you do not have to be a fire
every mountain blocking you.
you could be a water and soft river your way to freedom
- options by Nayyirah Waheed
Here is where the 5 pillars of a STAND out life
are celebrated and mused upon.
I hope to bring some goodness your way with tips, guidances, stories...perhaps clever gifs?
you do not have to be a fire
every mountain blocking you.
you could be a water and soft river your way to freedom
- options by Nayyirah Waheed
The other day I was driving by the local middle school soon after the final bell, made blatantly obvious due to the typically bare sidewalks swarming with a very particular population of 12-14 year olds. They marched in cozy rows four-wide, causing the flanking members of each cluster to clumsily climb over packed snow banks with fervent effort to keep pace. Heaven forbid two fall back to create a second row...no, at that age you've got to be the leader.
I had ample time to soak in the scene, what with multiple signals of flashing yellow lights and reflective-vested patrols reminding me of my presence in a 20 mph school zone.
Scenes like this vicariously transport me back to my own tweenage (not a typo) years. Back to the late 90's, when Seventeen magazine surpassed Sour Patch Kids as my preferred treat, and formulating style became my preoccupation.
As I moseyed through that school zone, gazing out onto a sea of boys in Sperry Topsiders (never dressed appropriately for the weather...especially here in New England) and girls in L.L. Bean Original Boots, I was reminded that every generation finds its uniform. The arena of safety. The things we wear on the outside to coax us into feeling like we fit in - especially at a time in our youth when self-esteem is ever entwined -scratch that, synonymous- with social acceptance. With not a small amount of melancholy, I remember yearning for outfits in the Delia's catalogue, plucking my thick eyebrows to match the more delicate arches of my friends and those I desired to be friends with (to those hairs, I am patiently awaiting your return), and questioning questioning questioning how to meld socially with my peers while blossoming into the bright iconoclast that still lives so fiercely inside me.
It was at that moment down memory lane that a red light stopped me shy of a crosswalk. Like a comet through a black sky - a reminder that great and wild things are out there - a solo stream of metallic light flashed in front of me. That light was a young girl running across the street alone, wearing a gold lamé winter coat and a red backpack. As her tip-toes leaped from asphalt to white paint, asphalt to white paint, she beamed the smile of a kid not simply celebrating her escape from school walls, but of throwing herself towards what feels good without a shackle of abandon.
What a gift! What maturity she radiates beyond her years! I wanted to roll down my windows and yell after her,
I think often of The Girl In The Gold Coat, as she reminds me of myself at my best: in complete pursuit of what feels good, upholding/embodying/exuding freedom, and making the sartorial choices that amplify such a life.
May we all learn from that young and brilliant babe. Let's style our lives with less consideration for what keeps us awkwardly stomping through the snow to "keep pace" with our peers, but release our shackles so that we can run so far ahead with bounding gleeful steps we become truly outta sight.
Do you ever feel disjointed? Like your head belongs to a different version of yourself than your heart?
I'm raising my hand high, yelling, "UH, SHYEAHHH! That's me right here!" It's like there's a ping-pong match of values going on inside me.
Over the past year I've taken a deep-dive into self-work and self-worth (not stemming from a lack of self-confidence, but rather the desire to internally investigate my truths). As Oprah -the #soulbabe to end all soul babes- would say, "What I know for sure."
I've begun a running list of the things in life that matter so freaking much to me that they literally construct the "house" in which I live. These values and qualities form my walls, foundation, windows, and doors.
"Alignment" is one of those neo-new-age buzz words that gets sprinkled around with greater fervor than cacao nibs in an organic smoothie bowl after hot yoga class. We strive to be centered, grounded, in-tune, manifesting, and socially connecting WHILE digitally detoxing.
Phew! There are so many aspirations to run fiercely toward, but the one calling out the loudest to me right now is ALIGNMENT. The alignment of my heart and my head...namely my heart and the words that exit my darn mouth.
I've grown aware that the two are often moving in different directions or operating on separate planes entirely. Instead of parallel railroad tracks merging to a unified point at the horizon, I feel my heart is like a clear coastal highway but my mouth will blurt out vacuous thoughts like ugly chain-link overpasses...Though they quickly disappear into the rear-view, they leave a lasting interruption on the beautiful scene.
Maybe that was dense. What I mean is that despite maturing into a woman who knows her values intrinsically and truly smiles at the soul staring back at her in the mirror, I need to wait a beat before I speak sometimes.
Isn't it funny that the version of ourselves we present to the world can fall out of alignment with the version we know so deeply to be true?
We meditate. We journal. We practice yoga. We practice self-care. We hold doors open and smile at strangers. We go on long walks to think about life. We listen to nature. We take personality quizzes, damnit...
But we still manage to slip up and say insensitive things to the people we love most.
I suppose my point is that we are humans after all, and we are not perfect. If our ultimate destination is where our outer actions and inner values align, we should play the long game. Less dwelling on the shadow moments (the "ugly chain-link overpasses") and more focus on our heart's truths (the open road ahead).
⚡️ The Takeaway ⚡️
"The world has such tremendous beauty and possibility. It's so exciting right now, and yet everyone is focused on the negative. Instead, focus on the other and the positive and creating magic! Lean into each moment and each encounter creating magic...Like when you're about to argue with the cab driver or with your spouse or with your best friend,
(Quote by Adam Robinson, in conversation with Tim Ferriss on his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. See: Episode #219 @ 1h50m14s)
FEELING from the inside out.
Some days you sense yourself -all your inner workings- more than others. Well, today is Inauguration Day, and I am so aware of my insides. Where within me my stresses/questions/uncertainties reside.
When times become strange it is my HEART that aches from stretching to find solace - straining to grasp for the good...or at least for understanding. So, I return to what I know deep in that heart:
Underneath our clothes, our cloaks of fear, our armor of biases, and the melanin in our skin, we are all just humans looking to belong. We all have hearts that beat rhythmically, lungs that humbly call in oxygen offered by our planet, a few organs that filter out gunk and still a few others that produce hormones enabling us to FEEL. We've all got bones that, like our spirits, are strong but aren't immune to break. And just below the surface of our various shades, we have the same color blood. Blood that constantly renews and refuses stubborn stagnancy (oh, may our thoughts be so evolved...). Our cells are so smart in their relentless mission to seek our wounds and HEAL US.
As I place my hand on my heart -as I find myself doing a lot nowadays- I hope with every deeply healing beat that the collective WE will see each other (and really SEE each other) for all of our gorgeous/miraculous/mysterious/intelligent human commonality.
2016 becomes 2017.
What immediately springs to mind when you consider 2016? Let's be real, it was a bumpy one. We lost a rather outstanding number of outstanding minds - from heroes like Ali that could seemingly live forever (and whose legacy certainly will) to performers like Bowie and Prince who broke molds, redefining what it means to be a modern artist.
Think about the first of January. Where were you? Were you someplace sunny or was it cold outside? Were you reading a good book? What did you expect for your year ahead? What did you not know about yourself or the world that you now intimately know to be true? As I quietly search my own mind for those answers, my eyes grow glassy - with the good kind of tears.
I am obviously still fundamentally me, but I'm also so damn different than the woman who occupied my skin in the early days of 2016. The minute details aren't important, but I look back on January me and I am so proud of her for the decisions she made to drastically improve her life.
At winter's end and spring's beginning, she allowed her honest heart to guide her away from the stable (but emotionally damaging, in the case of career) towards the unknown (but boundlessly opportune).
Her patience and grace held space for her in the long, hot middle months of the year, as she found footing on the winding path of reinvention. There was a lot of time spent outdoors with bare feet, barely makeup, and hair in wild curls. More times than not, her days were spent hiking, running, and ultimately reconnecting with her happiness.
In the fall she befriended her chutzpah, which carried (and continues to carry) her through the weird early stages of a project she cares a hell-ton about: this here site. This exploration of self and society...of a search for meaning, belonging, connection, and contribution.
Which leads me to these closing days and nights of a watershed year. There is so much (SO MUCH) weighing heavily on our world at this moment. Politically, a huge transition is taking place, about which I'll hold my peace (but let's just say that as a spiritual person whose faith is defined by kindness and curiosity over organized religion, I pray in my own way).
It's in these days and nights that I find comfort in looking forward with fierce optimism. And to help with that, I utilize a symbolic practice of establishing a North Star word. A light to guide me through times of confusion or uncertainly. To ground me. To lift me. To motivate me. To keep me me.
In 2016, my North Star word was actually three: A Stand Out. I think that has worked out pretty well.
For all that is happening on the planet beyond my control, AND ALL THAT I HOPE TO MAKE REAL AND AWESOME,
This time of year there is A LOT. So many projects to complete, cards to write, gifts to cleverly brainstorm, buy, and wrap...parties to gussy yourself up for...regaling of your work and whereabouts to family...then throw into the mix plummeting temperatures and our immune system cries out, "This is A LOT!"
Don't get me wrong, I raise massive prayer hands for the aforementioned (though I could kick winter's chill to the curb). We should all be so lucky to have curious family, parties to feel exhausted by, and gifts to wrap until midnight leaving us with paper cuts. These are real #blessings.
Keep pushing through this magical season, babes. Here's some sweetness to help...
I've decided that when I have a small family of my own, I would like to create the holiday tradition of gifting a single physical gift under a gaudy silver tree, and then forgoing all of the bustle in favor of a travel experience. Like a long stay at Madonna Inn or Dunton Hot Springs...mood depending.
I grew up with a mom that worked her tail off everyday. I could endlessly list how she gave and gave of her time and energy, and question, "How the hell did she do it?" But after all it was her moxie, which can be summarized by the image of a woman who -at the end of a long work day, after biking 7 miles to and 7 miles from the office- cooked dinner while dancing and playing (loud) some Stevie Ray Vaughan.
I've recently re-fallen in love with roses.
Their bushes bestow such a wise metaphor for balance, with thorns acting as cautionary reminders to not clench beauty so tight, not hold it so dear, not dote upon it so.
I have always been that girl that literally stops on the sidewalk or in Whole Foods to smell the roses, but in the past few weeks I've intentionally surrounded myself with their scent via essential oil of Rose Absolute. I've dug into some research on the benefits:
(mentally) calm restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, and depression
(aesthetically) tonify dry and mature skin; counteract wrinkles; strengthen hair roots
(topically healing) astringent and antiseptic properties prevent bacteria from spreading and infections from developing.
The rose was named Queen of Flowers by Sappho, the archaic Greek lyric poetess, and rightfully so. Its intricately layered petals display the utter majesty and miracle of nature. And historical folklore time and again equates Rosa with seduction, sensuality, and physical beauty. Word on the street is that Cleopatra roped in Mark Anthony by filling her bedroom two-feet deep with rose petals...
I'm over the moon to begin my journey into cosmic cookery with The Moon Juice Cookbook. Amanda Chantal Bacon, founder/CEO of Moon Juice and priestess of alchemic creations is badass embodied, as evidenced in her interviews here (listen) and here (read).
Despite my days of official ballet lessons being far behind me, I'm an unapologetic proponent -and nearly daily wearer- of leg warmers. The time has come to upgrade material, cover more limbs, and get freakin fancy with cashmere arm warmers! Ya heard right.
Alright, chickadees, this is going to be short and sweet and AWESOME. Let’s leap fearlessly into the week with some good thoughts/vibes/recommendations.
(Thoughts) Yes, life has its circumstances (which are different for everyone, and for every one of us they fluctuate day to day), but we do share one thing: we are alive. We are alive right now and we have this cool thing called oxygen that we breathe, which makes us fundamentally vibrant beings. Therefore, as these vibrantly alive creatures we control our reactions and outlooks towards life’s circumstances, whatever they may be. We dictate our experience.
(Vibes) So while the sun may have set just now around 4:30pm here at 42°N, and the temperature is steadily dropping further and further below freezing, and the dry air leaves my skin more parched than I’d prefer (all rational causes for complaint), I’m choosing to focus on the things I can control. Like, how to feel and be and become altogether RAD.
(Recommendations) Here are 5 rad things:
I’m not the overly-sentimental type, and I’m not a fan of that one radio station that plays Jingle Bells beginning in November. But I find there's intrinsic beauty in the twinkling of holiday lights. The ritual (er ceremony) of honoring this time of year is also so lovely. The sun does indeed set incredibly early, but we light that darkness with electric constellations of our own design - hanging from roof gutters, looping through stoop railings, and snarled amongst bare tree branches.
Perfectly suited for your obvious dance party or road-tripping needs, for your morning alarm clock (closely followed by Van Halen's "Jump"), and certainly for timing your 5-minute cold shower (see #5, below)!
Pretty self-explanatory, amiright? This time of year, for many families who celebrate the holidays -despite what religion we choose to practice or not practice- the tree becomes an emblematic icon. It occupies a noble spot in the center of the home, often where the family gathers convivially, and is adorned with patchwork tokens of nostalgia.
For me, the tree ritualizes connection to the ones I love most and keeps alive my inner child's sense of wonder. The crisp fir scent emanates from it's needles, disperses out by the warmth of technicolor lights, and transports me to listening to my grandma's stories as she baked, shaking off snow-sopped layers of clothes after cross-country skiing with Dad, and hugs in ugly, thick sweaters.
Meyer 'Motha F*ckin' lemons.
TIS CITRUS SEASON! The most puckery time of the year, and it speaks volumes about me that I'm excited enough to kinda curse about it.
Ruby Red grapefruits are pretty and great, Cara Cara oranges are ubiquitous, straight-up lemons are a fine staple year-round, but now is when Meyer lemons are entering the grocery store party. And you definitely don't want to be the one to realize come February that the party's over and you're stuck without the perfect golden wedge to squeeze into/onto pretty much anything.
Meyers are like your insanely cool cousin that travels around the world and rarely makes it to family gatherings, but when she does she's the (s)hit. You forget how much you miss her until you finally see her again. She's surprisingly sweet under her skin of sour sassiness.
This is a very difficult bandwagon on which to climb aboard. But, I choose to suck up the discomfort of the moment since the health benefits are too numerous and profound to ignore. Diet and fitness researcher -and one of my favorite podcasters- Ben Greenfield does an excellent job outlining the benefits.
I typically enjoy a nice, long, super warm shower like most modern-and-rather-blessed humans, but at the very end I stare-down the temperature dial and begin a mental pep-talk. You are not going to die. It's just cold. It's just cold water like a waterfall. Like a gorgeous waterfall you'd find in the middle of paradise. Suck it up and dance around in this wonderful waterfall for five minutes. Then I turn the knob all. the. way.
The coolest (ba-dum-bum!) immediate payoff is the rush of warmth you feel when you shut off the water. Soon thereafter comes a feeling of mental euphoria that vibrates out to whole body energy. Hard to describe in words, but looks a lot like this...
I spent this past weekend in New York City, where I called home for years. It is a place whose energy and faceted personality resonates with my own. The pace of the streets matches my cadence. The morphing styles from Chinatown to Red Hook to the West Village to Williamsburg satiate my adaptable, flowing Piscean nature.
It's that compatibility -along with the phenomenal humans with whom I've formed soul-enriching friendships- that entices me back.
So, in reflection of that trip I'm dedicating this week's 5 Stand Out Senses to "The City."
The skyline. Nothing else fills me with quite the sense of electricity and anticipation like my first glimpse of the Manhattan skyline from up in the air or riding on I-95. No matter the direction of approach, it rises in subtle greeting through a gray haze - diminishing its astonishing architecture into tiny undulating geometries.
On a long drive to a place I'm looking forward to, I like to read intermittently amidst stretches of daydreaming out the window, watching autumn trees of diminished foliage roll by.
Especially when the destination is frenetic, I listen to beautiful, ambient tunes to ground my thoughts with albums such as this:
"Music To Be Born To" by East Forest
What is somewhat hard to find upon first moving to NYC are those places you feel comfortable enough to call a second home and desire to add to your weekly routine.
Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Company became such a place for me. Granted, I go through crazy amounts/numerous varieties of tea and prioritize fresh spices more than most, but I'll assure that this shop is worth a visit through its old glass door in Greenwich Village.
If you're overwhelmed by the vast selection of bulk teas and spices -displayed in large glass canisters like an historic apothecary- no need to fret. The people who work there are whip smart, enthusiastically helpful, and pour complimentary tea. But namely, the combination of aromas mixing in the air is somehow indistinguishable but altogether intoxicating.
Let's be honest - my friends and I are pretty fun and we like bourbon. There was, indeed, a bourbon party on Saturday night of the "Show & Tell & Share" variety that equated into me and my soulgirl Brooke -my hostess with the mostest for the weekend- staying up until 4am. Sample a few of the offerings? Of course we did. And they were lovely. But...
The best thing I had all weekend was the homemade dinner that Brookie and I cooked beforehand in the Williamsburg apartment she'd just freshly moved into. In my humble opinion, it was an adorable scene:
Two young thangs, dancing and chopping and spiralizing and sautéing a vegan, gluten-free, and seasonally delicious dish of goodness (strategically healthy to compliment, er counteract the Basil Haydens to come). A picnic dinner was set on the living room floor, where we twirled our forks and "mmm mmm"'d and laugh-cried under the glow of Youtube.
We adapted the above recipe by omitting the spaghetti (we went full zoodle). I'm going to adapt it again for Thanksgiving by doing only the zucchini noodles (but in RIBBONS this time), and incorporating diced, roasted Blue Hubbard and Kabocha squashes folded into the puree AND topping the whole glorious mess with toasted pumpkin seeks (Magnesium! Omega-3's! Zinc!).
The warmth of a fire, wherever I can find it.
Today's art/artist rings deep and timely.
The above piece illustrates a cause of tremendous topical importance: the protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. I have not traveled to the site, nor plan to, so I don't feel comfortable writing details about a situation of which I'm not an immediate player.
It is, though, important for me to stand up for rights I strongly believe in, like our American right to peaceful protest, and even more so in our human rights to clean water and voices heard.
This piece is by Sydney, Australia-based illustrator and graphic designer, Jasmin Meier. Her work incorporates the psychedelic layering of human and natural phenomena reminiscent of 1960's and 70's album artwork. I've always been drawn to that era, namely for its proliferation of the younger generation's pacifist actions in the face of national and international injustice. Seeing Meier's work reminds me that though a world away, I have a kindred spirit out there making beautiful things during turbulent times.
I stand with Standing Rock.
According to the New York Times, at 6:22 this morning, the full moon reached its perigee - the closest point to Earth along its orbit - and it's the most peri of gee's (the super-est of moons) that we've seen in 69 years.
Don't worry, I didn't see it, either. But the moon isn't shy, so it'll come back around the corner to play in just a few minutes, and apparently "7 percent bigger and 15 percent brighter than usual!" Awesome, this means that I'll be wearing my sleep mask again tonight because I keep my windows sans curtains.
I digress, because my real reason for posting is MYSTIC MAMMA. MM (aka, Mijanou Montealegre) has created a site wherein she shares wisdom and guidance on subjects such as "Astral Insights" and "Mammahood." I am not yet a mamma, nor plan to be any time super soon, so I turn to MM for the former. Whenever my mind or body is feeling out of the ordinary or there's a celestial milestone in the midst, I check in with her to learn about what may be going on up in our sky.
Along with her site, I would highly recommend her Instagram feed. In lieu of traditional photography, she creates collages. Completely striking collages that illustrate the current astrological climate and forecast. Her captions a written with care, nurture and deep intuition.
"GROUND" (shown above, and available for purchase*) is her latest work of art, conveying the enormous majesty of our nightly satellite. Her accompanying prose hits on the enormous charge we currently feel in our world.
"Let us now on this exceptional FULL MOON SuperMoon in Taurus, ground into our knowing and remember the feeling of belonging that Mother Earth offers us.
Spend time in places where the land is untouched and wild and you can align your heartbeat with that of Mother Earth. Allow her energy to soothe our souls, ground us and remind us of what is eternal and true.
We all belong. There is work ahead, but we are in this together."
*"100% of profits after cost will go to Protectors of Mother Earth and our sacred waters at Standing Rock."
*"With every purchase a tree will be planted."
OH BABY IT'S A WILD WORLD! This week has rocked me. I think everyone -no matter their political leaning- felt a strong hit of surprise, and now we're figuring. it. out.
What I keep going back to is this: At times of uncertainty I turn to the things I rely on for certain.
KINDNESS, TOLERANCE, HONESTY, CURIOSITY, MOVEMENT, NATURE.
I think if we stick to our own pillars of goodness, and concentrate on being the best possible versions of ourselves, we'll all be alright. I so deeply hope.
Now, here's some candy for your senses.
Shameless personal win: I finally went white-blonde, and I'm so pumped about it that I selfied. I selfied lots.
Thanks to Hannah Bronfman for shouting out this song in one of her latest Instagram stories. That babe is always on-point with recommendations...and can kick ass, literally.
This weekend I attended the Natural Living Expo, "New England's largest holistic health event." Per their claim, there were over 9,000 attendees, 250 exhibits, and 90 speakers, but I had three favorite takeaways. The first is a Scent, the second a Taste (see #4), and the third a Touch (see #5).
First up is the botanical perfumery, THORN & BLOOM (Somerville, Massachusetts). Jennifer Botto (Certified Natural Perfumer) is the company's founder, artisan, and a total doll in person. The way her bio describes her inclination towards scent, and the nostalgic power therein, is beautifully evocative.
CHAGA Plus Super Immune Booster (2oz for $25; 4oz for $47.50)
This is an extremely potent tonic by Taproot Herbals (Williamstown, Vermont), exercising a blend of health-optimizing and synergistic mushrooms and roots (Chaga, Reishi, Cordyceps, and Astragalus). You can read more about the benefits in the product link, above, and in the photo credit, below.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Taproot's Principal, Marie Frohlich, who is both an herbalist and certified health coach. Her warm demeanor and authoritative knowledge of the wild-foraged and hand-crafted product prompted my confidence in her company. It was only after sampling that I assured her my patronage and recommendation. I felt noticeably lifted and found the taste medicinally delicious. That's a thing.
Tapping, or EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique).
I attended a seminar by Lori Lamont, accredited EFT practitioner, who instructed how to utilize this fool-proof technique to reduce stress, eliminate physical pain, confront and release past trauma, and find an overall state of well-being.
The man who brought this system of healing to the masses is Nick Ortner (speaker, film-maker, and NYT best-selling author of The Tapping Solution). In this brief video and this longer but better video, he walks you through the simple steps:
Yesterday I listened to the latest episode of The Life Stylist Podcast, where host Luke Storey (a fashion stylist and holistic wellness devotee based in L.A.) interviewed John Wineland (speaker and facilitator of masculine/feminine spiritual and sexual intimacy...also based in L.A.), about:
Of course, seeing that headline in my feed was captivating and sparked an immediate listen.
Their conversation illuminated the differences between the masculine and the feminine (our intrinsically male and female energies, everyone harbors both), and outlined our current conundrum of trying to navigate those raw desires within the tides of modern societal expectations.
Their conversation mainly focuses on the masculine and strategies whereby men can stay true to their raw nature, honor the feminine, and find deeply satisfying romantic relationships. It's a long-form listen tapping in at 82 minutes, but it's filled with so many gems (which I've come to expect on from Mr. Storey's conversations) that I was left instantly wanting Part II (which would hopefully centralize on the female perspective).
Ultimately, I found Wineland's strategies for deeper, more conscious connection applicable to all variety of relationships. Here are two brilliant practices to incorporate:
Just like Diana Ross loves disco, I love my five senses, so let's celebrate this week's standouts, shall we?
So much change is in the air this time of year, and with a major shift in climate comes a major shift in look. It's hard to let go of the ease of summer's beachy minimalism, but fall introduces the opportunity for dramatic color contrast against paler skin...and some glitter for the festive season ahead.
Makeup: I choose to amplify always one, if-feeling-fancy two, but never all three of the following:
The NBA season is back in full effect ya'll! This means Marv Albert's tagline "FROM DOWNTOWN" ringing in my head, drama drama drama between Durant and Westbrook, and...
...these two words:
Pronounced ee-lahgn-ee-lahng, this flowering tree native to tropical Asia has the best name of any plant, hands down. (In case you're curious about the best name of a country, though, it's obviously Djibouti -ji-boo-tee- the tiny east African nation whose capital city is?...Maybe this will ring a bell).
Ylang-Ylang has a scent reminiscent of Jasmine (sweet and richly floral), and has been used by native populations for centuries in wedding ceremonies (for luck in love and as a general aphrodisiac), as well as therapeutically in modern societies for a host of benefits:
Two brands I trust for pure essential oils are doTERRA and Mountain Rose Herbs. Just a drop gently rubbed between the wrists and then along the neck will last for hours. This is also a fantastic primer on how and where best to use essential oils on the body.
Note: I've stashed away all of my conventional perfumes in favor of pure essential oils (stashed, not thrown away, because the glass bottles are legit beautiful and smelling them every now and then brings back rushes of nostalgia). Relatively, I'm on the low end of obsessive, but now that I know about gnarly phthalates and other invasive health disruptors I can't not actively remove them from my life.
Sun, desert, earth, happiness, love, connection, integrity, healing, transformation. Those are words that stream to mind when I think of Sun Potion as a brand and a mission. They source organic and wild-crafted medicinal plants, superfoods, and tonic herbs from around the world to deliver "potent, healing substances with the ability to transform consciousness and health."
You can read more about the background of -and love between- the founders, Scott Linda and Nitsa Citrine, here. The GOOP team does a good job, too, at summarizing many of Sun Potion's offerings and how to best utilize them in remedies. I'm particularly attracted to the ashwaganda, astragalus, and he shou wu in the "Calm" recipe.
And again, ace logo.
I am a big believer in the healing power of touch. It's my #1 love language - how we most naturally give and receive affection. It helps me feel connected and in-tune with my friends and family. It's why I'm beginning Reiki classes and it's why I proudly belong to Team Free Hugs.
This past summer I was shopping at the Union Square Greenmarket when I spotted a girl, probably in her young twenties and probably homeless, holding a "FREE HUGS" sign. She was quiet but smiling, and a light shone from within her almost tangibly. I didn't see anyone else stop to take her up on her offer, but I did. Many people would say that I was stupid to do so ("You could have been mugged, Mercedes!"), but I know two things clearly: I am street-wise and I trust intuition. And that hug was one of the best hugs ever.
Trust more. Hug more.
"Blindness Light" is the [quite literally] bold and beautiful mixed-media series by Spanish artist Javier Martín (collage of paper, neon light, oil and acrylic on board). Using strokes and waves of bright neon -typically the stuff of gritty city streets- he strategically obscures the eyes of advertised exemplary female visages, to “set a point about how society judges without looking further.”
Jessica Murnane of One Part Plant is my longest-standing podcast woman crush. I've been a devoted listener to her weekly show since the start. I'm not sure how exactly I found her...probably going down some epic clicking-of-suggested-shows-rabbit-hole on Stitcher, but I'm seriously so damn thankful. Her interviews -especially in this second season- have enlightened me to people and issues I wasn't aware of, or aware of enough. Her voice is raw, vulnerable, and humble (and literally, her voice is great audio). She rocks the badass ladyboss vibes that leave me feeling jazzed and desirous to kick butt in my own creative ways.
Tidbit: She started OPP with the mission to heal her physical symptoms, caused by a diagnosis of Endometriosis (if you're unfamiliar, please watch the trailer for the phenom documentary Endo What?, and/or listen to Murnane's interview with the film's director, Shannon Cohn).
It's not summer anymore, and I don't live in the Seychelles, therefore I've found one surefire way to stay sane in New England winters: transport myself to warmer climes with Black Coconut by Kuumba Made (also readily found at Whole Foods for $9...whaaaa?!). With judicious daily applications (since the fragrance has solid staying power) the roller will last for at least 3 months.
Might not be for everyone, but I thoroughly enjoy feeling and smelling as though I'm off to/freshly back from a trip to the beach no matter the season.
Speaking of chillier days: the time has come for SOUP! Hmm, that sounded a little too excited. But yes, soup is my current jam, especially involving CAULIFLOWER! Yep, still super (souper?) excited over not really exciting things.
Cauliflower Soup with Lemon Zest is truly all I want to make and consume right now.
So, while half of me is like...
...the other half is like, "What the hell? Why not!"
I just placed my order and will report back!
Here are three quick and not-quite-so-quick-but-certainly-effective ways to feel like a badass sparkly gem of a human, all involving the prescription:
"Call your girlfriend."
Yes, I'm unapologetically pulling this lesson from Ally McBeal -Season 1, Episode 17- "Theme Of Life", where Ally is ordered by her therapist (played by Tracey Ullman...MUCHAS GRACIAS, casting) to think of a theme song to combat negativity/rage/psychosis spawned by the uncontrollable craziness in her life (e.g., gabby law office with unisex bathrooms and über creepy dancing CGI baby. She settles on "Tell Him" by The Exciters.
Finding a song that not only resonates with you, but urges you to go beyond toe-tapping to all out lip-synching/air-guitaring/hair-whipping/twerking (err, maybe not that last one) is the goal. In my extremely scientific experimentations, the greater inclination to hair-whip = greater endorphin response. This article by the Huffington Post outlines the whys and hows of dancing's many health benefits (which are amplified if you dance with others...I mean, there is no arguing that everyone on Soul Train feels fan-freaking-tastic).
Here is my shortlist:
You don't have to know me well to know that I listen to a lot of podcasts. A lot. A hell ton. Their subject matter varies widely, and I'll likely hit on many shows throughout other posts, but for now I'd like to mention one show that particularly exemplifies smart content being discussed/produced by empowered, aware, and dignified lady bosses. Hosted by Aminatou Sow and Anne Friedman, and produced by Gina Delvac:
For a while I thought I was doing something wrong or had malfunctioned in some way. I thought it was the norm to have a ton of girlfriends, enough such that I would have a hard time imagining how to whittle the selection down to a reasonable number of bridesmaids when that day came. There should be a life-long friend, like your soulmate since the sandbox, one or two that banded with you through middle-school weirdness, a crew that helped you navigate social strata and stresses of high school, some that also relished the freedom and mischief found at college, and finally a diverse set of fierce, stylish, and wise young women encountered in the throws of young-professionalism.
Well, I've been through all of those steps, and indeed created tremendous bonds along the way. But for one reason or another (and truly without bridges burnt) most of those friendships have dwindled out of sight, and often -but not always- out of mind. It's not a situation that leaves me feeling melancholy or remorseful, since the partings weren't of ill will, but rather curiosity in and positive hopes for how their lives have evolved.
I may not have a ton of girlfriends, but the fingers of one hand represent my soulfriends. I will try to refrain from the fluffiness of how I met each of them at pivotal points, how they are beautiful and unique snowflakes whom I turn to for all manner of questions/emergencies/celebrations, or how they are utterly superlative women that stoke me to aim higher/push further/stand stronger.
It's taken me a while to reach this conclusion, but I think I've arrived: Regarding meaningful friendships in our modern time, physical distance is rather moot, social media likes are rather moot, texting frequency is rather moot. The points that are not moot are those feelings of reunion, of understanding, of collaboration, of curiosity, and of worth that beat rhythmically in my heart while I'm on call with a girlfriend.
Plus, I have no immediate plans for a wedding, and hence bridesmaids...so I'm going to dance to more Robyn.
Recently I've been turning to this idea of threading the "past, nascent me" with the "future, evolved me." Trying to know both gals a bit better. What do they love to do for fun? Do they have fears? What is their favorite time of day? Favorite colors? Favorite flavors?
I have already been my young self -and I know her so intrinsically- yet we've been separated by years of societal and environmental pressures and expectations. (For so long I cooped her up in time-out, but I'm finally letting her out to go climb trees.) The little one is our purest expression of happiness. Our unapologetic pursuit of joy.
I have yet to know my future self, but have the most comforting and magical time dreaming of her. All that I currently am is a mere building block of what she will be. She is possibility. But that word doesn't even seem to carry ample weight.
I think symbolically of the Twin Towers on the early morning of August 7, 1974, when Philippe Petit performed his awesome aerial feat. Just like the high-wire on which Petit danced, our lives are anchored by two structures, both identical yet markedly distinct: the Pure Baby and Sage Lady.
~We are now somewhere in-between~
We are Petit, who walks the line with his gaze focused neither on the building ahead nor behind (i.e. obsessed with who/what/where we will be in the future or the decisions we made in the past), but rightly on the present, immediate step. And our onward motion is propelled by our confident ties to both towers. Our life's wire is anchored securely and forever to both versions of us.
By cultivating and deepening a relationship with myself, I've gained a dynamic and unshakeable feeling of strength. When I feel mired in toxic mental clogs (especially by that double-sided minx known as Instagram, who sparks creativity but also the comparison game), I can now readily hear the voices of Baby and Lady affirming:
"I am enough."
On the first day of autumn this year, I started doing something new:
Instead of instinctively reaching for my phone when I woke up, I altered the course of my hand to land on my sketchbook. On that morning and every morning since, I tell email and weather and Instagram to slow their role, then breathe deeply for a beat or two as I sit up and place the black leather-bound book on my lap. With mechanical pencil in hand, I start thinking of three gratitudes to honor. I limit myself to three things for two reasons: 1. I'm a bit long-winded and flowery in my writing (can you tell?), and 2. I usually have to pee pretty badly first thing in the a.m. (Yes, I force myself to stay in bed until all three things are fully jotted down, and no I don't want to end up like the old lady in the field-trip scene of Billy Madison.)
I chose to start this practice on a day of astrological -and for me hugely symbolic- transition. Summer is my favorite. It's the undeniable best. It's my groove. And I feel down when the plug is pulled on that groove. Summer is lingering in the heat of the late sun, it encourages movement/gathering/revelry/travel, and despite my "adult" status, it still pulses with the wild freedom that punctuated childhood.
To me, fall has always stood for massive change, both in lifestyle and scenery. It is the uniquely melancholy combination of returning to rules and the shedding of summer's luscious verdancy.
In an attempt to get ahead of that shadow feeling, I thought a good practice would be to welcome the day not focusing on the negative aspects of the new season, but by paying homage to ALL THE RAD THINGS in my world.
This morning's first entry was so simple, but so important. "I am grateful for my 5 good senses. Sight, sound, scent, taste, and touch are all in fine working order, and for that I am so damn lucky." Maybe I should put them to proper use!
Below are five stand out discoveries that have nourished me over the past week. I want this to become a weekly post, likely issued on Friday/Friyay afternoons. For now, here's the first installment of 5 Stand Out Senses (5 SOS_001)...I know, 001...Ambitious, right?:
Francis and the Lights
I suppose these rightly fall under "Sound," as well, but I'm really digging the constraint of the single take illustrated in these two videos.
Fantastic things about "Friends":
Fantastic thing about "Like a Dream":
His mastery of my move.
The new album "WALLS" by Kings of Leon. (WALLS = We Are Like Love Songs)
This is the band's first release since September 2013. It feels great to hear from them because in an ever-oversynthed world, they are straight-up Rock & Roll.
Start to finish, WALLS is so satisfying...save for #6 "Muchacho," which rambles with the monotony of a tumbleweed. Things kick off explosively with "Waste A Moment" and "Reverend," but I'll peg my favorite song as #4 "Find Me." It recalls "The Boys Of Summer" by Don Henley, which is massive praise.
This is a snapshot of the corner of my desk where I house facilitators of good smells and good feels. Here's a list of what they are and why they're awesome:
Question: You get one food and one beverage for the rest of life - what are they? (Let's figure in spring water w/lemon and a solid multivitamin to cover our bases...)
Answer: OYSTERS. DIRTY MARTINIS (just the tiniest bit dirty).
Walking barefoot. Outside. On a natural piece of land. Like a human.
One of the many gifts that's come as a result of moving from New York City to the middle of the New England woods is my ability to experience nature readily, often, and without barriers. It's become a nearly everyday occurrence to take a long walk through surrounding parks and trails, and it feels right when I forego rubber soles. By allowing my feet to touch the ground, I feel not only more observant and respectful of the changing terrain (and whatever critters come to pass), but awakened to my own animalness.
I'm reminded that I'm enough: me and my skin and the clothes on (or not on) my back and my breath through the trees... Now disregarding the many silly things that clogged my head and my happiness back in the urban jungle. I went months without feeling dirt or grass under my toes, but certainly feeling strangled by the ever-mounting stressors of an unfulfilling job and human gridlock.
There are an increasing number of studies scientifically proving the myriad benefits to human health through "earthing" or "grounding." For those locked in city centers (or anyone not desirous of frost-bite in the dead of winter), products such as these mats can be a huge win.
But if opportunity permits, I urge everyone to shed their sneaks/stilettos/self-consciousness and truly connect with the world.
I love the feeling of surprise. Not the kind of 'Surprise! You parallel parked next to a lush tree that happened to perfectly block a "FOR EMERGENCY VEHICLES ONLY" sign, and now a $204 ticket is blazing its orange-hued glory in your stunned face.' (And were those four extra dollars at all necessary, by the way? I mean, really...)
No, I like people surprises. When come from people, that's cool (say, maybe your brother brought you back some alpaca knee-high socks from his trip to Chile, or a passing stranger compliments your necklace from the massively discounted rack in Target). But when they're about people, that's the juiciest.
How does this all tie in with Art? Well, I had this really big breakthrough, which was realizing that no matter how we look, dress, walk, talk, how we pay the bills, or if we're night-owls or early-birds, we are ALL artists! This opened me up to the excitement that everyday I could discover a surprise about someone if I keep my eyes, mind, and heart open. Go beyond the surface and beyond stereotype.
*Here's an anecdote: I know a very interesting man. He is arguably one of the most unorthodox, enigmatic, and memorable characters that could be dreamed into existence: He is attractive, athletic, charismatic, and funny. He is also quick-tempered, critical, and a relentless backseat driver. He wears a fannypack for practicality. He is the quirky guy delaying the grocery line because he's telling stories in a foreign accent you "caaan't quite put your finger on." He is -by all outside observances- not someone you'd peg as a brilliant painter with works that spark awe. But since his young childhood in Hungary, through immigration to the U.S. and citizenship herein, through raising four successful kids, to the present day, he's taken paint to canvas in order to create. He's my dad and he's an artist.*
With that being said, I now look around (and this was especially fun when I lived in NYC) at people on the sidewalk, or in a coffee shop, or that Target jewelry section, and wonder in what way they're driven to create.
The mail(wo)man could be a concert violinist for all I know! Wouldn't it be a lovely surprise to look past face-value, get to know someone a little deeper, and ask... In what way are you an artist?
For some reason I'm compelled to venture into this subject of Tribe by talking about the boundary lines we draw in the sands of our relationships. I'm not going to attempt blind stabs at why we hold certain people at arm's distance, why we flock to others a little too quick and little too close at times of conspicuous convenience, and still others we keep around like a parasite - they take take take as our well runs dry dry dry. And on and on.
No, that biz is best left to the psychologists, scholars, and stand-up comedians who have analyzed the glories and eccentricities of every type of relationship. Surely with an eloquence or hilarity far beyond what I could blurt out here on the spot.
I'm simply bringing "boundaries" up as a reminder to myself. Babygirl, remember to:
Know your boundaries. Know your self. Be honest and malleable with both. Sometimes you'll slowly crawl, steadily pace, fiercely march, gleefully run, or manically sprint along/over/under your ever-morphing boundary line, but keep the faith that the right people of the right pace will flow with you.
Just start. Just dive in. Just do the damn thing!
I'm finally doing the thing! Dreams, brainstorms, conversations about this site have been brewing for a long time, but -as with so many cool ideas- it remained just a sparkly glimmer of a thing, up in my head hanging out. Imagine you got invited to go to a really gorgeous lake with a ROPE SWING...
*Speaking of rope swings: remind me to tell about the summer after college when I lived in a big group house with back deck jutting out over a long and steep hill in DC, where there was the sweetest 30-foot rope swing setup. We'd all gather after work to commiserate our introduction into properly cubicled young-professionalism and fly like wild Tarzans and Janes, very illegally, over the city.*
...Back to my analogy. So, you're invited to go swingin' and swimmin'. How fantastic! You checked the weather (85 and not a cloud in the sky - your perfect forecast), picked out a super sassy yet adventure-appropriate suit, and told your mom all about your fun plan! The day arrives. Your friends are outside to pick you up. You're fully slathered in the finest all-natural/organic/fragrance-free/gluten-free/mineral-based/vegan/paleo sunscreen with a (screaming to be inflated) flamingo floatie in one hand and Twister towel in the other. And you:
Sit there on your bed, oddly ignoring the honks from your friend's car/the enticingly warm breeze flowing softly though your open window/the opportunity to share the glories of a hot pink flamingo floatie and Twister towel experience because you started questioning... Maybe the lake is frigid!? Maybe you'll look like a flailing airborne idiot if you even muster the guts to release from the rope!? Maybe there will be a ton of traffic and you won't even make it to the lake!? Maybe your Saturday is better spent running adult-y errands to the bank and PaperSource and Whole Foods!?
Get your adventurous ass out the door and do the damn thing!
Option 1 illustrates the paralyzing strength of our questioning mind to override what we know deep-down as magnificent opportunities to LIVE and CONTRIBUTE. I've certainly been a victim of my fears and self-doubts in the face of unfamiliar waters. But always without fail, it's when I dive in -gracefully or flailing- that I emerge changed for the better.
My greatest hope is that this site serves as my proverbial rope jump. The sun may be hot and bright, but the lake is bitterly brisk. My swimsuit may turn heads and look faaancy, but I flail like a muppet in midair. It's awkward but then it's awesome. It's weird but then it's wondrous.
Just start, and then acclimatize, adjust, evolve, and awaken to realize that the gift is found in the gnarly waves of doing.