Getting outside every day.

I worked outside as an educator at the beginning of my teaching career, about five years. Day programs, overnight programs, and extended overnight programs. Living in tents or on boats or houses on islands, sleeping in sleeping bags, rising with the sun, and canoeing or sailing under the stars. In the summer it was the bugs that were intense. From late fall until early spring it was the cold temperatures, ice, and snow. But I loved it. I learned that I could tolerate any weather as long as I had great gear. Or as they say in Norway, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” 

As I have gotten older I have also learned that inside can be pretty great too. Homemade candles burning, snuggly blankets, fire in the fireplace, warm beverages, diffuser going, and cozy wool socks. Cozy is good. I have had to make an intentional decision to find time to be outside each day or I would just cozy up and hibernate all day long. 

Being outside feeds my soul. I just feel better when I am connected to the outside world. I enjoy feeling the elements around me. I enjoy experiencing the natural rhythms of the local environment. There are so many health and wellness benefits as well. Vitamin D levels go up. Exercising the way the body is meant to move – gardening, walking, biking. Improved concentration and sleep. Improved immunity. Even just walking can make a difference – check out this article from Harvard about Walking Your Steps to Health.

There’s also an inner resiliency and acceptance that comes from being a part of something bigger than ourselves when we are outside, especially in more wild environments. 

Although we do not live in Minnesota or Maine our darkness and cold is real. Darkness from 5pm until 7am and temperatures that dip into the single digits with wind chills below zero. The darkness is the part that can be a challenge for me. I wrestle with it every year. An inner turmoil between loving the winter and detesting the darkness. This year I made the decision to love the darkness in a new way. In fact, to celebrate it as a time of renewal and reflection. To accept it as a blanket that is here to snuggle me throughout the shorter days. 

I brought the stars inside with me more this year than any other year – twinkle lights in the kitchen window, in jars in the dining room, the upstairs hallway. Candles at dinner each night and a candle in the northeast corner of the kitchen as I cook. Fires in the fireplace. We are slowly making our way to Candlemas on February 2nd where we will read The Candles by Hans Christian Andersen, eat crepes, make beeswax candles, and celebrate the lengthening of the days. It is the halfway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.

I also made the decision this winter to ensure that I get outside every day – both in the 4am darkness and in the afternoon light. Our daughters as well. It’s not always easy for the girls to get outside as their schools don’t provide opportunities during the day or they cancel recess the minute the weather changes to something that someone somewhere has determined is undesirable. We have to intentionally carve time when they get home each day. It’s not always easy to do that but we are working on it. The weekends are a different story.

Today we will be at the farm and exploring our own outside space at home for hours.




I know that afterwards we will all feel better, more connected, happier, and ready to sleep at the end of the day. How will you get outside today?

For more information on getting outside with kids every day check out:

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda Akeson McGurk. She can also be found on Instagram @rainorshinemama

Also on Instagram check out @thebackwoodsmama for a daily dose of inspiration.

Knitting and the New Year

I love knitting. My dear friend Dawn had a bumper sticker on her car: I knit so that others don’t have to die. It always made me laugh because of all the reasons I know that went into her putting it on her car. She is a true textile artist. Her works are amazing and are imbued with emotion and passion. They are almost magical in their uniqueness, creativity, and beauty. For me, I’m really good at scarves, dish towels, and wash cloths. I come to knitting with a deep desire to create. I have dreams of sweaters and socks that never materialize. But that’s okay. Knitting for me seems to be about something else. 

Knitting has always been like the canary in the coal mine. Or should I say,  the lack of knitting has. When I am on vacation, I knit. When I am relaxed, I knit. When I have blocks of time, I knit. When I can shift to slow a couple hours before bed, I knit. I notice that as my stress increases, as time begins to run swiftly, my knitting time decreases, until there is simply none left. The most recent knitting dry spell lasted over one year. When I look back on that year I know all of the crazy things that happened in the intervening time, and how I lost my knitting. Last year was a year where I was challenged with negativity in my work life and upheaval in my personal life. In fact, there was a moment where they collided as my mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away after a short but fierce battle. But through all of that, isn’t that precisely when I should have been knitting?

My current knitting project

I am reminded of a YouTube video that came out in 2015, Relax, Breathe & #LetGo – Find Your Sanctuary. In this video women in the UK provide advice about appreciating life’s precious moments and making time for the important things in life. This video pops back up in my life every so often. Usually it emerges at a time when I need to be reminded about slowing down. This time it came in a blog post by Si on French By Design. And, it came at precisely the moment when I could feel something trying to emerge.

I have spent a good bit of my time looking backwards. Perseverating on what might have been, why things happened, how I got to a particular moment. As 2019 approaches I am choosing to let go of all that no longer serves me. Over the past 108 days I haveĺ been participating in a virtual pilgrimage with over 200 people around the globe. A pilgrimage of community and connection based in living our yoga and finding love, grace, beauty, and inspiration around us. When I started this pilgrimage I did so for many reasons, the most important of which was that I could feel something cracking open within me. Something that had long been unacknowledged but is always there within me, because it is part of me, was trying to get my attention. I could hear the voice even if I didn’t acknowledge or listen to it. Now, I have decided to settle into it and see where it takes me.

And so, between inspiration of the pilgrimage and the video, I have made space to knit again. Very purposefully. Very intentionally. Without regard to outcome or expectation. For me, knitting is like meditating. Knit 2 Purl 1 becomes a mantra. My breathing slows. My mind clears. I feel refreshed when I have completed several rows. I am not sure where this transformation will take me, and I am no longer trying to foresee the outcome. I am okay with not knowing. Because I know within me is everything and I have everything I need. I am stronger than I think.

If you have not seen the video, it is worth taking a few moments to watch it.  Relax, Breathe & #LetGo – Find Your Sanctuary https://youtu.be/ltVPj6-5xpo

If you are interested in the 108 day pilgrimage, you can find it here: http://brittbsteele.com/

How I got to this moment – Part 2

Growing up I was acutely aware of death. My grandfather died in 1945 at the age of 55. My father was only 14 years old at the time. When I reached 14 years I was keenly aware that I was the same age my dad was when his father died. When I reached my 15th birthday I breathed a sigh of relief, my dad was still alive. My dad was 50 years old so I still had some time before he was the same age that his dad was at the time of his death. When my dad reached 55 years old I breathed another sigh of relief, we had made it – I was 20 years old and he was still alive. My grandfather’s death had a tremendous impact on my dad’s life experience including where and how his family lived. I knew my dad thought about his mortality – a lot. And, I knew he worried about dying young like his father. He rarely mentioned it but it was always omnipresent.

My grandfather’s death had a tremendous impact on my dad’s life experience including where and how his family lived. I knew my dad thought about his mortality – a lot. And, I knew he worried about dying young like his father. He rarely mentioned it but it was always omnipresent.

My dad had his first stroke 10 years later. It was followed by two more strokes, kidney failure, and total system failure. The saga lasted for four years. He made it to 66 years of age. I was 30.

My immediate response shifted back and forth from fear of illness to fear of health. My migraines became intense and frequent, my weight climbed higher than it had ever been, and my neck hurt most of the time. I knew I was out of kilter when I went to the doctor one month after my father died and for the first time in life my blood pressure was elevated. This was when I found yoga. I hoped it would help release my mind and my fears. It did. I began to learn to leave it all on the mat.

Slowly I began to discover how to live my life in a way that supports longevity and health. I didn’t want to live a long life if the quality was poor. And I didn’t want to live a quality life that was short. I wanted to be able to sit on the porch with my children and grandchildren and teach them the stories and the traditions of our family. But most importantly, I wanted to be able to still hike, canoe, swim, ride waves, play, etc. with them. I wanted to be able to inspire in them a love of the natural world that can only come by deeply interacting with it. I wanted them to know me to be like the 70-year old Outward Bound instructor I met who could still run rings around all of us much younger instructors.

To do that, it meant that I had to look deep inside and figure out what needed adjusting. This took a long time. I continued to be a vegetarian, and then I went back to eating chicken and turkey, and then back to vegetarian. I became a vegan when I discovered that dairy was causing my adult acne. I exercised, and then I didn’t, and then I did. I targeted what I believed to be the areas for change based upon the traditional notions of diet and exercise that I had been exposed to my entire life.

I gradually began to understand that I needed to think of my body as an ecosystem and my health and wellness as indicators of ecosystem health. Each decision I was making had its own impact but if I could think like a system and create a plan for myself I could improve my overall health and wellness. As I began to listen to my body and to understand the cues it was giving me I began to see how to move forward.

I continue on this journey because I believe it is a lifelong journey, especially as a woman. I believe that as we age and our body changes so too does our need to reassess the ecosystem and to make adjustments to support it. Right now, it looks a lot like whole foods plant based. I continually struggle to achieve the optimal distribution of vegetables, beans, fruits, fiber, while maintaining the protein levels I need as well. This includes striving to avoid processed foods, refined sugars, caffeine, toxins, and minimizing gluten. I avoid them, not because a health and fitness expert told me to avoid them, but because I have discovered that my body does not respond well to them. I’ve learned to eat in a way that my body responds to positively. This is what is working for my ecosystem right now. I no longer fluctuate between craving and withholding of certain foods. I have more energy, no migraines, my skin is clear.

I have discovered how important intention and listening are to my health and wellness. I practice yoga and meditation. I swim and run. I listen to the signals my body is sending. I remain active doing things I enjoy like gardening and walking the dog. I haven’t hit the age that my granddad was when he died, and I’m quite away from my dad’s age. But now, I am hopeful, not fearful. When people see me swimming and ask me what I am training for, my answer is simple: I’m training to be 85 years old.

How I got to this moment – Part 1

How did I get to this moment? This is something I have thought about a lot since I decided to bring A Crunchy Life to the world. I have realized that it has always been with me. Growing. Bubbling up to the surface. Just waiting for the right moment to emerge.

My dad was a businessman with a beautiful corner office – literally, the office was the corner of the building and the corner was cut away to create a window as long as the long wall. It was the third from the top so it was a great place to watch July 4th fireworks and the traffic helicopters in the afternoon.

My father did not pick his job because of a life mission to be in the bond department of a major insurance company. In fact, I suspect he did not like his job at all – he always wanted to be a cowboy living in the west. He got out of the Navy and went to college on the G.I. Bill, and when he graduated he found this job and gave them the rest of his life. His focus was finding a job and settling in, and so he did.

As I was growing up it wasn’t always easy. The stereotypes of the corner office were not true in our case. It was not always financially secure but my parents endeavored to keep all of that from us, as much as they could. But over time I saw younger men (yes, never women) brought into the company, mentored by my dad, and then promoted over him. I also saw the men (yes, again no women) in positions above him getting transferred across the country for promotions or dying of heart attacks. My dad always remained in the same position.

When I was in college my dad finally began sharing some of his thoughts with me. I learned he wasn’t passed over; he turned the jobs down. He made a conscious choice to turn each of those jobs down. His family came first he said. It was more important for his daughters not to be uprooted to another state while in school rather than for him to receive a larger salary. It was more important that he live a long life and not die at his desk. It was more important that our family’s social network remain in tact. It was my first, and only, glimpse into how he intentionally lived his work life.

He gave me something powerful that day. He gave me the foundation upon which I make decisions that help me live my life in a way that has meaning and that supports those I love. My own path shifted after that conversation. I began to really think about what I wanted for my life. I changed colleges. I changed majors. I changed life goals. I committed to living my life in a manner that was true to who I am. Intentional. Purpose-driven. I had no idea that this would be a lesson I would continually re-learn and refine throughout this life.

So, what is intention? Intention is purposeful attention, concentration. It is when we turn inward and let go of everything else. When all of the external distractions are silenced and focus is on connecting to one’s truth. From truth comes wisdom. From wisdom comes purpose. Then we know what we want and where we want to go. Consciousness.

In the Yoga-Sutra there is a powerful moment in one’s practice when one goes from distraction to direction. Like that moment in yoga, intention is a continuous daily practice that we strengthen with each little decision and each big decision. In my practice, I have turned my attention inward and focused my mind on my own truth. I listen to the wisdom that is within me, that I have never heard clearly before. I have come to understand that what fuels me is simplifying how our family lives and engages in the world while supporting others on their journey to intentional living. I uncovered the direction that has guided me thus far, and from which I will continue to grow into who I have always been becoming.

Greetings world!

My dear friend Suzanne has been trying to get me to blog for years. She is the professional writer, not me, so I have always been resistant. One day I stuck my toe into the big pool of public Instagram posting and discovered it wasn’t too bad. One thing led to another, and here I am giving this a go. I have no idea where it will take me, and us, should anyone chose to join me on this journey.

Suzanne asks me on a regular basis, what is one simple thing I can do to live more simply to simply live. I’ve been known to provide suggestions – some she has taken and some she has looked at me as though I am seriously insane. That’s my goal with this blog: One simple thing in each post that supports a simple, healthy, and happy life.

Nothing I say is intended to heal, diagnose, or cure anything. I am an educator and a mom. My degrees are in history, environmental science, and law. I love research. I love learning. And, I love using everything I learn to improve the quality of life for my whole family. When people express surprise and awe at how we live our lives, and the choices we make, my dear husband Chris can be heard saying, “She is a hippie we convinced to come inside.” I hope you will join me on this adventure.

“If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in . Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”

-David Bowie