What is Saving My Life Right Now

How was your Monday? I felt like I didn’t move very quickly from one task to another today. My theory is that my body gets to the point where it just has enough and purposely slows down. The weekend was full with late work hours and going to see my daughter in The Addams Family Musical at her high school on Friday and Sunday.

On Sunday evening after the show, Alan and I made a Vegan Shepherd’s Pie and Gluten Free, Dairy Free Irish Soda Bread while listening to Celtic music in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day. It felt good to return to a tradition I enjoyed with my children when they were younger and had let go of in the past few years. I am looking forward to the rest of this week and to another celebration– the first day of Spring!!!

So here is where I follow several bloggers who have taken a cue from author Barbara Brown Taylor to answer the question: “What is saving your life right now?” Here is my list of current or ongoing lifesavers.

My Bullet Journal Notebook: I’m not going to stop singing the Bullet Journal’s praises, so if you’ve never heard of it, here’s an in-depth delve from Lazy Genius into the Bullet Journal world. (It really is the ultimate guide and will answer lots of your questions.)


The Bullet Journal is this ridiculously simple analog method of keeping your life together in one place. It works for everyone, is completely customizable, and once you start using it, you will be lost without it. This year, I got Alan on the Bullet Journal train and he’s enjoying using it to keep his life organized. This is my fourth year and I am continually finding new ways to entrust my life to its pages. The good news is, you can start it anytime. Check out the Bullet Journal website for short videos showing what it is and how to use it. Once you start, you won’t look back.

My diffuser: I haven’t been sick once all winter and I credit my diffuser, as well as my diet full of whole and green foods and low in sugar! I have several essential oil blends I’ve made and tested to keep me healthy. I’ll be sharing a few blends this week on Wednesday’s post.

My Blackwing Palomino 602 Pencils: as a left-handed writer, my hand tends to cramp up and get tired fairly quickly. There is a fluid elegance and ease to these pencils that have earned them high praise from many famous creatives.

Glo, formerly YogaGlo, is the primary way I practice yoga. In early December, I signed up for the free trial and never looked back. From 5 minute meditations, to 90 minute yoga classes, from super chill restorative Yin and gently Hatha to a sweaty Vinyasa Flow, there are choices for everyone.

You can search by time length, by instructor, by style, by body part you wish to focus on, by time of day, etc. As I work toward my goal of yoga and meditation everyday, Glo provides me with a feast of opportunities to practice.

Barre3 is the other exercise life-saver that I am in love with. It is a combination of ballet, Pilates, cardio, and yoga and is always low-impact. You will sweat, but you will never jump. Even their Barre3 Burpees are slow and much attention is paid to proper alignment, so my wrists and knees have never been sore afterwards. My butt and legs have, though!

It is a workout unlike any other I’ve experienced and the Barre3 message is body-positive and affirming. They’re never pushing you through a workout so you can look great in a bikini. Their language is aimed at building strength, confidence, and feeling good in your own body. They encourage people to pay attention to how they’re feeling (example: “If there is any tension in your neck, lower your arms, etc.”) and to modify each move to make it their own. Here is $10 off if you decide to join!

I’d love to hear what is saving your life right now! Please share in the comments below. Also, I will be giving away my copy of The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll and a couple other goodies on Instagram this week. So head over to my Instagram tomorrow Tuesday March 19 to enter. (US only)

The Heart’s Necessities (Book Review)

I recently finished reading The Heart’s Necessities: Life in Poetry by Jane Tyson Clement and Becca Stevens. It shares the story of Jane Tyson Clement’s life, which was woven throughout with poetry.

She began writing poems as a teenager, and that is the way she seemed to best express herself. As a young woman, she married, had children, and, for a season, moved from the States to a Bruderhof community in South America. Jane was a lively teacher and a loving wife and mother, who always had poems singing through her head and heart. Her poetry was wound up in Nature and in the intricacies of her daily life.

Becca Stevens is a songwriter who has been influenced by Jane’s poems and wanted to share these quiet and beautiful gems with the world. She wrote the book with a chapter on Jane’s life, interspersed with snippets of poetry, lovely photos of nature, several poems at the end of each chapter, followed by Becca’s reflections on Jane’s life and poetry.

Like many other offerings from Plough Publishing, this book would make a wonderful gift for a poetry lover or songwriter, or for anyone longing for a glimpse at how the ordinary life is transformed through poetry. It will be released on April 22 and you can preorder it here.

Day 19: Flow and NaNoWriMo

 

1CBABC93-BDCF-4020-B2F9-85382DB7E6CEAccording to Wikipedia, “In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.” ( Read more at wikipedia about Flow. )

And that’s what I got into today. Four or five solid, uninterrupted hours of totally absorbing, fulfilling and satisfying work throughout the afternoon gave me such a sense of accomplishment. Mostly because I haven’t had this lately and have felt frustrated about it, it felt particularly great. I sewed continuously and everything worked. or once, no stitches to pick out, no epic fails. I just made lots of cute things and cut out shapes for more.

Although I haven’t read his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World yet, I’ve heard Cal Newport interviewed on Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative Podcast and know I struggle with focus and steering clear of distractions. This book is on my Kindle and I need to read it ASAP.

Here is a blog post by Srini Rao about Flow and Deep Work and ways he has oriented his own life toward this way of working.

Speaking of Flow and Deep Work, I am gearing up for NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. I need to announce my novel on their site soon and am petrified. Has anyone ever participated in this or attempted it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on flow and deep work experiences and anything you know about NaNoWriMo.

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Day 18: Things I Love

Here is a list of things that either foster a creative environment, help me do my work or are a great source of recreation when I step away from making.

  1. Fairy Lights. I have them in the bedroom, library, kitchen, side room I just cleaned out and solar powered ones in the gazebo. They give a magical glow to any room.

2. Canasta Card Game. I learned how to play in early September when Alan’s parents came to visit. The past few weeks we’ve been teaching my son to play and he’s caught on so fast he’s beating me already!

3. My sewing machine. This one was a piece of cake to thread up and start using right out of the box.

4. OnBeing.org has conversations the like of which you won’t hear anywhere else. As I was sewing this afternoon, I listened to part of Krista’s interview with Ruby Sales. Deeply spiritual, intellectual without ever being stuffy, and so human you will find commonality with just about every person she converses with. This is a website and podcast for everyone, but I like to listen while I’m working.

5. Jen Hatmaker’s podcast For the Love was shared with me recently by my friend who told me about the episode with Dr. Brené Brown. I think Jen is fantastic and she earned even more respect for this episode. Go to jenhatmaker.com to find all things Jen and to subscribe to her podcast.

6. Eau Thermale Avène Thermal Spring Water is what I use on my sensitive face instead of toner. It’s refreshing and gentle and the large spray bottle lasts me nearly a year.

7. Do you ever get restless legs or just have trouble settling down at night? Magnesium lotion might work for you like it does for me. It calms me down and takes away that jumpy crawly feeling in my legs. Check it out!

8. If you bullet journal, this is the journal I recommend. It’s a part of my everyday life.

9. My diffuser. When I’ve had trouble with anxiety the past year and a half, the diffuser helped. Just add some distilled water and few drops of essential oils or a blend. It changes the atmosphere and can help relieve tension. I put it on for a pleasant vibe while I work.

10. My hammock swing. I have one in the corner of the library. I just climb in and chill whenever I want to. Sometimes I practice ukulele or write in it. Yesterday I climbed in, stretched out and took a nap while Judah was practicing his bass.

Day 13: Behind the Scenes

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It’s nearly noon and I’m still in my pajamas. The gym is calling me and I hope I’ll be able to go, or at least do some yoga and Pilates here at home. This morning has been full of preparation and planning. I feel like I’ve been unproductive because I have so much on my To-Do List, but all I’ve done has been necessary.

At breakfast, I sat at the kitchen table and caught up in my Bullet Journal. Honestly, after using it the past year and a half, I feel quite lost when a few days have gone by without me opening it up. It’s a great way for me to connect with all the pieces of my life, to review what I’ve set out to accomplish, my ideas, little incidentals from my days and where I’ve wandered and what I’ve forgotten. I felt very centered when I went through the past few weeks, made a list of upcoming tasks I need to complete and crossed off what I have completed already. That boosted my outlook. If you’d like to learn more about Bullet Journaling, here is a link to The Lazy Genius Collective’s in-depth blog post about it.

I went on to my Morning Pages and let my thoughts scrawl through my three pages.

An then it was time to do social media posts for Alan and me because we have a gig tonight at Ithaca Bakery between 6-8pm. Plus, I updated The Inner Crazy website with some of our upcoming shows and I printed out the song list for tonight.

Does all of this make a difference? I believe so. If I don’t stay current, I’ll lose what ground we’ve gained. I have a goal of two gigs a week eventually. To get there will take many hours of posting, updating, photos, songwriting, recording, and doing it over and over again. I willingly accept the challenge and will work toward my goal.

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What behind the scenes preparation have you worked at this week?

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Day 12: New Book, Old Movie

On Tuesday, while eating lunch with my friend, I brought up the subject of transition. We discussed the discomfort, the unknowing, the misgivings and the reinterpretation and reinvention our own identities as we launch into the unfamiliar.

We all know we can’t progress or grow without transition. It’s necessary for life. But some days, the determination to take on the challenges, the exhilaration of the new, the anticipation of our destination fade into oblivion and we feel exposed, afraid, alone and are certain we’ve made a terrible mistake. Couldn’t we return to our old shell, our old nest, even if it was a bit too small?

That was me today. All the gremlins came back with a vengeance. All the things I need to learn and accomplish had me paralyzed. I couldn’t think clearly and decide on which tasks to tackle. After our music practice, I snuck up to bed for a nap, feeling guilty that I hadn’t really done much. Exhaustion weighed me down, so I slept for a half hour.

When I woke, I cracked open Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir and read “Read this Introduction”. I’m so glad I listened and read it. She explains that memoir isn’t linear, isn’t clean-cut and doesn’t gloss over the minutiae of life. Instead, it lingers on the tiny details beneath the surface.

And she shared some words which lifted me out of my overwhelm and took me downstairs to make brownies for the kids and coconut lime rice because I’d craved it all week.

“Writing is the act of reaching across the abyss of isolation to share and reflect. It’s not a diet to become skinny, but a relaxation into the fat of our lives. Often without realizing it, we are on a quest, a search for meaning. What does our time on this earth add up to?” (p.xxi)

Alan seemed to need a bit of cheering up today too, so we made Margaritas to go with the blackened portobellos, grilled chicken (for him and the boys), salad, delicata squash and the rice. After our candlelit dinner of yumminess, we cleaned up and watched The Corpse Bride which I had never watched. What an interesting, sensitive, dark and sweet tale. When the movie finished, we watched all the extra features about the making of the film. We were floored as we took in the amount of work and attention to detail, patience and level of excellence that was necessary for the film. Our spirits were lifted and I, for one, felt like my personal challenges were actually not as daunting as I imagined earlier in the day.

What is inspiring you this week?

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Day 11: Daily Rituals and Songwriting Goals

I’ve read Daily Rituals: How Artists Work , or at least a good chunk of it. I was fascinated to find out how famous creative people ordered their lives. They seemed more human, more accessible and less god-like.

I am currently re-ordering my life, finding my balance and figuring out how to be a thriving creative. My current set of habits or rituals upon rising are: coffee, gym and writing, crafting or practicing music throughout the day.  This is all in-between chores and errands and caring for my kids.

Because I’m taking part in this month-long Write 31 Days project, I am blogging at night. This feels last minute. I’d like to change that and begin blogging mid-morning. And as far as music goes, when Alan and I have a gig, we always practice at least once the week of. So we need to this week (AKA tomorrow).

In addition to practicing our covers, I know we need to write music. It’s been looming on the horizon for a while, but the reality has landed. We need to do it NOW. There are several venues we would like to play in that will only allow originals performed. So I’m wondering if we can come up with 28 songs for a two-hour show. We currently have two written.

If we aim for January, that’s approximately nine songs a month, or about two per week. No pressure! No problem! Needless to say, I am brainstorming and writing down phrases, titles and recording snippets of melody. It’s time to make this happen.

What are your daily rituals and goals?

Day 10: Good Friends and Sushi Dates

9F3F83E8-76E3-4054-A04B-5ADF8994DD4FI needed today to be the Tuesday it turned out to be. The pressure to make, create, be brilliant, to learn new skills was weighing on me.

The “Not Enough” and “Too” gremlins were barking loud, “Not enough–not enough creativity, not enough skill, not enough ability, not enough time, etc.” “Too–Too fat, too dumb, too stupid, too slow, too untalented, too late, too old, etc. ” After working out and cleaning the house this morning, I just wanted to go back underneath the covers and hide from them.

But my friend was coming over for lunch, so I chopped fennel, carrots and leeks and sautéed them in olive oil, added white wine, vegetable broth, diced tomatoes, white beans, salt, pepper and oregano and brought it to a simmer in my Le Creuset French Oven.

(I adore that piece of cookware. It’s purple, it cooks like a dream, cleans up easily and I’ve wanted one for twenty years. Actually, I adore French cookware and bakeware in general.)

We had roasted beets and butternut squash earlier to add to the salad. So there was the roasted vegetables and homemade vinaigrette. And of course the gluten free vegan carrot cake I made yesterday for dessert.

I’m so glad my friend came. My spirit was lifted, I calmed down, the gremlins’ barking faded away and we had a lovely afternoon catching up. We ate lunch unhurriedly, then took our cake and coffee to the gazebo.

What a relaxing time with the view of lake and now-harvested cornfields surrounding us. We drank in the natural beauty and nourished our souls with real conversation.

When she left, I took a nap and then tried to drum up enthusiasm and an idea for dinner. As I sat in the darkening bedroom practicing my ukulele, Alan came in and asked if I’d like to go to Capital Corner, the sushi restaurant we love in Ithaca. YES! Of course, I did.

So off to Ithaca we went and had a quiet and delicious sushi dinner. Miso soup for me first, of course. It’s so simple yet always richly comforting. If you live around here, you ought to try Capital Corner if you haven’t. They never disappoint.

When we finished, Alan said, “I want Starbucks.” I did too. Since we had to go up to the mall, we stopped at the Starbucks in Target where he got a Pumpkin Spice Latte and I got a Coffee Frappuccino with almond milk, no whipped cream or dairy and an extra shot of espresso.

We searched for a Halloween store, but the mall had none, so we went to Party City. That store had more Halloween items than last year. We tried on hats and masks and noted prices on pieces we need for our costumes. I got a couple of things for my costume. Then we headed to Wegmans and came home.

Oh, and the gremlins are gone. At least for today.

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Day 7: Making Magic Means Work

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If you play an instrument or sing, for yourself or for others, you know there is no way around practice. At least in order to be even a little bit good. And getting good means more practice.

Because we are playing at Bandwagon Brewery tomorrow from 2-5, this past week we needed to put in at least three hours of practicing together, plus whatever we had to do on our own. Like most people who work at home, we had various family and house responsibilities to take care of that continually cut into our practice time.

We put in less than an hour on Thursday because Alan’s music stand was missing and his capo broke. Yesterday I didn’t feel well, so we practiced only an hour. That left today.

And today was full of erranding in Ithaca. We were both tired and hungry and dinner still had to be made. So we started dinner and practiced. We stopped and finished evening meal prep and ate. Then, we slogged through our last hour of practice.

The good thing is, at the end, we were both smiling and laughing. It feels rewarding to complete the preparation, to know that tomorrow we will be ready.

Here is a short blog post from Seth Godin on Defining Authenticity that kept me motivated to do the work this week. I hope it encourages you to consistently do the work and share your creativity with the world. Happy Saturday!

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The Practice of Creative Living (31 Days)