Friday, May 22, 2020

Joy Project: Freedom

Photo credit: Nathan Sundstedt
Whew, April's Blogging from A to Z Challenge set me a little behind schedule, but I don't want to let this month go by without posting about the third chapter in the book Joyful. This chapter's aesthetic is Freedom, which is a complex ideal right now as many of us are feeling physically, socially, and psychologically confined by the coronavirus pandemic. But in some cases, those restrictions are actually opening up our lives in unanticipated ways.

Ingrid writes that "Joy thrives on the alleviation of constraints," which seems completely at odds with the increase in constraints we are all experiencing. I'm finding personally, however, that some of those constraints are balancing out. Yes, I have to work from home, but I can do it without business casual. No, my husband and I can't take the beach vacation we planned, but we can use that time and money to make long-needed improvements to our landscaping. And if no one has been to the supermarket in a while and we don't have much to cook for a meal, we all just fend for ourselves.

Much of the Freedom aesthetic doesn't have to do with coming and going. It's really about the feeling of freedom that comes from removing or mitigating obstacles that block us. That could be as simple as rehoming a piece of furniture that doesn't quite work or stepping away from your technology for a while.

But the best freedom is found by going outside in nature, or bringing nature in. Research shows that people living with more access to green spaces have less stress and more contentment. Workers who sit near windows report better health and job satisfaction. Even the humble houseplant can make us feel happier. Walking about in the forest, aka forest bathing, improves immune function and has been a public-health initiative in Japan since 1992.

We humans are deeply connected to nature down to the molecular level. So I encourage you during this unsettled time to experience and appreciate nature as often as you can--at a safe social distance, of course, and taking all appropriate precautions. Get a houseplant and give it a name. Plant some seeds and flowers. Victory gardens are a thing again--although in all honesty, mine will likely be more of an uneasy truce.

Be well, everyone! Find some joy today!

Meet Jeffrey

Friday, May 8, 2020

A to Z Joy: Reflections 2020

First of all, congratulations to anyone who jumped into the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this year. 2020 is challenging us in so many ways even without a solid month of posting in the middle of a pandemic. So if you even gave it a try, pat yourself on the back.

I was happy with my theme, as thinking about the little things that bring me joy helped get my mind off of the news, which, as we know, is more bad than good this spring. I did a fair job of staying ahead of the alphabet and tried to keep my posts short enough for a quick read.

What I did not do well was visit an abundance of other blogs. I found some fun ones I visited regularly, and I found many whose posts were so lengthy, I just didn't have the patience. That makes me feel bad, because I know the work that goes into it. Mea culpa, I'm chalking it up to my general short attention span this year. Also, if your comment form is hard to find or in any way difficult, I probably skipped it. I did make sure I reciprocated every comment left on my posts, but unfortunately not every blogger did the same.

All in all, things seemed a little tired in the A to Z world compared to years past. Again, a sign of the times. The good news is that even though April is in the books, we're still out there blogging! And I plan to use the master list to continue to look for new blogs I enjoy.

Thank you to everyone who visited! Stay safe and well, and I hope you'll stop by again soon.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

A to Z Joy: Zephyr

zephyrus wind engraving | Ken Mayer | Flickr
Not sure what's going on with those legs...
We get a lot of wind in Colorado, which I don't love, but a zephyr is different. A gentle breeze from the west, it gets its name from Zephyros, the Greek god of the west wind. He ushered in springtime by melting snow and bringing warm rains for the trees and flowers.

A zephyr takes the bite out of the winter air and promises blooming crocus and forsythia. It comes as the days are slowly getting longer and any continuing snowfall disappears much more quickly than in the frigid months of January and February. It is the perfect middle between the cold gales and hot gusts that we are so accustomed to.

Zephyranthes - Wikipedia
Zephyranthes flower
(Back in the day before the Colorado Rockies were born, Denver had a minor league baseball team called the Zephyrs. Baseball...remember that? *sigh*)

Anyway, my wish is that this year's spring zephyrs act as positive winds of change, bringing us a kinder, gentler period after the tough few months we've had so far in 2020.

Thanks to all of you who visited during A to Z. I hope my posts brought a bit of joy to your day, and I look forward to seeing you around the internet!

Oh, and here's a taste of what winds can be like in Northern Colorado:

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A to Z Joy: Yellowstone National Park

Established in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant, Yellowstone National Park is one of my favorite roadtrip stops in recent memory. We spent only a day there, and I'd love to go back and spend much longer. It is a large National Park, with tons to see and do. Because it's basically located in a volcanic crater, geothermal features abound: bubbling mud pots and geysers and mineral-rich water in otherwordly colors. Everywhere I turned, I saw something that amazed me. And because we visited in October, we missed the hordes of summer tourists.

Thanks to my husband for the pictures!

Tomorrow is the last day of the A to Z Challenge! We're almost there!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

A to Z Joy: Xanadu...Homes, That Is

Last spring, my husband and I had a quick road trip getaway weekend in Taos, New Mexico. One of the local sights we visited is the Earthship development.

In the 1970s, Architect Michael Reynolds developed his "biotecture" designs for passive solar homes built of natural and upcycled materials. Empty glass bottles, dirt-filled tires, and many quirky design elements make the homes look like something from a sci-fi desert planet. The concept is still going strong, with Earthship homes all over the world.

One alternative housing project from the same era which didn't fare so well was the Xanadu Home of the Future. The homes were built with polyurethane insulation foam, which allowed for cost-effective construction. Repeated spraying of the quick-drying material onto a large, dome-shaped balloon produced a five-to-six-inch-thick shell within a few hours.

The architecture emphasized ergonomics, usability, and energy efficiency. But what made them most different from the Earthships is that they were also the first automated, computer-controlled "smart homes."

In many ways, the Xanadu homes, of which only three were built, were ahead of their time. Office spaces envisioned integrating work with home life (sound familiar, anyone?). The "electronic dietitian" in the kitchen planned balanced meals, which could be prepared at a preset time. The walls of the family room were covered with television monitors. All of the fifteen rooms (including the health spa) relied heavily on computers and electronics.

Exterior of the Xanadu House in Kissimmee, Florida in 1990.
Kissimmee, Florida, 1990 (Wikipedia)
So, why are we all not living in these awesome Xanadu future-homes? The technology, controlled by Commodore microcomputers, very quickly became obsolete. Interest in the homes peaked in the 1980s, and by 1996, only one of the three homes remained as a tourist attraction in Kissimmee, Florida. It was torn down in 2005.

I'm sorry I never had a chance to live the Jetson lifestyle in a Xanadu home, but maybe this is one of those ideas that will come around again. If so, sign me up for Xanadu 2.0.

Monday, April 27, 2020

A to Z Joy: Whales

File:Humpback whale fluke (2).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

This may be strange for someone growing up in a land-locked state like Colorado, but I've always been fond of whales. From their whiskery chins to their iconic tail flukes, these giant marine mammals fascinate me.

Whales are divided into two groups based on their physiology for feeding: baleen (the strainers) and toothed (the grabbers). The current tally for whale species is 41. (Orcas are not considered true whales but belong to the same family as dolphins.) At almost 20 pounds/9 kilograms, sperm whales have the largest brains on earth--six times heavier than the average human brain.

File:PSM V17 D240 Narwhal or sea unicorn.jpg - Wikimedia CommonsNarwhals, the so-called Unicorn of the Sea, are super interesting. The spiral tusk is actually an elongated canine tooth, which can be 10 feet long and have up to 10 million nerve endings inside.

I always assumed the name "narwhal" had something to do with the tusk, but the word comes from Old Norse and means "corpse whale," because their color resembles the skin of a drowned sailor. Lovely, right?

Many species of whales communicate by songs, which are not "built-in" like mating calls but must be learned. The longest and most complex songs belong to the male humpbacks. According to,
Their songs are beautiful, complex, and ever-evolving. Their songs can last for up to 30 minutes and feature various themes sung in a sequence that is common to all males in the same breeding area that year. The sounds they sing span 7 octaves, nearly the entire range of a piano. During the winter mating season, they repeat their songs over and over for hours at a time and gradually change them as the breeding season progresses. Each year a new song is produced.
Here's a short clip to help you chill out on a Monday:

Saturday, April 25, 2020

A to Z Joy: Vocabulary and Victory

Every thesaurus in the world died a little inside when Stephen King said that. Take King's advice if you like, but please don't throw out your thesaurus. Use it to build an impressive vocabulary, for yourself if not for your characters (you writers out there). And do it because...words are fun! And fascinating. And just plain weird.

I'm not suggesting you become the irritating person at the copy machine, throwing around obscure words in order to sound smart. I only hope you will be aware of the wonderful world of words. If someone uses a word you don't know, look it up. Keep a list of favorite words, unique and special words, and sprinkle them around lightly when you speak and when you write. Like salt, a little goes a long way. And at the very least, you'll up your crossword and Scrabble game.

Here are a few of my recent special words:

augury (a sign of what will happen in the future; omen)
blatherskite (a person who talks at great length without making much sense)
obtund (dull the sensitivity of; deaden)
enchiridion (a book containing essential information on a subject)

In other news, I'm not all that competitive, but I appreciate a hard-earned victory. And although it seems as if we will never reach the end of this pandemic, each day brings us closer to this very hard-earned victory. Stay the course, keep yourselves safe, and we'll meet up again on the other side!