Girl School for Grownups

Like having a big sister, but better because I can't boss you around!

Stuff I love, July edition

Sometimes list posts are the easiest to write. A list creates a framework for the words. In the spirit of making things easy (which truly is the spirit of summertime, right?), here’s a list of some stuff I love.

  • Not wearing a fitbit. When I wear my fitbit, my daily step goal is 15,000 steps, and I try to stay above 100,000 steps per week. In my normal life, I’m pretty active so it’s more doable than you might think. But I started at a new job (more on this in a minute) and now I’m lucky to have 4,000 steps by dinnertime. The leads to insane behavior on my part, where even though I’m exhausted, I’m marching in place to get to my daily goal. I know I’ll carry my fitbit again, because the little things (like moving more) do matter. But for now there’s freedom in just moving and not being concerned about the number.
  • Murad’s Invisiblur Perfecting Shield. I got this stuff because it promised to help any makeup (foundation or tinted moisturizer) go on more smoothly. And it works for that purpose. But just today I realized it has SPF 30 in it. Bonus! It’s not cheap, but I’ve used mine for a little over a month and it’s about 1/3 gone. Something that makes my makeup look better, and protects my skin without feeling like sunscreen? Yes, please!
  • Glennon Doyle Melton. I fell in love with G (that’s how she signs off) maybe 3 or 4 years ago. But I didn’t keep reading her stuff. Recently a girlfriend got an advance copy of G’s new book “Love Warrior” and lent it to me. (Note to self: figure out how aforementioned girlfriend found her way into the inner circle of Momastery, G’s blog.) And reading it has started up the love affair all over again. G describes herself as a truth teller and hope spreader. How can you not love that??? Here are a few of her posts that really resonate with me:

Don’t Carpe Diem

A Mountain I’m Willing to Die On — oh how I wish I could have written this to my kids

The Lie and the Truth About Marriage

Gonna have to continue this later. It’s a short list, but it’s a start.

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Wasted Time

Most people who own a computer have done this at least once or twice. I’ve done it more like three or four times, which makes me above average, right? Here’s the scenario: I go to my computer to do something. Then I see something else. And that leads to something else. And now 45 minutes have passed. And usually at this point I’ve not done what I set out to do, nor am I happy or rejuvenated. I’ve just fallen once again into the black hole of the internet. Damn.

I posted about this on Facebook, hoping to get some answers. Because I have the very best friends, I got lots of interesting feedback, and I know I’m not alone in my struggle to stay away from meaningless activity at the screen.

Holly Block Dillon, a life coach, asked an interesting question: how is it negatively impacting your life? I had no problem answering this: “It’s like junk food — satisfying in the moment, but a bad idea in the long run. It takes time away from things that matter to me and makes me feel lazy and unfocused. I feel anxious when I see projects that I could be working on, but I’m not.” The negative effect is enhanced when I start my day by getting onto the computer and checking email and Facebook.

Knowing the why got me to ask Tim if he could find software that would limit the hours I use the computer. (Love that I have in-house tech support here!) Because I’m a shitty sleeper, middle of the night is especially dangerous for me, so I was hoping to limit internet access from say 11 at night till 6 in the morning. He said one way to do it was with parental control software, but then I had a fit and we didn’t talk about that again. 🙂

He was able to find free software that limits loading new pages, and that’s been on my computer for about a week and a half and it’s helping. I don’t have any answers when it comes to too much time on a smartphone. There are benefits to being older and one of them is that I prefer my desktop to my phone by a lot, so that’s kind of self limiting already.

My nephew, Jackson Miller, recommended RescueTime and I’m going to try that too. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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When a workout is more than a workout

I’ve been living in self-condemnation for a while now. It’s not good. Living under a blanket of shame makes you quieter, smaller, until

you

just

want

to

disappear.

Today I remembered a workout I did long ago. It’s from Zuzka Light (who has an amazing story of moving from shame to freedom) and I think it’s called “Get Down, Get Back Up Again.” As she describes it, you set a timer for 12 minutes. (Of course, I did 13, because of the beauty of odd numbers.) Place a chair or an aerobics step in front of you. Lie down on the ground. Start the timer.

Now get up any way you can. Once you’re standing, put one foot on the chair and press up, lifting the knee of your opposite leg. (You end up on top of the chair on one leg, with the other knee raised, which is why doing this near a wall is a helpful thing.) Then step off, and lie back down on the ground. And repeat, switching the knee you lift. Do this for 13 minutes.

If it sounds easy, try it. If it sounds hard, you’re right — it IS hard. While I was doing the workout I was thinking about failure and success and how to get back up. And the song “I’m So Sorry” by Imagine Dragons came on. The words really resonated today:

About time for anyone telling you off for all your deeds
No sign the roaring thunder stopped in cold to read
No time
I get mine and make no excuses; waste of precious breath
No time
The sun shines on everyone, everyone love yourself to death
So you gotta fire up, you gotta let go
You’ll never be loved till you’ve made your own
You gotta face up, you gotta get yours
You never know the top till you get too low
Listen to the song. Try the workout. And make today amazing, friends!
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Bulletproof Coffee update

I’ve been doing portion control and increased exercise for a while now, so maybe it’s more than the coffee, which I’ve been doing for maybe 2-1/2 weeks. But today I got brave and did an InBody weight and body fat test, and the results are good. Like body fat is down 5% good. I may have found my new breakfast normal. Except for on weekends out of town, where French Toast is always a part of the morning meal.

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Mother’s Day again?

I hope I wasn’t the only selfish child who dared to utter the words, “Why isn’t there a kid’s day?” when the topic of Mother’s or Father’s Day came up. For the record, I did celebrate my parents when the time rolled around. And I came to understand the magnitude of what they gave me when I became a parent myself.

I have an uneasy relationship with this “holiday.” It feels manufactured (because it is). I hate the idea of creating an obligation because of who I am. And yet as an adult  I did want to honor my parents each year.

Here are some ideas for ways to honor your parents on the Hallmark-iest days of the year.

  1. If your mom or dad is one who really enjoys a tangible gift, think about something they use or do often, and buy something to elevate the experience. If your mom loves gardening, get her some colorful ergonomic hand tools. If your dad loves his car and washes it often, get him a car squeegee (it’s a real thing and it’s very cool) or something else to make car washing nicer. An avid reader might love a beautiful bookmark. Most parents don’t need a lot of stuff, but something truly special from you will be treasured. This strategy also works if you have one of those “it’s complicated” relationships with your parents.
  2. There are parents (like me) who appreciate gifts but would prefer something more personal. So a card that’s written in really floats my boat. One year I wrote a list of lessons I’d learned from my mom throughout the years. I hope she loved it because a lot of love went into making it.
  3. If you live near your mom or dad, give them a card and write in it that you want to take them out to lunch. (The “and then do it!” goes without saying, right?) Time spent with my kids one on one is invaluable to me, and I’ll bet your parents feel the same.

My belief is nobody escapes childhood unscathed. Even the most well meaning parents will do and say things that hurt their kids. Why? Because we’re imperfect people trying our best to figure it out. I used to feel really awful about all the ways I could have been a better mother. From being a CASA and seeing some really horrible family situations, I can assure you that if your parent or parents loved you and cared about you, you have something to celebrate on Mother’s and Father’s Day.

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The magic? of bulletproof coffee

Several years ago I heard about bulletproof coffee, aka coffee with special fat mixed in a blender. It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? But it tastes like a latte. There’s a guy who has a website devoted to the bulletproof lifestyle. He says you will do better with special reduced toxin coffee beans and his “brain octane” oil instead of coconut oil. I bought his beans and the oil when I first heard about it. The beans tasted bland. The oil seemed like oil. And my life was kind of chaotic so after about a week I was no longer willing to go through the effort to make the special coffee.

Recently a friend told me that her husband was doing bulletproof coffee and loving it. My life is not a chaotic as it once was. And the idea of steady balanced energy (as opposed to the jittery anxious energy of my morning diet Monster) seemed worth trying. Once again I bought the special oil, because c’mon, if anyone’s brain needs the brain octane oil, it’s mine.

Now three weeks into this adventure I have some good things to report.

  • I *do* have steady balanced energy for many hours after my coffee.
  • I have more self-control when it comes to high carb or sugary snacks.
  • I get full faster when I eat lunch.
  • My waist is more defined and my stomach is flatter.
  • I’ve dropped a few pounds.

One of the real tests of the magic happened last week. I’m working as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate — the best volunteer job in the world!) and had a chance to attend a CEU workshop. The all-day seminar was titled “Trauma-Informed Decision Making.” I thought, “Great. It will be interesting and I can just kick back and listen. Easy day.” Nobody told me that seminars that address trauma can be butt-kickers for people who’ve dealt with trauma themselves. In the morning session I bounced between feeling nauseated and sad. And hey, guess what? There were hundreds of Noah’s Bagels with every flavor of cream cheese spread you can think of. For free! In the back of the room. A bagel could have been just the thing to diminish the bad feelings. And there’s nothing wrong with saying yes or no to a bagel. But I know my brain and body operate better on fewer carbs. And although the temptation to numb out with food was strong, my internal control was stronger. People, this is new territory for me. And it was everything to do with feeling satisfied from my fat coffee!

If anyone has tried bulletproof coffee, I’d love to hear your experience. Oh and if you want a guideline to making it, here goes:

  • However much coffee you want
  • 1 – 3 teaspoons* of coconut oil (or the special oil if you think you need it)
  • 2 teaspoons high-quality butter (like Kerrygold or another fancy schmancy brand)
  • 1 packet Splenda (the bulletproof guy would shriek in horror at this, but I like how it tastes)

Mix all of this on high in a blender. Enjoy. * if you have a sensitive tummy, go slow on the oil at first. It can cause hurry poop if you’re not careful. 🙂

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First poem

Writing a poem

Seems so easy.

I used to think that poems had to rhyme

But now I know that they don’t.

So do words just drip from your brain to the page

Or is there something more to it?

My heart knows there’s something more

Some inexpressible quality like that of pixie dust or butterfly kisses

An intangible essence where the heartstrings are gently strummed

By the words as they unfold.

I long to give words to the quixotic moods of my heart

And to have an unknown someone feel

Really feel

What it’s like to be me.

But my keyboard doesn’t have the right keys

And my mind can’t quite conjure the right turn of phrase

To make it all make sense.

Like much of life, perhaps poetry is defined not by its ending

But by the very fact of beginning, of trying

And if I begin and try, again and again

Perhaps I can write with pixie dust and butterfly kisses

Sprinkled among my words.

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It’s been such a long time

Hi friends. Is there anybody out there? It’s been more than a year since I’ve written. Why did I stop? Well it was a whole bunch of things, but the main one is that I fell into a deep depression, and depression lies to you, and what I was hearing inside my head was “you have nothing interesting to say and no right to write.” (I may have perfected the art of self-sabotage here. I always wanted to be really good at stuff. Perhaps I should have specified the kind of stuff!)

So now the depression is under control (new meds, better habits and some time living mostly in the land of ok-ish-ness) and I think it’s time to write again. Writing this is my public line in the sand to help me to follow through and write.

Thanks for listening.

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Reader question: Is change possible?

“Is it possible to change something you really don’t like about yourself?” What a great question. As someone who struggles with habits, there have been times when this question would have sent me straight to bed to pull the covers over my head. This is not one of those times, thank goodness. 🙂 Let’s explore what it takes to change.

images

  1. Yes, change is possible. George Eliot said, “You are never too old to be what you might have been.” As a late bloomer in nearly everything, I love this! We have the volition to choose our course, so take comfort in the fact that the future is not set in stone.
  2. Change is really fucking hard, unless it’s easy. My husband has more willpower than almost anyone I know. When he decides to change something, he’s all in and makes progress seem effortless. I love/hate this about him. He’s spent a lifetime developing his discipline muscle. Me? Not so much. So depending on your history with habits and resolutions and the like, changing something can be kinda tricky.
  3. There is always a payoff for what we do. This idea makes me uneasy because it’s absolutely true. You know how you can look at someone and think, “Why the heck would they do that?” Even behavior we don’t understand, in other or in ourselves, comes with some sort of payoff, whether we know it or not. Notice, I didn’t say benefit. A benefit (root bene = good, like beneficial) is something that helps us. A payoff is usually something that confirms a deeply held belief or keeps us in our comfort zone. “Comfort zone” is a misnomer because comfort seems good and comfort zones can be deeply uncomfortable. What’s seductive about a comfort zone is that it is known and familiar, and the pull to stay there can be oh so strong.
  4. Get crystal clear on the why. I was a pack a day smoker in my early 20s. I was both physically and psychologically addicted. Before I quit, I wrote out a list of all the reasons I wanted to quit, including financial benefits, health benefits, my clothes wouldn’t smell benefits, and the one that stood out more than any other. I smoked when I drove, and I would flick the ashes out the car window. Several times my ash flicking didn’t go as planned, and I ended up with little burn holes in my skirt or pants. For some reason this made me feel deeply ashamed and bad. And this was a good “why” to focus on because the emotional impact was so big. (I quit several months later when I got really sick — so sick that I didn’t smoke for 4 days. And I figured that I should keep going. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it was so worth it!)
  5. Tell someone. There are support groups for losing weight and dealing with addictions. There are therapists who can help untangle emotional issues. There are friends who can become accountability buddies, helping you to move towards what you really want. In my experience, a recipe for no change at all is me staying silent and just trying really hard. All that is is exhausting.

For yoga teacher training, we’re reading a wonderful book called “Being of Power: The 9 practices to ignite an empowered life” by Baron Baptiste. One of the practices is titled “let it be.” Here’s part of what Baron has to say:

We all face a paradox. In order to grow, we need to start from total acceptance of where we are and where we’re not, what we have and what’s missing — exactly as it is. Total acceptance doesn’t mean that we’d be okay with something if it were just a little more this or that, or after X or Y happens; it means that we take out the judgement that something is wrong or shouldn’t be and accept it exactly as it is, right here, right now, with no conditions. 

If things are really bad or stuck or aren’t necessarily as we want them to be, then that last sentence can be pretty challenging to consider. I mean, why would anyone choose to be broke, alone, sick, out of shape, or anything else that feels depressing, frustrating or painful? We’ll resist these things at all costs, because we’re afraid that if we don’t, we’ll get stuck with whatever is causing them. But the truth is that if you are not at peace with your current reality — exactly as it is and exactly as it isn’t — then that’s exactly when you will get stuck with it. As the famous line goes, “what you resist persists.” What you resist you empower. Resistance sucks energy and space, which creates contraction, so when you’re spending so much of your precious energy resisting, there is no flow, no life, and definitely no power in that realm.

Deep stuff, right? But it’s the truth. We did an exercise where we had to choose things in our lives that are not as we want them to be and write down “I embrace (blank) exactly as it is and exactly as it isn’t.” Here are some examples from the book:

  • I embrace my mother-in-law exactly as she is and exactly as she isn’t.
  • I embrace my bankruptcy exactly as it is and exactly as it isn’t.
  • I embrace my illness exactly as it is and exactly as it isn’t.

Here’s one more quote from the book:

When we did an exercise similar to this at a workshop in Toronto, a student named Paulina stood up and said that it was her laziness that was presenting the most problems for her. Then she added, “I’m not going to embrace my laziness — no way. I want to overcome it!”

I know we all want to overcome adversity. But remember we don’t overcome anything. That’s a false sense of control. If Paulina could have worked through her laziness, she would have by now. When we let something be, we’re acknowledging it and stepping toward it as a conscious choice. Once we embrace it, we have the freedom to respond to it differently and take a new pathway if that’s what we then decide. What we fully choose and embrace we can fully release. There’s no power in resisting and being half in or half out. Just be 100 percent for it, as it is and as it isn’t without shame, judgement, or complaints, and see what dissolves or arises out of that.

This acceptance of what is really does produce the freedom to change. I’m experiencing it in my own life.

One final thought: I’m reading a new book “Better Than Before” by Gretchen Rubin. In it she explores the subject of habits. I am a creature of few habits, married to a man of many habits. I see the freedom and ease that his habits afford him, and yet I struggle with putting my own good habits into place. I’m hoping Gretchen’s exploration of habits will help me with this.

And so, dear reader, here is your homework assignment, should you want some homework. Do the ” I embrace” exercise regarding what you want to change. Then get clear on the payoffs you get from the behavior, enlist help, and maybe start reading “Better Than Before.” And know that my heart is with you as you move toward what you want most.

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Ideas for a reduced stress home

I tell my husband that in a prior life he must have served in the military, because his sense of order and discipline are deeply ingrained and can feel almost bootcamp-ish at times. Many of our struggles have been over simple things like how to load the dishwasher or how clean the house needs to be. Over the years, I’ve reined in my free-spirited approach to homemaking, and with more than 25 years of experience in running a home, let’s hope I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

Here are a few things that have worked for me. If you have suggestions about what to do to make your home run more smoothly, please let me know, as there is always room for improvement.

  1. Water carafes in the fridge — When my kids lived at home there was always someone scrambling to get water glasses filled and on the table at dinner. I’ve taken a cue from bistro restaurants, where they placed a carafe of chilled water on your table. Carafes are available many places (my favorite is a Weck juice jar from Crate and Barrel and costs $5.95) and it feels easy breezy good to grab a carafe and a few glasses, and voila — beverages are handled! weck-juice-jars
  2. A white board in the pantry or on the fridge — Everybody in my house knows that if it’s written on the board, it will show up in the house. This way little scraps of paper or mental notes of “oh I should pick some of this up” won’t be set aside and forgotten. And it’s frustrating if you’re cooking and don’t have a crucial ingredient that you meant to pick up at the store. I make myself write things on the list too. Like I said, it’s one central list and it works.

    We must really need flour, because I listed it twice.

    We must really need flour, because I listed it twice.

  3. Label your shelves — Reducing micro decisions is a key to a calmer life. As a stay at home mom, the micro decisions are endless (what should I do now? and now? how about now?) and exhausting. For everyone, big open shelves or drawers can be just a catchall for whatever you happen to have in your hands. I have a cabinet in the upstairs hallway that we use for sheets and towels and blankets. Until I labeled the shelves I would just shove stuff onto any shelf where it would fit. You would think this would work ok, especially since the function of the cabinet is defined, but it meant I could never find things. With labels on the shelves, I take the nano-second of time to put things where they belong.
  4. Micro decisions and laundry — When I did laundry for one husband and two teenage sons, every single item of clothing had to be considered to determine who it belonged to, because they were all very close in size. If I had it to do over again, I would do laundry loads for each person. (Ok, what I really should have done was required everyone to do their own laundry!)
  5. If it takes less than 90 seconds, do it now! — I learned this from Tim. And it’s still hard for me to follow. But if there’s something I can do to restore order, and it takes less than 90 seconds, I should do it. These actions can include rehanging a shirt that I’ve decided not to wear, putting away running shoes, putting away makeup, or anything else that takes virtually no time. My surroundings are a lot nicer when I do this.
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