July 28, 2017

August Happiness Challenge


Sometimes it's hard to be happy. Life can suck sometimes and it's difficult to keep feeling good. While I'm a fairly hopeful person, there are plenty of days I end up in dark places.

This challenge is not about being chipper and denying hardship. It's about recognizing we can take actions to improve our happiness. In The Happiness Equation, Neil Pasricha explains how simple tasks can drastically affect our happiness. (FYI, this is not a sponsored post, I'm sharing this book simply because I love it and it helped me)



Neil gives seven steps at the beginning of his book to help jump start your happiness. For the August Challenge, I'm breaking these seven steps down weekly. You may join me by doing the weekly tasks; or choose the steps that interest you and focus on them. I'll be sharing my thoughts along the way and would love to hear how you're doing as well!

Here is the breakdown:

Week 1:
  • Three Walks: Simple as it sounds, take three different thirty minute walks throughout the week. It improves happiness and has even been shown to improve recovery of clinical depression.
Week 2:
  • The 20-Minute Replay: Write for twenty minutes about a positive experience you had. "It improves happiness because you relive the experience as you're writing it and then relieve it every time you read it."
Week 3:
  • Random Acts of Kindness: Do one random act of kindness each day. Buy someone a coffee, send unexpected flowers, organize a shelf or room. Professor Martin Seligman says that "we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested."
  • A Complete Unplug: "The richest, happiest and most productive lives are characterized by the ability to fully engage in the challenge at hand, but also to disengage periodically and seek renewal," say Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in the Power of the Full Engagement. Turn off your phone after dinner, don't use the internet on vacation; these types of things help us renew our mind and connect in new ways.
Week 4:
  • Hit Flow: Get in the groove. Be in the zone. Find your flow. However you characterize it, when you're completely absorbed with that you're doing, it means you're being challenged and demonstrating skill at the same time.
  • 2-Minute Meditations: Studies report that meditation can "permanently rewire" your brain to raise levels of happiness.
Week 5:
  • Five Gratitudes: If you can be happy with simple things, then it will be simple to be happy. Find a book or a journal, or start a website, and write down three to five things you're grateful for from the past week.
I may attempt to do all of these each week but I've broken them down weekly to keep expectations low in case August gets too crazy (which is highly likely).

Which steps of the challenge sound most intriguing to you?




July 26, 2017

30 Day Yoga Challenge Last Thoughts



After having an especially grumpy day, I sat down on my yoga mat to start the day's practice. I wasn't in a great mood and I didn't especially want to do it, but I knew it would help relax my shoulders and possibly lift my spirits. As I began moving through the motions, I could feel the weight of my irritation disappearing. Just the act of breathing and stretching while listening to the calm voice of Adriene took all the worries of the day away.

I haven't done this month's challenge perfectly, but it has been so good for my body and mind. I can tell my mood is lighter when I'm done with the yoga practice of the day. The kinks in my shoulders and neck evaporate.

Participating in this challenge has convinced me that this is a good practice to continue. I am going to continue doing the 30 day yoga practice this next month as well, even if I stumble along at it. I've seen improvement in my balance and flexibility. I'm able to bend forward and touch the floor with much more ease than when I began. I've used the breathing exercises in the middle of anxiety and it's helped to calm me down.

Overall I'm incredibly glad I did this. Every time I experiment with a new challenge, I fight against perfectionism and worrying that I'm not doing something "right"; but I'm learning to let go and enjoy the process.

I'll be revealing next month's challenge at the end of this week. Since last month's was focused on the body, this next month's will be focused on the mind. Starting back to school and all the stresses that come with that, I want to do something that will help me be more mindful and present.

Do you have any recommendations on good books that've helped you be more mindful and present?

July 19, 2017

My 30 Day Yoga Failure


My husband showed me a video of an engineer whose friends dared him to ride a bicycle they had re-made so when you turn the handle bars to the right, the wheels go left. He understood it in theory but couldn't ride the bike that way because his mind and body were wired for riding how he'd learned as a child. Many people tried but no one could do it. He shared how our brains have something like algorithms that take a long time to change. Even if our minds know something, it takes much longer to accept and it's often with practice. So he practiced riding the backward bike five minutes every day for eight months. Finally, it clicked and he was able to ride!

I started this challenge to do yoga for thirty days. Sidenote: I am not an A-type personality; I'm more of a Z-type. So naturally, I haven't done so well with my challenge. I started out strong logging my excitement through the first week:

Day 1:
Today I woke up with a stiff neck and sore right shoulder so jumping into yoga was exciting because I knew it would stretch them out. This first video seemed really gentle and slow. It wasn't completely what I expected but it was exactly what I needed! Felt so amazing at the end. The stiffness in my neck was almost gone and soreness in my shoulder had disappeared.

Day 2: 
I really enjoyed today's stretching video. It felt good on my shoulders and back. The low lunges were difficult for me and I found myself having to lower my knees to stay balanced even after adjusting my position. Hopefully I'll gain strength there. I enjoyed the routine of touching toes and stepping back though!

Day 3:
This lesson was more difficult for me. It focused on balancing and I really struggled to hold several of the poses. It just showed me that I really need to work on building balance. it was a tiny bit discouraging but I know over time I will gain strength.

Day 4:
Oh my, I loved this day's practice. It felt so good to my body and lower back! I was able to easily do all the practices so that helped boost confidence. I am wondering how to do the child's pose when I have a belly. Do you open the legs to make room? Keep your head higher? I need some adjustments in that. It's so relaxing to end in corpse pose.

Day 5:
This was a fairly easy practice and seemed short compared to the other ones.

Day 6:
I usually hate abdominal workouts, but I'll admit I liked this one. It was done with enough flow and change of activity that it didn't register as too difficult to my brain, even though my abs felt it!

Day 7: 
Worked up a sweat today! This one was a bit more active and used many of the moves she's been teaching. It was easier to follow along because I'm becoming more familiar with them. Only the side leg lift took me off-balance, everything else was doable.

Day 8:
More meditative and calming. This feel on a Saturday and was perfect for relaxation and resetting my mind.

Then I had a rough day and didn't fit yoga in. It snowballed into a bunch of days. 

Day 14:
This one was nice and stretching with legs and shoulders. I did have a pain shoot through my left knee during one of the forward lunges, so I turned my foot outward a bit more and that seemed to help.

Entered day fourteen, then nothing. Today's the eighteenth.

My inner critic started in with: "I knew you wouldn't do it", "You can't finish anything", and "You never do it right". Inner critics are so mean! I didn't want to blog about it. I felt silly and stupid for not being consistent with 30 days of yoga (especially since I was enjoying it). 

But then I thought of you and how you might feel alone in your struggle to do new things. How you might feel like you're the only one falling down, when you're certainly not. Maybe you have failures like me and need to see someone bite the dust to know we can stand back up. I thought about the bike rider and how we're all wired. New habits are not like a switch you flip and suddenly you're different. It takes time. It takes re-training and practice. Reaching goals is more like stumbling than walking a perfect line.

Fall down, get up again. Fall down, get up again. Fall down and sit for days, get up again.

We need time to change the algorithm.

So I'm getting up and I'm going to finish this challenge in an imperfect, falling-forward way. Maybe I won't get all the days in, but that's okay; some days are better than nothing. I'm shushing the inner critics, embracing imperfection and continuing on.


Do you struggle with this? Are you a stumbling goal-setter?


July 7, 2017

Flouncy

Flouncy


Sometimes a girl wants an extra dose of movement and this capsule is made for feeling flouncy! It's got a great mix of patterns, solids and tons of ruffles. No matter what outfit or mix of items you choose, your clothes will dance with you every step of the way.





Flouncy by thecatherinedenton featuring tie-dye skirts

MSGM short dress
net-a-porter.com


Print dress
$19 - yoins.com




Dorothy Perkins ruffle top
dorothyperkins.com


Mulberry silk skirt
$900 - mulberry.com


Chloé patterned shorts
$840 - harrods.com



Tailored pants
$220 - trouva.com


J Crew tie dye skirt
$130 - net-a-porter.com


Mabu pom pom shoes
nordstrom.com



Silk bag
$230 - hollygolightly.dk


Mar y Sol beige clutch
$97 - fashion-conscience.com


Tie choker
puma.com

July 5, 2017

You are a Writer


Since I was a child, I've loved reading and writing; two things that have remained constants in my life. But I don't call myself a writer. I tend to think writers are the ones who are published, who have large blogs, or whose articles make it into the New Yorker. But the truth is obvious. 

If you write, you are a writer.

Why is that statement so hard to accept? I love how Jeff Goins talks about the practice of writing. First, it must be a practice. He also encourages writing in public. Practicing your art in public ~ no matter the genre ~ has an impact on improving your craft. For the comedian, the audience helps him understand which bits will land and which ones will bomb. For the painter, the audience shows what they're drawn to in her work. For the writer, it sheds light on what topics impact others. If you haven't read his book, You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One), you should! It's incredibly inspiring.

I have been an on-again, off-again blogger for about eight years (I had a previous blog before this one). It's my favorite public platform and I always return after life pulls me away. I was cleaning up some of my old posts last week, and it surprised me how many essays I found among them. Granted some of those essays make me cringe now, but they also encourage me because I see improvement.

Writing on this site has given me a place to practice in front of others, no matter how many or how few. To speak my heart in written form.

I'm still learning how to do this. Probably will be saying that until the day I die. The beauty of creating something is that there's always room for improvement. The crafting of our art is beautiful because of the process. If we can view it that way, then there is no fear in claiming a name for what we're already doing. Although I could call myself a painter, a knitter, or a musician as well, because I do those things with semi-regularity; it's writing that has always pulled my heartstrings. And that's probably because . . .

I am a writer.



Are you a writer? What calls to you?



July 4, 2017

Happy 4th of July!


Happy 4th of July! (to all my stateside friends) Happy Day! (to the rest of you)

My goals today are:

1. Not to lose my dog. 
He ran off last year and I thought I'd lost him forever. We looked everywhere and couldn't find him. Fortunately he showed up the next day at our front door. So this year he will be staying inside and only go out on a leash!

2. Eat my weight in watermelon and popsicles!
I mean, does this one need an explanation?

3. Play in water!
I love swimming, so hopefully we'll get to do that. But if not, I'd happily be sprayed with a water gun.

4. Stay in air conditioning!
Well, obviously.

5. Eat vegan hot dogs with a plethora of toppings.
Yeah, don't give me grief about them being vegan, they are just as good. (Okay they're not, but they're better for you, so there!)

Two-fifths of my goals are about food, wonder what does says about me. Also, did you notice fireworks aren't on my list? Honestly I could do without them. I'm usually coaxed into seeing them with friends but I'd be just as happy sitting in air conditioning with my watermelon.

What are your goals today?

June 30, 2017

Dealing with Grief as a Mom


I stood frozen in my living room shocked to hear that a student I loved was being taken off life support. I was stunned and heartbroken. I could not pull it together. I cried in front of all three of my kids throughout the day. It felt as if I was coming apart at the seams and I hated it ~ even felt guilty for it.

As I apologized for my tears, my kids asked me why I was apologizing. It's normal to cry when you lose someone, they reminded me. 

1. Our children need to see our tears, it lets them know crying is normal.

They were right but I wrestled with feeling ridiculous, narcissistic and weak. Tracing it back, I found somewhere along my life I'd picked up the belief that mothers shouldn't cry in front of their children. When I examined that thought, I realized I didn't want to hang onto it. I wouldn't expect that from any of my friends so why was I telling myself that lie?

2. We need others to help us process; we shouldn't do it alone.

Sharing tears with my kids and telling them some of my hurt felt healthy; but I didn't want to burden them too much with the full heaviness of my grief. So when my husband came home, I asked him to listen while I talked about my student and what she meant to me. He took my hand and listened. As I poured out stories about her, fluctuating between laughing and sobbing, I felt relief. Something inside lightened a bit.

A few days later, she died. My best friend called and asked me to come for coffee. She knew I was struggling and that it would be difficult. We sat and talked for hours about how we'd miss this young girl. I felt a bit lighter. I wasn't carrying the burden alone.

3. Be honest about what you need.

I ended up speaking at the funeral, giving a few remembrances. It was emotional but good. I felt empowered to be able to share stories and thoughts about this beautiful girl.

But afterwards, I was exhausted and hungry. I didn't really want to go home yet. My son was with me, a high-schooler, and I felt a bit silly asking, but knew I should be honest about what I needed. So I asked if he'd be willing to go eat with me at a place my student had told me to try. It was a place with vegan options and she was sure I'd love it. My son agreed and we went. Sitting in that restaurant felt like a connection with her, eating the food she knew I'd like and making her a part my life. It was beautiful closure on a difficult day.

Doing these three simple things allowed me to process grief in a way my children and others could help me with. Grief is part of life and our kids will know it soon enough. Letting them see how we deal with it can paint a picture for them of how they can deal with it too.

How have you dealt with grief in front of your children or others?





June 28, 2017

Travel: Staycation Airbnb


We stayed at this adorable airbnb downtown to celebrate our kids being out of school and the beginning of summer. It was the weekend of Mayfest, an art festival in Tulsa every year, and we decided to do a staycation rather than travel. We love doing this periodically to explore our city. Staying somewhere new helps us feel "away" enough to enjoy our vacation, but less expensive and time consuming than leaving town.


(I love the peeling wallpaper in the bathroom! But if I tried that, it would just look unfinished. How do they make it look so good?!)

The first night it rained really hard so we weren't able to make the festival, but we stayed indoors playing cards and snacking. The living room had a record player with local artists on vinyl that we really enjoyed! It encouraged impromptu dance parties. Sometimes a rainy night spend indoors is the best connector for a family of five.

Saturday we spent our day at the festival drooling over beautiful art and eating horrible but delicious festival food.


It was a great start to summer break!


Have you ever stayed at an airbnb? Do you like stay-cations?



June 26, 2017

July Challenge: Get Up, Move!


Who's up for a new challenge? I love a good one. There's something invigorating about choosing an experiment with a time limit and stretching myself to complete it. It's usually in the nerd category (read 52 books in a year) or a minimalist one (wear only 10 items). But lately I've been seeing a need to push myself physically. I am not gifted with athletic abilities; at least I don't think so, but I've never worked too hard to find out.

I'd like to take the summer to incorporate more movement in my day. I'm not going to marathon level, but just more consistent exercise. Less sitting, more moving!

I've found that my favorite forms of exercise are yoga, walking and hiking. While hiking only happens occasionally, yoga and/or walking could be pursued daily.

So here's the plan, if you wanna join in, I'm going to do this 30 Day Yoga Challenge with Adriene from YouTube starting July 1st. Yes, I know that's a Saturday, but I think it's good to start on a slow day.

That may not sound like much to you exercise gurus out there, but for us couch potatoes, this is big! I believe in starting small so I can succeed. It will encourage me to continue adding more healthy habits to my routine with a few successes under my belt.

I plan to combine exercising with something that's already in my routine. For me, that helps it morph into a habit. I'm thinking I'll do it while my coffee is brewing. Starting the coffee pot is a pretty solid habit, so it'd just be redirecting myself to the yoga mat instead of sitting down browsing Instagram.

How do you fit movement into your day? Do you prefer it to be solitary or a social? Do you want to do the challenge with me? 

I'll be posting my progress along the way on Instagram under the hashtag #GetUpMove2017, join me there if you like and we can encourage each other! I'll also be posting about my progress here weekly.


June 19, 2017

What I Want My Children to Know


I want my children to know that they are:

1. Worthy ~ whatever the world says, I want you to know you are always worthy. Your worth doesn't lie in what others say about you or what they do. It lies in being human. You're worthy because you exist.

2. Capable ~ whether you feel it or not, you are capable. You are capable of adapting, of learning of doing new things, and of changing.

3. Inventive ~ you may not feel it sometimes, but you are inventive. You have billions of ideas and endless solutions hidden in your mind waiting to be uncovered.

4. Leaders ~ quietly or loudly, you are leaders. You have a troupe who learn from you and follow you. I want you to be brave enough to step up and lean into your leadership.

5. World changers ~ you already have a global prospective that I never had at your age and your compassion for others moves me. You have the ability to change things about the way you live, how you educate others and become activists to change the world.

6. Adaptable ~ sometimes life changes or we change and it may seem that changing is hard, but I want you to know you are adaptable. You will be able to change with change, regardless of how difficult it may be at the time. You will learn to adapt and with that, grow.

7. Growing ~ you have the ability to be ever growing in your love of others, your knowledge, your strength and your compassion. Don't stop. Push yourself in this area because it will season you and better your entire life.

8. Imaginative ~ you are bursting with creativity. I've seen it alive and blooming. Don't let it die. Add a little sprinkle of imagination in all you do, whether it's thinking outside the box at work or adding art and music to the world.

9. Beautiful ~ you are beautiful inside and out. Don't anyone or any social construct determine how you feel about yourself. Know that true beauty reaches farther than skin deep. Embrace the strengths you have and enjoy them.

10. Brilliant ~ no matter what grades you make/made or what judgement others pass on you, you are brilliant. I've seen your brilliance and can attest to it. You come up with solutions when none are there, you reach the inner pain of someone when no one else can, and you find laughter in the midst of sorrow. You are brilliant, use that brilliance to help others.


What would you add? What do you want the kids of this generation to know?




June 14, 2017

There's Comfort in Uncertainty


Feeling certain has it's perks. It's safe. It's familiar. You know what you're getting. I'm the type of person that dives head first into certainty and often has to back up. It just feels so good to be certain of something.

The problem is, in reality there is very little certainty.

I found this out through an unusual path. It wasn't a death or tragedy that disrupted my belief in certainty. It was through books; through my love of learning and reading that I began to uncover the awful truth that:

Certainty is rare.

Deeply held beliefs of mine were suddenly called into question. I began to examine them from an outsider's view and they no longer made any sense. I'll be honest, I was crushed. I cried every night for months. Sometimes tears would appear in the middle of the day and surprise me.

I began to wonder if I would ever feel safe again. Would I be able to live in a world where things are so unsettled? So uncertain?

I realize this shows how unconnected I was with the world around me. There are many people who have no choice but to see through the lens of terrible uncertainty. Admitting my surprise of it only demonstrates how privileged a life I've lived. Frankly, it's embarrassing how long it took me to see it.

But I'm awake now.

And slowly, I've learned to find a weird kind of comfort in uncertainty. There is a beauty in not knowing something. It gives room for wonder and mystery. In the past, I only enjoyed mystery when the answers would be forthcoming. But now, I'm learning to embrace mystery as it is, no limits or ending.

Uncertainty has brought me to a place of listening better. Being uncertain of my stance, I find myself learning from others and their opinions. I'm no longer the one with the answers. I am a student of new ideas and different perspectives.

I'll admit, I still look back longingly at the days of certainty and wish for that world. But I'm learning to accept this one and find comfort in the beauty of uncertainty.



June 12, 2017

5 Happy Goals

5 Happy Goals



Setting goals can be a joy and a curse. The planning stage is bliss, full of possibilities and wonder. But once the pursuit begins, it can feel like an obligation. Our family has had lots of changes this year, nothing bad, just busy and I've found myself feeling anxious. So I felt it was time to create some goals for myself to get my mind occupied. But the thought of having to accomplish a bunch of things didn't sound too calming either. So I decided to start with Happy Goals instead. Goals just for fun's sake ~ goals to make me happy! If I like it, I may do it monthly. Feel free to join in and make your own happy goals. We can cheer each other on!

1.  Blog more.  I love blogging. It seems that anytime life pulls me away from it, I end up returning in the long run. There is something invigorating about creating a post and putting out there for the world to see.

2.  Paint two abstracts. Painting is the most calming experience for me. It allows me to process things I have trouble thinking through while also allowing me to play with color and beauty.

3.  Go swimming. This sounds like a no-brainer for summer. But now that my kids are older, they don't need me with them at the pool so I don't go much. And I LOVE swimming! We have a neighborhood pool literally down our street. I even got a new swimsuit this year that I actually like! There really is no excuse, this one needs to be crossed off ASAP.

4.  See a movie at the drive-in. I noticed Wonder Woman is playing there this week! How cool would that be? The only drawback was it was paired with Baywatch . . . ew, what were they thinking?

5. Get a sno-cone at Josh's Sno Shack. There are so many flavors and it just sounds refreshing. (Watermelon is the best!) Now I'm just making myself thirsty.

Okay those are my happy goals for this month! I'll let you know how many I manage to cross off. If you do it too; I'd love to see your list!