Diapers and Dandelions: Mindful Balance

Should I pick it or leave it for the bees?

Should I pick it for me or leave it for the bees?

Last year I was beside myself when I found this dandelion lotion bar recipe.

I had begun my journey making DIY organic cleaners and beauty products a few months earlier, and this recipe was “Wow! Weeds to wonderful!” I loved everything about it.

The walks with the dogs were redefined. We were on a mission to collect dandelions. Unfortunately, I discovered the recipe late in the summer and soon learned that dandelions are more prolific in spring than in summer here. Through my efforts to find the weed, I became familiar with which households eliminated it and which ones simply mowed the lawn. I timed walks along some routes because I knew which tree had a dandelion growing under it.

I had a tray for drying the flowers, a jar for infusing them, and all the ingredients for the recipe. My first batch was small due to dandelion scarcity, and I fumbled the canning lid method, but I was thrilled with my lotion bars.

When we finally broke through our five or six days of Louisiana winter, I made sure to have pockets when I went for walks. Dandelions popped up everywhere before spring had even sprung on the calendar. DIY excitement!

Then it happened. The very first week I began harvesting weeds for wonder, a post: “Don’t pick the dandelions! They’re the bee’s first food in the spring.”

Whaaat?! I had become a bee enemy? I was trying to do a good thing.

I recovered from the sunken heart quickly. I don’t pick all of the dandelions and I provide a smorgasbord of bee sustenance throughout the year in my little yard. Nevertheless, I became more cautious about my harvest.

Bottom line: I am more aware of the impact of my actions. Isn’t that an important key to finding balance? Awareness.

When my children were babies, I used cloth diapers. For some reason this topic came up in a class I was teaching. One of my students mumbled something about bad and wasting water and Clorox. I may have reacted a bit. What did this 18 year old know about diapers. baby poop, and aquifers? Granted, I lived in Austin at the time, and water shortages were an issue, but really? Using cloth diapers worse than using disposable diapers?

In the end, my student gave me pause. Awareness.

I often live in the gray —in the middle, open-to-argument— because I strive be aware of both sides of a topic. Painfully at times when matters are personal, between friends. Happily when that awareness informs me in ways that bring measure to choices I make.

The things we do, even the good things, always have multiple impacts, and some are less felicitous than others. If we are aware and act with care, we can have dandelions for our skin without starving the bees, and we can use cloth diapers without drying up the aquifers.

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.

Deadlines Are Real

I missed a self-imposed deadline on Saturday.

Recurring: publish a post on Saturday.

Self-imposed: my effort to draw myself back to writing for real versus writing for rent.

I blew it.

I had my reasons.

But a deadline is a deadline. Or is it?

What does deadline even mean anymore?

With an etymological history that twists all the way back to civil war prisons and 19th century printing presses, the “line” was often imaginary. Yet, the word probably provoked terror among civil war POWs. Crossing the often unmarked imaginary line in a civil war prison could be lethal.

Today we wrap deadlines around our clocks and calendars, then toss them about with nonchalance. We start at a tender age, disguising the deadly words as “due dates” and end of term projects.

As our minds grow callous from rubbing against the calendars and clocks, we link our deadlines. Chains: The test is Tuesday. The term paper is due Friday. You’ll get your grade on Monday. If the chain is broken, Monday might be blue day.

Deadlines are the modern day ball and chain.

They’re often impossible. We toss about our calendars and clocks, and create a fabulously heavy ball. Everyone knows it will be a miracle to roll that ball up the mountain to that deadline. Yet, that is the deadline. When the weight of ball overtakes every effort and it rolls back down, smashing all the other little deadlines leading up to the big one, we regroup and reboot our calendars and clocks to start the deadline chain game again. Or we lose everything.

Deadlines are real.

I missed my deadline on Saturday. I didn’t lose my job over it. No company lost millions. Yet I was dismayed.


Sunflowers towering over my garden

We learn mundane urgencies that we don’t always call deadlines, yet they are. “Tend to the garden or the plants will die.” They cross the dead line.

Plants have one. Pets have one. People have one. They all eventually die.

If they matter to us, we must nurture and enjoy them while we can. We don’t think of these things in terms of deadlines, but there is a deadline, an ending.



Sometimes our mundane deadlines are the most significant and real parts of our lives. I missed most of my daughter’s senior-year events because I was scrambling to meet “important” deadlines for a textbook. I don’t remember what I had to do for those deadlines nor why I chose them over senior-year events. I will always remember, however, that my daughter attended the senior breakfast without a parent. I missed the more significant and real deadline.

Even in the 19th century, “deadline” evoked dismay. Printers would dismay when their words spilled past the deadline on their printing press.

I dismayed when my words didn’t make it to the deadline.

I’ll do better. I’ve made tiny and big promises to myself over the last few years to be present. That means being present with an open ear and heart for family and friends. It also means honoring the imaginary and insignificant deadlines I impose on myself.

So does this post make up for the deadline I blew on Saturday? No, silly wabbit! I’m not a time-traveler and Saturday is gone. But today I chose to take a few minutes for myself and meet my Tuesday deadline to share something I wrote for real.

Do something real for yourself today. It matters.

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.

Click here for more information on the origin of the word “Deadline”.

The Power of Presence

She walked with her dogs twice a day through our neighborhood and into the arboretum. I would see her, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the late afternoon, ambling luxuriously with her greyhounds, mouth barely, but convincingly, turned up in a smile.

One of the bridges in the LSU arboretum

LSU arboretum bridge

As I drove past her, she would turn in acknowledgment with a lazy grin and genuine southern saunter, as if she were nodding at me across the bubbles of a hot mineral spring, a sybarite draped across a chaise lounge mustering a sleepy greeting. She created a powerful wake of well-being as she passed. Whenever we crossed paths, I felt a wave of serenity, joy, and connection wash over me.

She lived around the block, not a quarter of a mile away from me, for as many as fifteen years. Yet I never exchanged more than those splendid passing greetings through the windshield. I didn’t know her name, her circumstance, her family, her profession. Even so, I felt like I knew her.

I’m sure this tall, slender, composed woman was that mom who would listen calmly to a frantic, troubled story, reach across the table when the story was complete and take the child’s hand, transfusing comfort and still: everything will be okay. She didn’t fall apart. She was the calm in the chaos, the unruffled in the frenzy. She was a good listener, communicating more in the quiet reverie of listening than the thousands of words she gracefully absorbed from a rambling friend.

I don’t know that I realized how much I enjoyed passing her as she strode into the arboretum, that I had a subconscious longing to be her friend, to get to know her. She lived so close and it was always wonderful to see her. I didn’t realize the magnitude of her presence until I realized that we no longer crossed paths. She was gone. Since she lived around the block on a parallel street, I wasn’t sure which house was her home and I hadn’t been aware of anyone moving out or into the neighborhood from that street. Nonetheless, I am certain now. She’s gone.

Most importantly, I have realized that I would love to be like her. I don’t mean that I would like to be taller and thinner, with short red hair, a pair of greyhounds, and a happy quiet life around the block. But I would love to exude that comforting presence that rippled around her as wide as the street and as infectious as a baby’s smile.

She may not have been any of the things I imagined. She may have been a frantic disaster, who troubled and tormented her family and friends. She may have self-medicated before taking walks so that she could step out with an artificial air of confidence and comfort. Though, I don’t think so. For me, she will always and ever be that lift in my day, that heartening neighbor, that genuine completely present person who inspired me to slow down the frenzy, uplift a friend, comfort a child, listen with good ears, and be present for the moment.


Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.

It’s time for a word.

I needed a word.

I wanted to write more, so I explored WordPress. I must have accidentally created an account, because before I knew I had one, I had a follower. It was time to write.

We all struggle with something or many things. Some things are a steeper climb than others. My steep climb, my Everest, is writing, really writing, for myself. I write. I write a lot. I write every day. But what I write is the equivalent of paying rent for a pad instead of paying mortgage for a home.

The year I accidentally WordPressed, I made a resolution to “write for real” vs. “write for rent.” Since then, I’ve been “writing” my ship and steering it towards my intention of 30 plus years.

Write for real.

I hope you find a truth here and there, a reason to come back, a little inspiration to follow your own dream. This blog is my acknowledgment of taking control.  I’m harnessing the power of my word for me.

This is my lexical gymnasium. My wordsmith shop. My lingual studio.

It’s time for a word.

Won’t you join me?

© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2015
Updated 2016
@ Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2016