The Middle

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In January, I committed to my health in two important ways. The first, registering for yoga teacher training and training for a half-marathon.

The two journeys started on their own path but like many things in life, they are starting to support and combat one another.

Somewhere deep down (very, very deep down) I have missed running. I didn’t miss training indoors on the dreadmill or repetitive loops around the track. I didn’t miss battling Mother Nature’s elements either, but I did miss the routine and the build running programs offers. One week you’re absolutely certain there is no physical way your body can run more than six miles and a month later you’re running ten miles. I’m still in the “Ten miles, no way!” camp of training but I can see a small light at the end of the tunnel.

Yoga teacher training is a completely different discipline and I’ve embraced my role as a student. I’ve completed four of the ten weekends of teacher training and my thoughts and emotions are all over the place. I’m energized, humbled and intimated. Some weeks I’m more committed than others. New yoga pants have been purchased but a solid daily meditation practice? Not so much.

You know that feeling when you’re on a long road trip? You’ve burned through the trail-mix, looking forward to the next state but you’re not sure how and when you’ll ever reach your final destination? Is the final destination the best part or is it the trip itself? Does it matter?

Too literal of an analogy?

Even so, that’s where I am. The trail-mix will do but, didn’t we just eat that an hour ago? Each state is better than the last and how did I not know that Idaho was this beautiful? Where are we going again? Will I even know when we’ve arrived? I’m in the middle and by definition, the middle is the messiest. If not the messiest, it certainly feels the most confined.

This type of nonsensical question-asking is just the sort of the thing The Middle loves, I assume.

What does The Middle feel like?

A little yoga 101, there are eight limbs of yoga (we’re familiar with the third limb asanas, postures). The second limb are the Niyamas which are moral codes that guide us toward positive behavior. They are principles that help us live our yoga practice on and off of the mat. The third Niyama is tapas meaning, discipline and “burning enthusiasm.” Tapas can mean cultivating a sense of self-discipline, passion and courage in order to burn away “impurities” physically, mentally and emotionally, and paves the way to our true greatness. It’s the fieriness that gets our heart pumping, heightens our desire for personal growth.

Pretty intense, right? And that’s where I am right now.

For me, yoga has also become the “insulation to my live wire.”

Another tool in my toolbox to pull out when my thoughts get the best of me. The practice helps me pause and ask “Is this situation worthy of an emotional, intense, dramatic reaction?” The discipline has helped me stay present and recognize that emotions are not something to push through, but rather embrace and honor.

It is not a magic bullet, an easy pill or the means to an end. It’s intense to see real physical change and recognize the path to personal growth. I’m constantly worried I’ll slip back into bad habits or behavior patterns. Or that I’m a fraud or undeserving. I’m worried state of vulnerability is fleeting and over time, my shell will build back up.

We tend to be comfortable with the end result. We love the before and after. We love to know about the process to transformation but please, just give me an overview and a path to follow. Boxes to check until I can check the biggest box, the end result! Rarely do we pause and reflect on the true discipline personal transformation requires. Or, at least I rarely paused.

Since this reflection is truly about the middle and the transformation might only be significant to me, there’s really no ending. Only comfort in knowing we can make small incremental changes. They matter to our physical and mental health, our families, friends and community. Or maybe they don’t, maybe they’ll just matter to you and to me and that’s alright too.

Our deepest fear

dyaa-eldin-103.jpgToday I packed up my little office cube, as my company prepares to move from the suburbs to a downtown office. I filed a little piece of paper with my favorite quote and wanted to share it with you all (all = mom and friends).

This little quote was given to me by an old co-worker. It has been a daily reminder, always pinned up near my phone or monitor for five years. It makes me uncomfortable. It makes me want to do more and push myself past that slightly uncomfortable feeling to get to the other side.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to manifest the glory that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates other. – Marianne Williamson

I think this quote might be slightly altered from the original but this version has been starting at me for five years and I wanted to share it with you. Because we need a reminder every now and again a reminder that our playing small does not serve the world.

Here’s to playing big!

Pivot

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This space has gathered a fair amount of dust over the last few months. It would be easy to say that life is busy and I simply can’t find the time to write and share. Truth is, Happy by Design’s mantra hasn’t aligned with my life stage since midway through my second pregnancy. My son Louie just turned one so, yeah, that’s a lot of dust-gathering.

During intense seasons of motherhood, I essentially – and unintentionally – lean back, shut down and outsource. For me, it’s not the time to pursue passions or try something new. I attempted to get into weaving small wall hangings during pregnancy, in order to give my eyes a break from one of the multiple screens. Patience was thin, the DIY loom had issues and work always won.

Our family had to shift to make space for our son, Louie, and I unknowingly took a break maximizing, foraging ahead and trying anything new. Rather, I looked inward and focused on the essentials to keep the family afloat.

So, now what? It’s been a few months since the fog has lifted and, dare I say, it feels like there’s a regular cadence to our life.

My first pregnancy led me to create a personal blog where I tracked my daughter’s progress and confirmed that parenting cliches are indeed true. It was a space for me to share the “firsts” with family and friends and process my thoughts through writing.

Happy by Design was created because we had an itch we wanted to scratch, to explore other things that fill our hearts in addition to parenthood – our careers and health. But here’s the thing, those three topics: motherhood, career and health – they are not on the same playing field. Although training for a race, by nature, requires discipline, mental toughness and running shoes; motherhood is MOTHERHOOD and requires all of you. It’s an art, not science – and art gets messy. 

Today, Happy by Design means living an intentional life that includes big plans and mini-milestones: house projects, travel, community with a few personal and professional goals (vague enough?). What I’m getting at is this site will go on with thoughts on motherhood, wellness and DIY home improvements attempts.

Are you wondering, “What about Jamie?” We are fierce friends and our writing pursuits led us in different directions. Her space is about her thoughts and pursuits in writing, reading, career and life. I highly recommend checking it out and subscribing to her updates. I’m not just saying this because she’s one of my closest friends but her point of view is always spot-on, interesting and hilarious.

I’m thrilled to restart this little engine and refuel it regularly. However, if I need to hit the pause button and this space ends up in the repair shop, once again; thanks for understanding because, life!

Done > Perfect

Book

 

Have you read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear? I was first interested as a resource for my husband’s business. He’s an artist and I’m slowly assisting with project management, production and marketing. Slow is the key word here. I thought this book would contain nuggets of wisdom for my husband but instead, every page contains an eye-opener for me. My husband already lives a creative life with minimal fear. I’m the one stuck in the hamster wheel of fear and constantly weighing risks and rewards.

Themes of overcoming resistance and fear are not new but, Gilbert’s voice resonates. Themes can be applied to your 9-5 career, side-hustle, parenthood and self-care (fitness, crafting, cooking, whatever makes you smile).

I’ve read the section Fear in High Heels, a handful of times and wanted to share an excerpt:

“Perfectionism stops people from completing their work, yes – but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work. Perfectionists often decide in advance that the end product is never going to be satisfactory, so they don’t even bother trying to be creative in the first place.

The most evil trick about perfectionism, though, is that it disguises itself as a virtue. In job interviews, for instance, people will sometimes advertise their perfectionism as if it’s their greatest selling point – taking pride in the very thing that is holding them back from enjoying their fullest possible engagement with creative living.

But I see it differently. I think perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear. In think perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified. Because underneath that shiny veneer, perfectionism is nothing more than a deep existential angst that says, again and again, “I am not good enough and I will never be good enough.” … We must understand that the drive for perfectionism is a corrosive waste of time, because nothing is ever beyond criticism … at some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is – if only so that you can go on to make other things with a glad and determined hard. Which is the entire point. Or should be.”

For the most part, I’ve dismissed the idea of perfectionism and embraced my Type B personality characteristics. Those traits are an asset in my career, marriage, parenting-style and sanity.

I don’t apply this sound reasoning to my creative pursuits, regardless of the risk or reward. Whether I’m knitting a pair of mittens, examining a complex recipe or developing a plan for my husband’s business, I take three steps back. The, panic at the countless ways I can will fail and give up before I start.

It’s not logical, helpful or fun.

Done is greater than perfect!

Done means a warm pair of mittens, a three-tiered cake just for the hell of it.

Done is fun. Waiting around for perfect is boring as hell.

New Baby. New Discovery.

Kids

The most stressful times in one’s life include starting a new job, moving and welcoming a new baby. Collectively, Jamie and I tackled all three over the summer. Our family welcomed little Louis Lee on August 2 – all nine pounds and two ounces. Rather than explain the lack of activity on the site, let’s dive into the joys of parenting.

Last week I listened to an interview on NPR. The host with a lovely, unique name, a requirement for all NPR hosts, was interviewing a travel journalist. The topic: career changes after having kids. I always marvel at the questions women are asked and often think “Would she dare ask this of a man?”

During the interview, the host chimed in to answer her own questions – she provided personal anecdotes about her own birth experience and maternity leave. She never thought of herself as athletic or having significant physical strength yet, after having her baby, she felt invincible. She couldn’t believe what she had accomplished. That made her wonder – what else can I do? How strong am I, really? What else can I accomplish?

Then, what happens after this monumental moment of self-discovery? Your world becomes small. Daily geography shrinks to a few rooms in your house. The focus, rightfully so, is on the baby. A very important, isolating time.

I had a C-section with my daughter and a VBAC with son. Although the experiences were vastly different, I felt the same sense of amazement and pride. My body was capable of so much more than I gave it credit for. In hindsight, that’s why I became a runner. I never considered running before having kids and told myself I wanted a quick, effective form of cardio. As I type these words I realize that’s was only one little reason. The real reason is because I finally had the confidence in my body and my mental toughness. When I’m facing a tough run or steep hill, I tell myself “You made another human. You can run up this hill.” And, it’s true. Moms do run up hills.

We research doctors, create meal plans and tour daycare centers. We write out birth plans while understanding we only have so much control. We eventually recover from pregnancy and birth. We nurse our babies. We fed our babies. We work hard to craft a life that makes us happy and fulfilled. Then we wonder, if I can do ______, what else can I do?

Things happen when they’re meant to happen and not before

A view I could get used to.

A view I could get used to.

Destiny shmestiny, right? Well, I’m a skeptic of just waiting for good fortune to fall in your lap. I’m a firm believer of going out and doing whatever it takes to work towards your dreams. And that if you just wait for things to happen to you, you’ll never truly be happy.

BUT. Timing is something that I’m mystified by. You can work really hard, you can give it your all, and sometimes it’s a stroke of luck, a fortunate happening, that sets things in motion that are completely out of your control.

And that’s what I’m going through right now. The last couple months were very hectic on so many levels. We decided we were going to sell our house. Right after that, I found out my employer was NOT doing so well and my future with them looked bleak…and short lived. Then there were some weird unexplained health things that I wasn’t cool with (which, so you’re all not freaking out, turned out to be absolutely nothing). And then I got a terrible haircut and it seemed like the world was ending.

Kidding! I didn’t get a hair cut and my hair still looks fabulous, thank you very much.

And then that all culminated with me having my last official day in office last week. I was too busy to be scared. I’d already been going on interviews because I knew that was inevitable. But I’d also been doing a lot more leg work with selling the house (more so than usual, that is) and trying to line up houses to see, and then there were birthday parties to plan and trips to go on and a house to keep show-ready and appointments to schedule and there just wasn’t time for a “woe is me” moment.

So I started this week like I do any week – with a to do list. And at first it seemed like, “Okay, this is fine. I’ll keep busy.” but in the back of my mind I still had this dread that I wasn’t doing what I SHOULD be doing, aka…working a full-time job.

And then things just started happening. Good things. Things that had nothing to do with my to do lists or hard work or networking skills. So as not to jinx those things I won’t go into detail, but basically the house of our dreams was laid in our hands…in our budget and almost all of the details in our favor. The other things? I received two very interesting calls from companies with positions that are better than anything I’ve seen to date. And the kicker, they’re excited to talk to me about those positions!

That’s all I can say on those two things. So, I still think it’s worthwhile to strike out on your own and go after the things you love. But at a certain point, you just have to trust that you’ll get a stroke of luck, or a bit of good timing to push you along even more.

p.s. If I hear the phrase, “When a door closes, a window opens” one more time, I might have to bang my head on a table. So I won’t be saying that. I know it’s true, but that’s such a terrible cliche. I mean, what if you lived in a really tall building. Is that window meant for jumping out? What a terrible thought. And how does that saying apply to hotel employees? “When a door closes, a window opens…but that doesn’t apply here because we have bars on the windows or they actually will never open, so I guess you’re stuck and that’s life, ya know?”

p.p.s. I’m thinking “Hotel motivational speaker” is not a career I should pursue. Just wanted you to know that I realize that.

Monday Motivation: Keep on Keeping on

Ingrid Ice Skates

The face of determination.

 

Happy Monday!

How was your weekend? Over here, it was a good mix of tackling house projects and ignoring responsibilities like laundry and grocery shopping. Yesterday Jamie and I met up for coffee and chatted about our families, writing and Trivia Crack. I told Jamie that I was falling short on my most recent writing goal but, I want to keep writing. She nodded and for some reason, that gesture was enough motivation – and validation – to keep going. After all, the name of the game this year is determination.

Over the holidays, I stumbled upon a project that resonated with me and mimicked National Novel Writing Month – Picture Book Idea Month. Although I discovered the site a few months after the challenge, I decided to participate, or should I say “participate.” The challenge: to come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. The website provides some writing prompts but its primary goal is to motivate writers.

I started 30 days ago and have 16 ideas.

If you just look at the calendar and the number of ideas, I’ve failed. Since I’m going at this solo instead of following along with a group of like-minded people, I’m proud of my progress. That’s not entirely true – I find my progress acceptable. My arbitrary date has come and gone but instead of giving up, per usual, I’m going to continue to write and generate ideas. If it takes 60 days, it takes 60 days.

I tend to get caught up in a negative feedback loop and ultimately stuck in my own head. Telling myself these ideas aren’t good. These books have all been done before. Why would anyone want to read a children’s book about that topic? Fear, what a powerful beast!

It took me a long time to get mentally tough as a runner. Mental toughness is proving to be a muscle that I need to continue to flex. I didn’t think brainstorming 30 book ideas would require the same level as mental toughness as running a half marathon. It does. It’s easier to check email or read blogs. It’s easier to stop running and walk. But, as any seasoned runner will tell you, it’s quicker and far more satisfying to run up that damn hill instead of walking up the long climb. You reach the top feeling satisfied and accomplished. It was hard and you did it. You can do hard things.

It took me a long time to believe that hills were worth running but over the course of training, I started to like hills. There is this gradual, never-ending hill about a half mile from my house. Each time I run up the incline, I repeat the mantra, “This hill is my bitch, this hill is my bitch. This. Hill. Is. My. Bitch.”

It’s time to embrace this mantra and repeat it over and over until I reach the top, and write 30 ideas, “This challenge is my bitch, this challenge is my bitch. This. Challenge. Is. My. Bitch.”

Monday Motivation: Learn Something New

 

Well it's not my dog, but it's a cute dog. But what does he wonder?

Well it’s not my dog, but it’s a cute dog. But what does he wonder?

I’m baaaaccckkkkkk. Oh, you didn’t know I was gone? That’s alright, all is forgiven.

In a nutshell, I spent the last week on a real vacation in Florida – Disney and then Tampa. It was fun, it was magical, there was even a nap that occurred at one point. What more could an overworked and slightly looney girl ask for, am I right? More to come on that vacation. But first, let’s talk about learning something new.

Mind = Blown.

While on vacation I got in some good hearty reading. I read two books that I kept putting on the back burner over the last month and finally found the time to read them. The first was, “The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us” by Diane Ackerman. The second was, “The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth: Entrepreneurship for Weirdos, Misfits and World Dominators” by Chris Brogan.

And as the section header implies, my mind was blown (figuratively) after reading these two insanely different, yet both incredibly compelling books. And I probably could write a very, VERY long review on each, but that’s not what I want to do here. What I want to do is let you in on some things I learned from “The Human Age” because, well, I think they’re interesting things.

  • Sweden actually ships in garbage from other countries in order to fuel their cities…because they don’t have enough of their own garbage. They’re THAT clean.
  • 3D printers will likely end many industries. Not all, but a lot of them. Oh, they’ll also be able to make organs out of actual human tissue. Creepy, right?
  • 1/10 of your body is made of human cells, the rest is made of other stuff like bacteria and microbes. Gross, but fascinating, huh?
  • A robot that creates another robot is not necessarily like how you would build a robot. It’s how a robot thinks a robot should be built.
  • Animals may know you know something. But they don’t know you know they know something. Did you catch that?

Why am I reading up on 3D printers and the internal workings of animals? Because…

I just wanted to learn something new.

I have a question in my mind that needs to be answered for the book I’m writing. It’s a very open-ended question, but I knew I would need to fall deep into the rabbit hole if I wanted to paint a picture of the world my characters are currently living in.

The question was, “What separates humans from all other life forms?” On a scientific level I get it. I mean, well, sort of. I get it so far as what I learned in the Biology 101 class I took in college (that I barely passed). So I wanted to learn more.

Now, you might be asking, “Shouldn’t you write about what you know?” Well, I guess I’m trying to test that theory. Because I think a lot of people already know random Disney facts and the lyrics to Iggy Azalea songs so that didn’t seem all that interesting in terms of a story plot. But I digress. 

While going down one rabbit hole, I stumbled on this Brain Pickings article reviewing “The Human Age” and it was this very excerpt that offered a glimmer of an answer to what I was seeking.

[Animals] possess a theory of mind, and can intuit what a rival might do in a given situation and act accordingly. They exhibit deceit, compassion, the ability to see themselves through another’s eyes…

I don’t think they fret and reason endlessly about mental states, as we do. They simply dream a different dream, probably much like the one we used to dream, before we crocheted into our neural circuitry the ability to have ideas about everything. Other animals may know you know something, but they don’t know you know they know. Other mammals may think, but we think about having thoughts. Linnaeus categorized us in the subspecies of Homo sapiens sapiens, adding the extra sapiens because we don’t just know, we know that we know.

So then I found the book and started reading it. And then I learned WAY more about the way humans are shaping the world around us than just simply how we’re different from animals.

Your mind needs a break

On any given day I probably think about the same things over and over again. So to take a break and think about the world in a different way, or to think about anything in a different way, was a nice change. It doesn’t mean you have to take action. It’s enough to just absorb it and let it keep you wandering down a couple more rabbit holes. Don’t stress out about it. Just find something new that piques your interest. Maybe dig a little deeper instead of putting it on the back burner of your mind. And heck, if you find a way to apply the new knowledge in your everyday life, all the better!

Happy Monday, fellow Erudites!

Happy New Year!

New Years 2012

I love the New Year holiday. The celebrations, the glittery hats and the promise of a new 12 month adventure. Like most, I have mixed feelings about creating resolutions. In theory, resolutions provide us with a road-map for the year ahead. Revisiting or creating resolutions can be the first step in achieving fitness, personal or professional goals.

Of course, they can also be a recipe for disappointment. Rather than create specific goals, I’d like to focus on one word for the year. Does it feel like a cop out? Sort of. To me, this fresh approach resonates and feels achievable. When the motivation balloon has been deflated I hope to revisit my “2015 word” to gather inspiration and keep chugging along. A list of contenders:

  • Positive
  • Gratitude
  • Yes
  • Brave
  • Possibilities
  • Happiness
  • Determined

“Yes” made the cut because I’m currently reading Amy Poehler’s book Yes PleaseWhat an inspiring read by a bad-ass, positive chick. Love this:

It’s called Yes Please because it is the constant struggle and often the right answer. Can we figure out what we want, ask for it, and stop talking? Yes please. Is being vulnerable a power position? Yes please. Am I allowed to take up space? Yes please. Would you like to be left alone? Yes please.

“Yes please” sounds powerful and concise. It’s a response and a request. It’s not about being a good girl; it is about being a real woman.

“Yes” is great but it’s not specific enough. My word for 2015 is determined. Said better,

Wake up with determination, go to bed with satisfaction.

Determination mantra!

Determination mantra!

I’m determined to be positive, express gratitude, say yes, be brace, embrace possibilities and seek happiness every single day. I’m determined to have patience with my family and myself. I’m determined to write children’s books, keep running and above all else – have fun!

Happy 2015!

2015: The Year of “Because, Why Not?”

Because_whynot

I stated in my last post that I was not about setting goals for the new year just for the sake of setting goals for the new year. But in the back of my mind, there’s a small part of me that knows I want this year to be just a little bit different, hopefully a little better than the last. In 2014, I got a taste for embracing the fear. In 2015, I’m going to push that. I’m calling it the year of, “Because, Why Not?” (screw your grammar rules, it works!)

Maybe it’s because I’m in my thirties and I’ve started to care less and less about the opinions others have of me. Maybe it’s because I’ve been able to keep a child alive for over 2.5 years (with the help of an amazing partner, I might add) and that in itself is a COMPLETE success for me. Maybe it’s because I’m rejiggering the idea of who I am and what I’m capable of. Whatever it is, I’m glad it found it’s way to me. And I plan to embrace that sense of pushing past the fear to try new things.

Just today I stumbled across a piece of advice for aspiring writers from one of my favorite authors, Margaret Atwood:

“”I think the main thing is: Just do it. Plunge in! Being Canadian, I go swimming in icy cold lakes, and there is always that dithering moment. ‘Am I really going to do this? Won’t it hurt?’ And at some point you just have to flop in there and scream. Once you’re in, keep going. You may have to crumple and toss, but we all do that. Courage! I think that is what’s most required.’

So I’m going to be flopping. I might be screaming. But by golly I’m going to give 2015 my all…because, why not? How about you? What will you be doing with the new year?

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