Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Tiara Challenge!

Over the years I've written this blog, I've often used it as a means to keep myself accountable for a number of challenges; often, those have been based on becoming more "adult" (read as "responsible") in a particular area such as eating, exercising, or financial habits. 

Self-care in all its permutations is an area that I see all of these discrete areas coming together. Let me explain and keep in mind that this is a lengthy challenge. After you read this, if it sounds interesting to you, please join me!

Today (May 24) happens to be Queen Victoria's birthday and, about ten years ago, a few fine folks who worked in the bridal industry (shudder - "bridal industry" - that's an awful term) got together and made up the holiday of "International Tiara Day." I discovered this just a day ahead of the event, which wasn't much time to get things together, but I got myself a sparkly tiara and, with a deep breath and maybe a few misgivings, I gave it a try. 

So what happened? A few people at work thought I was deeply eccentric, but that's not so bad. I found myself actually standing straighter (which would probably delight my mother) and walking a bit more deliberately. Also, if you ever want to follow Emerson's advice to "scatter joy," wearing a tiara will quite possibly do the trick. Everyone smiles at you. A few people stop in their tracks. It's just silly and we are in dire need of some silly these days.

Which brings us to the "Tiara Challenge." Following the INCREDIBLY FANTASTICALLY COOL AND HOLY WOW IT WAS GREAT beach trip, FryDaddy and I completed a major financial adulting goal and want to keep that momentum going. While my life is not ruled by the scale, my clothes do not fit in a way that proclaims my fabulousness to the world at large. I want to gain strength and stamina enough to "jobble" (remember, that's jogging crossed with wobbling) a mile without stopping and I really want to complete a 10K by the end of this year. (It's fine by me if I walk the whole thing.) In addition, I want to treat myself like company instead of like the hobo begging at the back door. So - I'm going to do it!

How? I'm still working the details, but . . .
  • From Memorial Day to Labor Day, I plan on pulling together all the bits and pieces that I've picked up over the past few years and crafting a life that puts family at the center. 
  • Summer, with its bounty of fresh vegetables and fruit (some hopefully from my own garden!), is the perfect time to try new recipes and dump the junk food. Also, quit rewarding myself with food.
  • Water infused with cucumber, berries, or herbs is going to be on my desk or the kitchen counter, but I'm also going to give "sun tea" a whirl using my office windowsill.
  • I plan on mild exercise to start with, and working my way up to jobbling three times a week and walking the other days. 
  • Keeping a bullet journal (I started my version last fall) makes me take a few minutes to reflect on my day and detach from it at the same time instead of carrying around a load of worry and turmoil. 
  • I'm going to organize all the samples of skin care stuff I've got a try to use one every single day, quite possibly while wearing my sparkly tiara. File this under "use the good stuff."
  • "Window shop" with good magazines and catalogs while also ruthlessly winnowing out my closet. The goal there is to leave me only with things that actually fit that I love (and a few sentimental favorites, of course) while also knowing what I'd like to keep my eyes open for to fill in the gaps.
It won't all happen at once and I'll make mistakes. No matter. I want to be, as the French would say (and I'm learning to), "une femme d'un certain âge" who retains a sense of style, playfulness, and curiosity, yet still has a badass streak. To do that, I need to do a few things.

And I'm starting today.

Who's with me? Aside from Princess Margaret here, who knew how to rock a tiara.

 

    

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Filling Your Bucket!

The end of the semester is always a whirlwind and this one was no exception. On top of the usual rush-to-grade, a handful of other things needed my attention, making it a hurried sundae with a little extra mania on top. Summer classes start in about a week and I needed to make sure all of that was ready as well, since I took my own advice from March and planned a "girls' getaway" for this week.

Friends will be trickling in over the next day or two and then leaving at the end of the weekend. I'm not entirely sure what-all we'll get up to in that time and I'm eager to find out! The weather is supposed to be perfectly sunny and warm. I've got a stack of books (looking at you, Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology!) and a passel of magazines. Anyone using the computer for anything other than posting silly pictures runs the risk of being fined and us using the fine money for something silly, like buying tiaras. Sweets and snacks are already laid in to satisfy the munchies. I've got the dance schedule for Fat Harold's and plans have been made for a tea party and shopping trip this weekend. But there are plenty of hours to simply laze away napping, reading, playing Putt-Putt (watch out for that windmill shot - it's tricky!) and probably gossiping about nothing and no one. We're probably only half a step from braiding each other's hair!

I can't wait!

Sloth self-care!
Honestly, it's amazing to me how we put off self-care as if it's something to be ashamed of. (Blasted Puritans.) Let me say this again - IT IS A GOOD THING TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! When we treat ourselves kindly, gently, and with respect, it becomes easier to (a) extend that care to others and (b) accept that we deserve to be treated respectfully. Imagine that - a world in which we treated each other with thoughtful kindness and expected the same from others.

Fancy that!

There are many, many ways to accomplish this and, while they certainly can be expensive and fussy (around-the-world trip on the Queen Mary 2), they don't have to be. (Seriously - check out this link for some ideas to get you started!) Let's examine this a bit.

This trip, for instance. We've planned it for two months and the expenses are actually quite low. It's a matter of deciding where I want to put my resources (which, in many ways, remain quite limited). For me, that tea party is going to be fantastic - lovely food, elegantly presented, eaten with good friends in silly hats. For you, it might be something totally different - and that's not only okay, it's fantastic! Just ask yourself What brings me joy? It's an odd thing, but I have discovered that most adults don't ask this question nearly often enough. By the way, expect the answer to take a while to reveal itself. Often, we've so disconnected ourselves from our own joy that we have to do some excavation work to find it again.

We knew once. Then we got busy Growing Up and got caught in the rushrush of Work and Status and Things, and we looked up in surprise to find that fifteen years or more had passed and we were quite confused about many things.

Filling your own bucket
Vacation is, for me, a time to indulge and I expect to make the most of it. (Oh, yeah, we're stopping at Krispy Kreme on the way back from the airport tomorrow!) For me, it tends to be sweets - from sugar in my coffee to an Original Glaze to movie candy. That may not be your thing (and I've been doing too much of it lately; however, that's another post), but I urge you to figure out what your indulgence is and carve out time to devote to it. Oh, and self-care isn't always bubble baths and manicures - sometimes it's getting up, squaring your shoulders and going off to do what needs doing. Just don't make the mistake of filling other peoples' buckets so much that you forget to tote water for yourself, too.

It really is about the most selfless thing you can do.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spring Promises!

 I recently came back from a winter vacation at the Grand Strand. Technically, it was "Spring" Break, but the temperatures at the beach were cold enough to make the Canadians blink. I still managed to have a good time and there's something to be said for vacationing alone, although I missed FryDaddy awfully. (His schedule didn't let him come with me, but we talked every day.) It took a few days for me to actually "unlock" enough to enjoy having unstructured chunks of time. I took a stack of movies with me and multiple issues of Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Smithsonian. (Look, I have eclectic interests, okay?) I napped when I felt like it, walked on the cold beach up to the next pier and back - I even visited Fat Harold's Beach Club for a free shag lesson and some dance history!

I took a day trip across the state line back into North Carolina to have tea at the Calabash Garden & Tea Room, which is run by the kindest people to ever boil water. The tea room is in the same picturesque area as Nell's Fine Consignment, which is a sort of Mecca to the "in the know" bargain safari hunter. See, every time I go to Nell's, it's a celebration of being female and being alive. Invariably, I find three or four things I like and Marcy  nods and says, "But what you really need is . . ." and then she pulls out things that I'm positive weren't there before! She pushes my sense of style to get away from well-made, but somewhat boringly traditional, basics, stocking the dressing room with wildly-printed jackets, swirly skirts, and secret items that just make me feel more -- ME! Seriously, going to Marcy's with a whimsical attitude and an open mind is like raiding your big sister's closet. (Wealthy snowbirds consign really interesting things - for example, just for fun, I tried on a full-length Canadian beaver coat.)

I had so much fun that I began planning a "girls' weekend" (it's actually more like 5 days) in about two months. Shag dancing, tea, and shopping are required. I'm hoping for a "pajama day" as well. Secrecy will be maintained - pinky swear!

Oh - and I'm still working on my low-key French lessons - the library at my college has the introductory discs for the Michel Thomas method, which I'm finding to be fun and I'm pleased with how much I'm retaining. For instance, I can now ask, "What is your opinion of the political situation in France?" among other things.

And today I tried my hand at something I enjoy, but rarely take the time to do - baking from scratch. Hello, lemon-lavender cupcakes! That's honey-vanilla frosting on top. Yum, if I do say so myself!

Self-care rules!




Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lent Trap!

Yes, I know - it's a terrible pun. Bear with me.

March 1 is Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of the season of Lent. While traditions and mileage vary, many Christians use this 40-day season as a time of reflection and preparation for the Great Mystery of Christ's Passion. Some people give up something that they enjoy - maybe caffeine or sweets, maybe even going so far as to temporarily turn vegetarian or vegan. Other people put other sorts of restrictions on themselves, such as limiting social media time.

I've observed Lent in a number of ways, but one of the best, most meaningful ways for me was to avoid the "Lent trap" of giving up something or imposing restrictions on myself.

Instead - and keep in mind you don't have to observe Lent per se to try this - take up a good habit. Offer alms every day by setting aside a dollar or a quarter and donating that money to a worthy charity of your choice. Make a pledge to offer five strangers compliments every day. Let that other driver merge in (although you're right; they really ought to use their signal). Resolve to let your Beloved choose the show every time you settle onto the couch with the remote. Take the dog for a walk just because it's warm outside and the pup would enjoy spending time with you. Write a series of cheerful notes on sticky notes and put one on the bathroom mirror at work every day.

You see the pattern, I trust. Spread some joy. It doesn't have to be a big thing, but try hard to make it a consistent thing - a habit, if you will.

I've heard it said that in the Bible, God commands His children to "be joyful" SIX HUNDRED times. Maybe we ought to pay some attention to that. I plan to go forth and try my best to take Emerson's advice to "scatter joy" instead of putting so much effort toward feeling that my worth is measured by how much deprivation and want I can deliberately put myself through. Yes, God puts restrictions on our behavior - we're supposed to "love our neighbor as ourself," so let's get out there and smile, encourage, and hug instead of spending so much of our time on this whirling blue ball scolding, shaming, and judging.

Get your kindness on!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Jump Starting Self-Care!

When I was just a wee li'l teen driver, my father made sure I knew how to use jumper cables in case I ever found myself with a dead battery. (By the way, this is knowledge that is extremely useful to have. Don't know how? Click here!) Basically, the idea is that you can "Frankenstein" your dead battery with a jolt of energy from a car that has plenty to spare.

The core principle can also be a good idea as you work to develop and put into place good habits. Now, you need to be careful - just as you wouldn't try to jump start a running car, there's nothing to be gained from overloading your personal system. In other words, don't make the all-too-common mistake of trying to change six habits at once. Pick one thing and work on that one, get that ingrained into your life, then move on to the next.

Being a big believer in taking care of yourself so that you can then take care of others, I wanted to work self-care into my everyday routine. (Yes, I know on the surface that sounds shallow and selfish. I blame the Puritans.) This is a goal that regular readers of this blog know that I've worked on pretty much since the very beginning of Mockingbird's Nest and it's a key focus on mine for this year of  "being kind and finding delight in my days." So I was delighted to be recently handed (on the proverbial silver platter, no less) the nigh-perfect opportunity to work on this habit.

Old and dear friends (like the kind you'd get on a plane to see on the strength of a phone call saying, "I got into a touch of trouble. Please come to Pocatello.") live out in the Beehive State. FryDaddy and I had visited over this past summer and pretty much fallen in love with the vastly-different-from-North-Cackalacky terrain, climate, wildlife, and lifestyle. Well, lo and behold, we were invited back for the world-renowned Sundance Film Festival. (Details about that side of the experience can be found over on the other blog, UnfetteredBrilliance.)

Imagine a week-plus of relaxing, eating, talking, playing, and just being. It was glorious! There was the cold night spent in the outdoor hot tub as snowflakes drifted down. There was standing at the kitchen window seeing a small herd of mule deer twenty feet away. There was seeing four-foot snowbanks and realizing that the town shrugged and went on. (There was also nearly running over Woody Harrelson in the Whole Foods parking lot, which has to be the most "Sundance Festival" sentence I've ever typed.) There was the afternoon spent experimenting with mass and acceleration as we went snow tubing. And there was the afternoon spent at the Utah Women's March (My sign had messages on two sides - one was "Trump Cancelled Firefly." I was surprised at the high-fives that got me! A favorite of mine was "Trump Skis in Jeans," which is apparently the ultimate diss in snow country.) Every day brought new adventures and there was so much love showered upon us throughout the trip.

Furthermore, this is a family that enjoys cooking - and they pulled out all the stops. Homemade (from scratch!) chocolate birthday cake, complete with buttercream frosting. (Note - this must - MUST - be eaten for breakfast on at least one morning to count as decadent. I counted it.) Amazing beef fillets grilled outside surrounded by pristine snow and served with a warm berry sauce that made me moan just a little. Tim Horton's coffee! I could go on and on, but that would simply create envy in you and that would be unkind.

I felt like a duchess, only without a uncomfortable corset or social obligations regarding finger bowls.

And I came back with my compassion tank reloaded.

Jump starts work!



Saturday, January 14, 2017

What's Up, Doc?

 A super-quick recap - in the fall of 2014, a routine mammogram turned up some "iffy" areas. Several more tests and three biopsies later, I spent Christmas of 2014 in the talented hands of skilled surgeons and then in a medically-indicated tube top to hold everything together. (Painkillers and the holidays. It ought to be a country song.) The first part of 2015 was spent having post-surgical radiation and the resulting fatigue kept me pretty much sidelined. 2016 was all about getting back to a "new normal," and now we're here.

I just had my most recent check-up and the report is a good one. My scars are barely noticeable, I don't have pain (although fatigue is still an occasional issue) and they've decided to scale back my check ups to every six months, rather than every three. This is awesome news, indeed! Oh, I'm still dealing with side effects from Tamoxifen, a drug I'm on for another three-plus years and we talked about some methods to handle that. Uptown Yoga Loft will be seeing me, as both yoga and acupuncture have been prescribed to me. (In fact, I just left this post to make my first acupuncture appointment - cross your fingers for me on Wednesday the 18th!)

However, there is one area that simply has to be addressed. While my doctor did not lecture me, nor did she wag her finger in my face, well - sigh. Overall weight and fitness must be tended to, thyroid notwithstanding. I'm surprisingly okay with that. I'm doing well with my dedication to self-care (I really do encourage you to jump into the 31-Day Self Love Writing Challenge), and I promise to not do anything totally stupid like eat only cabbage soup for three straight weeks.

But I won't kid you, either. I want fast results and I know that doesn't work. So it's slow plodding for me. Cut out the junk food (bye, Goobers!), more water every day, and yes - even in the gray of winter, it's time to exercise. I have to remember that losing a couple of pounds a month is perfectly fine. This is going to be hard. Very, very hard. I think this will go better with a goal in mind, so here goes - by the end of 2017, I will complete a 10K. I might walk a big ol' chunk of it, but the Dancing Sloth is on the comeback trail!



Thursday, January 5, 2017

Hi, Ho, Here We Go!

New Year's Lights!
As I said on Christmas Eve, I'm bypassing most of the resolution aspect of the New Year. Instead, I've chosen one overarching goal for this trip around the sun - I want to be kind and find delight in my days. Not only do I think it's a worthy aim, I'm pretty sure it's a tall enough order to suffice for the entire year. But hey - I've already started!

I've seen this a number of times in my life - once I commit to a certain course of action, odd things begin to happen. I run into someone at the coffee shop who has some piece of information I need, or a student mentions something that triggers a cascade of thoughts, a chance comment overheard in the lobby of the movie theater ultimately leads to a brainstorm that boosts me over a creative dry spell, or someone here in Cyber-Land posts a link that directs me to exactly what I didn't know I needed. What I'm fumbling here to say is that there's much to be said for committing to an outcome and then being open to what the Universe is trying to give you.

In my case, just after Christmas, a friend sent me a link to a very interesting experiment. The idea is that each day for one month, I'll receive an e-mail writing prompt and that I'm supposed to set aside a few minutes each day to thoughtfully answer the prompt. I can share my responses or keep them private, as I wish. This particular one-month writing is all about self-care and breaking the hold negative thoughts have on my headspace and, five days in, I can report that it's incredibly refreshing! It's a wonderful, supportive community and, if you think you could benefit from it, please use this link to check them out! Start whenever you want and skip prompts that don't "work" for you. This is, I think, one of the most important lessons to take from the activity - it doesn't have to be perfect.

I know her all too well . . .
On that note, I'm also working on a simplified "bullet journal" to keep track of actions that I hope will lead to concrete habits. I've been keeping a brief journal since September, but only this week have I adopted more of a bullet journal style. Some of these bullet journals that I've seen (especially on Pinterest, which is both great and greatly to be feared) are magnificent, but they can also be intimidating. While I want to take a few minutes every night to reflect and play with colored pencils, I know that I can all too easily fall into the "perfectionist trap," so I can't compare mine to anybody else's. I will admit that I really enjoy doodling a little picture to go with each day. I don't draw particularly well, but it's relaxing to just moodle around with things without it having to be perfect.

Last bit for this post - one of my "actions that I hope will become a habit" is really making a conscious effort every single day to treat myself better. In order to do this, and knowing that I have to be accountable to the journal at the end of the day, I'm constantly on the lookout for ways to bring little luxuries into my everyday life. Yesterday, for example, I made a real effort to dress up for work - jaunty scarf, high heels (with super-comfortable slippers under the desk!), a discreet puff of my "good" perfume, red lipstick - very French. You get the idea. And I certainly had a sense of confidence that day due to my experiment in "dressing up." Then today, I definitely dressed down, since I had to take Spooky to the vet, then go to work, a schedule that certainly dictated some of my wardrobe decisions! After work, I needed to run an errand to the Clinique counter (look, FryDaddy doesn't stay that pretty without some effort!) and I took the time to have a consult with the clerk about my foundation. Together, we tried a couple of different ones and I left with a free ten-day sample. Felt like a duchess in sweatpants at that point, which is not a bad thing at all!

So that's what's up with me these days. How about you? Are you making time for yourself? Saying nice things to yourself? Tell me about it!