Get Your Zzzz’s, Please!

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Posted by Gwyn MacDonald

I just watched a new documentary about sleep (and you should too!) created by the National Institutes of Health and National Geographic.

Or should I say our insane LACK of sleep here in the United States! Wow! The numbers of folks getting 6 hours of sleep or less each night is staggering and frightening if we consider how many of them drive on our highways daily.

There are tons of facts to absorb in this documentary and I already know how important sleep is to our general health, but this was a real wake up call (oh, sorry for that pun…) to the negative health consequences that come from chronic lack of sleep.

According to the NIH, chronic sleep deprivation is linked to an increased risk of diabetes, unhealthy weight gain, heart conditions, cancer, hormone imbalances (especially those associated with blood sugar) and emotional and mental health instabilities. There is also ongoing research about the connection between Alzheimer’s disease and sleep’s restorative role in brain and overall health. Very interesting!

To paraphrase one of the documentaries many experts, a man associated with highway and traffic safety agencies; “Every aspect of human behavior is impaired and degraded by lack of sleep. Situational awareness, memory, communication, decision making and reaction time have all been shown to drop by 20-50%.” Chronic sleep loss also creates a 40% deficit in the capacity of the brain to make and hold on to new memories.

Again, wow.

I’m not trying to scare you but watching this documentary scared me a little bit. In a good way actually. I’ve started to take my sleep much more seriously. Now I’m not chronically sleep deprived in anyway, but I don’t sleep well on a regular basis. Most of that comes from having a very active and often anxious brain. Or from having a cup of caffeine at 4 in the afternoon, or that extra glass of wine with dinner. Or from staring at my computer screen right before I go to bed. All things I am aware of but have chosen not to take so seriously. Until now!

So I’ve begun to change some of these little things that will make a big difference in my sleep habits:

  • No computer 30 minutes or more before bed
  • No caffeine after noon
  • Less alcohol or none with dinner during the work week
  • Chamomile or other calming herbal tea 30 minutes before bed
  • Light, humorous reading or breathing & meditation in bed before lights out

I’ve noticed a difference! I am getting deeper and almost uninterrupted sleep. Getting more exercise during the week will help as well. One suggestion in the documentary that I haven’t tried yet is waking up at the same time every day regardless of when you go to sleep. This technique is often used for folks with insomnia but can be helpful for all of us to get us back in tune with our natural rhythms. Here’s to a good nights sleep!

Cheers! (with herbal tea!)

Here’s to Daydreaming!

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Posted by Gwyn MacDonald

Well, it’s finally happened. Science has proven that what I’ve been doing for most of my life is actually very important and beneficial to our brain health. I’m talking about daydreaming (Not to be confused with procrastinating, which I can take to Olympian levels, believe me!).

You know what I mean. Wandering around in the valleys and mountains of your mind. Building your dream garden or meditation space in your mind. Creating that spectacular clothing line in fabric that you designed or dyed yourself. Starring in that movie or novel you’ve been concocting for a few years now. Or just traveling around and embracing what ever shows up.

We all do it, but most of us stop ourselves and get back to being more “productive” as soon as possible. Daydreamers have gotten a bad reputation in the past but check out some of the benefits of daydreaming, excerpted from a cool article in the Huffington Post, How daydreaming can actually make you smarter:

These rewards include self- awareness, creative incubation, improvisation and evaluation, memory consolidation, autobiographical planning, goal driven thought, future planning, retrieval of deeply personal memories, reflective consideration of the meaning of events and experiences, simulating the perspective of another person, evaluating the implications of self and others’ emotional reactions, moral reasoning, and reflective compassion… From this personal perspective, it is much easier to understand why people are drawn to mind wandering and willing to invest nearly 50 percent of their waking hours engaged in it.

I say, get back to daydreaming, right away! You know you were going to….

Tell Me You Love Me

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Posted by Gwyn MacDonald

It’s short and sweet today folks, but very, very important.

As I’ve said before, all we have are moments and before we know it many moments have passed before we realize how long it’s been since we’ve seen a dear friend or called a distant relative or thanked someone for helping us when we needed it.


Tell the people you love that you love them! Freely and Often!

And if you are with them, give them a hug too! Don’t think I need to add too much more here, do I?

With Love,


Celebrating Another Milestone, or Just Another Excuse for More Champagne

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Posted by Judy Moon

We recently celebrated our one year anniversary of the Wellness Seed blog. I am super excited about that and very proud of stepping our of the box and doing something that I didn’t think I could do. And I am even more excited that my Associates also wanted to contribute – go team!

I am also celebrating another one year anniversary – it has been a year since I started my Mindfulness Meditation practice. More champagne corks popping please!

I go to the beach the first week of September every year and last year I posted The Body Scan about packing my bags with Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat Zinn, the guided Mindfulness CDS for practice and acting as if I was enrolled in the eight week Mindfulness Based Meditation course. It’s all laid out in the book for you and I thought vacation would be the perfect time to kick off that 45 minute body scan daily. Daily mediation on the beach – easy peasey- NOT!

I have dabbled over the years in meditation, being very diligent for periods of time but never had a really strong dedicated practice. I clearly remember sitting in my beach chair last year hearing Jon’s soft voice in my ears saying -“let go of the tendency we all have of wanting things to be different from what they are right now and allow things to be exactly where you find them” and wanting to hunt him down and argue with him. Granted, I was stressed at the time, hence wanting to do the meditation. In my mind, the meditation was going to take me away from being stressed. However, it just ended the war. The stressful things were still there, but I could breath slower. They didn’t control me. I learned to be in JUST THIS MOMENT. I don’t have to worry about what if’s and what’s next and what I can’t control. I could choose to feel different. It’s just a breath away.

I recently went through the eight weeks again with my associate and partner in crime, Gwyn. It was good to have someone to share with, bounce things off of, and keep me accountable and laugh when we would say, “wait, which week are we in?” A client suggested we do something to celebrate together, like a full day of Mindfulness together, maybe some periods of silence, etc. We are planning it but it is also going to include a swanky lunch and a trip to the Dansko outlet – all good things should be celebrated with shoe shopping!

I am grateful for my practice and to Jon Kabat Zinn and all of his hard work and inspiration.

I have two wellness seeds to leave you with –

The first is a piece about Meditation and Children and some really amazing work that teachers are doing with their students – (have some tissues ready- I got teary!)

The second seed is just pure meditation fun- don’t forget to breathe


Here’s the Good News

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Posted by Gwyn MacDonald

Earlier in the summer I heard a great program on Radio Times, here in Philadelphia.

The topic was stress and the news and each of the guests had valuable information about how the media can affect our everyday lives and stress levels in both positive and negative ways.

As we all know, we are surrounded by media of some kind or another, and it takes a conscious effort to avoid becoming overwhelmed. The challenge is finding the balance between being informed about and engaged in our world, be it at the local or broader level, and taking control of the content that we allow in to our minds and bodies. Much of what goes on in the world is intense, violent and heartbreaking. And with an endless news cycle we are hearing and seeing these things repeatedly.

Research has shown that this inundation of stressful news events can cause as much or even MORE stress than if you were actually at the traumatic event. Let’s say that again:

Research has shown that this inundation of stressful news events can cause as much or even MORE stress than if you were actually at the traumatic event.
 Wow. That stopped me in my tracks, people.

So, what to we do with that information? 
Well first, please listen to that fantastic broadcast. Second, turn off the news today sooner than you did yesterday. Don’t read every tragic story in the newspaper. Check out the comics page first thing instead of last.

Join a group in your local community and volunteer at their next event. And check out The Good News Network.
Publisher and editor of this network, Geri Weis Corbly was one of the guests on that excellent radio show. She worked in the news industry for many years and at some point realized that while there were many wonderful things happening in the world, they weren’t grabbing the headlines like she thought they should. The Good News Network has been around for years and I’ve recently started to check it out on a regular basis. It’s very cool!
Don’t be fooled, it’s not fluff or blind to the realities of the world.
It’s just reminding us about balance. Reminding us that we have a choice in how we live our lives everyday. And of the goodness in the world and the power of the human spirit to love, support and be kind to one another, every day, over and over and over.

Now that is a cycle worth repeating!

For more on how to find balance in a stressful world, check out Voices in the Family with Dr. Dan Gottlieb. His archive is filled with some fantastic guests and conversations on this very topic.


How to Reboot Your Healthy Living Mindset

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By Judy Moon and Associates Guest Blogger: Ali M. Shapiro, MS, CHHC

“The week before my period. For. Get. It. Chips. Chocolate. Fries! Working out? Blah. I know what I should do. But I don’t do it. I have no clue why.”

This confession—delivered in a tone weighed down by shame, sadness, and frustration—comes in the early weeks of my Truce with Food program. This participant (let’s call her Andrea) has been conditioned to expect more confusing nutrition facts, a detox, or to be prescribed yet another strict diet.

But what Andrea needs is not more information, she needs more understanding.

For veteran dieters like Andrea, the fall season feels like a second New Year. Another chance to get it right. And yet, lasting results? Elusive. Willpower? Most burn through reserves in two weeks. Rinse and repeat. But why?

One culprit: The same mindset of restriction and vigilance around food (that feeds the dieting-shame cycle) persists.

A good first step in stopping this cycle is to reboot your healthy living mindset. To do this requires a multi-pronged approach.

Here is a snapshot of how I guided Andrea (and what lessons you can draw). To frame this, I’ll borrow inspiration from another client who described me as the Swiss Army knife of wellness, “You’re like a nutritionist, trainer, and psychologist in one package!”

Nutritionist: Simple Doesn’t Mean Easy.

Many women believe PMS just comes with the territory. Nope. You can drastically lessen or eliminate “symptoms” when you learn to eat and exercise with your body’s rhythms.

Andrea was diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). What she thought she “should” eat was actually aggravating her condition.

One culprit: Luna bars. The soy protein isolate in these added excess estrogen, aggravating her PMDD. We swapped in KIND bars and homemade trail mix containing nuts. One root cause of PMDD is deregulated blood sugar; the real fat from nuts served to stabilize this.

Andrea didn’t need a complicated plan, she needed to get back to basics with real whole foods. Soon, Andrea’s symptoms and period week no longer caused her such distress and her cravings and moods improved. Because she felt these shifts internally—and wasn’t chastised by some plan or authority figure—her motivation to stick with these changes lasted.

For you: Add in more whole foods to crowd out processed ones (no packages). Eggs with the yolks. Full-fat yogurt. Vegetables. Fruits. You know, the perimeter of your grocery store. Cringed reading the words “full-fat”? You’re not alone. In my program, I dispel nutrition myths keeping you right where the food companies (and the diet industry) want you.

Trainer: Context Is Everything.

Most people hire trainers for accountability. Yet many trainers ignore context: Your body is a machine and they’re the mechanics.

Andrea traveled frequently for work. She was constantly “on.” Despite being exhausted—especially during the last two weeks of her menstrual cycle—she forced herself onto hotel gym treadmills. Physiologically, the excess cardio further aggravated her blood sugar. Psychologically, exercise became punishment for bad food choices. But then those same “bad” food choices became a (secret) reward for exercising.

For you: Are you bored? Need a new exercise routine or creative outlet? Do you need lighter workouts like yoga and walking to help your body heal? Contextualize what’s right for you at this moment.

Psychologist: I’m Not Where I Want to Be.

Diets fail for many reasons, but mainly because they don’t address the deeper beliefs guiding our behaviors.

One of the ways to delve into these beliefs is by exploring the concept of growth mindset. Coined by Dr. Carol Dweck, this strategy focuses on rewarding yourself for effort versus outcome to paradoxically exceed your goals.

With food, this means replacing judgment with curiosity. Instead of beating yourself up, you learn to ask the right questions to figure out why you did what you did. And when you succeed? You’ll know what worked.

Over time, Andrea discovered much of her secret eating during the last two weeks of her cycle came from resisting feeling “emotional.” She felt bad for feeling bad! She closed off this side of herself from the people she needed the most. The solution: She expressed her needs to her loved ones. When she needed the courage and support, she had me and the other strong women in our group on standby.

For you: Next time you self-sabotage, tell yourself you haven’t figured this out…YET! Adding “yet” shifts you onto a learning (not punishment) curve that will serve as the bridge to get you from where you are to where you want to be.

The strategies introduced in this short post are necessarily just the tip of the iceberg. If you’d like a deeper dive, click here to receive the first lesson of my Truce with Food program for FREE! You have nothing to lose (other than another season of dieting) and stand to gain more than you ever thought possible.

Ali Shapiro, MS, CHHC, is a health coach, speaker, and author. She combines her background in functional medicine, holistic health counseling, and Masters degree from the University of Pennsylvania in her Truce with Food® program. Ali is also a 22-year cancer survivor.

Ali has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Shopping, Huffington Post, Redbook Magazine, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, and was a regular health contributor to the NBC 10! Show. She’s also appears on popular wellness sites such as, MindBodyGreen, and Tiny Buddha.


Do The Hustle and Other Good Medicine.

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Posted by Judy Moon

Merriam Webster defines medicine as – noun ˈme-də-sən, British usually ˈmed-sən
:a substance that is used in treating disease or relieving pain and that is usually in the form of a pill or a liquid
:the science that deals with preventing, curing, and treating diseases Native Americans have a different definition for medicine. Native American medicine is an all encompassing way of life. “Medicine means the presence and power embodied in or demonstrated by a person, a place, an event, an object, or a natural phenomenon. Medicine may be good or bad according to the intent with which we use it or how it affects people.  A kind word is good medicine, and an insulting or a discouraging word is bad medicine.” Medicine is all around you, for example, “the sun is shining today- that’s good medicine.” I really love this concept of medicine.

I recently read a way cool book also addressing medicine that goes on to my list of “life changers.”

Mind Over Medicine, Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself by Lissa Rankin M.D.  was one of those “I can’t put it down” books for me. Lissa is a mind-body medicine physician. Her story is similar to a lot of others who have written these types of books, where the physician is sicker than the patients they are treating. She chose to figure out why.

She shows us the connection between our emotions and our health. clearly proving we store issues in our tissues. “She shows how thoughts, feelings and beliefs can alter the body’s physiology.  This is not your typical positive thinking “woo woo” kind of book. The book sites scientific studies, the end notes in the back show where all of the studies are found. She doesn’t suggest that you ditch your doctor. She encourages you though to listen to your “your inner pilot light – the radiant, sparkly spirit of you … It’s that part of you that is a little piece of divinity fueling your life in human form. It’s that 100 percent authentic, never extinguished, always-shining-though-sometimes-dimmed part that lights the way back to wholeness, happiness, and health.”

My favorite part of the book was writing my own prescription – how cool is that???!!!! I went to her website and downloaded the free Whole Health Self Healing Kit. I answered all of the questions in each section – belief, support, inner pilot light, relationships, work/life purpose,creativity, spirituality, sexuality, money, environment, mental health, physical health. Some of them I must admit were hard to answer. I literally had to take a mental break about half way through. For example, she asks questions like – “what truth am I unwilling to face in my life right now?”, “am I clear on what my soul wants to create?”  – Yikes! Those are not things I usually think about, but I did and then based on your answers you come up with your prescription. Genious!

I carry mine around in my purse and do my best to look at it daily. There are things you might expect to see – eat more plant based foods, go to bed earlier, meditate daily, but there’s also fun things like knit more frequently, start composting and my favorite one of all – dance daily. Which is where ” the hustle” comes in. Sometimes after I work out, I will do the hustle, yes, I am admitting this publicly. It makes me happy – for no other reason –  and THAT is good medicine.

Just in case you need a refresher –

See you on the dance floor!

International Journal for Healing and CaringMind Over Medicine by Lissa Rankin, Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson


Witch Hazel Happiness

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Posted by Gwyn MacDonald

In the midst of this “real”winter we are having here in Philadelphia, it would be understandable to think ”No, we’ll never see spring again”. We all know it’s not true, but all the gray can sure make it feel that way sometimes. (Mind you, as I write this it is in the 40’s, raining and some serious thunder just shook my kitchen walls! Mother Nature is a trickster!)

To beat these winter’s almost over blues, may I recommend an aromatherapy treatment? It costs nothing and will boost your spirits instantly!

It’s called…Witch Hazel!

This lovely shrub that we see here in Philly (usually hamamelis x intermedia, a group of hybrids between H. japonica x H. mollis), begins to bloom late January/early February to late March and depending on the variety has an INCREDIBLE scent. Slightly sweet, fresh, a touch of citrus and spice and maybe a pinch of gardenia. Most often seen with varying shades of yellow or orange flowers. I find this plant to be very uplifting. So bright and cheery it just washes those winter blues away from me.

In the few blocks around our office in Washington Square there are three favored spots that I frequent to find this little lovely. Kahn Park at 11th & Pine has 3 or 4 varieties. Locust street close to the 10th street side and the Jefferson campus. And the medicinal garden at Pennsylvania Hospital on 8th & Pine. (Yes, I do stalk the witch hazel!)

When you find them, step in close and inhale deeply… Oh yes, the birds are starting to sing their early spring song…oh look the sun is peeking out from behind the gloom… ahhhh.., smile!

At the moment we are fortunate enough to have several branches of witch hazel gracing our office with it’s fabulous fragrance (thanks Dad!). We have a garden shed/garden musings display in our foyer for the Philadelphia Flower Show window contest and the hazels are doing their thing! Stop by and check it out!

Happy Witch Hazel hunting!

Fun Fact:
The native witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana or common witch hazel blooms in the fall to early winter and can be found all over the Wissahickon park and surrounding areas. It ranges from Canada to Georgia and west to Nebraska and Arkansas. The witch hazel astringent we use as a skin care product is an extract distilled from the young roots and stems of this plant.

Massage Therapist Insider Series: How Can I Make Massage a More Affordable Practice?

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Posted by Alicia McCarthy

Preventative care is on the tips of everyone’s tongue these days. Treating your body with kindness can sustain longevity, as it simultaneously creates a baseline for a truer sense of health. However, regular maintenance through bodywork can, for some, create a financial burden.

Much of this is perspective. Massage can be viewed as a luxury; something that in its extravagance, should be reserved for special occasions. Treating yourself once or twice a year to a celebratory massage is a lovely tradition, but seeing that tradition turn into a monthly ritual, will yield transformational results.

Getting to the point where you feel comfortable with adding massage to your health routine can be a simple as scheduling shorter sessions. If paying for an hour of massage every two weeks seems daunting, try booking a half an hour massage instead. These shorter sessions can provide results if you schedule them closer together. Communication with your massage therapist about the goal you want to achieve with a specific area of the body can make this possible. Once the area that you strive to change feels better, then you can reduce the frequency of massage.

Another way to experience bodywork without it draining your budget is to research promotional deals that massage therapists advertise. As licensed professionals, MTs are consistently required to add to their skill set. Often that means that they are looking for people on which to practice their new techniques. That way, you both benefit from learning a new way to bring your body to a better state of health!


True Confession! My Girl Crush (or at least one of them)

Posted by Judy Moon

I can’t help myself! I love the Oh She Glows food blog, Angela Liddon, and her new cookbook! There, I’ve said it out loud.

I first discovered Angela a few years back when my husband Joe and I were doing the Clean program. I was doing my best to be really creative with what we were eating so that we were satisfied and still sticking to the program. Joe is Italian and the man loves his pasta. Luckily for us, you are allowed to have brown rice pasta. I came across the recipe for Creamy Avocado pasta on the Oh She Glows blog and I was smitten.

First of all, she is just as cute as a button. I find her posts to be interesting, easy to read and I love her stories about her and her husband Eric and their travels and she is funny to boot! The recipes are vegan so they were perfect for our Meatless Monday’s.

I have made a lot of her recipes and find them all to be really simple, healthy and really tasty. I was super excited when I found out she was putting together a cookbook – I can rid myself of the folder that I dig through with all of the recipes that I have printed out! Clutter clearing – it’s a good thing.

Here is one of my favorite recipes from her and it is a staple in our house – Buon Appetito!

Creamy Avocado Pasta
Time: 15 Minutes
Yield: Serves 2
*my personal comments


  • 1 medium sized ripe Avocado, pitted
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced + lemon zest to garnish
  • 1-3 garlic cloves, to taste (I used 3 and it was super garlicky, but if you are not a big fan of garlic use 1 clove) *I use 3
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Basil, (probably optional)*I always use it
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 servings/6 oz of your choice of pasta (I used 3oz of spelt and 3oz of Kamut spaghetti) *I use brown rice
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • *I also throw a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast into the food processor
  • *If the sauce seems to thick, sometimes I’ve thinned it with a splash of warm water


  1. Bring several cups of water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add in your pasta, reduce heat to medium, and cook until Al Dente, about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, make the sauce by placing the garlic cloves, lemon juice, and olive oil into a food processor. Process until smooth. Now add in the pitted avocado, basil, and salt. Process until smooth and creamy.
  3. When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse in a strainer and place pasta into a large bowl. Pour on sauce and toss until fully combined. Garnish with lemon zest and black pepper. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Please note: This dish does not reheat well due to the avocado in the sauce. Please serve immediately

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Massage Tips for TMJ

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Posted by Alicia McCarthy

When clients come to me with neck pain, upper back pain, or frequency of headaches or migraines, I usually try to start the massage with their face. The jaw can be very telling when it comes to alleviating tension in these other areas of the body.

TMJ or the Temporomandibular joints are on either side of the face, and can be felt if you follow your finger from your ear to the tiny depression at the beginning of your jaw line. This joint connects the area at the side of your head to your jaw. Tension in the muscles surrounding this joint can displace it, and prevent it from moving with fluidity. TMJ dysfunction can cause the jaw to click out of place or lock up all together resulting in chronic pain and frustration.

We use our faces all of the time, everyday to express love, laughter, and the occasional grimace (we’re only human). So sufferers of TMJ dysfunction are acutely aware when their condition is flaring up, and making it impossible to eat anything the least bit crunchy. Oftentimes the pain is the most noticeable in the morning. This can happen for a few reasons. Sleeping with your mouth slightly ajar due to stuffy sinuses can cause the muscles surrounding the TMJ to work overtime. Sleeping on your side or on your stomach can have the same result compressing everything around the joint. Another cause is good old-fashioned teeth grinding and jaw clenching which often comes about during a night plagued by nightmares.

Fortunately, there is help! Massage is awesome for treating TMJ dysfunction, and so is acupuncture. Massaging your own face is very helpful and easy, and I’ve had success doing this for myself before I go to bed and when I wake up in the morning. You simply hold the trigger point around the TMJ even going into your mouth to release those contracting muscles. Alternating hot and cold compresses also relieves the tension. As a bonus, facial massage, when done regularly, can improve the tonicity of the muscles of the face giving you a youthful glow!


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Posted by Gwyn MacDonald

I’ve been thinking about patterns. The patterns that ice or frost make on the sage leaves in the winter garden or the bedroom window.  How the bark on a tree layers itself just so. The geese that flew away south in that perfect ever-evolving “V”.

And about our patterns, as humans. What we do each day or each week or for that one week each year. I want to take the time to be a bit more conscious of my own patterns and habits. What purpose do my patterns serve?  What is nourishing me and what is just an old pattern and hard to change?  How do I engage with people? Am I really listening or just barely there? Am I paying attention to the cycles in my own life?

Just some things to ponder and patterns to unravel as I wander through this winter. What patterns are you observing?