Yes, it has been quite a bit since I last posted. Truth be told, I am in a reading slump. I read a few back-to-back excellent books then the last one I felt indifferent about.  I thought I could re-set my reading flow by reading another royalty biography, but even that is a slow go.

And I am OK with that.

If you are a reader then you may understand that not reading for a long stretch of time feels like you are failing in a way. Like a body builder who enters and wins a fitness competition and then stops working out and indulges on all the food she deprived herself of during competition prep. It is all a matter of allowing time, allowing yourself to explore other aspects of your interests and not holding yourself to a standard.

Instead, I have been watching Reign on Netflix. I have a deep interest in history and European history. I used to watch Game of Thrones but it got to be way too violent and some of the characters bored me to tears. Image result for reignFor me Reign satisfies my need for a story, royalty and history all in one. I can tell it is for a younger audience, but it is really well done.

While I haven’t been reading, I’ve been getting my stories from many places: podcasts, television shows, YouTube, etc.  I am a Reader but even people like me get reading fatigue. And while at first I was not OK with this, I am now. I know the right book will come along and reignite my passion, but for now the reading pilot light is weak.

 

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WHAT I HAVE BEEN ENJOYING LATELY

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  • Discovering “new” music: my father is a huge music fan and while I have always listened to the music he loves, I’ve been exploring it more deeply.  I have been consumed with the song “Soon” by YES.
  • Cooking: Exploring other culture’s cuisine and making them in the kitchen. Last night I prepared dough to make a Polish dumpling. And this weekend I will be making an Irish potato and cabbage meal.
  • House Hunting: My husband and I are looking to move into a new home so I am researching what I want in a house.
  • Walking and Rebounding: I workout several times a week but I noticed that I was losing my drive (just as I am with reading). I have not been as consistent as usual and after a while I decided I needed to mix it up again. I’ve been more into the outdoors and more cardio than doing strength training. I do have to keep my strength training, but listening to my body is what will keep me going. Forcing my body and mind to do what it doesn’t want to only makes me avoid it.

 

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN ENJOYING LATELY?

I would not call myself a “traveler” nor would I classify it as a hobby. I do love to visit new places but I don’t want to “see the world.” I am blessed to live in a country that is expansive and filled with interesting cities, people, and history in their own right. Although all of this is within my reach, most of my travel within the United States has been strictly East Coast.

I have traveled to Europe. In 1999, at the age of 14,  I visited Paris and London. For my honeymoon in 2015, my husband and I took a tour of Ireland.  I’ve been to the Bahamas twice and Punta Cana. You could say that there are lots of places to check off on my list but one thing always struck me: there is a huge country just to the west of me and I want to see it!

One of the places on my list was California, but not the typical L.A., Hollywood, Beverly Hills visit. I wanted to see the Pacific Ocean and The Redwoods. After a few weeks, my husband booked and planned out our entire trip. We would fly into San Francisco, drive up the coast to Mendocino, down to Gualala and back home through San Fran Airport. 

 

As we drove up the winding coast, I would look at my phone – as one does out of habit – and noticed I had zero service. I should note that I do not have any social media apps on my phone except Twitter. That’s right: No Instagram, No Facebook, No Facebook messenger, no Snap Chat…nothing. So my checking my phone was not to check for push notifications but simply to see if I had any text messages or missed calls.

As usual, I had none.

And though I do not have apps on my phone, I will post photos or check Facebook through the web browser. So I would see a beautiful shot like the one above and think, “I need to share this!”

But I couldn’t. And I was OK with that.

My service was spotty at best throughout the 5 days and while I took photos on my phone, it was only because I wanted to capture the moment for myself. My husband had the “Big Boy” camera so I took way more shots on that than my phone.

This trip was last month and I feel ready to write about it and share it. The most remarkable experience was the Redwoods. I do not have photos of those to share now because, frankly, capturing them on a real camera is hard enough let alone of a itty-bitty phone camera. More importantly I didn’t want to. Being in those Redwoods made me feel powerful and powerless all at once. They are powerful, strong, natural structures that you have to see to believe and experience. To look up at a tree and not be able to see the top, knowing it has been there for hundreds and hundreds of years is quite humbling. I didn’t have a life-altering experience with these bad boys, but I realized that having zero service was the best unexpected gift the California coast gave me.

 

Far too often we spend most of our experiences with our phones in our hands and our eyes looking through a screen.  We never take the time to experience life through our eyes and take it as a moment that doesn’t need sharing immediately.  Our “followers” can and should wait. The best moments like the ones “captured” in California would not make the best Instagram shots that would gain me thousands of followers and sponsorships.

 

 

Like in the photo below when I visited Jessica Fletcher’s house. Happening upon this house was a complete accident. It was not until after the trip was booked that I learned the 80s-90s show Murder, She Wrote was filmed right where we were staying in Mendocino.

I couldn’t send this to anyone.  I couldn’t post it online. I couldn’t text it, email it, or Tweet it. It was MY moment. And while I am sharing it with you now, the “no service” has taught to give me pause. 

Pause before you think to jump on that app and share a photo of a delicious meal or a beautiful scene. Soak it in. Welcome it into your brain and your experience. Once you’ve done that…then, share away.

 

to my favorite yoga pants.

I was inspired to ditch these much loved, much adored, much used yoga pants by Kacy Paide of The Inspired Office. Her series on minimalism goes through a items one by one and explains why it is time to part ways. If she can part with 31 items, I can too.

I am not someone who has a tough time tossing things.  In fact, in 2016 I got all of my keepsakes down to a single box. [Read about it here!] Where my issue is when something has to be replaced when I feel like what I have is good enough. And replacing something you love so much is a challenge. Each time I’ve tried, I’ve talked myself out of the purchase because the pants could see just one more day…or one more week. OK, another month.

Last night, I made the executive decision my yoga pants must move on and I from them.

 

Image result for victoria's secret classic yoga pant

It started a few months ago. The in seam started to separate and I sewed them up. I’m not a great sewer so it is not sightly. These pants have been splattered with vacuum cleaner dust. They have had face wash dropped on them. Toothpaste, dog slobber, and I am sure some coffee has made its way on to the fabric at some point. They have been washed and washed and washed. I love them and keep them because they are so soft and so comfortable! They are well-worn to say the least.

Last night my husband noticed the poor sew-job on the inseam. He pointed to the exposed loops – yes loopS – and laughed. Then, last night, I went to pump out some of my face wash and a huge spray of it squirted right onto them. It is a gel cleanser so it got right in. I wiped them down with a wet rag in an attempt to salvage them for the night, but alas…. I decided it was time.

So goodbye, discontinued Victoria’s Secret classic yoga pant. We’ve spent a lot of good times together and a lot more messy times. It is time for us to part ways. Thanks for the memories….

Image result for silent meditation retreat

[image from: Anubhuti retreat center]

Last Saturday, I experienced something I had wanted to do for a long time: a silent retreat.

A lot of silent retreats are entire weekends, but with my own personal anxieties I knew only a few hours would work best for me and get the results I was looking for. Back in October I took a 8-week Mindfulness / Stress Reduction course. Built into that course was one free silent retreat where all of the lessons were combined into a span of 6 hours.

To be honest, I almost talked myself out of it. My personal (irrational) fear of being away from home almost made me send a cancelation e-mail to the retreat director. I fought against it and drove the 25 minutes to the yoga studio. When I walked in, the instructor told me she was so happy to see me again. Although we would not be talking once the 6 hours began and I was in a room full of strangers, I felt comfort in the company of a familiar face.

The entire day, as it was explained, was about us. Spending time with ourselves and if someone did not smile at us today or look us in the eye, it was not personal; we were all there, quite simply, to be alone.

And from there, we did several guided meditations, walking meditations, light yoga and yoga nidra. We also had 1 hour for lunch where not a single person took out their cell phones to scroll through social media, no one made a phone call, no one took out a book or magazine. We ate in silence, scattered around the studio and some of us (myself included) sat outside. After I ate, I took a 30 minute walk around the area.


WHAT I LEARNED


I didn’t have an enlightening experience where I suddenly knew my life purpose or heard an inner voice tell me something life-changing. Instead I learned that I have complete control over my experience at any given moment.

I am lucky enough to live the kind of life where I can leave a place when I am uncomfortable, jump in my car and drive home. I learned that my anxiety can no longer control me like I believe most of the time. In fact, I have control over my anxiety because in any given moment I have a choice: to stay or to go. And whatever choice leads to reduced anxiety (obviously within reason), I will do it.

I felt the exact moment when my anxiety sparked: At 5:15pm.  We were in the middle of Yoga Nidra. After dozing for a few minutes, I woke up in a cold sweat and a state of panic. Before I even realized it, I was already planning my escape.  Fear took over and the sense of being trapped consumed me. (I am not a huge fan of Yoga Nidra, therefore, looking back on this it is no surprise the anxiety hit when it did.)

I realized completely that when that anxiety pang hits, it hits and hits hard. I am no longer a 31-year old woman but an 8 year old stuck on a Girl Scout weekend trip, stuck with a partner who is annoying and annoys everyone else.  Or a 9 year old on yet another Girl Scout weekend where I am being made fun of for having a stomach ache and taking up too much time in the only bathroom. I am the 5 year old who wants to brave staying overnight in West Virginia with her grandparents only to wake up at 1 am wanting to be home with mom and dad.

I learned that as an adult I am in complete control of my enviornment, whether to stay or to go. I don’t need to ask permission or call someone and beg for a ride home. So, after Yoga Nidra ended and the instructor announced a quick 10 minute break, I grabbed my yoga mat and meditation pillow and headed out, leaving the last half hour of the retreat behind without regret or permission.

I am utterly fascinated by the people who have elaborate bullet journals. They are so creative and use their journals as their form of art and creative outlet. I watched many videos and saved many-a-pins and tried to get into it. The truth is, I’m too much of a perfectionist to have the type of bullet journal I see online.

Bullet journal:  [source: tumblr]

The truth is I envy these creative people who can spend hours on layouts and spreads. They are quite impressive and I wish I could do it. I tried. I gave it a solid effort, but I have to give up the bullet journal ghost.


IT IS VERY TIME CONSUMING


The layouts online take a very long time. I worked on one that wasn’t even close to the detail as the one shown above and it took me over an hour. All I did were a few lines using a ruler and some attempts at calligraphy. It still did not turn out the way I wanted it to and I wasn’t inspired by it.


NOT GOOD FOR MY PERFECTIONIST MIND


Ever since elementary school, if I made the tiniest mistake on anything I had to scrap and start all over. I would try to salvage the project, but my inner perfectionist was not having it. I see some bullet journal spreads with crossed out pages, but I cannot deal… it’s either perfect or it is not.


I COULD NOT FIND THE RIGHT LAYOUTS


There are a billion layouts out there for every possible thing one may want to track.  I tried a few and no matter how much I tweeked it, combined ideas and methods the concept never quite fit my style. Combine that with the above quest for bullet journal perfection and you have a recipe for failure and frustration. Going back to reason number 1, this became a time-suck; wasted time I could have used on other hobbies that bring me happiness and joy.

 


ATTEMPTED TO TRACK TOO MUCH AT ONCE…AND FOR WHAT?


Tracking everything you do, spend, eat, read, sneeze, or drink can be a mindfu*k.  I am exaggerating, of course, but once you start down that daily tracking road it is hard to turn back.  Yesterday, I turned back. I tore out my failed-attempts at creative, Tweetable, Instagramable layouts and popped them in the garbage.

The primary reason? I already have a planner. In fact, I was tracking my spending on a note page on the opposite of the last week of April’s weekly layout. Breaking with my perfectionism, I tore that page out leaving me without a daily sheet for April 27-30th.

My inner critic screamed as I tore out the page, but I ignored her. Not having three days in my planner would not ruin my existence. I already track my spending in an old-school checkbook ledger.

[Favorite post by Cait Flanders that inspired me to move beyond tracking: http://caitflanders.com/2016/10/11/stop-tracking-start-making-intentional-decisions/ ]

I already have a planner with the best pre-designed layout that works for me. A lot of people get into bullet journaling because pre-printed layouts did not fit their style. I am one of the lucky people who these work for. I have the monthly calendar and a weekly breakdown with lots of space for to do lists and notes.

So while I have deep admiration for those of you who can do this, I am walking away and giving up the ghost of the bullet journal.

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