What do you do for fun? #ummpinterest

3 minute read, Blog, Gentle Living, Healthy Habits

“What do you do like to do for fun?” she asked me.

“Ummm…drink wine with my friends and…Pinterest?” I replied.

Oh man. It was that simple question that got me thinking…what DO I like to do for fun?? Because, seriously? “Pinterest” is an absolutely horrific answer.

But to be honest, I was just so damn tired and burnt out that all I really wanted to do when I got a moment to get bored, was veg out and scroll through my phone.

Yikes.

Since then I’ve identified that I want to spend more time learning photography, because I LOVE it. I also want to spend as much time as possible outside, exploring new places and hiking/walking/meandering. I want to get back into yoga and read interesting books and find hidden gems in the Northeast US (of which, there are MANY). I love hanging out at farms (I’ll say it’s for the kids, but really I just love horses…and cows and sheep and goats haha) and taking in anything that feels rustic and old. US & International adventure travel are on my “goal” list and I want to get more intentional about making some actual plans happen.

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So, what do YOU like to do for fun?

Where does your curiosity lie? What do you find yourself thinking about when you’re supposed to be focusing on other stuff? If there were no restrictions on looking stupid or shirking responsibility, what would you spend your time doing?

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I found out that you kind of owe it to yourself to ask these questions. It makes work, parenting and weekends way more interesting when you’re making plans to do stuff that’s interesting to you. Go figure.

Make life intentional. Try to not just simply survive and scroll.

Trust me. It’s way more fun this way.

Out of Office #PTO

3 minute read, Blog, Gentle Living, Healthy Habits

When was the last time you took a vacation day JUST BECAUSE?

In 10+ years working full-time, I don’t think I had ever done it.

And then I DID…and it was NICE!

As a full-time, working parent, it’s not often that I get even a minute to do something that isn’t required of me. Even the fun stuff requires some level of preparation and accommodation of other people’s needs.

So I tapped out for a day.

I put up my OOO. I went to a yoga class, got a pedicure and wandered around quaint little Northeast towns with my camera, popping into shops and making small talk with the chatty store owners.

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I met a lady who ran an ethical, fair trade, apparel shop and knew the back story of absolutely every item in the place: who had made it, where it came from and why it was special.

I met another lady who owned an absolutely TINY, cramped antique shop. Packed to the gills with things she had sourced from her yearly travels around the world, as well as some really lovely handmade lamps (her craft). She tells me, “all the young guys are wearing cuff links again, so I make sure to grab a ton of those when I find them.”

At one point, I was sitting in a random little coffee shop, steaming cup of tea in front of me and a fresh pressed panini grilled cheese on its way. The building is historic and the original wood floor was scuffed up with the travels of so many feet in so many years.

The furniture was perfectly mismatched and the old, wavy windows looked out onto the river that rushed under a lovely little bridge.

Across the room from me is a group of about 7 old ladies playing scrabble and whooping it up, like they had been meeting here for years and wouldn’t have it any other way.

It was all just so damn…charming.

 

So basically, this is me encouraging everyone who reads this to tap out every once in a while. Intentionally plan out a day that you can just wander around and follow your curiosity. Talk to the other random, delightful people that inhabit this world and take a moment to gently move around.

Step lightly, and without desperately achieving something for a change.

There’s plenty of time for that another day.

 

Golden Hour #notjustforphotography

Blog, Gentle Living

As a photographer, I’m slightly obsessed with light. There’s a term called the “golden hour,” which is the hour or so in the morning just after sunrise and in the evening just before sunset, when the sunlight falls juuuuuust right for magical pictures.

It also happens to be a wonderful, gentle time to just use your eyeballs and soak in the magic of the present moment. Look around. Describe what you see (either in your head or write it down). It’s a sweet little practice in mindfulness and gratitude.

Notice the sounds, the textures, the smells. The tiny little things that strike you as lovely…

I’ll go first.

An ode to the morning golden hour:

I sit here in the morning.

At my little table.

Facing East.

Where the sun makes her daily entrance.

You can the see the shimmer on the horizon first. A sort of matte glow most days.

The birds feel it too, and start a call and response chant to bring forth the day.

As I sit here and write, the sun herself peeks over the horizon and dumps a bucket of golden light through the window. 

It drenches my face, the floor, the curtains.

The light filters through the fresh flowers & the tiny mint plant in front of me. 

The smell of coffee provides the backdrop, and the beams of golden sun bring the steam from my mug into sharp relief. Tiny little tendrils of delicious swirls.

I hear the light little footsteps that mean my oldest baby is awake and tentatively making his way down the hallway, hoping I’m awake to greet him.

I meet him halfway and pick him up into a hug, then accompany him to the couch where we sit in silence for a minute; in a sort of half-hug.

“I love you, sweet boy,” I tell him. 

This is the hour before responsibility starts. The hour of stillness, golden light and sweet hugs.

The Pain of Perfection

3 minute read, Blog, Healthy Habits

My mother calls it “the curse.” It’s the multi-generational, subconscious, uncontrollable need for tidiness and order. Our house growing up was spotless, beautiful, and orderly. Everything had a place, every routine was down pat. It was a really un-stressful way to grow up. Honestly, I think it shaped some of my best qualities. There was no uncertainty, just calm routine.

*Mom is #goals

Because what happens when it goes beyond tidiness and maintaining a calm routine? What happens when perfection is chased in bodies, careers, social situations, parenting and self images? Left unchecked, it can bring us to our knees. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Perfection is painful. It’s painful because we’re judging something (our situation, our experiences, our relationships, our body). When we judge, we label, and when we deem something as “bad,” we tend to wish it was otherwise. We are rejecting what is, and what cannot be any other way (at that moment).

We think things are out of order, our children can’t be controlled, we need to lose 10 pounds. We clean and clean, we obsess over calories, we make everything just so, because then FINALLY we can be in control of the “bad things” and other people will see that our lives are “good.” We’re so embarrassed when we fall short. What will people think!

But what if the ticket out of the destructive spiral of perfection is not to make everything perfect? What if the ticket out is this: Radical acceptance + Gratitude + Don’t care.

Things simply cannot be different in this very moment. They’re not good. They’re not bad. They just are. It’s scientific fact.

Labels tend to cloud our judgement. They elicit emotional responses. The dishes should be done, the kids should behave like I want them to, I should be a size 2, I should hostess like a magazine, I should climb the corporate ladder, I shouldn’t be angry. Should, should, SHOULD.

No.

Let’s use “I should be a size 2” as an example. I, personally, am NOT a size 2. Not even close.

Acceptance: My body size is what it is today. It cannot change at this very moment. I care deeply about my health and do what I can to make good decisions.

Gratitude: But damn am I grateful for what this body can DO. It’s climbed mountains, it’s created humans, it’s capable of things I couldn’t even imagine.

Don’t care: There will always be someone thinner AND bigger than me. I give caring about my body size a big, fat, MEH. But for real, people who judge other people for the size of their body are jerks. If you’re judging someone for their body, it says a lot more about you than it does about them. We’re all out here doing our best. Also #yolo.

One more example: “The dishes should be done.”

Acceptance: They are not done. There are 3 options. Do them myself, bribe someone else to do them, or ignore them for now. I can either change it, or not.

Gratitude: Having dishes in the sink means we have food on the table. It means the people I love were here.

Don’t care: Is anyone in danger because the dishes aren’t done? Probably not. Also, people who judge other people for having dishes in the sink are hypocrites and jerks. We’re all just out here doing our best. Plus, they’ll get done eventually.

We can focus on our health, and on creating a sense of calm in our households. We can aspire to do well at work. But join me in trying to remember to check our stress levels when it comes to all the “shoulds.”

What is, is perfect. And you are enough.

Your Thighs are Seriously Just Fine #newyearnewyou

3 minute read, Blog, Healthy Habits

We’re getting to that time of the year where those shiny New Years Resolutions are starting to feel like a BIT of an uphill battle.

Or at least it is for me.

But I’ve tried to make some changes this year. Particularly in the way I’m thinking about myself and the reasons I want to make said resolutions in the first place…And I wanted to share, just in case it helps you too.

The problem

I believe that in order to accomplish some of our most earnest self-improvement goals, it’s not enough to rely on willpower alone. Maybe you want to lose weight? Me too. Willpower is fine until you’re screaming “FREEEEEDOM” a la Braveheart, clutching a bottle of Pinot in one hand and a bag of Oreos in the other.

Deprivation doesn’t work long term. We’re not wired for it.

The Fix

The trick, in my experience, is to flip the conversation in your head. To go from self-punishment and deprivation to self-love, positive goal setting and abundance.

Seek to ADD to your life, not to lose something. Rather than cutting out all sugar for the rest of time, add vegetables to every meal and 30 minutes of moving-your-body to every day. NOT because you hate your thighs, but because vegetables clean your blood/curb your appetite and exercise floods your brain with endorphins. Yay! Losing dessert is sad, but ADDING more vegetables is doable. And eat the dessert. #yolo

This can work for non-health related goals too. Is your goal to spend less money? De-clutter? Do less of something? Ask yourself, why. I’m guessing your ultimate goal is something like freedom from stress, more resources for other things, more space, more time. The tactics themselves (less money, less stuff) feel like deprivation. But the GOAL is abundance. Keep THAT in mind while you’re tossing out that sweater you haven’t worn since ’03, and I bet it’ll be easier to bid it farewell for good.

I feel like we should make these healthy, positive changes so that we have more energy & resources for LIVING. Not to punish ourselves for being “screwed up” and different than the “ideal.” I mean, whose ideal is that anyway?

I get it though. I’m tired too.

That’s why it’s kind of a waste of our precious time and energy to worry about an arbitrary “ideal.” I don’t think we’d be so concerned with our dress size if someone hadn’t told us we ought to be. And then on top of judging ourselves, we’re also worrying about whether other people are judging us for not stacking up. We all likely have enough to worry about without adding THAT.

Not Convinced?

Here’s a helpful perspective I heard recently: You are basically THE rarest and most magical being alive.

Did things just get weird?

Ok. Put a more logical way…Your personal combination of DNA and experiences has literally NEVER been seen before (in the past) and will NEVER be seen again (in the future). You are actually, scientifically, objectively, unique.

So why waste another minute HATING the things that make you, YOU? You are not broken. You’re good different, and your thighs are seriously just fine the way they are.

Why feel like you’re on the outside looking in? You ARE in, just by existing. Self improvement is awesome. Doing it because we feel like we are somehow “wrong” is not awesome. It’s unsustainable.

You’re a magical, statistical impossibility and it’s time to start acting like one.

Minimize to Maximize #Simplicity

Blog, Healthy Habits

“Have stories to tell, not stuff to show” – Unknown

So I heard an awesome podcast the other day, featuring the founder of The Last Bookstore in LA, Josh Spencer. First of all, his story is amazing and if you get a chance, listen to the podcast “Don’t Keep Your Day Job with Cathy Heller” Season 2; Episode 59. In it, Spencer says something really profound about embracing the “plot twists” in your life’s story, and that he didn’t personally want his story to be a boring, sad one after being paralyzed at a young age. He went on to found an unbelievably successful bookstore/record store/art gallery that has become an icon in the LA area (with people even getting married there!).

In (probably not obviously) related news, I’m also following a lot of curiosity in the area of minimalism lately. I’m SO intrigued by the idea of capsule wardrobes, ruthless editing of the crap we allow in our house, owning less and DOING more. Breaking the anchors that keep us strung out. Working to feel freedom and enjoy the doing-part of life. I’m fascinated by the possibility of feeling lighter, less burdened by organizing and consuming.

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We have so much crap. Toys, clothes, bins, boxes, papers, oh my! Our basement turns into a dumping ground for the crap we don’t want to look at it; but it’s there, looming, waiting for me to come down there to grab a roll of wrapping paper for a gift or an extra roll of paper towels. I want it gone. I want simplicity and I want clean.

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The funny thing is, simplicity isn’t simple. Far from it. Simplicity takes work in this culture. Striving for simplicity forces you to understand the difference between what you need vs. what you want. It forces you to prioritize. Simplicity requires you to be an unwavering gatekeeper of what you allow in your home and life. It requires us to second guess the consumerism that is thrown at us literally 24/7. I have this romantic aspiration to have 1 of everything we need. But not just any one. The BEST one. The most unique, beautiful, one. I want handcrafted quality. I want ridiculously functional. And when that ONE gets worn out, we will thank it for its service, get rid of it and get a new one. But also, as you can tell in these pictures, a $1 net goes a long way too.

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The dichotomy we have to address here, while we’re talking about getting rid of stuff, is the simplicity/abundance phenomenon. Just like simplicity isn’t simple, abundance does not equal more crap. The feeling of abundance comes from stripping away the distractions and noise. It comes from being able to crawl out from under the pile of stuff keeping you pinned to the ground and realize that the universe provides everything we need. It comes from taking a moment to realize just how freaking lucky you truly are to have woken up today with breath in your lungs and the opportunity to make this day HAPPEN. There is progress to be made, you can be healthier if you choose. You can create or nurture the relationships in your life if you choose. You can pick up a hobby, hone a skill, do something crazy, do nothing at all.

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Abundance is realizing the truth that there is enough to go around. Simplicity is a tool available to get there. Oppression happens when we focus on scarcity and fear.

Which brings me back to the beginning. What kind of life are we simply accepting  underneath all this stuff? What kind of interesting stories are waiting for us on the other side? What could we do with all that time spent organizing, thinking about stuff, trying to buy happiness? We could go DO! Have adventures, explore, create life stories. Personally, I want to travel and spend time learning photography and taking beautiful pictures. I want to have a home base where we can spend time in comfort with family and friends (and I don’t want to have to break my jolly mood by shoving away all the crap before they come over). I want to spend as much time that is logistically possible getting to know the little humans we are raising. I want to take care of this body as best I can in order to fully participate in life. I want to wander in the woods and look around with wonder.

And funnily enough, most of those things, aren’t things.

Oh the Hygge!

Blog, Nature

“Hygge (/ˈhjuːɡə/ HEW-gə) is a Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment.”

In a merciful turn of events, the weather has gone from 95 degrees with 96% humidity here on the East Coast, to a dreary and WONDERFUL 55 degrees! I’m wearing socks. And a cozy sweatshirt. I haven’t sweat the makeup off my face once today. It. Is. Amazing.

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Not that I’m wishing summer away, but the coziness of a sweatshirt and lack of blazing heat is making us all want to slooooow down and rest this weekend and I for one, am loving every minute.

Rewind to a week ago…So it’s obviously been quite a while since I attended any form of school. And therefore quite a while since my whole life revolved around the seasons (now it’s work in the summer, work in the spring, and oh! work in the fall and winter too…sweet). But a crazy thing happened this week with my oldest starting kindergarten… all of a sudden we’re thrown back into this school year rhythm.

We enjoyed the last licks of summer with a sweltering visit to a local, historical farm and general wandering about town. I took a vacation day from work and it ended up being a perfectly summer vacation-esque mom and son day (we failed to coordinate daycare for the couple of the days in September before school started and it worked out awesomely). We wandered around the farm, met a one-eyed horse named Hobbes, sweat our asses off in the 97 degree heat, wondered how hot the animals must be with all their fur, ate ice cream cones, ducked into the happily air-conditioned library to read a quick book and just generally hung out.

Having that day of pure, unplanned wandering in the blistering heat makes me feel even less bad about sitting around basking in this wonderful feeling of hygge today. Lanterns are flickering in the living room and the soft sound of rain outside is making me irrationally & excessively grateful for the simple blessing of having a sturdy little house to hang out in.

Welcome to hygge season. Welcome to Kindergarten, dear boy. Change is constant and fantastic.