Seasonal Shift

We are knee deep into October and our chores around here have shifted from the warm weather plant-grow-cut-grow-cut-sweat rhythm to a more relaxed pace.

My warm weather days all start the same:  get up and take a walk.  Because if you aren’t out there with the rising sun you are going to bake, sweat, and deal with humidity best left to southern states (in my opinion).    Everything else can wait or if it can’t then the walk just doesn’t happen.  I might just jump on the rebounder, or I might use a video, but normally for me it is walk or don’t walk.

The rest of the early day is spent trying to keep up with all the living, growing, needy things:  grass needs cutting, weeds need pulling, plants need tending, rabbits need feeding/watering/cooling down. The afternoon becomes a time of hiding from the heat and humidity and attempting to get the housekeeping chores done.

I welcome the cooler weather with open arms, sweatshirts, and leggings.  I love autumn temperatures and the slowing down of the summer pace.  Michael just cut the grass for what is probably the last time, the garden has been left to itself for a couple of weeks now, and all the berry bushes have been trimmed.  The rabbits are moving into their more weather proof homes and enjoying the sunshine that filters down to them through the rapidly falling leaves.

I still rise before the sun, but now it is for yoga and meditation.  I’ve been following the morning routine that Ayurveda recommends for Vata people.  Which means I also get to enjoy a nice warm bowl of steel cut oats before heading out for a walk.  That gives the day a moment to warm up and the oatmeal helps me keep warm out there too.   I like that now my daily walking gets divided up to shorter walks after each meal.  This shift feels much more healthy to me and for me.






Joy & Happiness vs Fear & Scarcity

In The Gifts of Imperfection Brene Brown says that we don’t fix (fear of) scarcity with abundance but with sufficient (enough).

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. I’ve been drawn to voluntary simplicity for a decade now. It began as a spiritual practice and has influenced all areas of my life. I had never considered that I might be drawn to it as an answer to fear of scarcity.

However in reading through this section, again, I noticed that I often feel a lack of . . .sleep, time, and health. So while I’ve gotten control of fear of scarcity concerning money and possessions, I’ve never addressed these other more nebulous areas.

I think it is easy when dealing with an auto-immune disorder to chalk a lot of feelings up to how you’re physically feeling each day. It does seem that days when I wake up achy, dull, and swollen that is much harder to express courage, compassion, and even connection with others. I often just want to curl up into a ball and have the world go away. And on those days when I wake up feeling great everything just seems to fall into place and it’s easier to be the authentic me.

I’ve been working for a little over 4 weeks (at the time I’m writing this) with an Ayurvedic counselor. The work has been enlightening from a purely physical viewpoint, but also because it brings to mind so much of what I remember from this book. Physically I am feeling better than I have in a very long time. The dietary and lifestyle changes put into place were difficult at first, but as I began to build routines and habits they are becoming almost second nature. As I have felt better and better, I’ve noticed that all that soul work really laid the groundwork for this endeavor.

I’m learning how routine creates a sense of “enough” in the areas of food, sleep, time, movement, and health. As I sense “enough” in these areas, I feel the gifts of happiness and freedom flowing back into that area of my life again. My story continues to include this disorder, but slowly it is being pushed into a corner where it can inform but not control my sense of well-being.

Since happiness is an emotion based on circumstances, I realize that it was never my joy that this disease was taking. It was my happiness. When I ask myself what would make today awesome and then when I journal what made that day joyful, I think I have been focusing more on happy than true joy. As I read back through my journal I noticed these were all things that effected my emotions.

Happiness comes and goes, but true joy is a bit like a light in my soul. It is there just waiting for a chance to shine. So starting today I’m going to work on having two lists. One for what would make me happy. The second for where I saw true joy displayed in my life. I think the distinction is important and this is one way I can acknowledge that distinction.

Shampoo Bar

Shampoo Bar

Shampoo Bar

*Note: I was not paid to review this product nor did I receive the product for free. I bought it as a normal customer in need of a product.*

My journey to this particular shampoo bar is long and winding.  For years I used regular shampoo and never worried a bit about it.  Then a friend of mine in TN began making shampoo bars and I loved them! Seriously loved them.  Life happened and she quit making them.  Then I found a local place that made them with milk and lard as two of the ingredients.  I used it for a while, but always had trouble reconciling my usage with the treatment of pigs I saw at Fair Oaks Farms (which was horrible).  So I finally quit using that particular bar.  Then came Burt’s Bees Gud Shampoo.  This was a nice alternative,  but it still has a few ingredients I’m not super happy about.

Finally I stumbled across this brand:  Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve.  Setting up an account and ordering was a breeze.  Shipping was prompt and delivery was USPS. Communication with the company through emails was streamlined,

The Dead Sea Spa facial soap is simply heavenly.  Smooth as silk and rinses so clean.  I’ve been using it in the evening before bed followed by my face serum (homemade using Argan Oil and essential oils).  I ordered a sample and it was quite big.  I’ve been using it a little more than a month and haven’t even put a dent in the bar.

The Ayurveda Shampoo Bar is out of this world fantastic.  I heeded the advice card that came with it and used an Apple Cider Vinegar rinse everyday for the first week.  It made the transition seamless.  I’ve been playing around with the frequency of the ACV rinse and have settled on every third day now.  I may go back to every other day as the air gets drier in winter. It is so nice not to have static!  My hair feels incredibly soft; it is super shiny; and best of all it feels thicker.  This shampoo produces a rich lather that I use to wash my face in the shower –but, it also makes for a great shaving soap.

I hate to admit it, but I haven’t used the Cafe Moreno shampoo bar yet.  I’m so in love with the Ayurveda one I cannot imagine shampooing without it.

I highly recommend this company and these particular products. I also bought my daughter the sea salt and seaweed facial soap.  I will try to get a picture of it and her thoughts in another post.

The Gifts of Imperfection, part 3

Today is my final post in this series on the book The Gifts of Imperfection. Three short sections to work through and then a wrap up /book review.

Calm and Stillness:  Letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle. Calmness is perspective and mindfulness while managing emotional reactivity. Stillness is time for meditation, prayer, quiet reflection, and alone time. Both of these are practices that give us an emotionally clutter free space.

Calmness — I am an “under-function-er” when it comes to stress, particularly emotional stress. Some people might take the bull by the horns, get all up in your business, and generally take charge. Sometimes whether or not you want all that help–in fact, usually without even thinking you might not want that.

I, on the other hand, I under-function: I get less competent under stress; I withdraw; I sleep; I hide. Meditation is very good for me. When I feel that first tingle of emotional stress, I take 3 deep breaths and if possible sit my butt down on blanket and breath some more. I’ve learned to say things like, “I need some time to think about that.” Email and texting are super awesome for someone like me. Nobody knows for sure when you see an email or text and so if it is an emotional land mine for me, I take a step away from my phone, sit down and breath, and then come back to it.

Stillness — There are two things that give structure to my day and also allow me time to be still.  I start each day with a morning routine that includes the morning devotion and Bible reading from the Book of Common Prayer and then straight onto the floor for yoga and meditation (I use Headspace).  Each day ends the same way, only in reverse–yoga, meditation, and then Compline (again from the Book of Common Prayer).

Meaningful Work: Meaningful work is sharing your gifts and talents with the world in whatever way you can. It doesn’t have to be sexy, it doesn’t have to be full of hustle, it just has to be something lifegiving for you and for others. For me, right now, meaningful work is helping my son through a difficult time; answering text after text from moms with kids recently diagnosed with ASD; writing this blog (that reaches all 4 of you😉 ); and working with my parish on a grant project. None of these things brings a single penny to our family budget, but they are all lifegiving to me and I hope to others.

Laughter, Song & Dance: Letting go of being cool and always in control. Laughter, song and dance are three ancient forms of self-expression. Everyone does them and not everyone does them gracefully. They remind us we are not alone. I have my polite public laugh and then I have my “Oh my God, I’m snorting water through my nose and holding my sides, trying not to pee in my pants” laugh. Occasionally the signals get crossed and the public gets to witness me in full on laughter.

I can sing with the best of them. Unfortunately the best of them don’t want me singing out loud. I somehow missed the memo on how to make your voice do notes that are similar to the notes those around you are singing. So I mostly keep my singing to times when I am alone (although Kelly, Michael and Hannah have to listen — it’s in our family contract). There is nothing that lifts my spirits more than belting out a boy band song (or some classic Donny Osmond) while hoofing it up a hill on my walk or when scrubbing toilets or when cleaning the fridge (my two least favorite household tasks).

Church presents a unique form of torture for me . . . . Have you ever attended an Episcopal church service (or Anglican for my Brit readers)? Good Lord, they can sing. I think it must be something they put in the baptismal font, which would explain how I missed it, I was baptized Methodist. Dang! My heart wants to belt it out, but my brain says “hey man, step back, be cool, don’t kill Kathy (she sits in front of me) with that awfulness.”

I know, I know . . . The gifts of imperfection. Embrace your vulnerabilities. I’m trying, really I am. This book came to me at the perfect time. I’ve done a lot of soul work over the past 20 months and was ready to step beyond it. This book reaffirmed what my counselor from 30 years ago and my counselor from 20 months ago told me. The skill sets are the same. You are enough and your gifts of imperfection are those things that help you embrace your story.

Courage, Compassion, Connection:: My story matters because I matter.

**edited to add:  Since I wrote this post in September, I’ve tried moving seats in church.  This way nobody, especially Kathy, sits in front of me and I feel free to attempt a more vocal participation in the singing.**

The Gifts of Imperfection, part 2

Part 2 of my summary of The Gifts of Imperfection.

Garatitude and Joy:  Both gratitude and joy are spiritual practices. This means they are not attitudes (which are just ways of thinking) but practices (which are ways of being). Happy (emotion based on circumstances) is not the same as joy (which is often felt in spite of circumstances). You must choose each day to be grateful and joyful.

One way I do that is in my journal. Each morning I ask what can I do (realistically do, not dreamily wish for) to make today joyful — it helps to phrase it “What would make today awesome?” Then as the day progresses I check in and incorporate those things into my day. Each evening I list those things that made the day full of joy. Sometimes my morning list and my afternoon list are very different. Joy comes in surprising places. I’ve always kept a gratitude list in my journal. Most people say you should write your list down each evening. I prefer to start my day reviewing the things I am grateful for from the day before or even things from the middle of the night.

Brene Brown says the opposite of joy is fear (and specifically fear of scarcity). We see this in our lives as worry, anxiety, fearfulness . . . and we don’t fix scarcity with abundance but with enough. For the past 10 years I have been practicing voluntary simplicity. I have found in it a realization that enough is more than adequate.

Intuition and Trusting Faith: Intuition is a rapid fire, unconscious associating process. Observe-scan for existing patterns-reach conclusion; occasionally this is so fast it just seems as if you know without knowing how you know. Sometimes the answer is clear and sometimes the answer is more input needed. Anne Lamott says, “The opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty”. I think what this means to me is that some things are a mystery and I just have to have enough courage to to believe what I cannot see.

Creativity:  I don’t normally think of myself as a creative person. I can’t draw, paint, sing (well, I can sing, but nobody wants to hear it), write a novel, or any of those things that are typically thought of. What I can do is cultivate and curate meaning. I like to make sense of things — not like science facts, just life. I like to see the patterns in life and express those patterns. For me this often takes the form of journal type entries on this blog,

The biggest hinderance to creativity is comparison. Comparison is all about conformity and competition. And I have to say I am NOT into conformity or competition. So I was thrilled to learn that my cultivating and curating meaning is a form, my form, of creativity. It has opened doors of freedom that I’ve kept pretty close to the vest all these years. I’ve even been doing the Headspace meditation pack on creativity. Some pretty interesting thoughts come out of my head. Thoughts that I used to let others squash or ridicule me for are now embraced and given a voice.

Play and Rest: Play here is defined as purposeless. In other words, we play for the sheer joy of play, not to learn something, not to get in our exercise. Rest is downtime. Rest is not necessarily sleep, although we definitely need to make sure we are getting in enough sleep. I’m pretty good at the rest aspect of this — because of my auto-immune disease I make sure my day has time set aside to just rest and renew.

Play isn’t something I’m very good about doing though. I’ll romp through the yard with the puppy (I really need to stop calling him that; he is 18 months old now). I love a good bike ride, but only if someone else is riding with me and talking. Does binge watching my favorite shows count as play? I’m really asking here. . . .

Next up: Calm and Stillness; Meaningful Work; Laughter, Song & Dance

Auditory Processing & The Gifts of Imperfection

In September, during my morning walks, I listened to the book _The Gifts of Imperfection_ (by Brene Brown). I listened for the “outward” stretch of the walk (and thought about it on the “return” stretch, occasionally accompanied by some pop/rock music). In the afternoon I’d sit down with the book version and reread the section I had listened to earlier that day.

This turned out to be a pretty good system for me. I process a lot of information audibly. I think that’s why I get so distracted in a classroom setting. I hear you sniffling, I hear you shuffling the pages, I hear you getting your cell phone out of you pocket — I hear you. This “hearing you” means my attention is split between you and what I’m trying to process.

This “hearing you” comes along with being a HSP (highly sensitive person) and an introvert (quiet people, I just need some quiet). This combination can make it difficult to stay on task, or to be honest, even think if the environment is loud enough/chaotic enough/over stimulating. For example: I once worked for a company that played music through the whole building. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love pop music and keep a selection on my phone for helping me power through the second half of my walk, but I don’t listen and do anything mental at the same time. Just does not work. Not. At. All. One day the same song played on repeat and loud (that Lego song: Everything is awesome) for over an hour. In attempt to maintain my sanity, I put in my earbuds and tried to listen to the Bach cello suites. I ended up frantic, in tears, and unable to do even the easiest of the tasks assigned to me.

This particular day left me with a sense that I was imperfect, I was flawed, and my boundaries were not important. Almost two years later I can still feel the shame I experienced that day. No adult wants to be brought to tears by a stupid Lego song.

So the book _The Gifts of Imperfection_ was really encouraging for me to read. The book talks about Being Enough and the three daily practices or tools that we need in order to set boundaries and know we are enough: courage, compassion, and connection.

Courage: to speak (and live) my whole heart’s truth openly and honestly, putting my vulnerability on the line, and owning my own story. Contrast this with hustling, performing, pleasing, and proving.

Compassion: to recognize our shared humanity, dignity due a person simply because they are, and maintaining boundaries.

Connection: the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued. Contrast this with being communicative and self-sufficienct.

Authenticity: letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are. — This is the key for me. Being an INFJ, HSP, and auditory means I am going to experience life in my own way. Knowing this can help me set boundaries . . . I.e.: if you’re going to play that song on repeat for over an hour, I should probably go home or at least hide in the bathroom.

Self Compassion: Be slow to judge yourself, there is no such thing as perfect, and I am not what I accomplish or perform. A second boundary for me is knowing that I can not handle violence in movies or tv. For a long time, I assumed it was simply the visual image that disturbed me, but an incident the other night showed me the music and the sound effects have a lot to do with how intensely I perceive the violence.

Resilient Spirit: resilience is the ability to overcome adversity. The single biggest factor in my resilience is my faith. In the Anglican Communion I find faith, love, support, connection, meaning, and reliability. There is something incredibly comforting in knowing people all over the world are praying the same prayers and reading the same Scriptures. This comfort allows me to “feel all the feelings” and sort through them.

Other sections of the book include: gratitude and joy, intuition and faith, creativity, play and rest, calm and stillness, and meaningful work, laughter song and dance. Thursday I’ll take a look at each of these and talk about the lessons I learned from each.

Project CG–Sept

Sept 1-30, 2016
~Reminder: ($) is for Eco products, –$ is for standard products~

Laundry and Cleaning for Family
*Sal’s Suds ($14)
*Dish soap ($4)

Personal Care Products
* feminine care (liners) –$3.00
*Toothpaste –$4
*Artisan Soap, and Shampoo bar (Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve: vegan, organic, no GMO) ($25)
*bamboo toothbrushes ($8)

*Ayurveda book+workbook $20 (medical team)
*Ayurveda workshop $15 (medical team)
*Broadchurch, series 1 on iTunes — $16
*iTunes song ($1.29)

*CK pants for work –$50
*KM walking socks (3 pack) –$10

*KM coffee out –$12
*KM candy bars –$6
*CK chips –$10
*Splurge junk night –$20

*Yoga/meditation block (organic cotton filled with buckwheat hills) ($30)