Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Nesting...Surviving Nature's Harshest

Finally, we seem to be seeing our way out of the Polar Vortex. While I understand that March will enter like a lion, I'm hoping it's a cub. I'm ready for Spring.  

When you work from home, you can marvel at the weather phenomena from the comfort of your pajama bottoms and a hot cup of coffee. My boots and jacket are near the door, but in the winter, I nest. 

I'm sure that we all nest in our way...hunkering down and making things comfortable in our homes for our body, mind and soul. 

What brings you comfort? What are your winter must-haves? 

In no particular order, here are mine...

1. A hot cuppa something. Wrapping my cold hands around a warm, steaming mug makes me smile. 

2. A warm blanket. We received a lovely afghan for our wedding that is never far from sight in the winter time. From Netflix binging on the couch to sneaking in a mid-afternoon nap, this is my go-to lap warmer.

3. A stash of favorite movies and streaming shows to watch. Sometimes I seek out movies set in far off tropical locations and escape New England winter, even if just for a couple of hours. 

4. Great soups. Some people think New Englanders have clam chowder running through their veins. In the winter time, it could be true, but a steaming pot of vegetable soup or stew is better than any restaurant offering on a cold, damp night.

5. Thick socks and warm boots or slippers are non-negotiable. Cold feet? Cold everything. 

6. Oversized sweaters that are big enough to layer as many long sleeves and thermals as you want underneath.

7. Warm fleece scarves. Like comfort food, warm scarves provide that extra layer of warmth and the softness of fleece is a welcomed bonus.

8. Baking. Whether it's cookies, brownies, pizza, bread or anything else your heart desires, baking not only sends an amazing aroma through the house, but it can also quell even the most carb-crazed sweet tooth. You can clean it up with recipe substitutions or go old-school and enjoy it in moderation. And heating up the oven makes for a toasty warm kitchen.

9. Red wine + homemade pizza for two = Perfect. Date. Night. 

10. Someplace to go. For those of us in the Northeast, winter can seem like an eternity...truly, a never-ending season. The remedy to cabin fever can be as simple as a weekend getaway to a B&B with a roaring fireplace or jacuzzi for two. Or it can be a vacation to someplace warm and tropical. Or you can embrace the season and go ice-skating or take a sleigh ride at a nearby farm. Hibernation be damned. 

Those are just some of the ways I nest in the winter. 

What are your favorites?

Until Spring, enjoy the stillness of Winter, in all of its teeth-chattering glory.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Much to the dismay of my mother, I've always been the one in the family to test the limits on what she would consider normal, safe behavior. 

My answer to her why has always been why not?

Change is scary, but so is regret. 

Today, life is good, but many of the blessings in my life have resulted from risk and a willingness to try. And with risk comes fear. 

No one likes to feel vulnerable or get hurt when things don't work out the way we intended, but what's the alternative?

My opinion? Feel the fear, and do it anyway. 

You don't have to conquer the world today. Start small. 

Not ready to run a marathon? Download and follow a couch to 5k app. Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction. 

Not ready to sell everything and explore the world? Venture away for the weekend or explore your own capital city. 

Want to enlarge your social circle? Try a meetup group around something that interests you or start one of your own.  

Not ready to Konmari your house? Clean out your junk drawer. 

Want to feel like you're making a difference? Pay it forward in your coffee line, donate your tidied closet leftovers, volunteer an hour for a cause that means something to you.  

You don't have to do everything, but everyone can do something. 

Every day is a new opportunity. What lights your fire? Do that. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday 5: Live Music Experiences that Top My List

As I creep closer to 50, I'm starting to put together lists of life experiences that I don't want to miss, like places to see, concerts to attend, and other treats I have envisioned myself doing at some point in time.

Today, I've been thinking about music. This is not a wish-list because I have had the opportunity to experience a couple of these already, but overall, these are musical experiences I don't want to miss. 

1. Red Rocks, Colorado
This open air amphitheater is about 10 miles outside of Denver and has been known for live recordings, given the unique visual aesthetic of the venue. This year, I am going to a concert at Red! I can't wait! More on that later. 

2. Broadway, NYC
I've seen theatre in the West End of London, but never Broadway, USA and that has to change. I don't know what my first show will be, since there are many that top my list, but before my 50th, I will see a show on Broadway. Frustratingly, theatre in London's West End is more affordable than matinee prices on Broadway. 

3. Open Air Music Festival
The hippie in me loves the idea of a summertime, open air acoustic rock or folk music festivals like the Green River Festival or Fresh Grass Festival. I'm not a die hard though; if it's raining or cold, I'm out. 

4. Les Miserables in London
From the first time I heard the music of Les Miserables, I knew I had to see it live in London, where it all began. For my first time in London, my ticket was in the pit, in the second row, to be exact. The second time, we were in the dress circle; still amazing seats, and worth every pound sterling. 

5. Jimmy Buffett in Key West
For a Parrothead, this is the holy grail. I had the opportunity to see Jimmy Buffett play in the back yard of the host hotel for the annual Meeting of the Minds Parrothead Convention in the early 2000s...2004, maybe. After hearing a rumor that this would be the year he would appear, my friends and I gathered for pre-concert drinks and found our space to wait in the backyard of the Casa Grande Hotel in Key West, Florida. Sure enough, the focus turned to the left of the stage and there he was! He played for almost two hours. It was my one and only MOTM to date, but what an event! Future shows pale in comparison to having a front-row experience in such an intimate setting.

And a 6th for good measure...a summer concert at Tanglewood.
I had the wonderful opportunity to get tickets to John Williams Night at Tanglewood one summer for my husband's birthday. We brought lawn chairs, a blanket, and a picnic basket filled with wine, cheese, a baguette and hors d'oeurves to enjoy under the stars while listening to the iconic scores of composer John Williams. If you're ever in New England in the summertime, this is a fabulous treat! 

What concerts or musical experiences top your list of must-sees?

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Navigating Hypersensitivity When We Travel

I had lunch with a good friend over the weekend. She's the kind of friend with whom you can talk about everything and anything. We've been friends for nearly 20 years and have been through the good, the bad, and the ugliest of uglies. She gets me and I get her. 

Our hours of conversation spanned from family catch-ups to the future of education and employment, automation and the global economy to personal idiosyncrasies. 

When you're feeling awry, it's easy to feel like you're the only person in the world that feels that way. You start to wonder if it's normal to think or feel or react in a certain way. 

My friend has two little boys, very different from one another as siblings often are. Interestingly, we discovered that the older of the two, her 6 year old, is indeed, my "spirit animal."  I exhibit many of the same peculiarities in behavior and reaction to stimuli that her little guy does. We both are highly sensitive in areas that others never consider. 

As our conversation continued, we each found clarity as I was able to explain the why of some of her son's reactions and behaviors and I received validation as to why I may have similar reactions to various sensory-based stimuli. While our reactions may not be normal to others, to us, they're normal in how we navigate life. 

Travel can be challenging when you're sensitive. Exposure to poverty or the different cultural norms related to animals, for example, can be difficult for sensitive travelers to process. Sensitive travelers may internalize images, sounds, and smells on a deep enough level to create both a physical and emotional response that can last a lifetime.

For me, I enjoy traveling to places that push me outside my comfort zone, where I can talk to people and listen to their music, eat their food, and use their public transportation. I like living like a local and immersing myself in wherever I go because I appreciate travel as personal development and not only for tourist fun (though there is a time for that as well.)

When I'm feeling anxious, I know how to retreat and recharge; the same is true when I travel. When that happens, I often head outside, taking in the landscape and noticing the architecture that makes a place unique. I may decline certain activities in favor of quiet time one afternoon or explore independently on my own schedule, apart from others. 

If there are cultural differences that are outside my norm related to poverty, the environment, or the treatment of animals, for example, I know that I have the privilege to make choices based on my own circumstances and beliefs. Not everyone has the same level of privilege so I use mine to affect change in ways that make sense to me. 

Sensitive people learn how to navigate life with various strategies, like exposure and grounding. Traveling, even if you're sensitive, is worth it for me, every time. 

Are you a sensitive or highly sensitive person? What strategies do you employ for self care when traveling? 

Not sure if you are a HSP? Here's a quiz for self-assessment. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Making Friends as an Adult

It can be difficult to maintain connections outside our inner circle as long work days turn into nights spent catching up on chores that never seem to get accomplished. Some of us have families, some of us are caring for aging parents, and some of us are just trying to keep our heads above water. 

While it's important to connect daily to those we cherish most, it's also important to connect to others outside the inner circle who share similar goals and challenges, similar circumstances or choices or similar interests and curiosities. 

I had the wonderful opportunity recently to connect to some like minded folks and it went so well, that we all expressed interest in doing it again next month. Sitting around the table, we are all different people joined by a common thread; and it's that common thread that rejuvenates us and allow us to connect with people who "get it." We shared stories and successes and brainstormed solutions to challenges we face. We all left feeling empowered and connected. 

Think about where you are in your own life, what you like to do, what you want to do. How can you network within those parameters to create connections and expand your social circle? 

Maybe there's a meetup group tailored to your interest? Maybe there's a book club you can join or start your own around topics geared toward your own interests and goals. Maybe you start a monthly coffee connection with people in your season of life or an accountability group to help you stay focused on and achieve your goals. Maybe there is a networking group to help you create professional connections or a group with those who share your faith tradition or your favorite sport or hobby.

It doesn't have to be strangers. Maybe there's someone with whom you've lost contact and with whom you would like to reconnect. Maybe you're the bridge to bring others together and potentially create lifelong friendships. 

It's hard to make friends when you're older, but building your circle of friends is worth the effort. Reach out. Build bridges. That human connection is a win-win.

Do you keep room in your life for new friends? How do you cultivate new friendships?

Friday, February 8, 2019

Friday 5: What crossed my radar this week

Every now and then, something crosses my radar that makes me want to share it with everyone I know. 

Here's what caught my eye this week. 

1. Stay Human...a film by Michael Franti. This is available on Amazon and supposedly, soon to Netflix. It's worth watching. It's hope-inspiring. 

2. The Girlfriend
This newsletter from AARP is targeted towards Gen-X women. I remember seeing a Facebook ad for the newsletter and decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did. It's a mix of health, relationships, food, and trends. Like anything, you take and leave what applies to you, but more than once, it has provided a reassuring nod or a good laugh. 

3. Eggs Benedict
How have I lived most of my life without indulging in this delight? My first eggs benny were atop crab cakes. I don't think Canadian bacon will ever light my fire in the same way. Who's ready for brunch? What's your favorite benny combo? 

4. Made for More with Rachel available on Amazon Prime. After loving Girl, Wash Your Face, I have Girl, Stop Apologizing on pre-order on Audible. 

5. The Flower. I love the music of Michael Franti and I respect him and his work as a human being. His music has always been socially conscious and I enjoy the positive message in most of his songs. This video nearly took my breath away. It seems to becoming a radio hit and I'm happy about that. The world can use healing. We all have a role to play. 

That's it for today, friends. What crossed your radar this week? Share your favorites.

Enjoy your weekend. See you soon.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Getting Reaquainted

Welcome back!

I have my coffee and if you're new here, welcome. 

A little about me...
  • I'm Kelly. I'm a happily married Gen-Xer and dog-mom to a pup named Gracie. 
  • I'm punctual, politically liberal, and always ready for a road trip or adventure, domestic and abroad.
  • I'm an introvert with a deep sense of empathy, and at times, I struggle with anxiety. 
  • I love to read, and I gravitate toward nonfiction, but I also love a good story. 
  • I'm highly sensitive to just about everything, and as a result, my filter bubble is strong.
  • I'm blessed to say I have my dream job as a full time virtual high school teacher; I would do this forever. 

This or that?
  • Spring over fall and summer over winter.
  • Early morning over late night, but sunset over sunrise.
  • Coffee over tea and wine over beer, but water overall.
  • Hot coffee over iced coffee, but iced tea over hot tea.
  • Tacos over burgers
  • Crispy thin crust pizza over deep dish 
  • Facebook over Twitter, but Instagram over Facebook
  • Netflix over YouTube
  • Weights over cardio
  • iOS over Android and Mac over PC
  • FaceTime over phone calls
  • Cake over pie and vanilla cake over chocolate cake
  • Hiking over jogging
  • Experiences over stuff

Some of my faves
Sunny days, fresh sheets, date nights, leftovers, snuggling with my pup, acoustic guitar, time with my niece, a clean car, road trips, list-making, goal setting, weekends, people watching, shoulder season travel, airports, GNOs, Sunday coffee dates, opening the windows in the house and airing it out, fireplaces, New Year's Day. 

Just nope
Haricot vert, dishonesty, mean-spiritedness, food waste...any waste, apathy, injustice, intolerance. 

Where to now?
To be honest, I'm not sure. The benefit of being niche-less and unaffiliated to any company or agency is that there are no rules. I'm sure there will be days when I share some of my favorite finds and reads and other days I will share where we've been and where we plan to go. And some days, I may simply write for writing's sake. 

It feels good to be writing again. Tell me more about you. Are you a blogger? From where in the world are you reading? What are some of your favorite things?

Monday, February 4, 2019

Decluttering and Moving Forward

Have you started to declutter? Marie Kondo has started a revolution of sorts, first with the book and now the Netflix series about tossing all that does not spark joy.

If you're into thrift shopping, now's the time for you, as Kondo devotees donate their spark-less belongings and clean up their personal clutter.

After Marie Kondo-ing my own clothes and junk drawers, I continued thinking about clutter, both physical and digital. 

I began cleaning up my social media feeds too, unfollowing pages and accounts with whom I really wasn't engaging. What I looked for online and what "sparked joy," I realized, were the people with whom I had made a connection, in real life or online. 

And that brings me here. 

I am so grateful for those I have met through this space. I am grateful for the opportunities that it has afforded me throughout the years. As a result of this space, I have made wonderful friends and shared transformative experiences, and it remains something that, indeed, sparks joy. 

And so it remains.

If you're new here, welcome! Later this week, let's sit for a cup of something and get reacquainted. 

My heart smiles today as I push publish on this post. I hope you'll come back for more. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Lovely Reads #5

Sunday mornings are meant for coffee and perusing articles of interest. Whether it's the news, your latest book, or your favorite magazine, a Sunday spent with meaningful-to-you words and images can set the tone for your week. 

Here are some of the items that crossed my radar this week:

Overlooked: 15 Women We Overlooked in Our Obituaries
Better late than never, I guess. Thanks to The New York Times for recognizing these 15 remarkable women. Kudos for adding a form for readers to nominate other remarkable women. 

10 Places to See Cherry Blossoms in the United States
If you can't get to Washington DC to see the blossoms yourself, here are other locations that will put you in a Spring state of mind. Via CN Traveler. 

If Literature's Complicated Men Were on Tinder
This is a treat, via McSweeney's Internet Tendency

How You Can Stop Animal Abuse in the Tourism Industry
Thanks to Nomadic Matt for keeping this issue a topic of conversation. File this under know better, do better. 

Unlock your Hip Flexor: 5 Stretches to Reverse the Damage of Sitting
I can see why they say that sitting is the new smoking. Trust me, you'll feel better. Via Paleo Hacks. 

Just curious about this one...

If you read something noteworthy this week, drop a link in the comments. 

Have a great week friends. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

While I Wasn't Blogging: Catching Up

After a blink-and-it's-gone-February, I feel like I have finally settled into 2018. Clearly, I have lost my pace when it comes to writing and blogging, but not for a lack of ideas.

While I wasn't blogging... 
  • I finished the first semester with my new students from Spain and France and welcomed a handful of new students from Italy for the second semester (and transitioned into second semester with my Spanish and French students). 

  • I broke out of my comfort zone and decided to try CrossFit. I feel like the work I had been doing with my trainer prepared me for this transition. I'm getting stronger every week I love the variety with each class and the motivation from the CF community. I even registered for the Open, the annual CrossFit Games. It feels great to be part of a team and I love seeing what my body can do now that it couldn't when I first started in January. It's all about progress, not perfection. 

  • I started keeping my nutrition on point with whole, unprocessed foods and looking at macronutrients instead of calories for changes in body composition over weight loss.  I've been working with a nutrition coach who monitors and adjusts my numbers (if needed) every week. I'm in week 11 and down 9 pounds and 10 inches. It works. 

  • My husband and I have been delving deeper into real estate investment and are closer than ever to buying our first property. Positive energy welcomed. 

  • We've been planning summer travel. My niece will be here in June, so I'm looking forward to some quality time including her first trip to NYC. We're also thinking about where we want to travel while we're in Spain this summer. And as always, I'm checking out flight deals for unexpected long weekends away. 

Life is good. I'm outside more, meeting friends IRL whenever possible, reading more offline, doing my thing. I'm excitedly awaiting spring, in spite of the nor'easter knocking on our door. 

Ideas are swirling like butterflies. I need to follow a couple of them and see where they lead. 

What's new in your world? Any new challenges or pursuits? Inspire me.