Tag Archives: mindfulness

All is calm. (Sort of.)

All is calm, all is bright.

This is what I’ve been singing to myself as Duplos fly through the air, dishes pile up in the sink, Clark runs through the living room with a plastic ear of corn from the play kitchen in his mouth, and I realize that I forgot (for the 33rd time) that we are (still) out of olive oil.

all is calm

In a rare quiet moment this week, I found myself listening to Silent Night and wondering if Christmas Eve (like, the real one… which is to say, the first one) truly was calm and bright.  Having given birth twice, I sort of feel like “sweaty and weird” would be much higher on the list than “calm and bright.”  

But hey, miracles are miracles.  

Speaking of miracles, I’ve started wearing something other than black leggings every now and then (an occasion that needed to be photo-documented, obvi)… granted, they’re still leggings.  {I couldn’t find the exact match online, but they are Align II pants, which I live in, in sort of an aubergine.  Or like, purple.}

Back to the calm and brightness.  I find myself so easily distracted, so easily swept up in glitter and garland, so easily carried away this time of year.  There’s this weird tension of wanting to do everything (especially if Christmas lights are involved), and also wanting to hibernate.  Of having more, knowing others have less.  Of counting down the days, but also wishing time would slow.  

And I think about how moments of calm, moments of brightness can exist amidst all this tension.  (See: that first Christmas Eve, right?)

I’ve just got to pay better attention.

Children, despite seeming to have the attention span of a whatever (I’m at a loss here… and also, not a scientist… what has a tiny attention span?), are really good at noticing and creating these moments.  

We’ve been spending most of our weekends on the Cape and after a meltdown related to a donut being too big (…really), Grace asked if we could “go inside that windmill house.”  We pulled over and went to check it out, while the Nicks (I should probably get that trademarked) waited in the car.

We did not go inside (decidedly against the rules) and to Grace’s disappointment, the “windmill house” was just a windmill.  But we admired the shell pathway around it.  We read the sign next to it.  We talked about the nativity and the menorah nearby.  We held hands.  The wind whipped and cars flew by on Route 6 and the donut was still too big, but all was calm.  All was bright.  My pants weren’t black.  And my heart felt full.

Here’s to more calm + bright this holiday season.

Also On Tap for Today:

What words are you channeling this season? Please don’t say sweaty and weird.  

Today: Lighting a candle (and an Old Factory Candles giveaway)

While I imagine candles were invented out of necessity (you know, like, before an old person invented the Clapper to clap on all the lights in the house), these days, they do more than help us read once the sun’s gone down.  For me, lighting a candle is the perfect daily ritual.

lighting a candle

We light candles atop cakes to celebrate birthdays.  We light a candle in the window for those far away.  We light pine scented candles in our first apartments when there’s no room for a real Christmas tree (just me?).  We light candles to offer prayers.  We light candles to set the mood (for the record, I was thinking of dinnertime and the “it’s time to eat” mood, not the other kind of mood… though I supposed that counts, too). We light candles at weddings, at baptisms and at funerals.

Lighting a candle is such an easy way to bring some of that celebration or ritual into a regular Tuesday.  Or Wednesday.  (You catch my drift.)  That small, simple act marks the start of something.  It could be the beginning of a great meal, or five minutes of prayer or meditation, or time to get lost in your thoughts.

Lighting a candle is how I come back to Earth, so to speak, on wild days.  Once the match is carefully discarded (safety first, mindfulness second, people!) and I see that brightly burning wick, the rest of my day seems to come into focus.  Few small rituals enable me to turn my thoughts off, while at the same time, turning my attention on, so effectively.  Bonus points for the added benefits of aromatherapy (and let’s be real: what smells better than a Christmas tree?).

Old Factory Candles giveaway

I recently received a complimentary gift set of Old Factory Candles and am thrilled to be hosting a giveaway today.  Each set includes three 2 oz. scented, natural soy candles in a range of themes.  I chose Spa Day (you know how people have those “I’d rather be golfing” bumper stickers? I want one that says “I’d rather be getting a manicure”), and have been enjoying scents of cucumber, green tea and (my favorite) lemongrass.  I like that these candles are small and come in unobtrusive packaging (the labels peeled easily off each jar); the scents are subtle and not at all overpowering.

One randomly chosen reader will receive a gift set of their choice (you can find all 11 themed sets online) courtesy of Old Factory Candles.  Here are a few of my recommendations for the lucky winner:

  • Winter Wonderland (hot cocoa, roasted chestnut, first snow)
  • Fresh and Clean (lemongrass, olive blossom, fresh linen)
  • Newborn Baby (baby powder, first blanket, baby shampoo)
  • Man Cave (straight razor, leather, mahogany… very Ron Burgandy)
  • Coffee Shop (coffee bean, hazelnut, chai tea)

To enter, please leave a comment below.  A winner will be chosen and notified on Friday, December 19th. Many thanks for entering!  The winner (Kim R.) has been notified.

Also On Tap for Today:

What daily (or occasional) ritual helps you wind down?

Today: Take 5 minutes and turn your day around.

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.

Take 5 minutes and turn your day around: quick tips for heading off the frenzy and infusing more calm and serenity into your day.

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.
  • Love this: Awesome idioms from around the world via A Cup of Jo
  • Unpacking… so we can pack for something and somewhere fun!

How do you turn a frenzied day around?