Thursday, December 31, 2009

Welcome 2010 on this Bright and Brilliant Blue Moon Night

I am so excited to welcome this new year, 2010, into my life. I am open to all the wonders 2010 has to offer and feel wonderfully fortunate to have made it this far. The fact that this year is being ushered in under a blue moon (next one is in August 2012) makes it all the more special to me. I wish everyone a lovely new year. May this year be fruitful for us all.

Photo courtesy of

Monday, December 28, 2009

Facing What Scares Me -- New Year's Resolutions

First let me say that I love the ritual associated with the New Year, the one of reflecting and goal setting. I love planning. However after years of planning, and very little action, I've come to associate New Year's resolutions with failure and doom. I admit to feeling ashamed about these past failures and have come to question my ability to follow through with them. Hence these past few years I've come to avoid this ritual.

I really dislike allowing fear to dictate my actions. So I'm going to give it another go. This time I'm focusing on weeks and months rather than a year. That way it's much easier for me to stay cognizant of what I want and what I need.

Kimberly Wilson is a gal who inspires people, me included. I went back to her December 2005 podcast
to find that inspiration as I consider my life's next steps. She advocates starting with reflection, then creating intention and following up with action.

Beginning with reflection, Kimberly asks that we consider these questions. I've included some of my answers to these questions.

What worked?

1. Courage, facing life issues that frightened me. The outcomes didn't always resolve as I would have liked,but I learned that the fear alone sucks up an incredible amount of energy.
2. Relaxing in the knowledge of what I can change and what I cannot.

What didn’t work?

1. Sporadic exercise.
2. Unlimited sweets.
3. Little time to myself (no vacation, trying to accommodate others' needs at the expense of my own).
4. Eating out frequently.
5. Eating mostly on pre-packaged foods when cooking at home.
6. Having the tv on frequently (ok, daily, even after canceling cable I've used dvds regularly just to have something one even though I may not be paying attention).
7. Procrastinating on household chores and work assignments.

What lessons did you learn?

1. What others think of me isn't nearly so important as what I think of myself.
2. Others don't think about me much. In fact, people generally think mostly of themselves.
3. Cooking whole foods at home is essential to my health.
4. I am addicted to refined sugar. If I don't control it; it controls me.
5. If I allow myself to backslide into old habits (e.g., sedentary lifestyle, not cooking, lack of balanced diet), I gain weight.
6. The physical sensation of hunger does not always indicate a hunger for food. It can also indicate a hunger for relaxation, stress release, rest, fulfillment, fun, etc. For those of us who have used eating as a coping mechanism, it can be quite easy to confuse the signals our body is sending. When you feel that pang, ask yourself what you are truly hungry for. The answer might surprise you.
7. I need to use a budget and check in with it on a weekly basis to meet my financial goals.
8. I need to keep updated to-do lists if I have any hope of accomplishing my goals at work, and perhaps even at home and my personal needs.
9. Feeling sorry for myself affords me absolutely no benefit. It neither moves me forward nor does it give me any solace.
10. My life is really quite full and enjoyable just as it is. I am enough, just as I am.

Kimberly further suggests asking yourself these questions.

How will you operate differently?
Who were the key players in your life?
Will this change? Do you want this to change?
What did you hope to do but didn’t or didn’t have the resources to do?
What would you like to do differently?

What have your reflections taught you about yourself?

Once you've finished reflecting, it's time to set intentions. More on that to come.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to You and Yours - May It Be Good and Full

Whether you are spending Christmas with family, friends, on a bus, on a plane, in a snow drift, or solo like me, I hope you all have a wonderful fulfilling day.

Christmas (and I confess, I'm not religious) is very much a state of mind IMO. My childhood was super stable in terms of Christmas traditions. We always knew where we were going to be and when. Christmas eve at maternal grandparents. Christmas morning opening presents with mom, dad, sis and the dog. Then on to paternal grandparents for early afternoon Christmas dinner. My daughter's experience with Christmas is quite the opposite.

In the six years her father and I have been divorced, she has experienced numerous configurations of scheduled celebrations. This year is no different. Early on after the divorce I had great difficulty experiencing big holidays like Christmas without her. I'd frequently feel sad, lonely, embarrassed, guilty that I couldn't give my daughter the same stability I had as a child, jealous that my ex had immediately created an instant family before our divorce was final and just generally feeling like a bad mother and an undeserving person. Undoubtedly I was grieving the loss of family that accompanied my divorce, nursing a bruised ego and mourning the loss of my expectations. Fast forward to now.

My daughter went to her dad's today at 5pm to celebrate Christmas day with him. We have had this arrangement in the past but never before has it gone so smoothly and with me feeling quite incredibly happy with my situation. Last night, which was our Christmas Eve, we watched The Sound of Music. This had always been a tradition in my family. Back then on of the big tv networks always broadcast it Christmas Eve. Prior to watching the SoM, w watched the Wizard of Oz because that's a little bit of our own tradition in the making. Then the next morning I awoke at 6:30 am when I heard the girl get up. Told her to give me a minute, then after turning on the tree and hearth lights, told her to come out for presents and stockings, then breakfast (the routine I had as a child, except I would invariably awaken around 2am and stay in my room until the family was ready to do presents 5-6 hrs later....those nights were soooo long).

It's funny because I have had to continually remind myself that this was really Xmas eve, not Xmas day, because for me it felt completely like Xmas day. My mom came to have an early afternoon dinner with us (our family Xmas won't happen until after New Year's) and even a cousin and her husband stopped by to visit as they drove through town.

Given my ex was scheduled to pick up the girl at 5 pm, my mom was concerned about my having something to do tomorrow. I explained I have plans for tomorrow. The reality is, I *feel* like today was Xmas proper. It's taken me a number of years to cultivate this perspective and to just accept the time the girl and I have together on holidays which sometimes means being flexible with our idea of holidays. I don't feel ashamed at spending Xmas day alone like I used to, without a significant other or without being surrounded by my daughter and other family. I feel like we had a day that we made into our holiday and filled it with our traditions and we can put those traditions into motion on any day of the year and it will be our Christmas.

It's not about what the calendar says or what other people think you are doing on that specific date. It's about spending your time the way you want to spend it. I may not always get to be with my daughter when I want to be, but I can certainly spend the time that I'm away from her making the most of it. I'm looking forward to a wonderful day on my own tomorrow browsing through the three dozen decorating library books I brought home earlier this week, watching movies, piddling around the house and doing whatever feels good at the time. I'm also much better able to make the most of my time with the girl so that when she is away, I feel like that aspect of my life is good and full.

It is the knowledge and acceptance that my life is good and full, just as it is, that allows me to enjoy holidays on days the calendar claims they don't exist, and to feel great joy at spending official holidays in ways that defy convention and expectation.

So whatever you are doing, whatever holiday you are celebrating, whether it be Christmas or Friday, do it to the best of your ability and enjoy the experience!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Wonderous Winter Solstice -- A Meandering Musing of Verbosity

Well, you should have been warned off by the title, but you're a brave soul aren't you. Wishing everyone a warm and wonderous day and night as we move forward to increased amounts of daylight, but until then, Embrace the Dark! It has much to offer if only we open ourselves to it. The winter solstice, also known by its ancient name, Yule, signifies the the beginning of the winter season.

Now that it is officially winter it is an opportune time to reflect. Winter has long been the season related to death. Leaves fall off of the trees, flowers shrivel, grass ceases to grow, birds fly elsewhere and days grow dark. Although many do look at it as a time of beginning now that the pendulum has swung as far into the dark as it can go. The book Circle Round notes that in pagan cultures adults would stay up the entire night to keep the Mother Goddess company while she is in labor preparing to give birth to the sun from her night sky womb. I love this book and have referred to it over the years as it is filled with information on the seasons, tradition, ritual, and the life transitions. It provides some grounding, interesting interpretation and (in my ritual-deprived adulthood) a knowledge that the cycle goes round and round.

Just as spring is viewed as a time for rebirth, winter is an opportunity to rest, dream, plan, and steep ourselves in our desires, creativity, hopes and allow ourselves to nest, enjoying our homes and private spaces. Through this we prepare to germinate again in spring. Whilst looking at the patterns in my life, I am struck by how my three most significant romantic relationships both ended just as winter began, giving me the break I needed to heal as well as an opening to transform from what I had learned. In all three cases I came forth in the spring, renewed. I still had more healing to do for a couple of those relationships, but I had grown in ways that I may not have had the time nor inclination to be quite so self-attentive had the weather been more conducive to being out and about.

Though I view the death symbolism of this season as a metaphor, many are loathe to consider this time of year, after the gift-giving and fellowship of Christmas and the celebratory nature of the new year, as worthwhile. In the Midwest the weather is frequently drab, the temperature cold, the landscape brown and in a nation where depression is probably at an all time high, this season isn't for sissies. It can be tough. I've rebirthed myself a few different times and there was pain, the gestation period seemingly long, but there was joy too. When I did make it through towards the light of spring, I've been arranged a little differently. Wiser, stronger, more confident, and better able to witness levity and allow the joys of life to fill me.

On second thought, I like this pregnancy metaphor more and more. I can blame my holiday weight gain on my self-pregnancy. Yes, I have yet to take responsibility for my complete and utter lack of will power when it comes to my mother's homemade confections. Sadly, the candy helps little with easing of the rebirthing process though the near sugar coma could mask other pains. In fact, I'm probably moving towards gestational diabetes. Oh well, as they say, this too will pass.

Over the next week I am contemplating how I am gestating during this lovely frosty season, which I will probably post about soon. How do you use this season? Do you recognize it? Revere it? Curse it? Make friends with it? I'd like to know.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Coming Soon....To A Blog Near You

I was hoping to have another post or two for this past week and even this next one, but life has gotten a wee bit hectic between all the pre-holiday activities plus the normal ones. I'm attempting to finish up a number of things at work so that I can go on vacation at the end of the week until just after the new year. Actually, it's a staycation rather than a vacation. I plan on some serious nesting in my home, doing some decorating, organizing, rearranging, indulging in enjoyable past-times like reading, writing posts, movie and mystery watching. I've got some fun blog topics in mind and can't wait to move on them. Until we meet again (next week).

Monday, December 7, 2009

BlissChick’s January Question

Photo by BlissChick

BlissChick’s blog, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, is beautiful, wise and insightful. She recently posted that she will provide a monthly question for which she wants her readers to write responses which will be posted on her site as actual blog entries (guidelines here). I don't plan to post my responses to these questions on her site, however I believe these questions are provocative and will help me on my path to my own bliss. The question for January is below as well as linked.

On an airplane, they remind you to give yourself
oxygen before worrying about a child or an elderly person.
If you can't breathe, you can't help anyone else.
How do you make sure to give yourself
necessary "oxygen" in your day to day life?

I took a couple days to consider BlissChick’s question. The only thing I can think of is coffee. It is the one thing I enjoy that I do daily, often multiple times per day. It’s my comfort. I just don’t think it’s enough and I don’t think it’s the healthiest habit/indulgence though I do generally drink half caf/decaf. Although I enjoy it and occasionally need it, I think it maybe a short-term oxygen replacement rather than the real thing.

I’ve been experiencing a malaise of sorts the past month. I think I’ve been running on empty for quite a while now and a month ago a situation at work left me feeling unsupported and questioning why I even try to improve things when others are being unaccountable. This occurred just before I left for my conference. Although I felt I couldn’t afford to be away from work, I was committed to the conference so I took the attitude of allowing myself to feel my feeling of discontent, go to the conference and allow the change of pace to restore me. Then the car crash occurred which resulted in another stress-induced adrenaline rush for the next week or two. Late last week I recognized how disconnected I was feeling which I chalk up to chronic stress and a lack of self-care. My main source of decompression (and this doesn’t in any way count as oxygen) is losing myself in movies or tv programs on dvd (preferably British mysteries). I’ve been doing this much more frequently lately than I prefer.

So one thing is clear, it’s time to place some focus on how to manifest more oxygen into my life. I need self care rituals which are nourishing, nurturing and supportive. Clearly there is more to come as I explore this topic.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Have You Visited Your Library Lately?

I love books! I would buy books (plural) weekly if I could. I know this is contrary to the de-cluttering philosophy that I aspire to live by but I cannot deny my authentic self, a bibliophile. Having a home filled with books that I love is a true luxury to me. I’m not a fan of the Kindle or its equivalents in the digital world. I like the weight of books, their smell, their feel, underlining text, making notes in the margins. Because I cannot finance the lifestyle to which I could so easily become accustom, I am a strong advocate of supporting and using the local library. I am able to read books and watch movies at no cost to me (excepting my taxes and the occasional charitable donation). However my favorite aspect of the Library is their quarterly sales, a combination of donated articles and discarded library holdings.

By lucky accident I came upon their Holiday Book Sale quite unexpectedly. Fortunately I had a whole $6 cash on me which meant I could shop! I’m a sucker for used books. Like with garage/yard sales and visits to Goodwill and other salvage stores, I love finding a great deal and that includes library sales. This time I bought 5 books. The books were $1 each, except for one book priced at $2. So what did I find?

The $2 book is Toujours Provence by Peter Mayle. I've no clue why they listed it at twice the price of the other books, but clearly I was willing to pay it. I suppose I should read the prequel first.

Another book is At Home Abroad French: Practical Phrases for Conversation by Helen and Nigel Harrison. I am often searching the internet for French phrases so I thought this would be a perfect addition to my home reference section.

Next is The Ten Habits of Naturally Slim People: And How to Make Them Part of Your Life by Jill H. Podjasek. I purchased this one due to its table of contents. Habit-wise it very much resembles Mireille Guiliano's French Women Don't Get Fat but appears to go into much greater detail. I figured it was worth the $1 since I do have some weight to lose and given the stressors which continue to plague me and decimate my discipline, I can use some extra assistance in this area.

I consider this next book to be the real gem of my Saturday morning booty (when I write "booty" think pirate treasure chest, not back end asset). The New Diary by Tristine Rainer. I have heard nothing but good things about this classic book on journal writing and it has been on my Amazon wishlist for well over a year, perhaps longer. It is the original 1978 version. There was a new version published in 2004 that contains a new introduction, but pretty much everything else is the same. Anaïs Nin wrote the preface to this book just before her death in January 1977.

The final book is English Country Gardens by Ethne Clarke & Clay Perry. I was attracted to this book by the numerous photographs providing lots of eye candy plus the chapters are organized around what I presume are the English growing seasons, Early Summer, Midsummer, and Late Summer. Each season focuses on 3-6 counties. Overall it is what I would term a lite-gardening book, but it looked fun and I found the photos and writing, what there is of it, inspiring.

After returning home with my new lovely new editions, I was skimming the garden book again and discovered a little stowaway. A pamphlet published by Family Circle titled Houseplants: A Guide to the 50 Best for Gift-Giving and Decorating by Jacqueline Heriteau. BONUS!!!! What a lucky girl I am. It's fully illustrated and divided into chapters discussing best plants for kitchen, bathroom, office. This little bonus gives loads of info for such a tiny pamphlet. I couldn't be happier with my take.

Do you take advantage of your local libraries? Are you as crazy about books as I am? Do great deals (of the $5 or less variety) make your day like they make mine? Do you have more books in your home than you can stack on your bookshelves?

Oh, I guess I'm out of time. My dog just hunted me down for the third time tonight indicating it's bedtime and it's time for me to go to bed so she can as well. She's very fastidious about our bedtime and I've stayed up far too late tonight in her opinion. So I will end this with a photo I took of her earlier this evening when she was enjoying a nap in the family room. Her bed in my bedroom is much more cozy than this one in the family room.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gifts to Give or Receive

Now that we’re in December my mind is on gift giving. So I thought I would list some favs that I giving (not much, but what the hay). A bit of a disclaimer here, my family has a long tradition of giving several gifts for the holidays, the majority of which are cheap (I’m talking quality here). When it comes to gift giving, I try to get good deals, but because there is only my daughter, mom and sister (and her fiancé) I tend to buy fewer gifts of higher quality. And with my mom, I particularly get her items that are more indulgent because for years she has lived on an income well below this country’s poverty level, had sacrificed so much for my sister and myself, and is very reticent to splurge on herself.

Photo courtesy of HearthSong

For my daughter this year it’s dollhouse furniture. A couple years ago I splurged and got her a proper doll house from HearthSong catalogue. Luckily she still plays with it. This year she has asked for more furniture, apparently the children are tired of sleeping on the floor. So I ordered her furniture for the children’s bedroom as well as the kitchen. I like HearthSong products because they are generally well-crafted, imaginative and educational.

Photo courtesy of

This item is for my mother, sister, and myself. We all LOVE these wool socks by Columbia. So toasty warm during the cold months we endure here in the Great Lakes region. These are becoming harder and harder for me to find and I fear one day I’m going to have to find a replacement.

~Satine~ Inspired by Moulin Rouge. Photo courtesy of a la Parisienne

This is for my mother who loves jewelry, particularly pins and brooches. I must thank Stephanie at Bonjour Madame for letting me in on this little secret. Ok, it’s not a secret, but it was news to me. Mandy at a la Parisienne has an etsy shop where she is making and selling the most lovely flower brooches. She even has created a couple designs based on couture collections. The photo is of the one I purchased for my mom. I’m anxiously awaiting its arrival as I hear from Stephanie it is even more gorgeous in person than it is on the webpage.

Photo courtesy of Athleta

I confess, I was originally looking at these winter pants for myself. I spend a good amount of time walking my dog and decided it’s high time I get something warm for the frosty weather, especially for 6am and 9pm walks. I found these pants at Athleta's website. Based on the reviews, I ordered two pairs in different sizes. It turns out the smaller of the two fit me perfectly, so rather than return the second pair, I’m planning to give them to my mother who, like me, is chronically cold, even during the warmer months.

Photo courtesy of love, taza

Now for a dreamy unrequited item. Check out these headbands by Naomi at love, taza. They are spectacular.

What are your favorite gifts to give? What would you like to receive? Do tell!