Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Asheville Adventure!

In early March, I wrote about the Adventure Principle, stating in that blog "my soul tends to need renewing as the seasons renew." While I love a big adventure that involves planes or trains or long, long drives, I'm a huge fan of the mini-break...little weekend getaways that break up the everyday routines. Because I believe in living simply, I try to keep these mini-breaks local enough that we are seeing new sites without large traveling expenses. After all, even a walk in a different part of one's hometown can be an adventure! By keeping them somewhat local, however, I believe we appreciate more what our own area of the world has to offer, which is ALOT!

This past Monday was Memorial Day, and Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the beginning of summer in the US. As temperatures soared this week, we headed to for the coolness of the Western NC mountains to visit Asheville for the holiday weekend. The first stop was the main Spiritex store for a little eco-friendly shopping!

And a show! The Carolina Catskins, one of Asheville's popular street music groups, were performing directly outside the Spiritex shop. We enjoyed listening to them very much!

Later we enjoyed lunch at a favorite restaurant and looking about in the town...

I love hotels and staying in new places. On this trip, we stayed at the Days Inn on Tunnel Road, near the Asheville mall. I knew I had chosen nice place to stay when I was checking in and saw complimentary holiday-themed pastries with coffee in the lobby! We were very satisfied with this hotel and I would recommend it if you are traveling to Asheville for overnight stay!

Though Asheville has an endless array of things to do and see, we were all about being outdoors and taking it easy. As well as city exploring, there was much swimming and poolside lounging to be enjoyed!

A major highlight of the trip was a session at Asheville's Therapeutic Salt Cave. I can't say enough wonderful things about this place. I've wanted to try it for a very long time, and I'm so glad I did! My son enjoyed it alot as well. It was very peaceful, healing experience! I could not take any pictures because of policy, but visit to see images and learn more!

The best thing about our holiday is it did not, as we say here, 'break the bank'. It did not even come close. We were able to have a great time without overspending on activities and souvenirs. I try to apply simple living practices I believe in so strongly to traveling as well as daily life. We enjoyed the sights and sounds of the city, delicious foods and colors present everywhere.

A fun treat was having coffee and dessert in this renovated double-decker bus, brought over from England in the 1970s and converted to a coffee shop!

I must say again, there is so much to do in Asheville, more than I have even touched on in this post. But this is a little glimpse of our time there, which was so wonderful and refreshing break from routines. And because Asheville is only a couple of hours from our town, I was home Sunday just in time for an evening run! 

And now to focus on remaining school days and then changes as we begin a summer schooling program, a new experience for the both of us that changed our summer travel and leisure plans, but has also opened up new opportunity for me to pursue a goal I've had for a long time. Here's a hint: it's related to yoga! More on that coming in future post! :-)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Special News for Readers of PanPanStudios AND The Mother Magazine

In conjunction with The Mother Magazine, I am thrilled to be able to offer my blog readers a 20% on subscriptions using the following code: panpanstudios

This promo code will again save you 20% from a yearly subscription to The Mother Magazine. Read about my experiences writing for this wonderful publication here and here. I will also have an article in an upcoming issue about a subject near and dear to my heart that many readers might relate to! I'm mum on the subject for now, but let's just say I had big smile on my face when I was given the assignment!

I'm also thrilled with my new running clothes. I think one great thing about any health and fitness passion like running and yoga is that it is another reason to buy new clothes.

And spend time outdoors, with my son, which is so important to me.

Leaving him behind with another person while I exercised was never really an option for me, and I'm so glad now about that because it forced me to monitor and adjust how I could work exercise and time outdoors into my life. Leaving him in gym daycares while I worked out on machines never really made me feel happy or good about what I was doing. Taking him along worked out much better for the both of us, though it is hard for him at times to keep up! 

And other times, it is hard for ME to keep up!


Also he learns street safety with bike, which is not so very different in many ways than street safety with automobile, which he will be learning in only 6 short years, hard to imagine, right? 

Yesterday we saw the pileated woodpecker, always a delight, on our morning run/ride and also many nice holiday decorations, like these flags blowing in a most welcomed breeze. I think it was already high into the 80s when we headed out, and breeze was little bit of heaven!

These pictures and words serve as little teaser in small way about upcoming article for The Mother Magazine, and I hope you'll take advantage of the 20% off discount and subscribe today! You'll be delighted as I am every time you open your mailbox and see it there!

Now, this mum and boy are off for an Asheville, North Carolina holiday weekend which includes a visit to Spiritex main store location and also Asheville Salt Cave Sauna and a whole lotta poolside lounging!

Don't forget, 20% discount code for The Mother Magazine for my readers is panpanstudios

Friday, May 23, 2014

Giving Back

Giving back is so important. I've always believed this and try to instill this value in my son. With our busy lives, however, it can be difficult to find time to volunteer, and if you are like me, you want to give back in more ways than just writing a check (though that is a good way and always needed!)

Several years ago, I took my son along to meetings concerning a stretch of land that was being proposed for two purposes: left as green space in the form of a park, or developed into a plaza of strip malls with parking lot. It would have been prime commercial property, and there were many meetings and gatherings. We attended as many as we could. My son was much younger and not always keen to sit through them, but I tried to express to him how important it was we were there. We were speaking up for nature, for green space in our world, something very important to us both.

We always feel a sense of loss when we pass woods being cut down for purpose of subdivisions and more shopping plazas. It is helpless feeling but this was one way we could fight back. In the end, our votes mattered and the land was slated to remain green space and become a new park (yaaay!)

Fast forward several years, and we are beginning to see the park developing and it's very exciting. Even more exciting that we get to be a park of it through volunteering!

There is so much work to be done. This week, my son and I got to be a part of that work, much of which consisted simply of hauling logs and branches from surrounding areas to a designated spot so they could be carried away by machines later. This was good, physical labour, outside in the warm air, natural exercise in the outdoors, which is the best in my book. I love it!  My son was eager to get started, but after a half hour or so of hard work, he was sweaty, tired, and ready for a break.

I reminded him again why we were there, why it is so important to give back and spend time in service, especially when that service is for something near and dear to your heart. I don't believe giving back should be about boosting one's ego or padding one's resume. I believe it is important to simply 'put our money where our mouth is' when it comes to how we spent our time and energy. I remind my son that we can't just talk about how nature and green space are important to us, we have to be willing to sometimes work for it. Fight for it, even. We have to be willing to spend our time and energy making sure what is important to us survives, and thrives. We have to be willing to show we care about nature by our actions, not just our words.

At the end of our work time, I felt great from good exercise outdoors and also had enjoyed a nice conversation with a co-volunteer who is on the board of directors for the park planning. She also asked my son many questions about what he thought should be available in the park for children to enjoy. It was so nice to hear how the plans for the new park are coming together and expected to unfold. It was a lot of hard work in warm temperature lining up branches and logs, but worth it, as meaningful volunteer work should be. 

It means so much to me that my son is a willing part of the work, too. As I wrote in another blog last year, there is no such thing as doing small things to take care of the environment as every effort helps, and it is so important to involve children in taking care of nature so they learn to care about the environment, too. It's also important to teach them the value and beauty of service, of doing something with no regard to personal gain, but simply giving of one's time and energy to help someone else - in this case, Mother Nature!

 I look forward to more volunteer days with my son at the new park and seeing how it all comes together! If you are local reader and would like to get involved, or you just would like to learn more and also see photos, plans, etc. click here.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Making New Memories at Star Fort

This hasn't been the easiest week. Coming to terms with difficult choices, learning to live with a new normal, and making space for sadness in order to process things in a healthy way that allows for acceptance of truths and moving on in a timely manner...all while working a full-time job and parenting a child and maintaining a might easily imagine I was very much looking forward to the weekend. Though I'd taken a few days off at the beginning of the week, there is just something special about weekends.

Yesterday, I woke up to a rare 50 degree May morning, and took a great long run. My son rode along with me on his bike, which I love, because it means he's getting fresh air, time outside, and good exercise along with me. Then we headed over to one of our favorite places, The Star Fort in Ninety Six, South Carolina.

I wasn't initially keen to go here, as I did not want to revist memories of the last time we had come to Star Fort. However, there was a living history event taking place, with people dressed in period clothing and fun Revolutionary War-era games and crafting demonstrations. My son had heard about it and was really eager to go.

So we did. We enjoyed the living history and participating in the sack racing...

Then we headed down the trail for some fort touring and a little gun play!

Along the way, we came upon a sign we've always stopped and looked at, a sign which leads to a different path than the one we usually wander along. I've often said one day we'd walk that path and see what mysteries it held. Though I'm not a spontaneous person by nature, I decided, in that moment, why not walk it today? I wasn't really dressed or prepared for deep woods exploring, but I decided to be more spontaneous person and so we headed out!

I was so thrilled to be out in nature, seeing new things...

My son was ecstatic that we were finally exploring this new trail. And he found a treasure!

I stopped often, took in the sights and sounds, allowed the beauty, quiet and calm to still me...

Each new moment served to help erase the memories I associated with the last time I was here.  Reclaiming this place with a new experience of it somehow made me feel so much better. Or maybe it was just being out in nature. No one else was around. The trail went on for miles...

So much spring growth and green and beauty. An owl, swooping through the trees. Hawks crying out. Something scurrying away as we approached. Woodland butterflies in such abundance they were literally bouncing off our foreheads and shoulders.

Far along the trail, we turned around, deciding to go no further as grey clouds were beginning to block out the sun and cause a damp coolness to settle in. We found a different trail and exited from a different path, seeing more new sights on the way out.

Later, there would be a trip to Lowes to buy new patio furniture (something long overdue), dinner out with a friend, and coffee + late evening conversation on the patio...

This day would be one of peace, laughter, time in nature, quality time with my son. A day of new memories to take to place of old.

And on this rainy Sunday morning, I'm realizing that might just be the key to healing, really.... 

Friday, May 16, 2014

When It's Okay NOT To Keep Your Word

This past weekend was Mother’s Day, and my son’s gift to me, which he procured on his own, shopping with the assistance of a kindly department store manager and sales associate, was this lovely black and white sunhat.

I was thrilled.

I was also impressed by his remembering I wanted a sun hat to take to the beach in a few weeks, as well as my passion for any and all things black and white. 

 This reminded me once again that our children are always paying attention. And that’s pretty huge, for me. As my son’s only parent, I am and will always be the primary role model in his life. Of course I tell him things that I think he needs to know about life, but I’m aware, at all times, it is my actions that speak louder than anything I can say. 

It is very important to me that my son respects me. That I set a good example, by treating others well and demonstrating love, forgiveness, and compassion in my actions, not only my words.

I’ve always told him to be careful making promises, because once you give your word, you should keep it. No excuses. But is that really true? Does there come a time when it is perfectly okay not to keep your word any longer? Is ever okay to simply stop being there for someone, even though you've sworn on more than one occasion you'd never abandon them?

I'm going to have to say YES. 

When it is causing me more pain to remain in a situation than it would to leave, I know I need to make a choice. And honestly, choices like this should be no-brainers when...

-          …you begin to feel that you have been/are being used as a support system, rather than actually valued as a person (there is a tremendous difference). 

-          …what once felt like a deep friendship has began to feel more and more imbalanced, and the give/take ratio is not at all in your favor.

-          …evening comes and you feel that you haven’t had time to think about your own stuff all day because you had to focus on the other person’s problems and pull them through.

-          …you begin to feel that every single thing they have ever done for you and/or said to you has been merely to serve their own agenda (never really, actually, about you) of keeping you in place as their go-to person.

-          …there has been a significant passage of time after a difficult situation they blame for all their issues, but they are still stuck. And you just can’t do any more than you’ve already done to help them move forward. And you’re tired of the wallowing. (Remaining stuck is a choice, and you know this, because you chose to do it once yourself.)

-          …you start to wonder if perhaps you are enabling them, and you begin to think it might be better for both of you if they learned to stand on their own.

And most importantly…

-          …you remember that your child is always learning from you not only how to treat other people, but what type of treatment to accept from others as well. Personally, the last thing I would ever want to teach my son is that it is okay to accept less than what he deserves from another person, regardless of what he may have promised them at one time.

And at the end of the day, I need to be at peace with myself, my actions, and the way I live my life, not only how I treat other people, but also how I allow myself to be treated, because my life is not only an example to  my son, it is my one and only wild and sacred time here on this earth. So again, yes, it is okay to go back on your word when a person you've promised to stand by is taking far more from you than they are offering in return. And while it may be difficult at first to let them go, sometimes it is the only path to your peace.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A New Normal

This morning, for the third in a row, I woke up with an absence.

A change. A variance from a routine I'd grown accustomed to, and very much enjoyed. Something I cherished and looked forward to, each and every day, throughout the day, and into the future.

Now, like a puff of smoke, it and everything associated with it is gone.

I have my morning coffee in silence, with a heavy heart. This is a new normal, and I have to get used to it. I take a deep breath.

In an article from Elephant Journal titled Everything the Buddha Ever Taught in 2 Words, Suzuki Roshi is asked to sum up the Buddha's teachings in just one phrase. The response is simply "Everything Changes".

The article is powerful. Read it if you have a moment. As humans, one of our biggest sources of suffering is that we forget this simple reality. We become attached to our routines. We become attached to people, places, even television programming. We become attached to expectations and hopes. And the reality is, all of this is fluid, moving, always in a state of flux. Situations change, and people change. Or rather, sometimes people don't change. In any event, our perceived normal is always subject to fall right out from under us, leaving us to pick up the pieces and start again.

All we have is the moment. And while this new normal is hard for me right now, it is not as hard today as it was on Monday, or yesterday. In January, I wrote with joy about what turtles, knitting and life could teach us. I didn't realize that those lessons were not complete yet. In 2011 I was rocked to my foundation by the same events happening now, and perhaps the final lesson from this long, sordid chapter of my life is that the past doesn't get to repeat itself a second time. In the same situation now that I found myself in 3 years before, I do not react the same way. There are no Sad Eyes this time around. Life is short. Far too short for that.

Today I am so grateful for my friends Debby, Beverly, and Dana, who have encouraged me the past few days and reminded me of so many things I already knew, but needed to hear again. They will be there for me if I slip, and hold me accountable to my intentions, empower me with their support. I am grateful also for my other friends who, reading my previous post, saw between the lines and reached out Monday and yesterday,  letting me know they were there if needed. What a blessing, really and truly, to have. I am grateful for my son, who told me yesterday, when I explained the situation, "Mama, don't be sad about it. It's so not worth it." (God I love that kid!)

And I am grateful for my readers, who follow the journey of my life through my words here. I could not do this without you! I would love it if you shared your own experiences of confronting new normals and dealing with change. We all go through it, in some form or fashion, and it never is easy, even when the changes are desired. When I participated in Hannah Marcotti's Making Space Cleanse in April, I never imagined I'd be making space for this in just a few short weeks. Ah, but that goes back to Suzuki Roshi's words, everything changes. And we must allow space for it.

I didn't know how to do this in the past, but thankfully, I have now learned. It's finally come full circle; the lesson is complete.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Good Cry

So often we tell ourselves, our children, and others, not to cry.

Truth is, sometimes, a good cry is just what we need. Just as yoga practice and quiet time in nature can be healing, so can letting tears cleanse us, letting them wash away the residue of rejection and hurt and loss and disappointment.

Still, when we see tears in the eyes of others, or feel them forming in our own eyes, 'Don't cry' is the mantra we reach for. There are even songs about not crying, how big girls don't cry, or someone won't cry over someone else.

Crying is not a bad thing, however. Children know this, and yet we train it out of them at earliest age we can. Perhaps to cry all day for series of days is not healthiest reaction to a situation, but to give in to a good, cleansing cry in a moment of deep hurting can be healing on many levels. If nothing else, it forces us to confront our feelings.

 Grief, disappointment, rejection, sadness, all of these emotions are painful. They hurt. Sometimes, it's almost physical. Crying is our bodies natural response to these emotions, and because I believe in the body's ability to heal itself, I believe it's perfectly natural, healthy response. Why people fight it, or see not crying as a sign of strength, I do not understand. 

Perhaps it is more the opposite. Perhaps confronting our feelings is, even when they bring tears, is actually strength.

This morning, I cried for a good long time, and as I sit down to write this, I feel more focused, stronger than I did before. The pain is still with me, but as this day progresses, I can take little steps forward, because I am not afraid to make space for this sadness. To sit with it, confront it. Not with anger, not with blame, not with denial, but with the knowledge that I must adjust to this 'new normal' (post on adjusting to a new normal coming soon). I must allow space for how I am feeling, I must give it presence so I can process it, and let it go. If tears are part of the experience, well, it's just my body's way of helping me move forward.

So next time you experience sadness and feel like crying, go to some quiet place alone and let your body help you in the natural, simply way it is designed to do. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My Favorite Breakfast!

I admit I've always been a bit of a healthy food fanatic. Part of it is growing up and seeing the effects of poor eating habits on those close to me, but also I just know I feel better when I eat better. I have more energy and I love the idea that my primary diet consists of whole, real foods.

However, some things taste so yummy they are hard to resist, like the cookies that were present in the break room at work. They were a delight with my afternoon coffee, and on occasion, sweets aren't so bad of course, but a couple of hours later, I felt so sluggish and tired. Few nights ago I helped myself to some Doritos my son was having with supper. The taste was superb, but the heavy, blah feeling in my belly that came later was not so nice.

So I've learned what works for me, what to indulge in, and what to avoid. I know 'wheat belly' is not a myth and that sugar can feed the feeling of fatigue. I've studied about healthy eating and the body and learned, based on my own experiences, what works for me. What works for you may be different entirely.

One thing that works for me is eating a hearty breakfast, and I'm sharing my absolute favorite breakfast recipe with you right now! I go to bed each night thinking how good breakfast is going to taste in the morning - I love it that much! I eat before 6am most mornings as I leave for work around 7am. I try and avoid snacking during the day, so I need to start my morning with food that will 'stick with me' until lunchtime! 

Here is my morning blend:
Quaker Warm and Crunchy Cranberry Almond Blend. (If you're committed to organic you might can find a similar mix or make up your own with similar ingredients!) Add required amount of milk for preferred consistency, heat until desired temperature (according to instructions)
1 teaspoon organic Chia seed.
handful of organic blueberries (I use frozen as I like the contrast of warm oats with cold berries!)

Stir all ingredients together, then drizzle with honey. I use local, it's healthier and yummier!

Hope you'll enjoy this morning meal as much as I do!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Big Exciting (Fashion+Writing) News!

This blog originally appeared on the Spiritex website at on May 2, 2014.



Can these two words co-exist, together?

I’m delighted to tell you yes, they can, right here in Upstate South Carolina, in Greenville’s Spiritex boutique, located on Main Street. And I’m thrilled beyond words to be collaborating with this wonderful company to share their mission and share with you a 100% organic, locally operated clothing line with two walk-in stores and an online shop as well.

I did not know about Spiritex until this spring break week, when, walking in downtown Greenville, the Spiritex sign outside the shop caught my attention. 

The items inside the shop held my attention however, as well as the basis on which the clothing line was founded. From Farm to Fashion, the logo states. 

I can’t say enough about this concept! Borrowing from the website, "...the Spiritex mission is to build a bridge from farm to fashion by deploying local, sustainable and ethical resources."

Who can’t love this?

I fell in love with the Crinkle Cotton Tank Dress in poppy, a perfect item to pair with leggings or jeans under a denim jacket in spring and fall, and on its own with simple sandals for warm summer days.

It feels like heaven on the skin, the colors is fabulous, and the best part, I can feel good about what I am buying because I'm supporting an ethical company…and because I am in a process of simplifying my life and this includes my wardrobe, I am interested in quality, not quantity, pieces I can mix and match and use in a variety of seasons – easily possible in the mild climates of the American South, but through layering, possible in other places as well (Spiritex will ship directly to your door!)

 The Spiritex brand uses simple, elegant lines in their designs, which complement a variety of body sizes and wardrobe preferences, and include items for work and fun, as well as evening-appropriate dress-wear for a night on the town…not to mention a bevy of items for the little ones to round out the selection.

Organic cotton, grown and spun right here in the USA. Clothing created locally, by family owned companies near Spiritex’s Asheville, NC headquarters. My purchase helping to sustain not only local economy, but family-owned business and the environment as well? Oh, yeah. The selection of locally made jewelry items and accessories were also a delight. You just have to visit, either online or in person, and see for yourself.

I am definitely going to be a repeat customer at Spiritex, and I can’t wait to visit the Asheville location! I'm very excited about the collaboration which will allow me to share with you, in the next few weeks, more items from Spiritex!