Friday, August 11, 2017

Tenth Tiara Check-In!

Pink Topaz Tiara from Prussia
It's French Friday, everybody!

Whew! Not a super-sparkly week (probably a 6/10), but I'm trying to square my shoulders and soldier on. The American Legion World Series is in town, as are my parents, and the rain is pouring down at the moment. Sigh. Baseball is just not a game that gets played in the rain, so I'm hoping this weather moves out quickly.

On the weight front - sigh. Time to double down. I had a slight gain this week and, thanks to my now-ingrained tracking habits, I know why that is. It's frustrating, though - FryDaddy gets way more daily points to play with and has reached a major milestone (20 pounds!). I am, of course, proud of and pleased for him, but - dagnab it, I'm struggling to reach eight pounds! Exasperated and (yes) hungry, I threw caution to the wind yesterday, but am now re-committed to my goal of losing fifteen pounds by the end of September. It's doable, but I need to add exercise on a much more regular basis that I've been doing.

So let's look at the plus side of things. Exercise-wise, I did a light hike this past weekend and thoroughly enjoyed being outside. I tended to my creative fires and spent a couple of hours one night at one of those "paint 'n' sip" events at our local Arts Council creating a Franz Marc-inspired sloth. (I love Marc's work. Don't judge him by my efforts!) I also spent a fun afternoon helping Barefoot and her daughter (my god-daughter) paint her room a lovely pale seafoam as she gets ready to enter high school. (We also went driving one afternoon - it was a hoot and she almost knows how to do a solid three-point turn.) My folks are in town for the next few days and we actually enjoy each other's company. And there are some merry things happening in my life; therefore, when the totality of the circumstances is examined, I'd say the pluses outweigh (ha!) the minuses.

Important to remember how much a change in outlook can change your outlook. Shimmer, sisters!

Four more weeks!!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Ninth Tiara Check-In!

Diamonds or sapphires? Why limit
yourself to one or the other?
Sorry the post is too late to be a "French Friday," but summer's not over yet!

In fact, today is the kickoff for a huge event in my town - we host the American Legion World Series which brings together the best Legion-sponsored teams from across the country. My parents usually come in to town for the games and last year, I finally shoved work aside to meet them for some of the games. The reason I had not done this before is simple - I'm not always that bright. I had so much fun at these games and the people-watching is unparalleled! My folks and I had chunks of time to spend together and - honestly - I'm eager to be back there later this next week.

Events start today with a big, kid-friendly street festival capped off with a free outdoor concert. This year, it's Charlie Daniels, and I'm thinking about taking a sign that says PLAY "UNEASY RIDER"!  That was his first real hit and it's just a great song and one that you might not associate with Charlie Daniels, given his more recent politics.

I would rate this week at 8/10 sparkles. I'm working to get classes set up so I have time to spend at the Legion games without worrying about how to manage that later. (This year the festival ends just before classes begin, which is nice. Usually, there's some overlap, which is a pain to schedule around.) I got back on track with my healthy (well, "healthier") eating habits and worked in a couple of light walking sessions. I'm headed to a local trail later today for some shade and quiet before the "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" festivities crash over me. I plan to be mindful of ballpark food and hit my next "number on the scale" goal this week. I also got to spend some time this week with people who I value and love, which is always worthwhile.

With the beginning of August, I made a few adjustments in my bullet journal (which I've been keeping for nearly a year now - wow!). I use this journal as a quick way to take stock at the end of the day, so I can easily look back over the past week/month/season and make goals and adjustments. This month, for instance, I'm not only tracking how many days I work on my French and drink enough water, I added in "didn't eat at my desk." I'm hoping to hit five working days out of five on that one. I have found bullet journaling to be incredibly useful as a quick shorthand to see the development of certain habits - be careful of Pinterest, though. People get WAY into perfection on these things!

Got to go figure out how to rig a tiara up to a baseball cap . . .

Go forth and shine! Five weeks to go!!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Eighth Tiara Check-In!

French Friday!!

We've still got about six weeks left on our "Summer Tiara Challenge" - how's your sparkle this week?

I had a week that served as a reminder that this is a marathon, not a sprint. I wasn't happy that I turned into the Voracious Craw for a couple of days and threw off my painfully-slowly-developing good eating habits, but it had some learning moments. For instance, you hear much about "don't keep junk food in the house," which is good advice. But you know what? The day will come when you grab your keys, get in the car, and go get it! Don't beat yourself up - it'll happen. In my case, the mass quantities of cheap candy I mindlessly snarfed didn't even taste good and afterward - blech! So file it away as a lesson. To go with that lesson - don't let yourself get hungry-starved! I had some busy days this week and I fell into old habits, which includes thinking, "Oh, I just need to finish this before I eat. And this. Oh, look - there's another task over here."

Stop that! It's pert-close to madness and no one benefits from that.

When this happens (and it will), do not despair. Wash your face, say your prayers, go to bed. Then start over the next morning. Square your shoulders, Daughter of Shine! Treat yourself gently and do the same for others.

That's really the other point I want to address in this post. This week, I changed my mermaid hair to a much darker base - it's really back to "galaxy hair" for the rest of summer. The colors are rich, and deep, and thoroughly artificial. You do not "go galaxy" if you don't want people to notice the look.  Why, as a respectable, tax-paying, middle-aged woman, would I do this?

The answer is quite simple, but was a long time in coming.


To begin with, I think in contemporary American society, there's an idea that women my age ought to quietly go out to pasture. We're considered "past our prime," which seems to be measured almost solely in sexual attractiveness (I could use a far more vulgar term, but I was gently reared, so I won't) and a large swath of society seems to put an expiration date on that.

Nope. I am more comfortable in my skin than I ever was in my twenties and thirties and that is a fact with which others simply will need to learn to deal. Their discomfort is not my problem.

Secondly, as a child, I was nearly painfully shy. Really - I think I was attracted to working backstage on theatrical productions because the crew is so often invisible. I nearly never felt comfortable interacting with people, which is one reason I'm sure I developed my love of language and my (occasionally) sharp-edged tongue.

It's taken me years, as in decades, to learn how to stand up and be seen - and to holler if necessary.

I'm not giving that up to make other people comfortable.

There's a philosophy that claims we'll all have to answer, not only for the wrongs we did in this life, but for the joys we refused to partake in. I want both lists to be as short as possible. That doesn't mean I don't know how to wear a demure strand of pearls and a twinset, but to quote a costume designer I once knew, "All clothes are costumes." Why do we insist on only one version of ourselves?

Go shine. The world needs your light.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Seventh Tiara Check-In!

Rock Crystal Points - wow!
Welcome back to another "French Friday," where we check in on our summer tiara goals!

I spent last week on vacation out in the wilds of Utah, so I deliberately missed a posting, rather than try to cram one in and thus upset my strict schedule of relaxation and rejuvenation. I'm sure you understand.

Visiting Utah is a different world - two of my bestest friends (who have known me since I was in my late teens) met in college in Virginia, married, and eventually settled out in the high desert of the Beehive State. We've seen each other through some beautiful, whirlwind, joyous times, and we've also been there as rock-solid supports for each other through some of life's lesser-than-great moments. I love them ferociously and they me. (Plus, when FryDaddy and I visit, the children are put on "fetch mode" with strict orders to make us comfortable, which is decadent beyond belief, since the kids actually go into "staff function.") Lesson learned - tiaras need to be placed in your carry-on luggage, but expect to be stopped and have your luggage hand-searched by the TSA personnel, as it is unusual to see tiaras on the X-ray machine. It may be best to practice looking imperious before approaching the security line.

FryDaddy got to do his thing, which mostly involves bookstores and quiet nooks in which to read, preferably with a cat curled up on his lap. Thanks to Iris-Kitty, he had the time of his life! My vacation was a bit more active - note: that was not an "easy" hike, regardless of whatever delusions the guidebook writer was suffering from! - and also punctuated with Versailles-level luxuries, such as fresh pastries, morning cappuccino with cream, and serious "girl time" involving self-care and high tea at the Grand America Hotel. (Yes, that outing involved two tiaras, one frilly hat, and an exquisite fascinator between the four of us. I also bought a music box.) There were fireworks on the lake that made us all scream with excitement, fresh-picked asparagus and currants, and more love than we could absorb.

Truly, a magnificent, tiara-worthy break!

Coming back was hard - not only did the Carolina humidity hit us like a wet woolen blanket as soon as we left the sanctuary of the airport, there was also the necessary return to food tracking. Not bad - I did re-gain three pounds during my break, but I regret nothing. Do you hear me? NOTHING! In this, the book of Ecclesiastes is wise - there really is a time for everything and last week was a time of indulgence, soothing, and deep comfort.

Not to mention, it was great fun to see the kids tear into Cheerwine, which they couldn't remember ever seeing! I guess it's my own "private Utah," which is vaguely like My Own Private Idaho, without all the hustler activity and Henry IV references, which really means it's nothing at all like My Own Private Idaho. 

We'll be back there soon - and I urge you to find your own magic spot. We all need one (maybe more than one) and you can't expect anyone else's to truly suit you.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Sixth Tiara Check-In!

Hey, sunshine - how's that tiara sparkling? That's right - we're now about halfway through summer and it's time for another tiara check-in!

This week - wow! Some GREAT stuff happened (including a "girls' day" with my beloved teen goddaughter) along with some not-so-great stuff to even it all out. You don't wear a tiara only on the good days, you know. If you've earned one, you wear it and stand even taller and straighter on the days that are punctuated by bouts of ick. (FryDaddy spent a large chunk of this week down with the Creeping Crud, which is always bad, but in the summer seems even worse. He's on the mend, though.)

It was blazing hot so I didn't exercise as I had intended and I didn't get around to trying to make my own crepes either, but my garden provided a few cucumbers this week and the tomatoes are (finally!) starting to ripen. I also was gifted with cucumbers at my weekly WW meeting. (I'm down another .8 of a pound and closing in on my second goal, which was to lose 5% of my starting weight.)

Now, we'll have to see what happens on that front this next week - vacation is coming up and we're heading to the wild West where goats and elk roam the Wasatch Mountains and meals delectable enough to make Julia Child slap her momma are routinely prepared - much of it from the back garden and beehives! Alas - we arrive in between rodeo weeks, so I still don't get to see "mutton busting" but lazy days on the reservoir, a fancy high tea, some high altitude hiking and possibly a pedicure involving a belt sander are on the tentative schedule.

The video is from Texas, because - Texas.

I have learned a new French phrase for this "French Friday" - "il faut oser!" or "You have to dare!"

Excellent advice, I say! Therefore, my goals for this next week are simple - enjoy, recharge, and luxuriate in the company of those who love me!

May your week bring you joy!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Fifth Tiara Check-In!

By now, you should be expecting a regular "French Friday" (see what I did there?) tiara post as I check in with you and report on my own progress on this summer tiara-deserving journey.

As is usual, some things are great, while others are challenges. Let's look at the challenges first. I had a hard time working in exercise the way I had planned this week. Late June in North Carolina tends to be hot and humid (not kidding, we're talking about "fog-up-your-glasses-by-stepping-outside" humid) and it was the end of my summer school teaching responsibilities, so I didn't use the inside walking track the way I could have. So that's something to keep working toward.

On the other hand, I lost weight again this week and I'm now officially down seven pounds. Maybe that doesn't sound like much, but think of it like this: that's the weight of a bag of sugar and a pineapple. Or a baby wolf. For fans of the nearly-forgotten movie 1941, that's a joke. But seriously - a six-week-old wolf cub weighs about seven pounds. So do about 12-and-a-half stoats, but the idea of losing 12-and-a-half stoats is just - weird.

I tried my hand at making mousse au chocolat since our last check-in. It's actually really easy, although I didn't quite master the trick of beating the egg whites enough to be super light and fluffy. So the end product was a little more like regular ol' 'Merican pudding, but was still super-tasty. Fresh orange zest, cherie. That's the secret! (Shhh. Just try it, don't tell anybody. Then it wouldn't be a secret, would it?)

This next week, I hope to try three things:

  1. Try to move a little each and every day - walk the dog, try a local trail, or maybe even walk around before the July Fourth fireworks. 
  2. Try my hand at at least one new recipe. I've been doing more of that, and my slow-cooker tikka masala wasn't half bad. I'm thinking of trying crêpes this week.
  3. Look back on one nice thing I did every day to treat myself like company.
Shoulders back, We Who Sparkle! Keep that tiara straight until next week!

And here's an extremely odd video of a stoat hunting a much larger rabbit. The stoat is utilizing the often-dismissed "freak out" tactic that uses dance moves as hunting strategy. Just think about that.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Fourth Tiara Check-In!

How's the tilt of that tiara this week? Hard to believe, but, yes - it's time for another weekly check-in on our summer journey to increased fabulousness.

This week had a couple of grimy spots (the end of shepherding students through two whirlwind five-week summer courses can do that) and, combined with a few days of steady overcast-and-rainy days, made me feel a bit droopy and less than fabulous, I must admit. I put up with that for one day, but on the second, I was reminded that timid women do not have unicorn hair, so I needed to buck up and Get With It!

My solution (yours may be different, of course - you're your own Queen) was a "pantry spa" treatment. I know that not all problems can be solved by a hot bath, but it often helps me. So - take two tablespoons of plain yogurt, a little lemon juice, a Vitamin E capsule and mix well. Now run a hot bath. Add about a cup of plain (read: cheap) white rice in a clean knee-high stocking to the running water - just tie it to the faucet - and a tablespoon or so or oil (sesame is great if you have it; otherwise, olive will do nicely). A bar of seaweed soap completes the "sushi bath" experience.  (I've been gathering this stuff for months. If you don't have these specific items, improvise. Then add a few things to your next grocery list.) Light candles if that's your thing. Likewise, play music to soothe your jangled nerves, if that's how you roll. Use a bath pillow or a rolled-up hand towel as a pillow for your tired head. Gently smooth your homemade face mask on and lean back in the steaming water. Stay as long as you want to. Once out, drink a large glass of water, apply lotion liberally, and curl up with a bad book. Clean up the bathroom later.

Yes, you do have time to do this. Whatever is bugging you will still be there later - and if it's not, well, so much the better! Remember - we'd have no trouble being kind to a stressed-out friend and it's high time to treat ourselves as well as we'd treat a friend.

The week also had some good spots, of course. I tried dry-brushing for the first time - definitely stimulating! I haven't made crepes yet, nor chocolate mousse, but I'm hoping to try one or the other over the weekend. I broke the five-pound loss barrier (yay!) this week, which was worth celebrating, and I'm set up to get back into my daily French lessons, which had fallen by the wayside in the last few weeks.

So this next week for me is about adding in mild exercise. I really want to work my way up to that 10K by the end of the year so even though it's hot and humid here in the Carolinas, I need to move more than I've been doing.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Third Tiara Check-In!

How’s that tiara looking this week?  Yes, it’s time for our weekly check in on our fabulousness progress!

Personally, I had a week that threatened to topple my tiara and in the past, it probably would have. But now I have all of you to remind me that I deserve my sparkly crown and that there’s no need to wait for someone else to give me the approval to wear it and glisten.

And grimy days happen to all of us.*

So – what have you done this week to be magnificent to yourself? I’m trying to work on my pledge to “treat myself like company” by actively making plans to do something out of the ordinary every single day. One day it was something as simple as using the “fancy” high-end samples of skin care products that I’ve accumulated. (I have a sad tendency to hoard those like Smaug instead of using them with joy.) Another day it was picking basil leaves from my small herb garden to make a delicious insalata caprese of basil, fresh tomato (not from the garden yet, alas!), and mozzarella with a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar. And another day it was making popcorn on the stove instead of just having the chemical stuff in the microwave.

Maybe for you it was wearing your diamond stud earrings or that bracelet of your grandmother’s that you usually “save” for special occasions, forgetting that Tuesday can be a “special occasion” if you declare it so to be. Maybe you treated yourself to a bubble bath, or a facial, or having your nails done. Maybe you took yourself off for a hike, or carved out a half-hour to try a guided meditation, or went to the local library to flip through magazines you don’t usually read.

My point is this – it doesn’t matter what you do for yourself as much as you realize that you’re worth treating gently and respectfully.

It certainly isn’t about being “perfect.” (I swear, perfectionism ought to have an entry in the DSM-V as a disease of the mind!) I’m working hard to eat more food that’s less processed, but I don’t always get it “right.” So what? I lost another pound this week and wasn’t hungry to the point of eating the tablecloth.

In fact, food is going to be my focus for this next week. I picked up an inexpensive crepe pan and, although I’ve never made a crepe in my life, I’m going to try it this week. I want to try several new recipes this week – some sweet, some savory. I’ve been reading French Kids Eat Everything and it has a number of recipes that the author swears aren’t difficult, although they certainly sound fancy! I guess it’s time to find out if mousse au chocolat is that complicated or if I’ve just bought into the hype.

Onward, We Who Sparkle!

I like thinking this is me!
*Then again, just after I posted this, I went to the grocery to pick up a few things. (We're eating a LOT more produce these days, so I'm becoming a bit more French about shopping for perishables often.) Just as I walked in, a little girl whispered something to her mother, pointed at me, then looked down shyly. I smiled and said hello and the three of us proceeded to have quite a nice conversation. She was fascinated by my hair, which she said looked like a "galaxy unicorn." I really liked that. The mother was a fan of Meet Me at the Movies and I convinced her to take the girl to Wonder Woman this weekend, so it was an excellent exchange of ideas all around, I think.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Second Tiara Check In!

Yep, time for another tiara check in! Keeping your shoulders straight? Your head high? If so, good! If not, take a moment to adjust. We're all worthy of our tiaras and if you don't have one, make a pledge RIGHT NOW to get one in the next week and wear it at least once. Heaven knows, if you wait for the wider world to recognize your awesomeness and crown you, you're likely to be waiting quite a long time. So do it yourself! Make sure to give yourself a title, too - something suitable to celebrate your brains, cleverness, moxie, grit, whimsy, and/or style. Empress, Queen, Princess, Duchess, Marchioness, Countess, Viscountess, Baroness, Lady - pick whichever title best suits you on any given day. Today, for example, I am styling myself as the "Lady Glad" after the sparkling white, 5-foot-tall gladiolus blooming in my front yard.

See, back in the day, the Victorians assigned meanings to many flowers, so getting a bouquet was sort of like getting a coded letter. (And some of them could be quite nasty, once your deciphered them!) While most flowers have more than one meaning - there wasn't a Bureau of Blooms, after all - one meaning of gladioli was "integrity and recovery." Since today marks 15 years of me being in full-time recovery, seeing a blooming glad in my front yard just made my heart sing.

It was a tumultuous week here at the Nest. I needed to do a hard thing and I wound up having to do it alone, which is when the doubt-demons can come out in droves. But, with careful consideration of what is right and true, along with the encouragement of some people whose good opinion of me is quite important, I did it. And it turned out just fine - possibly better than fine; we'll have to see about that part. My decision and actions did not come without a cost, but it'll be all right. Lady Glad is made of strong stuff and she comes from a long line of righteous gadflies.

Add to that the fact that I also lost another two pounds, completed the "final final" review of the book manuscript AND went back to "rainbow-unicorn-galaxy" hair for the summer, and it's a tiara day, baby! (The explanation of the turquoise nature of the hair can be found here, by the way.)

Rock on!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Tiara Check In!

As I wrote about a week ago, I'm spending this summer deserving that tiara I wore on International Tiara Day. I thought it would be a good idea to regularly check in and see how we're all doing with our goals. I'm really, really trying to make 2017 a Year of Personal Jubilee. While I'm not tying myself to the Jewish or Christian traditions regarding the idea of Jubilee, I'm seeking to create a year of celebration and forgiveness, and I'm including forgiving myself for a number of lapses within this. Therefore, the time is just right for making these changes which are aimed at leading to a more celebratory life with room to do more good in the word.

And if you need to readjust your own goals as you move through the summer, do it with gladness! It's not about getting everything "right," it's about creating a calmer, more joyful, life.

So - looking back at Week One.

This week had challenges (don't they all?) as my long-suffering work laptop collapsed in its traces like an overworked mule. Since I'm teaching two fully-online summer classes, that sent me into panic mode which is where I tend to make really dumb decisions. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and I'm working with a new-to-me laptop that is *almost* properly formatted. I did, however, manage to not copy iTunes from the old laptop and connected my faithful iPod to the new one which then -- automatically synced and wiped out my music. I'm exploring ways to retrieve the thousands of songs I had added from my CD collection and of particular interest to me is regaining my playlists. Suggestions - with painfully obvious directions, perhaps involving a flannel board - are welcomed.

Well, success is rarely total.

There is much to celebrate as FryDaddy and I completed the labor-intensive process to refinance our house and pay off credit card debt. Thanks to the fine folks at Fifth Third Bank (hi, Switchblade!), we are now several large steps closer to secure financial footing. 

In other news, my first attempt at "sun tea" brewed on the office windowsill was a smashing success. Next time, I'll try it with green tea.

I'm also drinking more water and eating better food, now that I'm tracking my eating habits. You see, I bit the bullet and joined Weight Watchers the day after my last post (I tell you this in the spirit of accountability) and, while I only lost a pound in my first week, I lost a pound in my first week. I'm using both the online tools and the old-fashioned meetings and, while I'm very new at this, I really like the encouraging attitude and spirit of camaraderie I find there.

All in all, pretty darned good, I'd say.

I'm trying very hard to "treat myself like company" at least once a day - that, and continuing the bullet journal habit, will be my Week 2 focus as I build on this foundation.

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!