If I had it my way, we would have a (childproof) Christmas tree up all year long and we’d live next door to the kind of people who leave a plastic Santa on the roof well into the Spring. There would be an Advent calendar for every month (which, I know, doesn’t vibe with the story of Christmas… but, um, God wants us to be happy). We’d listen to O, Holy Night every night. We would say “Happy Holidays” to strangers (and mean it). We’d always be on the hunt for the perfect gift and everything would smell like peppermint. On cinnamon. Oh, and we’d can our nasty ‘tudes (something that seems to magically happen this time of year, albeit temporarily).
More simply put: If I had it my way, it would always be December. Because, you know, this is the most wonderful time of the year.
With all the energy that goes into baking and shopping, wrapping presents and decking the halls, finding that one broken bulb and hanging up the mistletoe… this can also be an overwhelming time of year. I leave Thanksgiving dinner with grand Pinterest-fueled plans for the month of December, but by mid-month, what I really need is a nap.
This year, all I want is a slow and quiet Christmas.
I’m dialing back the decorations (generally speaking, neither lit candles nor glitter are baby-friendly), laying low, and soaking up as much of that Christmas spirit as possible. Oh, and I’m drinking lots of tea.
Growing up, we always had an advent calendar hanging in our kitchen. It’s a tradition Nick and I have adopted — one I look forward to sharing with Grace. In the meantime, she’s happy to be crawling here, there, and everywhere with one of the Wise Men from her Little People Nativity. This year, in addition to our traditional advent calendar, I picked up one of the coveted David’s Tea24 Days of Tea sets.
I can’t wait to open the day’s tea and share a cup with Nick and take stock of the day. I can see why this set sells out year after year (I lucked out in the Chestnut Hill store) and has become a tradition for so many families. It’s exactly the quiet and slow I’ve been craving.
While on the hunt for the set, I went on a bit of a shopping tea spree (can we make that a thing, or at the very least, a hashtag?). I picked up a few gifts for family and friends, some loose tea for yours truly aaaaand I also bought something for one of you, too.
David’s Tea giveaway (closed)
One lovely On Tap for Today reader will receive the Healthy Collection from David’s Tea. Why? Because I like you all a lot, and want you to stay healthy and enjoy your own slow and quiet holiday season. This set includes three teas/infusions and ten filters for steeping your loose tea. To enter, simply leave a comment below and share your favorite holiday tradition. A random winner will be chosen and notified on Saturday, December 13th. Thanks for entering! Megan B. was chosen and has been notified.
Disclaimer: Don’t get it twisted. This is not a sponsored post.
Also On Tap for Today:
New to the calm and serene world of tea drinking? Here’s a little Tea 101
I used to be a morning exerciser. I’d wake up before my alarm rang, head to bootcamp or the gym at our old condo. It would still be dark and quiet when I returned from my workout, and I’d be ready to take on the day.
And then I traded morning workouts to become an evening exerciser. I’d rush home and get changed, and Nick and I would head to CrossFit Southie together. Like my morning workouts, evening workouts became part of our routine.
And then I became a parent, and the only thing routine about our routine… is that everything changes from one day to the next. There have been countless days when I’ve thought, “I’ll get up early and workout before work,” only to find myself up most of the night, nursing Grace and singing made up words to made up songs until she fell back to sleep. There have been just as many days when I’ve thought, “I’ll workout when I get home.” But when six o’clock rolls around, what I really need is a nap.
These days, plans to workout don’t always pan out. In fact, it seems they rarely do. What does work, though, is fitting in a little fitness when I can, where I can. I may not be able to count on an hour at the gym each night, but I can count on a 15 minute walk during lunch, some yoga in Grace’s room while she plays with her Little Tikes piano (not exactly ambient music, but I love it), a little balance work in line at the grocery store, and five minutes of weights while dinner cooks.
Things I love: a little understated flair on my running tights and some pink laces.
I’ve been seeing a physical therapist for a few months for back and hip pain, and she has given me a series of exercises that, as she says, you can do pretty much anywhere and not look like a weirdo. I like not looking like a weirdo. And like a quick yoga flow in the nursery or some squats in the kitchen, they require only a little time and a little space.
I’m no longer a solid morning or evening exerciser. A workout is only going to happen if it’s easy and accessible. (And if I don’t find or make excuses, but hey.) In the interest of ease and accessibility, I’ve started laying out my workout gear again and even put together a little home gym in a bin.
The See Me Go top is great for layering (and it has thumb holes, yaaaaaasss!), as is the long sleeve tee. I’ve worn the tights for both workouts and for running errands (paired with a black tunic and ballet flats). CS by City Sports comes extended sizes (something I think all fitness companies should get on board with), and their apparel is flattering, functional and unfussy. In other words: exactly what I’m looking for.
Speaking of functional and unfussy, here’s my home gym in a bin. I pulled together the things I use most often, or that could motivate me to fit in a quick workout without much (or any) planning.
In the bin (which, for bonus points, is paisley and adorable):
Other home gym essentials that didn’t fit in the bin, but that hang out nearby:
Exercise ball (which doubles as the most amazing way to soothe or rock bounce our baby to sleep — seriously, all parents should have one)
While this little home gym in a bin is cute enough to leave out, it fits perfectly in our front hall closet (safely tucked away from curious babies and Frenchies) and can be pulled out whenever I have a few minutes to fit in a quick workout. Easy and accessible, functional and unfussy.
In my world, every Monday is Meatless Monday. Same goes for, like… Tuesdays and Wednesdays, too. In my home, however, the vegetarians no longer outnumber the carnivores. Grace had her first few bites of steak last week, so… this cheese vegetarian stands alone.
But that’s neither here nor there. After a few days of being on vacation (we had a lovely time, but please don’t be too jealous… it’s presently warmer and less rainy in Boston than it was in Fort Lauderdale last week), we’re settling back into our routines but I am continuing to eat like I’m on vacation. I had the best salad at a little beachside restaurant last week and couldn’t wait to make my own version when we got home. Salad first, unpack later.
You can use just about any base for this salad. I used red lentils, but you might consider pearled couscous, quinoa or farro (which was part of the original dish, and although its not gluten free, it contains less gluten than wheat and is easier to digest, at least for this body). As for the dressing, it’s probably worth noting that most green goddess recipes include anchovies or anchovy paste. This one does not. #savethefishes. Just kidding. Kind of.
Also. Let’s be serious. It’s just a salad. A delicious one, yes. But you probably don’t need to measure your ingredients.
Heirloom tomato, lentil and arugula salad with green goddess dressing
1 cup of red lentils, cooked (Quick and easy: Rinse and dry lentils, bring to boil in 2.5 cups of water, turn down for what heat and let simmer for approximately 15 minutes)
4 cups of baby arugula
2 cups of heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup of feta cheese
Allow lentils to cool slightly, and top with arugula and tomatoes.
Add a bit of feta cheese and drizzle with green goddess dressing.
Yes. This is the most obvious recipe of all time.
Vegetarian green goddess dressing
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup green onions
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 TSP fresh dill
1 TSP chives, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
Juice from half a lemon (more, if needed)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Add garlic and herbs to your blender or food processor and blend until finely processed.
Add yogurt, sour cream and lemon juice (a little at a time) and blend.
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of 16 Water. All opinions are 100% mine.
I know you’ve heard it before, but… you should probably be drinking more water. And by you, I mean we. And by we, I mean Americans (but I’m guessing we’re not the only ones). According to WebMD (AKA the site that hypochondriacs like myself should be banned from visiting), Americans still consume more soft drinks than water.
When I was pregnant with Grace, our doctor repeatedly stressed the importance of doubling or tripling up on my water consumption. “If you call the office and say you’re not feeling well,” she said, “a nurse is going to tell you to drink a tall glass of water and then call us back.” Pregnant ladies are not the only ones who mistake dehydration for other things (hunger, some sort of mysterious universal mood altering force, etc.). A well-hydrated body performs better. A well-hydrated body feels better.
I’m usually pretty good at drinking up while I’m at home or at my desk, but I often fall short when I’m on the go. In my ongoing quest to get out of my own way when it comes to making healthy decisions, I’ve started stashing a bottle of water in my handbag, in my glove compartment, in Grace’s diaper bag, and frankly, anywhere else with pockets or secret hiding places. Having a bottle of water waiting in the car for my commute home means I’m less likely to sneak an afternoon coffee, less likely to become an out of control snack monster before dinner, and less likely (…usually) to arrive home cranky and out of sorts. Good commuting jams help, too.
While I tend to drink from a reusable water bottle during the day, sealed and disposable (by which I mean recyclable, obvi) bottles lend themselves to being stashed for later. I recently received several bottles of 16 Water to review, straight from Jeju, a volcanic island off the coast of the Korean peninsula. I was this close to Googling, like, all the words in that last sentence when the package from 16 Water arrived, but I was too busy scrolling through my Twitter feed. And then this appeared.
And that, folks, is the Law of Social Media Attraction. Ask and the Twitterverse shall answer. That pretty place makes for some excellent tasting water (and for those who think all water tastes like water… welp… agree to disagree).
16 Water is naturally purified and filtered through 16 layers of volcanic rock (hence the name) and is newly available in the US… and in my glove compartment. Interested in stocking up on your own stash? Get your 16 Water on Amazon now.
You know when you’re feeling overwhelmed, overworked, overtired and overextended… but you’ve just got to slog through it, because you see a moment of reprieve on the horizon? That was me last week. I spent the first part of the week in Detroit and the second part of the week consumed by a work event.
Our home looked like a special kind of mess (two parts yet-to-be-unpacked luggage, one part baby bottles, six parts laundry, one part unopened mail, and an aging French bulldog hidden somewhere inside the sofa). My hair looked like a special kind of mess. My brain felt like a special kind of mess.
And while it would have likely been easiest to wait for my calendar to clear, I found myself on the morning of one of our biggest work events of the year needing to do something, anything, to calm the frenzy. All it took was five minutes to turn my day around.
Minute one: Spend just 60 seconds moving from room to room, picking up anything that is out of place and has a defined place to land. We’re not talking about clutter (that’s another topic for another day). We’re talking about the things that are easy to put away. For me, this includes Grace’s toys and books, Clark’s toys, a stack of clean laundry, mail that can be recycled and a few pairs of shoes. Put those items where they belong.
Minutes two and three: Make your bed. Not only does a made bed instantly make your home look and feel more tidy and serene, it sets you on a better path for the day. Don’t believe me? Maybe you’ll believe a Navy SEAL Commander?
“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.
By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.
If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.
And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”
You can read more of Navy SEAL Commander William McRaven’s 2014 UT Commencement speech here: Business Insider.
Minute four: Write a note (or two, or three) of gratitude on a Post-It. Leave it where a loved one will find it, or hide it for yourself to find in the future. Did you know that practicing gratitude can increase your happiness by 25%? These dudes did the research. A few words about what your most grateful for, or what you appreciate about your loved ones– especially when you’re experiencing stress– helps bring the good into focus. Knowing that Nick would be coming home to find these notes of appreciation and acknowledgement made me smile throughout the day.
Minute five: Spend an entire minute just breathing. Fight the urge to run out the door and onto your next commitment.
It’s incredible what you can fit into five minutes, and how good intentioned acts can turn your entire day around. You can fit these quick practices in throughout the day, before you head out the door, or whenever you feel stress, anxiety or crankiness rising (around these parts, we call that the Elizabeast).
What else can you do to turn your day around? Here are a few more ideas:(Some are quick, some take a bit more time, some are free, some cost whatever the guy behind you in line felt like spending…)
Pay a stranger a compliment (I mean, this works well with people you know, too)
Buy coffee for the person in line behind (This is one of my favorite things of all time… although I will admit, part of me does panic a tiny bit when I think, What if the police officer behind me is picking up lattes and donut holes for the entire precinct? And then I think, Won’t it be fun when I suddenly become impossibly rich and things like this won’t matter?)
Make an iPhone photo album of your favorite photos. Scroll through them over and over until you feel less beastly.
Speaking of iPhones: Make an actual phone call. No texting.
Also On Tap for Today:
November 13 is World Kindness Day!Boston friends: Stop by South Station between 7-9 AM to celebrate with KIND, grab a flower from their flower wall and pass it on to someone else – a friend, loved one, teacher, coworker or even stranger. Throughout the day, KIND will also surprise people in the community who embody kindness, including firefighters and other local heroes.
A few years back, when eating small meals throughout the day came into vogue, I was like… Duh. Been doing that for ages. (I think that was the only time in my life I’ve been ahead of the curve and/or a tiny bit hipsterish.) For better or for worse, I’d much rather graze than eat an entire meal of food. Except at dinner time. It’s nice (and, I think, important) to make time to sit down as a little family.
Meal planning and prep, for me, is really more snack planning and prep. I whipped up a few especially good snacks this week, including the dill, lemon and garlic kale chips below. One look at our fridge will tell you that kale is in season in New England. And that I can’t resist a farm stand deal.
Dill, lemon and garlic kale chips
1 bunch of kale, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 heaping teaspoons fresh dill
zest of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 375.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
Wash your kale and blot it dry with a paper towel. Remove stems and cut or tear leaves into small pieces.
In a large bowl, combine kale, olive oil, garlic, dill and lemon zest.
I hate when people say massage the kale, but um… massage the kale, and make sure it is evenly coated in oil and that your other ingredients are well distributed.
Artfully (just kidding…) arrange kale on your baking sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes (or until crispy, but not… burnt). Let your kale chips cool before eating.
I love the combination of lemon and fresh herbs (and who can say no to garlic?), and while I will always have a thing for actual chips, these kale chips are a great way to green up my afternoon snacking.
While the kale chips were baking, I chopped up some vegetables for salads and baby food purees and scrolled through the new fall edition of the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan for some snack prep inspiration. I purchased the plan a few years ago, and love when new updates are released to members. There are so many vegan recipes that I am looking forward to making from the fall edition. I started with their spicy roasted chickpeas, frozen yogurt blueberries and Heart Beet juice (pictured above). Each recipe only took a few minutes to prepare, as I (miraculously) had all the ingredients on hand.
One shortcut (I’m all about the shortcuts, ’bout the shortcuts, no longcuts) I’m willing to pay a bit extra for these days are packaged, cooked organic beets. Same goes for butternut squash (for safety reasons alone, it’s worth the price — you do not want to be see me wrestle a squash while wielding a sharp knife) and other tough produce that Grace seems to love. I’m finding that so many of the snacks and meals I’m planning for the week can be seasoned and then pureed or mashed for her to enjoy, too.
Speaking of that lovely baby, we have had a rough couple of weeks sleep-wise. I suppose we needed to make progress in order to regress (some good ol’ parent spin zone talk for you), but we’ve been firmly in the grips of a sleep regression lately. As much as I want to reach for the Diet Coke (like, a hundred of them) in times like these, I know that more caffeine is probably not the answer.
I’m making good on my October goals by getting out of my own way, and ensuring I have better choices on hand: lots of iced green tea (I brew a pitcher and divide it up once it has cooled), fresh juice, and plenty of water to pair with all those meals snacks.
Sort of obvious disclaimer: This post is about breastfeeding. If Google brought you here because you searched for “breasts” and now you’re sorely disappointed and regret clicking through, that’s okay. You do you, boo… no judgement.
Slightly less obvious disclaimer: I am not, like, a breastfeeding specialist. I am grateful to be able to breastfeed my daughter. It is what I hoped for, and it is what works for our family. With that said, it is not the only way people care for and feed their children. And I feel like that’s important to acknowledge. Something I think all parents need to hear more of: You are doing a good job. You are making good choices. In other words: You do you, boo… no judgement.
Real talk of the day: Being a parent means being on a permanent learning curve. (I guess that’s true for all humans, though, right? Life is one long learning curve.) Now that we’re past the newborn phase, I figured I’m semi-qualified to share a bit about what I’ve learned along the curve.
I was very fortunate to have access to great lactation consultants when Grace was born. Expectant mother friends, if you have access to lactation consultants while you’re in the hospital, I think it’s totally worth meeting with them. I was hesitant, I thought it would be weird, and I kind of just wanted to stay in my Craftmatic adjustable hospital bed. It wasn’t weird. It was actually quite, well, normal. They taught me very helpful things like how to hold my tiny baby like a football (but first, I needed to learn how to hold a football), how to tell if she was actually eating, and what hunger cues might look or sound like.
Someone’s ready for their 22nd meal of the day.
It didn’t long for us to establish a BF relationship (in this case, I like to think BF stands for both breastfeeding and best friends… but I guess that last part is sort of up to Grace). Because Grace was born with jaundice (I initially thought she was just super Portuguese…) and lost weight rather quickly, our pediatrician encouraged us to feed Grace at least every 2 hours during those first weeks. Needless to say, by the time she was a month old, I felt like a seasoned BF pro. I also felt like my bum was permanently attached to the rocker in Grace’s nursery, but hey.
I rarely had time to pump when I was on maternity leave, so when I went back to work, I felt acutely aware of being on that learning curve again. I stared at the woman on the package of my pumping bra and wondered, Who the H looks that casual and yet perfectly put together while pumping? Why is there no spit up in her hair? Why does she look so well rested? When did she have time to get a manicure? And those were just my questions about a bra. You can only imagine the inner monologue about the actual pumping process.
If this is what it looks like to pump “in style,” I can only imagine what the pumping while frumpy version looks like. Also: Thank you, Obamacare.
Eventually, I figured out how often I needed to pump in order to have enough milk for Grace while she is at daycare. I (mostly) learned how to avoid spilling milk all over myself five minutes before a meeting. I even managed to pump in an airport bathroom while a work colleague tried to engage in conversation (I have a strict no talking in the ladies’ room policy).
And so, of course, just as soon as started to feel comfortable pumping, it was time to introduce solids. I think solids warrant a post of their own (Cliffhanger! Just kidding… but seriously… stay tuned.), but I will say this: I was terrified of feeding Grace anything that didn’t, like, come out of my boobs. Everything new is scary. It’s been about two months now, though, and our little lady loves to eat. And we’re having quite a bit of fun with it too. OK. But back to best friends breastfeeding.
I am really happy that I was able to exclusively breastfeed Grace until she started solids at approximately 6 months. (I am still nursing her, but we started supplementing with one bottle of formula a day at 8 months, just a few weeks ago.) I was worried I wouldn’t make it to 3 months, so when we made it 8 months I nearly erected a breast-shaped statue in my own honor. For the most part, I’ve had a very good supply. There have been days, though, where I’ve had to pump at home in the early morning or late evening (when I’d much rather be doing, well… anything) in order to have enough milk to send to day care. Without fail, those have been days when I’ve slacked on water, eaten like a bird, stressed too much, or slept too little.
I am obsessed with Ball jars. Like, I would live in one. If I could fit in there.
Which brings me to this:
How I’ve kept my supply up
Drink water. And then drink some more.: It’s so important to stay hydrated while breastfeeding. Your body needs fluids to, you know, make fluids… plus it needs fluids to perform its normal functions. In other words, you need to drink more. I keep a giant mason jar on my desk (complete with an adorable drinking straw #targetdoesitagain) and refill it every time I pump and every time I get up from my desk. At home, I make sure to drink up after nursing Grace. It’s helped to associate the two (feed the baby, hydrate thyself).
Eat more, not less.: While I’ve felt the same pressure I am sure most new moms have felt to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight, restricting calories seems like a surefire way to decrease milk supply. I’ve tried to focus on eating healthy, quality food, but I am still eating more rather than less. One day, I’ll fit into my skinnies again. But in the meantime, I’m busy taking care of my girl.
Nurse often.: We’re fairly scheduled on week days. We’re like a cellphone plan during nights and weekends, however: unlimited texting and minutes breast milk! It’s the best. Come Monday, I definitely see an increase in how much I am able to pump.
Think positively.: I find that when I focus on Grace and the health benefits we both receive from breastfeeding, that milk flows like water. (Or is it wine? How does that saying go?) When I worry about having enough milk, however, not so much. I’m no scientist, but I don’t think this is a coincidence.
Supplement with herbs.: This may sound a little hippy-dippy, but several people recommended herbal supplements when I first started breastfeeding (the facilitator of our moms’ group swears by fenugreek). I worried that my supply would drop off when I went back to work and stumbled upon Delta Labs Postnatal formula during some late night Instagramming.
In addition to fenugreek, their postnatal formula also contains glucomannan, white kidney bean, and marshmallow extract (herbs proven to help enhance lactation, and in a combination safe for babies and mothers as determined by the FDA’s current Good Manufacturing Practice guidelines). An added bonus: The capsules also contain decaffeinated green tea, CLA, L-Carnitine and vitamin B6 to safely and naturally increase energy and promote weight loss (though it’s not a substitute for a healthy diet and exercise… if only obvi).
I’ve used this product for several months (and was running low when Delta Labs kindly sent me a complimentary bottle) and would definitely recommend it for mothers looking to increase or sustain their supply.
Giveaway: Delta Labs Postnatal formula
Fellow new moms: Would you like to try Delta Labs Postnatal formula for yourself? I’m happy to be hosting a giveaway, thanks to Delta Labs and FitFluential. One winner will receive a bottle of Delta Labs Postnatal formula. This giveaway is open to US residents only (sorry, neighbors to the North). To enter, please leave a comment below ANDLike @DeltaLabsUSA on Instagram. A random winner will be chosen and contacted on October 20th.
Delta Labs Discount Code
Use code FitFluential to save $5 on any item from DeltaLabs(one time discount; no expiration date).
I showed some serious restraint in not naming this post Goaltoberfest. This month, I am committing to some much needed life adjusting. With fall and the back to school rush being one of my busiest times at work, I’ve found myself feeling spread more thin than usual.
I’ve caught myself cutting corners (I ate a donut for breakfast the other day and barely lived to tell that sorry tale) and I’m only slightly exaggerating about the effects of gluten on my fragile digestive system. I could eat bread by the loaf (and sometimes did) while pregnant. These days? No. I’ve been making convenient choices rather than good choices.
There are days lately when I feel particularly sluggish and slow, both physically and mentally (not a shocker: the donut day was one of these days). Case in point: Last week, I drove all the way to daycare before realizing that I had left Grace’s bag (and bottles and food and extra onesies and a love note and whatnot) at home. I don’t forget anything. Like, anything. (I know what you did last summer and in the summer of 1988.) The security guard saw me whip a safe-ish u-turn and jokingly asked if I had forgotten the baby. I almost cried because Oh, my Lord! What if I had forgotten the baby? I’m still recovering from that panic.
Even my dreams are telling me I need more sleep (just in case the dark circles under my eyes weren’t sending the message loud and clear). In the wee hours of Saturday morning, I dreamt that Nick and I decided we should skip Grace’s swimming class and sleep in a bit. When my alarm went off, I silenced it. When Nick’s alarm went off, he wondered why everyone else was still in bed and not running around the condo yelling “Swimmy time!” Fortunately, getting ready for parent and baby swim class requires little more than a diaper change for Grace and shimmying into a bathing suit for me. No hairdos. No makeup. No six hundred outfit changes.
Oh, and that pesky back and hip pain I was feeling after each run? Apparently that’s not normal. So instead of enjoying three blissful runs each week, I’m hauling my sorry ass bum to PT until that’s resolved.
Are you regretting attending my pity party? I wouldn’t blame you. And at the same time, I’m making a concerted effort to not blame myself. With so much pressure to have and do it all, it’s easy to get wrapped up in a quest for that ever-elusive balance. Being a wife and a mother and a friend and a career lady with cool outfits is both incredibly fulfilling and incredibly challenging. Lately I’m seeing (more than ever) how important it is to take care of myself in order to take the best care of everyone else. I feel like I’ve said that before. Many times.
Simply put, my big goal for October (and like, for life… because LBS, important things usually take longer than 31 days) is to get out of my own way. When I think about what would make my days more blissful and less stressful, it’s clear that I am often my own worst enemy.
If I want more peaceful mornings, I need to change my evening habits.
If I want to spend more quality time with my family, I need to make plans and stick to them.
If I want to make better food choices, I need to have better food ready and available.
If I want to reap the benefits of physical activity, I need to commit to what I can do and stop bemoaning what I can’t do.
If I want more space in my life, I need to make the room.
Don’t things seem so simple when you free them from the chaos of your busy brain and write them down? Man. After thinking about what I want and how to get it, the practical, smaller steps came easily.
I will pack our bags (and meals) the night before.
I will not wait until I have a smidge of gas in the car to fill my tank.
I will plan several dinners at home with Nick each week, along with a few weekend plans to look forward to. Oh, and we will dance every day (we forgot to do this for a little bit and my moves have seriously suffered).
I will not let the laundry back up to the point of becoming an international underwear crisis.
I will embrace the fall weather and take more frequent walks with my favorite little lady and our favorite little Frenchie.
I will practice more yoga (even if it’s for 10 minutes between meetings in a dress and control top pantyhose).
I will carve out time each day for religious practices that are important to me and central to my wellbeing: prayer, reflection and gratitude.
I will ask for help when I need it.
You may have been expecting something more along the lines of “Do 3 workouts a week.” Or “Go leaf peeping.” (I love the expression leaf peeping. Love it. It sounds both creepy and enchanting. Also: I accidentally typed “leaf peeing” and laughed so hard that I almost left it. Almost.) Or maybe you saw me walking into work yesterday with my fly unzipped and thought, “This lady needs to get her act together before she even thinks about working out or leaf peeping.”
Either way, there you have it. My grand October life plan. Octoberlifeplanfest!
As I shared shortly after the Dirty Girl Mud Run and approximately fifteen showers, I started following the Couch to 5k program in an effort to get back in the running groove in a smart, sustainable, strategic way (i.e. not in a “Hmm, I wonder how far and fast I can run today?” way).
Going from marathoner to beginner is both exciting and humbling. Humility: that’s sort of my life’s keyword these days.
I’ve run two marathons (Disney and New York: click through for the world’s longest, most emotional race recaps of all time), and yet here I am, proud to be able to string together a few minutes of running at a time.
For the past four weeks, I’ve followed the Couch to 5k plan to a T. I’ve walked when I am supposed to walk, even when that meant passing by a group of bros playing KanJam at the M Street Beach, who took notice of my walk break and started chanting “Don’t give up now!”
I’ve run when I’m supposed to run, and continued to keep my pace right around 8:30/9:00 (solid for a lady who thought she’d always be a 10 minute miler). I’ve resisted the temptation to quit approximately 56 times over the span of each 30 minute workout. I’ve tried to talk myself into quitting, and then talked myself into sticking with it.
Being a beginner is different the second time around. And in many ways it’s more challenging than when I first started running and training with any real purpose seven or eight years ago.
Many of those differences hinge on being a new mother. My hips don’t lie, nor do they move the way they used to move. I have sports bras in three different sizes and yet, on any given day, none of them fit. I often feel a pang of guilt as I head out the door, wondering if I should stay with Nick and Grace rather than being out on the road alone, trying to ignore the KanJammers. The closer I get to home, the more desperate I am to be home. I’m exhausted. I haven’t slept through the night since… maybe, last September? I’m hungry. I can’t find any of my old workout gear. I’m always a bit out of sorts.
But most of the things that feel different this time around hinge on being a regular person who has done what regular people do as seven or eight years lapse: we get older. And the older I get, the more myself I’ve become, for better or worse. For better, I am more confident and self-assured than ever before. I care less who is passing me, or what I’m wearing, or how long it takes me to get where I am going. Mostly because I’m doing my best… just to get where I am going. For worse, well, I somehow managed to both drop and kick my own iPhone during a run last week.
Above all, I am more grateful than ever to be able to run. Running longer and faster each week, especially after months of feeling sort of like an alien in my own body, has been so gratifying. More importantly, I’m learning to make peace with being a perpetual work in progress. I have the deepest appreciation for my body and all that it can do.
I cherish those minutes and miles alone with my thoughts and prayers, especially during a week such as this one, when there is so much going on in our world to be sad, worried and upset about. I am thankful to have an outlet for the stress and anxiety that builds up over the day and follows me home. I am proud to be making time to take care of myself, so I can do a better job taking care of my family.
In life, we get very few chances to begin again. And these days, being a beginner feels just as good as being a marathoner.
Also On Tap for Today:
Fellow fitness enthusiasts in the Boston area: Check out tonight’s episode of Chronicle (7:30PM, WCVB-TV Channel 5) to learn about BMAX, boxing and bootcamp
I first started blogging in 2006 or 2007 because I was feeling a bit stuck and needed a creative outlet that didn’t require expensive supplies or an expansive workspace. I’ve always gravitated toward writing and other forms of expression and thrive when I have projects to keep me busy, challenged and creatively engaged. If I don’t have at least 56 projects going, I get bored. And when I get bored, I get cranky. And when I get cranky, welp… I’m sorry.
Lately, I’ve been craving something a little messier than writing. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the recent snapshots of my sketchbook. I was hesitant to share those photos at first, but something I’m working on lately is letting go of perfection (Lord, is that ever a process.). Like, in all facets of life. So far, that’s not going perfectly so well.
As a student, I had a tendency to re-do and re-re-do and re-re-re-do drawings and paintings, trying to “fix” every imperfection. A certain drawing professor (whom my sister and I grew to both love and be terrified of) once called my drawings overwrought. I would have been upset, but I was too busy fending off that random girl in our class who kept stealing our artists tape.
Now that I’m a grown-up (and no one’s after my tape stash), I get it. Also: I consider myself more of a casual dabbler than an artist, and I’ve decided casual dabblers can make as many mistakes as they want.
Back on topic: I need room to be creative. Like, even more than I need Junior Mints. Or Diet Coke. Or clean socks (we all know I hate socks, so that was kind of a bad example). You don’t need to be a painter or an opera singer to be creative. And often times that creativity comes naturally. Other times you may be stuck when working on a new recipe or article or trying to problem solve at work.
Believe it or not, creativity can be learned. (and, according to this Forbes article “creativity is far and away the most important skill needed to ‘thrive.'”) You don’t need to wear all black, or have some sort of emo haircut, or be in the drama club (though all those things are perfectly good). You don’t need to be a “creative type” to be creative or to benefit from creative thinking or practices.
Hopefully these ideas will help you make a little bit of room in your brains (or day, or spirit, or whatev) for creative solutions and projects.
Making room for creativity
Rethink your routine
Like most humans, I’ve caught myself making the old “I don’t have time” excuse. Real talk: If “x” (whether that’s doodling, or running, or eating well, or calling your mum) is important, you can make time. I promise. It’s possible.
If you’re adding something new to your day, like a sketching routine or revisiting the piano lessons of your childhood, you may need to reconfigure your schedule a bit. I wish there were a magic way to add an hour to your day, or a day to your week, but let’s be serious. I am not a magician (and frankly, they creep me out). There are only 24 hours in the day. If you want more time, you need to either wake up earlier, or stay up later. Or you know, skip 20 minutes of television watching (that’s not an admonishment, I’m thinking specifically of my undying devotion to Jeopardy!).
I’m a fan of that quiet time in the morning when Grace has gone back to sleep for a bit (hopefully) after eating at 4 or 5 AM and the sun is just starting to rise in Boston (…it was less lovely this winter when it was still pitch black, but hey). If I am not dead tired, I’ll putter around the condo a bit or grab some tea on the deck and watch the sky put on a show. For me, everything feels possible in the morning. For others, this may be true at night.
Carve our your time and protect it.
Carry a sketch pad, or journal, or violin, or wooden birdhouses and paint… or whatever with you. That way, when inspiration (or a free five minutes between meetings) strikes, you are armed and ready. On second thought, leave the birdhouses and paint at home. That project got a little messy.
A note about sketchpads: If possible, I recommend buying a few in person (like, in a real store rather than buying them online) mostly so you can get a feel (literally) for the paper quality. Inexpensive is good, but cheap and flimsy is maybe not so good. Check out a few different brands and be sure you like the weight and texture. If you’re using ink or watercolors, you may want to invest in a sketchbook designed for mixed or wet media.
I have a little travel watercolor set that I just love, some pens and a few sketchpads that fit easily into my handbag (which, in truth, is gigantic – but I think they’d fit in a normal sized bag too… especially if you remove the diapers, the wipes and Sophie the giraffe). I usually draw first, and that add color later.
Accept a challenge
It takes all of two minutes on Pinterest or Instagram and you’ll find enough doodle-a-day or photo-a-day prompts to last you ’til 2033. While participating in challenges like these can be fun in real-time, I always feel a wee bit guilty when I lose momentum and forget to post a photo… on the second day. Using challenge prompts for inspiration, instead, eliminates the guilt factor. Scroll through a list the next time you find yourself asking, “What should I draw?” or “What should I write about?” or “What should I name my new harmonica jam?”
You might also consider creating your own sort of challenge. Maybe you want to commit to writing daily, even if it’s a line or two. Or perhaps you’d like to blog or vlog (I will forever think those two words are weird) for a month. Deadlines and due dates and schedules can be helpful to some, but limiting to others. As Plato and a bunch of other old people used to say, Know thyself.
Set it to shuffle mode
Yes, I am talking about music. And yes, I am talking about other things too. Lately I’ve been both enjoying and being overwhelmingly mortified by my digital music library. I got bored with my playlists and started defaulting to shuffle, so my commute usually sounds something like this:
Weird Christmas song
A song about (but not by) Tupac
The soundtrack to Summer Heights High
Ambient Reiki or yoga music
Sad Whitney Houston song
More Michael Jackson
Another weird Christmas song
An awesome Christmas song
Three different versions of Raffi’s “Baby Beluga”
Another sad Whitney Houston song
A HIDDEN GEM!
Those hidden gems – the songs you haven’t heard in ages – make the embarrassment of having downloaded an entire Glee album (But seriously, when did I do that? I never liked the show.) worthwhile. Those songs might remind you of a specific time, place or person and may help to inspire your next project.
Other ways you can embrace shuffle mode: Open the newspaper (they still exist, I assure you) and read the first article you land on. Scroll through your phone and call the first person you see (it helps to maybe do a clean sweep of your phone and delete those randoms — you know: first name “Mary”, last name “From Yoga Class 2011″– first). Close your eyes, point to the menu, and order (disclaimer: not safe if you have food allergies).
Enjoy a change of scenery
I’m a big believer in the power of a simple change of scenery. We’re lucky that we can see the ocean from one side of our condo, and skyscrapers from the other. If you look directly out the front of our building, you’ll likely see one of my neighbors running some sort of insurance scam involving a neck brace and various other medical accessories, but that’s another story.
Regardless, one way to get creatively “unstuck” is to move. Duh. Take a quick walk, make a day trip to the country, visit a farm and pet some animals, enjoy a friend’s garden, spend the afternoon in the library or a bookstore reading through travel books, go for a hike, take a nap on the beach. When you’ve got new or different things to look at, your perspective is bound to change.
Oh, and this should go without saying, but… please don’t be like,
“Elizabeth! I took your advice! I saw sort of a weird, dark, kind of dangerous looking alley… and, um, I thought it might inspire me… so I walked down it. And now I am missing my wallet. AND AN EAR!”
Very Van Gogh, but also very NOT OKAY. Be careful and be safe. Think with your right brain while using your left brain. Please.
Pick up your camera. Or don’t.
These days, quite a bit of life is experienced from behind the screens of our smart phones or tablets (do I need to mention Google Glasses? Does anyone out there wear them?). On one hand, I love being able to take a quick photo of something that grabs my attention or type a quick note about a book title or upcoming event. On the other hand, I know I miss all kinds of things by being glued to my phone. I try to use my actual camera as much as possible for this reason. I only dig it out when I want to capture something… and I see those “somethings” because I am not preoccupied by looking at my camera. Mostly because it’s just a camera. It can’t text my sister a sloth pic.
Wheewwww. This was a long one. Think of everything you could have created and accomplished if you didn’t bother to read this post. My apologies.