to read and will, hopefully, be worth your time.

The Lord provided a new pair of shoes for me this morning.  Well, actually, He allowed me to find a pair that He had provided 16 years ago.  However, He knew that I would need them today and that is when they appeared and I finally recognized them for the gift of God that they were.

I had actually purchased these shoes about sixteen years ago.  Because I have hard to fit feet which require heavy duty support in order for me to walk without pain  I had purchased a pair of Brooks Beasts, athletic shoes which are a lot more well endowed in the comfort and function departments than they are in the beauty department.

 The first time I wore them, comfortable and supportive as they were , a family member said, “Those are the ugliest shoes I’ve ever seen.”  I continued to wear them but every time this family member saw me in them she would comment “You have those ugly things on your feet again!”  So, I stopped wearing them, just to hush her comments.

 When I moved from one house to another I packed up the shoes, just in case I’d ever need them again someday.  In the move the shoes got separated from each other and I didn’t see them together again until today.

 Today—the day I prayed and asked the Lord to help me find some shoes that fit me and were comfortable. (I told you I was hard to fit.  It takes divine intervention to get comfortable shoes.)  Today was the day I looked at the pile of stuff that had come out of the closet I had cleaned two days ago.  Today was the day I noticed a single shoe in the pile.  Today was the day I remembered that I had also seen a single shoe in another pile when I had cleaned out a closet in another room about two weeks earlier.

 I ran to get the other shoe.  The two matched.  I rushed to put them on.  They were a perfect fit, exactly what I needed. And, since the relative who had complained so often about the shoes was no longer living, I felt free to enjoy wearing the comfortable and supportive shoes, the shoes which God had provided sixteen years ago but which I had just gotten around to being grateful for.

 As I thought about the shoes it struck me that God knew that I would need those shoes on this particular day, sixteen years after their purchase.  I believe He had prompted me to buy them then.  Sometimes He provides what we need well before we know or acknowledge our need for it.  God promises us “Before they call I will answer…” (Isaiah 65:24).

 Then it hit me that those shoes had been sitting in my house for over a decade and that I had not been either enjoying them or grateful for them.  It was only when I felt a new and acute need for shoes that didn’t create blisters on my feet, a need so strong that I actually prayed and asked God to provide, that I could suddenly appreciate them for the gift from God that they were.

 So often we ignore the gifts that God has given us, taking for granted what has been there all along.

 Donald Miller, in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years notes and explains this same human tendency.  He writes, “We get robbed of the glory of life because we aren’t capable of remembering how we got here.  When you are born, you wake slowly to everything.  Your brain doesn’t stop growing until you turn twenty-six, so from birth to twenty-six, God is slowly turning the lights on, and you are groggy and pointing at things saying circle and blue and car and then sex and job and health care.  The experience is so slow you could easily come to believe life isn’t that big of a deal, that life isn’t staggering.  What I’m saying is I think life is staggering And we’re just used to it.  We all are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we’re given—it’s just another sunset, just another rainstorm moving in over the mountain, just another child being born, just another funeral” (58).

 George Herbert, 16th century Welsh poet and priest, expressed our human nature and human need accurately when he penned, “Thou hast given so much to me, Give one thing more, – a grateful heart…”

 This whole shoe business has got me thinking and wondering.  Are there other things that God has provided for me that I have either been disdaining or ignoring?  How often do I fail to appreciate and express gratitude for His provision?

 Sometimes the best way to nurture ourselves is simply by opening our eyes and seeing what has already been provided for our nourishment.

 Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free. [1]

 [1] “Open My Eyes that I May See” Words & Music: Clara H. Scott, in Best Hymns No. 2, by Elisha A. Hoffman & Harold F. Sayles (Chicago, Illinois: Evangelical Publishing Company, 1895)

  Before my little trip to babysit the Grands and recharge in the mountains I had started talking about multitasking.

 Sometimes multitasking is a good thing. For instance, this morning I took a walk outside. Since I went to a mailbox about a mile away I got my aerobic exercise, exercised my dog, returned my NetFlix DVD and listened to relaxing music on my MP3 player all at the same time.

 But multitasking has a down side. As it turns out, multitasking lowers our efficiency while we are doing it. That is OK if the tasks we are doing don’t require precision or careful thought, but sometimes we need to decide if speed or efficiency matters most. 

 And then there is the fact that sometimes people get offended when we multitask. Like the time I was unloading my dishwasher while talking to my mother on the phone. When she heard the silverware clanking she said “I want you to give me your full attention when I’m talking to you, young lady!” (The fact that she was ninety years old and I was in my fifties at the time added a bit of humor to the situation.)

 So, while there are times when multitasking helps (like listening to audiobooks while folding laundry or any other boring repetitive task that takes no concentration), there are other times when it distracts, offends and eats up way to much mental energy

 Sometimes I need to nurture me by giving myself permission to do only one thing at a time, even if it means I get less done in a day.

Since my last post I took a little time out to nurture myself in a couple of different ways. 

 The first was by spending time with people I love.  The fact that those people were my grandchildren made it a double dose of nurture.  While caring for them over three days time I got to blow bubbles, run races, make-believe (chasing dragons, blowing away monsters and other things necessary to keep up with an almost three-year old’s repertoire of pretend critters).  In other words, I acted like a child.  Very fun!  And I got the satisfying (and nourishing feeling of helping someone out by babysitting so my son and daughter-in-law could get away and do essential things.)

 Following that adventure I took a little time to nurture my husband and myself by spending time in our favorite mountain getaway.  Going to the mountains never ceases to refresh me.  The more trees the better.  While in the mountains we got caught in a surprise snow storm so we got to experience a nice dose of novelty (for us).

 So I’m wondering, do you have a favorite recharging station, a place you retreat to restore your energy when your batteries are low?  Tell us about it, please.

In yesterday’s post I mentioned the phrase “time affluence.” For those of you who did not follow the link in the post, here is the definition given by Tal Ben-Shahar, a Harvard professor and author of the book Happier.

Time affluence is the feeling that one has sufficient time to pursue activities that are personally meaningful, to reflect, to engage in leisure. Time poverty is the feeling that one is constantly stressed, rushed, overworked, and behind.

The term “time affluence” came into use based on the work done by Tim Kasser, author, professor and chair of psychology at Knox College.  He found that people who are time affluent have a higher sense of well-being.  So it follows that creating time affluence would partner with nourishing oneself.

So how do you create time affluence?  The first step is to identify which activities are meaningful to you.  Take a look at what you do everyday and ask yourself if it is contributing to your well being.  Personally, when I started asking myself that question I cut back on the amount of time I spend on computer games and diverted that time to working on my novel.  The answers will be different for everyone.

For other ideas to increase time affluence you can check out these links.

Article:  Why Time Affluence Matters and 10 Ways to Boost Yours

Book:  Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America

And of course, please share some of your own comments on this topic.

One of the greatest gifts I have received in my journey to self nourish was the gift of cancer.  The disease and the two subsequent major surgeries forced me to stop the frantic life I was living.

 B.C (Before Cancer), I was an overscheduleaholic, trying to cram as much as possible into a day.  And yet, I frequently felt stressed and was often irritable with those around me.  I did a lot in a day yet I seldom felt satisfied at the end of the day. 

 Then cancer arrived.  During my post surgery weeks I was reduced to doing nothing all day long.  Or at least that’s how it felt.  I read, watched TV and talked to friends on the phone.  I got oodles of sleep.  I played with my dog and petted my cat.  I sat outside and watched birds.  When I was recovered enough to walk I took leisurely strolls in the park.

 It was wonderful.  Not only was I extremely grateful to be alive, I also became grateful for the little things in life, for having the time to enjoy them.

 But, time has moved on and so have I.  While I am not as busy as I was B.C.  I have forgotten many of the lessons of those post surgery days.

 One of those lessons was the concept of underscheduling.  When I was recovering from surgery my daily to-do list usually had only one or two items on it compared with my twenty or more items B.C.  The post surgery to-do list contained only items that were absolutely essential.  I had to pare my list down to necessities because that’s was all I had the strength to do.  And you know what?  At the end of the day I felt satisfied if I had completed my one or two items for the day.  I felt that I had accomplished something.

 That brings us up to today and the concept of time affluence.  It turns out that once our basic material needs (food, clothing, and shelter) are met, gaining more money doesn’t make us any happier.  Instead, it is time affluence that increases our sense of well being.

 What is time affluence?  Stay tuned because that is what I am going to talk about tomorrow and Thursday.  Until then, here is today’s question to ponder.

 Have you ever learned a major life lesson and then later, forgotten to apply it?

Our family got a delightful new camera recently.  It’s so much fun that I’m actively looking for ways to use it.

I’ve started taking walks around my neighborhood, deliberately seeking interesting scenes to photograph.

In my photo safaris I’ve discovered that there is a lot more beauty in my world than I had noticed before.  Each time I find something good I have one of those “wow!” moments that lights up my soul.

This exercise reminds me of something I used to do as a child.  Walking the same route to school everyday got boring, so I challenged myself to find ten new things I had never seen before.  And you know what?  I never failed to find ten new things.  I usually found more than ten.

Sometimes nourishing ourselves has to do with taking time to notice what has already been provided for us.

My challenge for you today is for you to look for something beautiful.  Maybe it would help to pretend you are looking for something to take a picture of.  Then, tell us what you find.

A couple of years ago I visited a home with a lavender-rimmed pathway to the backyard.  You couldn’t walk the path without brushing against its fragrant flowers releasing a cloud of sweetness into the air.  I decided that day that I too wanted a lavender path.  So I planted a small plant next to my back gate.

Occasionally when I am out in the yard weeding I will sniff the lavender, but usually I just forget it is there.

Today I picked a sprig of lavender and brought it in to the house.  I  set it next to my computer, a place I spent a lot of time during the day.  Every few minutes I pick up the sprig, hold it to my nose and inhale.  Ahhhh!

Why do I plan nice things for myself and then not follow through with them?  That lavender plant has been in my yard for almost two years.  Why did I wait until today to bring some into the house?

Maybe self nourishing takes both a deliberate intention and a commitment to keep that goal in mind.  Maybe I need to put “sniff lavender” into my PDA.

Whatever it takes, doing simple things that bring joy to you is worth it.

Are there any simple pleasures in your life that you have overlooked or needlessly deferred?

This morning I decided to treat myself to a freshly made bowl of home cooked oatmeal.  No, not instant, I mean the kind that comes in a metal can, takes almost 45 minutes to make and which has a satisfyingly chewy texture.  Topped off with a tablespoon of chopped walnuts, two tablespoons of raisins and ¼ teaspoon of Saigon cinnamon, it makes a slightly sweet, filling meal that is only around 265 calories, keeps me full until lunch and packs me full of nutrition.  A nice steaming bowl of self-nurture! 

While the oatmeal was cooking I spied the jar of jelly beans I had bought as a gift for someone else.  I had foolishly left them out in plain sight.  Before I knew it, I had opened the jar and popped a handful of jelly beans into my mouth.  The taste was magnificent, very self indulgent.  I just had to pamper myself with another handful. 

As I was munching on the beans I remembered that today was the day I weigh in at my weight-loss club.  I had joined the club to improve my health and to increase my physical energy so I could stay actively involved in life.  Those beans, tasty as they were, weren’t going to help me reach my goals. 

How I need to remember that what I want in the moment is not always what I want in the long run! 

Mmm, mmm good versus mmm, mmm, good for me

What made Superman so strong?  How about Lex Luthor?

A new study that will be published in an upcoming issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science may point the way to developing superhuman powers. 

Okay, if not superhuman, at least more humane.  It turns out that doing something kind for someone else increases our own physical strength.  The link is so strong that even just thinking about doing something nice makes us stronger. 

Interestingly enough, doing evil also makes us stronger.  However, I’d rather grow through kindness than meanness.  I sleep better at night that way. 

Kind of reminds me of that old saying, “Flowers leave some of their fragrance in the hand that bestows them.” 

Another old saying along the same line is “Give and it will be given to you… (Luke 6:38).

So maybe being unselfish is actually being selfish—or at least doing something that benefits both self and others. 

I think I’ll try this out before I lift my dumbbells today.  Who knows, maybe I’ll get an extra set of reps in.

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