January Intentions ❄️✔️

We're 10 days into the new year now and the cloud of the holidays is starting to lift (finally) and my intentions for January are becoming much clearer than they were on the first. What I'm feeling more than anything right now is that I left a lot of unfinished business in 2017 and that it's time to tie up all of my loose ends before committing to new goals for 2018. While I know that I'll never cross everything off of my master to-do list, I have a lot of things that have been on the backburner for a long time that I just need to power through so I can make space and move on.

It's time to clean house.

January is all about taking care of business and creating a clean (or at least, clean-ish) slate to work with for the rest of the year. 

Here's my January to-do list (yes, I'm a listaholic):

  1. Check off the last few goals from 2017 that I was so close to finishing, but that carried over.
  2. Get my website updated and refreshed with new content (including a logo for The DzenLife).
  3. Go through my closet (I did at least get the contents of my sock drawer off the bedroom floor 😉) and finally bring all the donation boxes I have in the basement over to Kiwanis.
  4. Respond to the emails that have been sitting in my inbox forever. Sort through what remains and archive the rest. 
  5. Clean off my desk and get my home office (I prefer to call it "The Dzen Den") organized.
  6. Get the finances and the filing cabinet in order. Figure out all that "married stuff" that I've been ignoring since March. 
  7. Make the doctor appointments that didn't get made last year (1 down, 2 to go).
  8. Finish the Anatomy and Yoga Therapy e-course that I started last fall.
  9. Read the last few chapters of the 5 books I started last year and never finished (what the hell) so I won't feel bad about picking up new ones.
  10. Plan my travel for 2018 (fun!). So far I have a trip to Portland, OR booked this month to see my brother and an anniversary trip with Dan in March to Utah to do some National-Parking. Time to map it all out and start booking. 

Once these are taken care of I think I'll be ready to introduce some new goals, intentions, and to-dos. Until then, this month is all about catching up and making space for REST. January is my favorite month to lay low and chill out and I've given myself a permission slip for as much R&R as I need. ✌️

How I “Self-Care”: A Little Nature & A Lotta Nurture

People often ask me how I’m always so "calm" and "easy-going". “What do you do?”, they ask. “Don’t you ever get angry and lose it?”

Part of it is certainly nature—if you’ve met my dad you know what I mean, he is the most even-keeled, laid-back human being I know. I often joke that he puts the “Zen” in “Dzenawagis”, and well...the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. While I am like my mom in many ways, I have my dad’s temperament through and through. It’s in my blood. 

But…a lot of it is nurture too. 

In college, I lived in a constant state of stress. For some reason (and it was not pressure from my parents or anyone else, I did this to myself) school was always my #1 priority, and everything else—including my health, took second stage. My body bore the brunt of this chronic stress, and throughout my college career, I suffered from a variety of symptoms like irregular bleeding, heart palpitations, ocular migraines, severe stomach pain, and more. 

I had no idea that any of this was stress-related until after graduation when it all just magically disappeared. Almost instantly too. Wait a minute…I had been doing this to myself? How was working so hard that I was physically ill benefiting anyone? That was when my priorities began to shift and self-care became #1, because as my dad always says, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything”. And he’s right. 

It’s taken me 30+ years to figure out exactly what I need to do to feel “good”, but now that I know, I take taking care of myself very seriously. Dan likes to joke that it’s my part-time job, and it kind of is. When my self-care routine is strong, I am my best self, and when I am my best self, everyone around me benefits. A yoga teacher of mine once said that “You can only give what you have an abundance of”, and I certainly don’t want to be giving out an abundance of stress and anxiety. The world doesn’t need any more of that. 

After years of trial and error, I've found that this is what optimal self-care looks like for me: 

  1. Yoga: Always my #1, I get on my mat at least 3 times a week, and I will tell you, there is a very clear difference in my mood on the weeks when this isn’t the case. Because I’m certified to teach I often just lead my own home practice, but I love Yoga International when I’m looking for someone to guide me. 
  2. Meditation: At the end of every yoga practice, and sometimes more. It can be as simple as sitting for 5 minutes a day and visualizing the breath moving in and out of the body. 
  3. Writing: I have been a journaler since childhood, and it has served me well as an adult too (I carry my journal with me everywhere). When there is something I need to work out, I write, and the answer usually finds its way onto the pages. Or it at least helps to clear my mind. 
  4. Rest: I’ve found that I’m an 8-hour a night kind of girl, and I make every effort possible to get that when I can. Over the past few years, I’ve had a resurgence of sleeping in on the weekends too and I feel no guilt whatsoever about it (sorry to my friends out there with children 😉). 
  5. Diet: I’m a vegetarian (pescatarian technically, I occasionally eat seafood) and have been for 23 years. It was never difficult for me to give up meat, it’s always felt very natural, and I’ve found that it’s what feels best for my body. I also try to keep junk and processed foods to a minimum and I buy local and organic when I can. I've started doing an ayurvedic cleanse in the spring and fall too and that has been a game-changer for me. 
  6. Exercise: While yoga can be exercise, my personal practice is typically more restorative than calorie-burning, so I do make sure to get my cardio and strength training in addition. I do circuit classes at my gym 2-3x a week, and in the summer I take walks around my neighborhood until my Fitbit tells me I hit 10,000 steps. 
  7. Massage: This may seem luxurious, but I get a massage once a month. While yoga is great for stretching the muscle, it doesn’t get the knots out, and massage releases stored tension like nothing else for me. 
  8. Saying No: A lot of people struggle with this, but it’s something that I’ve become very comfortable with. I do not overcommit, and I gracefully decline invites when I have too much going on. Unless I have to, or I want to, I don’t mindlessly say "yes". 
  9. Taking Space: I am an introvert, and part of that means that I recharge with quiet time. I know myself, and know that if I have a lot of extroverted activities on my agenda, that I need a lot of personal space before and after to prepare and recover. Taking this space is crucial for me to feel good and not burn out.  
  10. Taking Vacation: It pains me when I read statistics about how in America, “54% of employees end the year with unused time off”. Time is so valuable, and actual relaxation is irreplaceable. I know that personally, time off is essential to my well-being, and because I love to travel too, I don’t think I’ve ever had a paid vacation day go unused.  

Now, do I always hit everything on this list? No. But I do my best, and I don't get upset with myself when I can't fit it all in. The months when I do though? Golden. 100% worth the effort. ✨

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This is an interesting read that I've seen floating around the internet lately that offers an expanded and somewhat non-traditional definition of self-care. To each his own. ✌🏻

Let There Be Mess

I am a very orderly person. I live by my to-do app. I use this weekly desk planner at work. I journal. I am SO an 'inbox zero' person. My house is immaculately clean. My closet is color coordinated. Even my junk drawer is organized. And as I’ve written before, I love to write out a list of annual goals. 

I woke up yesterday feeling good (we stayed in, no hangover here), got right on my mat and did some yoga and meditated. Perfect. This was exactly how I had intended to start my day. Next on the New Year’s Day agenda was baking a decadent coffee cake from the Flour cookbook and having a luxurious brunch. This is where things started to go awry.

We spent about 3 hours on this cake…and it turned out awful. Like, inedible awful and our house was full of smoke. I can go with the flow, I can laugh at myself, but man, it was 3 pm, I was starving, and it was really hard to not be cranky about the pile of sloppy coffee cake sitting on my counter.

Whatever. Onwards.

I ate some yogurt, made a few self-depricating Instagram stories about the coffee cake fail, and laid down underneath the electric blanket to figure out how I could salvage the afternoon. 

I will journal! I will solidify my goals for 2018! I will set my intentions! Everyone else on social media is doing this! Today is the day!

It wasn’t the day. I knew it wasn’t the day, but I tried to force it to be the day. 

I wrote, it was fine. I set some goals, I felt ok about them. I tried to write a blog post, nothing happened. I pulled out my new tarot cards, I wasn’t connecting to anything. I decided to reorganize my sock drawer, I dumped every single sock onto the floor, stared at the pile, and walked away. I read through other people’s yearly goals and intentions, all of the sudden mine seemed lame. We ordered a pizza, it made me feel good…and then bad. I toyed with signing up for a 30-day meditation challenge, I promptly deleted the email invitation.

It was one of those days, and you know what? It's ok. Just because the western world has collectively decided that New Year's Day is THE day to embark on new goals and aspirations doesn’t mean that it actually has to be. Sometimes you can’t force it and it’s perfectly fine to have a weird day—even if that day is January 1st. 

So, if anyone else out there didn’t start the year out strong, I am right there with you. It is what it is. Que sera, sera. 

It is now January 2nd and my socks are still on the floor and it's not looking like I’ll get around to putting them away tonight. I don’t know about the rest of the year, but I’m letting this week be a little messy. And I think that might actually be exactly what I need. The rest of it can wait.

Happy New Year 🎉 

Thoughts on 34

This week I celebrated my 34th birthday, and for the first time in my life, I felt a little "meh" about it. Although I typically hate being the center of attention, my birthday has always been the exception. In the past, I've been known to throw elaborate parties for myself, relishing in the attention, having the best time being surrounded by all of my friends. I typically look forward to the onslaught of birthday messages on social media, to the little gifts from friends and family, to treating myself to some sort of over-the-top meal or decadent experience.

But this year...I just wasn't feeling it. Maybe it was because my birthday fell on a Monday (I think we can all agree that Monday is the worst day for a birthday), and I had to work all day and teach yoga in the evening, but I think it's more likely because, well...I'm getting older and this is kind of what happens, isn't it?  

I felt a little bit of this when I turned 30 too. I always imagined that I would be the person who embraced aging and did so with poise and grace, and while I did have a fun time that year celebrating my milestone birthday with those near and dear to me, deep down I was in a bit of a panic watching my 20s slip away. 

It's not that I'm not excited for what's to come or grateful for the gift of another year—I am, I truly am. It's just that...aging is wild, isn't it? You don't necessarily feel any older, you just are. And you look in the mirror and see yourself, but then all of the sudden—and it really did feel very sudden and startling for me, you see the visual proof that you are indeed 10 years older. There are wrinkles. And sneaky little grey hairs. And those extra few pounds that you've learned to get used to because losing weight somehow takes so much more effort now. 

But of course this isn't the way that I want to approach aging, so I'm working on it. I'm working on loosening the tight grip that I have on my youth, allowing certain things to fall away so I can create space for the new. Working on embracing the things that I do love about my 30s (so much) and remembering what wasn't so wonderful about my 20s (there's plenty). Working on not buying into the media's obsession with youth and "anti-aging" (what an awful term). Working on focusing on what is gained with age rather than what is lost. Working on going with the current instead of fighting against it.

And some days I am good at this, some days I am not. I am still learning, with another year of experience under my belt. 🙏

34. The aura photo I had taken in Detroit right before my birthday. I was told that the green in the bottom right means new beginnings are on the horizon. ✨💚

34. The aura photo I had taken in Detroit right before my birthday. I was told that the green in the bottom right means new beginnings are on the horizon. ✨💚

Girl's Weekend Winter Edition

For the past 3 years, the first weekend of December has been known as GWWE: Girl's Weekend Winter Edition (oh yes, there's a summer edition too). I get as many of my girlfriends together as possible (this year was a record, there were 6 of us!), send Dan to his parent's house for a few nights, and then always, without fail, have the best weekend ever. Girl's Weekend is pure magic. 

The itinerary alters a little bit from year to year, but here's a recap of this year's festivities:

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SATURDAY

  • First stop: Glitter manicures (glitter is the official color of GWWE).
  • Brunch at Detroit Institute of Bagels.
  • Hit up the Detroit Urban Craft Fair at the Masonic Temple, which is basically hipster Etsy shopping heaven. We all went wild and bought everything in sight and ravaged the Goldeluxe table, per usual.
  • Stopped by the new winter holiday markets in downtown Detroit.
  • Got aura photos taken by AURA AURA. SO COOL. I've been dying to do this for years and it did not disappoint. 
  • Dinner & drinks at Gather, my new favorite restaurant.
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SUNDAY

  • Christmas Tree Party: One of my favorite holiday traditions, we all go over to my friend Chelse's parent's property, fill our cups with champagne, and head out into the field to find the perfect tree to take home (I'm a real tree girl all the way).
  • Post-tree hunting, we make Christmas wreaths, and a new addition this year, holiday flower crowns—which I'm pretty sure will be added to the official GWWE activities list from now on.
  • Back at Dan Ranch (aka, my house), it's cheese-platter-making, appetizer-eating, wine-drinking, and just general noshing and lounging all afternoon while listening to the Hanson Christmas album (don't knock it 'til you try it).
  • Then it's evening tree-decorating by the fire and a few rounds of Heads Up, which is always a hilarious, right? 
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Sound like a lot? It is, but in the best way possible. If you can't tell from the photos, everything was perfect, like, the "How is this even happening?" kind of perfect—especially the weather, which is a stark contrast to the endless snow and below freezing temperatures that we've been getting pummeled with for the past week. 

So, another Girl's Weekend in the books. Let the countdown to GWSE (Girl's Weekend Summer Edition) commence! 👯❄️🛍️🎄🥂

Gang's all here. Thanks for making GWWE17 triple perf ladies 💕

Gang's all here. Thanks for making GWWE17 triple perf ladies 💕

Fall Cleanse Follow-Up: Spoiler Alert, It Was AMAZING

I remember feeling absolutely amazing when I did my first ayurvedic cleanse last spring, but with 6 months between then and now, I sort of forgot what amazing actually felt like. I was quickly reminded though, because wow, this cleanse works miracles. It's my new secret weapon for when I need a quick reboot. A few days in and I felt like a new person—a new and 10,000% improved person.

Not only did I lose 8 pounds in a week (shows you how much junk I had been eating leading up to it), but I felt SO GOOD: uncharacteristically energetic, no brain fog, completely clear-minded, open, positive, and just all around great. There was such a noticeable difference in my overall mood that I think I may have even inspired Dan to cleanse with me in the spring. We'll see 😉

Though I've been back to eating "normally' for a little over a week now, the dietary train wreck that is Thanksgiving managed to quickly veer me astray, but I'm recommitting to maintaining a few healthy habits post-cleanse, including: 

  1. Keeping the refined sugar to a minimum, or better yet, having none at all. I find this time and time again when I cleanse, but sugar makes me feel AWFUL. I feel pure joy while I'm consuming Scandanavian Swimmers, but it's all downhill after that.
  2. Having a green juice or smoothie every morning. If I can get 2 servings of veggies right off the bat, there's no reason not to. 
  3. Only snacking on fruits, veggies, and nuts, but preferably, trying not to snack at all.
  4. Drinking plenty of water. 100 oz. daily felt like a bit much for me but I had no problem getting 64 oz. so that's what I'm shooting for.
  5. Eating more vegan meals. I feel quite fortunate to not have any food allergies or sensitivities, but I definitely feel better when I eat vegan. While I don't feel that committing to a plant-based lifestyle is something that I need to do right now, I can absolutely eat vegan meals more than I currently do (the Yoga Girl podcast episode, Peace, Love, and Veganism, gave me a little kick in the pants too). 

Moral of the Story: This cleanse is a miracle. If you've been eating poorly and feel sluggish and like you need to kickstart some healthy eating habits, I'd recommend giving it a try. And if you missed my previous cleanse post, here are the details on what I did. 

Kitchari, I bow to you. 🙏🏻.

A Short Yoga Sequence for Fall

Designed to help ease the transition between seasons to keep you grounded and centered during the busy holiday season, here's a short yoga sequence to practice during the fall and early winter.

A Short Yoga Sequence for Fall from The DzenLife

I will 100% be practicing this daily over Thanksgiving break when I'm in upstate New York with my husband's entire extended family (we're talking 30+ people) for the week, because you know how the old saying goes, "Yoga every day keeps the introvert from going cray". 😉 🦃