Good Morning Beautiful!

12733505_10153260834997541_4899769578013394154_nThere are places in my life where I look for motivation. Church, for instance. I expect church to be motivating and inspiring. I expect to be challenged to be better than I am.

I also expect my family to motivate me: The dog greets me at the door, prancing on her toes, saying “Yeah, yeah, time for a walk. Time for a walk. You know you’re the greatest person in the world. Yes you do. Yes you do.”

My daughter motivates me to get off the couch or leave the computer keyboard behind:  “Come downstairs and play with me Mom. You know you’ll have fun.”

Or even my sister, “Come on, do it. You’ll never know if you don’t try. When is that book going to be published, by the way?”

I even expect motivation at work. Colleagues proofread and edit pieces I write, “Geez Michele, could that sentence be any longer?”  “Do you think you could find a new word for ‘robust’?” “That’s good, but could you make it 50 characters shorter?”

And I have a few college friends who write blogs and articles that inspire and motivate me.

I do not, however, look to paper towels for the one thing that will get my day moving in the right direction.

That is why I was so surprised on Monday morning, when after stepping out sock-footed, before the coffee had finished brewing, onto the cold, cold, cold garage floor at 5:30am to put food into the dog’s bowl (yes the same dog who is continually motivating me to be a great person)— I found, on the paper towel roll that I had purchased for the bargain basement price of $0.97, motivational quotes.

“Wake up and be AMAZING!”  The roll yelled at me in a multicolored, teenage-girl font. Seriously?!

I stood there in my oversized comfy pajamas, with my husband’s T-shirt poking out from underneath the top, and looked at the inspirational quotes on the roll. “Good Morning Beautiful” (complete with eighth notes), “Here’s to a Great Start” (written in the shape of an apple), and “Time to Shine” (complete with little yellow and red rays of sun).

My sarcastic mind immediately went to work as I ripped a towel from the roll to serve as my workspace for making the day’s lunches.

How about “Wake up and be Medusa?”  or “Time to pull the blanket over your head and sleep in”  or “Let’s get rolling” in the shape of a chocolate iced donut?

Perhaps the people who designed these motivational paper towels had the best of intentions, thinking that if people saw positive messages on their paper towels they would have a better day.

Now, if the paper towels had really good knock-knock jokes, or one-liners from Robin Williams, or Yogi Berra quotes, they would be truly awesome. That would indeed get my day off to a great start.

© 2016 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

To Boldly Ask What No One Has Ever Asked Before

Playing in the dirt from a young age
Playing in the dirt from a young age

We had just passed a road construction site on the small two-lane state highway on the way from our hotel to my Dad’s house. The new road cuts and construction revealed bright red dirt— really red dirt, even by the standards of the Piedmont Plateau in Georgia.

From the back seat my daughter asked, “Mom, what kinds of worms do they have here in Georgia?”

“The same species that we have in Wisconsin, why?” I answered.

There was a thoughtful silence, then “But they poop out red dirt?”

It is truly a miracle that my husband managed to keep the rental car on the road.

Actually, it was an insightful question. Continue reading “To Boldly Ask What No One Has Ever Asked Before”

A Crockpot Treasure

blogMy dad was the consummate story teller, and one of my biggest frustrations at losing him is the rapidity at which I seem to be losing his stories. Just bits and snatches here and there—the gist remains, but the details that made the stories so wonderful escape my memory.

The lesson here is: Record the stories now. Write them down. Get them on video or digital format, whatever medium you can—just record them.

This weekend though, I discovered a treasure. While cleaning the basement, my husband found a letter that my dad sent me not long after Mom died. It contained one of those little anecdotes that had escaped my memory. I present it here now, as Dad wrote it, because I can only improve on his spelling and punctuation—not his storytelling.

The Crockpot

Since the passing of your mother, I have done some experimenting with preparing my own meals. There have been some mild successes and few failures. Continue reading “A Crockpot Treasure”


fall_knittingSeveral scientific studies over the last couple of years have provided some evidence (see some references below), most of it by correlation, that a daily habit of meditation promotes successful aging and better mental health through stress reduction, but it’s actual effects on any given health problem are mixed.

But have you ever actually tried to meditate? I can’t even make it to ten deep breaths. “ONE…”, I say to myself as I inhale and exhale slowly. Then, without fail, before I even finish exhaling, my mind has wandered to the fact I need to RSVP for that birthday party my daughter was invited too and find time to get a gift.

“Wait, what breath was I on?”


“Oh and I really need to get that package mailed to my sister, and I’ve got to buy the airline tickets for the upcoming trip so that they aren’t a thousand dollars a seat, and can you believe the extra work…NUTS! What breath was that again?”


“Wow, look at that, there is a Sandhill crane wandering around…”

And so goes my meditation session.

Yes, I can see how mediation might be helpful and healthful if I could actually clear my mind long enough to accomplish ten cleansing breaths. But as soon as I am seated with nothing to do, nothing on which my mind can focus, my mind finds its own focal points, thousands of them.

However, I have found that if I am knitting, I am able to reach that coveted state of cleared mind.

My mantra becomes the pattern I am knitting: slip, slip, knit 2 together. I repeat that over and over in my mind, and my hands are busy committing my mantra to finger memory. Perhaps because there is muscle memory involved, I find that the repetition of knitting even calms my heart rate and breathing. It has not only mental effects but physiological too.

Because I am working on a knitting project, I have to focus on my mantra or I will be doing rework—so I stay focused. I find that the problems and irritants of daily life disappear and my mind clears—it’s meditation for the Type A personality. My hands are busy, I’m producing something useful, and I am clearing my mind.

I’ve had life-long knitters tell me similar things; I’ve read about elderly knitters who have lost memories and the ability to communicate, but they maintain the muscle memory of knitting—the movement seeming to calm them when nothing else does.

In my humble opinion, I can’t think of a better form of meditation. You clear your mind and get a scarf, hat or sock to boot. A clear mind and a sense of accomplishment, what more could a girl ask for?


  1. Davidson, R. et al. (2003) Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine 65, 564–570.
  2. Blom, K. et al. (2013) Hypertension Analysis of Stress Reduction Using Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga: Results From the Harmony Randomized Controlled Trial. Am. J. Hypertens. epub.
  3. Ahmed, M. et al. (2013) Acute Pain Relief After Mantram Meditation in Children With Neuroblastoma Undergoing Anti-GD2 Monoclonal Antibody Therapy J. Pediatr. Hematol. Oncol. epub.
  4. Luders, E. (2013) Exploring age-related brain degeneration in meditation practitioners. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. epub.

©2013 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.