Enjoy Your Mornings

There are a lot of morning routine articles on the internet these days, so it’s obviously a popular topic.  I think we can all agree:  We want to start the day off right and feel happy.  I have to admit, I am morning routine Jedi, remaining remarkably consistent on this front.  However, every time a read a list of morning routine suggestions, I start to cringe.

Wake up early, take a deep breath, stretch, meditate, journal 3 pages, brew artisanal coffee, exercise, then allow yourself to take care of your family (who is just now waking up at a reasonable hour), get them off to school, then work productively for 3 hours at your stand up desk, at which point you are allowed to check email and Facebook.  In the real world, it would now be lunchtime, and I would be stressed and exhausted, and probably reaching for something sugary to eat.

The one thing I can tell you I don’t want in the morning is to get slammed in the face with someone else’s to do list for a proper morning.  I want my morning to make ME happy.  Which is why I suggest that it’s ok to take it down a notch, keep things simple, and focus on doing a few things you like.

How I Enjoy My Mornings:

Wake up without an alarm – Pretty doable if I get to bed a decent hour and make sure natural morning light can penetrate my bedroom fortress.  If not, I have a backup alarm, but it’s set to happy nature sounds.

Put away the clean dishes (on a good day) – This practice is related to my compulsive need to eliminate food and cooking chaos through a perpetually clean sink.  I don’t always feel like doing it, but I feel satisfied having it done.  Perhaps I’ll blog about the joy of a clean sink one day, or recover from my compulsiveness.

Make a cup of tea – Warmth and joy.  Even more joy than the sink.

Read a book (or a blog) –  Reading is my thing.  I’m not a social media gal, as I like to avoid FOMO.

Make a second cup of tea – This gives me permission to procrastinate exercise within reason.  If I take too long, the tea gets cold and yucky, so I tend to get moving.

Exercise & Make a smoothie –  Smoothie comes first if I’m low on energy, Exercise comes first if I’m feeling like Wonder Woman.  Exercise can be a long run or a short yoga session.  I don’t judge, I just do it.

Walk the dog – My mandatory outdoor time, weather excuses are not permitted.

Start the rest of my day – This is actually the first point in my day when I’m most likely to feel stress, because the rest of my day is less predictable and therefore requires more mental effort.  Maybe I should title this part of the day ‘Acknowledge Stress’.  Not become stressed, just acknowledge it and face the day.

I’m guessing no one else in the universe has a clean sink on their morning routine list besides me, and that’s ok.  Mornings are uniquely adaptable to your taste.  Morning routines are allowed to be easy.  The point is to enjoy your mornings.  All you need is a little routine to help you start off right, whatever right feels like for you.

 

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Opportunistic Sitting

chair

My favorite chair, mostly because it’s outside.

I think I sit too much.  This is the epiphany I arrived at after a few months of wearing a Garmin Vivoactive, the running watch that happens to count steps and remind you to feel guilty whenever you don’t move.

What I noticed over time from the data was that after a run of 6 miles or more, I tended to sit around for most of the day.  On days I didn’t run, I walked more.  Aside from once-weekly long run days, most days my total number of steps was about the same whether I ran or not.  Not cool.

There must be too many places to sit in my house.  After all, if I wanted to eat better, I would remove unhealthy temptations from my pantry.  So it follows that if I want to move more, then my house should not be filled with places to sit.  Thus the inventory of seating options began.

Awareness is not always an easy thing to possess.  After a household scan, I counted 33 chairs, benches, and stools.  Add in the outdoor spaces and that number soared to 44.  This is not including couches.  I have 7 of those.  Note:  we are a family of 4.  I must curl up into a fetal position now, having so far yet to go on the minimalism practice.

Ok, I’m back.  Feeling overwhelmed, I decided to focus on a single positive action.  I would move my laptop to a taller table, remove the chair, and enjoy my new standing desk.  Result of experiment:  I went two full weeks without writing a blog post and my email inbox swelled into total anarchy.  I mean, why stand at the computer, when my iPad is next to this comfy sofa?  And besides, I need to stay current on my YouTube subscriptions.  Why does my human brain default to lazy?

A few nights ago during dinner, our family got on the topic of designing our ideal room.  Turns out, my ideal room has glass walls (to enjoy the stellar view), a lap pool, bike trainer, treadmill, yoga mat, smoothie & green tea bar, and an adjacent sunny courtyard filled with an organic produce garden and waterfall.

Heck, if the location of said room was temperate enough, I may not even need the indoor sports equipment, or the garden courtyard.  So maybe what I’m realistically envisioning is a tent on a tropical island.  Either way, no chairs are necessary, because of course, I would be sipping my green tea under the waterfall, or happily sitting on a rock.

Who even decided that a house should be filled with chairs, and why did everyone else follow along?  At some point in my life, my focus obviously turned to chair accumulation, and I’m not sure I even noticed at the time.  Now I must focus on shaping my environment to reduce opportunistic sitting, since clearly my brain and body default to mush when I am presented with leisure options.

I wonder what I should do with the extra 40 chairs?

A Dog’s Life

Zoe

Zoe, the Lawn Connoisseur

My dog Zoe is a rescue dog.  People often ask what type of dog she is, to which I usually reply, “Generic Brown.”  Although she is a mixed breed, I never had her tested, lovingly joking to her that she could remain undefined and would continue to love her as-is.  She may be lacking pedigree, but in her mind, she deserves only the best.

The ongoing joke in my family is Zoe’s habit of relieving herself only on premium grass.  Her delicate hiney is too good for common weeds.  No, the minute I turn my head, she sneaks off and uses the most pristine patch of perfectly manicured front lawn she can find.  All attempts by me to steer her toward common ground and dog areas have failed.  She’s got a radar for the good stuff, a taste for the finer things in life.

Just last month, we put a brand new patch of sod in our backyard.  I came outside to find the delicate new grass had promptly been christened by her highness.  At our favorite vacation spot, she consistently goes on the resort Bermuda grass, right next to the sign reading ‘Please Keep Off The Grass’.  She knows quality when she sees it.

Zoe’s kind of got a point here.  If this daily ritual is her main gift to the world (after love and affection), why not make it special?  She doesn’t do the whole deprivation thing, only using the nice grass at Christmas time or to impress when other dogs come over to visit.  Every day is reason enough for her to indulge.

Dogs really do lead the good life.  Toileting habits aside, maybe we should do the same.  Maybe we should burn the nice candle, and use the fancy dishes, for no other reason than joy.  If you are going to partake in something, why not have only the best and then use it often?  Less is more, but less can also mean better.  You deserve it, as does Zoe.

Decluttering is Shallow

If minimalism is deep, then decluttering is shallow.  I don’t mean shallow in a judgmental, negative sense.  Rather, that decluttering our home is the act of peeling back the initial layer of what hides our authentic selves.  Decluttering removes what is on the surface, in essence, exfoliating the superficial surface of our lifestyle, revealing a glimpse of the true person underneath.

It can be easy to become stuck in decluttering, and to avoid moving on to the deeper actions of crafting your life.  Figuring out who you truly are and what motivates you involves feeling vulnerable.  It feels safer to dwell in the shallows, rearranging a bookshelf, or wiping the kitchen countertops, quietly avoiding the possessions you have a difficult time addressing but know you want to let go.  It is easy to hide.

I have been there.  Sometimes I feel stuck or stagnant in my minimalism practice, which I believe is something to be embraced and celebrated.  This discomfort means I’ve gotten past the shallows, and can begin to dive deeper into who I am and what person I want to be in the world.  When there are no distractions to hide behind, and no more easy things to get rid of, there is opportunity for self-discovery.

Going deep involves facing your shortcomings.  For me, that was feeling like I wasn’t fit enough, or thin enough, or popular enough, or doing work that I cared about.  What that looked like in my home was lots of fitness gear, kitchen gadgets, luxury items, and books on self-improvement, creativity, and adventure.  These were the possessions I valued, but they were standing in my way.

It felt so much safer to stay home and consume content, reading about things that others were doing.  I bought new pieces of fitness gear, hoping to find a shortcut to speed or ease the effort of working out.  I justified my nutritional shortcomings by dwelling on healthy cooking.  I purchased a house that was too large and difficult to maintain.

What I wasn’t doing in accumulating these things was diving deeper into my life by taking action.  You cannot curate the life you want by making aspirational purchases.  In fact, I think it can be paralyzing to own these things.  Things distract you from taking effective action.  Things shelter you from the rewards that come from struggle.  Things are just a snapshot of who you want to be.

Go ahead and dive deep.  Keep the things that serve you, but let go of the things that serve as a safety net or a distraction.  Build resourcefulness, empowerment, and self-confidence by accomplishing things with less.  Be vulnerable.  Be enough.   Be you.

A Tale of 3 Spiralizers

This is a true story about yours truly.  I contemplated at length whether to share this story, as it’s so incredibly embarrassing.  As a blogger, I feel a somewhat professional responsibility not to highlight my flaws, and to perform due diligence in filtering any propensity to overshare.  However, the more I mull over whether this story makes me want to laugh or cry, the more I end up laughing.  And so, I am sharing, because we all need to laugh a little more.

Food trends come and go, along with my sanity surrounding food.  I’m in favor of expanding your horizons and trying new things, but sometimes rationality gets lost in the flourish of what everybody else is doing.  Take aquafaba.  If I ever start posting recipes with aquafaba, just kill me now.  Wait, I already have posted a recipe with aquafaba, but back then, it was called canned bean liquid.  Afterwards, a friend in my running club read that post and sarcastically told me he couldn’t wait to get home from our run and try some canned bean liquid.  Touche.

But spiralized vegetables are different!  Who wouldn’t want to get behind a trend as innovative as that?  As a formerly pasta-addicted bagel munching gal gone gluten-free health nut, I could not resist the allure of the vegetable based noodle lifestyle.  Sign me up.

This was several years ago, and I remember the excitement with which I ordered my 3-blade Spiralizer.  When it came in the mail, I was sure this was the solution to those elusive last 10 pounds.  Soon, my kids would be eating vegetables without complaining.  The world of pasta cravings would be conquered.

Spiralizer Number 1

I remember the first time I whipped up a batch of zucchini noodles (zoodles) with basil-spinach pesto and nutritional yeast.  They were raw, gluten free, vegan, and super green.  I served them to my daughter, who turned to me and said, “I like these”.  BOOM.  There I stood, practicing my acceptance speech for the Mom Of The Year Award, silently mouthing words of gratitude into my silicone spatula.

Anxious for a repeat performance, I reached into the kitchen cabinet the next night…and accidentally grabbed the spiralizer by the blade.  Be warned, a spiralizer blade is a sharp as a mandolin slicer, and it sliced through my fingertip without me even feeling it.  Minutes later, my kitchen looked like a crime scene, and I was permanently (emotionally) scarred.

I tried to use the spiralizer again, but every time I looked at it, I remembered that cut, instantly getting goose bumps like fingernails on a chalkboard.  The spiralizer gathered dust, and eventually, I donated it.

Spiralizer Number 2

The vegetable noodle trend continued, and I felt left out.  Maybe I didn’t give my spiralizer a chance, or take the proper safety precautions.  Ramen was becoming trendy, and I couldn’t make proper veggie ramen without a spiralizer.

Point, click, purchase.  I rebought the same 3-blade Spiralizer.  This time would be different, and safer.  I took one of my reusable cloth sandwich bags and placed it over the blade mechanism whenever I stored it.  I told myself I was being environmental, because a normal person would have just used a plastic sandwich bag to cover the blade, but not me.  Never mind that the entire spiralizer gadget was made of plastic, and I had just purchased two of them.

Alas, the second spiralizer gathered dust, and eventually, I donated it.

Spiralizer Number 3

Flash forward again, and now that same spiral slicer was new and improved.  It now had 4 blades…none of the useless ones from the last model, but multiple versions of the cool noodle-making ones.  I could now make angel hair veggie noodles.  And, the blade mechanism now folds flat into the device for storage, so no more sliced fingers.  I must have it.

But wait, I am a minimalist now.  I know it’s on sale, but I am trying to streamline my kitchen.   The julienne peeler and I have been getting along fine for months.  Just walk away.  Then it happened.

I walked through the produce section of my grocery store and there they sat:  pre-spiralized vegetable noodles shrink wrapped in Styrofoam for my cooking convenience.  Oh, hell no.  It was time to fight the power on this one.  No individually wrapped produce and landfill waste was acceptable when it was perfectly easy to make your own!  It was time to vote for change with my money.

Point, click, purchase.  That’s how it happened.  In my effort to change the world, I became the owner of a brand new, 4-blade Spiralizer.  At this point, buyer’s remorse kicked in approximately five minutes after I clicked ‘Place Order’.  I had officially lost my mind.  Oh well, lesson learned.  I want to be environmental and healthy, but shopping is not a replacement for meaningful action.  I will simply return this item unopened once it arrives.

I scour the web for the return policy, only to realize that since I bought it on final sale, it is not returnable.  Of course not.  I wouldn’t have fully learned my lesson if I could erase my mistakes so easily.  Thank you, karma.  Now I’m forced to sit and ruminate on my purchasing decision a little longer while the spiralizer sits on the donation pile.

Am I really this consumerist?

Did I really just expend that much time and mental energy on a plastic gadget when I could have been doing something worthwhile?

Yes.  The End.

 

 

‘All In’ Minimalism

It’s tempting to sell yourself short when you embark on the journey to minimalism.  When you begin living a minimalist lifestyle, you may not feel like a member of the club.  Minimalism feels right for you…

…If only you didn’t have kids.

…But you have a big house in the suburbs.

…But you could never fit all your possessions into a backpack.

…Except your husband hates the idea of living in a tiny house.

…So you’re an aspiring minimalist.

I could on an on with examples, because all of these thoughts went through my head, and still do from time to time.  I’ve written several blog posts about aspirations and feelings of insufficiency whenever I start down a new path.

It frustrates me, because I don’t like to wait once I decide to be something.  It’s hard to be patient with the process, but mastery takes time.

So, what are some ways to feel empowered while you wait for the universe to line up with your desires?  I’m telling you now that you can do more than tip your toe into minimalist waters.  You can full-on cannonball into the deep end of the pool while grinning from ear to ear.

How can you be ‘All In’ with minimalism, when the rest of your environment or family is not?  There is one place you are in complete control of right now, today:  your mind.

The truth is, minimalism is not a club, a tiny house, a decluttered room, or a backpacking trip across Southeast Asia.  Minimalism is not everyone agreeing with you all the time.

Minimalism is a mindset, a decision filter, a framework within your life that guides your choices.  Whatever choices you made in the past are not as relevant as the choices you make right now.  Today you are in control of your mindset, and moving forward, you have the authority to:

Be a minimalist.  Own the title.  You are no longer aspiring, you are taking action.

Stop the inflow.  Decide that unnecessary purchases will cease.  Whatever clutter you are dealing with will not grow moving forward.

Experiment.  Live with less now.  Wear a tiny number of clothes, eat from a simple list of foods, use only a few rooms of your house.  Pick something meaningful to you and try it.  You don’t have to announce this, or ask permission to get started.  Just do it and no one else needs to know.

Make mistakes.  Expect slip-ups and embrace that tiny failures are windows into areas of need.  Learn about yourself and your habits, and find better ways that work for you.

You can be ‘All In’ without anything external changing.  ‘All In’ is an inside job, and you are the boss.

 

 

Minimalism & The Long Run

I am somewhat risk-averse.  I remember the first time I ever set out on a long run back in 2010, while training for my first marathon.  I felt intimidated, but darn it, I was determined to have the situation under control.

Strapped to my body were more gadgets than a one man band.  I had a Garmin to track my pace & mileage, heart rate monitor, body glide to prevent chafing, a fuel belt equipped with four water bottles, gels, my phone and headphones for entertainment, visor, sunglasses, compression socks, and new shoes.

In hindsight, I had probably added at least 5 pounds of equipment to carry, along with the hassle of having to deal with it all later on in the run when I was exhausted.  Half-full, sloshing water bottles, bouncing sunglasses, a tangled headphone wire, and a whole lot of chafing from the heart rate monitor and compression socks.

Fast forward 7 years, and here I am, still subjecting myself to those long runs.  This week’s was a 20-miler, but mileage was about all it had in common with the past.  I still have my Garmin and shoes, but the majority of the other running gear is gathering dust in my closet.

I’ve come to realize that the less I have with me, the better I run.  The more I leave to uncertainty, the better my problem solving skills.  The less distraction, the more I can remain present.  In fact, I now appreciate the process of a long run.  There will come a point where the run will feel difficult, but it will remain manageable.

This week, I got tired around mile 15, and again at 18.5.  Tired rarely means I’m out of breath, because I don’t run fast on long run days.  Tired usually means my legs hurt, or I’m bored, or frustrated, or hungry, or cold (since it’s winter).  In those moments, I take a deep breath and ask myself if I can still keep running, and usually the answer is yes.

Minimalism has influenced my long run strategy, because now I know I can get by with what I have.  If it turns out that I need something more, I will figure out how to get it.  This sure beats my runs of the past, where I brought everything ‘just in case’.  Sure enough, I looked down at my Garmin and I had already passed 20 miles without even noticing.  Minimalism makes everything feel more effortless to me these days.