Life is beautiful

I was glad to re-discover some of these TED talks tonight, because yes life is beautiful, even when you forget it.

If you have time to watch only a few talks, may I offer a suggestion? First, Sarah Ka's spoken word masterpiece "If I should have a daughter," then Shane Koycza's poem to the bullied and beautiful, followed by the one and only Brené Brow's talk on the power of vulnerability and finally end with the delightful talk-and-classical-piano-lesson by Benjamin Zande.

We are the luckiest that these and others are willing to stand up and share their genius with the world. I think everyone has a good TED talk inside of them, just as I think everyone has a blog or book or speech inside of them to share with the world. So let's all share. More sharing, more caring, okay?

Daring greatly

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The other night I began re-reading the book Daring Greatly, and posted on Instagram:

Re-reading a most important book tonight. Brené Brown's research on vulnerability & Wholeheartedness is life-affirming and necessary and miracle-making. If I haven't already given you a copy, let me know and I will. It's that good. Pairs beautifully with a Sunday night IPA or iced tea.

Brené researches vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame. She delivered an amazing talk on the power of vulnerability at the 2010 TEDx Houston conference and presented on shame at the 2012 TED Conference. Her research is game-changing and its relevance is universal.

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I'm a complete devotee and student of Wholehearted living, as Brené outlines and teaches through her research and writing. I've underlined far too many sentences and written far too many words on her work for one post, so let's start a bit of a series, shall we? Reflections on daring greatly and living wholeheartedly. Not quite a book club, but if you'd like to read or re-read along and chime in with your own thoughts and responses or write about them elsewhere, I'd like that.

Today, we introduce the concept of daring greatly. The phrase comes from a 1910 speech by Teddy Roosevelt, ol' rough-ridin' TR:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. 

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, 

because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; 

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly...”

Daring greatly is everything. It's imperative. Daring greatly doesn't have to mean living loudly or acquiring fame and wealth and Instagram-worthy travel photos. Daring greatly happens at home with family and every morning when you wake up and look in the mirror. Daring greatly is being present with a friend in need. Daring greatly is taking a chance and putting yourself out there.

Whisper along now, "Give me the courage to show up and let myself be seen." 

Thanks for indulging, and happy 4th of July! I've had this posted written for weeks, but didn't have the chance or the bravery to post it until this morning after quietly reflecting with my Saturday cuppa coffee. Let's talk more about comparison and vulnerability and creativity and leadership and growing mint for mojitos and buying charming little houses and everything else that goes on in our crazy beautiful lives, ok? 

On neighborhoods and community

I spend much of my work week thinking about neighborhoods, talking about neighborhoods and encouraging others to care about and invest in neighborhoods and the people who live in them. I also spend much of my free time thinking about neighborhoods too.

We lived in Center Square for over six years. Technically, we lived in Hudson/Park for four years and the past two and a half we were true Center Square residents. Before that, I've lived in the New Scotland and Pine Hills neighborhoods. Now I'm representing the Helderberg hood. In a small city like Albany, it's easy to be fooled into thinking that there are just one or two great neighborhoods. Or that there ought to be only one or two great neighborhoods. Or, if you are from NYC, you might think that Albany isn't a city, as evidenced by a recent question I got from a Big Apple dweller about how I like living out in the country. But really, what makes a city truly great, is when all neighborhoods are great. When you can go from one to the next and feel safe and inspired and connected. When there are services and retail and transportation in each. And when each neighborhood has its own character! Neighborhoods of brownstones, ones with tudors, ones with trendy restaurants and others with small specialty shops.

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When we bought our house, it was a transition to think of a more uptown neighborhood in the same way. But yes, there are families, young professionals and retired folks living in both 'hoods. Homeowners and renters. Our new place is walkable, with a few notable restaurants nearby, and we need more. I'm looking forward to the spring thaw so we can get outside and bump into more of our neighbors.

What it all comes down to is community. You don't have to live in a downtown row house, or even a city. (You could live in, for example, a coastal yurt community or houseboat neighborhood!) But that sense of place, it's really important. At least it us to me.

I'm quite not as communal or open-door as I hope to be. Like many of us, I long for a bit of space and privacy. I spent years grumbling about on-street parking and street noise. I daydream for a yurt or tiny cabin in the woods. Beneath that, though, you'll find someone who longs for community.

For a tribe, defined by geography and proximity. For face-to-face experiences and conversations. For casual drop-ins, where friends swing by and I make two cups of coffee and slice up the everyday cake that is on the counter. (If I'm honest with myself, I don't really want you to casually drop. So please, don't do it. Call first, ok? Even better, just text first so I can take my time deciding whether or not I want the intrusion. Sorry, I'm working on it.)

I love that we have friends throughout the country and that technology makes it so easy to see their faces and hear their voices. But man, I long for real-life interactions too. It can happen in a small city, a big city, a town or in the country. But place matters, and so do the people that make up those places.

So where am I right now? I'm in our new house

in our new neighborhood in our small city, one with backyards and driveways but also with sidewalks and neighborhood shops and some things worth walking to. I'm enjoying our space and the different bustle it brings. I'm a small city defender but still fill my Pinterest board with tiny homes in the country. That's the way it goes.

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Top photo of one of our old neighborhoods. Bottom photo of Albany Has Neighborhoods print by Aaron Wilson, purchased at Fort Orange General Store, framed at Framebridge (inexpensive custom framing).

2015, the intentions

In writing down my intentions for 2015, I realized that they are mostly the same as what I laid out last year. To find mindfulness, strength and adventure and roll them up into a good life. To take each day, each season, each moment as it comes and to not wish away the present. In pursuit of those three goals, here are some concrete tiny steps that just might help me get there.


Mindfulness
I just haven't figured out a solid meditation practice yet. I'm a champion sleeper and lounger, but quieting the mind? I haven't really tackled that yet and as a result, I sometimes wring myself into a bit of a panic over something that happened earlier in the day or, even more likely, something that might possibly happen later. I'm also a champion worrier.

This month, I'll aim to sit still on that meditation cushion for two minutes a day. That's it. Just two minutes. After a month, we'll see how it goes. 


Strength
I'm going to get strong, people. Strong willpower, strong resolve, strong biceps. All of that. 2014 was not a big running year for me, and by the start of fall I had drifted away from my regular workout schedule. I lost my motivation and didn't think I had the time to stay active. With my commitment to the Runner's World Challenge, I established a routine of movement again. I loved the challenge because it eliminated the decision process. I never had to ask myself, "Should I run today?" The answer was always yes. It may not have been that far or that fast, but it was a given that I would be lacing up my shoes and getting outside. It was freeing. Isn't that funny? I knew that no matter what, I would get out there and run, so I had less room to worry or make excuses or procrastinate. Because the challenge was only to run at least a mile, it gave me permission to go easy. On days when I was feeling crappy or tired, I ran a single, slow mile. When I felt better, I did more.

This year, I'm building strength and aiming to be active every day. Some days will be a run. Some a walk. Some days I'll do a quick 15 minute yoga session or 50 lunges around the house. But every single day, I'll move. Can't nobody hold me down. Oh no. I've got to keep on moving.


Adventure
This is all one big adventure, right? This is the toughest theme for me. As I write this, I keep thinking of reasons not to commit to whatever adventures pop up in my mind. Honestly, I keep writing suggestions and then quickly deleting them. Nerd alert.

Baby steps. This year, when things go wrong I'm just going to smile and shout PLOT TWIST! and move on. I saw that somewhere, probably on a Pinteresty little graphic, and loved it. I also have a great greeting card in my collection that says "One day we'll look back on this and laugh." So that's my goal: reminding myself that it isn't really an adventure until something goes astray :)


And also!
  • Write once a week here and do some long-form writing once a month. Plan out some topics ahead of time and stick to it.
  • Put down the phone! I've already deleted the Facebook app from my phone, and it's made a major difference in how oftenI check it.
  • Start a green tea habit. I've read a lot about it and I'm convinced I need more green tea in my life. Let's start with a few cups a week, shall we?

What are your resolutions?! Share them, please! Did you post them somewhere else? I'd genuinely love to read them. I love setting resolutions and making lists and buying new planners. It's like heading back to school armed with sharpened pencils and brand new notebooks. Am I right, nerds? Happy 2015!

Related:
intentions for the new year / 2014
looking back & looking forward / 2012 (& food-related goals for 2012)

(In 2013 I was too busy swooning over our wedding to post resolutions)

intentions for the year

Update: I had this post all ready to go for January 1 and then something spectacular happened... my beautiful sister gave birth to a gorgeous baby girl! My niece, Samantha Catherine, arrived on New Year's Day and has already stolen all of our hearts with her full head of hair and her squishy face. One of my most important intentions for this year is to be the best auntie possible for this little one.

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Another new year. Another great chance to set some goals and wild dreams. I know lists of resolutions make some of you anxious. I see why. A list of to-dos staring you in the face, reminding you to always strive to be more, be better. I'd like to look at resolutions as intentions. As grounding reminders of the type of life you'd like to lead, rather than a list of prescriptions to fix your perceived shortcomings. You don't have to be so hard on yourself, you know.
eggsandpicantesauce:

You’re imperfect, and your wired  for struggle, but YOU ARE WORTHY  of loving  AND belonging. -BRENÉ BROWN
Instead of pledging to lose the weight, to stop squandering your money or to be a better spouse, try reframing the goal. Promise to honor your body as the rockin', unbelievable, miraculous vessel that it is and to find a form of exercise that doesn't just get you moving but that really moves you. Vow to spend your money in ways that support and reflect your values, rather than as a way to pass the time or fill a void. When resolving to be a better spouse, remember that you and your partner are both imperfect but both so worthy of love. So take the pressure off yourself, stop trying to fix fix fix and just ease into a new year of possibility and excitement.

Three words for my new year are mindfulness, strength & adventure.


I want to start a regular meditation practice and bring mindfulness into all I do. I want to listen more and I want to write more. I want to reignite my passion for mindful cooking and eating as a way to nourish myself. I want to savor the moments and the seasons as best I can. I want to be mindful but not obsessive! Make good decisions and then once they are made, that's it! Quit the second-guessing. And a big part of mindfulness for me is gratitude, so I will continue to grow my practice of pausing and being grateful.

2014 is the year I cultivate my own strength. I've run my first marathon and surprised myself with my mental toughness. I'd like to become physically stronger too through yoga and tossing around some weights. I want to be a strong wife, friend, family member and leader. Strength in heart and mind, in all areas. Not being boastful or showy, nor bottled up and cold. Just strong. I will know that to be strong, I must also be open and flexible. I will gain strength, but I won't confuse vulnerability with weakness. I will be strong, flexible and wholehearted.


Now I'm not what you would call a big adventurer. I've been known to toss out road blocks and obstacles to adventures:  it's too dangerous, that's too impractical, it's much too expensive. I know I'll continue to do that, because every party needs a lovable curmudgeon, but I want to at least let myself be dragged along on grand and small adventures alike. To know that life is itself an adventure, one with twists and turns and ups and downs and lots of laughter, always. Go with the flow, enjoy the ride, carpe diem and all of that.

Oh, and I'd still like to remember to take my vitamins every day, to run 1,000 miles this year and to drink more water. Happy New Year!

Affirmations & wisdom from some of my faves, top to bottom: Brené Brown, Gabrielle Bernstein, Kathleen Shannon & Danielle LaPorte.

Related Posts:
happy new year / 2011
resolve / 2010
obligatory new years post / 2009
& in 2012 I was too busy swooning over our wedding to post resolutions