Monday, May 25, 2020

Gratitude in Photos

Since today is a holiday, and I'm sure you are all spending time sleeping in, relaxing with family or hopefully just enjoying your day somehow, I am going to keep this short and sweet. :) 

I've been having a really nice weekend and just want to share a little photo montage of some things I am grateful for today, in this moment. 

1. I am grateful for those who died serving our country. 

2. I am grateful for beautiful flowers.


3. I am grateful for this tree.

4. I am grateful my boys have each other and that they get along.

5. I am grateful for a beautiful day yesterday and a delicious meal (I was hungry so I ate the cheeseburger before I remembered to take a picture :)

6. I am grateful for the at least hour long conversation I had with my Dad out on my deck yesterday morning, just the two of us. And for the birds that have been singing like crazy in my yard! (Have a listen! So beautiful- video from Saturday evening just after some light rain.)

7. I am grateful that my Gratitude Journey story (read here) went out in 5 am Joel's daily emails yesterday, and that he shared it as a guest post on his blog too (

8. I am grateful for anyone reading this!! And for the kind words and comments I have received from people encouraging me on this journey. 💗😊

What are you grateful for today?? Leave me a comment- I want to hear what good stuff is happening in your life. 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Landscaping and Garden Haul

As I mentioned yesterday, I usually end up doing some yard work, garden planting or flower planting over Memorial Day weekend. 

My typical “spring garden haul” includes a bunch of annuals for our front rock bed (mostly perennials, but I have planted a bunch of new ones and the majority just don’t come back….I don’t know. I think the soil isn’t the best there and it is kind of tricky working in the rocks anyway). I usually get 1-2 new perennials to try in there. But, I don’t really know what I’m doing when it comes to plants, so, that could very well be part of the problem. 😉

This is from last year. It usually looks okay- I'm sure someone with some gardening talent could make this area really beautiful. If you are that person, let yourself be known and I welcome your advice. :)

Then, I usually plant some basic planters on either side of my garage door, one on my front patio table, and usually a little one on my front step. I sprinkle a few annuals along the front of the house in our mulch too, in front of the bushes.

In the backyard, I generally buy some annuals for 3 planters on our deck, one for our concrete patio and some for small planters and in the bed back by our shed. I can see this area from the kitchen window, so I try to pick some fun, bright colors. 

This area is back by our shed. It looks pretty from a distance but has a bunch of ferns in the back that get OUT OF CONTROL. That big shrub has since been cut back and is finally growing better this year (old picture). We re-did this rock border a couple years ago which looks nice from the house. 

I love the idea of a yard filled with flowers, but I honestly just don’t know much about it and I haven’t really had (or taken?) time to learn much. The majority of the beds we have were here when we bought the house. I have made some minimal changes and additions, but for the most part, I just try to keep things alive and looking halfway decent!! It all just takes more time than I generally have to devote to it.

This is around the side of our garage. I don't even know what the purple things are, but they are very beautiful! I cut it down to the ground every fall and it grows back up like this every year. 
 I do really enjoy looking at beautiful flowers though, and I do get pleasure from seeing our various beds in bloom (especially in June/ early July. A lot of our landscaping is starting to get overgrown and gets HUGE by the end of the season. A lot of stuff probably needs to be divided...but I seem to never get around to it). 

This bed off our deck has a tendency to also go crazy!!! I dug a ton of these out earlier this spring. (old photo). I like the sort of wild, messy look of it but it can get out of hand very easily. BTW- those are solar panels for our water heater on the roof, in case you are wondering :)

I dug out a bunch of the front ones- they spill over into the yard so badly that it is hard to cut the grass! 

Yesterday I went and picked up a partial flower haul for the front yard. I wasn’t really "in the mood"- I just went to Home Depot and it was super crowded, and the whole experience of wearing a mask and trying to dodge ALL the people just wasn’t super duper fun- but I grabbed a few things to get started. Hoping I can get some more this week!

Here’s what I got for now (again, nothing fancy!):

I usually stick with reds in the front of our house since we have a bright red front door. In the backyard I like to do pinks and yellows (I didn't buy for the backyard yet).

Do you plant many flowers in your yard? Any tips? What are some of your favorites??

Steps: 10,046
Meditate: Done
Read: No, busy most of day with family here 

Daily Gratitude:
I am grateful for weekends. I'm grateful for the chance to rest, recharge and get some things done around the house too. 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Creative Play and Another COVID Holiday Weekend

Good Saturday morning and Happy Memorial Day Weekend! 😊

Here we go, another holiday. This one “feels” a little more disrupted to me in some ways than the others (Easter and Mother’s Day), I think maybe because we don’t usually have majorly traditional plans on either of those holidays in our household.

We don’t actually really have specific traditional Memorial Day plans either, but maybe due to the whole “long weekend” concept, plus that it is the usual start to summer for everyone, it feels a little disappointing to have everything basically cancelled yet again.

I know so many people typically have big family gatherings, visit their lake homes, there are Memorial Day parades, cemetery visits, events, Madison’s famous Brat Fest….in the past we have been at soccer tournaments this weekend, I ran my first half-marathon over Memorial Day weekend years ago…This year, nothing.

I personally sometimes end up doing a fair amount of yard work over Memorial Day weekend. Many years, my April and May weekends have been spent at soccer games and swim meets, so the sometimes less scheduled up Memorial Day weekend is oftentimes the first real chance we get to either start weeding my by-now very weedy flower beds, spread mulch or edge them, buy and start planting my annual flowers, start planting my garden, etc. However, the forecast today calls for 100% rain and the next several days don’t look that great either, really. Tomorrow could be possibly be dry I think.

Weekend Plans!

Yesterday the boys started their Memorial Day break, so they didn’t have school. It was kind of a dreary day for much of the day, so they played their fair share of video games in the morning, but I was happy to see them spend the afternoon building a quite epic fort in the basement! I used to LOVE building and hanging out in “forts” as a kid.

This one has multiple rooms, including a “music” room which houses a record player (they turned on an old Liberace record), a “weaponry” where the Nerf guns are held, a “reading room” with two flameless candles to read by and they installed central air conditioning (i.e. rigged up a fan to blow through the fort). It was quite fun for them I think!

Despite 65 degree temps outside, they turned on the "campfire". :)

We also made the decision, with my parents, for them to come and stay this weekend. This is the first time we are really seeing them since February. We have been waiting for my Dad to be able to come and help us with some finishing work on our kitchen remodel, and we finally decided that with our recent negative COVID tests and things starting to open up this next week anyway, we were comfortable with this. Plus, we've just really missed them!

We started off our Friday night with getting a local Buck and Honey’s takeout pizza (YUM) and watching “Sister Act”! I had forgotten all about that movie. The kids actually really liked it and it has all that fun music!

 When that ended it was only around 9:00 and we had more gas in the tank, so we ended up randomly picking a shorter movie on Netflix with Colin Firth called “What A Girl Wants”, about a 17 year old American girl who has never met her father, who is a British artisocrat. She goes off to finally meet him and of course doesn’t fit into the royal world….very predictable and a very fluffy movie, but it was cute and family friendly and had some both touching and funny parts.

No big plans here for the rest of the day! My Dad and Ivan are going to hopefully get our base moulding installed finally (we got new flooring back in February and haven’t had the moulding installed since!). Hoping for maybe a grill out day tomorrow if the weather holds. I was toying with the idea of trying to go somewhere to hike, but I feel like everywhere is going to be packed. Hmmmm.... 

Steps: 11,358
Meditate: No! Ugh. I'm not doing so hot on this lately. It just hasn't felt that natural and I'm having a hard time getting into it, despite my "Meditation May" attempt. I thought getting back into the consistent routine would help, but I feel like I'm kind of just going through the motions the last few days...
Read: 15 minutes

Daily Gratitude: I am grateful for the daily inspiration from my desk calendar. I enjoy reading these little entries each morning and they brighten my day. 😊

Friday, May 22, 2020

Friday Fives: Loves, Challenges and Food!

After what I feel was a week of sort of heavier, slightly emotional posts, I’m in the mood to do a fun Friday 5 post! I’m going to share 5 Loves, 5 Challenges and 5 Things I Enjoyed Eating (because why not?!) from the week.

Let’s start with the positives!

5 Loves:

1. News last night that Asher’s COVID-19 test was negative! Yay! He is also feeling 100% better (see yesterday's post about this).

2. On Wednesday, my “flex” day off of work, we had the most gorgeous weather. I got in two long outdoor walks, a fun bike ride with the boys and I even sat outside and did some stuff on my laptop on the deck for an hour in the afternoon (alone!). Also, I enjoyed seeing this cool heron on multiple occasions:

3. Yesterday I received word that starting next week (for at least the next two weeks- they will update us again after that), I only need to flex down by 8 hours per week of unpaid time instead of the original 12! Good news- moving in the right direction back toward full time work.

4. The boys and I tackled our overflowing game closet! We weeded out probably 30% of the games/ toys and it just looks and feels so much better and more organized now.


5.  My Mom received her first two Story Worth prompts (if you have been reading, you may remember I purchased her a subscription to “Story Worth” for Mother’s Day). Each week she will receive a writing prompt in her email about her childhood or past and in one year, all of the responses will be compiled into a hardcover book. The first two questions she had to answer were, “What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?” and “What was your most memorable birthday?”. She wrote super interesting responses and even attached old photos. So cool to read. I can’t wait for the book eventually! (Check out the product on their website here.) 

5 Challenges:

1. I struggled a bit more than usual with the boys just “around” constantly. I felt a little claustrophobic this week!

2. I “overslept” 2 days- once intentionally, once unintentionally. I felt thrown off those days without my early morning time.

3. I got super frustrated with some technical difficulties while trying to transfer photos from my iPhone to our external hard drive. Our family computer is old and needs to be replaced, and everything was taking too long and just driving me crazy.

4. I balanced our checkbook last night and I am off by a few cents. Enough said. Is there anything more frustrating than not being able to find those missing cents??

 5. I received word yesterday that my son’s summer swim camp is officially cancelled (as we expected, but still). Also, we learned this week neither the high school pool nor the city outdoor pool will open this summer, which is quite devastating to my son’s competitive swim team (who have all been out of the water since the end of February already).

5 Things I Enjoyed Eating!:

  1. The broccoli/ shrimp alfredo pasta I shared here, and especially the garlic bread!

   2. Sloppy joes and black pepper/ sea salt potato chips!!

   3. Several bites of Ethan’s Oreo McFlurry and Asher’s M&M McFlurry the other day

  4. These interesting “banana pancakes” I tried yesterday morning! (Literally the recipe is: 1  banana, 2 eggs. Blend. Pour into pan. The end).

   5.  A delicious spicy meal of ground turkey, onion, zucchini and pinto beans simmered in a salsa verde/ arbol sauce. SOOOOO GOOD!! Really, I outdid myself on this one. LOL!! 😊

Steps: 11,224
Meditate: Done
Read: 10 minutes

Daily Gratitude: I am grateful for good neighbors. Also, I'm so grateful that the boys have a great environment in our neighborhood to play outside. We live in a cul-de-sac, and I'm so grateful everyday for the amazing space for them to safely ride bikes and play games in the street. Also, we have several other young kids around. After the negative COVID test call yesterday, they raced outside to join in an epic game of dodgeball being played in the neighbor's yard. I'm so grateful they can have these traditional "outdoor" summer experiences. 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Our Field Trip to the COVID Testing Center....

So, I hadn't mentioned this yet, but this past Sunday Asher suddenly started complaining of a headache and was bit lethargic. By the evening he felt really warm, so we checked his temp. 102.9! Yikes.

Trying to get his vitamins in....he has been super into making frozen berry smoothies every morning!

 Normally I wouldn't really be that concerned and would have just chalked it up to a little bug and waited it out, but of course with the state of the world that it is, my mind went directly to COVID-19. 

I messaged his Pediatrician's office Sunday night just to let them know of the situation. I also actually had a hint of a sore throat (I had noticed it in the morning) but with the cool, rainy weather, I had just figured it was related to the weather changes or something. 

The next morning I got a response from the nurse asking how he was now that the night had passed and if he had any new symptoms. He woke up feeling better- headache was mostly gone - but he still had a low grade fever (99.4- 100.4). I let her know, and she responded "Great! Glad to hear he is feeling better!" And then she closed the encounter.

???? I don't know about you, but this struck me as a little bit odd! I mean, I know the odds of him having COVID are technically very low, but still, I feel like we keep hearing that if we have any COVID symptoms we should either get tested, self-isolate, etc.

Last time I checked, a headache, fever and lethargy were definitely on that list…. I was very encouraged by the fact that he started feeling better so quickly, but he did still have a fever. And I still had this mild, but lingering, sore throat. I guess I expected that she would maybe suggest he get tested, or at least maybe discuss it with us. 

Anyway, long story short, we ended up heading down to the new-ish Community Testing Center downtown. It was actually a pretty slick operation! We were in and out in less than 10 minutes. 

The whole thing was free, and we didn’t even have to get out of the car. A very friendly woman in a mask gave us some instructions at the entrance and then explained the process. We drove around to the back and more masked folks directed us to one of several lines. We waited just a few minutes behind one other car, then had a couple of masked people take a quick “intake” (just our names, address, phone number basically).

No one asked about any symptoms- my understanding is that this site is open for anyone who wants to get tested. I mostly just wanted to know, especially as restrictions start to loosen and we may start having slightly more exposure to other people.

A minute later, we pulled forward to the interesting part. There were 3 guys at a table in full body hazmat suits and those big gas mask type masks waiting to do our tests. 

Asher’s little eyes kind of bugged out at the sight of it! It was….very strange yet also kind of amusing to me. I mean, I get it- we need to keep them safe- but it was also just sort of bizarre! Definitely felt out of a sci fi movie.

They did the quick nasal swabs through the window and we were on our way! They told us we would hear results back in 3-5 days. I’m praying for a quick turn around. The boys had been allowed to play/ ride bikes outside only with a couple neighbors, but we have now told them they need to remain totally isolated until we get the results.

I’m pretty confident they will be negative, but of course we need to be cautious. You never know! We could be some of those people with “mild” symptoms…. Fingers crossed for negative results! I'll keep you all posted. :-) 

In other news, the boys and I have started a "Run 1 mile Everyday for 30 days" Challenge! We have just been taking turns on the treadmill since our road is all ripped up. Anyone want to join us??? :-) We are only 2 days in. I printed this little calendar for each of us to keep track of our times. This in addition to any "normal" workouts- just a fun little way to keep us moving, together!

Steps: 18,702! (Woo! Thanks to a morning walk, my normal Beachbody workout, a bike ride with the boys (I feel like sometimes that registers some steps?), mopping the kitchen floor, an hour long walk in the afternoon, plus a 1 mile treadmill run)
Meditate: Done
Read: No...darn it! 

Daily Gratitude:
I am grateful that I work from home. I was thinking about how this little "COVID" testing adventure would create many more potential issues if I were still working in the hospital. I'm not sure of all of the rules, exactly, but I would definitely feel more uncomfortable going in to work with patients after just having been around my son with a 102.9 fever! Fortunately, I am able to just continue work as normal this week. So, I am grateful for that! 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

My Gratitude Journey

My cover or "theme" photo for this blog and a picture I feel sort of embodies this whole gratitude movement to me. This photo was taken in Canyonlands National Park, Utah last August while I was vacationing with my family. It was one of those moments that I just felt overwhelmed by the vast openness and beauty of the enormous canyons. I remember sitting there and feeling incredibly grateful for the chance to be witnessing such beauty, on such a gorgeous day, with my entire family along to experience it with me. My mom snapped this picture when I wasn't looking, but I'm so glad she did. I will always remember the immense gratitude I felt in that moment when I see this photo. 

Good morning! 

Today's post is a little different. Joel O'Leary from at (the awesome guy who sends the brief daily inspirational and motivational emails I've talked about in previous posts- I'd highly recommend joining his email list!) asked me if I would like to write a short piece to go out in one of his daily emails! 

I was excited by the opportunity to get my new little blog "out there" to some new readers, and also to share a little bit of the backstory about how I got so interested in gratitude practice and the whole positivity movement in general. So, here you go! I wanted to share it first on the blog. Without further adieu, the beginnings of my "gratitude journey", from a chronic "complainer" to....someone who complains a little bit less 😊: 

It was a regular weekday evening, sometime in early winter several years ago. Let’s say mid-December.

 I was muddling through the usual after-school chaos with my boys- tired from work, cranky from sitting in traffic after my son’s piano lesson, and still facing the usual “what’s for dinner?” question along with dishes, homework, showers….

My husband walked in the door from work. I gave a brief smile and a “hi”, quickly turning back to rummaging through the fridge for an onion. He stopped to ask how my day was, and I sighed.

“Oh, okay, I guess… You know, I’m just tired and this house is a mess. Traffic was horrible…” I drifted off as he set his hand gently on my shoulder.

“Kae, do you ever realize just how much you complain??”, he asked quietly.

I paused. A wave of clarity suddenly washed over me. My normally very supportive husband was exactly right. ALL I ever did was complain! Sure, I was busy and tired, but what exactly were my complaints accomplishing? Did the traffic disappear because I complained about it? Would the dishes magically be done?

That day was a turning point in my life. I dove headfirst into studying the topic of daily gratitude practice.

I read an account of a person living in a cold, snowy climate who was out in the elements. While everyone around her grumbled about the weather, she chose to say, “Thank goodness I have these warm, cozy boots to keep my feet dry!”

I read another story of someone surrounded by sour-faced co-workers all day who instead chose to smile, “It was great to get outside for a walk on my break!”

Wow! This was incredible. I love the term “paradigm shift” and that’s exactly what it was for me.

 I started paying attention to this concept in my own life immediately and discovered just how often complaining had become my standard default. I vowed to change this.

When I walked into the gym the next morning and the woman at the desk said, “Yuck, that snow is really coming down out there!”, I replied, “It sure is beautiful!” When I ran into a friend who asked how I’d been, I said, “Really well- we’ve all stayed healthy so far this winter! Thanks!” instead of my standard “Busy…” reply.

Pay attention to those around you today, and yourself. How do you approach the day? As one problem after another? Or can you find a way to “flip” every moment into something good? Trust me, there is always something positive to be found. It takes a lot of practice to change old habits, but it’s worth the effort.

Just for fun, try to catch yourself in five complaints today. Before you say them out loud, spin them into a positive instead and see how you feel. 😊

I woke up and saw that my Mom shared this quote on Facebook this morning. It struck me that the attitude of gratitude is exactly what I am trying to develop into a true "way of life". I'm not there, yet, but working on it everyday!! I decided that today should be the day I shared my little gratitude journey story. I hope you liked it and that maybe it will help you start to look for the positives around you, too! I'm such a work in progress myself, but I can see the benefits of daily practice seeping into my life. 😊😊

Daily Gratitude:
I am grateful for photos! Yesterday I spent some time offloading photos from my iPhone to my external hard drive. Looking back over a year + of family photos makes me realize how grateful I am to be able to capture so many memories. I know there is NO WAY I would remember some small, special moments without them. Being able to look back on an old piano recital from years ago, or silly photos of the kids playing in the leaves in the fall is just priceless. I'm so grateful for how easy it is to take and keep photos these days! 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

An "Off" Day

The purpose of this blog for me was to be a place to share some of my personal life, as well as to be a place to talk about positivity, gratitude, productivity and just overall well-being- sort of my own little journey of personal growth, I guess you could say.

 That being said, one concern I have had is that I never want it to come across as if I am some kind of magic guru who has this stuff all figured out. I most certainly do not! I think that’s precisely why I enjoy talking about all these topics so much, since I am still very much a work in progress myself.

Yesterday was proof of that. Basically, I did everything wrong! I know better, but I still managed to have a pretty “off” day and made lots of classic mistakes. When Ivan got home and asked how my day went, I kind of wrinkled up my nose and shook my head, basically saying, “Eh, not so good.” I need a do-over. 😊

In trying to figure out exactly what went wrong, I think the biggest issue was lack of planning. I felt totally disorganized all day. This is not unique to me- I actually have this issue quite often, despite the fact that I am in many ways “a planner” (I.e. I make goals, lists, keep calendars, keep a habit tracker….).

I have a friend who once said I am a “disorganized, organized” person and I think that actually sums me up very well. This is something I am constantly striving to improve in my life!

Issues yesterday:

-hadn’t looked at any of the kids’ new school assignments until Monday morning- super bad plan!!

-no plan/schedule in place for the day! I hadn’t sketched out my work hours vs helping kids hours as I often do, which normally helps keep me on track

-hadn’t left the kitchen in good shape Sunday night, meaning I took a big chunk of time right away Monday morning trying to get the sink cleared and house in order before I could think straight (=time slipping away….)

-accidentally had my alarm set for 6:00 instead of 5:00, which completely threw off my morning routine

-planned to get groceries (or have Ivan stop after work) but hadn’t actually made a list (or meal plan!) on Sunday, which I then ended up doing while trying to help the kids get their week situated… leading to this disorganized feeling

- lack of schedule = internal chaos for me. Since I didn’t have clear cut times laid out of when to help the kids vs when to work, I was "kind of" helping them, but also mostly just wanting to get to work. I ended up short- tempered and not really that helpful to them (or focused on work!). I mostly just felt crabby and disoriented. As a result, I ended up starting work too late, leading to not getting enough done, leading to me having to work later in the evening after dinner! Grrr. (On the plus side- those after dinner hours were quiet, uninterrupted, focused and productive.)

Love this quote! I really think this is true. 

 But, that’s okay! Honestly, it all felt very “not so good” in the moment yesterday, but today is a rest day from my workout plan, so I have some extra time this morning. I’m going to attempt to map out the day and try to turn it around for the rest of the week!

A couple silver linings in the day:
 I still got my morning walk in with Ivan and I made this very delicious Shrimp and Broccoli Pasta dish (was on the meal plan from last week, but we never ended up making it last week). I took a quite luxurious, long, hot shower before bed last night too which was a nice little reset.

Pasta recipe here from A pretty basic, simple alfredo recipe but I really liked it! I've made it several times before. 

Steps: 10,181 (I may have literally been marching in place in the basement when I finished working, watching the 10 pm news to get these steps in!!)
Meditate: Done! 
Read: Not a chance yesterday. 

Daily Gratitude:
I am grateful for some good sleep lately. I am not usually one to sleep "a lot" or even probably "enough", but I do start to feel it if I don't get quality sleep for long stretches. I am grateful that I have been sleeping solidly through the night with no night time wake-ups or those dreaded nights where you wake up and just can't fall back to sleep! I'm grateful for what has felt like pretty restorative sleep the last couple of weeks.