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Holiday Danger Zone

Holiday Danger zoneTemptation lurked around every corner today. It smiled at me in the grocery store at 8 am when I spied the sweet potatoes on sale for 38 cents a pound. Or when I saw the mountains of butternut squash and stalks of brussel sprouts next to the fresh sprigs of rosemary. It got the better of me, when, after standing in line for over an hour for an Amish Turkey and they didn’t have my order, I caved and choose the 27 pound one over the 12 pound one, even though I am only cooking for four people and one of those is a vegetarian. This temptation to do more, strive more, make things perfect—to get everything right—is evil and expensive.

Thursday is Thanksgiving and marks the official beginning of the holiday season in the United States. Most of us will gather with our families and feast on roasted turkey, cranberry relish, bread stuffing and creamy mashed potatoes, just to name a few of the traditional dishes. We will top off our over stuffed bellies with pumpkin pie and other yummy treats that grace our tables.

When I told my partner Jay, that I was going to host Thanksgiving dinner despite still being only 5 weeks post op from my foot surgery and still in a walking cast, he looked at me with doubt and concern. He knows I have a weakness for cooking and what starts as a small manageable meal of maybe 4 dishes can easily balloon out into 10 to 12 dishes.

So far, one day until the holiday, I have managed to stay on track with just the basics for Thanksgiving meal— almond garlic green beans, cranberry apple bake, gluten-free cornbread, sage mushroom stuffing, redskin mashed potatoes with gravy and of course turkey. Ok, I did just purchase a 27 pound turkey for only 3 people, but leftovers are always awesome.

However, I did not add sweet potatoes with baked apples and ginger to the menu. I did not buy the ingredients to make an upside down pineapple cranberry cake in addition to the pumpkin rice pudding with coconut cream whipped topping I am already making. More or less, I am keeping it in check. I am not letting temptation to do more or have an idealized holiday ruin me.

The holidays in the United States can be marked by exaggeration and over abundance. It is easy to get caught up in the whirl wind of more and more and yet more. I know during the holiday season I need flexibility with how I take care of myself. Crashing and burning is always hanging out on the edges during this time of cheer and twinkle lights. I can feel perfectionism stirring awake as I walk down the aisles of the craft store filled with elaborate tablescapes, door wreaths and trees overflowing with handmade paper ornaments and silver and gold bows Martha Stewart couldn’t even make. Oh, yes the holidays are a huge danger zone and I must walk with care.

 

May you find balance and self-care as you navigate the holiday danger zone and may you walk with care too.~ Kira

 

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Inspiration To Open Your Heart

Snow sunsetI am sitting at my kitchen table this morning watching a steady gray rain fall on the mated dead grass. The five inches of snow from Thursday has melted. It is late, we were out past 2 am at a pre-holiday gathering for Jay’s jazz band. It was magical to be surrounded by the power and strength of live music in the comfort of his brothers home. Mulled wine, a pot of chili and good conversation. Yes, I needed to get out and do something different.

I am feeling a bit pressed for time. I have writing due to Jenna next week, online creative writing sessions to schedule and follow-up emails to send from a writing workshop last weekend. It seems the demands of Holidays are starting for me this weekend. I spent most of the day yesterday shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, cleaning the house for guests and trying to take it slow because I am still in a walking boot from foot surgery four weeks ago.

On top of that, today we have a baptism and a triple birthday party for nieces on Jay’s side of the family. Next weekend, we are booked too. All of this means, I have less time to write, mull alone in my writing studio—work on my creative projects.

So I stop and breathe five deep breaths as Liz Lamoreux suggests. It means I need to lower, and then lower some more, some of my expectations for what I am able to accomplish in all areas of my life, including creatively. I need to remember one of my Core Desire Feelings is Peaceful. I need to let go of that which does not cultivate peace in my life.

An abundance of gratitude, joy and connection with others is overflowing this time year. I find great comfort to know I am not the only who struggles with overwhelm at this time year as I read others blog posts and have conversations with friends. There is no one solution to maintaining balance and peace.

I would love to know how you maintain balance and peace during the holidays. Let’s have a conversation, let me know in the comments, on social media or send me an email. The greatest thing about the holidays is we are not alone if we choose to connect with others.

Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart.

Public Art in Detroit Builds Safer, Stronger Neighborhoods by Anna Clark-More goodness happening in Detroit. Yup, another shameless plug for this great city, bankruptcy, blight and all.

Six Practical and Slightly Irreverent Writing Life Tips by Jenna McGuiggan- During a conversation with Jenna this week, she suggested I might want to consider “half-assing” somethings in order to get over perfection and get something done. So read #6, but all of the tips here are worthwhile.

Why I’m Teaching a Course called “Wasting Time on the Internet” by Kenneth Goldsmith- A thoughtful, interesting article about how the internet is not all bad or a waste of time.

Digging Up Doubt by Becca Rowan- Oh how I suffer from the doubt monster. I love this post from Becca. Read it if doubt tends to rear it’s ugly head in your life.

Icelandic Adventures- A photographic series by Elizabeth Gadd- Breath taking photographs of a land I dream of exploring one day.

May you find connection and balance as we head into the holiday season. ~Kira

Writing to Open Your Heart- An online weekly creative writing workshop begins January 31,2015. Be sure to sign up for more information and when registration opens.

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Inspiration to Open Your Heart

Be nice to your body

Snow is slowly drifting down to the now frozen earth in the predawn hours. Despite it being the weekend my body wakes up at 5 am, no matter what. Sleeping in for me is 6 am. I am sitting at my writing desk with my leg propped up. Riggins, my black younger cat, the one who is smart as a whip and gets into everything, is experiencing one of her calmer moments, as she is perched  on the back of my chair right behind my head. Every few moments her fluffy black tail brushes across the side of my head. This is our routine, and our intimacy—every morning.

It is the same when I sit and meditate. No matter where the cats are in the house, they hear the gong from the timer ring and they make their way to sit with me. Lupe, my tiny old gray one, in her ruby cat house and Riggins, the black trickster, sitting on my office chair. Me sitting on my black zafu (or right now because of my foot, I am sitting in a straight back pine chair, hands resting on my thighs). There we sit until the gong chimes again at which time, Riggins, jumps down from her chair and begins purring because she knows I will sit and pet her for a few moments. Yes, this is too is our routine. It is connection and is the foundation of my day.

The furnace is humming away, heating this space that used to be a garage. My foot is healing on schedule, so last Monday the doctor took me off the dreaded, horrible, no good, very rotten crutches. While I am still in the walking cast, such blissful freedom I have experienced this past week being able to accomplish the simplest of tasks without the burden of those damn crutches.

For all these things I am grateful, the cats, the cold and snow, the furnace which warms me, my converted garage so I can have a room of my own, a meditation practice I can share with my cats, a body which can heal so I don’t need crutches. Grateful I am for my blog and my dear readers, who I also have connection with that I treasure beyond measure.

I am also grateful for Sunday’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart. I love being able to share what I have found during the week with you. I can only hope that you will find inspiration in at least one of the links.

Be Grateful for Your Crazy Active Mind by Sarah Selecky- First, if you are not familiar with Sarah Selecky and you are a writer, you need to be. Second, here is a beautiful practice of how to use your crazy looping thoughts for your writing and create stillness in your mind so you can work on your story.

Preparing for the Winter Blues by Jennifer Belthoff- It is that time of year, the sun’s light is little and depression can set in. It does take effort for me to avoid the blues of winter. I need to be mindful and practice diligent self-care to not succumb to the cold darkness. Aside from getting regular exercise and sitting meditation I need to have creative projects to keep me going.

Compassion and the True Meaning of Empathy by Joan Halifax- “If compassion is so good for us, why don’t we train our children in compassion?” Joan asks in this in-depth TED talk about compassion.

Why You Should Fear Meditation by Sarah Miller- A funny look at Vipassana Meditation. And despite it all, I find a meditation practice worth it.

Writer and essayist Judith Kitchen passed away this week. She was a seminal teacher and writer of creative non-fiction. Her work is amazing. Please check out the following to read some of her amazing work.

The Humble Essayist paragraph of the week

On the Farm by Judith Kitchen

May your coming week be filled with moments of gratitude for all the small wonders in the world. ~ Kira

 

 

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Lack of Sleep

Lack of Sleep

I do not do lack of sleep of well. Not sleeping robs me of my ability to think, to create—to interact with those around me.

It is 6:30 pm and I fighting the urge to go to bed. I am exhausted from lugging my broken foot around while I am back in the office full-time this week. I am even more exhausted because for the past three nights I have woken around 1:30 am and have not fallen back asleep for 2 to 3 hours—every single night. When the alarm is set to go off at 5 am, this does not work. So I have reset the alarm for 7 am. Which means, I have woken up late and I have not had time to to write, meditate and workout, which compounds my exhaustion and my mental fog.

When I sat down to write this mid-week post and my brain was a mushy mess, a part of me collapsed inside knowing I had to keep this simple. No frills. No deep thought, but to say, I am struggling.

It is my mind keeping me up in the middle of the night. I am not even thinking about fun things, no, I am stuck in endless loops about work. Things like builders risk insurance, the demo list at the city, construction and lease up schedules. Oh my, super boring, not sexy, not deep, not creative thinking—and it is keeping me up at night.

I know I need to journal to drain this thinking cycle out of me. I know, even more, I need to sit and meditate. Since my foot surgery a few weeks ago, I have lost the consistency of my mediation practice. And now I am feeling it. Meditation is the only thing I know how to do that will quiet my mind and loosen the tight grip. Despite waking late the last two mornings, I have sat for 20 minutes each morning and got to work late. So that is a start. I do best if I can sit daily—no matter what.

So now I am off to bed at so I can wake early enough to engage in my self-care practices and quiet my mind.

May I have a peaceful night sleep.

 

 

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Inspiration to Open Your Heart

Golden fall leafs

“It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.” W.B Yeats

Yesterday it was to snow. I laid on the couch wrapped in a green and pink flowered quilt tapping away on my computer waiting for the snow to arrive. I just wanted to see the first flakes drift down from the dense grey sky. There is something magical about seeing the first snowfall, even if it is only a few flakes that last only for a moment on the pine tree outside the window. However, the snow never came. Instead it rained a dreary rain that didn’t let up all day.

Instead of real snow, all week it has been snowing yellow maple leafs, slowly they glide down to the wet the payment, or stick to the windshield of my car I have not driven in over two weeks. Today is cold and damp, I think this is the polar vortex the Weather Channel forecasted. I can’t tell because it is November after all.

Today is a day for hot tea and a good book. Over the last two weeks I have had tons of time for reading, not only more content online but also books. While I tend to read multiple books at a time, I have had time to indulge in hours and hours of uninterrupted reading. A few books I have finally finished is Wild by Cheryl Strayed and I will finish Devotion by Dani Shapiro today. Both are excellent books and I recommend them.

So my week moves on, here are some blog posts and other interesting things I found this week as Inspiration to Open Your Heart.

Can You Hear Your Creative Fear? by Jenna McGuiggan- The last few weeks, or months, I have felt plagued by the quiet whispers of creative fear. It seems at every turn there it is, I take a few courageous steps forward and then I am sidelined for a week or two in doubt and fear, constantly questioning what the hell I am doing? In this post, Jenna writes about her experience seeing Elizabeth Gilbert speak in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago. I think I need to start befriending my fear but telling it to stay in the backseat.

Confession to My Body by Dr. Susan Bernstein- Wow, this blog post hit home. How many times have I pushed on, ignoring what my body was telling me? My body is always right. I need to befriend my body and listen.

The Disease of Being Busy by Omid Safi- Here is a beautiful post about the need to slow down and how business has infected our culture. I love how he points out that in many Muslim cultures they ask “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” Isn’t that beautiful?

Worth is Not the Right Word by Elizabeth Halt- Oh, how I so want to be worthy and this notion fuels my busyness. In my mind, my worth is determined by what I do and accomplish. I loved this post. Plus Elizabeth’s photographs are amazing. A beautiful site to visit.

What it Takes to be a Writer by Elizabeth Berg- Beautiful advice from a great writer. I think my favorite is “You need to admit joy.”

Remember to ask your fellow travelers this week “How is the state of your heart today?”

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