SUGA, SUGA

Holy-Day-After-Thanksgiving Food Coma Hangover. Yes, I mean a food hangover, it’s a real thing  (on the “off-chance” it wasn’t before, it is now). Let’s just take a collective groan right here- skip the “om” and go right to the lion’s breath sigh.

I am fairly certain I consumed more calories yesterday than I did in the entire week prior. Seriously. Thank GOD for my secret sweat pants or I think I might have had to wear my pajamas the rest of this trip.

My grand idea early in the day was to just eat turkey and pie. That’s it. No sides. Just protein and a tiny slice of each of the four kinds of pie that had been sitting on the buffet and mocking me for the last ten hours.

I love pie. Pie = culinary happiness. If I were in junior high I would doodle “pie+me” all over my trapper keeper binder in permanent ink because that’s the level of sheer devotion I have to that incredible pastry delight.

So, when dinner started I scored a thick slice of turkey and was all set to stick to “the” plan. I had run the six mile turkey trot that morning, subsided solely on coffee and water and uh, other clear liquids all day and I was determined to make this meal count. For what, I have no idea, but if I’m going to have a cheat day, then it’s going to be a CHEAT DAY, dammit.

But you know how plans go. . . or errrrr, don’t. . . because then the food crack showed up, all disguised as steaming hot side dishes. Before I could even finish the glass of wine I used as a chaser for my pre-dinner cocktails, somehow magically on my plate were sides of sugar, carbs that would soon be sugar, fat, and fat covered in sodium. Yummy.

Would I like a second helping? Obviously. I am stretching my stomach out so it has room for pie later. Duh.

And pie. Oh lovely, lovely pie.  As I scooped ice cream on top of my berry and apple pie, whipped cream on top of the pumpkin, and just spooned the key lime straight up and in, I considered that I might regret this later, like a lot.  This prompted a few seconds of my rationalizing the potential health benefit of this homemade goodness, such as vitamin C in the squash and the lack of pesticides in the organic apples. ROB Michelle, ROB.

Then I decided to just CTFD, clinked forks with my cousin across the table and handled that shit.

Am I paying for it today? Uh, yeah, there is potential truth there.  I might have had a painfully slow run that reminded me that I am not actually in my twenties anymore and don’t recover like those born in the 1990’s either. That’s a tiny possibility.

But, there are some great lessons here in this Food Fest 2013 recovery. Lessons of mindfulness and letting go, of course, since what we resist, persists. The universe is going to keep on keepin’ on with this deal. Fabulous.

As a brief reflection, I am most satisfied with the total lack of guilt I have today. Honestly. This is kind of a big deal.

Yesterday is gone. What has been done cannot be undone. Worrying about it won’t get me anywhere. Other than in the case where reparations are due, carrying unease and fear about anything actually yields no positive results. A scarcity mentality is incredibly limiting. Sadly, it will manifest itself across your life in ways deeper than you may even recognize.

Am I saying to forget healthy eating altogether then and eat whatever you want regularly? Noooooooo. Absolutely not. Unless you are hoping to play a little Russian Roulette with your arteries and ride the emotional roller coaster that exists in the chaos of poor nutrition, in which case, go for it.

I am saying, however, that taking these opportunities to be an active participant in the present is worth its weight in gold, or. . . uh. . . pie.

For example, today I could have spent hours feeling badly about what I ate. I could have punished my body by doing intense rounds of exercise, cleansed the sugar out by detoxing all day and thrown the rest of that damn pie away. I could have. But I didn’t.

That is not the takeaway message I want to model for my children; that is not the lifestyle I choose to lead.

And yes, it is a choice. It’s not an accident, it’s not coincidence, it didn’t happen spontaneously. Developing an abundance mentality took almost as much work and practice as I had spent during the years committed to restraint resulting in depressed culpability. Almost, but not quite; and with such a better payout.

I chose to embrace the moment yesterday. I spent quality, enjoyable, indulgent time with my family. I enjoyed eating, a lot. It was great. It was mindfulness at its peak, actually. And I don’t feel badly about it. Not one bit.

Life is short; too short to skip out on occasional indulgences or let the fear of the great white metaphorical carb prevent me from enjoying the sweetness of our existence. Work hard, play hard. Live a balanced life. Live a mindful life. Enjoy the moment- every sugar laden mouthful.

 

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NO DIGGITY (NO DOUBT)

Doubt. Fear. Anxiety. Pressure. Stress. Deadlines. Anger. Frustration.
Confusion. Control. Have to. Should. Need. Expectation. Discomfort. Pain.

Just reading those words makes my shoulders tighten up, my jaw clench and my brow furrow. Words are powerful. They carry with them the potential to help or to hinder us. To support or to crush us. Words are more than just a mark on a paper, they carry with them a meaning and a connotation that extends far beyond the page and directly into our hearts and minds.

Negative words then, quite literally take the positive energy out of a person, situation or scenario and replace it with with something quite the contrary. Instead of providing support and encouragement, these words invite us to bring in tension, to decrease productivity and creativity, and to operate from a place of discontent.

In stark juxtaposition then to the aforementioned list stand these words:

Believe. Embrace. Calm. Happy. Creative. Understanding. Flow. Clarity. Flexible.
Dynamic. Confident. Brave. Courage. Breathe. Stretch. See. Know. Learn. Grow.

Positive words offer up kindness, generosity and goodwill.  They bring out the light in us, the inspiration, the affirmation in ourselves that we seek. In fact, re-read those lists, then notice your body after you read them. What are your facial muscles doing? Your shoulders? What kind of memories or visual associations do you carry with each word? I’d be willing to bet that the first brings up some pretty serious shit for you, while the latter signals your body to relax, to let go, and to well, CTFD; right?

Okay, so. . . what now? What’s the big deal anyway? So sticks and stones will break our bones and words will actually hurt us. Yep. Roger that. And. . .?

Well, consider this first. The person we hear the most each day is ourselves. It’s our own little voice in our own little head providing the days’ newscast. That live, in action, play-by-play commentary comes from us and therefore, the words we choose to use have a rather profound effect on our day-to-day activity, our mood, our energy and in sum, our lives.

Starting to doubt me? Ha! There’s that negative word again, doubt. Tiny word, huge repercussions.

Reflect for a minute on how you have spoken to yourself today. Have you been kind? Have you encouraged yourself? Have you cheered yourself on?

Or, have you put yourself down? Gotten frustrated with yourself, said some not so nice things to your soul? How many things have you said “no” to simply because you told yourself “I can’t?”  What limitations have you placed upon yourself and your potential by creating a jaundiced internal dialogue?

Hmmmm. Ready for some authenticity now? When we can recognize what we are doing in our lives that is preventing us from progressing or serving as a barrier to our happiness, we can finally begin to do something about it.

First up, positive self talk. Be your own cheerleader. Tell the negative committee in your head to sit down and shut up. Pessimism, you’re on the bench. Optimism, suit up.

One of the best examples of this for me comes to light during exercise. I know, you are just shocked to hear this news. Can’t hardly believe it. Please do contain your excited surprise at this discovery. But really, as I recently wrote about in CAN’T GET YOU OUT OF MY HEAD, whatever is going on in my “real” life plays out for me on the mat and on the trail (or um. . . asphalt). Fortunately, that works both ways- if I can work it out there, I can work it out anywhere.

Over the weekend I got a chance to a) have my ass handed to me, on a silver platter, b) get out, WAY out, of my comfort zone, and c) practice positive self talk. That’s right, another triple play there. The universe just keeps throwing all these lessons my way. Based on the premise that it only gives you what you can handle, I must say it really must think I’m a badass.  How’s that for positive self talk?

Okay, back to the lesson. In October I had the grand and spontaneous idea to sign up for a half marathon (13.1 miles) to do in November.  I workout at least once a day, usually twice, and I’m in pretty good shape. However, a half marathon is a slightly different beast than the 3-5 miles I put in five days a week so I planned to actually train for this deal- you know, with all of my spare time. . .

Quit laughing. Seriously. Stop it. You already know that shit didn’t happen.

Spending over two hours a day exercising is not exactly on my list of priorities right now. So… I did my usual yoga and running routine and plus maybe two six miles runs in during a six week span. Then I thought about switching to the 10k. Hell, I thought about switching to the 5k. But I didn’t. I am not a quitter. When I commit, I follow through. When I’m in, I’m all in. . . except for training apparently. Or things that are too hard. Or when I don’t like them. Wait. Hmmm. So okay, well, usually, within reason, sometimes, I totally commit. Damn, that sounded like an excuse right there. . .ROB, again. Sigh.

Well, regardless of my total failure to adequately prepare myself, when race day came I rallied.  I dragged my tired ass out of bed at 6am, gulped down the nearest and most readily available form of protein available on the first shelf of my fridge (still have no idea what I ate), chugged some green tea, covered my baggy eyes with a good pair of shades, and hustled down the freeway to the start line. My goal was to finish in under 2 hours.

Yes, that’s right, I wanted to run 13.1 miles in under 2 hours without having trained. I’m an overachiever, remember? Of course that was my goal. Obviously.

Now is where the story of strength, positivity and resilience begins. This is when I was tested; all that crap I said about not knowing how strong you are until you challenge yourself- players, it just got real. No chance to say it and not live it. This was me, called out on the mat, shall we dance, let’s do this, trial initiated, go-time.

Well if there is one thing I know is true about myself, it’s that I love a challenge. Love it. Want to handle it, all day every day. So I did. I actually finished that damn race in 1 hour and 58 minutes; 9 minute mile averages. Not my fastest pace ever, not a personal best, but I did it. I ran the entire race and I met my goal

How? Through positive self talk. Seriously. That’s pretty much it. Other than making sure I met nutritional needs along the way like water and snacks, the one thing that allowed me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, mile after mile, minute after minute, muscle cramp after muscle cramp, was my words.

The human body is amazingly strong. Incredible. The human mind, however, has unlimited capacity and potential for greatness. We can push ourselves way past the limits we perceive ourselves to have, if we choose to; if we tell ourselves we CAN, instead of we can’t.  When we choose to stick through the discomfort, to break through the threshold, to hold through the shaking, the outcome is astonishingly beautiful.

This wasn’t easy. It wasn’t like I just said “Okay Michelle, just keep moving. Go you. Yay you.” No. This was very clear, very specific, and very positive talk. It was almost like mini-goal setting during the race actually, and it worked. Even when I wanted to quit at mile eight. Even when my left leg went numb at mile 11. Even when I could feel the blisters on my toes at mile 12. Even when I saw the end of the race a half mile away and I was so tired I briefly considered plopping myself into the nearest jogging stroller and hitching a ride to the balloon arch. Instead of quitting, I kept moving forward; allowing my word to carry my feet across the finish line.

As some specific examples, because I KNOW you like examples, these little pep talks looked something like this:

Mile One-  “awesome. 1 down, 12.1 to go. This is going to be great. Can’t wait to see the next mile marker.”
 
Mile Four- “Wow. About one quarter of the way done. Only 9 miles left. At the six mile mark I’m going to walk through the aide station and give my legs a 10 second break.”
Sidenote- I am big on quantifying things (I know, not surprising at all. Apparently I’m playing the role of Captain Obvious today, my bad)
 
Mile Seven- “How cool. I haven’t run this far in at least three months. I am so proud of my body. And I am so impressed by all my fellow runners and the amazing volunteers giving their time to keep us safe and on course. At the next mile marker I’m going to thank one of them.”
 
Mile Nine- “How lucky am I to be able run alongside of all these great people, live this healthy life, appreciate this great community, and do this beautiful run on a sunny Saturday morning? Life is good. At the next mile marker I am totally ditching this shirt. . . ”
Sidenote- I saw a man throwing up on the side of the road about here, and sent him some positive encouragement as I passed him. Guess what? He passed me about a mile down the road. Incredible. The power of positive words at work, again.
 
Mile Eleven- “So my leg just went numb. That is a sign that I am pushing my body past its limits. SCORE. Now I can grow as an athlete and a person. If I can do this, I can do anything. If I can get through this discomfort, I can get through my other pains. If I can keep moving forward right now, I can keep moving forward through anything. If I can accept this level of intensity, I can manage even more later. Just.keep.moving. At the next mile marker I am going to check my pace.”
 
Mile thirteen- “Almost there. Finish strong. Head up, speed up, be proud of what you’ve done today. Thank you body for being strong. Thank you God for your grace, thank you Universe for providing, as always.”

Those are just a few examples, but they are all: specific, positive, and put energy and goodness into my body and my spirit. My words lifted me up when by physical reaction wanted to shut me down.

Now as much as I joke, I am not a superhero. I’m in good shape for sure, but people, if I can do that with simply the power of my words, imagine what else is possible. Imagine what real things, what real challenges, what amazing feats can be accomplished with more effort and positive words. I have goosebumps just thinking about it.

Now for you- find some inspiration, give yourself some love, offer some positive self talk and then go about your usual business of being a badass. Game. On

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CAN’T GET YOU OUTTA MY HEAD

Ever notice that the more you could really stand to benefit from learning a lesson the more often that lesson keeps showing up in your life? Like a bad pop song (since those are super hard to come by these days. . .), it seems like you just can’t go anywhere without hearing it, seeing it, or unfortunately, and despite your best efforts to mock it, singing it.

Beyond reviewing the science involved in the study of human behavior and the brain (and oh yeah, we are so going there, and soon, so stand by), consider that this is more than your newly heightened awareness of the reality that you have a lesson to learn.  Apparently, the universe has a reminder app even better than the one on your smartphone, and this is it beeping “hey you, pay attention already.”

Why so many admonitions? Isn’t one enough? Well, not really. We are a rather thick-headed species and the universe sees fit to remind of this by providing ample opportunities to FIX IT!

Now, I know I drop a lot of yoga references. That’s because, quite frankly, it’s badass. I have almost as many yoga associations with life as I do hip-hop song lyrics, and that my friends, is saying something. Why do I mention that? Well, besides offering another totally unbiased nudge for you to try yoga . . . I have a lesson to share.

Earlier last week one of our awesome instructors provided some insight on this whole repeat lessons deal. She reminded us how the things that we struggle with in our lives show up on the mat with us. That we carry them around, wherever we go, and they continue to manifest themselves in all that we do. It shows in our work, it shows in our interactions with others, with our body language, the music we play, the food we eat, the words we choose. It is unavoidable.

For example, when I am feeling vibrant, receptive and powerful, I am a yoga Jedi, all strong and bendy (okay, and sweaty) and shit. My work-life balance is solid, my productivity is high, I spend a lot of time with friends, I eat well.

But, the reverse is also true. If I’m feeling ungrounded in life, I struggle with decision making and I have a hard time holding a balancing pose. When I am working on opening up my heart, I can’t stand to get into camel pose because it physically makes me sick to my stomach. Sometimes to cope, I avoid the discomfort on the mat. . . just like I do in my life.

Gulp.

The instructor went on to remind us, gently, that we don’t get to choose not to learn that lesson without repercussion and consequence, however latent they may be. In fact, the more we try to ignore the lesson, the more it presents itself. The universe is going to keep playing on, like a song stuck on repeat, until we learn and move forward.

Crap. Ironic much? This is basically a variation of a message I’ve been given many, many times before, but heard it differently right then.  Clearly, I have not been applying this lesson in its entirety, yet.

So, what to do? Give in and let go of course. Acknowledge that the universe is trying to teach you a lesson, and let it. The more we fight it the more it’s going to keep showing up in our laps. Over, and over and over. Until we get it. Until we apply it. And then fail at it again.

Then the lesson will be back, this time as a reminder. And we will learn it, again. And it will hurt, again. Maybe not as much, maybe not as intensely, but we will feel it again.

This is progress. This is the universe in its omnipresent, omniscient glory. It has a plan for you. Open yourself up to it.

Remember, failure and pain are learning, and learning is growth. We cannot understand our strength until it is tested. We do now know we are brave we are until we have had to show courage. We cannot truly know love until we experience its absence. We do not learn of our successes devoid the context of our mistakes.

It is through this suffering that we build understanding. It is through that understanding that we are able to grow. When we begin to do this, to apply the lessons, to change our behavior, to control our reactions, to expand our mindset, we begin to find contentment.

Life is short, make it happy.  In order to get that song out of your head, my dear, you must first be willing to suffer through hearing it, frequently, and at high volume.

Go forth and be brave.  Accept the challenge, prepare yourself to feel the sting of the lesson.

Make some space in your heart for new joys, some room in your life for new lessons, some room in your head for a new song.

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THE BLOCK PARTY: GREATEST HITS

A quick note, if you landed on this page before reading WE THE (VILLAGE) PEOPLE, you might want to take five minutes and read that first, it will provide a bit more context. Although, if you really want to work finding the implied main idea, then it’s all you, have at it. 

How great are my neighbors? How much better is not planning party planning? Oh, let me count the ways. No really, I’m counting, here they are:

While many of the residents of my street have been here for a while, very few actually knew each other. This, I was determined, was going to change.

To get the word out for a block party I made a flyer with the basic details and a link to a google doc. The kids and I delivered these to every house in the two block vicinity of our house (yes, two blocks, not one. Don’t judge, it’s a long story). As a funny aside, let me just mention that when you roll up on someone’s porch in yoga clothes armed with a clipboard, stack of papers and two wild animals, I mean, darling children, people get confused. Maybe next time I should wear real pants . . .

In any case, as a result of my effort to things rolling I learned that:

1. Kids are quite handy. They a) love to help and b) people don’t like to say no to sweet little faces. That said, honestly kids really make the neighborhood, a neighborhood. Ours is crawling with them, in swarms, and we just figured that out as result of this walk. There are babysitters or potential friends in just about every other house. SCORE.

2. One of my neighbors works for a printing company. She took the flyer, added a QR code with the link to the google doc, had them reprinted in color and offered to help me distribute round two. Um… YES PLEASE!

I was also supposed to get a permit to close one of the two blocks down. Check this out:

3. I didn’t know where to start and I had limited time on my hands to research, so as a shortcut I threw a line out on Facebook. BOOM. Not ten minutes later and I had a permit application in my inbox from a helpful acquaintance. thankyouverymuch social media networks.

4. While gathering signatures for the permit, I found my neighbor trying to get her new baby to sleep so we joined forces and collected autographs, kept each other in good company and got her little dude to crash out by the end of the first block. By my count, that’s a triple play.

5. I maybe, kind of, sort of did not get that permit submitted as quickly as I might have. I turned it in anyway, late, but was expecting that we’d probably end up in my backyard instead of in the street. That whole optimist preparing for the worst bit sneaking up on me there.

But, nope, no need for plan B. Surprise!  Ping, ping, that’s my inbox, on my phone, at 4:45 Friday afternoon announcing that I just received a permit from the city. Wait what? Yep/ Since I was super humble, apologetic and nice, the universe responded by connecting me to a lovely lovely woman at the city department who via e-mail (as in- I did not have to stand in a single line, ever) totally handled it. For only $25 and maybe four e-mail exchanges I got a permit to shut.it.down.people. Like all official and shit.

6. When the time came, I did not have any actual physical barriers, or even caution tape on hand (shocker) to block the street off, so I improvised. And by improvised I mean I parked my car across the end of the street.- dead center (I was tempted to right “hit me” on it, but I thought that might invite trouble . . . ). But then as luck would have it, one of my neighbors rolled out with cones and real barricades and solved the problem for me. Thank you neighbor. Thank you universe.

I was hoping to have some kind of entertainment so we weren’t all standing there staring at each other over pie but I also didn’t want to spend a bunch of time and money doing it, so:

7. I asked a friend of mine if he wanted to put on a little one man show for the afternoon. This resulted in our having a legit DJ for the night, great live music and later… karaoke, (and like, with people who can actually sing (so yeah, not me, obviously).

And then,

8. Some neighbors brought a ping pong table out into the street. Yes, a ping pong table. In the middle of the street. Need I say more?

9. Things like chairs, tables, bamboo decorations, games, crockpots and more extension cords than I’ve seen since last Christmas just appeared. All over. Like from the time I went inside to grab a tablecloth, suddenly we had hot soup, main dishes,  side dishes,  desserts, drinks, lights, places to sit and just, well, a whole lot of awesome achieved with zero preparation.

10. The kids just instantly entertained each other. The older ones helped the younger ones, no one got hurt, there were no ER visits, no crying, no complaining, no arguing even. Just fun (and possibly some substantial sugar intake because there was also very limited supervision of the dessert table).

11. Two sets of neighbors own portable fire pits. Add those chairs that just kept magically appearing from people’s porches and yards and TA-DA – official fun party status- achieved.  Because besides the fourth of July, when else do we play with fire in the street? Nailed it.

This is hardly the end of the list but I think I’ve made my point. Our little community of strangers, with minimal advance effort made it happen, and happen well; collective efficacy at its most simple and efficient form.

How very wonderful to see so much joy, so much positive energy, just waiting to be given. These are the memories, the moments, the experiences, that remind us that it really does take a village, that life is better when shared, and that there is goodness in people everywhere.

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WE THE (VILLAGE) PEOPLE

Sometimes the immense human capacity to give and come together overwhelms me.

People, as complex and confusing as we are, with our limitless potential to try, fail, grow, and learn, are really quite wonderful creatures.

This last weekend I got a lovely reminder of this at our neighborhood block party. And as a super bonus,  I also had the chance to cash in some of my karmic dividends in this whole learning to let things go deal. Big time. It was a double punch, win-win, two birds with one stone (maybe like an entire flock of birds actually), super player kind of shindig that made me smile all day today, really.

As some background, I moved into a new neighborhood that I absolutely adore in June. It’s one of those places that as a kid I always wanted to live in but never followed through with- until last summer- when I realized the only thing stopping me from living that dream was, um, me. So here I am, in this sweet oxymoron of a community. It’s hip but not hipSTER, charming but not Disney, urban but still family friendly (as in, quiet side streets and no homeless people sleeping in my front yard, that I know about anyway. . .). It’s amazing. I am so very aware and grateful for the opportunity to have this lifestyle, and to finally be in a place where I can enjoy and appreciate it.

Rolling your eyes yet? Think I’m just revealing the life I’ve curated for public consumption? No way. This good fortune happened for a couple of reasons. One is because I put some solid effort in to move things forward. Mostly though, honestly, it’s because, drum roll. . . .   I LET GO.  I allowed my comfort zone to expand, I allowed the universe to provide for me and when I saw an opening in the time-space continuum of my life to take a big turn for the better, I took it.

So fast forward a few months to October.  After we moved I had noticed that many other streets around me had block parties and they looked pretty, well, awesome. If there’s one thing I want more of in my life, it’s definitely “awesome,” and since I love a good social gathering almost as much as I love my morning coffee, I started looking into how this might come to happen on our block.

Expecting a public confession of an over planning session to hence come forth? Negative. Sorry to disappoint. Different girl, different story.

In my previous life, the one where I was all concerned with everything being right and perfect and approved by the majority vote at all times, I could party plan like nobody’s business. For example, my daughter’s fourth birthday had handmade embossed invitations, a three tier, four foot castle monstrosity of a cake, five themed activity centers and a three course meal for the kids AND the parents. All homemade, from scratch, in a highly caffeinated, ulcer inducing state of sheer panicked energy.   This was standard, normal, everyday kind of crazy for me. People, including yours truly, expected this from me.

To be clear, I like entertaining, I adore feeding people and I like to get my craft on, but that was out of control, defcom1 shit. And, in the end, I never had any fun at those parties anyway. I was so busy being Martha Freakin’ Stewart/Hostess with the Mostess the entire time I would hardly even get to eat a bite of the damn food until I was carefully packing up the leftovers in my perfectly matched glass food storage containers.

This is not, in any way, how I choose to live any more. I still love to entertain and I still make too much food every time (I think I have a problem with small quantities. . possibly. . .maybe). However, I often use paper plates (GASP!), make simpler dishes and the mass rations get tossed in the tupper-where’s-the-f*#king-lid collection at the end of the meal. Over time, I’m finding that the more flexible I am and the fewer the structures and expectations I place on the event, on myself, and on others, the better the end result.

In any case, for this deal, I did the no-plan, plan. The “let’s just see what happens” plan. I put it out there into the world and then waited to see what the universe would throw my way.

And throw it did. Wow. I might want to invest in some new buckets to catch all this goodness ‘cuz it’s falling like confetti up in here.

Here’s the hit list of the highlights, the best parts, the rundown for how the universe, and my neighbors, knocked it out of the damn park. Oh, and so, yeah, I put them in an actual list, an annotated list, of course. Lists are awesome and efficient and, um, I like things all orderly and crap  #can’thidethatcrazy.

SHADES OF GRAY

Lately I’ve had the opportunity to experience a whole lot of new ambiguity in my life. I’ve been getting very comfortable with change, lots of it. Heaps and heaps of it actually. A good deal by choice, some by circumstance (created in part, arguably, by choice) and some just well, because.

This has been equal parts fun and terrifying. Living in this pursuit of mindfulness, of appreciating the moment, of letting go of the past and not overplanning the future has been pretty awesome. And also, to be totally honest, sometimes kind of shitty too.

Here’s the deal:

1. I am a “go girl,” I love spontaneous adventures and plans and I very, very rarely turn down an invitation for fun or to try something new. However;

2. I’m a planner. I know this. My friends know this. The universe knows this and it laughs at me. Often.

   Me: “I’m finally happy” Life: “lol, wait a sec.”

3. Sometimes I just crave a little consistency, a little schedule, a little regularity in my life. It makes me feel sane. And safe. And “normal.”

4. When things go wrong, my old habit was to FIX IT right away. Research it, label it, plan for it and FIX IT, FIX IT, FIX IT!

5. I can find the sunny side of pretty much anything, I really can. As an optimist, I expect the best but to be sure, I absolutely prepare for the worst. This, ironically, can result in a scarcity mindset and genuinely hinder my happiness.

How am I going to deal with this current reality? Well, first I’m going to make a list. Then I’m going to handle that list, and then I’m going to FIX IT! Just kidding. Sort of. Here’s my not plan/plan. It’s more of a toolkit or a list of things that might be helpful to try, should I feel like following some um, guidelines:

1. Well, good job. Keep doing that. Getting out of my comfort zone helps is a catalyst for growth. So go me, way to start with a positive. I give myself an A+ for this one.

2. But… let’s go ahead and stop planning every.single.thing because girl, today’s headline, hot off the presses is that “LIFE DOESN’T FOLLOW YOUR DAMN PLAN.” In fact, it never has so actually, while it may seem that this ambiguity is new, it’s not. Because when I think about it, life has never followed my plan so even when I planned my plan, it didn’t go as planned. You with me?

This means…that I’ve actually been living in the gray zone pretty much my whole life.

Huh. What a concept. Little bit of a mind blowing idea there, isn’t it? No wonder E.L. James is making so much money, that player knew what was up.

3. I will continue to build in some consistent things and comforts; they are foundational pieces that will allow me to manage change well. I will acknowledge them, be grateful for them, and make time, not excuses, for them. This is tending to the self, and it’s just as important a piece for growth as is broadening my comfort zone.

4. My new instinct, when things don’t go as I had hoped, is to just breathe. To notice my reaction, to notice my surroundings, and to do nothing. That’s right. Do nothing. Just breathe. This is the best yogic lesson ever. My breath will carry me through anything, every single time.  Inhale, bring the good shit in, exhale, let the bullshit out, repeat.

5. Keep being an optimist, but with an abundance mindset. See more of the good and less of the response for the bad. Being an optimist is not about being able to respond to crises because you’ve planned in advance, protected yourself and created an advance S.O.W (Scope of Work, for those not in the know). It’s about being vulnerable, positive, and willing to take a leap of faith, even when you don’t know what’s coming, even when you might be wrong. Even when, gasp, it doesn’t turn out like you planned.

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”  
~ Lao Tzu
 
and just for fun . . .
 
hurry the F up
 
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FIX IT: THE PLAYLIST

Can you imagine Rose and Jack without “My Heart Will Go On,” envision Harry meeting Sally without “It Had To Be You” playing in the background, watch the Lion King without “Hakuna Matata,” see Eminem in 8mile without um, “losing himself,” or cheer on Rocky while he runs through the city without rockin’ to “Gonna Fly Now” (okay, and without a sweatband, but that’s beside the point)? Can you IMAGINE what movies would be like without music? Booorrring!

Now, not that my life is a movie, exactly, but I kind of like to keep the theme songs bumping up in here like it is. It just makes everything better. Music sets the tone, the mood and the general energy level for the present. It has such a powerful emotional connection and generates an enormous physical response that it’s hard to ignore its potential to change your day.

While I admit that I am a terrible singer, have zero dance skills and have forgotten how to play all five instruments in which I had years of training, I love music. Love it.

With a few obvious exceptions, I have my beats on pretty much all day, every day, everywhere I go. I have two bluetooth speakers in my house, one in the car and even when I’m out working at a coffee shop I usually am wearing my headphones.  In fact, right now I have on my “Get it Crackin” playlist and am resisting bustin’ a move in between paragraphs, but just barely.

Since I was in the car over this last weekend doing all that thinking I spent a good amount of time with my music playlists. I have recently upgraded from Pandora to Spotify and Oh.My.God. What a difference. WOW. It lets you do all kinds of amazing things that Pandora doesn’t. I’m sorry Pandora and Hip Hop Road Trip, I promise to make some drop-in appearances now and then but Spotify has Old School Hip Hop, and it’s um, better. And iTunes? Please. Upgrade or buy someone out ‘cuz, hate to break it to ya, but people aren’t going to keep paying $1.29 a song when they can have unlimited songs for $9.99/month. Just saying. . .

Anyhow, I thought now might be a great time to share a particular playlist with you. Of course you can cyber stalk me on Spotify, but in case you haven’t made that discovery just yet, I’m offering an annotated list of my ten most favorite songs from what I call my “Fix-it/Reset” playlist.  These are the songs that remind me to CTFD and let go whenever I can use a swift kick in the ass (so. . . fairly regularly). Some are deep, some are funny, some just get the beat going which in turn improves my mood. Regardless of their genre,  in sum all are inspirational, motivational, positive mood changers.

So here it is, it was a tough call and I had to cut some really good players but these are the winners, for today anyway.  Feel free to add your own below in the comments section and keep an eye out for me on Spotify. We can be friends. OH BOY. Real, true, musical bosom buddies. No false sense of intimacy there or anything. . .  but that playlist has somewhere around 75 songs on it (sometimes I need a REALLY big kick) and they are all guaranteed to help you get your groove going strong. Oh, and as a side note, my music interests are pretty wide and a some of the songs on my list include “explicit” lyrics so you know, maybe don’t play it around your kids. . . yet.

Rock on my friends.

THE CTFD “RESET” PLAYLIST

1. Let Her Go” by Passenger

This song is about mindfulness really. As in I’m going to learn from Mike Rosenberg’s pain and appreciate what I have when I have it rather than when, um, it’s gone.

LINKS:  YouTube,Spotifylyrics 

2.  “Who You Love” by John Mayer and Katy Perry

This song reminds me that most of my life is out of my control. You love who you love. Some things just happen or are just plain meant to be. As a good friend of mine says, “it’s already been written.” This song is a gentle nudge to just accept that and quit fighting with the universe. You’re gonna lose anyway.

LINKS:  YouTubeSpotifylyrics

3. “Keep Your Head Up” by Ben Howard

This is a little bit self explanatory but… essentially, it reminds me to stay strong, not look back (or down, actually) and keep moving forward.

LINKS:  YouTubeSpotifylyrics

4. “Don’t Mess With Karma” by Brett Dennen

This is just plain funny. And a pretty darn good song. Remember, “don’t go messing with karma, it’ll come around.”

LINKS:  YouTubeSpotify

5. “Sunshine” and “Live Like A Warrior”  by Matisyahshi

Okay, I know this is two songs- they tied. It’s pretty much impossible not to feel happy when the “Sunshine” is playing, and “Live Like A Warrior”- Unnnhhhhh. Power up people. World Domination theme song right there.

Sunshine LINKS:  YouTubeSpotifylyrics

Warrior LINKS:  YouTubeSpotifylyrics

6. “Pompeii” by Bastille

The main chorus says “how am I gonna be an optimist about this?” Enough said.

LINKS:  YouTubeSpotify, lyrics

7. “I Believe (In Everything)” by JJ Gray and Mofro

Another great song with a lovely little tune about being mindful, letting go of the past and appreciating the present.

LINKS:  YouTubeSpotifylyrics

8. “Vipassana” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Macklemore is kind of a genius- he waxes some serious poetic justice on this piece. Pretty freaking fabulous really.

LINKS:  YouTubeSpotifylyrics

9. “Have A Little Faith In Me” by John Hiatt

This will pull me out of sad moment like nobody’s business. It is also a beautiful reminder that I am never alone, God is always with me. The universe is always here, providing. I just have to be willing to notice.

LINKS:  YouTubeSpotify, lyrics

10. “On Top Of The World” by Imagine Dragons

Gotta love your peeps while they’re here. Tomorrow may never come, tell the people in your life you love them. Be grateful. Live like today is your last day. Climb that mountain. Just.do.it. Need another motivational saying? Listen to the damn song.

LINKS:  YouTubeSpotifylyrics

Serious runners-up, by the way, were: “Till I collapse” by Eminem and “Check Yo’ Self” by Ice Cube (duh, right?)

See you on Spotify. Peace out.

 

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NINJA POWER

So, turns out,  I am NOT a Ninja. Shit. Guess I will just remove that from my vision board right now cuz’ not even a “yet” can save that dream.

Puzzled? Let me explain.

I love yoga so much and have found its impact on my life so very profound that I went through assistant training so that I could give back to my community by helping others grow their practice. I will explain more about this later, because it’s a.m.a.z.i.n.g but the short story is – twice a week for an hour each I go to my yoga studio and work as an assistant. The people rock, the studio rocks, the experience rocks, and I um, feel like I rock when I leave.

As part of our work as assistants we have quarterly meetings where we get to try new assists and poses together. Last week’s meeting was awesome; super awesome. While trying out what we call “juicy assists,” we climbed on top of each other in plank pose and downward dog (check these two links out, and no, that’s not me in the pictures). Then practiced a really badass move called a dropback where we take a person from mountain pose into wheel/upward bow (check out this link or the pictures at the bottom of this post).

So, as the universe would have it, I got to use this exercise to practice letting go, literally and figuratively. To do a dropback requires 100% commitment to release both physically and emotionally. Any tension or resistance and you’re screwed- you’re gonna eat some serious shit- head first.

I was ready, I was game. I was… totally prepared to spend some quality time with the floor.  I stood there facing my partner, a tiny little hand towel behind my back to support me and with complete faith in my partner and in myself, I dropped my full weight backwards and landed in wheel. Then I lifted back up. Then I dropped again. Then lifted. And… repeat, several times. HOLY SHIT INCREDIBLE. As in almost indescribably cool. I cannot wait to try this again. Actually, I can’t wait to make, I mean, um, help, all my friends do it too. Even the ones who don’t do yoga. . .

Anyway, fast forward two days. My sister, who owns a pilates studio, has a degree in dance and is more flexible than Gumby, and I had put the kids to bed and were talking a hundred miles an hour about all the fantastic ways we can twist and open our bodies up in various poses and how much we just absolutely, positively love helping people grow and improve their health. I guarantee we sounded like an ad for Forever Thirty-Nine (you know, that store that sells wine and yoga pants? Don’t even try to play it off like you haven’t seen that someecard).

All this talk of course lead to us doing the poses – in her living room. We’re talking handstands, headstands, half pigeons, running man, crow, chaturanga, the whole nine yards, er, um, asanas.  And then, AND THEN, we decided to do the partner assists. Still, in the living room. Never mind that her husband was trying, quite nicely at first, to suggest we go elsewhere – like maybe her studio and not, um, in front of the football game he was trying to watch.

We ignored him, smiled politely and then proceeded to work our way through a series of moves that we felt made us look like superheroes.  Grrrr. I am Warrior Princess Ninja, see me bend. The photo evidence, however, suggests that we looked more like teenage girls doing gymnastics, badly and in pajamas. But hey, who’s judging. . .

Somewhere around the alternate version of a dropback (because why learn just one when you could learn two?), her husband stood up, looked at us, shook his head, turned off the t.v., grabbed his laptop and while leaving the room stated “Hey, I know it’s a bit of a shock, but you girls are NOT NINJAS.”

Wait, whaaaaaattttt? We’re not? And all this time here I was thinking I should really invest in a good shinobi shozoko. Hmmm. Guess I’ll save my money for something else. Like… sushi maybe.

After we stopped laughing, we apologized for our shortsightedness and total disregard of the fact that he maybe did not appreciate our use of shared space for our yoga prowess. We sat down with a good glass of wine and got into a stellar philosophical dialogue about being a catalyst for growth, the practice of mindfulness and a whole host of other topics that made us feel like our college degrees might actually hold some tangible value, at least as demonstrated by our recovered expansive vocabulary. Then, like all best friends do, we laughed at ourselves. A lot. We also called each other ninjas for the rest of the night. Obviously I mean, it was a given, forced choice really.

And so the lesson was twofold. One- letting go is FUN. Super fun, share the love, grow in spirit and strength, spread the happy kind of fun. This leads to number two- letting go with a partner in crime is even better. Sharing the experience intensifies the growth, broadens the perspective, increases the joy, and makes the journey that much more worthwhile.

So here’s to letting go. And if you’re looking for a sidekick,just ask the universe. I promise it will provide.

Kristin Olsondropback2

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GETTING MY ZEN ON

I’d like to open this post with a little collective “om” right here. Read this, then close your eyes, put your hands at heart center and say “oooommmmm.” Quit laughing and just do it already. DO IT, DO IT, DO IT (that’s me, chanting for you – go team).

Done? Looking around to see how many people noticed your little buddhist move right there? I’d give you a Spiritual Gangster badge to post on your wall but I don’t know how to make those, yet. See me in six months when I’ve figured this whole html coding bit out better.

Why the om? Well, we just returned from a four day jaunt down I-5 to Southern California visit my “sister” and her family.  This is fabulous for reasons numbering beyond what I can count on my own two hands but for now, let’s start with the fact that I got more inspiration and motivation out of those four days than I have in the last month.

For starters, of those four days, fourteen hours, yes, ten plus four hours, were spent in a car with children who were either sleeping or silent (read- eyes glued to media device). HALLELUJAH! PRAISE THE LORD! A GREAT MIRACLE HAPPENED HERE!  Translation – I had the equivalent of an entire day alone in thought with almost zero distractions (well, I mean, other than the other cars on the road, but they totally got out of my way in time. . .).

“Danger, Danger Will Robinson!”  An abundance of self-appointed wisdom is about to spill forth, brace yourself.  This was amazing, precious, coveted straight up think time/power brainstorming session. And brainstorm I did. Oh the blogs to come. Can’t hardly wait.

Let’s close here with a good solid “namaste,” then go ahead and move onto the next post, NINJA POWER which explores how I learned, courtesy of my sister’s husband, that while I have significantly improved in my ability to let go, I am, apparently, NOT a Ninja. Damn. Such a dream crusher, that man.