Tuesday, March 21, 2017

8 Self-Care Things That Are Keeping Me Sane.

I'm not in the photo much -- but here I am!
I'm going a little stir-crazy not having a record to tour and promote -- it's still one bass part away from finished, but time is conspiring against me. In the mean time, I've been doing ALL I can to promote my own self-care. Life is tough now, and there are a few things that have kept me sane:

1. Yoga. I'm not sure if it's the endorphins of exercise, the mindfulness of breathing, or the simple fact that with yoga I get an hour without anyone grabbing my nipples, but I leave feeling better. When I find I've gone a few days without going to the studio (simply doing a podcast at home does not have the same effect, as you might conclude from watching the time-lapse video of my toddler grabbing me while I'm bending), I am irritable and not a great parent -- not a great person, honestly. I'm moody, negative, and can throw a tantrum over a crushed Cheerio on the floor or a 4-year-old who decides it's Naked Time. 

2. The Fresh 20. I've been using this meal planning site for going on two years now. Whenever I stray from planning, the family suffers. We spend more than we should at the grocery, or we order takeout because there's nothing to eat. We also eat less nutritious meals, or we end up just grazing all week. Or it's breakfast for every meal. I tried out multiple meal planning websites, and TheFresh20.com is the only one I remotely enjoyed. It's probably an 80-90% success rate on the "Would I order this at a restaurant?" scale by which we judge recipes. I've only had one meal the whole time that I straight up did not like. We subscribe to the Vegetarian annual plan. I don't put ANY thought into dinner now, and I know that I have the ingredients on hand to cook a well-balanced meal every night. It helps that my kids are not picky eaters. The shopping list also means I can send someone else to the store for me. I haven't used Kroger ClickList yet, but I've got a good friend who combines TheFresh20 with the Kroger ClickList and declared it a life-changer. 

Yummy quinoa vegetable bowl.
3. Journaling. Writing has always been the single-most important thing to my sanity. Since having a baby, I simply have not had a good routine and haven't been able to journal. I like doing morning pages -- something I got from The Artist's Way many years ago -- but my kids get up too early for me to do anything in the morning. I've taken to arriving at yoga 15 minutes early and bringing my journal. I sit there, ignore everyone, and just write -- mostly nonsense, occasionally lyrics. I am sure that I look like a jerk with my pen and my notebook in my corner, but it helps immensely. I am actually able to empty my mind a little during the poses because I got a lot of the To Do list out in my morning pages. Also, if I don't go to yoga, I don't write. Then I really am a jerk.

4. Antidepressants. I should have led with this because if we are being completely honest, it's the Prozac that got me enough willpower to sign up for yoga and then leave the house in the first place. I've never had a problem being honest, so I probably should have made this my #1. But I just thought about it, and I don't feel like re-ordering my list. Because it's a blog, and I'm not going to edit if I'm not getting paid.

Me, playing a German polka gig.
5. Work. I'm gigging a lot. Not as much as I would like. But my work is my passion, and I am renewed when I do it. Music is probably the only thing that allows me to zone out and be in the moment.

6. Pinterest. I can check all the other social media apps on my phone, but when I open Pinterest, I actually feel my heart rate slowing and myself relaxing. I think it's like opening a trashy magazine on an airplane. I just look at things -- pretty things, good ideas, lists made by other people. I have no false dreams of crafting tiny hats that look like vegetables, but it makes me happy to see photos of other people's good ideas. Talk about distraction.

7. Novels. Whether it's an audiobook or a late-night Kindle purchase, I am a novel fiend. When I'm not doing great mentally, I like to read really easy books. Now that I'm a mom, I somehow like mysteries -- total #mombooks. I also really enjoy British chick-lit, though I wish there was a better name for it. What else ... Maisie Dobbs and Agatha Raisin books have been perfect distractions over the past 4.5 years since the first wee boy was born. 

8. A cuppa. Tea. Oh, how I love tea. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Henna art and Irish Butter.

This weekend I hired a henna artist -- the amazing Rose Flowers of Bohemian Monkey (aren't all of those words absolutely delightful??) to decorate my mom's beautiful bald cancer head. I scrolled through Pinterest looking at pretty chemo crowns, and now my entire Pinterest feed is stunning hairless paintings. It's the definition of bittersweet.

Farmers' Market in Bruges. Roseberries. 
Anyway, it was a perfect continental spread, though for just 3 adults and 2 kids, I definitely over-bought. My inspiration for brunches is forever the Best Western in Bruges. Best Western sounds like it would be tacky, but can I tell you it was the absolutely most spectacular breakfast spread I've ever encountered -- hotel or otherwise. From sliced Muenster to an entire wheel of Brie, from hard boiled eggs to sliced watermelon, from yogurt to fresh muesli, and miles of croissants... oh, my goodness it was everything. We honeymooned in Bruges, and I am forever trying to re-create that breakfast buffet, even if it's just for a henna-decorating morning. I apparently didn't take any photos of that breakfast, so it lives entirely in my mind, but here are some grand photos of Bruges anyway. I haven't used my passport in a while, so I'm living in my iPhotos.

Also, I've raised a butter snob. When asked by our hostess, "What would you like on your bagel, Graham?" my 4-year-old responded, "Do you have Kerry Gold?"

Thankfully, our host is British, so she knows her butter.

"I most certainly do," she grinned, basically confirming why we are friends -- and also that Graham's expectations are sky-high.

Enjoy the beautiful henna tiara. I think next time, she'll go full-on cap:

Friday, March 10, 2017

Cars are the worst. And RIP George.

George, as a puppy.
This has not been a very good week. To quote my four-year-old: First the Volvo died. Then George died. Then the Honda died.

To be fair, the Volvo is my dad's car. The George is my parents' dog. The Honda is my sister-in-law's car. And two of the three can be revived. But we have had the Volvo since my mom's first chemo treatment in December. George has been part of the family for 14 years, and the Honda lives at our house now that my sister-in-law lives here.

Also, David had to go to the ER on Sunday for a ruptured eardrum (that ruptured a couple of hours after my gig at the Monkey Wrench, which makes me think maybe we were too loud ... oops). The dog cost about as much to euthanize as the cars do to fix, but none of those three compare to the cost of an ER visit in America. It's been easily a $3000+ week in our family, and it's only Friday.

But accentuate the positive, right? The people we love are still alive, and we get to see each other. I made it back to yoga twice, despite having thrown my back and SI joint out earlier in the week. It was a glorious 75*F yesterday. I had an alfresco prosecco with two kids in tow (we took the bus), and I even remembered to reapply sunscreen to everyone. Hashtag winning.

George with 3 balls.
The car troubles this week have reminded us that we sold our cars six years ago. That means we haven't had to deal with auto nonsense, tow trucks, absurd pricetags, oil changes, etc, in six years. Having driven my parents' car since December has made me realize how much I can't stand having a car -- not just because they always break and cost too much, but because it means a change in my lifestyle.

Much like the rise of cell phones mean you don't have to make concrete plans with your friends ("Just text me when you're close, and I'll find you" instead of "3:15 at the corner of 10th & Broadway"), owning a car means you don't have to plan your errands. I like not having to make precise plans with my friends, but being able to just pop over to the grocery at a minute's notice means, get this, that I don't actually ever get to the grocery. Then I either eat cupboard crap or I order takeout.

I prefer life when I live deliberately. Yesterday, we took the bus to Ramsi's from Graham's haircut place, walked to the library, then took the bus home. It was a full day. My kids got to see other people and make conversation. We got some things done and had a good time.

Maybe we'll just leave the Honda in the shop.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Confessions and giving up and me being crazy and stuff.

I'm giving up on 40Days to a Personal Revolution. I clearly am much better at accountability when I'm doing things at my own pace. Does that even make sense?

The funny thing is that I was already doing daily yoga and eating mostly vegan and gluten-free before the program. So when it started and the program was only restricting things mildly or more about 'paying attention' to your diet, I figured I'd take that opportunity to have some Reese's Eggs because they weren't off-the-program until week three or four or whatever (it made sense in my head). So then I sabotaged myself and started eating bagels with Kerry Gold and having a glass of wine (I'd done Dry January easily and had only had a slightly damp February), and then I started getting headaches and pulled a muscle around an old hip/back injury because, duh, when you don't eat well, you don't feel well. Now I just give up.

I do better when I set my own rules. My rules were pretty effective prior to this program.

Also, I actually journaled more before the program gave me diary prompts.

Pre-gig. My favorite kilt.
My chaotic living room.
Clearly, I'm one big mess, but I suppose that's to be expected.

Actually, maybe the program has been successful after all. All I'd really wanted was to start being able to allow myself ease. I've got a lot going on now. I need to take care of myself. And forgiving myself my freakouts and my imperfections is coming more easily.

You know what makes me feel best?

My work.

It turns out that writing music and playing music is the best therapy for me. Who knew? Well, apparently my mom did. She knows everything. I just don't like to admit that.

In exciting musical news, Steve finally got that stand-up bass he's been on about for a year now. Yessssss!

Last weekend's Monkey Wrench show was good fun. Also, I don't have any more shows on the books (except for a couple of standing private Derby events), which is completely absurd. Where are the venues, and where are the booking agents, and why can't I just play house concerts for the rest of my life?


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

40 Days to Personal Revolution Week Two thoughts

I missed my 40Days meeting yesterday because I had FOUR MILLION things to do. I've been thinking a lot about the 40 Days program, and I've realized that my main goal is to not actually do the program. My goal is to: go easier on myself.

I don't think I need the accountability that the program provides for most participants. I'm pretty good at creating unattainable goals for myself, and I don't need a book to lay those out for me. But what I'm not so good at is forgiving myself when I fail. Or rather, when I don't attain all my goals. Even calling it a "fail" is too harsh. I'm committed to relaxing and giving in -- to grabbing a nap if it's a possibility; to ordering takeout; to not blogging daily; to letting my child watch a TV show and not feeling like a terrible parent for giving him screen time.

Week Two involved getting out of your comfort zone. What did I do as a challenge? I said something aloud at the group meeting. I also invited someone I don't know well at all to go to the swimming pool with me one afternoon. I feel like I talked to much about absurd things, like female pirates of yore and the mechanical difficulties of semi-permanent structures. But I am large, I contain multitudes. And I forgive myself my eccentricities.

Hugs and tears with an old friend on a school night.
I'm practicing going out in public.

Last night I went to an open mic and sang and played accordion with the disgustingly talented Shannon Lawson. His voice continually blows my mind, and it was most fun to harmonize with him. I forgot how harmony makes me smile all over and how good it is for my soul.

I went to sleep at 1am and woke for the day at 5:30am (babies), having been wakened multiple times in the night. Somehow I managed a babysitter and a  9am yoga class. I was exhausted, and I forgave myself my inability to hold poses. I was easy on myself. It felt good. I felt energized after.

I suppose forgiveness is creating more opportunities for vitality. Maybe this program is what I needed after all.

Also: March 4, Monkey Wrench. Come hear me play with some friends! 8pm start.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Foray into 40 Days to Personal Revolution: Week One

Pretty much every day since I started going to yoga, the teachers have been gently pushing a "40 Days to Personal Revolution" program. It's based on a book by Baron Baptiste, who developed the type of Power Yoga I've apparently been practicing. The 40 day program is a combination of "yoga, nutrition, meditation and inquiry work," as I heard teachers explain after every class.

It started this week, and I waited until the very last minute to sign up because I really, really can't stand small-group-work. The idea of sitting around in a circle, saying my name and something that I'm feeling ... it nauseates me. Friendly teachers suggested the program may be exactly what I need to conquer that fear. I would smile back nervously at them and scurry out of the studio before I got roped in.

Part of my reluctance to sign up -- aside from the group therapy-type situation that sets off my anxiety -- was that I know I'm going to fail. Why sign up for something that I can't possibly do?

I know, I know, never say "can't" and all that. But, honestly, as the program builds up to 60 minutes of meditation and 90 minutes of yoga a day, well, WHO HAS TIME FOR TWO AND A HALF HOURS OF SELF-CARE A DAY?

Then I look at the lovely and care-free 22-year-olds practicing yoga beside me, and I think they have time. Why didn't I practice hours of self-care when I was their age? Sigh.

Somehow I decided to sign up for the program anyway, knowing full well that I will not be able to get up at 5am to meditate because I'm already up at 5 am changing diapers and breastfeeding. Knowing that if I actually block out 2 hours a day to go to yoga (as I did in January), my business will start to fail (as it has as a result -- I mean, WHERE IS MY ALBUM???).

I went to my first group meeting on Tuesday, but I won't tell you anything about it because I committed confidentiality to the group. That also means they can't talk about any crazy stuff I talk about in the group. But don't worry because I already told all of them that small groups make me nervous, so I will probably be quiet most of the time. Also, I am very good about oversharing here, so perhaps I'll just make my blog my therapy.

Here's why I think I signed up:

Therapy: Actual therapy costs a lot of money, and I've always been pretty good at sorting out my own crap -- provided I held myself accountable. This is a significantly less expensive accountability program. When I journal on my own and exercise regularly, I tend to feel better about things. Depression has made doing all of that unattainable. Maybe blogging about it will help.

Distraction: My mom is sick. We may be under nuclear attack at any moment. My family may be forced to hide in someone's attack because the government is now run by Nazis. Can you tell my anxiety runs high? I want to be on the streets protesting, but my anxiety won't let me focus. Maybe I can get a handle on my time management enough to figure out how to do my parents' laundry and join the revolution.

Control: I have control over nothing. I know that. I hate that. Perhaps I'll have control over the next 40 days. (Am I missing the point already? Is the point to let go?)

Presence: This is the theme of Week One. If anything, I need follow-through on my own self-imposed rules. I need to ignore my phone and not feel guilty about not responding right away. I have a no-phones-at-the-dinner-table rule that I only acknowledge when my husband is breaking it. Time to follow through. Being self-employed means always being working. That means I have a flexible schedule and can spend time with my kids during the day. It also means that my work emails, phone calls and texts are always happening. I would like to separate one from the other, so I can be present for both.

I'm finding the 40 Days book a little too Jesus-y for my tastes, but I think it's possible to benefit from the introspective bits without bothering with the religious aspect. Open mind, open heart, right? Does it work in reverse?

On that note, I'm skipping yoga today because I have WORK TO DO. The blog counts.

Part of that work: I'm playing a show on Saturday, February 11. Peter Searcy is joining me. He doesn't spend much time in Louisville these days, so this is a rare chance to catch him playing rare acoustic music. I hope he brings his cello to play on some of my songs. We are playing 9-11, but you can get to the lounge early. Reserve a table to make it easier. There is no cover charge.
Butchertown Grocery's upstairs lounge, now called Lola.

Also, here is a cute photo of my sleeping baby.

Monday, January 30, 2017

6 Benefits from 21 Days of Yoga

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. Well, I've been taking a yoga class 6-7x a week since January 4, and guess what ... I feel better.

I'm also annoyed because it's not like this is a huge revelation. I'm stubborn, and I don't like it when other people tell me what to do. So hearing, "You should do yoga," would deter me for like, another year. I'd try it out on occasion, but would never commit.

The good news to come out of Mom's cancer diagnosis (I haven't talked about it much on here, but if you Google "what cancer has the lowest survival rate" or "what is the worst cancer to get" you'll see what she has!) is that it has forced a lot of self-care. I'm an only child, and pretty much the ONLY downsize to being an only child is the whole being the caregiver when parents fall ill. Fortunately, I've got a huge support team of friends, and if they warned me of anything, it is to take care of myself. I am trying.

The only change I've made so far is going to yoga every day. It's a huge luxury because it requires basically a 2-hour chunk of time where I need someone to watch the baby (the 4-year-old is in preschool). My sister-in-law has been watching the new wee boy. There is no way I could have otherwise afforded to pay for both a yoga class and a babysitter every day. Believe me, I recognize this privilege. Remember that I have been used to solo parenting 200+ days a year, and my sister-in-law only came to live with us in December. It's been HUGE for my ability to practice self-care.

I've not managed to increase my time spent with music or writing, but here are the benefits I've seen so far, 21 days in to a regular yoga practice:

  1. I feel stronger. I'm not quite as hesitant to carry my baby down the stairs or lift him out of the bath now. 
  2. My posture is better. I still like to cross my legs and relax, but I find my spine is a little longer. I honestly feel a little taller. 
  3. I am not as tired. My kids are not sleepers. The baby nurses several times a night and wakes up with teething pain or belly issues or a diaper need or just wants to party for a bit. I took my FitBit off with rage months ago because knowing that I had "374 minutes awake" was not helpful. I am not sleeping any more now than I was pre-yoga, but I don't feel as tired. This seems crazy because I sweat and pant during yoga class. But again, like they've been telling me for years ... endorphins make you feel better. 
  4. I feel less stressed. Much like however many times you explain physics to me, I will never understand how an airplane stays in the sky, however many times you explain exercise in terms of neuroscience, I will never understand why it helps improve my mood. Life is intense right now, but my mind is more calm than it was. I think a huge part of it is that yoga is providing me more than just exercise: it provides that sacred alone time.
  5. I am more social. No secret that I have massive social anxiety. Going to a new yoga studio that first day was terrifying, and I still get butterflies when I don't recognize the person behind the front desk. But there is a yoga community up there, and even though I am nervous to find new community, it is good for me. I am forced to utter a few sentences every day to someone who is older than four. I'm getting there.
  6. I'm sleeping better. Notice I said I'm sleeping "better," not I'm sleeping "more." My kids still wake up at least 4x a night, and I'm nursing the baby multiple times. But most of the time I am able to fall back asleep relatively easily, which is new to me. 

Okay. I don't want to be a yoga evangelist, but I do want to admit when I am wrong. And for many years, I suppose, I should have been doing yoga. Oops. No time like the present, right? Now if I could just find a way to play music and write for an hour a day, I might dig my way up to zero.
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