Sunday, June 23, 2013

About That Getaway . . .

In my last post, I listed "say 'yes' to something spontaneous and slightly crazy" as a way to pamper myself in my continuing quest to both enjoy life more and avoid burnout.  I said I'd go into more detail about that in this post.  Well, my idea of "spontaneous and slightly crazy" was put into motion by the incomparable FryDaddy, whose talent for knowing my moods and indulging my whims is nigh-uncanny.  He'd made a few plans and we'd tweaked them a bit, due to a prior commitment I had at school (New Student Orientation and Sushi Buffet Fish Fry Open House) and off we went for a whirlwind getaway to Durham, which was the only town in North Carolina to possess a theatre showing Joss Whedon's adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing. (Turns out we were wrong about that, but by the time we knew that, we were already having fun in Durham, so there it is.)

When I say "whirlwind," I mean it.  We got to Duke Tower around 7 pm on Thursday and left by 8 am Saturday (remember the Sushi Buffet Fish Fry Open House?), so it was a short getaway, but all hands agree - it was a successful, much-needed one.

Highlights include:

  • Duke Tower itself.  This hotel/condo establishment was created from an old cotton mill - they kept one of the smokestacks and the old fire tower is now the site of a breakfast cafe.  (We slept in and missed it, but maybe next time.  And we hope there's a next time!)  The Tower caters to long-term guests - corporate execs, folks participating in various programs at Duke University Hospital, that sort of thing.  For the cost of a room, you get an apartment - good-sized living room, full kitchen and bath, and a nice-sized bedroom with plenty of closet space.  It's an older property and the shower head was low enough that I had to buckle my knees a bit and poor FryDaddy whacked his nose pretty well at least once.  All rooms overlook the central courtyard, which features a pool (very romantic on a warm summer's night), plenty of shaded sitting areas with comfy chairs, an oversized chess set (the pieces were about knee-high on an adult), shuffleboard, and even a nine-hole miniature golf course! FryDaddy had carefully packed provisions and equipment and we had a lovely flank steak dinner cooked "at home" that first night.
  • Much Ado about Nothing.  I'm an unashamed Whedon fan and I was stoked for this movie!  Full review details are found here, but suffice it to say it was worth a three-hour drive.  If you think Shakespeare is not for you, I beseech you - give this one a try.  The language sounds natural and the comedy is full and rich.  Give yourself a break from the boomboomblowemup and try this screwball comedy.
  • Seeing old friends - we got together with a dear friend who we don't get to see that often for dinner and the movie and (mostly) I managed to not talk about work.  Gotta continue to work on that.
  • Dinner with said old friend.  The hotel recommended Pop's, an Italian-style trattoria close to both the hotel and the theatre (more on that in a moment).  It turned out to be an excellent suggestion!  Pop's is the sort of restaurant that is upscale-scrumptious without being snooty-snobbish.  They pride themselves on local ingredients and the difference is obvious.  It was so delicious that FryDaddy and I returned for dessert after the show, where we managed to convince the amused wait staff to let us talk with the chef/owner Chris Stinnett.  Our goal was not only to compliment the food and service (which richly deserved the "attaboy"), but also to ask if we could buy a couple of the heavy diner-style coffee mugs.  Duke Tower is great, but the coffee cups are smallish and we are full members of the Caffeinated Tribe.  Chef Chris was taken aback, but graciously acquiesced to our wackadoodle request.  Seriously.  Pop's.  Go there.
  • The Carolina Theatre.  Much Ado was playing in a small screening room and it was marvelous to watch this movie with an audience of like-minded folk (who also understood that YOU TURN OFF YOUR PHONE DURING A MOVIE.  Sorry.  Pet peeve).  The Carolina is a theatre for movie fans.  They also have live shows, but just check out their movie offerings - and don't overlook their "special screenings."  Great stuff, picked by people who know their films.

Sure, I wish the trip had been longer - but boy-howdy! - am I glad we took what we could!

Thanks, FryDaddy.  I continue to maintain that you're the best decision I ever made.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Twenty Minutes

I've heard it for years - "you have to take care of yourself," "you can't give what you don't have," "put your oxygen mask on before you help someone else," and any number of other variations on the importance of self-care as a method of caring for others.  I've often written about my quest for less stress, but I've had a hard time getting the habit to take hold and I doubt I'm alone.  I think for many of us, the idea of taking care of our own needs conflicts with our desires to be taking care of others; that there's some inherent virtue in going last, eating the burnt toast, and taking the shower after the hot water's gone.

There's not.  If anything, that behavior borders on Martyr-Land, which is a dull and guilt-ridden place to visit.  Therefore, I've been trying to work "me time" into life on a more regular basis.  It's difficult at first, but all the books and magazine articles are right - why save all the good stuff for company that may or may not come?  I think Americans tend to go all out and not be good at all at balance - we work like dogs all year with very little downtime, then spend our rare holidays overdoing it.  Too much rich food, too much sun, too much play, too much of everything.

So how can I moderate pampering myself?  Well, this is still a work in progress, but here are ten I've tried:

  • Take 15 minutes in the sunny hammock when I get home from work.  Sprawl there with a book that isn't work/research related.
  • Actually use those flavored sugars I bought during our last spree at the spice shop in Asheville.  (I'm typing this with a cup of coffee fixed with a teaspoon of espresso sugar by my side - I think it's the coffeeist coffee I've ever had, and I'll probably have plenty of energy in my summer classes today!
  • Make a strong cup of tea and drink it from the good china teacups that never get used.
  • Meet a girlfriend for gossip and pedicures.  I picked a bright, clear pink, but next time, I'm going further and getting a little design on the big toe.
  • Tell the Scoldy Voice in your head (the one telling you that this relaxation stuff is a frivolous waste of time) to go take a long walk off a short pier - I deserve to be treated well, and that includes by me.
  • Get girly with a bubble bath, a homemade moisturizing mask (yep, that's where the end of the mayo went, FryDaddy), and my hair wrapped up in a towel to let the olive oil/egg yolk deep conditioning treatment sink in.  (Rinse well with this one!)
  • Turned off my phone, at least for a little while.
  • Say "thank you" to the people who keep my life running more or less smoothly - I have a husband who works hard for the family and does most of the supper cooking.  (Other household chores are split, but are often my responsibility, since he's away at school most of the time).  He cooks well and he appreciates it when I notice.
  • Tell the Divine "thanks" - we're guaranteed nothing in life and, speaking for myself, I'm stunned by the calculus I need to count my blessings, even on my snarky days.
  • Say "yes" to something spontaneous and slightly crazy - more on that in my next post.

The part of  this that has really shocked me is how long the effects of treating myself like company last.  Everything they're telling you about this is TRUE!  Carve out ten, fifteen, twenty minutes for yourself every day.  Have a list of things to do - even something as simple as "don't eat lunch at your desk" can count.

We're willing to try any number of crazy things in our quest to get more exercise, become slimmer, and dump our junk food habits - how about trying this for 30 days with the goal of getting happier, becoming more peaceful, and dumping some of that stress we carry around constantly?  Set a timer if you are afraid you'll relax "too long" or make a sticky note with a reminder to "tell three people thanks today."

Just try it.  You might like it.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Five Month Check In!

Which way is up?

One thing I'm learning on this year-long journey is the vital importance of "course corrections."  While progress has been in the forward direction, not all days are "perfect," and that's a good thing for me to learn.  I have a tendency - and I think I share this quality with many, many people - to underestimate how much time something will take and therefore, to plan too much for each day.  Then when I don't manage to cross everything off my list, well . . . I have to fight the idea that I'm a lazy, backsliding failure.

Oh, how dark and dusty and cobwebby are our brains!

While May was a good month, it was also chock-full of Big Days.  It began with the third anniversary of the decision made by me and FryDaddy to solemnize our relationship and agree publicly that we were in this for the Long Haul.  May also contained the exam period for the spring semester, which means it also had the grading frenzy.  There was graduation, a few solitary days at the beach (where I discovered a series of steampunk novels that I began tearing through and am trying hard to take the time to enjoy now that I'm back in the Everyday World), registration for summer classes, a fun-packed, but also wearying, weekend presenting on Joss Whedon at the Birmingham Alabama Phoenix Festival, and then the start of a super-abbreviated summer school session which will last all through June.

As you can see - too much going on there.  And the Joss in June conference that FryDaddy and I have been working on for a year happens at the end of this month, along with the aforementioned summer school sessions, so June is likely to be busy, too.  In May, I fell way behind on my "star" days (in fact, it's been three weeks since I even put a star on the calendar) and quick, processed food was an easy lure to get me through my routinely 12-hour-plus days.

All the more reason for me to take time out and off.  I'm hoping this month to start with little things, like making time for a cup of tea after my last class is over for the day.  (I like tea.)  Not constantly eating lunch at my desk while looking at the Internet.  More walks in the sunlight and saying "yes" to fun things with friends instead of regretfully saying, "No, I have a meeting at 7 tonight, but maybe in two weeks??"  Trying out that backyard hammock and watching the garden grow.

We only have so much time on this Earth and I want to spend more of it with those I love rather than with those I grade.  So it's time for a deep breath and a new look at things.  I want to keep working on menu planning to reduce the amount of angst over "what's for dinner?" and "oh, no, I need three things from the store" (which, at least for me, always seems to turn into $35).  I want to get back to eating food I can pronounce and getting in at least mild exercise every day - rushing from appointment to appointment doesn't count.

New month, new start!