Sunday, May 19, 2013

How to be Healthy

In the past year, I've been going through a rough time. I have a lot of really difficult things on my plate that I've been trying to overcome, one of which is an autoimmune disease that is not life threatening, but which causes me a lot of annoyance. Luckily, it's pretty mild now but things like that have to be watched or they can get a lot worse and it's a proven fact that stress and living an unhealthy lifestyle can have dramatically bad effects on your health. I have a lot of stress, to say the least.

A main focus of 2013 for me is healing and getting healthy. That's why I go to yoga so much and I'm definitely seeing results. My last blood work showed that my antibody levels had dropped dramatically, even though I have so much anxiety and stress in my life. My rheumatologist recommends yoga to all of her patients for this reason. It really seems to help.

Since I've been trying to get healthy, I've tried a lot of different things and I'd like to share with you what has worked for me.

Good health to me is creating balance in all areas of your life. You aren't just a body. We are all made up of a body, a mind and a spirit and to be truly healthy, all three parts of us have to be well and in balance. Therefore, getting healthy requires action in all three areas and not just a concentration on the physical. My yoga teacher once said, if you aren't willing to engage the spiritual aspects of yoga then you may as well just go to an aerobics class at the gym because you aren't going to get the full benefits of the practice. I agree with her, but I also think we need to engage our minds along with our bodies and spirits.

I came up with a list of activities to do each day in order to create balance in my life and to live my healthiest, fullest life. Now look, most of the time, life gets in the way and I can't do everything every single day. The goal is not to stress yourself out trying to fit all these in, but just to be aware of them and to try to do as many as possible in as relaxed and joyful a way as you can. If this list stresses you out, you're doing it wrong.  

How to be Healthy

Each day TRY to:

1. Set a simple intention or goal for your day. It should be something that you can complete that day, not some long term, big goal. Sometimes my intentions are things like letting things go that bother me and other times they are to clean out the linen closet.

2. Prepare a simple meal. Heating hot pockets doesn't count. I mean something like make a salad, chop up some fruit.

3. Eat real food, mostly plants. Like Michael Pollan says.

4. Drink water. I hate this one. Everyone says it. I freaking hate drinking water. I don't know why. I find that drinking orange seltzer water helps me. I also like making cucumber, lemon, mint water and can drink this more easily than plain water. I get dehydrated all the time. It shows up in my blood work every single time that I'm too dry and when I was pregnant I almost had to be hospitalized once because of it and I wasn't even throwing up when it happened. I was just hot and had no idea. So I'm trying to do better.

5. Spend time outside. Walking from your house to the car and your car to your work doesn't count. I mean actually BE outside for a little while, as long as you can. I find the more time I spend outside each day the happier I am.

6. Exercise. I don't care what you do. Just something. Take a walk. Go to the gym. Do yoga. Jump on the bed. Whatever. Just move. My favorite yoga teacher told us one day that the body was designed as the spirit's vehicle in the physical world. In other words, the body is made to move our spirits around on earth. The body wants to move because that is its purpose and when we don't move it, it gets sick because it's not being used properly. This was a huge Aha moment for me. Her words really resonated.

7. Stretch a lot in addition to your exercise. Stretch whenever you can. It's good for your joints and you feel good. Notice how much your dogs and cats stretch themselves. They know!

8. Pay attention to your personal grooming. Do something to make yourself look better each day. Fix that chipped nail polish, condition your hair, stick a Biore on your nose, pluck your eyebrows, whiten your teeth, get a haircut, whatever. Just pick one and do it. Don't let yourself look like hell. 

9. Read something for fun. Reports from work don't count. Read an article, a book, an email from a friend, US Weekly. Whatever makes you happy, read it.

10. Throw something away. We all have too much junk and clutter can suffocate us. Find a little something every day and toss it.

11. Straighten up. No one can function in a mess. When things are tidy we can relax and we are happier in our surroundings. I'm not saying become a cleaning maniac. Once a day I breeze through the house and put stuff away. Sometimes it only takes five minutes. Other times longer. It always makes me feel better.

12. Have tea. Or coffee. Or whatever hot drink you prefer. I do this in the morning and in the evening. We've even got Baby Lawns enjoying a cup of chamomile before bed now. Teas are healthy and taking the time to stop, relax and take a tea break (or coffee too) is calming, comforting and yummy.

13. Do something sexual. We are sexual beings and our sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of. I don't care what you do. That's your business and yes, I know, this one is pretty hard to accomplish every single day, but hey, as often as possible. How about that?

14. Be affectionate with another person. Anything. It can be as simple as hugging a friend when you greet them.

15.  Give something to someone else. I got this one from Deepak Chopra's book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams . I love that book because it's short, simple and straightforward and at the end of each chapter there are lists like this one explaining how to put his teachings into practice. If you buy one book this year, please let it be this one. Anyway, in the book he talks about generosity and giving and he says every time you meet someone or go see someone or encounter someone else, you should give them something, even if it's just a compliment. I LOVE this idea. He says he gives people flowers. I've been trying this out lately and giving people things from my garden, stuff I made or, if I don't have anything on hand, I do what he says and give lots of compliments. So far, this has been a lot of fun for me and makes me feel great. Please try it.

16. Spend time with people you love. Now I get that this isn't always possible in person, but you can always call a loved one or reach out to them on facebook. You can write them a letter. Anything that makes you feel connected to and engaged in some way with people you love, do it. Every. Single. Day.

17. Do something creative. I have always believed that when God said he created humans in his image that he meant that we too are creators. Everyone is creative in some capacity. It is our nature, so go out and create. Anything! Make something, come up with new ideas, change something. It's all creative whether you're building a subway system or making a sticker book.

18. Meditate. Even if all the time you have left is a couple minutes as you're falling asleep, you will still receive the benefits. I should note here that I equate meditation and prayer. Same thing. Different word. Meditate every day. Pray every day.

19. Give thanks. You can do this as you pray/ meditate or you can make it a separate act, but mindfully be thankful. Some days I swear to you I feel like my life sucks so badly that all I can think of to be thankful for is my daughter and her good health and the fact that I am alive at all and that my cat is still alive too. One day I gave thanks for the paint color in my dining room because I really love it. Who cares? You can be thankful for any and everything.

20. Be responsible for your mental and physical health. Give yourself a little scan each day and see if anything feels off or needs extra work. Make sure you always take your medicine and keep your doctor's appointments and get tests done that need to be done. Don't neglect this and if you feel anxious or sad or weird in any way DO NOT hesitate to make an appointment with a mental health practitioner of some kind. There is NO SHAME in it and you will be a better person for getting whatever help you need. Likewise, if something hurts or doesn't feel right physically just go get it checked out even if it's nothing. The peace of mind will be worth it.               

What are some of your tips to add? I'm always looking for more healthy, healing ideas to improve my life.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Some Good Reads for May

Miraculously, I am finally out of my reading rut. For months it seemed liked every book I started sucked and I couldn't get into anything. It was pure misery, especially since several of my favorite authors had new books out this year.

Thank you, David Sedaris, for breaking the losing streak. Anxiously having awaited his new book  Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls. I went into it with some trepidation. I really wanted to like it and I can assure you, it's safe to read. I liked most of it quite a bit although I'd heard some of the stories on NPR and read others in The New Yorker already, so it wasn't all totally new to me. He adds in a few fictional monologuey kind of things without warning, explaining that he imagines high school forensics students reciting them (which I could definitely imagine) and these were tossed in without warning so I'd get a page into them before I realized they weren't true and then I ended up skipping them. The idea didn't work for me. Got on my nerves. But the essays were by and large pretty great, although I missed stories about his brother Paul. Diabetes is no Naked, but I was entertained and that's all I really wanted.

I just joined Goodreads. You can be my friend on there and share your book ideas with me. I joined because I saw a lot of my friends were already on it and because I wanted a way to see what books other people liked. I ended up rating a bunch of books I'd already read to see what the site's recommendations were for me and I was glad because they were pretty good. Goodreads actually did a bit better than Amazon's "If you like X you'll like Y" thing that it does. The Kindle Store, by comparison, has no idea what I like. So thanks to Goodreads I was able to find a bunch of new memoirs to read, which also helped break my losing streak. THANK GOD.

I tend to mostly read nonfiction because I mostly write nonfiction and I was in such a rut. It was depressing. I felt like I'd read everything already, but no, I had not. 

I love crazy experiment memoirs where the authors will go undercover or commit to some rigid nuttery for a set period of time to see what happens and then write about it. One of my favorite crazy experiment memoirs was AJ Jacob's The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. During that year, he took a "slave" (more of an intern actually) and his slave, a Brown student named Kevin Roose now has his own crazy experiment/ Bible memoir. In,The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University liberal Roose goes undercover as a Christian conservative student at Liberty University (Jerry Falwell's school). What I liked about this book was that Roose was fair and honest. In the beginning he even explains that this isn't a book designed to make fun of Christians because that's trite and too easy and he keeps his word. Roose writes well, is honorable and is really interesting and engaging. I enjoyed his experiment a lot. Read it. Thanks, Goodreads for this recommendation.

I also love memoirs that talk about all the crazy things that happen at people's jobs and naturally someone who delivers babies is going to have some tales to tell, especially after fifty years of doing it. I knew Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife  by Peggy Vincent was going to be something I'd be interested in and I was right. I was instantly hooked. Riveted. Vincent begins her story as a young nursing student in the early 60s in the Deep South, so you know the story is going to get good and it does and just gets better as she chronicles her career as a midwife. You will LOVE this book. I'm almost done with it now and I'm trying to drag it out because I'm enjoying it so much.

I do read fiction. A few months ago I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower and liked it and if you enjoyed that book or the movie of it, you'll also like the book ,Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. It's a spare, sweet, high school love story set in the late 80s with a nice, John Hughesy vibe. I thought it was pretty good, but I love that sort of non-schlocky, more realistic kind of adolescent tale. 

So after I read the book of Perks of Being a Wallflower, I decided to see the movie on Netflix and ugh, I hated it. This generally always happens to me. I have this neurosis where I can't see a movie unless I've read the book first and then every single, freaking time I end up hating the movie because it doesn't look like I imagined it should or they change something or even if all the other stuff is right, as with the Swedish version of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I already know what's going to happen and so the movie is boring and I feel like there's no point in watching it, which is why I didn't bother with the American version because after not even being able to sit through the Swedish I felt that dead horse was sufficiently beaten. That was essentially my main complaint with Perks. Also why I haven't seen Silver Linings Playbook. I just finished the book.

Did you know thatThe Silver Linings Playbook, is a book by Matthew Quick? I didn't and I almost saw the movie, but luckily my neurosis was saved and I found out about the book in time. I shudder to think about what might have happened if I hadn't. Anyway, I liked this book, although I know already that they changed a lot about it in the movie and after reading the book I don't know how I'd feel about it translated into film, so ehn. I don't know. I liked the book because its characters were truly unique, often unlikable and weird and totally unreliable, pretty much like actual people and something about the story felt very fresh to me. I'd recommend reading the book, especially if you didn't see the movie.

I have quite a few books on my "To Read" list at the moment and am looking for more. What do you guys recommend? I really feel like I might like the TV show Game of Thrones but I can't allow myself to watch it without reading the books first and I'm not sure how I'd feel about the books because, oh my God, those thousands of pages upon thousands of pages of fantasy epic, Jesus Christ. It's overwhelming for me to even think about. What do you say? Read the books first? Skip the books and watch the show already? Skip both? What? Help a sister out.
Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

So today is Mother's Day and I got thrown up all over and cleaned up some poop that ended up deposited near the swimming pool on the way to the potty, which was not made in time.

This morning I went to church with my mom for Mother's Day and my mom is very serious about her church attendance. I've never been with her before and she goes to an all black (except for her) church. I'm not even kidding, we were literally the only white people there, which I was afraid would be awkward but wasn't even slightly and can I just tell you something? White people have no clue how to do church. Black folk have got it down and I've been missing out all these years. I'm going to save this for its own post, but wow. After I left all I wanted to do was go back. I'm turning into Anne Lamott over here or something. I wish.

We need to talk about Baby Lawns. She is 2 1/2 and can talk as if she is 20 1/2 already, but she still has the mind of a 2 1/2 year old and this means that she says the craziest things. In honor of Mother's Day, I must share and ask for advice.

Baby Lawns thinks boys have tails. I can not convince her otherwise. She wants a tail too. It gets Freudian. She wants to know what happened to HER tail.

About a month ago she walked in on her father peeing and gasped.

"Daddy?" she asked, "You have a TAIL?"

Well naturally we about died and I almost broke a blood vessel trying not to laugh in front of her and then we had to explain to her about the differences between boys and girls and whatnot and she just wasn't having it at all but then she forgot about it until Friday. Little Lawns has a close friend who is a boy and we were playing Friday night and her friend, who we'll call A, got changed into his pajamas in front of her and she saw him naked and discovered that, oh my God, he too has a tail and now she will not stop talking about it at all. Boys with tails. A has a tail. Daddy has a tail. What in the name of God am I going to tell this child, who is a Scorpio by the way, so that means she's probably going to be particularly interested in "tails." I'm trying to just ignore it, although I find it hilarious.

Second thing she said, really doesn't bode well for my evolving yoga practice. I'm still plugging away at yoga. I still need yoga special ed, but the one thing about me, which my husband can attest to, is that I am relentless. I don't give up, especially if I've decided I have something to prove, and yoga is also kind of my mid-life crisis hobby too, so I keep at it, stretching my way toward enlightenment. Or something. Anyway, I want to do Crow Pose. It's some awful bunch of bullshit where you squat down and rest your knees on your bent elbows and stick your butt up in the air and pretty much levitate. It's ridiculous. I may never be able to do it but I got the brilliant idea that I might be able to do it in the pool on the step, so today I was at my parents' house playing in the pool with Baby Lawns attempting to do Crow on the step and Baby Lawns takes one look at my pathetic contortions and goes:

"Mommy? Are you trying to poop?"

Yeah, she's mine.

Happy Mother's Day y'all.

Almost have the book ready to go. Still working on the second book.     
Thursday, May 09, 2013

Like My Facebook Author Page

Hi, Readers! The memoir is almost ready and I've created a facebook author page. I'd love for you to check it out and to "Like" it. You can get all the book and publishing updates as well as read excerpts from my current writing projects and if you still don't know what I look like, you can see some racy pictures of me.

Here is my author page.

I have a special treat on there today. You can see the cover art for Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittikat! I'm super excited about it. Comments are welcome and encouraged over there. I'd love your feedback before we submit the final copy.

Thanks everyone! Happy Thursday.

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