First Day of Spring – Stop and Smell the Roses

Friday, March 20, 2015 marks the vernal equinox also known as the first day of spring. This is an ideal time to stop and smell the roses, yes, even on a workday.

Pink Rose Bushes in Bloom

The idea for this post actually originated with my spouse. A few days ago, I posed the question, “If you were writing a post about the first day of spring, what advice would you give?” To which my spouse replied, “Stop and smell the roses.”

It seemed like an interesting idea to explore from an environmental angle, plus I wanted to learn about equinoxes and try to find out who originated the phrase about roses.

What is an Equinox?

The first day of spring is one of two times a year when the sun passes over the earth’s equator making day and night of equal length, or almost equal.

Equinox is the term used to describe this phenomenon, which derives from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night). Two more Latin words determine which equinox occurs when. Vernal equinox derives from the word ver (spring) and autumnal equinox from the word autumnus (autumn).

The vernal equinox occurs within a day or so of March 20 each year and the autumnal equinox around September 22.

Seasons vary depending on hemisphere meaning the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere is the autumnal equinox in the southern hemisphere. Sometimes the terms March equinox and September equinox are used to minimize confusion.

As far as an explanation as to why day and night are not exactly of equal length on the equinoxes, Wikipedia provides a far better explanation than I can.

Equinox Earth Image

What is the Origin of the Phrase “Stop and Smell the Roses?”

A cursory Internet search for the origin of the phrase “stop and smell the roses” turned up a few theories but no definitive answer.

Some sources suggest the phrase was adapted from a saying credited to professional golfer Walter Hagen: “You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”

Stop and Smell the Roses is the title of a 1974 song by Mac Davis and a 1981 Ringo Starr album.

There is no “official” definition of “stop and smell the roses” however, relaxing, appreciating ones’ surroundings, and enjoying life’s simple pleasures like smelling roses are generally accepted meanings.

Stop and Smell the Roses 15 Minute Challenge

Slowing down to appreciate and enjoy life is a deceptively simple idea yet difficult to achieve.

In today’s world, we seem to be forever busy with longer to-do lists, packed schedules, and conflicting priorities. We eat lunch at our desks or run around doing errands instead of taking a break. After work, we pick up our kids from daycare, finish the errands we did not get to earlier, pick up or cook dinner, throw in a load of laundry, and fire up our computer to finish a work task that is due tomorrow morning. Sound familiar?

We are so used to being busy that if we find ourselves with a moment to relax we fall onto the couch exhausted, whip out our smart phone, or go in search of something to do.

European Honey Bee Extracting Nectar from Purple Flower and Collecting Pollen

I propose we break the busy pattern with a “stop and smell the roses” challenge on the first day of spring that we can all accomplish before, during, or after work.

Let’s each set aside 15 minutes sometime during the day or evening to slow down and create our own “stop and smell the roses” moment. No phones, tablets, or computers. Let’s go outside; sit, stand, walk, or lie down and enjoy the oak trees in a nearby park, the daisies planted around the office patio, or a potted geranium on our balcony. Let’s watch a bird flapping around in a birdbath, an ant trail marching along a sidewalk crack, or bees flitting from flower to flower.

The first two or three minutes are the hardest because we have to actually stop and relax then we are free to enjoy the moment.

Stopping and Smelling the Roses is a Good for the Environment

Here is the environmental twist I alluded to at the beginning of the post. I believe stopping and smelling the roses is good for the environment for several reasons.

  • By hitting the pause button, we refresh our spirit and perhaps broaden our perspective beyond the hamster wheel of our daily routines. Awareness is the first step on the path to change.
  • Enjoying the beauty and wonder of our fellow animal and plant beings reminds us that we are part of the environment, not separate from it. What we do to the environment we do to ourselves.
  • Appreciating the interconnectedness of nature may spur us to act, to change how we live, to live more gently on the planet we all call home. We protect what we love.

Redwood Trees in Redwood National Park, CA

Stop and smell the roses simply because they are beautiful and sweet smelling.

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First Day of Spring – 5 Ways to Renew Your Green Spirit

Glass Vase with Spring FlowersSpring marks a time of new beginnings. What a cliché. The thing is, it is actually a good time to refresh our spirits, get stuff done, and be green.

Some of us, maybe most us, tend to put off projects during the winter because it’s cold, or snowing, or raining, or it’s the holidays, or we have year-end deadlines at work.

Well, today is the first day of spring so let’s get going. Below are 5 ideas that will help you renew your spirit and be green at the same time.

Promote Your Brand

We inadvertently, or perhaps on purpose, provide free advertising for all kinds of products and our favorite sports teams, schools, and organizations. The clothes, shoes, and hats we wear, as well as the bags and gadgets we carry around all say something about us. It’s our personal brand.

Author's Reusable Shopping Bags

Expand your own personal brand by ditching single-use plastic bags and paper shopping bags and replacing them with reusable bags that promote your own message.

Reusable bags show everyone that you are an early adopter and willing to make a change to reduce waste and water pollution. You can use your bags to make a fashion statement, advocate for a company or cause of your choice, or keep your thoughts to yourself with plain bags.

Step Away

Woman Eating a Salad for Lunch at Her DeskIt took me many years of eating lunch at my desk to learn that eating lunch at one’s desk is, well, dumb. Why give anyone our free time for free. Besides stepping away from our desks at lunchtime gives us a chance to refresh ourselves and probably be more productive in the afternoon.

You know walking is good for your health, helps you keep your weight down, and reduces air pollution, but just can’t seem to find time to do it. Does this ring true?

Make the decision to step away from your desk at lunchtime and like magic you now have time for a walk. So do it. Walk for fun and relaxation, or run errands if you must.

Kick the Habit

Humans are creatures of habit, meaning we do the same things on a regular basis, often without much thought. Some habits that seem small and inexpensive can really add up over time.

Disposable Take Out Coffee CupsTake a small habit like buying a mocha frappuccino on the way to work or a fruit smoothie for the ride home. Sound familiar? Even if we low ball the cost at say $2.00 each, that’s a big chunk of change over the course of a 40-year work career.

So what if you eliminate this habit?

You’ll save a whopping $20,800. Yep, that’s enough for a down payment on a house, a new car, college tuition, or some really nice vacations. You’ll also eliminate the resource use and waste associated with 10,400 cups, cup sleeves, lids, stirrers, and napkins.

All that—by making one tiny change.

Pass It On

Author's Box of Clothes Ready for DonationSpring is the traditional time to declutter. It’s amazing how getting rid of excess stuff can lift one’s spirits. It’s worth the effort.

Enjoy being able to find a spatula in the utensil drawer, or not having your skinny clothes staring back at you whenever you open the closet, or being able to park your car in the garage, perhaps for the first time.

The best part about decluttering is passing on stuff in good condition to people who may need it, like it, and will use it. Besides redeploying stuff is green, it saves resources and reduces waste.

Use Your Words

One of the great things about living in a democracy is that everyone has an opportunity to make their voice heard.

Woman Writing a Letter with a PenChances are local, state, and national elected officials do not always vote the way you think they should or they don’t seem to care about the right issues. So use your words. Call, email, tweet, write, post, or otherwise let your elected officials know what’s important to you and what you think they should do about it.

For Earth Day last April, I wrote a letter to President Obama thanking him for his efforts on behalf of the American people and suggesting he fulfill his 3-year old commitment to install solar panels at the White House. Voilá! The installation took place four months later in August.

I know the President didn’t personally read my letter and it probably only resulted in a tick mark in the citizens-interested-in solar-power column in some database. But maybe that tick mark was the magic one that moved solar panels from the to-do list to the done list. You never know…

Call to Action

If one of the above suggestions got your attention and seems like something you’d like to do to renew your spirit, green or otherwise, then do it. If not, come up with your own idea and share it with other readers.

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Spring Decluttering – Clutter Free Future

After spring decluttering is done, what’s to keep you from being in the same position next year? A clutter free future is the topic of this post, part 3 of 3 about spring decluttering.

Professional organizers say designate places to put things and then put them there, don’t let stuff pile up, create a pending folder, etc. If we were good at that we would not have needed to declutter—right? I possess good organizational skills but am just as prone to piling and stacking stuff as the next person.

Red Ribbon Tied Around Finger as a ReminderChances are a personality transformation, turning you into a neat and organized person, did not occur during decluttering. So now what?

You can stay clutter free by making a small daily time commitment and acquiring a few easy habits. Try one or more of the ideas below. It takes about 3 weeks to adopt or break a habit. Give it a month, and then evaluate what’s working, what’s not, and tweak as needed.

Daily Pick Up

The best way to stay organized is to put things away after using them, duh. Who does that? The next best thing is to implement a daily pick up routine. Allot 5 or 10 minutes a day to gather and put things away. This strategy works because it is a small time commitment and if you do it every day there won’t be much to pick up and put away.

Commercial Break Pick Up

TV watchers, computer gamers, and web surfers can use the daily pick up strategy to get stuff picked up, with almost no effort. For TV watchers, like me, put stuff away at commercial breaks. It’s amazing what can be accomplished during an hour-long show. Computer gamers and web surfers, when you pause to get a drink of water or something, take a few minutes on the way back to your computer to pick up and put stuff away.

Toys Put Away on ShelvesToy Pick Up

When our children were young, we did a daily toy pick up. We walked around the house with the kids and helped them collect their toys and games and then put them away where they belonged. This daily routine helps kids learn to be responsible for their own stuff and eliminates or at least minimizes household clutter.

Less is More

Mindful Purchasing

Be mindful of what you purchase. Pause and think before you buy. Do you or your family members actually need that t-shirt, serving bowl, toy, or what-not?

Giving and Receiving Gifts

Give some thought to your gift giving and receiving philosophy. Is it necessary to give gifts to every family member for every occasion? How about giving a gift to someone just because they gave you a gift last time?

Give the planet and yourself a break by buying and giving less stuff.

Author's Box of Clothes Ready for DonationDo it Now

Keep a box or two in a closet and put things in them throughout the year. Outgrown clothes, toys the kids no longer play with, gifts you do not like, etc. When the box is full get rid of it by donating, selling, or giving the stuff away—now.

Remaining clutter free in the future is possible.

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