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Dr. Susan Mathison, Published September 11 2013

Positively beautiful: September is the new January

We all know gyms in January are hopping with resolute folks hoping that “New Year, New You” slogan will come true. But September is actually the second-busiest time for gym newbies.

Some say it’s an even better time for a fresh start since the holidays leave people so tired.

September is a time of transition with the end of summer, back-to-school focus.

As a child, fresh double-lined paper and sharp pencils meant a promise to myself to get my homework done early so I could play and read books of my own choosing.

As parent of a new kindergartner, I am striving to create a happy, healthy routine that supports his new learning environment. He is a strong-willed little night owl and the new 8 p.m. bedtime has been a struggle.

And of course, I’m in back-to-school/back-to-work mode even though I didn’t take a lot of time off this summer. For the last quarter of 2013, my energy follows these intentions:

• Harvest

I may not be much of a farm wife, but bushels of tomatoes get me going. I’ve made huge batches of frozen tomato sauce in the past, but this is the year for me to try my hand at canning salsa.

I have been so proud of Farm in the Dell, a new group in Fargo-Moorhead that has been growing produce in the community garden next to Catalyst. They aim to build a rural group home for young adults with autism and other special needs, and this project has been as much about growing people as vegetables. They have shared their bounty with me and our neighbors at One Oak Place.

A friend also invited me to pick apples from a huge tree in her backyard, and I look forward to taking Grant on this adventure. I want to make sure he knows apples had a life before Hornbacher’s.

I’m also intrigued by the fall-themed Cooking Revolution classes at the demonstration kitchen in the new Dakota Medical Foundation building. Check out www.DakMed.org.

Family Wellness Center and Moorhead Community Education also offer great cooking classes.

• Enjoy the outdoors

We spent a few days in Duluth recently. There is nothing like nature to inspire and fill you up. One of the best things about being a parent is to experience nature through the eyes of a child.

Grant was thrilled with the ocean-like vastness of Lake Superior, but he was just as delighted to learn how to skip rocks and look for the perfectly shaped specimen.

And of course nature exists just beyond our front door. There are so many days when it’s not too hot, not too cold, it’s just right. I’m shooting for a daily walk. Hopefully Grant will come with so I notice things only a 5-year-old sees.

• Schedule, routine, ritual

Research shows we get decision fatigue. Successful people minimize the number of decisions they make by finding something that works for them and sticking to it.

A morning ritual, the same lunch or your own personal uniform might help. For example, Steve Jobs wore a black turtleneck every day.

This saves mental energy for bigger concepts and more complex decisions. I need to create better routines for me and Grant. I can’t control the husband, but maybe he’ll do the same if we are good examples.

• Make space for creativity

I am a clutter bug. I love books and magazines. I feel as though I should know and remember every page. Or I might need them as inspiration for an article or paper for a collage or vision board.

While I don’t think I am quite ready for the show “Hoarders,” it gets to be a problem when you start to feel trapped by too much stuff.

I love what professional organizer Melissa Schmalenberger says about her services: “I come with no judgment, and I leave with no stories.”

I’ve appreciated her help over the years.

I have consolidated most of my books in a small study at my office. They are arranged by color, and it looks so cool. Having most of them in one place and semi-organized is great and helps open up some space since the books are actually like wall décor. So far this space has been used by a book group and a meditation group. Now I need to use it myself.

I find I am more creative when my surroundings are neater. I have a goal to create a large painting for a lonely wall at Catalyst. I also need to take inspired action to make a bra for my Bras On Broadway donation. And can I come up with a crazy idea for my holiday cards?

• Rethink learning

We celebrated great ideas with this theme at TEDxFargo in early August. What is the classroom of the future? How do we create meaningful educational experiences that prepare all of us, not just kids, for a life of meaning and contribution?

Learning is a lifelong endeavor, as we open our minds with classes, books, people, travel and service.

I love this quote from an unknown source, “Far from what I once was, but not yet what I am going to be.”

What will September mean for you?

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com. Email her at shesays@forumcomm.com.