Awake

Thrive-by-Arianna-Huffington-Sleep

What could you accomplish if you had a week off?  No deadlines, no Blackberry, simply 7 beautifully empty calendar squares, offering you 168 unstructured hours to do as you please. You might attempt at least one of those beautiful recipes that’s been sitting on your Pinterest board for ages. Surely you would finally fall into the natural rhythm of leaping out of bed in the morning to make a fresh green smoothie and then proceeding to enjoy days filled with meditation, yoga and a healthy dose of spin.  Your to-do list would finally be emptied, as would your overflowing e-mail inboxes. And of course you would finally catch up with every single friend and loved one you’ve been meaning to visit.  All you would need to be your best self, after all, is a week off.

Or…you might fall asleep. Which is exactly what I did.  I slept in well past smoothie time, dozed off during Shavasana and greeted said friends and loved ones with a face full of imprints from leaning against the Amtrak window. As for the to-do list and inboxes? We won’t discuss those…Once my body wasn’t forced to stay in motion, it suddenly expressed an urgent need to stay at rest.

“Sleep is a luxury” I was once told.  And I internalized that lesson.  If something on my calendar had to give, it was the amount of sleep I was going to get that night…or week…or month.  Sleep could wait, success could not. Once Arianna Huffington gave me permission in Thrive not to feel guilty about giving my body what it needs to function at its absolute best, my body started making it loud and clear exactly what that was.

REST.

Real rest.  Not just a weekly “day of rest” that’s actually filled to the brim with religious obligations and emotionally draining encounters, or a rare spa day where I schedule a few hours of luxury rest and then rush back out into the madness of chasing achievement, but  a steady state of being well-rested.  A commitment to replenishing myself on a regular basis, giving my body time to repair itself and eventually waking up not because an alarm clock starts screeching into my ear, but because I don’t need any more sleep.  A state of being where my body is rested and I can be fully awake.

ThriveSleepTipsEverydayPolish

This post was inspired by Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington who encourages everyone to sleep their way to the top. Join From Left to Write on May 1 as we discuss Thrive. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. 

 

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How to Cope When Things Fall Apart

The-Idea-of-Him-by-Holly-Peterson

You plan your life a certain way. You work hard and make sacrifices. And then suddenly, it falls apart.  The rug is pulled out from under you or the overhead lights snap on and you realize that nothing makes sense anymore.  You feel lost and afraid but mainly, you feel alone.  Your “friends” don’t want to hear that you have anything besides the “perfect” life they see reflected in social media snapshots. Your family worries about you enough as it is so you smile and pretend everything is fine at the dinner table. Every day waking up gets harder and harder and you feel trapped in a downward spiral. It’s scary because you are not the gal who gets to fall apart. You are the one who is supposed to have it to together. So what do you do when you don’t?

1. Stop thinking you’re special.  You are not the first person to have her heart broken, or hate her job or be down to her last dollar.  There are so many women out there who have gone through exactly what you’re going through and emerged from the other side stronger than ever.  It’s hard, if not impossible, to think beyond yourself when you’re trapped in the fog of misery and it doesn’t help that so many of us keep silent about our struggles in order to maintain that “perfect” image but stop for one second and instead of sobbing “why me?” ask yourself, “who else?”.  Google it. Go to the bookstore and browse the self-help section.  Watch a talk show if you must, but one way or another, remind yourself that your situation is not unique. Try to learn from the testimony of others. Don’t be afraid to “shock” your therapist or your pastor.  Don’t feel guilty about being depressed even as you acknowledge that you are blessed.  You’re not special. And that means you’re not alone.

2. “Center” yourself. In God is a Lawyer Too: Ten Laws of Unlimited SuccessCecilia B. Loving shares that “one of the most important laws of success is to stay centered…then, you won’t be vulnerable to the things that go on around you.” Stephen Covey echoes this sentiment in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, noting that “people can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them.  The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.” When your life feels like it’s in chaos around you, you have to stop focusing on the storm and remember that you are the eye of the storm, moving forward regardless of the changing circumstances around you.  How do you center?  As Ms. Loving points out, “you can center through meditation, through prayer, through movement, through music, through silence,  even through reading inspirational things.”  Find the act that brings you back to you. To the part of you that is and will always be.  As a Christian, my center is the core of faith that I place in God.  No matter what is going on in my life, if I focus on that faith, I will remain centered. I may not be happy, or smiling or sleeping well, but I will be aware of the one constant in my life and that is what will make me centered.

3. “Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself.”  Why do self-destructive habits feel so good when we’re already at our worst? Overeating, calling that ex, slacking on the job.  We’re already dealing with one mess and yet we go and create several others as a means of distracting ourselves. It’s much easier said than done, but when one thing is already going wrong, you may not feel like you can extricate yourself from that disaster of a job or a relationship, but please please please don’t go piling more bad decisions on top of it. You will eventually emerge from the fog and when you do, you don’t want to step directly onto a walk of shame. Tell yourself that you can make one good decision a day. Just one.  Eat a vegetable.  Send out one job application.  Attend one networking event.  Get out of bed and shower. It doesn’t matter how small that decision may seem and you will struggle with it, but just keep telling yourself you can do one thing that you will thank yourself for when you emerge from the fog and eventually, you will find the strength to do that one thing and many more.

I wish I could have given this advice (and more) to Allie, the main character in my book club’s book this month.  She seemed to be living the dream but when it started unraveling, so did she (cue Katy Perry’s Pearl).

What advice would you give to somebody who feels that her life is falling apart?

What has helped you get through difficult times?

This post was inspired by the novel The Idea of Him by Holly Peterson. Allie thought she had the perfect husband, until she finds him and another woman in a compromising position in their own apartment. Join From Left to Write on April 1st as we discuss The Idea of Him and join us for a live chat with Holly on April 3.  As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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Articulated {3.21.14}

Cyril Connolly Quote

 

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My Enemy, My Badge of Honor

The-Divorce-Papers-by-Susan-Rieger

enemy (noun) ˈe-nə-mē one that is antagonistic to another; especially :  one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent

Nobody teaches us how to choose our enemies. In the world of movies and video games, the battle between good and evil wages on and the enemy is obvious, complete with a devilish grin and flashing eyes to warn you when you’ve stepped into danger’s path. In real life, you may be waking up next to your enemy every morning or whispering your darkest secrets to her over cocktails at brunch. Magazines toss the word “frenemy” about casually because really, isn’t it all just friendly competition at the end of the day? We don’t want to believe in enemies, to fathom that someday might actually dislike or perhaps even hate us. “Hate? Such a strong word!” we cry, shaking our heads emphatically and batting our hands about as if to fend off the offending term.  This is especially true if we’ve been “good girls” our whole lives, girls who have grown into women who just want to be “liked.” In the bedroom, in the book club, in the boardroom, we just want everybody to “like” us.

We shouldn’t head into the world with the intention of making enemies. But we shouldn’t blithely pretend that we’re immune to them either. What if we stop pretending being universally liked is even possible (even Beyonce probably has enemies) and start embracing our enemies (and the situations that create them) as badges of honor? The angry colleagues as evidence of your strength to be a whistleblower. The bitter ex as the result of your refusal to settle for less than what is rightfully yours. The former friend as a reminder that you deserve to be treated with respect. The distant brother-in-law as proof that you stood up for your sister when he was doing her wrong.

If somebody chooses to be your enemy, maybe your first reaction should be to reflect on what earned you such a notable distinction in their mind, instead of fretting over the fact that somebody doesn’t “like” you.

This post was inspired by the novel The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger. In the novel, young lawyer Sophie unwillingly takes her first divorce case with an entertaining and volatile client and her story is told mostly through letters and legal missives. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.  Join us on March 18 at From Left to Write to read other reflections inspired by the novel!

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{Nutmeg Chelle} Forever Sweet Bakery in Norwalk

Forever_Sweet_Bakery_Norwalk_CT

Remember when I included Forever Sweet Bakery in this list of great Connecticut dessert vendors? Little did I know that the business card I dropped into the raffle that night would win me a six-inch cake of my choice from the bakery!

Obviously, I had to pay homage to the cupcake that initially reeled me in by selecting a Red Velvet cake as my prize. I decided to try the buttercream frosting instead of the cream cheese option and asked for heart shaped sprinkles because, why not? Mr. Forever was sweet (no pun intended!) enough to swing by the bakery in Norwalk and pick up the cake, which was beautiful and larger than I’d expected. The icing was perfect, so pretty that I almost didn’t want to cut into it, but we’ve all been duped by a lovely facade that didn’t deliver so I had to confirm that my initial inclinations about Forever Sweet Bakery were right. One deliciously moist bite confirmed that (the incredibly thick, sweet icing also fueled my sugar addiction- time for another Whole30 perhaps?). More impressive than the initial bite of cake however, was the fact that the cake tasted just as moist an entire week later, after sitting in my fridge in the box it came it. This would be a great cake to order for a wedding or a party because guests can take home leftover slices that will keep well.

As for the customer service? Impeccable.  The cake was ready on time, lovelier than I could have imagined and I received a followup call to make sure that I was happy with my order. I truly believe in supporting local Connecticut businesses and I’m happy to have found a Norwalk bakery that’s won me over. Even better? For a limited time you can snag a great voucher to Forever Sweet Bakery from Amazon Local that gets you $20 worth of goods for just $10. You know I’ve already purchased mine!

Visit their Facebook page to learn more about Forever Sweet Bakery in Norwalk.

I was not paid for this post or asked to write it, I just enjoyed my raffle prize so much I wanted to spread the word! All opinions expressed are my own.

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{Reading List} February 2014

February_2014_Reading_List

 

Can you believe it’s already March? Thanks to snowy days that leave me wanting to do nothing other than curl up with a good book, I’ve been reading like a fiend lately.

1. Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann

I’ve always loved historical fiction set in NYC and this book was no exception. The story compares the struggles of a modern woman with a woman in the midst of modernization and is the perfect story to visit during Women’s History Month.  I love that it includes photographs from turn of the century New York and gives details on how some of today’s city landmarks have changed over time. While the storyline of the modern main character got a bit annoying at times, I think this quick read was a worthy one.

2. The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Another bit of historical fiction (I must warn you that this may turn into a kick) set in Italy, Manhattan and Minnesota this time spanning the two World Wars. This is a love story about Italian immigrants when Ellis Island was at her peak and and I fell in LOVE with Adriana Trigiani’s writing style. It was so vivid that (even without photographs) I literally got lost in the story, at times surprised not to wake up in Little Italy or suddenly hear Caruso belting out from the phonograph. I laughed, I cried, I craved homemade gnocchi and I will definitely be checking out another book by Ms. Trigiana.

3. The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

This novel hasn’t actually come out yet but I was able to read an advance copy as a member of the From Left to Write book club. You can read a description of the story here and then be sure to come back next week on March 18th (the day the novel is released) to read the post that it inspired me to write.

4. The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen

It’s been awhile since I read a good novel set during the Civil War, but this one was phenomenal.  Set in Richmond and Philadelphia, it’s based on the true story of Mary Bowser, a free woman who posed as a slave to work as a Union spy during the War.  Lois Leveen does a phenomenal job creating characters with depth and exploring the various tensions of that era without falling back on cliches.  It’s clear that she did her research on the time period in order to get as detailed as possible (she includes photographs and recipes from the era at the end) and I respect her commitment to telling the story of what life might have been like for Mary and others like her.

What did you read last month? What are you reading now?

 

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11 Questions

11_Questions

I’m so excited to be sponsoring one of my favorite blogs, Pen and Peplum this month and I’m even more excited that Miranti was lovely enough to tag me in 11 Questions.  I loved reading the answers to her questions and I hope both she and you feel like you know me a little better after reading the answers to mine!

1. Me in a nutshell… I struggle with this every time I rewrite my Twitter bio, but for now I think I really am best described as “A lawyer who blogs. Lover of good books, great blogs, heavy stationery, Maryland, DC and Connecticut.”

2. What’s one talent you wish you had?  The ability to dance.  Some folks know me as “Rhythmless Nation”!

3. What’s the last thing you bought? These file folders. Cute office supplies are my weakness and between the color and motivational quotes, I couldn’t pass them up!

4. Three things that make a person irresistibleCharm, wit and a killer smile.

5. What did you have for breakfast this morning? A tall, skinny hazelnut latte from Starbucks.

6. Next trip you’re going to take? Home to see the family, and then hopefully back to London!

7. Which fictional character do you relate most to? Grace Adler from Will and Grace

8. What’s been the highlight of your day? Starting it off with a phone call from one of my best friends.

9. People are often surprised to find out that I... have milked a cow.

10. Favourite smell?  This one is tough! My mom loves to layer perfumes and certain scents always make me think “Mommy would love this.” It’s not a specific smell but anything that reminds me of home and of her makes me happy.

11. A life well lived is… one that leaves a legacy. (cue Beyonce’s “I Was Here”)

I’m tagging: Latanya - MelindaJenny - ErinKyle - Arelis - Sarah - Maria - NatashaCarrieAngela

And here are my 11 questions for you:

1. What makes you happy?

2. Why do you blog?

3. What’s the last book you read?

4. Who is your dream lunch date?

5. What would your 15 year old self say if he or she could see your life now?

6. Who or what inspires you?

7. What is one thing in your life you hope will be different one year from now?

8. What song ALWAYS makes you want to dance?

9. What do you think is the key to success?

10. What advice are you glad you never took?

11. What’s your favorite quote?

I hope you’ll all give us this peek into the person behind the posts – can’t wait to read your responses! :)

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100 Happy Days

100happydays

 

Even though I’m trying stay away from “challenges” these days, when my soror posted this one on Facebook, I knew it was one that I need in my life right now. I live a charmed life by many measures and yet I’m constantly feeling down in the dumps because I’m focused on the wrong things.  I believe that trying to make it to #100happydays will help me adjust my perspective by emphasizing the moments in my life that bring me joy, instead the of the ones that rob me of peace.

What I like about this challenge is that it’s designed to be a personal mission. “It is not a happiness competition or a showing off contest. If you try to please / make others jealous via your pictures – you lose without even starting.” You can choose to post pictures online using the #100happydays hashtag (or one you make up) or submit them privately to the sponsoring site.  However you want to document the daily moments that remind you to be happy.

It can be hard to remember in this blogging/social media world but sometimes the happiest moments are the ones that aren’t posted for all the world to see.  I was reminded of that this weekend, when I put away my phone and focused on having an amazing Valentine’s Day with Mr. Forever. The moments captured on video were shared with family and not the world, our goofy smiles were just for us and while our dinner at Olio was delicious, I didn’t need 100 “likes” to confirm that I was having a romantic evening. Sometimes sharing our joy multiplies it, but other times it’s okay to keep special memories to ourselves. It’s not selfish or “shady”, it’s just personal.

I’m choosing to document my 100 Happy Days on my personal Instagram account, which is not a part of my blogging platform.  Every so often, I may share some of my happy moments here on the blog, or on the Facebook page and hopefully they’ll bring you some joy as well.

I would encourage you to think about joining the 100 Happy Days project, whether you choose to do it publicly or privately. If photos aren’t your thing, consider keeping a gratitude journal. However you decide to do it, approach your days deliberately seeking reasons to be happy. Life’s too long to be anything else.

Are you joining the 100 Happy Days Project? If you’re sharing publicly feel free to leave a link in the comments to the place where other readers can share in your happy moments!

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

love in unexpected places

Happy Valentine’s Day! I love you, yes you, and I hope that you spend today celebrating love in all its unexpected forms.  Find some inspiration in this book and above all, remember to do this.

xoxo

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Fewer, Better Things

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Have you heard of Cuyana? I saw them mentioned on a blog or two last year but didn’t sit up and take notice of the brand until I read their feature in this month’s issue of Matchbook Magazine.  While the brand’s story about responsibly sourcing their products and designing every collection around a specific country is appealing, what struck a chord with me was the idea of having “fewer, better things” as exemplified by their Lean Closet Movement.

Streamlining one’s wardrobe is not a new idea.  In fact, partially inspired by Jess Lively’s challenge, I went through my closet last year and gave away everything that didn’t fit my body or my life anymore.  The standard I used was “If an emergency strikes, can a complete stranger come into my closet and pack this into an overnight bag for me?” Obviously, I wasn’t talking about ball gowns and bridesmaid dresses, but rather, I wanted to focus on the basics, making sure that all my jeans were comfy and fit, that my intimates weren’t shameful (you know what I mean) and that all my sweaters and shirts could be counted on to flatter.  I didn’t want anybody to ever be in the position of pulling items out of my wardrobe in an attempt to help me, only to discover that I was actually the hoarder of a life and body that are no longer mine.  It wasn’t a completely painless process but I was proud of myself in the end.  Imagine my horror, only a few months later, at realizing that this was not a one-time ordeal.  The process of editing my affairs has only just begun and as I grow into my personal style, being selective about the items I choose to make a part of my worldly estate, whether they be clothes, books or cooking ingredients is a daily effort.

I love the way Cuyana states the Lean Closet goal “to enable us to simplify what we have so we are left only with pieces we love and to effortlessly wear everything we own, ” and reading the posts in Lean Closet series has helped inspire me to refocus on streamlining my life, whether it be by improving my social media experience or cleaning out my closet.  I don’t just want a lean closet, I want a lean life. Leaner relationships, leaner bookcase (okay, that one might be tough), leaner social calendar.  I don’t want (or need) everything. I want fewer, better things.  Thank you, Cuyana, for reminding me of that.

What do you think of the Lean Closet movement?

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