Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Staycation

Yep.  I've done it again.  I've gone and planned a two-week staycation.  This time I only got a few eyerolls and a couple people actually complimented me on my decision.

I couldn't be happier to be right where I am.

It would be nice to be visiting at my Mom's in Colorado.  But, I really would rather go when the weather is nice and we can hike, raft and do some sightseeing in the fine weather that only Canon City can offer even in the heat of the summer.

But, since I'm here and not there, I've found some things to keep me occupied during my staycation.

We put lights on the house as this blurry photo will attest.  We went with the new LED lights this year.  I got a new artificial tree as can be seen in the window.  It is a white tree and I can't get over how nuclear it looks with the lights on at night.

Taken through a window screen. Ick.
One day not too long ago when the weather started to actually turn winter like, I filled my bird feeders so the little charmers wouldn't have to hunt too hard for their dinner.  By the time I got back inside and put my things away, this is what I saw.  That thing was full not 10 minutes before I took this picture.  In less than an hour, they had abandoned the hollow carcass of the bird feeder like a used up roadkill.  It was disturbing.  At times like these, I am vividly reminded of their dinosaur ancestry and ever so grateful for their diminutive stature.
There must have been 100 of them.  Sparrows mostly.  They flocked back and forth between the five feeders in my yard, the neighbor's feeders, the nearby shrubbery and the 'extra' seed I dumped on the ground for the ground feeding doves and bluejays.  If you look closely, you might be able to see a male cardinal near the arbor trying to decide where to go for a snack.  Brings new meaning to 'on the fence.'  I wonder if he felt intimidated by the number of birds?  He did eventually choose a spot and scatter the sparrows with the aid of a couple rauckus bluejays going after the stale bread I also put out. 

Yesterday was cold.  Very cold. So, I spent some time cruising on the internet. At breakfast time, I discovered three very ripe bananas on the kitchen counter so I went surfing for a banana bread recipe.  I happened across the website and found a video recipe for banana oat muffins that sounded pretty darn good and looked fairly simple.  So I decided to try them out.  They were, in a word, scrumptious.  I'm fairly certain that I will never buy another muffin mix so long as I live.  Muffins are easy peasy and now that I know, I can't think of a good reason to spend 5 minutes mixing up a muffin mix when I can spend 5 minutes mixing muffins from scratch.

This is what we had for dinner last night.  It is a Korean dish called bibimbap.  Like most Asian fare, it starts with rice and veggies with some sesame oil.  This particular batch included mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and some lovely little sweet peppers I got at the organic market.  Top it off with a fried egg and a little hot chili paste and it not only fills the void, it clears the sinuses as well.  My husband has decided that if vegetarian includes bibimbap, he might be able to do it. Some people add slices of beef.  I like it fine without meat.

This morning when I got up, I was in the mood for something different for breakfast.  I have eyed-up the scone recipes online in the past and they all seemed too difficult or complicated to me.  Since I am on vacation, I decided to take the time to try some more complicated things. 

<insert eye roll here> 

Scones are ridiculously easy.  And tasty.  This recipe came from the Farm Girl Fare weblog and she calls them Christmas Cranberry Scones.  Yes, it was the rave reviews from first time scone makers that gave me the courage to try.  There are several more recipes on her site that I'm eager to try out soon.  Good thing I took two weeks off.

So what are you making this holiday season?  Trying anything new?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The 5 steps to successful meditation

The last few weeks have felt very busy.  However, just now I was thinking back trying to remember what made them so busy and I got nothing.  I can't think of a thing out of the ordinary and it is disconcerting.

Although the holidays are fast approaching, I have not done much to prepare.  There isn't much need to prepare as we don't have any huge plans with family or friends. The lights are up and so is the tree.  That's about the extent of it.  I certainly haven't done a lot in the way of housework or any extra shopping and today I find myself a bit at loose ends.  There is plenty to do, but I don't really want to do any of it.

That's sort of childish, right?

But maybe not so much.
Getting my geek on.

I woke up this morning to what I thought was a light fog.  Not until I put on my glasses and looked again did I realize it was actually a light snow shower.  It was a surprise that stopped me in my tracks.  Immediately I went over my to-do list in my mind and came upon several things that will now have to wait until later or perhaps tomorrow.  Things that I probably should have done yesterday 'while I had the chance.'  My internal critic warmed up her shrill voice and started the litany of chastisements: If only you weren't so lazy.  If only you had stopped to think.  If only you had done what you were supposed to do.  If only you were smarter.  If only you were younger....thinner....prettier...stronger...worked harder....

Yes.  In the space of a couple of breaths, I went from seeing snow to being old, fat and ugly.  That's harsh.

The things I really wanted to do today were to run a short errand for dog food and to drop off a couple bill payments.  I can actually do them tomorrow if necessary.  They are things I thought about doing yesterday but put off because I was enjoying my day with my husband and doing some things around the house that needed doing and it was raining and cold and damp.  Ick.  My plans for the weekend did not include pausing for a small snow event, therefore I am stupid, lazy and ignorant.  The more I think about it, the angrier I get.

I am none of those things.  I am getting older and I could lose a few pounds and I'm no cover girl to be sure.  But stupid, lazy and ignorant?  Not so much.

The truly sad thing is that I'm not the only one who does this.

Where does this negative self-talk come from?  How do we let it get so ugly?  And why on earth would we listen to and come to believe such vitriol from our own minds? Why is it okay for me to say things to and about myself that I wouldn't take from anyone else? Why do I accept that this is okay when I wouldn't have a friend in the world if I spoke to others that way?  I don't know the answer to any of that.

The only thing I know is it has to stop.  For me, if not for the whole world, it has to stop.  I think there are lots of reasons that it's gotten so bad for me. It could be a self-esteem thing or a middle age changes thing.  Regardless, it has to end.  I think I may have found a way to stem the tide a bit.


Yeah, it sounded nutty to me, too.  But, what the heck, I sat down and tried it the other day.  I went to my account and found a short meditation video that didn't sound too 'out there' and gave it a go. I couldn't get comfortable, I couldn't focus and my mind kept leaping from one topic to another almost frantically.  It was frustrating and I almost gave up until I found a beginner's series on meditation on the same site and I decided to give it another try.

It worked.  It really did.  I was slightly stunned. Just like anything else, meditation requires a foundation of knowledge, a path of practice and persistence.  Here is the foundation, according to Harshada Wagner's beginner's series at yogaglo and so far, it's working for me:

  1. Be kind to yourself.  I could learn a lot just staying at this step for awhile.
  2. Get comfortable.  How you sit or the position of your body isn't important.  Be comfortable so you can stop worrying about doing it 'right' and just do it. If you need to move to get comfortable, move and don't worry about it.
  3. Relax your body.  Tension is distracting and counterproductive.  Of course, if you're comfortable, relaxing will be so much easier.
  4. Connect with your breath.  Let the thoughts that come and go do what they do: come and go.  Contrary to popular opinion, you cannot stop your thoughts completely.  Your breath is your focus.
  5. Let go and be patient.  Like all good things, meditation takes time, practice and patience.  After all, life is about the journey, not the destination.
Meditation does not have to be some esoteric practice limited to some hermits in the Himalayas.  Meditation is a useful tool and can be accessible to anyone who wants to try to use it.

Have you done any meditation?  What is your experience? What tips would you have for someone who is just starting out?