Archive for September, 2012

The joy of napping

While visiting with some relatives last weekend, I got to talking to my cousin’s 4-year-old son, B. Here’s what I learned: B loves Annie’s macaroni and cheese; his older brother H  “won’t let him” play with cousin E; and he likes his school, but he hates nap time.

“Just wait until you’re my age, B,” I said, “and you’ll be wishing you had nap time!” B, like any self-respecting 4-year-old, looked at me blankly. If he were a few years older, he would have added the eye roll, and I don’t blame him. After all, who among us didn’t hate when our older relatives would say things like, “just you wait…” or “when I was your age…” or “my, how you’ve grown!”

B then went on to talk about some other very important things, like how he loves lemonade and Spiderman.  But his napping predicament made me think about how children will often fight sleep, even when they are really tired. It seems that, at their young ages, the world is full of new, exciting experiences, and they don’t want to miss out on any fun.    My niece L, pictured above, also puts up a valiant fight before nodding off.

Though I’m quite a few years older than B and L, even I can also find myself fighting the need to sleep — though not for the same reasons.

Well, to be honest, sometimes I struggle to stay awake so I can watch that all-important rivalry game conveniently scheduled at 9 p.m. on Wednesday nights.

But mostly I’m fighting sleep because I have to: it’s not acceptable to nod off at work. In fact, there’s a work rule specifically warning against such activity.  But should there be?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, “While naps do not necessarily make up for inadequate or poor quality nighttime sleep, a short nap of 20-30 minutes can help to improve mood, alertness and performance.”

An article on Salary.com lists nine reasons why you should nap at work.  Those reasons include: napping is good medicine, and napping helps boost the economy.    Why shop when you can nap?

Some folks, like my friend S, say they can’t nap during the day.  Others say they can nap, but need to have at least two hours for a good, long rest.   I am fortunate:  being from a long line of nappers, I can take 10- to 20-minute power naps (when not at work) and waken refreshed and invigorated.

Of course the ideal situation is to get a good night’s rest so a nap isn’t necessary.  I’m finding that seven hours is the magic number for me.  And because I get up at 5 a.m., that means being asleep at 10 p.m.   While I try to schedule my life so that I can get enough sleep, sometimes it just doesn’t work out.  Hence the need for a nap.

How about you?  How much sleep do you  need, and how much do you actually get?  Can you  nap, and, if so, can you nap at work?




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photo courtesy of Microsoft

Some time ago, I swore I would stop reading books about other people’s experiences walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. I felt I had learned enough about what to expect on my walk, as well as what to take and how best to prepare for the walk. But mostly, I didn’t want my own expectations of the walk to be colored by other people’s experiences.

That pledge lasted perhaps six months.  Then, a few weeks ago, I saw a list of favorite Camino books on an internet forum. One title happened to catch my eye: “To the Field of Stars: A Pilgrim’s Journey to Santiago de Compostela” by Kevin A. Codd.

This book was written by a Catholic priest and, as such, has much more of a Catholic perspective than the other books I’ve read. I enjoyed it immensely, and will probably purchase a copy to give to MamaNell, who is a practicing Catholic herself.

Because I’m no longer Catholic, I’m not quite sure how to appropriately reference the author.  In the hope of not offending, I will call him Father Kevin, since MamaNell refers to her parish priest by his first name.

So, back to the book.   I was reading along at a fast clip, loving Father Kevin’s humor and his references to mystical experiences.  (At one point, he feels the presence of former pilgrims walking with him.)   Then I come upon the chapter on  suffering.  At this point in the book, Father Kevin has been having a bit of a tough time.  His backpack is heavy, and his feet hurt and are blistered.  At one point, he gets a painful bout of tendonitis. He recounts having a conversation with a stranger in which he mentions something along the lines of, “what is a Camino without suffering?”    The stranger answers something along the lines of, “if there’s not joy, then why do it?”

Father Kevin, like many others I know, feels there is value in suffering and that we can transcend/heal through the pain.  I agree that suffering can open our hearts and make us more compassionate.  I also agree that pain is a part of life, and since it’s there, why not use it for something good.  Offer it up, if you will.

Though, this chapter got me thinking:  does one have to suffer in order to walk the Camino?    I certainly hope not.  In fact, I’m spending an inordinate amount of time training in order to be as physically prepared as possible.   Blisters may be inevitable, but would it be so awful if I were able to prevent them?    Judgments about other walkers may come up, but what if I were to look at my prejudices ahead of time and perhaps work through and release some of them pre-walk?      What if I were able to plan for my dietary restrictions so I don’t go hungry?   Does that make me somehow less of a true pilgrim?

I guess the issue might boil down to how one defines pilgrimage.  For me, this walk is not about atoning for sins.  It’s about a deeper connection with God.   And I’d personally like that deeper connection to be as joyful as possible.   Yes, pain is a part of life.  But I’d like to learn to transcend the pain by choosing to see the joy, the love, the divinity in every situation.  Of course, I’m not quite there yet, but I figure a nice, long walk to contemplate the matter might help me along.

So my intention, which I am loudly declaring, is for my Camino (and my life) to be joyful!





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Historically, fall has not been one of my favorite seasons. The main reason being that fall ushers in shorter days, and I need lots of sunlight.

But, that being said, there’s plenty to love about fall: cooling temperatures after a sweltering summer, college football (Duke is 1-0!), and beautiful foliage on the trees. All those reds, oranges and yellows brighten my mood.

But my favorite thing about fall is green — specifically, the greens that grow in my garden.

Growing a fall garden in North Carolina seems a bit counter-intuitive. In order for cool-season crops to mature, one must plant them in the blistering heat of August.

So about a month ago, I pulled out my seed packets and got to work. As is my practice, I threw out way too many seeds, figuring I could always thin the plants along the way.


The beds above, with arugula, chard and collards, are already ready to be thinned.


So are the mustard greens and lettuce above. I’m envisioning a meal of micro-greens!


The picture above is part of a bed planted two weeks ago. The cabbage is emerging, but no such luck with the spinach.


Here’s the rest of that garden bed. The kale and turnip greens are toward the back; the bald spots up front are where more chard and beets were seeded.

My soil is not the most fertile, so I’m not surprised the spinach didn’t take. But the chard normally does well. I was confused! But lately I’ve noticed Socks the cat sleeping in the front areas of that bed, squishing any seedlings that had a chance to sprout. Mystery solved!

I’ve got about 10 more beds (3x3s, 3x6s and 3x12s) to plant, so hopefully I can get more chard and spinach growing there. And hopefully I can find another, more suitable napping spot for Socks.

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