Posted in Awesome Stuff

Around the Bend

I’ve dabbled with yoga off and on over the years, and I love it so much that I honestly don’t know why I don’t do it all the time – my own damn laziness, I suppose. Anyway, one of my promises to myself for the year (since I am not doing resolutions) is to get back to yoga, so… that’s what I’m doing! The plan is to do it at least three time a week (and hopefully more!), and see how it makes me feel. It’s been too damn long since I practiced, and I have suffered not one but two broken arms in the past two months (because I’m special like that), so I knew I needed to start slow and easy. I hit up my absolute FAVORITE yoga teacher Adriene Mishler (https://yogawithadriene.com/), and as usual she didn’t let me down. I began with a simple, easy introductory session that got the muscles moving, focused on the power of the breath, and didn’t cause me much discomfort in the aforementioned broken-but-healing arms. It will be awhile before I’m doing anything too complex, but the first session felt GREAT! Now to keep it up!

If you aren’t familiar with Adriene, check out her YouTube channel (and join the other millions of us who subscribe and follow her!) – she’s got videos for everything, her dog appears sometimes, and she’s so encouraging that you will feel like you’ve had a warm hug when you’re finished. She’s awesome! 😊

Namaste!

xxx

Posted in Awesome Stuff

Can’t Get You Outta My Head

Happy Monday, friends! Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend – mine has been rather low key, as I’ve finally succumbed to the wicked cedar in the air here, and I’m feeling rather crap. 😔 I hope it passes soon, but I’ve been here in South Texas long enough to know that it’s just getting going…it’s going to be a long couple of months. Yuck.

Last Monday, I decided it was high time to get serious about meditation – this is the year I’m going to meditate regularly! I paid for the full version of Headspace for a year, and, as I predicted, paying for something had already forced me to use it…and I’m seven days in! Yaa me! If you aren’t familiar with Headspace, you should check it out – it’s a great app, super easy to use, and I’m loving it so far.

There’s tons of benefits to meditating regularly – check this out:

12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation

Written by Matthew Thorpe, MD, PhD on July 5, 2017

The popularity of meditation is increasing as more people discover its benefits.

Meditation is a habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts.

You can use it to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Many people think of it as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration.People also use the practice to develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns and even increased pain tolerance. 

This article reviews 12 health benefits of meditation.

1. Reduces Stress

Stress reduction is one of the most common reasons people try meditation. 

One study including over 3,500 adults showed that it lives up to its reputation for stress reduction (1Trusted Source).

Normally, mental and physical stress cause increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This produces many of the harmful effects of stress, such as the release of inflammation-promoting chemicals called cytokines. 

These effects can disrupt sleep, promote depression and anxiety, increase blood pressure and contribute to fatigue and cloudy thinking.

In an eight-week study, a meditation style called “mindfulness meditation” reduced the inflammation response caused by stress (2).

Another study in nearly 1,300 adults demonstrated that meditation may decrease stress. Notably, this effect was strongest in individuals with the highest levels of stress (3Trusted Source).

SUMMARY:Many styles of meditation can help reduce stress. Meditation can also reduce symptoms in people with stress-triggered medical conditions.

2. Controls Anxiety

Less stress translates to less anxiety. 

For example, an eight-week study of mindfulness meditation helped participants reduce their anxiety.

It also reduced symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as phobias, social anxiety, paranoid thoughts, obsessive-compulsive behaviors and panic attacks (9).

Another study followed up with 18 volunteers three years after they had completed an eight-week meditation program. Most volunteers had continued practicing regular meditation and maintained lower anxiety levels over the long term (10).

Meditation may also help control job-related anxiety in high-pressure work environments. One study found that a meditation program reduced anxiety in a group of nurses (13).

SUMMARY:Habitual meditation helps reduce anxiety and anxiety-related mental health issues like social anxiety, phobias and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

3. Promotes Emotional Health

Some forms of meditation can also lead to an improved self-image and more positive outlook on life. 

Two studies of mindfulness meditation found decreased depression in over 4,600 adults (1Trusted Source14Trusted Source).

One study followed 18 volunteers as they practiced meditation over three years. The study found that participants experienced long-term decreases in depression (10).

Inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, which are released in response to stress, can affect mood, leading to depression. A review of several studies suggests meditation may reduce depression by decreasing these inflammatory chemicals (15Trusted Source).

SUMMARY:Some forms of meditation can improve depression and create a more positive outlook on life. Research shows that maintaining an ongoing habit of meditation may help you maintain these benefits long term.

4. Enhances Self-Awareness

Some forms of meditation may help you develop a stronger understanding of yourself, helping you grow into your best self.

For example, self-inquiry meditation explicitly aims to help you develop a greater understanding of yourself and how you relate to those around you.

Other forms teach you to recognize thoughts that may be harmful or self-defeating. The idea is that as you gain greater awareness of your thought habits, you can steer them toward more constructive patterns (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).

A study of 21 women fighting breast cancer found that when they took part in a tai chi program, their self-esteem improved more than it did than in those who received social support sessions (20).

SUMMARY:Self-inquiry and related styles of meditation can help you “know yourself.” This can be a starting point for making other positive changes.

5. Lengthens Attention Span

Focused-attention meditation is like weight lifting for your attention span. It helps increase the strength and endurance of your attention. 

For example, a study looked at the effects of an eight-week mindfulness meditation course and found it improved participants’ ability to reorient and maintain their attention (23).

A similar study showed that human resource workers who regularly practiced mindfulness meditation stayed focused on a task for longer.

These workers also remembered details of their tasks better than their peers who did not practice meditation (24).

Even meditating for a short period may benefit you. One study found that four days of practicing meditation may be enough to increase attention span (26).

SUMMARY:Several types of meditation may build your ability to redirect and maintain attention. As little as four days of meditation may have an effect.

6. May Reduce Age-Related Memory Loss

Improvements in attention and clarity of thinking may help keep your mind young. 

Kirtan Kriya is a method of meditation that combines a mantra or chant with repetitive motion of the fingers to focus thoughts. It improved participants’ ability to perform memory tasks in multiple studies of age-related memory loss (27Trusted Source).

Furthermore, a review of 12 studies found that multiple meditation styles increased attention, memory and mental quickness in older volunteers (28Trusted Source).

In addition to fighting normal age-related memory loss, meditation can at least partially improve memory in patients with dementia. It can also help control stress and improve coping in those caring for family members with dementia (27Trusted Source29Trusted Source).

SUMMARY:The improved focus you can gain through regular meditation may increase memory and mental clarity. These benefits can help fight age-related memory loss and dementia.

7. Can Generate Kindness

Some types of meditation may particularly increase positive feelings and actions toward yourself and others.

Metta, a type of meditation also known as loving-kindness meditation, begins with developing kind thoughts and feelings toward yourself.

Through practice, people learn to extend this kindness and forgiveness externally, first to friends, then acquaintances and ultimately enemies.

SUMMARY:Metta, or loving-kindness meditation, is a practice of developing positive feelings, first toward yourself and then toward others. Metta increases positivity, empathy and compassionate behavior toward others.

8. May Help Fight Addictions

The mental discipline you can develop through meditation may help you break dependencies by increasing your self-control and awareness of triggers for addictive behaviors (34).

Research has shown that meditation may help people learn to redirect their attention, increase their willpower, control their emotions and impulses and increase their understanding of the causes behind their addictive behaviors (35Trusted Source36Trusted Source).

One study that taught 19 recovering alcoholics how to meditate found that participants who received the training got better at controlling their cravings and craving-related stress (37Trusted Source).

Meditation may also help you control food cravings. A review of 14 studies found mindfulness meditation helped participants reduce emotional and binge eating (38Trusted Source).

SUMMARY:Meditation develops mental discipline and willpower and can help you avoid triggers for unwanted impulses. This can help you recover from addiction, lose weight and redirect other unwanted habits.

9. Improves Sleep

Nearly half the population will struggle with insomnia at some point. 

One study compared two mindfulness-based meditation programs by randomly assigning participants to one of two groups. One group practiced meditation, while the other didn’t.

Participants who meditated fell asleep sooner and stayed asleep longer, compared to those who didn’t meditate (39Trusted Source).

Becoming skilled in meditation may help you control or redirect the racing or “runaway” thoughts that often lead to insomnia.

Additionally, it can help relax your body, releasing tension and placing you in a peaceful state in which you’re more likely to fall asleep.

SUMMARY:A variety of meditation techniques can help you relax and control the “runaway” thoughts that can interfere with sleep. This can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and increase sleep quality.

10. Helps Control Pain

Your perception of pain is connected to your state of mind, and it can be elevated in stressful conditions.

For example, one study used functional MRI techniques to observe brain activity as participants experienced a painful stimulus. Some participants had gone through four days of mindfulness meditation training, while others had not.

The meditating patients showed increased activity in the brain centers known to control pain. They also reported less sensitivity to pain (40Trusted Source).

SUMMARY:Meditation can diminish the perception of pain in the brain. This may help treat chronic pain when used as a supplement to medical care or physical therapy.

11. Can Decrease Blood Pressure

Meditation can also improve physical health by reducing strain on the heart.

Over time, high blood pressure makes the heart work harder to pump blood, which can lead to poor heart function.

High blood pressure also contributes to atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

A study of 996 volunteers found that when they meditated by concentrating on a “silent mantra” — a repeated, non-vocalized word — reduced blood pressure by about five points, on average.

This was more effective among older volunteers and those who had higher blood pressure prior to the study (41Trusted Source).

A review concluded that several types of meditation produced similar improvements in blood pressure (42Trusted Source).

In part, meditation appears to control blood pressure by relaxing the nerve signals that coordinate heart function, tension in blood vessels and the “fight-or-flight” response that increases alertness in stressful situations (43Trusted Source).

SUMMARY:Blood pressure decreases not only during meditation, but also over time in individuals who meditate regularly. This can reduce strain on the heart and arteries, helping prevent heart disease.

12. You Can Meditate Anywhere

People practice many different forms of meditation, most of which don’t require specialized equipment or space. You can practice with just a few minutes daily.

If you want to start meditating, try choosing a form of meditation based on what you want to get out of it.

There are two major styles of meditation:

  • Focused-attention meditation:Concentrates attention on a single object, thought, sound or visualization. It emphasizes ridding your mind of attention and distraction. Meditation may focus on breathing, a mantra or a calming sound.
  • Open-monitoring meditation: Encourages broadened awareness of all aspects of your environment, train of thought and sense of self. It may include becoming aware of thoughts, feelings or impulses that you might normally try to suppress.

To find out which styles you like best, check out the variety of free, guided meditation exercises offered by UCLA and Head in the Clouds. They’re an excellent way to try different styles and find one that suits you.

If your regular work and home environments do not allow for consistent, quiet alone time, consider participating in a class. This can also improve your chances of success by providing a supportive community. 

Alternatively, consider setting your alarm a few minutes early to take advantage of quiet time in the morning. This may help you develop a consistent habit and allow you to start the day positively. 

SUMMARY:If you’re interested in incorporating meditation into your routine, try a few different styles and consider guided exercises to get started with one that suits you.

The Bottom Line

Meditation is something everyone can do to improve their mental and emotional health.

You can do it anywhere, without special equipment or memberships.

Alternatively, meditation courses and support groups are widely available.

There’s a great variety of styles too, each with different strengths and benefits.

Trying out a style of mediation suited to your goals is a great way to improve your quality of life, even if you only have a few minutes to do it each day.

Do you meditate? How does it make you feel?

Xxx

Posted in Awesome Stuff

High Hopes

My new year (and decade) began not with a bang, but a whimper. Actually, it began with both: arseholes in my neighborhood we’re shooting illegal fireworks until 3:00am-ish, and my little dogs were whimpering and having to be held (all four of them – my lap is only so big). We made it through the night, I didn’t sleep in (of course, I never do), and life continued on as usual. The day off mid-week is lovely, and knowing I have only two days to get through until the weekend is brilliant – we need more weeks like this! 🌟

Anyway – let’s start this year off right….with some giving! Here’s a great article with suggestions on how you can volunteer and give your time to make your community better:

12 Ways to Volunteer Your Time and Give Back to the Community

By Michael Lewis

Do you feel a personal responsibility to help others? Randy Lewis, author of “No Greatness Without Goodness,” claims that all people, including businesses, have the responsibility to make the world a better place. In his case, he spearheaded a Walgreens initiative to hire the disabled. In the five years following his initiative, similar programs were sparked across America and Europe.

In June 2014, Starbucks, the ubiquitous coffee cafe, announced a free online college program through Arizona State University for any employee working 20 or more hours per week. Duncan Campbell, an Oregon entrepreneur, started Friends of the Children to provide emotional and educational support to at-risk children, starting with kids in kindergarten and progressing with them through college. Of the kids involved, 83% graduate high school and 93% avoid juvenile hall for breaking the law.

While some leaders and companies receive considerable publicity and well-deserved accolades for charitable work, there are hundreds of thousands of regular Americans – your friends and neighbors – who donate to programs to make the world a “kinder and gentler place.” These activities are sponsored by churches, civic organizations, schools, and charities, with services ranging from Habitat for Humanity to Big Brothers Big Sisters. But despite the ongoing success of such efforts, programs always need volunteers and financial support.

Why Volunteer?

Some people claim that their personal success and secure position has been justly earned without help from others along the way. However, this attitude is selfish, egotistical, and naive. Studies, detailed in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers,” have shown that the zip code of your birth is more predictive of success, health, and lifespan than IQ, college grades, or genetics. Nobody makes it through life entirely on his or her own merits, even if assistance is not obvious. As a consequence, everyone has a debt to repay – and a reason to give back.

In addition to fulfilling a responsibility, there are many benefits of charitable giving – primarily, it makes you happier. In fact, a Harvard Business School study confirmed that “happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more).”

While cash is always accepted in groups serving the needy, time and effort is just as important, if not more so. Plus, giving of your time, energy, and effort provides you with immediate feedback as to what your contribution means to those receiving it.

Give Back to Your Community

Americans have a great capacity to accept and face challenges head-on. In 2007, as the recession began to spread across the country, a surge of people responded and began volunteering like never before. Volunteering is a win-win for all parties involved. Those who receive help are grateful for the help, and volunteers learn that helping others makes them feel better. Consider the following as ways you can start volunteering and pay your good fortune forward.

1. Offer to Help Family

In the hectic lifestyle of the 21st century, the needs of family members are often overlooked. Parents busy raising their own children may forget the plight of their own parents, assuming they are capable of taking care of themselves. Many adult children presume their parents will speak up if they need anything. This is not always the case, especially when Granddad or Grandma have been independent for years. Older people – parents, aunts and uncles, long-time family friends – are often reluctant to share their growing frailty, loneliness, or isolation with their children.

Caring for elderly parents may be necessary, so consider the needs of your own family members first. Drop by for coffee on a Saturday morning, mow the yard, or accompany elderly parents on a shopping trip. Invite them to your child’s soccer games or other family activities. Provide an inexpensive computer with access to email and Facebook (and lessons to learn the new technology), or schedule regular visits to brighten their day.

2. Volunteer at Your Local School

Educators are overworked, stressed, and disillusioned about the educational infrastructure – and they need help. Despite knowing that schools work best when the community is actively involved, too many parents and community members believe it’s someone else’s responsibility to solve the problems of education.

Children need role models and people who care about their lives and behavior. Whether you read stories to elementary school students, monitor outdoor activities, chaperone field trips, or spend a Saturday beautifying the school grounds, your efforts will be recognized and appreciated. Moreover, you can make an investment that will pay dividends in the future.

3. Organize a Yard Sale for Charity

If your talents lie in business, administration, or marketing, consider organizing a yard sale for your community, dedicating the proceeds to a local charity. Almost every household has electronics, furniture, clothes, or equipment that can be donated because they’re no longer in use. These items have value and can be recycled to those who will use them again.

4. Visit a Senior Center

Too many nursing homes are turned into dumping grounds for older people whose families are gone or are unavailable, and many residents are desperate for conversation and connections with people outside the center. An hour or two a week can make a huge difference in the attitude and outlook of the residents, and you may learn something about life from those who have already traveled the journey before you.

5. Coach a Local Youth Team

The old saying, “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop,” is especially true for children and teenagers. Playing sports teaches kids teamwork, responsibility, and the joy of being physically fit.

6. Tutor a Student

Unfortunately, many kids don’t have the opportunity to participate in sports because there aren’t enough coaches or assistants. There are openings in almost every sport in every community for compassionate teachers and volunteer coaches. While some experience is helpful, it’s not always essential for you to be a good youth league coach.

Students include people of all ages, not just children. Teaching literacy to adults can change their lives. Helping someone learn English can expand his or her horizons, able to further interact in the broad community.

7. Fix and Serve Meals

Academic subjects are not the only ones that need tutors – introducing and teaching others about computers and the Internet is needed everywhere, especially in the senior community. Life skills, such as cooking, sewing, and home repairs, are in demand for all ages.

Despite America’s overall prosperity, the homeless, the unemployed, and the poor often go hungry – almost 49 million Americans in 2012, according to the USDA. Volunteers are needed to prepare and serve food through local charities throughout the year. Meals on Wheels, with an army of almost 2.6 million volunteers, serves 2.5 million seniors every day, offering nutritious meals, warm smiles, and a safety check – often the only conduit to the outside world the recipient receives.

8. Serve on a Community Board

Charities and community service organizations often compete with other businesses for the community’s attention and support. In many cases, nonprofits are at a distinct disadvantage, lacking the resources to attract, compensate, and retain top-flight executive staff and administrators. If your talents are administrative, or if you have executive or board experience, your knowledge and insights could be welcomed at not-for-profit, community-based organizations.

9. Become a Docent

Museums, art galleries, presidential libraries, aquariums, zoos, and universities frequently need trained guides to lead visitors through facilities to enhance the visitors’ experience. Docent training is usually provided, so the only qualities necessary are enthusiasm, patience, flexibility, and passion. If you enjoy being around people, volunteering at your local museum or theater could be enjoyable and enlightening.

10. Be a Good Neighbor

Before the widespread use of air conditioning, residents of a community were more likely to spend time outside getting to know one another, rather than retreating inside to escape the heat. Now it’s common for neighbors not to know one another; rather, people simply return home from work each night and head inside.

Participation in a neighborhood organization builds a sense of community and provides valuable services to those within the neighborhood. Many neighborhood associations have community watch programs, assist with neighborhood beautification and park projects, and represent the community to local government officials. Knowing your neighbors increases a sense of personal security and connection to those around you.

11. Organize a Food Co-op

Food co-ops – cooperative efforts to buy food in volume to distribute to co-op members – initially started as a way to save money on grocery purchases. Increasingly, they are vehicles that enable members to buy fresh, naturally grown foods directly from farmers and producers at below-market prices.

Co-ops are typically nonprofit organizations that rely on volunteers, and advocates claim they offer better nutrition for lower prices. Bountiful Baskets initially started with a single site in Arizona, but now has more than 100 sites in multiple states, and it continues to grow.

12. Volunteer at a Hospital

Hospital volunteers provide crucial support to hospitals, and also offer comfort and convenience to patients, families, and visitors. Volunteer opportunities include everything from manning information booths, to sitting with patients or working with children. Duties might involve helping with food service or pushing wheelchairs. Hospitals have a wide variety of volunteer needs that are suitable for all ages.

Final Word

If you’re still on the fence about volunteering, or you’re not sure you have the time or energy necessary, consider the five-year, multi-institutional study that proved giving and being unselfish can protect your health and prolong your life. Every day that goes by without helping another is an opportunity missed. Recognize that others helped you achieve your merits, and now you have the opportunity to pay them back while paying the effort forward.

How else can you pay success back while paying it forward for future generations?

Wonderful ideas, eh? I know! I can’t wait to hear what you decide to do to make your community and world a bit better – good luck! 🍀

Xxx

Posted in Awesome Stuff

From This Moment On

Yesterday I was talking about flipping the way we plan for the new year – instead of talking about all of the things we will do without, how about we focus on all of the great things we are planning to do? I love it! As promised, here’s the start of my list for the new year:

  1. Spend more time reading! Plain and simple, it makes me happy – so why not do it more often? Yaa!
  2. Get back to yoga! I’ve been feeling stiff and shitty lately, and it’s not getting any better…I need to get my arse back into a regular yoga practice. I predict it will make me feel better, inside and out. I’m not going to go crazy and declare that I need to do it daily, because I know that won’t happen (sadly my schedule isn’t conducive to that!). I will set the target for 3 times a week, and consider anything more than that a bonus. Yaa! I’m excited!!! 😊
  3. More time writing – keeping a journal is an excellent thing for my mental health, and I’m going to do a better job of writing regularly in 2020. I started keeping a daily journal in March of 2019, and I wrote in it at least 5 days a week every week for the rest of the year – I noticed a difference in how I felt about things, and I noticed a significant difference in my stress levels. Success!
  4. Take up meditation once and for all – I keep dabbling, trying it out…but nothing ever sticks, and I have to say that I often feel like a failure when trying to meditate. I get so easily distracted (it’s ridiculous), and then I get disheartened and give up. Not this time.
  5. Eat better – I quit eating meat in September 2019, and it’s made a significant difference in how I feel. I have been eating seafood, and for now I will keep that going on – but meat is out. I’ve been working on getting more fruits and veg into the system, but that remains a struggle for me – I don’t know why. Actually, that’s a lie – I do know why. I like vegetables when somebody else prepares them for me, but I can’t stand them when I prepare them – go figure. It’s dumb. I’m going to try to do better with smoothies and get the fruits and veg in that way – as well, I will continue experimenting with supplements and see if I can’t improve my nutrition that way. All of the experts say that cutting out dairy is the way to go, but…it just makes me so sad. I love dairy – cheese, yogurt, cheese…. It’s all just so good. Yum.
  6. Stop sweatin’ the small stuff – this will likely be the biggest challenge for the year, you know that? I’m a world-class fretter, and I can worry about nothing like it was my damn job. I’ve noticed that in the past year I’ve been able to let a lot of shit go that previously would have caused me to obsess, but I’ve still got such a long way to go. Hopefully this will be the year that I quit reacting to stupid shit, and only focus on what really matters.
  7. Have more fun! I plan to embrace the idea of the return of the Roarin’ 20s with a passion – learn to dance the Charleston, wear a flapper dress (I bought a 20s style dress recently, actually…it’s gorgeous!), drink more gin, listen to more records, visit as many speakeasies as humanly possible, watch Midnight in Paris on repeat….all of it. Bring on the 20s – I’m ready!

This list is really specific to me and the things I want to focus on from a personal development perspective – of course I plan to spend more time with the kid and the family, enjoy them more, etc etc etc, all of that good stuff. I’m excited about all of it! Yaa!

What are you most looking forward to in the new year, friends?

Xxx

Posted in Awesome Stuff

Accentuate the Positive

I’m really feeling excited about the start of the new year – it’s a new decade, and it’s the 20s!!! WOOHOOOO!!!! Bring on the flapper dresses, and the gin, and the Charleston…all of it! Mostly I want an excuse to focus more on the fun things in life – this past decade has been a roller coaster of serious shit for me, and…I’m done. I need some levity in my life!!

I subscribe to the Quartzy newsletters, and I REALLY love what they send out on Fridays. This week’s came courtesy of Oliver Staley, Quartz’s culture and lifestyle editor. Here’s what he wrote:

Happy Friday!

I’m Oliver Staley, Quartz’s culture and lifestyle editor.

As we approach 2020, much of our conversation revolves around what we won’t be doing. Next year, I won’t avoid exercising. I won’t eat a second (or third) donut. I won’t watch The Masked Singer.

But what if we turned that around and talked about what we’re looking forward to in 2020? What will we do that’s fun, stimulating, interesting, or just relaxing? We asked Quartz’s culture reporters to weigh in with what they are most eagerly anticipating in the new year. This is what they told us:


Gerhard Richter: Painting After All. Come March, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art will put on the first major exhibit on German artist Gerhard Richter in the US in nearly 20 years. The show will span decades and encompass more than 100 of his works ranging from paintings to glass sculptures. Hits such as Betty, his enigmatic painting of his daughter, will be there, as well as lesser-known pieces and two new works. But what I’m really excited about are the abstracts.

His abstracts made me a fan before I knew the importance of Richter in modern art. I stumbled across some pictures online and they provoked an immediate reaction in me. He layers paint—often using a squeegee—in a way that gives it incredible depth, and his colors and lines make everything feel energetic. It’s going to be great to see so much of his work in person for the first time. (A 2020 bonus: The Whitney Museum of American Art will hold an amazing exhibit of Mexican muralists too.) —Marc Bain

Not Richter – some other beautiful abstract art

The Good Lord Bird. I have always been fascinated by American abolitionist John Brown: I wrote about him for my senior history thesis in college, and I have devoured virtually every Brown-related book available. His life story is ripe for cinematic interpretation, and yet the only mainstream Hollywood depiction of Brown came in the 1940 film Santa Fe Trail. Raymond Massey’s portrayal of Brown was both inaccurate and offensive, depicting the abolitionist as a mere two-dimensional villain against whom the hero, Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart (played by Errol Flynn, naturally), could do battle. Until now, that is. Or at least, I hope.

Actor-writer Ethan Hawke will star as Brown in the upcoming Showtime miniseries The Good Lord Bird, based on the 2013 National Book Award-winning novel of the same name by James McBride, told from the point of view of a fictional freed slave who came across Brown during the violent confrontations called Bleeding Kansas. I don’t know if it’ll do Brown justice, but Hawke is a talented actor, and as the first serious attempt to bring the abolitionist to life on screen in 80 years, the miniseries has more than piqued my interest. —Adam Epstein


(AP)

The Tokyo Olympics. I am an unrepentant Olympics geek. It has become fashionable in recent decades to badmouth the Olympics as wasteful, overly commercialized, and rife with drug cheats. Whatever. It’s an enormous spectacle, an opportunity to witness extraordinary athletes, and a chance to brush up on the rules of Greco-Roman wrestling. It’s also one of the few events that pulls together the entire world, and for no greater purpose than to play games. The 2020 version, which begins in July, is the first summer games in Japan since 1964, when Japan was emerging from the rubble of World War II.

The geopolitical landscape has changed, and as the Olympics have grown vastly more expensive, Japan emerged as one of the few countries with the wealth and will to hold them. Next year’s game features the return of baseball and softball (yay), the debut of skateboarding (ugh), and reemergence of stars like Simone Biles and Katie Ledeky from their four year hibernation out the limelight. I don’t know what else I’ll be doing this summer, but I do know what I will be watching. —Oliver Staley


Expo 2020 Dubai: Since attending the 2015 Expo in Milan, Expo 2020 Dubai has been on my calendar. For 173 days, over 190 nations will try to outdo each other in a grand showcase of soft power, design, and engineering. Spread across a 438-hectare (1,082 acres) space between the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the next world’s fair promises to be as bombastic and entertaining as earlier editions of the 168-year-old event.

The host city Dubai—known for its love of mega-projects—is feverishly building a “smart city” from the ground up. Attractions include a Bjarke Ingels-designed hyperloop, the world’s largest 360-degree projection screen, and ambitious structures using green technology.

Those who can’t make it to Expo 2020 can ogle daily attractions on Instagram. Follow #WorldExpo2020 and social media accounts of country pavilions. Apart from the architecture gawking, the fair also holds lessons about worker rights, ecology, and urbanism. —Anne Quito


House of Glass. After her grandmother’s death, Hadley Freeman, a journalist for the Guardian, found a shoebox in her cupboard. Inside were old photographs and a Pablo Picasso sketch—a most enthralling selection of clues. The result, 18 years in the making, is Freeman’s forthcoming memoir, House of Glass, which she describes as a tale of “family, art, fashion, war, betrayal, historical and modern antisemitism.”

The book traces Freeman’s family history, the difficult choices her grandmother and other ancestors were forced to make, and the extraordinary circumstances they found themselves in over the course of the 20th century.

Where one sibling would eventually rub shoulders with Christian Dior, Edith Piaf, and Picasso himself, another made a fortune as a microfilm pioneer. Yet another married an American, never returning to her native France. Freeman tells all their stories. Coming out in March, the book is already being heralded as “poignant” and “thrilling” in equal measures. I can’t wait to read it. —Natasha Frost

I’m going to start a movie nostalgia club. At our screenings, we will gather on my sofa and watch movies we grew up with—not so much inarguable classics like The Breakfast Club and When Harry Met Sally, but more forgotten personal favorites.

This came out of a conversation with my friend Emily about the 1987 Diane Keaton movie Baby Boom. We decided a screening was overdue. Everyone (okay, three people) who overheard us wanted in. Next up: Maid to Order (1987), starring Ally Sheedy as a maid in white ankle-boots with a chain-smoking fairy godmother played by Beverly D’Angelo. See also: Big Business (1988), in which Lily Tomlin and Bette Midlereach play a set of twins who were switched at birth. (They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore!)

I know I’m looking back instead of forward, but the thought of piling pals into my living room with popcorn and 30-year-old movies makes me feel happy and optimistic. Maybe by summertime we’ll be ready for the outdoor projector. — Jenni Avins

Have a happy New Year!

Isn’t this the best idea? I strongly dislike New Year’s resolutions anyway, and I REALLY dislike the idea of deprivation that is part of these resolutions – it’s all about what you’re not going to do/eat, etc…instead of the glorious things that you are planning to do with your life in the upcoming year. This email was a GREAT reminder of how to focus on the positive, and work on getting rid of the ‘elimination’ idea – let’s think about what we will have and do instead of what we won’t. I LOVE this!!!!!!! Stay tuned tomorrow for my list of things that I am going to LOVE doing in 2020!!!! 😊

Until then, friends!

xxx

Posted in Awesome Stuff

Play That Funky Music

For whatever reason (or about 253 reasons), I’ve been super-deep in my feelings this week. I’ve felt overly sensitive and on the verge of tears about a hundred times; I actually turned my phone off on Christmas Day rather than have one more text full of questions from friends that I didn’t want to answer. I don’t know if I’m overly tired, suffering from allergies (that has been a big part of it, I’m sure of it), or what is going on, but…this week has had me riding the emotion train – and I’m not loving it. At all. My arse has fallen into a tremendous funk, and I need to find a way out – but how?

According to this list, getting out of a funk is so easy you can accomplish it in 15 minutes! Crazy, eh???! I know! Here’s the list:

10 Ways to Get Out of a Funk in 15 Minutes

It’s all about mind over matter. Here’s how to take an off-day and turn it into a productive one.

By Paresh Shah

This story first appeared on The Muse, a web destination with exciting job opportunities and expert career advice.

We all have off days from time to time. It’s human nature. But barring the occasional disaster or tragedy, a bad day is really only bad if you decide to stay in that frame of mind. As Martha Washington put it, “The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions and not upon our circumstances.”

In reality, there are some simple actions that can put a positive spin on things and flip your switch from “ugh” to “awesome.” Here are a few things that can help you turn your day around.

1. Create Your Own Talisman

I have an electric guitar in my office. I’ll slap my headphones on and play my guitar to snap out of lethargy or bad moods–or to simply help my brain start solving problems. Find a physical object that you puts you in a happy, energized state. In A Few Good Men, Lt. Daniel Kaffee needed his baseball bat to think best. You likely have something similar, and it’s not only OK but essential to use props like these to get out of a funk. If you’re stumped, consider Play-Doh, a doodling pad, or a toy you loved as a child.

2. Make Connections

Instead of glancing over your News Feed, try making a connection with someone real. Even chatting with the barista at your local coffee shop can help put you in a good mood. (Here are a few conversation starters.) At my company, we make it a habit to touch base with one another before getting down to business. Sharing something that’s inspired us or that we’re grateful for during the day not only helps form human connections and build a positive atmosphere, but also makes our meetings shorter, more productive, and action-oriented.

3. Make Someone Else’s Day

Choose a person–whether you know him or not–and decide to make his day with a random act of kindness. Leave a note to brighten someone’s day, pay for someone’s coffee in line, or buy extra muffins and distribute them to your team members. Ask a co-worker if you can help her with something. Giving to others and appreciating what we’ve been given are two of the shortest paths to shaking yourself out of a bad mood. On that note:

4. Express Gratitude

Whether you do it in person, over the phone, via social media, or just in your own head, taking a moment to express gratitude leads to improved health, happiness, relationships, and income. A popular restaurant in Los Angeles, Café Gratitude, has its staff practice this every day, and it has one of the highest levels of customer and worker satisfaction in the business.

5. Daydream

Imagine what you might be doing if you were six, 10, or 15 years old. Draw it or write it down, then take a moment to find a photo online that captures its essence. By accessing part of yourself that’s younger, you tap into a time before your aspirations and dreams were reshaped by society. Better yet, spend time with a child. Just watching and spending time around a child opens you up to the freedom and carefree feeling of being young. 

6. Breathe

As one of my yoga teachers says, shallow breathing results in shallow experiences. Deep breathing, on the other hand, helps clear your mind, reduce stress, and reset your mood. An easy way to get started is by downloading The Mindfulness App, which Healthline called “straightforward and simple.” The quiet alerts, regular reminders, and customization options can make breathing such a routine part of your day that you may even find yourself needing to take mood-calibrating breaths less often.

7. Avoid the 4 Cs

There are four things you need to avoid to stay out a funk (not to mention office drama) in the first place: comparing, competing, criticizing, and complaining. If you catch yourself engaging in one of these unhealthy behaviors, redirect your attention to something happy, like a funny video, for an instant mood booster. (Just make sure the funny video doesn’t lead you to the latest dark headline or celebrity drama.)

8. Find a Quiet Space

Even if it means taking refuge in a bathroom stall, find a place where you can have a moment of quiet or move around and shake off the negative thoughts and feelings.

9. Listen to Music

Everyone has a few tunes that never fail to lighten their spirits. Put on some headphones, and crank it up. Better yet, play it out loud in your car, and sing along.

10. Take a Walk

Go for a walk, or try having a walking meeting. In addition to the health benefits, walking has shown to have amazing mood-boosting powers. Sometimes you just need a quick change of scenery to improve your state of mind.

There are a variety of other techniques that can help you shift your day from bad to better. Sometimes escaping a bad mood is all about remembering that, as author Regina Brett put it, “No one really has a bad life. Not even a bad day. Just bad moments.”

A bad moment is just a tiny fraction of your entire day, and a bad day is just one out of your entire life. The more good moments you create, the fewer bad days you’ll have, and the less glaring the bad ones will seem.

So the next time you feel like your day is going south, put these tips into practice, and let the good days commence.

There’s a few things here I can work with – taking walks usually helps improve the quality of my day, as does listening to music. I’m ALWAYS seeking quiet spaces to be (another anomaly with me – I find the world entirely too loud these days…I want more peace and quiet), so that one makes sense as well. I keep hearing about the magical restorative powers of deep breathing, but…I struggle to make that one work for me. I find myself getting light-headed sometimes (especially during cedar season, which has hit my part of Texas with a bloody vengeance)…maybe it’s just me. I think the big one for me is the 4 Cs…comparing, competing, criticizing, and complaining. I’ve actively worked on the complaining bit for years – and I’m still trying to cut that shit right out of my life….it’s hard, though. I’m trying. I don’t think I’m much of a criticizer (out loud), so that’s one thing. The big struggle for me is the comparing and competing – I ALWAYS feel like I’m in a competition with other people, and I don’t.know.why. I don’t know why I have to compare myself to others ALL THE DAMN TIME, and why I ALWAYS come up short. It’s frustrating. It’s no joke that comparison is the thief of joy – but how do you overcome that? If you have ideas, please send them my way – I need the help.

 

I hope that you’re managing your holiday time with as little anxiety and stress as possible. It’s almost time for the new year, and it’s a new decade to boot! Exciting!!! Bring on the ‘20s…time to roar!!! 😊

Xxx

 

Posted in Awesome Stuff

Take Me Away

This post is from January 2017, and it still rings true with me now, nearly three years later. Let’s give it a read:

Take Me Away

I saw this article on Lifehack, and thought that I would share it with you:

Removing These 8 Things From Life Can Make You More Successful
By Amy Johnson

Lots of people think that the best way to become successful is to pick up lots of new habits and skills. While this can help, sometimes the best thing you can do is give up the things that distract you from your goals.

Instead of adding more things to your life, try removing some negative things that hold you back from success. Some are very easy to give up, while others require a little more time and effort.

Here are 8 things that you should remove from your life to be more successful:

1. Remove Excuses
Successful people don’t try to blame their family, their friends, their boss or their co-workers for their life. Instead, they understand that they are fully responsible for their own life and situation. They see this as a good thing as it means that they hold the power to significantly improve their life. When you make up excuses you are lying to yourself, which will hold you back from achieving your goals.

2. Remove Perfectionism
Perfection is unattainable, so trying to achieve it is a waste of your time. Instead of worrying about mistakes that you have made or physical flaws that bother you, simply focus on trying to better yourself with small steps. No one is perfect, but anyone can make the decision to be a better person.

Playing Twister is an excellent way to be successful, don't you think?!

Playing Twister is an excellent way to be successful, don’t you think?!

3. Remove Fear
Lots of people make themselves smaller without realizing; they keep quiet during discussions when they want to say something; they avoid taking risks; and they always think about the worst-case scenario. This fearful attitude will stop you from achieving your full potential, so remove it from your life and be brave instead; speak up, voice your thoughts and actively chase your dreams and goals.

4. Remove The Need To Control Everything
You can’t control everything, and trying to do so is a futile task. It won’t help you to become more successful, but it will make you feel stressed, upset and frustrated. Instead of trying to control everything around you, make an effort to care less about the things you can’t control and focus on the things that you can.

5. Remove A Fixed Mindset
Lots of people have a fixed mindset and they make no effort to learn more or change their perception. This makes it hard for them to become more successful as their mindset is stuck in the past. Try to embrace knowledge and learning, and remember that you can always become wiser.

6. Remove The Desire For Overnight Success
Some people believe that the majority of successful people became successful overnight, or that they became successful by chance. While luck can certainly play its part, you can’t rely on luck to become successful. In reality success takes time and dedication, so you should plan for the future as well as the day ahead of you.

I drank this on Christmas Day. Straight out of the bottle, no glass needed. I was VERY successful!

I drank this on Christmas Day. Straight out of the bottle, no glass needed. Never been more successful in my life!

7. Remove Toxic People
If the people around you are negative and pessimistic, over time you will start to become negative and pessimistic too. Remove the toxic people from your life and replace them with optimistic, supportive people who genuinely care about you and your dreams. You will find that you are more motivated to work on your goals, and you will be happier and less stressed.

8. Remove The Need To Say Yes (When Really You Want To Say No)
Some people struggle to say no to the people around them, even if they want to say no. This normally means that they end up wasting time doing things that they don’t want to do, and other people might start to take advantage of them. Be brave and say no when you want to; only you can make your dreams a priority, and it is difficult to do that if you are too busy helping other people with their dreams.

This list is golden, don’t you think? Instead of telling you all the things that you need to learn to do and add to your already-overflowing life, this one suggests removing the things that don’t feel good. I LOVE this. I am crazy about the idea of not doing the things that don’t make you happy – for example, I don’t hang out with people who make me feel shitty anymore. I’ve known people who used to like spending time with me because they would put me down, and in the process build themselves up – which is no way to treat a friend, if you ask me. I’m done with it. I didn’t have a dramatic scene where I spelled out just how bloody much they sucked – instead, I always found reasons to say no to making plans with them…and eventually they took the hint. Done with that crap.

I’ve written before of my refusal to keep saying ‘yes’ to every single damn thing that comes my way – if I don’t want to do something (and I don’t have to for work/life), I don’t. Again, no big dramatic moments ever go down…I just say no. It’s liberating! I’m master of my own domaine, and I get to decide how I spend my time and how I am going to feel about it. Woohoo!! 🙂 Just say no – you should try it! 🙂

I’ve never had the perfectionist gene, and I’m pretty good at taking responsibility for my shit and not offering up lame excuses. I am addressing the fear issue at the moment, as this is a biggie for me. I avoid doing all sorts of things that would probably revolutionize my life and how I live it  – all because I am afraid…which is silly. I have gone back to Gabrielle Bernstein’s book “May Cause Miracles” and I am working my way through it, day by day – I’m even doing the exercises and everything! Yaa me! This week, the focus was on being the witness of my thoughts, actions, and energy – and choosing love over fear. I love that. When things get shady and the fight or flight instinct kicks in – take a step back, and choose love. I will keep you posted on how this works out – I am a girl who could realllllllly use a miracle!

Have a good day, mes amis!!! 🙂

xxx

This stuff will definitely make your life better!

This stuff will definitely make your life better!