11 Nobody knows this little rose

Written in 1858. You’ll find this in a “best of” collection of Ms. Dickinson’s work – it’s in my Pocket Emily Dickinson – and for good reason. This reminds us of the delicacy of beauty, the fragility that accompanies the light. But what would the world be without roses?

 

Nobody knows this little Rose –
It might a pilgrim be
Did I not take it from the ways
And lift it up to thee.
Only a Bee will miss it –
Only a Butterfly,
Hastening from far journey –
On i’ts breast to lie –
Only a Bird will wonder –
Only a Breeze will sigh –
Ah Little Rose – how easy
For such as thee to die!

[Emily Dickinson]

I’m the rose. You’re the rose. We’re fragile beings – let’s handle our selves with care.

fragility intense pen and ink drawing

Light, love, and honor –

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Anger

Sometimes I get angry. Pissed off. Like I just want to whirl around in a dervish of fury and destroy everything in my path. The first tendency is self-destruction – throw out all my healthy habits, eat an entire cake, drink a whole bottle of wine, relapse into anything that would dull this feeling, make me numb, or hurt myself just to feel something definite, to pin down the anger, to funnel it in one direction.

But there are healthy ways to go about this. First off, it’s okay to be angry. It’s a normal human emotion, and sometimes, you gotta have it. How? How can this emotion that seems so innately destructive be productive?

It has to come out – anger cannot be suppressed. If you ignore it, it will fester and consume you, destroying your soul and potentially hurting anyone you come into contact with – it can make you toxic. Everyone’s different, so, please, experiment – try different methods for getting your anger out, just know that it has to come out.

Here are some ways I like to vent –

  1. Nothing like some good old fashioned pugilism to force your feelings out. Instead of hitting yourself or another person, glove up and murder a punching bag. Lose yourself in the motions, in exhausting your body; let the bag represent your pain, whether it’s a difficult circumstance, a person who hurt you, or some part of yourself. Hit it. Hit it hard. And leave it there. Leave feeling reinvigorated, refocused, emptied out. Whether you go to a gym or you shadow box around your house – I promise this will help.
  2. Listen to angry music. My go-to cliché angry albums are My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade and Linkin Park’s Minutes to Midnight, Meteora, or Hybrid Theory. Hearing a singer scream in anguish along with raging drums and electric guitar provides solidarity – the sense that you’re not alone in feeling this way and a reminder that, just as the album will end, the feeling with pass.
  3. The last time I got pissed off, I put on The Black Parade and drew a picture, aggressively slashing my pen against the paper and creating an image of my anger – a visual representation of how I felt. I let the pen lead me, and found myself building a fence topped with massive spikes, clearly indicative of my angry instinct to build walls around myself and hurt everything around me.

anger abstract pen and ink drawing

  1. Put on any of your angry tunes and go for a run or get on the elliptical or a bicycle or lift some weights – take out your anger with healthy physical movement, no punching bag necessary. Something about exhausting the body really helps to exhaust the anger, and the endorphins that follow guarantee some relief.

Regardless of your method, I find anger is best handled alone. I’ve been in an intimate relationship with a person who didn’t know how to handle his anger, and, if he was with me for that, the first thing he did was say really awful things, trying to hurt me as a method of catharsis. Protect yourself, the people you love, and your relationships by taking a moment to separate yourself when you’re angry. Step away from the current situation, from whatever is triggering you, and work that shit out.

Love, calm, & care –

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Dreaming of Spring

I woke up this morning dreaming of spring. Of taking a bike ride through the city, walking along the river, wearing a sundress. So I put on a tank top, and I floated around my apartment, and I wished. I wished for winter to be over. For the flowers to bloom, and the trees to come back to life, alternately thinking of my empty refrigerator and wishing for a hearty breakfast. And I wondered – why do we always want what we don’t have?

dreaming of spring in winter

Why do I want spring when it’s winter, summer when it’s spring, fall when it’s summer, winter when it’s fall? Why am I jonesing for an eggs benedict when I have an omelet right in front of me? Why is it so hard to be content?

girl dreaming of spring in winter

Maybe it’s societal – we’re conditioned to ache for the next big thing, to always look ahead, wanting the next hit or the next song or the next relationship, even when what we have is perfectly good. Maybe it’s innate. Honestly, I don’t know.

But here’s what I do know – being present is a choice. I am the only one responsible for my own happiness. And while this may feel like a burden at times, it’s kind of a relief. Winter, summer, eggs sunny side up or hard-boiled – it’s up to you to enjoy it. Like it or not, your happiness is your problem.

girl dreaming of spring in winter

Yes, you can complain. You can whine. You can moan and groan and get everyone within earshot to feel bad with you, but what does this really accomplish? Do you feel any better? Maybe you have people to commiserate with you now, but I think you all just feel bad together. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather lift people up than drag them down. I’d rather be around joyful people than whiny ones.

Happy does not equal fake. It doesn’t mean pretending everything’s okay and plastering a smile on your face when you feel like crying. True joy comes from internal peace – from accepting that maybe you are broke and tired and hungry and slighted and whatever else – but that won’t stop you from taking a walk through your favorite park and smiling at the way the moonlight hits the trees, or calling your best friend and feeling really grateful that you know him or her, or just looking around you, remembering who you are and what you’ve been through, and finding comfort in the truth that everything will be okay. Maybe it’s winter and you hate it. Maybe you’re going through a breakup and it feels all-consuming. Maybe the waiter got your order wrong. So put on a sweater and make some tea. Have a good cry and go out with your friends. Send that plate back. And smile.

smile

Because contentment comes from within. Not from having the perfect body or the perfect weather or the perfect job – perfection is an illusion. Reality is what’s in front of you. Can you live in it? Can you enjoy it? Exactly as it is, exactly as you are. Take a breath, and look around yourself. You are responsible for your happiness.

you are responsible for your happiness

Love, calm, & care –

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Caring for Your Self

Establishing self-care practices can be difficult. Maybe you’ve moved and have to change your habits, or maybe you’re taking the beginning of a new year as a chance to start being kind to yourself – whatever your reason, you’re onto something great. Caring for yourself is always a good idea, so congrats on making such a wise choice. Now – where to begin?

In a society that shuffles us around from one thing to the next, always telling us – women especially – how to care for other people instead of for ourselves, it can be hard to know what self-care would even be. Think of times in your life that you’ve felt most calm. What were you doing? Where were you? Chances are your cell phone was nowhere near you, maybe you were at a spa or on a beach, maybe you were curled up with a good book or going for a drive. Flip through your rolodex of good memories, and grab onto as many as you can. Now, how can you recreate those as a part of your regular life?

You don’t have to go on vacay or be miles away from your real life to feel relaxed. It can happen in the comfort of your own home, on a yoga mat, in a bath tub – anywhere. It’s an internal thing. Here’s a list of my go-tos:

  1. Take a bath – any time I get to lay down, I feel relaxed. And there’s something about getting clean, really taking the time to lay out and scrub your body, appreciating every little finger and freckle. When I had a bathtub I would always use bath tea – a blend of herbs that you steep yourself in. It’s great for your muscles and the aroma is oh-so-relaxing. Try chamomile, peppermint, marshmallow leaf, rose hip, lavender – really any blend you fancy. I don’t have a bathtub anymore here in China, so I’m scrambling for alternatives – I’m looking for a good masseuse.
  2. Draw/paint a picture. I love to put on some music, take a paintbrush or a pen, and just go for it. It’s a blissful state of flow when you’re not even thinking about what you’re doing but, at the same time, it’s all consuming. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself an artist or not, just making shapes and seeing what comes out is freeing and therapeutic – what it looks like doesn’t matter, what matters is that you’re doing it.abstract lyric drawing
  3. Drink a cup of tea. The ritual of boiling water, spooning out your tea leaves, letting them steep, and then holding a warm cup is so cozy and comforting. It forces you to slow down and move in tea time, and the health benefits of tea are myriad. As my former employer, tea from Ku Cha is my favorite – their Ginger Puerh is great for detoxing the body, Vanilla Rooibos is like a warm, creamy hug, and all the herbal blends are A1.
  4. My mind is sometimes too active, and writing helps me untangle all my thoughts, sorting through feelings and realizations so I can make sense of it all. Journaling is the first step and then, who knows, once you’ve sorted through the first level you might try other forms.marble writer's notebook and pen
  5. Buy yourself some flowers. Yesterday on my way home from work I passed a beautiful flower shop and could not stop myself from going in. I was thrilled to leave with two gorgeous flowers for the equivalent of a single American dollar. I know flowers aren’t this cheap everywhere, but, if you can get your hands on even one, it’s like bringing a ray of sunshine into your home. And every time you look at it, you smile, remembering that you bought it for yourself – it’s like a little love note, a little celebration of who you are.vase of flowers
  6. Take a deep breath. One is never enough for me, so I like to meditate or do yoga. These things keep me calm, intentional, and in touch – with my body, my life, the world, with everything.
  7. Read a book. A nice little escape from reality.
  8. Take a walk. Getting the body moving is always a good way to go, and if you let yourself take your time, just wander around, you never know what you’ll stumble on.
  9. Smile. Instant gratification.
  10. Look in the mirror and say, “I love you. You’re beautiful.” It might feel silly at first, but, I swear, it works wonders.
  11. Take yourself out to dinner. Notice it’s not the eating that is the self-care here, it’s the act of taking yourself out. Maybe you go see a play or a concert – whatever. It’s fun to get dressed up, leave the house, and enjoy something nice.
  12. Play a musical instrument. I go for the piano, and every time I sit down I feel so calmly empty after I play. Like I just left all my emotions in the music. It’s a beautiful thing. Here I don’t have a piano, but there’s a street of music stores behind my apartment, and I stop in and play their pianos when I have a craving.
  13. Cook or bake. Maybe it’s from working in a kitchen or baking a lot growing up, but I find these so relaxing. Something about chopping vegetables or stirring up some batter calms me down.

I could go on for days, but these are some of my favorites. They’re all pretty easy, don’t require much equipment, and are a great treat for your soul. Because you deserve it. Really. And you can’t give much to others if you’re running on empty yourself. These are all also great alternatives to any addictive behaviors you might be trying to cut out, from smoking a cigarette to eating too much pizza.

What are some of your self-care rituals? Please comment down below; I’d love some new ideas!

Love, calm, & care –

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Short Skirts in Siberia

I wrote a summer post about this skirt, so now I can use it as an example of how to winterize your wardrobe! I live in a place where they decorate the streets and parks with actual ice sculptures, so I have to bundle up. Any time I leave my home, I need my down coat, gloves, and loads of layers.

down coat earmuffs bundled up style

So how does one wear a short skirt in -5°C/23°F weather [the warmest it’s been all week]?

solving outfit problems

Start with magic tights – these are lined with velour, and I swear I can stand outside in them waiting for a bus for twenty minutes and barely feel a draft. They sell them all over the place here, and I found these in one of the many shopping malls. In Colorado I would wear fleece tights [found on Amazon] with skirts and it worked fine, but that doesn’t quite cut it here.

warm tights for winter

This is the velour side. Heaven on my skin.

On top, I’ve found that layering a shirt with a sweater is the best bet. I got this heat tech long sleeve from Uniqlo shortly after arriving here for around $15, and it’s already paying for itself. Good thing I also bought a turtleneck version. It’s fitted, so it’s perfect for layering or wearing on its own.

button front skirt and fitted black top

I can’t tell you how handy a length of black ribbon can be. I use it for loads of things from headbands to neckties, and here it works as a belt. Found in my mother’s ribbon bag.

ribbon belt cocked hip short skirt

My dear mother bought me this sweater before I left Colorado. She might feel chagrined to see that I tore off the entire bottom half of it, but what would a piece of clothing in my wardrobe be without some sort of adaptation?

warm white winter sweater outfit

As for the skirt – I love the pockets. Wrist deep. Easily the best feature.

deep skirt pockets tattoo watch girl

An adjustment I made more recently was adding this invisible magnetic snap between the first two buttons. It had a tendency to gape, and I didn’t like the look of that, so I sewed a little magic in and now it’s good as gold.

easy at home fix for gaping skirt

I found this skirt at a thrift store, but I did a bit of digging online and came up with a couple options that are available now. This one costs less, this one is mid-range, and this one costs more. The key with things like this is to find your version of it. I had in mind that I wanted a button front skirt, and this one is exactly my own. Every single person could wear a different one – do you.

I pin curled my hair today because I washed it in the morning and taught classes all day. I came home, threw on a headscarf, and when I take it out tomorrow it’ll be bouncy and glorious.

pin curl hair short hair style

Teaching the children has me on my feet all day, so a quick yoga video upon arriving home is just the thing. My favorite Youtube yoga instructor has one for people who work in the service industry. It’s barely 20 minutes, doesn’t even require a yoga mat, and leaves you feeling unwound in the best way.

Love, calm, and care –

I Left on a Jet Plane

Guess what? I live in China now. I’ll post about my apartment, the Siberian cold, and all that jazz later, but for now – how do I travel? I like to streamline, so in any packing situation I try to take as few things that will serve me in as many ways as possible. I checked my bags, so I challenged myself with filling my little backpack effectively. When you’re facing 17+ hours of flight time, you gotta consider entertainment, hygiene, nourishment, and, of course, comfort.

leather backpack

I found this genuine leather gem on Amazon for $30.

Entertainment

I’m not a huge magazine reader in general, but when I’m waiting to board a flight or only mentally awake enough for something small, a magazine is just the thing. This issue of The Economist is bangin, and is educating me on current events around the world from a perspective I’ve always loved and understood.

delta airlines seatback pocket entertainment

I love the feeling of a novel in my hands, but, given overseas move, I had to give in and get a kindle. It took me a minute to get used to it, but now I love it – it’s convenient, has that flat screen that doesn’t punish your eyes, and makes underlining and looking up words a breeze. I started Hesse’s Demian on the flight, have since finished it, and, as usual am impressed by Hesse’s wisdom. I could say a lot more about him as a writer, but I’ll leave that for another post. If you want a coming of age novel that is grounded in reality but isn’t afraid to get wacky, this would be a good choice.

stack of books notebook headphones poetry

When it comes to books, I always like a sampling – poetry, nonfiction, and fiction. A good friend got me that copy of e e cummings’ poetry in Paris, and I take a juicy bite out of that every now and then. My other constant companion is my pocket Emily Dickinson. Both of these poets require a a little chewing and have pretty short poems, so they’re perfect when you need a quick burst of flavor. I haven’t begun Wages of Rebellion yet, but it’s a history of revolutions around the world, so I’m amped about starting it.

The long flight had a fantastic selection of movies, and I watched Citizen Kane, Suited – a documentary about Bindle & Keep, a custom suiting company with a focus on fitting the growing trans population, and a Ted talk on the Chinese Zodiac. I wanted to watch All the President’s Men, too, but sleep overtook me.

Fold-up, noise cancelling headphones are a must, and I brought my laptop, too – it’s light, and I didn’t want it getting flung around in my checked luggage. And, of course, I don’t go anywhere without my notebook and pen. I got this notebook at The Strand in New York a couple months ago, and the cover is so soft.

Hygiene

Flights make me feel gross. So these are my tools to combat that – cleansing water, dry shampoo, unscented lotion and deodorant, toothbrush, and toothpaste. I also had chapstick in my pocket. Taking a minute to cleanse between flights really makes a difference for my mood. Call me crazy, but I just hate walking around with that layer of greasy recycled air on my face all day. And it’s still serving me well because Delta lost my baggage, and I spent two full days with nothing but this backpack.

cleansing water unscented deodorant hygiene easy airport airplane

Mini glass bottle courtesy of an olive oil sample set #irecycle.

I like a sleep mask, too, because you never know when they’ll turn the cabin lights on, or if the person next to you won’t close the window. All this fits perfectly in a little travel case from a United business class flight that a friend of mine took.travel pouch sleep mask

Nourishment

I pack as much food as I can when I’m out because I never like to be caught without a snack, and, since I can’t eat dairy, my options can be limited. I brought apple slices and a mix of nuts and seeds and, of course, water. I also brought chocolate, because I’ve been raised as a human woman. They served a lot of food on the flight, and my body was confused and I ate at such weird times, but I think it went as well as it could.

bring your own healthy airplane snacks

Sparkling water, apples, nuts.

Comfort

Black is my favorite, especially in the colder months. Don’t tell anyone, but all my underwear is blush pink and lacey! It’s a fun secret. I like to be able to move freely with nothing pinching my body parts, but I also don’t like to look schlumpy.

in flight outfit comfort ease black selfie

Please excuse my face; I just flew halfway around the world.

A turtleneck keeps my neck warm, black jeans are roomy and fitted at the same time, scrunched down over-the-knee socks warm my ankles and keep the jeans from bunching at my knees, Clarks loafers are beautiful and oh-so-orthopedic. I layered with my beanie, scarf, and cashmere sweater because I like to wear blankets and call it style.

cashmere sweater J Crew beanie scarf warm airplane

If you must know, I took this in an airport bathroom stall.

Time keeping is essential, so I wear a watch that I take off during flights. I don’t wear much jewelry ever, so I wore my only pair of earrings and a couple rings as I would any other day.

menswear watch bold face black outfit

Timex. Target. Just watch.

A good night’s sleep and a morning workout have bolstered me against jet lag, and, sitting in my very own apartment with my view of Harbin’s 20 story apartment buildings, I’m feeling ready.

Love, calm, and care –