Home.

When is the last time you felt at home?

At home in your body?

At home in your environmental surroundings?

At home in your relationships?

What does “at home” even mean or feel like for you? Here is what the internet says home means:

“Home” can mean so many things and is a base of creating a life you don’t need to escape. It is when we are uncomfortable in our own skin, unable to exhale, have no safe place to fall that we are desperate to numb the discomfort to avoid feeling un-homed.

The concept of home certainly apply to all three pillars of Sustainable Productivity. Let’s take a look at each in turn.

Environmental Surroundings

Your environment is the easy definition of home. What you surround yourself with. The furniture, art, music, clothes, images, colors and everything else that you take in  directly and indirectly.

Sometimes it is easier to define what is not making your surroundings feel like home. If something is not serving your surroundings in a way that makes you exhale when you enter the space, get rid of it.

  1. Friends or groups in your social media draining you – block, mute, unfriend and delete.
  2. Beige walls make you feel like you are institutionalized? Paint is an easy fix. If you don’t like the color, try again. Wall paper is even making a comeback – although after removing as much wallpaper as I have in my day I cannot in good conscience recommend THAT!
  3. Do you have outdated knickknacks, photos, and accessories around that just feel cluttered? Refreshing small things can transform your space quickly and inexpensively.

If you want to explore what is out there to try to find out how to make your home a Home, try making boards on Pinterest or combing through magazines, or even browsing furniture stores to see what strikes you. What fabrics, colors, shapes, and overall aesthetics are you drawn to? Start small, but start somewhere.

Health & Fitness

There can be may reasons you don’t feel at home in your body. Usually acceptance is at the core of whatever is blocking that feeling of home. As we age it can be hard to embrace the body you are in, instead of wanting the body you used to have.

  • What if you focused on stats related to your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar instead of stats related to the scale and calorie intake?
  • Could you be more accepting of the body you are in if you embraced intuitive eating instead of restricting calories?
  • Would you feel at home in your body pursuing physical activity that felt good – even if you were not part of the “norm”?

Mental Well-being

The component I most want to talk about here is relationships. There have been lots of discussions about friendships among adult women lately. You can find a few of my favorites here and here and here. I sometimes think as an introvert I don’t need friends or are somehow exempt from this section of Maslow’s hierarchy. Oh, how wrong that is. I was reminded of that this weekend when I spent a couple days with my long-time friend and her family at the beach.

I think I laughed more with her and her family that I have all of 2021 combined. We talked for hours as we sat on the beach watching her 4 kids play in the ocean. There is something about someone who has known you for 35 years who can cut through questions to ask QUESTIONS and understands the unspoken things in the answers. I felt seen and understood. I felt at home.

By |2021-07-05T15:06:21-04:00July 6th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Creativity and Relationships

Soooooo to say I have been in a bit of a creative slump in the last several weeks would be an understatement. I have tried applying my 2021 theme: Wear life like a loose garment.

I have maintained this weekly blog post and related social media content and let that be enough. It was fine, but I still have not broken out of the slump.

Now I want to try the other side of the coin and Laura Tremaine (an author and podcaster who I pretend is my friend in real life) has the perfect opportunity for me – a daily social media writing challenge.

Why It Works

Creativity and relationships are part of the Mental Well-being pillar of Sustainable Productivity. Research has shown that loneliness has a negative impact on mental AND physical health. Additionally, creativity (and hobbies in general) reduce stress hormones, blood pressure, and other markers of stress.

To say 2020 impeded our creativity and relationships would be an understatement. When those 2 components suffer, our Mental Well-being suffers which leads to an overall loss in productivity. This is not a sustainable model. This is burnout.

I am not saying you should put blinders on to the grief caused by 2020. I am saying it is important to grieve those things and give yourself a break. It is equally unhealthy to stuff negative feels so that you can power through your to do list.

But all crises end. Darkness turns to dawn. Maybe you are like me and are starting to see a sliver of light on the horizon.

It is time to reach toward that smidge of sunshine, grab on and crack open a new chapter.

Let me show you what I have in mind.

How It Works

For every day in May there is a prompt that I will write about and want to invite you to come along with me. You don’t have to be a writer or aspiring writer – just someone who wants to share a bit each day. Don’t let the fact that it’s a couple days into the month deter you from starting. Check out the themes below and jump in on themes that move you. The point of this exercise is not to be on social media more. It is about leveraging social media to use creativity and relationships to build a life we don’t need to escape.

If you choose to join the challenge, use the hashtags #OneDayMay and #SustainableSue so we can find each other in a search.

By |2021-05-02T08:58:17-04:00May 4th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Staying in Touch When You Can’t Be in Touch

Isolation is a harsh reality of the pandemic – not being able to stay in touch with those we are in relationships with. Mental Well-being is one of the pillars of Sustainable Productivity and relationships are important to positive mental well-being. Therefore, I have been trying to get creative about staying in touch with those I have meaningful relationships with even though we cannot actually BE in touch.

Research has proven that if a person has a few healthy relationships, she can reap some or all of these benefits:

  • Lower rates of anxiety and depression
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Greater empathy
  • Strengthened immune system, which may even lengthen your life

But what are we to do when we are living this catch-22. I cannot experience my relationships the same way because if I do, I may pass along a virus. But if I don’t continue relationships, I could end up sick of loneliness. You and I are not the only ones trying to solve this conundrum. The Lazy Genius recently discussed this in podcast episode 158: Staying in Touch When You Can’t Touch.

I want to share with you a way I have started to get creative about my relationship with my nieces. Usually June or July includes a week of Aunt Susan camp. I am visiting them or they come to NC – sometimes both in the same year. This is what it usually looks like:

Needless to say this is not happening this year.

Instead my sister and I got creative. As you know, I love to read. And I love to read to my nieces. Although they are turning a corner away from lap sitting story time, it still means a lot to me to connect with them this way. My sister and I set up an online book club where we all read together once a week. Bonus points for keeping them reading during the summer also!

Staying in touch

Live footage from a recent meeting of our virtual book club.

Every Friday my sister and I schedule a FaceTime call, and the four of us take turns reading. Sometimes a meeting is crashed by either our husbands or our Black Labs. It is only a short session – 15 minutes at the most. But it is a dedicated time we spend together each week doing something we love. Although it is not a substitution for the in person visits we had to cancel this year, but it will do for now.

Instead of complaining about what we could not do, we are attempting to make the best of what we have.

How are you getting creative during COVID? Drop a note to share how you connect with loved ones from afar.

By |2020-07-12T17:10:42-04:00July 14th, 2020|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Eye of the Storm – The Benefit of Rituals

Happy Tuesday! Let’s take a coffee break for a moment while we rest in the eye of the storm shall we?

I made it through 2 Masters degrees without coffee. There was no new mom sleep deprivation that needed an afternoon caffeine boost; the kids were too old for afternoon naps when Bixby and I met. Diet Coke is usually my caffeine of choice.

Then Bixby and I spent a week in Seattle and BOOM – I love lattes.

coffee mug
Coffee mugs were custom made for us by LouLou Belle Pottery.

The problem is that I only like coffee from 1 or 2 places in Seattle, certain Starbucks in Greensboro, and of course – the latte Bixby makes for me. I think that is pretty much the definition of high maintenance.

coffee break
High maintenance is delicious!

The benefits of coffee are endlessly documented. I even drink it with whole milk to bump up the nutrients in a non-processed way.

But my favorite part of my coffee break is my barista. Since I am so picky, I generally only have coffee at home. When Bixby brings my coffee to me, he uses the swirls of the milk as a Rorschach test to pretend he is fancy enough to put pictures in my coffee. Read: he make shit up about the what he has swirled with the milk. And he nails it every time.

Here is Sunday’s coffee. Clearly the MSU Spartan in my coffee, right?! He is so talented.

It is such a small part of the day, but I really look forward to it. Small rituals are important to relationships. Strong relationships contribute to our mental well-being. Considering mental well-being is one of the three pillars to a sustainably productive life, this coffee break is more essential than ever!

Let’s get a refill then make it a Terrific Tuesday!

By |2020-05-13T09:42:34-04:00May 12th, 2020|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

What We Talk About When We Talk About My Ponytail

My ponytail is a permanent fixture that I will not be giving up anytime soon. I have had a love / hate relationship with it for decades. It has caused me literal pain, and I have had it cut off in desperate times. Sometimes I have worn a ponytail so much that when I finally take out the ponytail holder, my hair stays back. I have been grateful for my ponytail when I have hit the snooze button too many times and am running late. But it is more than a hairstyle and as I turned the corner into mid-40’s this year, I have really begun to absorb the full impact of what my ponytail really means to me.

There are several things we are talking about when we talk about my ponytail.

  • I am talking about where I choose to spend my time. Spoiler alert – I do not like to spend my time doing my hair. Honestly, I don’t even really want to brush it every day. So sometimes I don’t. Don’t get me started on washing it. Sometimes between how long it takes to dry and the fact that I am a sweat hog, it feels like my super thick hair does not fully dry between May and October. So to undertake a wash which requires blowdrying is sometimes more than I can stomach.
  • I am talking about doing what I am good at. And newsflash – it ain’t hair. And don’t tell me I just need to practice with it. I am not a girl who wants to practice with any beauty products. I do not want to “get good” at blowing out my hair. I just don’t give a shit about it. And I am done spending my free time doing things I don’t give a shit about. This is where Sustainable Sue asks the important question: Is this something you could do the rest of your life? And perhaps the more valuable question: is this something you WANT to do for the rest of your life? Part of what sustainability means to me is filling my time with activities that boost my soul. And never once have I felt calm and fulfilled when using a round brush. In fact, I threw out my round brush once I cut it out of my tangle of knotted hair.
  • I am talking about expectations. Specifically not spending time doing something just to meet the expectations of anyone else. I am a recovering people pleaser. I have a visceral response to thoughts of failing every hair dresser I have been to because I show up with my hair in a ponytail. No matter what the hair length or style, I come to my appointment in a pony tail. I feel like a failure because I have not maintained the look they gave me. A part of me feels like I need to get a blow out to go get my hair cut. But then I would be cheating on my hair dresser, and that would also hurt her feelings. It’s exhausting. Let me tell you what a mentor said to me about being a people pleaser, “OK, great Susan. Now where are all the pleased people?” Ouch.

Perhaps the more valuable question:

Is this something you WANT to do for the rest of your life?

  • I am talking about being comfortable. I have reached an age where I ditch the work heels for Danskos. I quit being so damn cold and just bundle up in a coat, hat, scarf, and mittens instead of looking cute when I’m outside. I just want to be comfortable, and my ponytail supports that. It understands me. It helps me look professional when I pull it into a low pony for the office. It just gets outta the way when it migrates to the top of my head to garden. Being comfortable is also a part of what makes me beautiful.
  • I am talking about feeling beautiful. My hair does not define my femininity, nor make me beautiful. I listened to the This is Us Too podcast episode from Oct 4, 2019, when Mary talked about the time she cut her hair off. Her husband compared her long-haired before to Idina Menzel and her pixie cut after to Hugh Grant. Honestly, this pissed me off. Having long perfectly styled long hair does not make me beautiful any more than having short hair makes me ugly. When I am comfortable, I am sure I come across more confident. When I am not fidgeting with my hair I can focus on things like the actual conversation we are having.
Notice the dents in my hair where I took out the ponytail holder moments before school pictures were snapped. Not to mention the flyaway wing dings and cowlicks.
  • I am talking about doing hard things. I remember being in early elementary school when my mom decided I would be doing my own hair going forward. Trying to pull a ponytail holder through my rats nest and loop it around to secure my mop made it feel like my hands were not coordinating with my brain. But I did it. And I got better at it. I hear some of you saying, “See, you DID practice.” No, this was necessity. No way was I going to school with my hair down – especially if it was a PE day! No way was my mom doing it for me – that baton had been handed off. Those first few weeks were rough, yo. Lumpy bubbles of hair snarls. Escaped sections falling down or never making it into the pony tail holder. But I did it. Like I tell my kids – just because something is hard doesn’t mean we don’t do it.
  • I am talking about my style. I went through a stage where I needed to have a “grown up” hairstyle. At the time I felt that because I had the same pony tail as I did when I was in elementary school, I was presenting myself as immature. So I had it cut off. Short. Like by a lady who worked in a barber shop. She only did men’s hair. And mine. This was “professional and grown up Susan” – or so I thought. When I interviewed for a job with that cut, someone later told me that I “looked very severe, like a Scandinavian prison matron.” I don’t want to present myself to the world as severe and unapproachable. Now I see lots of women my age and older who wear a pony tail on the regular. I don’t think any less of them. Some are incredibly accomplished professionals. Some have all gray or stark white ponytails. The common thread is that they are comfortable in their own skin. And if we go back to the Sustainable Sue litmus test: is this something you WANT to do for the rest of your life? The answer would be a resounding HELL YEAH!

But there is one thing we are not talking about when we talk about my ponytail.

More importantly, there are things my ponytail cannot do. I mean seriously – it is just HAIR!

  • My hair does not speak for me. I went through a period of life where I felt like I was invisible to the people around me. I was really struggling and would make jokes about my struggle, but no one really saw me, including my husband. So I decided to have my hair cut off to shock him into noticing. He did not comment. Not even to say he hated it. Needless to say that did not help me feel understood. And I reached a tipping point where I did not want that despair to be something I felt for the rest of my life. It was unsustainable for me. Turns out I had to actually tell him how I felt instead of having my hair communicate for me.

What are you doing (or not doing) because of the expectations of others? What answer does your heart and gut give you if you ask, “is this something I WANT to do for the rest of my life?

By |2020-06-17T17:19:00-04:00October 30th, 2019|Health & Fitness, Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Dangerous Wildlife

We live “out in the county” as is said (translation: outside of the city limits), and we do see some interesting wildlife. There is a weekly update on coyote sightings on our Nextdoor app, we already talked about the deer that eat all my flowers, plus snakes and birds, and of course, Lucille. What I did not realize is that the most dangerous wildlife I needed to be aware of was Bixby. Yes, my husband.

Bixby and Lucille looking harmless
Yeah, they look harmless, don’t they!?

There are certain tools around the house that I am not allowed to use. The chain saw, for example. I am not the swiftest of foot so to add heavy machinery to that is not always our best yes (translation: I don’t want to get hurt, and Bixby does not want to have to take me to the ER). He was suspiciously panicked when he came home while I was working on the irrigation project carrying around a drill whilst wearing safety glasses. The weed eater falls into the caution category – I am not totally grounded from it, but if it is all humanly possible, Bixby does it. The problem is that I am not quite as particular with how low I am taking down the edges, often leaving dirt. I am sorry to Dean, who ran the landscaping company I worked for during a short break from college. I am a terrible edger.

So I put in my work request to have Bixby take down the creeping phlox after it bloomed. It takes the dead flowers off and helps promote growth, plus it looks better. So the next time he mowed, he knocked it out. I verbalized my gratitude to provide positive reinforcement as all pet husband training manuals say to do. Then when I went to get the mail one day I saw this carnage:

mowed down gladiolas
The photo is about the missing half of the gladiola, not about the crappy grass / dirt patch and exposed drainage pipe. Don’t judge.

Apparently he got carried away with the phlox – note THERE IS NO PHLOX IN THIS WHOLE PHOTO – and took out half the glad before he realized what was happening. Then to top it off – he did not tell me AND left the leaf carcasses to rot. For better or worse, friends. Better or worse.

By |2019-11-30T16:33:52-05:00June 5th, 2019|Mental Well-being|1 Comment

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