Simple Hygge

Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah), a Danish word meaning comfort and coziness, warmth and connection. (Though it is said there really is no good English translation.)

Hygge was one of the most popular words of 2016. But I’d like to think it wasn’t the word, but the interpretation, that people fell in love with.

Pictures across the internet portray hygge scenes: friends gathered by a fire; a woman quietly sipping tea; someone reading a book with nothing but nature to distract. Hygge is, in my words, tranquility. Peace. Serenity. I love hygge, and I’m trying to practice it daily.

My morning begins with a session of hygge-ness.(Is that even a word?) Sipping tea. Reading a book. Glancing out the window, seeing nothing but the trees in the distance, and the elderly man who walks his dog in the early morning hours.

Hygge is found in the middle of my day, though sometimes it slips between the pages of my calendar. But usually, I can pull it out, find time to just breathe and whisper a few words of prayer, or maybe jot notes in my journal. Hygge keeps my day relaxing, even in a sometimes hectic world.

My day ends with hygge, quiet reading in bed, sipping more tea as my husband and I cuddle on the sofa. I take a few breaths as I lull into slumber.

But my favorite hygge practice is on the weekend, when all cares are cast aside, all chores forgotten. The dark morning calls my name. As I slip out of the bedroom, careful not to wake my husband, the cool crisp air touches my skin. I hear nothing. It is silence. The world is still asleep.

I pull out my mug, listen to the teapot whistle my name, and crack open a book. Nothing but me, darkness, and hygge.

It is then I know, I have hit upon something great.

The concept of hygge is changing my life. It is changing me.

Hygge may not have a perfect English definition, but the concept is about as perfect as it can get.

What can you do to have a little hygge in your day?

Need a little inspiration? Check out these pictures of hygge.

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A Simple Lesson from “Frasier”

It’s amazing how true to life a sitcom can sometimes feel. I was thinking this the other night as I was watching “Frasier,” the show about a loveable, quirky, albeit haughty, psychiatrist who lives in a Seattle loft with his father, Martin.

In the episode “They’re Playing Our Song” (season 7, episode 13), Frasier is asked to compose a theme song for his radio show. Instead of a short simple ditty, Frasier brings in the big guns, everything from a choir to a full orchestra, along with some unusual instruments.

When the song doesn’t quite fall into place, we find Frasier later sitting in his loft with Martin, wondering what to do.

Scene:

Martin: “And the tune should be something simple . . .”

Frasier: “Truth is, Dad, I’m not sure I can do simple.”

Martin: “I don’t know if you can or if you just don’t want to. But you know, some of the best things in the world are simple. Just like that art gallery you brought me to, you were ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over a painting of a big red dot.”

Such a simple scene, and so much power inside those words.

It seems we often make things harder than need be. I know I do. Like this last Christmas. I over-planned our holiday meal, cooking two main courses, tons of side dishes, and serving two desserts alongside cartons of ice cream and many toppings.

Ironically, the ice cream was the biggest hit. Looking back, that meal could have been a lot simpler than it was. All anybody really wanted was just to be together.

I think life is often like that. We over-plan our schedules, throw ourselves from one activity to the next. We put our children in three different sports, sign them up for everything under the sun. But all we ever want, all our children ever want, is just to do something simple.

It’s often the simple things we love the best. The simple activity. The simple dessert.

Next year, I will know better. I will make less food, and make it easier. And maybe I will forego the three desserts and just serve ice cream.

What can you do to simplify your life?

(Oh, and in case you are wondering, Frasier did finally come up with a short, simple ditty for his show.)

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A New and Simpler Life

The more I delve into minimalism, the more I see what it means to have a simple life.

I began my journey into minimalism because, quite honestly, I was tired of stuff. That, and a brain injury made it nearly impossible for me to tolerate tiny little trinkets and tons of things I had to sift through to find what I needed.

But brain injury aside, I am glad this happened. More than that, I am ecstatic. Minimalism has taught me a lot. It’s taught me to release pointless things in my life, like extra clothes and shoes, and books I’ll never read, and it’s taught me that things are not as important as I once thought they were.

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you’ll remember I let go of over $8000 worth of stuff from my life. Because of that, my life is changing. I expected a transition, at least somewhat. With less stuff, there had to be less to clean. With less junk in the drawers, what could I possibly have to organize?

But with all those obvious changes, what I didn’t expect was a new and better life.

I am living the simple life. Not an I’m-on-a-farm-making-my-own-jam kind of life, because for me, that wouldn’t be simple. That would be insanely hard. No, my life is the simple kind of life where I can rise in the morning, shower, and lazily eat my breakfast. I can sip tea while reading my favorite blogs. I can do yoga or work-out before starting my day of work. And even while I work, my life feels much less complicated.

Because of minimalism, I truly have acquired a simpler, and quieter, life. And the funny thing is, the more I delve into a minimalism, the simpler my life gets.

My life is not perfect, because life will never be that way. I am a work-in-progress, but with less in my life to worry about, I have more time to work on me.

Are you ready for a simpler life?

Minimalism isn’t about stuff. It’s about life. It’s about living.

Please feel free to share this with others.

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My Green-Eyed Monster

I flip through the magazine on my lap, glossy pages filled with articles and page after page of beautiful women in shiny gowns, their hair perfectly placed. “Buy this cologne,” one ad says. “It will make you beautiful.”

“Huh,” I laugh.

I turn the page. A man and woman walk a beach, holding hands and smiling. “If you wear this brand, this could be you,” it says.

“Hmmm…”

“It’s true,” says a voice over my shoulder.

I jump. “What?”

“It’s true,” he says again. His emerald green eyes dance with a fiery blaze. I pull back. “Who are you? What do you want?”

“You know who I am. I am your old friend, the one who helps you stay in style, who finds the clothes that make you happy, who helps you discover a better life.”

He smiles slyly. “Look at that picture, the pretty girl with soft pearls and creamy white coat. See that bag over her shoulder? It’s so much nicer than the one you have. And look at the beach. Can’t you imagine yourself walking on that white sand, your hand tucked inside your husband’s?” His voice is gentle, calm, soothing.

“What beach is it?” I ask.

“What difference does it make?” He becomes annoyed, then quickly softens his voice again.

“It can be any beach you want. It can be the southern coast, or the Virgin Islands. It can be Hawaii. The fact is, if you wore those clothes, if your husband wore those new jeans, you could have the ultimate vacation. You could be that couple.”

I look at the picture. I loved the bag she was carrying. It was a lot like mine, only bigger, darker. Newer. Her hat, tan, the brim curled slightly over her bangs. And her sandals, oh, how I loved the twisted pieces of leather that wrapped around her ankles.

I glanced at the man, his outfit a combo of dark jeans, white shirt, and black shoes. Upon his wrist was a silvery band, matching the one the woman wore. The perfect couple. The perfect attire.

A green haze covers the room. I hear myself saying, “I want it. I want it all.”

“Of course, and you shall have it.” My friend slips out the door, returning with a plastic card in his grip. He waves it over my face. “One swift motion, and it’s all yours. The shoes, the clothes. Even the vacation.”

I smile. “They do have nice stuff,” I say dreamily.

“And they look so happy. You could be that happy,” says my green friend.

I glance up at him. “Aren’t I happy now?” I ask.

His eyes become tiny slits as he breathes a dark green cloud over my face. “You could be happier.”

“I could,” I say. I flick the power button on my laptop, type in the web address my green friend reads to me. Easy. Simple. Quick. The room gets hazier, blurring images across the computer screen. “I can’t see. The numbers, the pictures, it’s all so hazy.”

“It’s okay, I’ll guide you.” He places his hand on my shoulder, guiding my arm and wrist from place to place, dropping images into a virtual cart.

“What am I getting?” I ask.

“It doesn’t matter. Everything is new, guaranteed to make you happy.” The green smoke becomes thicker. “Style. Grace. Charm,” he whispers in my ear. I am floating.

I place my hand on the desk and a piece of paper crunches beneath my fingertips. As I lift it, my friend snatches it away.

“What is that?” I ask, ripping it from his claw.

“Don’t look,” he says, a sense of desperation in his voice.

I stare down at the paper, a long list of numbers, dollars after dollars. Money spent on shoes and clothing, glittery jewelry and soft pink sweaters. Books, movies, magazine subscriptions I never read. I’d worked hard to buy those things, and harder yet to pay them off.

My friend is restlessness. He leans into my ear, “Remember how happy you were. Remember the feeling of euphoria, the touch of a new silk shirt, the rush of adrenaline as you slipped on a new dress. Remember. You can be that happy again.”

Green smoke billowed around my head. I looked at the list in front of me, thinking about the boots I’d placed on my feet, how I danced and twirled in my new skirt, how elegant I felt with new beads around my neck.

But where were those items now? Tossed in a drawer? Or had I given them away, already weary of the color and style? I wondered if I’d even worn them. It seemed all that remained were memoires, and the paper in my hands.

I twirled around and faced my friend. “You did this,” I said.

“We did it together,” he sneered. The fire in his eyes was fading, a harsh gray etched across his face. “We can do it again. You and I, we could be happy.”

I looked around my home, at every chair and picture, at every shelf that once was filled with piles of books and tiny knick-knacks. All the stuff I’d released was hard to let go, but once it was gone, I’d never felt so good. And now, my friend, my green-eyed monster, was trying to get me to buy it all back.

I turned off the computer, and slowly walked away, turning back for one last glimpse at my friend. “I am happy,” I said.

“Remember me,” he whispered, his voice barely audible.

“How can I forget?” I said, looking at the statement in my hand.

Occasionally, I see the green monster, though he is no longer my friend. He peers at me from behind a rack of clothing, or peeks at me between pages of a magazine. I am no longer drawn in by his soft voice, no longer glazed over by a bright green haze. But he smiles slyly, as if he knows temptations will never end. He waits. And he waits.

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Simple Steps to a Good Night’s Sleep

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I swear my brain never stops. It is always thinking, making lists of groceries and projects, birthdays and holidays I need to remember. There are appointments to make, vacations to plan, people to call. If that weren’t enough, this wacky head of mine is always dreaming, constantly creating.Yup, my brain is an endless stream of activity. But believe it or not, I’m better than I once was.

A few years ago, this crazy brain of mine kept me from sleeping. While everyone in our house slept soundly, I would lay in bed thinking of all the things I needed to do. A little voice inside me would whisper, “Get up. You have chores to do, a million things to take care of.” When I finally did drift off, it was a restless slumber filled with bizarre dreams that would soon wake me up.

Immediately, my head was barraged with lists and umpteen projects I was certain were more important than sleep. I’d jump out of bed, make lists, do laundry, and clean. By the time everyone in my family was awake, I’d already had a full morning.

On the outside, I was the perfect organized mom and wife, everything neat and tidy, the house completely arranged. But inside, I was one stressed-out tired mess. I was never relaxed. I was always thinking of what needed to be done, the next thing to cross off my ever-growing list.

I didn’t know it then, but my lack of sleep was catching up with me. I lived in a foggy kind of dream, not really living life. And my health, well, it became a series of illness requiring many visits to doctors for viruses and infections I could no longer fight off.

I needed a serious wake-up call. Many years later, I got one.

It happened the day I was in an auto accident and sustained a brain injury. It sounds terrible, because it was. And yet, in some weird way, I think it saved my life.

After the accident, both my body and brain were broken. I would find that the only true way to heal would be with a ton of sleep. I think it’s safe to say I slept more than I was awake. It took me a few years to heal, and during those years, I made a discovery.

I liked sleep. I’d never known what good sleep felt like, or what it meant to wake up refreshed. Even as a teenager, I’d never been a good sleeper, and now, here I was, sleeping eight hours at night, waking up with energy and a fresh mind.

Unfortunately, I’m a slow learner. Soon, my old personality crept in, and along with it, that little voice that said, “Don’t sleep. You have too many things to do.”

In some ways, I’d missed that voice. It represented the old me, the one before the accident. And yet, I knew I could no longer stay awake at night like I once had. My brain would never be able to function.

It was time to still that voice. I came up with a plan, one that has me sleeping through almost every single night. This plan has changed my life. It’s now a rarity for me to wake up during the wee hours of the morning. And unless I’m having a severe allergy attack, I hardly ever suffer from foggy-brain.

What is this plan that helps me sleep sound every night? I’m so glad you asked.

My Simple Plan to a Better Night’s Sleep:

Yoga – I learned yoga after my brain injury. The stretching helped my body, but it was the breathing that saved me. My blood pressure went down, and my muscles relaxed. Even my spirit was lighter. I do deep breathing as I go to sleep.

Exercise – Working out is important to me. Something, every single day. Walk, turn the radio on and dance, garden, play with children, lift weights, do push-ups. Something to get the heart pumping. Try it. Your body will thank you.

Eat healthy – We all know that healthy eating is important for many reasons, but one is helping you sleep better. Avoiding excess sugar, especially before bed, can aid in a good night’s sleep.

Drink Water – Drink plenty of water. Water keeps muscles lubricated, which helps to eliminate those pesky nighttime leg cramps.

Magnesium – According to Dr. Mercola (mercola.com), eighty percent of Americans do not get enough magnesium. Magnesium can be found in spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, and a host of other foods (do a search for “foods with magnesium”). If I do have that rare bad night of sleep, I know I need a magnesium boost. The next night, I add Calm (a powdered form of magnesium) to a glass of water. Voila. I am out cold the rest of the night, and wide-awake the next morning. Another great way to get magnesium is by taking a hot bath in Epsom salts, something I try to do once a week in the winter. The bath alone is relaxing, but the Epsom salts soak into the muscles and skin, relaxing every inch of the body.

Be Quiet – One hour before bed stay calm and quiet. Watch something silly, read something light, drink tea.

Have a Routine – I used to think routines were just for kids, but it seems as if everyone’s body likes routine. Keep it the same every night, as much as possible. That includes bedtime.

Give thanks – I give thanks for something before I fall asleep. It sounds kind of silly, I know, but there’s something about this simple little routine that makes my night go better. I don’t go to sleep stressed, or angry, or upset. I go to bed happy, because I have found something to give thanks for. I love falling asleep happy.

Most of all, still that nagging little voice -Nothing is important enough to keep you from sleep.

There you have it, simple ways to get a good night’s sleep.

Good night everyone.

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