What Is Saving My Life Right Now (October edition)

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How has this October been treating you? Have you stayed well, enjoyed the colors of the leaves turning and adjusted to the temperature dropping? Do you tend to get blue this time of year or do you come into your own, reading, working on projects, and loving to snuggle under cozy blankets, making plenty of hot tea or coffee and nourishing soups, and focusing inward a bit more?

I am probably a mix of both of these–I really enjoy cooler weather and being a bookworm at heart, it’s easy to settle into an indoor kind of life. At the same time, the transition of losing a little more sunlight each day challenges me to be proactive about staying positive and looking for natural solutions to heightened anxiety and bouts of insomnia.

The title of this post comes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s book Leaving Church. I’m following in the steps of other bloggers who like to pause during each month and ask themselves the question, “What is saving my life right now?”

      1. My Fab Four Smoothie. This smoothie comes from nutritionist Kelly Leveque’s book Body Love: Live in Balance, Weigh What You Want, and Free Yourself from Food Drama Forever. (Thanks to my friend Ellie for the recommendation!) Kelly advises her readers and clients to start the day with a smoothie that contains the Fab Four: protein, fat, fiber, and greens. The reason for this is so that your blood sugar won’t spike, your energy levels won’t crash, and you won’t find yourself so hungry/hangry again so soon after a meal. Since I’ve been a smoothie-for-breakfast fan for years, just some small adjustments to my recipe, such as just half a banana rather than a  whole, a handful of spinach, and a tablespoon of coconut oil or almond butter are making a difference in my appetite. I definitely stay full longer and don’t want to reach for a carby snack by mid-afternoon.
      2. Ashwagandha Root . Kelly recommended a few supplements in her book and this was one. Ashwagandha Root, or Indian Ginseng, is an adaptogen. What’s an adaptogen, you ask? Oxford Dictionaries defines an adaptogen as: “a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes.” Since I’ve been struggling to keep anxiety from getting the better of me, when I heard about Ashagandha, I decided to get the powder form and add it to my smoothie. I’ve only been using it for a few weeks, so I need to keep using it before I can report more accurately on its effects, but it seems to help calm me down. (Obviously, check with your doctor before including this in your supplement regimen.)
      3. Listening to positive, you-can-do-this podcasts. I’ve been immersing myself in the wisdom of women entrepreneurs this month. Particularly, I am tuning into the words of Jenna Kutcher and Rachel Hollis (again, thanks to my friend, Ellie). Feelings are so fickle! Somedays I wake up feeling like I am enough and other days I need to hear someone else’s story, to hear how they built their business, what obstacles they faced, the hard work they put in to become successful, and their encouraging words to those of us who are still on the journey. Jenna’s podcast is called The Goal Digger Podcast and Rachel Hollis calls hers Rise. Check them both out! I’m pretty sure your spirit will be lifted from the abundance of positive content that they provide. IMG_1400
      4. Pachinko . I am about halfway through and I love it! It is beautifully written and the characters are so engaging, the plot so captivating, that I know I’ll be sad when I reach the end. Honestly, I feel like I’ve read a lot of unspectacular fiction this year, but this is a unique and delightful book that stands out all on its own.
      5. Friends. I’m an introvert and often think I can go for weeks at a time without contact from anyone other than my family and partner. My independent nature is slowly beginning to believe that I actually need people, that I need other women to connect with, to share life with, to give to them and to receive the gifts of listening and conversation, the benefits of their life stories and experiences, the wisdom, healing, and nurturing that comes from healthy relationships. I’m so thankful for the friends I’ve known for years, as well as the ones I’ve met more recently.
      6. Digestive Enzymes. Yeah, what a change of topic! Like Julia Michaels, I’ve got issues, or at least my digestive tract does. I’m constantly working on fine-tuning my diet so that I can eat a meal without pain. This month I bought Garden of Life – Omega Zyme Ultra Digestive Enzyme Blend, and, for now, at least, they are really doing the job. As long as I remember to take the enzymes with my meal, I am distress-free–no cramping, no pain, no bloating, etc! This is really good news! Here’s to hoping they keep on being effective.
      7. Yoga. One of my goals this year was to move closer toward a daily yoga practice. Whether it’s a 10 minute power yoga video, a 20 minute Hiit video with Sadie Nardini, a 30 minute before-bedtime relaxing sequence, or (my favorite) a 75 minute Hot Power Yoga class in Ithaca, it all helps to reduce my overall tension and anxiety levels and provide a sense of calm, strengthen my core and entire body, and increase flexibility. I’ve managed to fit in yoga more this month than any other this year, and it feels so good.

So what’s saving your life this October?

 

* This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through one of the links here, it benefits me in a very small way at no extra cost to you!

How to Follow Through and Finish (What I’m Learning)

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Do you have one of those creative brains that goes at the speed of light? Are you constantly coming up with new ideas for yourself and everyone around you? A business idea, an exercise plan, a new hobby to start, an online course to take, a skill to learn, a project to tackle, another book to read, and on and on.

The books on my nightstand are a good example. I have at least a dozen started, plus a few on my Kindle. And I don’t just have books on my nightstand, they’re inside my nightstand and on top of my dresser in stacks. I’m never sure which is the right one to start or if I’ll wish I had that certain one right at my fingertips. Heaven forbid I have to actually go downstairs to the library to search for a book I’m thinking about; better to have all the books in my room and be able to start it the minute I think about it.

Because of my love of starting things, I have about three different courses started on Lynda.com (to be fair to myself I have finished about five this year) and a watercolor course from an Australian artist that I started in January and haven’t returned to since February.

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I am so close to finishing up my aromatherapy certification, but have a few loose ends to tie up and a bit more to study for the exam. Now would be a good time to sign up for a free four-day Aromatherapy summit next week, right? Um, no, but I did anyway.

Yeah, I love starting things, brainstorming new ideas, trying something new. I love dreaming about the possibility of whatever it is and the excitement that comes with starting. But I don’t admire other people who don’t follow through and I don’t admire myself for dragging my heels about finishing or dropping the ball on a project altogether.

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Follow through, follow through. These two words have been following me around for over month now, like a toddler at my heels, whining for attention. I took a good look at my life and wrote down all the places I need to finish something. Things I need to and actually want to finish! And I asked myself what was my problem? Why don’t I finish things?

Since I’d heard about John Acuff’s book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, I decided to purchase the Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done and find out what he had to say on the topic. I wanted to learn about the causes and the solutions to this huge and common problem.

Here’s what he had to say: perfection causes most of us to quit before we start. If we can’t do it perfectly, we won’t even try. Sounds dumb, right? But it’s true! Like, if I can’t blog every single day of the week, with beautiful pictures and amazing content, I should just give up. But you know that sets us up for failure. Acuff recommends cutting your goal in half. This way the feeling of success of meeting a goal will spur you on to something else.

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Also, we get it into our heads that we have to do all the things. The truth is, if we are going to really focus on finishing one thing, something else might have to take a backseat for a while. Maybe I have to not vacuum as often, or get together with friends less often or miss watching the latest Netflix series if I want to finish up my aromatherapy certification soon.

He also talks about how the lie of having to do everything ourselves instead of asking for help delays the finish. Perhaps I would get the labels printed sooner for the new natural body care products I’m selling if I would accept Alan’s help rather than learning Photoshop now and doing it myself.

Learning what is holding me back and figuring out how to move forward is what I need to follow through and finish. The message and tips within this book were super helpful: I am already making progress on the stuff I was procrastinating over. In the past week, I was able to cross off three items off my Bullet Journal To-Do list. Finish is a short, funny, and super helpful read, so if you’re like me and have a tough time finishing, go get this book!

* This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through one of the links here, it benefits me in a very small way at no extra cost to you!

What I’m Reading Lately

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Hello from the Finger Lakes! This cool and sunny sweater weather we’re enjoying these past few days is my favorite. The sun going down earlier means more time for books, which I always welcome! Right now, I have a great stack of books that I’m either reading through or about to start and I can’t wait to share them with you.

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Tom Asacker was interviewed in this episode of Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative Podcast last year when he talked about the stories we tell ourselves, how they can limit us, and what we can do about it. His book is I am Keats: Escape Your Mind and Free Your Self*. You know that voice in your head that says things like, “Who do you think you are to …” you fill in the blank. Well, that’s you telling yourself a story, a limiting story. Tom Asacker addresses this voice in your head.

Speaking of that voice in your head, in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life Anne Lamott talks about that voice, the things that distract and how to focus on your writing, in addition to many hilarious, poignant, and very real stories from her own life with words. If you write at all, it’s good to read books that describe other writers’ experiences, paths that led to writing, and how they deal with distraction, loneliness, failure, and success. I picked up a copy at my local used bookstore and am nearly finished reading it. I recommend this if you take an interest in writing!

Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko  has been on my TBR list for such a long time! I finally placed a hold at the library and am looking forward to diving in. Isn’t that a gorgeous cover!?

I included poetry because I always have at least one collection going. David Whyte’s The Bell and the Blackbird was published earlier this year and I am slowly working my way through it. His way with words brings me to tears, in a good way. He writes with such depth and tenderness, clarity and boldness, delving into the difficult, the painful, as well as the joyful seasons of life. My particular favorites so far have been his poems to the late Irish poet John O’ Donahue as well as his poem to beloved poet Mary Oliver. If you haven’t read David Whyte’s poetry or essays yet, what are you waiting for?

The Art of the Wasted Day by Patricia Hampl was a random book purchase, simply because I was intrigued by the title. My life has been anything but leisurely, especially since I’ve started a business, but I still want to know how to waste a day right when I get a spare one!

Parker Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life has also been on my TBR for several years. After going through so many transitions and finding my way forward, I need to hear the wisdom of someone older and wiser that myself. Maybe the truths within the pages will assist me as I seek to connect the pieces and make sense of the journey. Look for more about this when I finish reading it.

Lastly, The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time is a book I placed on hold at the library after a recent bout with depression and extreme anxiety. This book sounded, well, up! And hopeful and like maybe there are actions that I can take, habits that I can form, ideas I haven’t thought of, that will help me reduce these symptoms and live with more positivity and calm. I’m about a third of the way through already; the writing is clear, the material easy-to-understand, and best of all, there are practical helps I can implement. I’m looking forward to reading the rest!

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Alright, that’s it for now! What have you been reading lately? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

* This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through one of the links here, it benefits me in a very small way at no extra cost to you!

Links I Love

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Here is where I will share a few links of podcast episodes, blog posts, websites, TED talks, new books, etc. that I favorite each week. Refresh your imagination and fill up your inspiration tank.

What can I say about these past two weeks except “I NEED A VACATION!!!” OK, deep breath and moving on…Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas! I plan to enjoy the day out away from kids and chores, and not being a taxi service. Alan and I are going to take a picnic lunch (he’s making me sushi!) with us and stop at a few wineries for tastings and to enjoy the views of whatever lakes we end up at.

So, what have I found interesting and inspiring this week? Several great podcast episodes, plus one new-to-me podcast.

First, here is a podcast that I love because it gives me ideas and inspiration for my self-care and home decor Etsy shop and local business, Delicata House. Etsy Success Podcast features a different successful Etsy shop owner each episode who presents solutions and ideas and shares her or his own story.

One of my favorite episodes from a few months back featured the owner of Betsy Farmer Designs, a jewelry shop, sharing her tips on excellent customer service. Check it out on SoundCloud or iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Second, Anne Bogel had a super fun episode of What Should I Read Next where she interviewed a young woman from New Zealand who now lives in Bath in the UK. Since I want to visit both New Zealand and the UK, I was thoroughly absorbed in their conversation. And the books they discussed had me breaking my “read ten, buy one” rule and adding to my TBR list.

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Third, also through Anne Bogel’s podcast, I was introduced to another podcast which I am thrilled to have connected to. It’s called Reading Women and the two young women who host it are committed to interviewing authors who are women and discussing books written by women. One of the latest episodes is an interview with Chibundu Onuzo, author of Welcome to Lagos: A Novel. This was a fascinating, intelligent, and upbeat conversation that left me wondering why I haven’t already read this novel and the others she’s written. (Sad fact: I hadn’t heard of her until now. Happy fact: the whole reason this podcast exists.) I’m now in the middle of the episode with Maggie O’ Farrell, author of I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death and This Must Be the Place: A novel which I’m loving as well.

And, finally, since my last post focused on inspiration, it’s a subject that is staying with me this week, so here is a post on living inspired on Medium. Look for the great Jack London quote about not waiting to be inspired.

OK, cheers to the weekend and to all the mothers in our world!

 

Bookaholic Problems (What I’m Reading Now)

Two days ago, as I was salivating over the prospect of purchasing another few books, I stopped my searching and took a breath, grabbed myself by the shoulders–metaphorically speaking–and gave myself a shake.

“You have a lot of books on your library shelves and on your nightstand that have yet to be read. You don’t need one more book, nor do you deserve one until you’ve read at least ten.”

Ugh, I pouted. I didn’t want to hear it. But it was true; I did have plenty of reading material on hand to keep me busy for quite a while.

Soooo, I decided to go on a book buying diet of sorts. I will allow myself one book purchase for every ten books I read. It will make me read more because I can never stop wondering what that book will be like.

Here is the list of books I’m either reading or will be starting very soon…

On Writing by Stephen King. Ok, I am not really a King fan. Sorry to disappoint all of you who are. He has the ability to tell great stories, but after reading 11/22/63 and being downright furious with the ending, not to mention the excess of words (it went on forever), I probably won’t be reading his fiction any time soon. But several people recommended On Writing, and it’s not an overlong book, so I’m reading it.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I haven’t read this, but Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs Darcy has recommended it and it’s rare that I don’t value her opinion. It sounds like a bit of sci-fi (post-apocalyptic) with Shakespeare thrown in.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott is another book about writing that I’ve been wanting to read for a while. I picked up a copy last summer at a local used bookstore and it’s been sitting inside my nightstand cubby just waiting to be read. Yesterday, I read the introduction, which made me laugh more than once and be completely intrigued about Anne’s life, this book, and other books she’s written. How have I not read her before this?

Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad is a collection of poetry from the Iranian poet I read about in Song of a Captive Bird: A Novel, which I reviewed here. Her story so interested me that I wanted to understand her a little more through her actual writings.

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon will be a short, motivating kick in the pants, if it’s anything like his book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. I’m looking forward to this one.

Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010 by Elizabeth Alexander was a Christmas present I received a couple of years ago. If I remember her story correctly, she became a poet as a means to work through her grief after her husband’s disappearance and presumed death while out sailing.

Autumn: A Novel (Seasonal Quartet) by Ali Smith is another book I’ve heard Anne Bogel talk about on her podcast What Should I Read Next (highly reccomended). I have the Audible version, so I’ll be listening while sewing or painting, driving, or making dinner.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf is a classic I might’ve read as a teen, but I honestly can’t remember. I purchased the Audible version with Juliet Stevenson narrating.

The House of the Spirits: A Novel by Isabelle Allende was another book I picked up last year at a local used bookstore. I heard her interviewed on Just the Right Book with Roxanne Coady (another highly recommended podcast) and fell in love with her as she shared about her life and writing.

The Mussorgsky Riddle by Daron Kennedy is a book that Alan purchased for me last year when he was at a book convention. It’s different from the categories I usually reach for, which is a good thing. Listening to Pictures at an Exhibition is very helpful to understand some of the references. Anyway, I’m about halfway through and it’s getting to the point where I want to know what happens next. There’s a kid with autism, a psychic who can enter his imaginary world, a missing, possibly murdered teen girl, a witch and other fantasy characters.

Hey, I would love to hear about what you’ve been reading lately. Please share in the comments. Thanks!

   

Links I Love

Here is where I will share a few links of podcast episodes, blog posts, websites, TED talks, new books, etc. that I favorite each week. Refresh your imagination and fill up your inspiration tank. Happy weekend!

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Srini Rao’s The Unmistakable Creative Podcast is definitely on the top of my new favorites. (It’s not a new podcast, but one I just started listening to.) I’ve been inspired to think differently and encouraged on my nontraditional path of living creatively.

The first one I listened to is with Michael Ellsberg, author of The Education of Millionaires: Everything You Won’t Learn in College About How to Be Successful and The Last Safe Investment: Spending Now to Increase Your True Wealth Forever, both which I ordered second-hand copies of as soon as I finished listening. Spending Now to Increase Your True Wealth Forever isn’t really about spending, but it is about investing, about taking a risk and being willing to live differently in order to have a meaningful life. I sent this one to my son, an Uber-creative person in the hope that he listens too.

The second one is with Kate Swoboda: The Courage Habit. She is the author of a book by that title as well as a life coach who has a training program for other life coaches. In this podcast, Kate talks with Srini about facing our fears and acknowledging they exist, but not letting them run our lives. You need to hear this! I can’t wait to read her book.

In honor of National Poetry Day, here are two blogs that are pure poetry:

Caliath.com is poetry blog from a fellow WordPresser. I’m so glad I found it! This poem is a lovely pick.

David Whyte just released a new collection of poetry: The Bell and the BlackbirdI can’t wait until my copy arrives! Also, view David’s TED talk here.

And lastly, two posts on the importance of poetry: Why Poetry is Necessary by Elizabeth Alexander and How Poetry Can Change Lives by John Burnside.

 

Mystery and Poetry, Two Constant Companions

Since my seventh birthday, I have pretty much been addicted to mysteries. My mom’s friends, Pat and Judy, gave me a couple of Nancy Drew mysteries that year and my mind was opened to the scary, thrilling, who-done-it genre and I’ve never looked back. Sure, I’ve read some disappointing ones full of boring characters or convoluted plots that made me yawn, but, overall, I’ve found mysteries to be soothing and reassuring that no matter what is wrong in the world, by the end of the book, the odd little detective will have solved it and I can go to sleep confident that right triumphs.

I received Louise Penny’s latest book, Glass Houses, as a birthday gift this past year and I just finished it on Sunday. Her series is a little bit cozy, but only on the edges. It has all the depth of a novel, because she goes deep with her characters and most of them carry on from book to book. If you haven’t read her books yet, this is the year to give them a try. Three Pines is an imaginary village outside of Montreal, full of lovable, quirky people that you will want to read more about. No matter what evil they come up against, the townspeople live their unique lives and pull together when they’re needed. This story has to do with a hooded figure showing up in Three Pines, the drug trade in Montreal, and, of course, a murder. That’s all I’m saying. Read it for yourself and let me know what you think.

The other genre I’ve always kept close to me is poetry. I’ve got a poetry book or two going at all times…and so should you. Poetry is for everyone. If you don’t think so, maybe you need to keep looking. Mary Oliver, anyone? I just finished reading (again) Everything Is Waiting for You by David Whyte. Do you ever get days where life seems too much? Where emotions are overwhelming and tears break out for the smallest reason? Maybe it’s my Italian blood, or because I’m an HSP/ INFJ, or because I’ve been through lots of change in my life the past few years, but this happens often. On those days, I read poetry. Something elegant, simple and deep that speaks to the heart of sadness, the edge of elation, down to the bottom and all the way to the top of the emotional gamut. Thank you, David Whyte for breaking open your soul and writing down what spills out. I suggest you, dear reader, get one of his poetry collections and let it sink in. You need it, I’m telling you.

So, what are some of your favorite genres? What are you reading right now?