Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Make Your Own Sunshine: 20 Quick and Easy Ideas for Beating the Winter Blues

I have had the hardest time removing myself from my bed in the morning lately. I keep thinking that maybe I'm fighting something… The truth is that no matter what my body is fighting (I think it's a head cold?!) my whole self is fighting depression.

I'm an easy target for depression in the winter. It happens every year actually: I find it harder and harder to stay positive and get motivated as the winter drags on.

There are mounds of snow everywhere I look outside and icicles hanging from various points on our roof. The highs have been in the single digits. Today it is super sunny outside and I am loving every ray. Mostly though, the winter skies are gray in Michigan. It can be downright depressing.

Knowing that I'm susceptible to singing the winter blues, I'm trying extra hard to stay on the sunny side of life, as they say. It isn't easy. I haven't perfected it. And, I am completely committed to keeping it a consistent practice. Some days are easier than others, as is true for most everything in life. Also knowing that so many of my friends and family members are feeling the impact of this winter, I thought I'd share some of what's working well for me… I hope you find something here that works for you.

Before I get started though, I want to be clear that I am not taking the term depression lightly here. When it comes to depression, I have found that one of the challenges we face is discerning the difference between what we can control and what we can't. In a world where appearing to be "in control" is the way to be, it is sometimes hard to admit defeat… that we just can't control everything.

So, no, we can't control the weather or any of the outcomes we face along with frigid temperatures and piles of snow. Here at my house, my kids have had numerous days of school due to weather and that has really made an impact on the way we live our lives. None of that is in the realm of my control. How I react to it however - that is all me. None of us can change the weather; we can however, change our perception of the weather and what it means for us in our lives. Okay, here we go...

1. Make Art.

A scene from one of my art journals

It doesn't have to be complicated. I find that coloring in a coloring book with my daughter can be very relaxing (as long as I follow her directions!?!). I suggest working on something that isn't outcome focused - something that is about the process of making art rather than the work of itself.

Try coloring in a coloring book with crayons or markers, your own painting or a paint by number, Zentangle, doodling, sketching, modeling clay, anything that gets your hands moving and your head focusing on something other than the weather.

2. Let the Cold Shock You

Go outside with your regular clothes on - no bundling allowed. Stand in the cold for a minute (or less if there are frostbite warnings in your area), and allow yourself to really feel the cold. It's like an electric shock (only cold)! As you feel the shock of the cold on your skin, you get a new lease on life. It's like receiving CPR without the drama. I think there's something to it too because there are so many places that use variations between hot and cold to help heal. Try it!

3. Take a Photo Hike or Drive

Pretend you are a photo journalist on location - in the Arctic maybe. Use any old camera or your phone and snap pictures. Try taking photos of things you might ordinarily miss, like snow covered branches, tracks in the snow, or the winter sky. Take close-ups - try to catch the unique formation of an individual snowflake. It is incredible to look real close and see that each snowflake really is so intricately designed. If you can capture that on film, I would love to see it!

Wire scrolling on our balcony

A snow covered branch in my yard
4. Install a Bird Feeder Where You Can See It From Your House

This could open a whole word of bird watching...

This has been so much fun. Okay, I'm a bit of a nature geek… but I do think anyone would enjoy it. I installed this feeder right outside my bedroom window. Part two of this tip is to allow yourself to just sit and watch the birds. It is amazing! As you watch, think about how great it feels to provide some food to the birds. Watch them closely. Admire their feathers. Their colors. Their flight pattern to and from the feeder. The way they move around. Birds are fascinating creatures!

5. Play in the Snow

My family playing in the snow

No explanation needed. Make an angel. Go sledding. Let the flakes melt on your tongue. Drink something warm when you're back inside.

6. Hibernate

So you're stuck inside? Make the most of it. Cuddle with your people, your pets, yourself. Wrap yourself in a blankie. Build a fire. Sip something yummy. Read a good book. Start a new one that you've been wanting to read. Flip through a magazine. Play games. Allow yourself to be still in the quiet of winter. No judgment. No place else to go… Allow yourself to really truly rest. Enjoy it.

7. Nourish Yourself Wisely

My lovely sister arranged this. Cute, huh?

This is a year-round charge; however, when you're feeling down it can be harder than usual to muster up the energy to eat nutritious foods. Some of us crave comfort foods in the winter, and for some of us that means carbohydrates… Get creative.

Years ago, three of my neighbors and I started a Supper Club. For four nights of the week we took turns making meals for all four of our families. We made simple meals that were easy to make in larger quantities. It was a huge treat to enjoy a homemade meal with my family that I didn't have to make, and to cook only once in that four day stretch. Plus, making food for other people can be good for your soul, AND it ensured we communicated with each other on a regular basis so there wasn't space for feeling isolated.

I am also hearing more and more about different places that deliver nutritious meals or the ingredients for you to make the meals yourself. Ah-mazing!

8. Do Something Nice for Someone

Again, no explanation needed. Just do it. Reach out to someone you love or a complete stranger and do something that you know will make a positive difference in their life. Send a note, make a meal, clear their driveway, let them go ahead of you in the checkout lane… even flash a great, big happy smile. You never know what a huge impact a simple of act of kindness can make.

9. Reclaim Your Space

This can entail anything from painting an entire room in your house, to rearranging your furniture, to buying a new candle and lighting it when the sun goes down. If you're going to be stuck inside, make sure you are surrounded by things that make you feel good. A new knit throw, a couple cute pillows, a picture frame, a BOUQUET of FLOWERS!!! We respond to smells so find a candle that reminds you of summer, or burn your favorite incense, or use essential oils.

It's your space, take charge and brighten it right up. Own it. Suddenly, you are no longer "stuck" inside, you now have the privilege of being there in a space you love.

10. Re-live Your Summer Highlight Reel

There was a winter not long ago that lasted so forever and a day long that I actually thought it might never end. I honestly wondered "what if the sun never shines again…?" I had to remind myself that in all my life I had never witnessed a never-ending winter. That every year of my life the sun came out to shine on me again. Revisiting pictures from summers past helped. I even felt transported to the times when the sun was warming my skin, my kids and I swam in the lake, and the nights seemed to last into the next day. Ahhh…. those days, they are a coming… eventually.

11. Make a Mix Tape

A playlist. Here Comes the Sun might be a good place to start. Get lost in the music. Listen to your favorites and find some new songs to lift your soul. Music is transformative. Click play and let yourself sway. You can thank me later.

12. Bake

Sometimes a girl just needs a cookie. It's okay. Enjoy the process of baking and the joy of biting into something homemade (space and grace around #7… all things in moderation, right?).

13. Call on Your Tribe

Vent if you need to or simply check-in. Call a friend or loved one. Tell dumb jokes. Share favorite memories. Laugh hard. Repeat. Plan a date night and reconnect with your beloved. If you can, meet someone you love for coffee or breakfast. If school is closed, gather at home… let the kids run wild together and look into your bestie's eyes. Ask her what she is working on these days? What she dreams about at night? Keep each other warm with your company.

14. Plan a Tropical Vacation

Assuming we can't all just pick up and fly south, we can plan a vacation. Where will you stay? What will you do? Even if you have no intention or ability to take this vacation, plan it. Make a collage even. Surprise yourself. Go wild. Dream big. Think SUNSHINE on your face by day and a huge star filled sky over your head at night. Campfires? Hikes? Swim up bar? Whatever suits your fancy…

15. Move

Not to Florida, move your body. Breathe, stretch, practice yoga, play Twister, wrestle, dance, do Zumba, get intimate with your lover (or yourself). Just. Move. And. Groove. Your. Body.

16. See Through the Eyes of a Child

Last night when I told my son school was cancelled for today due to sub zero temperatures (it's a Frozen Day he told me), he cheered like his team just won the Super Bowl. Children have very little attachment to the ramifications of inclement weather. They aren't worried about freezing pipes, shoveling the driveway, driving on slippery roads, or rearranging their schedules. Allow yourself to experience your life through the eyes of a child. Imagine you are seeing snow for the very first time. What would that be like? What if today was the first day you woke up? Tasted coffee? Enjoyed a bowl of oatmeal? Imagine. Be curious about what you see. Observe. Enjoy the experience of trying something you've never tried before. Even if it something you actually do every day…

17. Celebrate the Sunshine

Let the sun shine in...

When the sun does come out to light up the sky and everything below it, RELISH IT! Do a dance. Wear your sunglasses. If you can, feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Stare out the window. Watch the way the snow sparkles when the sun hits it (truly divine!). Take a walk. Take more pictures. Watch the shadows dance. Thank God and the Heavens for the SUN and everything it does for us. Promise to never again take its light for granted. Soak it all in. Act like you're never going to see it again (it might be a while…).

18. Do an Outdoor Activity Indoors

Last weekend I played catch with two little ones in my father-in-law's garage. We have used the garage for field hockey too. If you can ride a bike in your basement, that is always fun. Play hopscotch. Blow bubbles. Find a place with an indoor pool and swim. If all else fails, take a bath. Fill it with salts, essential oils, bubbles, or take it straight up. Water has magical healing powers. Even in the winter. Especially in the winter.

19. Be Gentle with Yourself

A little latte love

Yesterday I was rushing to get a whole bunch of stuff together for a meeting, and then rushing to bundle myself up to face the cold. As I got into the car, my purse got caught on my scarf. My coat is so big and puffy that I could barely reach behind myself to untangle my purse. I wanted to cry. I wanted to rip off all the layers and go back inside and crawl into my bed. It takes a lot of extra energy to do business as usual in the winter. Allow yourself to take more time. Allow yourself to move slowly if you need to. Give yourself a lot of space to figure out what will work best for you in light of whatever comes up this winter. Whatever you do, do it gently.

20. Be Gentle with Everyone Else

Remember: whatever it is that you are feeling, the chances are very good that everyone around you is feeling the same (or worse). Let's give each other some grace to show up in whatever way we need to in order to make it through this unusually harsh winter. We are all cold. Some of us are bitter. Some of us feel like we can't take another flake of snow. Some of us ski and hope it will last forever. Wherever you are on the spectrum, know you are not alone, and that there are all kinds of other points on the spectrum too. Let's be good to each other.

Please feel free to share your ideas here too!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My Word of the Year for 2014

I wear "release" close to my heart.
(pendant made by the fabulous Liz Lamoreux)

So it seems that for some people making New Year's Resolutions is a thing of the past. Instead, many of us are opting for a "word of the year." I am not sure how it started, to be completely honest, and I cannot even remember when I began this practice. What I do know is that I have a history of making resolutions and not keeping them. I believe that is due in large part my choosing resolutions that I wasn't really ready to make or capable of following through with anyway. When I heard about the word concept - to set an intention for the year with a word that represents something you would like to manifest, I thought "That is something I can do! I love words!" So, I signed right up.

In 2012 my word was trustTrust became my mantra. I repeated it constantly as a reminder that it is okay to trust… to simply trust that everything was as it should be, to trust in the process, to trust in myself and the people around me. Trusting became a sacred practice for me and it is one that I continue to use in my life.

Last year my word was intention. It was was a bust. I chose intention with a plan in mind - I wanted to be very deliberate about the choices I made each day. I wanted to make these choices with intention. My approach was much like the one I took in fifth grade when my mom told me about learning through osmosis… right before a science test. Instead of studying I slept with my science book under my pillow, believing (hoping?) that everything I needed to know for my test would somehow make its way from the pages of my science book to my brain. It didn't quite work that way for me. To go from flying by the seat of one's pants (hypothetically speaking) to living with intention takes more than osmosis. I was more deliberate about many of the decisions I made last year, but not as deliberate as I would have liked.

This year my word is release! I like to write it with the exclamation point at the end. It feels like a dance that way - one where I throw my head back and my arms in the air.


To me, release is about actively choosing to let go of anything holding me back or weighing me down - unwanted weight, bad habits, old stories, lies I've believed about myself or others…I want to let it all go so I can move forward with my big dreams.

One of my big dreams is to be completely present for my children when we are together. With all that they face in their lives, I think they need me. A lot. I'm easily distracted and wanting to do a million things at once so they rarely get my undivided attention. Plus, there are three of them so that makes it even harder for each of them to get what they need. And then there is my iPhone… Sometimes, when things get loud and crazy, I shut down a little. This is part of an old story, or an old way of coping with the challenges I face. I want to let that go - that shutting down thing. The escaping thing. It's not so simple though. Releasing that lifelong habit is going to take some work. My kids and I are worth the work. I'm going for it, and I'll be sure to let you know how that goes.

On Saturday, January 25 from 12:30-3:00, I will be guiding some beautiful souls through a word of the year selection meditation. Once we've chosen our words, each of us will make a beautiful piece of art to celebrate our words! I'm really excited. I think it's going to be fun and meaningful too. If you are within driving distance to Brighton, join us! You can register by calling the Yoga Center for Healthy Living at 810.225.1288.

Wishing you all the best with whatever it is you are working on this year. Be gentle with your sweet self along the way… xoxo

Monday, January 13, 2014

On Dreams and Making them Come True

My husband Dan and I are die hard Spartans, as in Michigan State University Spartans. We met at MSU when we were sophomores and fell in love there so I tend to think it is where our family started. MSU means a lot to us. 

About 12 years ago we began attending MSU football games with some of our friends. Together we have literally weathered pounding sun, pouring rain, and sideways falling sleet to cheer on our team. We have sat shivering in Spartan Stadium filled with dismay as we watched MSU lose in the final seconds of a "big" game and endured the frustration of hearing the opposing team's fans drown our stadium with their cheers. We might have been bitter once or twice along the way... So, when MSU won the 2013 B1G Championship game against Ohio State to secure a spot in the Rose Bowl, we were over the moon with excitement. It felt like our time!

All that said, the football is secondary to my love for seeing my hard working husband let loose at the games and have a riot with his friends. My zest for the win pales in comparison to my enjoyment of spending that game time together as a couple with our friends, and now that our kids are getting older as a family. 

Unlike a lot of kids in America, I didn't grow up with an attachment to a sports team. None whatsoever. I don't remember my parents ever watching sports until Dan came into our family. Making the decision to follow the team to Pasadena, California for the Rose Bowl game came easy for Dan. When the question arose of whether we would also attend the Rose Parade, I couldn't believe it was even in question. Of course we would attend the parade! How could we not attend the parade? We may have watched not a single second of college football in my home as a child, but we watched all the parades. We LOVED parades! 

I can remember sitting in front of our small television completely in awe of the floats, the flowers, the beautiful people, the sparkling trombones, and all of it. I don't really have a bucket list, but I think if I did attending the Rose Parade would definitely be on it. Along with attending the game with a group of some of our favorite Spartans, attending the parade seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity.

As I sat, filled with excitement, remembering my awe as a child and feeling it multiply there as an adult face to face with all of it, I was surprised by what I saw there...

The first float - all flowers! Unbelievable.

I will admit there was a part of me wondering about the purpose of it all. It seemed way over the top and even wasteful to put on such a spectacle. It was so beautiful though and this was the 125th Rose Parade. The parade is an American pastime and the magnitude of this one in particular was not lost on me. I let go of doubt and tried to soak it all in. I even took a few deep breaths to smell the roses...

This year's theme was DREAMS COME TRUE so many of the floats followed this theme with little sub-plots of their own...

I absolutely LOVED this one... WE CAN DO IT! Complete with Rosie the Riveter!?!

The floats seemed to be telling a story. A story of hope. Perhaps the hope that inspires a dream?


I thought "Yes!" That is my job and all of our jobs - to bridge our children's dreams.


I was in love with the butterflies!

Even the sky had a message: CHOOSE GOOD.


Yes again! Connection is the key to making our dreams come true. Connecting to each other despite our differences. Connecting to our own inner guide, following our very own inner compass, and using our own unique True North as our guide.


All the drums wore this cover. With each boom we were reminded of the limitless potential of music - to inspire, to heal, to help, to cheer, to celebrate, and even to help make our dreams come true.

How do dreams come true? With FRIENDSHIP, LOVE, AND TRUTH...

So, why not?  LET'S BE NEIGHBORS... Let's do this together, shall we?


Isn't that scary though? To light up the world? To pursue a dream? To follow your heart? A little, but you know what?


It may even sound trite at this point, but I know it is true that love wins, love trumps, all, and when in doubt or darkness, it is LOVE TO THE RESCUE...

The crazy thing is, you really don't need to look too far for support in the pursuit of your dreams. Nope, the Universe is PROTECTING YOUR DREAM RIGHT IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD...

(It's true).

RELISH YOUR DREAMS... Hold them tightly. Keep them close to your heart. Don't. Let. Go.

Get it? RELISH, like a relish tray! Clever Trader Joe's
You know what else? If you really want your dreams to come true, be grateful for what you have already called into your big, beautiful life. Be grateful for all of it. And, THANK A MILLION TEACHERS...

I am forever grateful for my beautiful book bearing, pen holding, paper yielding band of teachers. They fill their paintbrush artillery with Mod Podge and acrylics and use blank canvases as shields. They wear gauzy clothing and flowers in their hair. They are dripping with rings and beads and cuffs and medicine pouches. They speak straight to my heart, inspire me, encourage me, and help me to see that my dreams do come true because as they teach they are also TURNING HOPE AND DREAMS INTO REALITY for themselves, their families, and for you - for all of us.  

So, there you have it. DREAMS COME TRUE.

I never expected that when I woke at 5:00 a.m. to make my way to the Rose Parade. A call to dream. It makes sense though - that among some of God's most gorgeous creations, the bold, beautiful, delicious blooming roses, I would be inspired to share with you what I found there on a highway in Pasadena... That dreams DO come true. 

Dreams are so frequently likened to flowers... you start with a seed, you plant it, you water it, you give it light, you watch as it grows from a bud to a blossom. It's no wonder the roses whispered to me: dream. It's no wonder that together the roses said: EVERYONE, please. Dream. From your backyard to across the country, and all the way to the moon...just dream.

Me and the man of my dreams.

Happy New Year! xoxoxo