Monday, October 08, 2012

Day 26: Easier Said Than Done

Two weeks ago, I pledged two things: To be more mindful while I'm eating, and to work on my to-bed transition time. I proceeded to eat dinner while watching TV. Then I stayed up too late watching more TV or looking at Reddit or playing Drop 7 (or some combination of the three).*

Lather, rinse, repeat for several days, until last week I consciously prepared a meal and sat down at the table, with no distractions, to eat. I hate to admit this, but it was uncomfortable. I wanted to finish eating quickly. I glanced at my phone sitting on the table next to me, and vaguely lamented that I had to use both a knife and a fork to eat and thus didn't have a free hand to check email. I even looked around for an easily-reachable magazine or newspaper.

I don't know why this was so difficult, but I kept it up for all of last week, when I was bacheloretting at home. I'm happy to report that it did, in fact, get easier. Look at that: Practice!

The bedtime transition has been another story. My first mistake there was discovering "Homeland," and watching all 13 episodes in just 4 days. So, uh, yeah, there were maybe a few late nights. Then Oktoberfest rolled into town, and all bets were off.

This week I'm traveling again, and plan to renew my commitment to a healthier pre-bedtime ritual. I'm also considering a fall cleanse so that I don't fall into hibernation habits like carb-loading and excessive couch-sitting.

Last week's inspiration: Trujoy Nutrition's Jenna Gass' suggestion via Twitter to eat 1 serving of raw vegetables with every meal (including breakfast!). I already throw a kale leaf or two in my morning smoothie, and subbing (or just adding!) raw veggies at other meals is working out well so far.

*I should note that I achieved my highest Drop 7 score while simultaneously browsing Reddit, so, you know, I'm not going cold turkey on that one.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

100 Days of Practice: Day 13

One of my big ideas for this 100 Days of Practice project is awareness. I'm trying to observe, without judgement, my own reactions in day-to-day situations and interactions. And one thing I've observed is that I like to be very busy. I fill my days with work, house projects, and exercise. Even yoga is something crammed into the spaces, and always hot yoga. Intense. In the evening, more work, more exercise, and sometimes watching TV. I hardly ever just sit and breathe, or write. I'm always doing and planning. It's almost like I'm avoiding being with myself.

Thinking about this reminded me of something I read recently over on

...I fall asleep every night with earbuds and an old episode of 30 Rock, but it also feels a bit, I don’t know, sad. Not pathetic-sad, more like frustrating-sad. Was it really so hard to be in my own head space, in the quiet of my own mind, for the duration it would or should take me to fall asleep?

I'm considering whether this need to be busy is similar to Erin's experience - do I really find it hard to be in my own head space?

As you may already have gleaned from the title of this post, today is Day 13 of my 100 Days of Practice. I haven't structured this project in any particular way, but it has occurred to me that effective practice is structured. When I played piano, I sat down to practice at about the same time each day. I spent roughly the same percentage of my practice drilling scales, learning new pieces, and polishing my current repertoire. When I trained for a marathon, I ran hills or did speedwork on Tuesdays, went for an easy short run on Thursdays, and spent Saturday mornings (and sometimes afternoons) adding miles.

In these first 13 days I've noticed two occasions at which I'm considerably less mindful: While I'm eating, and in the evening, when the day is winding down. Over the next few days I'm going to work on structuring my practice, focusing on these two situations.

First, I will practice paying attention to my food - to being mindful of what I'm eating, and how. To consider where my food comes from and how it is prepared. To notice how I feel while I'm eating, and to take my time, and let myself feel hungry sometimes, just enough to be sure that I'm eating because I'm hungry, and not because I'm happy or sad or bored or there's a really delicious cookie available. (OK, maybe sometimes that last one.)

Additionally, I will practice different ways of ending the day. I'm not sure yet what this looks like (good thing I'm still practicing!) and I'll try a few things - maybe a 10 minute meditation, or a short creative endeavour like writing a paragraph or drawing a picture. Regardless, pre-bedtime activities always include flossing, pillow fluffing, and lots of good night smooching.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Getting to Carnegie Hall

Last week I decided to start a 100 day project.

100 days is a pretty common timeframe for these things - politicians often talk about the first 100 days in office, and I've heard senior managers at companies talking about their 100 day plans.

At first the point of this hundred day thing was kind of nebulous. I wanted to do something longer than a 21 day cleanse, but nothing so big as a life list or even a New Year's resolution. Something somewhere in between. But I wasn't sure what.

Until I woke up at 3:30 a.m., on the morning I'd planned to start the countdown. Insomnia definitely wasn't part of the plan, but it worked out: While one part of my brain was admonishing me to get back to sleep already, another part was busy working it out. I woke up a few hours later to find scrawled in the notebook on my bedside table: "100 days of practice."

We practice to reinforce what we know. To identify what we need to improve. To perform exercises to target improvements. Practice involves drills, doing things repeatedly and regularly, and learning to gracefully recover from mistakes.

Robert H. Schuller, via the inspirational fridge magnet, asks, "What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?" For me, practice removes that fear of failure, because in practice, failures and imperfections are expected, and learned from.

So that's what I'm up to. 100 days of practice. 100 days of practicing awareness & authenticity, patience & compassion, gratitude, connection, solitude, getting things done, new techniques, fiscal awareness, responding, creativity & making things, fitness, organization & putting things away, moderation (in moderation), sexy times, commitment, and branding.

As part of my writing practice, I'll update here every 5 days or so. Stay tuned.

This particular 100 day notion was inspired by this video (via Ange at Sokoko Life, who is a total bastion of inspiration).

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Crush: Ikea

On Saturday, after two weeks of unseasonably warm and delicious weather, we returned to our regularly scheduled early-Spring programming with a chilly, wet day. I took the opportunity to make the hour drive to the nearest Ikea, in Burlington - ostensibly to return a shelf, but also, you know, to look around for a bit, especially since it was a solo trip. (As 30 Rock has so accurately advised, Ikea is not a place for couples.)

I didn't want to buy much, but used my new status as a free agent (read: someone who works from home in her pajamas) as an excuse to pick up a few things to spruce up my home office and surroundings.

Exhibit A: The Office

I admit, I didn't have anything specific in mind on this trip, but I like to keep an eye out for pretty things at Ikea that might also be there for a limited time, especially in the Marketplace. My absolute favourite of these on this past visit were these star-shaped napkin holders, which I've repurposed to hold papers that need filing:

I bought 3, at $3.99 each. Two hold these files, and another holds smaller greeting and index cards.

They're called NYSNÖ. Nice, no? (See what I did there?)

The pen holder on my desk is also from Ikea. In its former life it was a flower pot. It is lacy, and as such has places to hold broaches and single dangly earrings. Confession: I bought this on a previous visit so I don't know how much it cost, but I think it was around $6.

Exhibit B: The Executive Washroom

I found this vase in the plant/vase section (...duh), and almost bought 3. Then I decided it would be pretty all on its own. Now I realize it only cost $1.99 and I wish I'd bought 6. I guess I'll just have to go back.

The frame (for this print) is also from Ikea. Yes, the frame is too small, although I don't mind the print cropped this way for now. I'll add a larger one to my next Ikea shopping list. And that clock cost all of 99¢, and helps me be on time for work... in the next room, in my pajamas. (Perhaps now I'll have time to finish painting the trim in there. In my pajamas, natch.)

Exhibit C: The Corporate Nap Space

This happily-polka-dotted light blue tray was $3.99. It holds bits on my dresser, and makes me feel more organized than I really am (...shh, don't tell the boss!).

And finally, this little tea light holder, on sale for 99¢, now catches our spare change.

Full disclosure: Ikea wears me out, even when I don't have a boyfriend whose Ikea countdown timer is beeping loudly in my ear. On Saturday, as I wound my way through the Self-Serve aisles toward the checkout, my treasure-laden yellow bag digging into my shoulder, I texted Ken, "I officially want to kill." Then, at my weakest moment, I smelled them: The $1 cinnamon rolls.

Well played, Ikea. Well played.

Friday, February 10, 2012

One Week

I still haven't figured out how to tell people.

"Last Friday we had to make the decision," or, "We took her to the vet, and it was time."

We had to put her to sleep.

We lost her.

She died.

She's gone.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted a cat. My mom didn't like the hair, so we had poodles instead - but I coveted creatures of the feline persuasion. I collected All Things Cat: stuffed, ceramic, sticky - anything I could get my hands on. Finally, in 1997, having recently graduated and started my first Real Job, I decided it was time to adopt a kitty. My then-boyfriend Greg had friends outside Ottawa (where we lived at the time) whose cat had recently had kittens, and he arranged for me to have one. I didn't care if I got male or female - I just wanted the orange one.

 On the eve of Mother's Day at around 8 p.m., I drove out to the McDonald's on Carling Ave. to meet a man with a cardboard box in the trunk of his car containing a tiny orange kitten who fit in the palm of my hand. She came with a can of cat food and a note telling me that her birthday was April 1 and that they'd been calling her "Morris." As we'd recently visited Graceland, Greg & I decided on the name Memphis.

She was also known at various times as Mempher, Memipher, Memiflower, Memphy, Furball, The Furb, FOP (Furry Orange Pussy), Orangey (her bad-cat alter ego), Beast, Beastie, La Beast, Little Girl, Punk, Punker, Monster, Adventure Kitty (when she discovered our fenceless backyard in Brooklyn), as well as myriad variations on "Kitty LaRoux" (see: Purry LaRoux, Pesky LaRoux, and, in the later stages of her abdominal cancer, Lumpy LaRoux). She was deemed the "Softest Cat in the World" on more than one occasion.

When I first brought her home, no more than a tuft of a kitty, she tried to nurse from the inside of my elbow. She traveled with me back and forth from Ottawa to Waterloo, usually sleeping in her litter box for most of the drive. When we moved to California, she ate the pansies I planted on the deck. On one visit to Waterloo, I found her on Sunny's kitchen floor, rolling around hedonistically in a bundle of catnip that had been drying on the back of a chair.

Memphis co-opted many a lap of unsuspecting guests. She woke me at ridiculous hours. She once left a dead mouse in Ken's shoe. She was even Pet of the Week.

For the past year or so, Memphis greeted me almost every single time I walked through the front door. Ken said she'd even go downstairs when she heard my voice outside, and on more than one occasion reported that she waited on the stairs at about the time I'd get home from work. Even if she was ensconced on his lap, as soon as my hand touched the door knob, she came.

Since she's gone, there are physical gaps, like the spot where we used to keep a glass of water for her on the coffee table, and the nook in the kitchen where we kept her food bowl. I have weird brain gaps, like when I think about cleaning the litter or opening the curtain so she'll have that afternoon patch of sun. And then there are emotional gaps: Holding her, petting her, and talking to her were as much a part of my life as waking up in the morning, and oh-so-very happy-making. Having her curled up on my lap was massively comforting.

I loved her madly, and I miss her so, so much.