Breathe!!!

TIME magazine dedicated this week’s cover to mindful breathing. The article is fabulous, a must read. TIME editor, Radhika Jones, says multitasking is affecting our concentration and mindfulness can sharpen our focus. Well, who would have thought? We have been told for years that multitasking was something to be proud of. The ability to do several things at a time proved what organized human beings we were, capable of achieving anything. It seems now that we were confusing movement with achievement: running this way and that did not mean we were accomplishing much!!!

breathe2I don’t know about you, but I feel so much better about this. I could never, really, do more than a couple of things at a time comfortably and then, I wasn’t sure I was completing or doing them right. In the meantime, I have discovered that we have to do things mindfully. This involves breathing properly and I wasn’t….Yes, it all comes down to that: breathing!!!

Frequently, we are told or we tell our friends to breathe. I was just telling a friend a few days ago to do just that. She responded that she was too tired to breathe!! Since we usually mean an inhale/exhale motion when we are flustered, frazzled or upset, that is not enough to produce all the benefits people are talking about. Here is an article that would explain those benefits better than I ever could: Benefits of Deep Breathing

We know that situations in our lives can make us stressed, tense, nervous. In this modern world, when we think of fighting stress, we think of changing our diet or our exercise routine. We even think of medication! Very seldom do we think about changing the way we breathe. We take breathing for granted and think we are doing it right, but we are mistaken. This is what I have learned and tried on and off for years. Unfortunately, I only tried it when I was upset and ready to scream….you understand what I mean. The trick is to do it all the time. From now on, I will try to do this on a regular basis, until this becomes my breathing pattern: breathe slowly, deeply in your abdomen not your chest. Holding the air in your lungs and exhaling through your nose or slightly parted mouth. Keep an even rhythm. It is definitely a learning process, but one we must learn. Soon!!!

Breathing properly makes us powerful because it makes us concentrate and focus. When we learned to do this, we can apply mindfulness to all aspects of our lives. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present, on the task at hand, on our present goal. A statement I found on the Psychology Today website says: “when you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience”

So it’s back to basics: BREATHE, so we can achieve, live better, be healthy and enjoy life!!!

Parenting Ourselves

imagesFor the ones of you that are parents, this might sound a bit off, for the ones that are not, this might just sound crazy! It is not something that sprung into by brain by itself. I was told by a friend, who is Life Coach, that we need to parent ourselves. It is important and will make a great difference in how we conduct this stage of our lives. Alright, I thought, this is interesting….but how do we do it?

Let’s start by understanding: What is parenting? The best definition I have found is: the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social and intellectual development of a child. We are far from being children, but we can certainly benefit from this process. I knew I could, so I listened.

At this time in our lives, most of us have made peace with ourselves, decided what we want, what we need. Still, we need that little voice to tell us we are on the right track: the voice of a parent. With all our good intentions, we wander off our path. It is not intentional, we just have to take care of parents or spouses, encourage our children, give support to friends, give more attention to our jobs. In all this, we get lost and there is no time to do any of these things for ourselves. This is where parenting comes in. Yes, parenting ourselves and at our age. It is a challenge, so bear with me.

Physical development:

True, we are developed already, but we need maintenance, don’t we? We have to take care of our physical health. Visit our doctor for yearly physical or when we have a complain we cannot explain…..but do we need to have a doctor’s opinion for every ache and pain we feel? I think not. Read and research ways to help us stay healthy and active is a good start: a yoga or Pilates class, a nature walk once a day, joining a gym or an exercise class for mature adults. A change in our diet, finding ways to make our meals healthier and more interesting: cooking lessons? You see, our physical development continues, we must not forget!

Emotional Development:

We encouraged our children to be themselves, didn’t we? Always told them to never compare themselves to others. There is no point because we are unique, each one of us and we should love who we are. We told them never to doubt themselves, at this point in life this is truer than we think. We know ourselves well enough, we know what we want. A loving relationship is so important, let’s cherish ours. As mature adults, these should be a given, but for a lot of us, they aren’t. One last very important thought: don’t auto-criticize: try approving!! A human being that is emotionally balanced can face any challenge.

Social Development:

I have a friend that says she has no space in her life for new friends.  I do understand. For some of us, it is difficult to make new friends at this time in our lives. On the other hand: we moved to a new place, we are on our own, the children have their own lives. These changes need adjustments, not always easy, but necessary. We told our children over and over that to have friends we need to be a friend. Friendship requires work on our part, this is true now as well. Give ourselves time, go slowly if we must, but meet new people and give them a chance. Who knows? A great friendship can develop. At the same time, we must not forget our old friends, keep in touch!!! They need this contact as much as we do.

Intellectual development:

Our brains need stimulation, at any age. This is a must important step in our development, isn’t it? At this stage in life, what should we do? In this technological age, there is so much going on and technology will help us keep up with news, with the latest best-sellers. Still, the old-fashioned way of doing things is important. Read anything we can get our hands on,  join a book club and help our social life as well. Do crossword puzzles and Sudoku (if you like numbers, which I don’t!!!!). It is also important to keep up with the world around us, to know our city, our neighborhood. Take classes on subjects that interest us: learning something new and stimulating can do wonders for our intellect.

I have learned, to my surprise, that parenting is more than having children and sending them on into the world. Parenting is taking care of ourselves because we already have taken care of everyone!!! This we should do…..

What I learned in Baltimore!!!! (Part two)

P1150992I am afraid of flying, something I don’t see changing in the near future, but that is another post, another challenge. It gets so bad, just buying my ticket gets me into a panic mode. Short trips are the worst, all the anxiety without time in between to relax for the next leg of the trip. So our weekend trip to Baltimore presented its challenges. Fortunately, I have decided to Toss and Listen. In other words, a time for learning and I did.

These are simple and obvious lessons that I never spent time considering before. What was I thinking?

I don’t have to take part in any planning to enjoy the trip!! Camille and Frankie planned the whole thing with Frank’s help. After years of involvement in planning vacations, this was the best lesson. Yes, they can plan and execute without me having to decide or arrange anything. Tickets were bought, hotel reservations made, where were we going for dinner or what attractions to visit: all planned to the last detail. Splendid! All I had to do was pack my suitcase. There was something to learn from that as well.

You can take everything you need for a weekend trip in just a carry-on bag. You might think this was a given…..but then you don’t know me well. I dislike dragging a bag, pass all the TSA inspectors at the airport and then take it on board, lift the thing up to the overhead compartment, take it down when you arrive. I have refused to do this for ages. On a short trip, I’ve learned finally, this is better. Who would have known? Now, there is a trick in the packing for a short trip.

Pack only what you need. Yes, another news flash. Mix and match clothing, shoes that are comfortable and stylish, preferably two pairs only. I always pack so much, for every trip. The reality is: do not carry three sweaters if two are enough! Nowadays, all toiletries come in travel sizes: take advantage!!! If not, use the ones offered by the hotel. Travel size make-up and perfume are also available! Time to accept the inevitable.

These three seem so obvious, you might be laughing at this point. For me, these were lessons I had refused to learned for years. Leaving the planning to others was the easiest to learn. I can get used to that AND probably will. The carry-on bag and the selective packing were a bit harder, but I can do that as well. After all, if I have to carry the suitcase, I might as well pack light!!

Once we got past the planning and packing, there was the flight and the hotel. Relax with a drink as soon as you get on the plane and if the flight is bumpy……you’d not feel a thing! The hotel is another thing:  I like nice, fluffy pillows and enough covers to keep me warm. The bed should not be hard and I am picky about the room, the size, the temperature, what to do?. So you will not be surprised by what’s next.

I am too old to give up my comforts!!! This is not a lesson in itself, just a realization, but it is SO important. For years, I have been a bit accepting, telling myself: it’s a short trip, I only go to the room to sleep, we can compromise.  Well, I finally accepted that there are things in life you don’t compromise on. Let’s change rooms if we don’t like the first one we get. Ask for fresh towels everyday, sorry about the environment! Once you have the room you need, make good use of it.

Go back to the hotel during the day and take a nap. I am sure some of you think this is a given. It usually is on long trips, but never on short trips. After all, we are there for a short time, let us walk and visit and do as much as possible…we’ll rest later. Not anymore: if I walk all day and visit every museum and attraction, I’d be in NO condition to go out and enjoy my dinner….and I’ll be cranky!  Logically, get back, kick off your shoes and take a power nap before going out again. It works beautifully, especially if the weather is not to your liking. Age has it benefits, don’t forget it. You don’t have to look old or feel old, you just have to take advantage of the age thing.

Slow down and sit down if needed!!! Where is it written that you have to keep up? Traveling is a pleasure, not a marathon. Walk ahead and sit on that comfortable bench, they will come to you in time. Put your feet up while admiring a painting or sculpture. Sit down and have a cup of tea or a drink while others wander around. These are nothing new, but before, I felt a bit guilty doing them: not anymore. Accept your limitations and you’ll enjoy yourself more, trust me! I have nothing to prove to anyone and it feels great.

In keeping with my early proposal of taking each moment and make it the best it can be, I will apply these lessons when I travel from now on. Who knows, traveling might be easier and less stressful for me and whoever travels with me. That is the best lesson I learned in Baltimore!!!

What I learned in Baltimore!!! (Part one)

P1160001Between Christmas and New Year’s we had a weekend celebration for Camille’s birthday…in Baltimore!!! Absolutely understand your surprised look, but remember, Frank is working there and couldn’t make it for the Holidays. Seemed perfectly natural to travel there…..and what a great idea this was!

P1150992Baltimore is a small city, but very welcoming and has been selected as one of the Coziest Cities in the US. It’s a walking city, full of life and friendly people. We were happy to find imaginative and different places to visit. Important lesson learned: Baltimore is surprisingly interesting and true to its moniker, it’s Charming!!! Be open to enjoy any place you visit and you’ll find wonder.

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This is what we found. From our hotel, we walked to the Emerson Tower, also known as the Bromo Seltzer Tower. It was built in 1911 for Captain Issac E. Emerson…….he of bromo seltzer fame. Remember that? It’s a copy of the famous tower at Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. In 2007 it was converted into 33 artist studios by the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts. A fabulous concept to help promote local artists. We met Kathryn Holt, a visual artist, who showed us her studio and gave us a brief history of the tower and some of the artists in residence. Her work is amazing!

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Another excellent find was the American Visionary Art Museum. It specializes in the preservation and display of visionary art (known as outsider art, “raw art,” or “art brut”). It is a place of wonder not to be missed if you visit the city. Here you can see the many, vibrant and unusual faces of art……quite unique!!!

P1160113Last, but not least the National Aquarium. It is connected to the National Aquarium in Washington D.C., hence the name. Beautifully constructed, it shows you all the water habitats: from the reefs, to the coastal marshes, to the rainforest. Perfect visit on a rainy day to learn how to preserve each ecosystem

P1160012We visited quaint neighborhoods, like Fells Point. This historical waterfront part of the city has cobblestone streets and it’s listed in the National Register of Historic Districts. There are 120 pubs in this area and a sense of old-fashioned seafaring town that is very appealing. Lots of antique shops, boutiques and small restaurants to keep you busy. This was also a port of entry into the US. You can still visit the building where immigrants were processed all those years ago. This is a must visit spot, for sure. Fells Point can be reached by water taxis, small barges that transport people around the Inner Harbor. You buy your day-ticket and go around the harbor….so convenient!

Along the way, you take a good look at the USS Constellation, a sloop commissioned in 1854; and the USS Torsk, a WWII submarine commissioned in 1944. Of course, you can go up Federal Hill. Nowadays, it’s a park. It has the best view of the Inner Harbor. The picture of us at the top was taken here.

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P1160036On Camille’s birthday, we had dinner at an Italian restaurant: La Scala Ristorante. Located in Baltimore’s Little Italy, it was an experience. Family owned, it features an indoors bocce ball court and a wine tasting room. Relaxed atmosphere, excellent food and gracious service, we will go back!

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The weekend was a resounding success. The city has a lot to offer and I think we only scratched the surface. We still need to explore what there is to know about Chessy!!!

2014 and How to keep your Resolutions!!!

It’s a New Year and as in every year, we make resolutions. We tell ourselves that we have been given the chance to start over and make things work out this time around. Unfortunately, it is a small minority sticking to their resolutions. I often wondered why…such good intentions and nothing to show for them at the end of the year. There must be a reason, I said, and what I found was: we take the big picture, trying to carry out too much and failing in doing so. Try one thing at a time, one day at a time.

There is also that we are not taking the real meaning of the word into consideration. I might be absolutely wrong on this one, won’t be the first time. Still, a small voice tells me I might be unto something this year. What are resolutions, after all? Here is the definition:

res·o·lu·tion
ˌrezəˈlo͞oSHən/
noun
plural noun: resolutions
1.
a firm decision to do or not to do something.
“she kept her resolution not to see Anne any more”
2.
the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter.
“the peaceful resolution of all disputes”

It is fairly clear, isn’t it? Resolutions are good intentions, aims we mean to meet….but wait….there is another meaning. Resolutions are actions of solving problems!!! Now things get clear. We need to take action to achieve, we need to act to solve. With this in mind, let the New Year begin.

Writing things down always helps me. Making lists is still very much a part of my life, let’s write what we want from this New Year. I don’t know about you, but I believe we must know what we want before we can have it. If you don’t know, you will wander aimlessly, wasting time and energy.

Please do not write things like: I want to lose weight, I want a new job, I want to travel. Being vague will get you nowhere. Be specific: I need to get in shape, so I am signing up for yoga or Pilates this week. Same thing applies when you want to travel: I will visit my friend in Holland in the Spring. Then start making this possible: investigate ticket prices, dates you can go. Or if you want a new job: how much you want to earn, are you ready to get into something you really love? Make inquiries about the possibility of changing jobs. Be positive and do your research!

We also tend to ignore our inner selves. We don’t pay attention anymore to what makes us happy. That is a big mistake. Our younger selves used to take risks and try new things. Nowadays, we are more serious and cautious, more careful….and not happy!! Listen and make yourself do small things at the beginning: change your hair color or get a new haircut, buy that dress that makes you feel sexy, treat yourself to a manicure and pedicure. A visit to the salon will do wonders for your self-esteem, I should know. The new me is going grey and my hair has movement and shine. Have a drink with a girlfriend on a week night…small steps. Follow your intuition.

In this time and age, we tend to be so negative. Always focusing in what is wrong with our lives, with our jobs, with our family…..maybe it is the fact that what is wrong is what sells. Everyone focuses on the negative. Toss all that: how about finding out what are you doing right that is making you healthier? or what is happening in your life that is making you happy? Seems nobody is interested, well, you should be. Sit and write these positive things. I am starting a diary about the positive changes I will be making this year and how my life becomes better!!! I will be sure I keep up my Gratitude Journal. Remember the craze about this in the 1990s? It was a brilliant idea, we should start the trend again!!!

Finally, remain in the present. There is nothing we can do about the past, except learn from it!! Some of us just don’t want to look too far into the future, it can be uncertain. That is true, but we can do things now to shape it to our advantage. Take time to get to know what you want, it’s never too late. Trust yourself and follow your passion. Enjoy every day and every moment. This year is a blank book, fill it with the best stories you have written yet and keep making memories…..