Learning to Love my Face

So I decided this week that I am going to attempt to give up makeup, specifically foundation and concealer. I hate my skin. Growing up, I had a lot of acne. After two rounds of Accutane in my early 20’s, I don’t have nearly as big of a problem with acne anymore.

No matter what I do, however, I cannot get my skin to be all the same color. I’ve tried for years to get rid of the darkness under my eyes and the splotchy redness on my sensitive cheeks.

I’m not a huge makeup person. Like I’m not someone who puts on a full face to go out, but I do try to even out my skin tone because I’m so self-conscious about it.

When the quarantine started back in March, I thought, “Maybe this is it. Maybe not wearing makeup for an extended period of time will allow my face to heal.” Well, it didn’t work. It still gets red and irritated. I went weeks without wearing makeup, but would still feel pressured to put on some concealer before taking a picture that I would post to social media or just running one errand.

I have decided to stop trying so hard to fix my face. I am going to try to learn to love my face. I’m going to go out without makeup, and I will be okay. Okay, maybe just some mascara and lip gloss.

It doesn’t even look as bad in pictures as it does when I look in the mirror. Oh well.

The Little Book of Hygge

I recently read The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking.  I have been listening to the podcast, By the Book, where each episode is about a different self-help book.  When I listened to the hygge episode, I knew that I had to read the book.  Before that, I didn’t know anything about hygge.  But it definitely is how I prefer to live.

Hygge is a Danish word that can’t be exactly translated into English.  It is pronounced something like “hooga.” 

Wiking works at the Happiness Research Institute, which studies what makes people happy and how to improve the quality of life of people around the world.  It is based in Denmark, which often ranks as the happiest nation in the world.  The cultural concept of hygge is one aspect of why that may be so.

Reading the book reminded me of my book nook that I created several months ago.  I was focusing on hygge and didn’t even know it!  It is my very own hyggekrog!

There is even a song from the Broadway musical version of Frozen all about hygge!

In the book, Wiking lists a hygge manifesto, which boils down to the following ten concepts:

The book addresses various aspects of hygge.  The first chapter is on light.  The Danes love candles and burn them all the time everywhere.  Scented candles are not a big deal.  It is more about the light.  They are also really into hyggelig lighting, which is at a lower temperature (definitely not fluorescent).  They prefer a certain style of lamps, which “spread the light without subjecting people to a direct glare.”  To create a hygge mood, there should be a lot of candles and small lamps to create “small caves of light” around the room.  Denmark is dark and rainy, especially in the long winter.  Lighting design can help increase those feelings of coziness and intimacy.

I feel like I have always been the opposite.  When I walk into a hotel room, I always want to know why they have several lamps rather than one big overhead light.  I’ve been trying to light candles more, but usually for the scent, not the lighting aspect.  I feel weird in dimly lit restaurants.  But do I just want those bright lights just because that is what I’m used to?  I’m going to experiment with turning out the lights more and lighting the candles.  We are in the process of buying a new house.  When we move in a few weeks and I start decorating my new house, I am going to think about putting more lamps around, so that I at least have the option of hyggelig lighting when I want it.  Maybe even some fairy lights!

Most of the candles that I have owned in my life have been gifts or come in a subscription box, such as Causebox.  If I am going to be increasing my candle consumption and purchasing more candles myself, I will make sure to buy eco-friendly, all-natural candles.  The book even mentions the air pollution and negative effects of burning too many candles, but it doesn’t address that there are options out there that are better than others.  If you didn’t know that there was a difference in candles, just google non-toxic candles to find out what to look for when purchasing a candle.

Another chapter in the book is on togetherness.  Hygge mostly happens in small groups of close friends or family.  It is perfect for introverts like me who would prefer a relaxing, cozy night with a few friends to a big, loud gathering at a bar.  I could still work on having more hygge togetherness moments, as I am not as always as social as I feel that I should be.  Wiking says that the art of hygge involves “the art of expanding your comfort zone to include other people.”  We are social creatures and as most happiness research shows – “the best predictor of whether we are happy or not is our social relationships.”  It is important to have work-life balance in order to have those hygge moments with your family and friends.

Playing games together as a family.

What about hyggelig food and drink?  The book states “hygge is about being kind to yourself-giving yourself a treat, and giving yourself and each other, a break from the demands of healthy living.”  Danes eat a lot of sweets.  Sweets are hyggelig.  Comforting, slow-cooked foods are also hyggelig.  The smells that permeate your house when baking bread or cooking a hearty stew definitely increase the coziness factor.  Hot drinks are also very soothing.  I’m not a coffee drinker, but tea and hot chocolate are nice when snuggling up under a blanket with a good book.  The process of creating good food alone or with others is very hyggelig.

hot chocolate

I’m not sure that I can convert to the Danish hygge definition of clothing.  I am all for the casual and comfortable, but my style is not minimalistic, black, and full of scarves.  I rarely wear scarves, and I love color.  I like my clothes to be fun and put a smile on my face.  That is hygge clothing to me.  I will wear the comfy sweater and leggings, but they just might be bright pink instead of gray!

Danes are really into design since so much of hygge takes place at home.  Since I am about to move into a new house, I am thinking about how I can make it as hyggelig as possible.  The items in my home should be comforting.  Items should be more than just the physical object, but hopefully have a story or emotional value to go with them.  Wiking says that decorating with wooden items and simple, natural materials makes us feel closer to nature.  Maybe that is why farmhouse decor is so popular in the U.S. right now.

He also says that we should add a variety of textures to our home.  Not just cozy blankets and cushions, but how do the other items feel to the touch?  Smooth ceramics, a wooden table, etc.  Also a good hygge home should have books.  And take the time to hand write letters.  Very hygge.

I also want to make my office more hygge.  I am a school counselor, so obviously the more comfortable and inviting my office is, the better.  I’ve also had many students over the years ask to turn out the overhead lights and just sit in the natural light in my office.

Hygge is supposed to be in all aspects of our lives.  We shouldn’t hygge just at home, but also at the office, at restaurants, out in nature, etc.

Hygge is also about experiencing and savoring the present moment.  I’ve written about my struggle to be more present before.  It’s an ongoing piece of work.

The Christmas season is the epitome of hygge.  It has all of the required elements – family and friends, traditions, food, decorations.  The book talks about some common Danish traditions.  I would love to form even more traditions in my family surrounding the holidays.

One of our Christmas traditions – Celebration in the Oaks

What about you?  Do you try to “hygge-fy” your life?  And yes, I did just make up that word.

Do Better

I’ve been grappling with whether to write a blog post addressing the racial turmoil that has come to a head in our nation over the past week.  I haven’t written a new post on my blog in about a month.  But do I really have anything unique to say?  I sit from a point of white privilege, and my thoughts are not particularly special or helpful.  I try to be an ally, but do I mess up?  Daily!  Do I do enough to help social justice be served in my community?  Not at all.  But I do try.  And I place value on the trying.

I encourage everyone to make the effort to “know better.”  The voices of people of color are there telling us how to make this better.  But we have to take the time and effort to listen.  Each of us can learn new things every single day as we strive to be the best possible version of ourselves.  

So take a moment to stop talking.  And listen.

Quarantine Activities and Lists

I love lists.  I love categorizing things and working my way through a list.  I spend more time planning a trip than going on it.  I spend time adding to my to be read book list, sometimes, before reading the several hundred books that are already on it.  I can’t help it.  It’s who I am.

During this time of social distancing at home, I’ve come up with a few ways to have fun with lists.  The first one has been very popular on my social media.  My daughter and I have been Disneybounding from home every day with clothes in our closets.  I first Disneybounded on our most recent trip to WDW earlier this year.  (There is a blog post on it, if you want to check it out.)  For those outfits, I purchased some clothes and accessories to go along with things I already had in my closet to make the perfect outfits for the park. 

For this challenge, we have just been working with the things we already have.  Working our way through lists of Disney characters has been both a delight and a challenge, as we see what we can come up with.  Once we are done, I’m going to put all of our pictures together in a Shutterfly book to remember all of the fun we had.

A long time ago, way before my daughter was born, I worked my way through watching each of the top 100 movies as listed by the American Film Institute.  We’ve been having family movie nights each day.  Usually, we sit around forever trying to agree on a movie to watch together.  So, I came up with a fun challenge to mix it up.  

I wrote down a list of movie genres on small slips of paper and put them in a bag.  Every few days, we draw a new genre out of the bag.  Then each family member is challenged with coming up with a movie for us to watch that meets that category.  So far, we’ve done sports movies, action/adventure movies, animated movies, classic movies, and we are currently on superhero movies.  Once we are done with the genres in the bag, I’ve got even more ideas up my sleeve to keep it going as long as we want.  It’s fun, and each family member gets a turn to pick the movie, so no arguing about the best choice.

Another list that my daughter and I have been working our way through comes from the Usborne book, Step-By-Step Drawing Animals.  My daughter and I are drawing each animal in the book, following the simple instructions.  Together, we sit down and draw the animal.  Then we decorate the background and add them to our stack.  When we have worked our way through the entire book, I plan to connect our drawings somehow into some kind of book for our memories.  It’s a fun activity to do together, and we can see the different interpretations we each have of the same animal.

The list that I have been working my way through since the very beginning of this quarantine is watching the Cincinnati Zoo’s daily home safaris.  It started as a family activity that we did together.  The three of us would sit down to learn about a new animal at the zoo each day.  My family eventually started to lose interest, so we got behind schedule.  I’ve started watching them again on my own, but I am still catching up for time away.  Learning about all the animals is fascinating to me and makes me wish that I was a zookeeper.

a grainy pic of my TV

What kind of fun, new activities have you been doing during quarantine?  Is anybody else working their way through a list?

My One Year Blogiversary

Today marks one year since I launched my blog.  I’m not really an interesting or creative writer, but I’ve still enjoyed sharing my thoughts with those interested enough to read them.  Today, I went back and read my first blog post where I laid out the goals for what I wanted to accomplish.  I am continuing to meet those goals by sharing my positive thoughts and writing about experiences of things that make me happy.  I hope that at some point over the past year, I’ve helped someone to “look on the bright side.”

Over the course of this year, I’ve written something like 65 blog posts, which I’m pretty proud of.  I’ve written about products I like, faith, and books I’ve read.  I don’t blog about all the books I read, because I’m not that great at writing reviews.  But over the past year, I did blog about four different self-help/memoir style books.

a fave shirt of mine

I wrote a lot about travel, which is one of my favorite things in the world.  Over the past year, I was fortunate enough to visit and write about Jamaica, Biloxi, Montreal, Hot Springs, Walt Disney World, and even my hometown of New Orleans.

I wrote about music, movies, and plays that I loved and had the pleasure of experiencing this past year, including Disney movies, Broadway plays, and awesome concerts.  I am fortunate to have been able to enjoy so many of these things that bring me joy.

I’ve written about food, family life, and positive thinking.  I’ve reflected on quotes or sayings.  I’ve shared my thoughts on many different topics.

I hope you have enjoyed following along in my journey of positivity.  I wonder what will happen in year two?  It is already starting off very different since we’ve been social distancing for over a month now.  The adventures and fun this year may look different.  But I shall continue to find the joy in whatever God sends my way!

Love Does

I just finished reading the book, Love Does, by Bob Goff.  It is a Christian book and the basic premise is that love is an action.  We show love to God and others through our actions.

Each short chapter tells a story about Bob’s often crazy and adventurous life, which he then relates to a belief or message he wants to share.  

The book is really good and an easy read.  He shows through his stories how he has chosen to live a fully engaged life.  It was inspiring, but also kind of made me feel like I could never do some of the things he does.  I’m never going to be someone who just picks up and flies across the world on a whim. It does sound cool, though.  And I’ll just have to figure out what my fully engaged life looks like.

How can I be fully present in my life?  How can I be fully present in my relationships?  These seem like big challenges to me, because they require courage.  It takes courage to be fully engaged.

“I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.” ~Bob Goff

To me, saying yes is often scary.  It involves risk. It involves faith.  I do not view myself as a courageous risk-taker.  It is something I will probably continue working on for the rest of my life.  Taking risks, however, seems to come easily to Bob. He does it all the time.

One word that Goff uses a lot throughout the book is whimsy.  He is always talking about living a life of whimsy. I do like the idea of leading a whimsical life.  He calls it a “renewable, infinite resource that multiplies.”

This book is not just Goff’s beliefs about how we should live our lives.  It is his beliefs about how Jesus wants us to live our lives. It is about putting faith into action on a daily basis.

“I think Jesus had in mind that we would not just be ‘believers’ but ‘participants’.” ~Bob Goff

He suggests our faith should be more than just ideas.  It should matter to us. It should engage us. It should move us to change the world.  It should be a paradigm shift that changes the way we look at every thing and every person and every situation around us.

I highly recommend this book.  It’s not a how-to manual. He doesn’t tell us how to fully engage with life, because it will be different for each person.  Now only does Bob go on crazy adventures, but he saves tons of kids in Uganda through his work.

But through his example, maybe, just maybe, you will be inspired to think about how to live your life fully engaged and full of whimsy and fun and things that matter.  I’m not sure I can put myself out there in the ways that Bob does. He even puts his phone number at the end of the book to say that he is willing to talk to you about anything in it.  But maybe, in my own little ways, I can try to evaluate what “love does” looks like for me.

My husband, the caretaker

Yesterday, I got food poisoning.  The worst food poisoning that I have ever had.  Scombroid food poisoning. It was one of the top most painful experiences of my life.  Like, rolling around on the floor, crying, super intense pain. I probably would have gone to the emergency room if it weren’t for coronavirus.  Instead, I powered through with several different medicines. It only lasted 6 hours, thankfully, but those 6 hours were pretty horrible.

It is moments like these, however, that remind me what a great caretaker my husband is.  He really steps up to the plate and does everything in his power to help the situation. He researched what was happening, found me medicines, called a telehealth doctor, went out to buy more medicines, rinsed out my vomit bucket countless times, got me ice packs and hot packs, all while continuing to parent our six year old in the next room.

When I had my biggest medical emergency, after the birth of my daughter, he was an amazing advocate.  He did everything in his power to care for me (and our newborn) and advocate on my behalf, especially when I was unable to do so.

When our daughter gets sick or hurt, it is Daddy she calls for, not me.  He is a problem solver while still being compassionate. He fixes boo-boos and tummy aches.  She trusts him implicitly.  

He is also a caretaker in other ways.  He takes care of our house, our money, etc.  I rely on him for so many important things.  

I give my husband a hard time, most of the time.  But, he really is good. So this is my “I appreciate you” post.

I Shall Not Live in Vain

Here is my positive thought of the day to share with you during this crazy time. A poem by Emily Dickinson.

We can all make a difference in big or small ways. Right now, we’re making a difference by staying home and isolating.

Shout out to all the people who are currently making a difference in big ways. The doctors and nurses, the first responders, the political and business leaders having to make big decisions to keep us safe, the providers of food and other necessities, and again to the healthcare providers. There are lots of people right now who are making a difference in big ways. But even if that isn’t you, think of all the small ways that you make a difference.

One Week In ….

It has been one week since I posted my “how I’m going to spend my time during quarantine” post. Let’s just say, that I am not always the person I hope to be.

I have no schedule. I know a lot of people have been touting the importance of a schedule, especially in regards to homeschooling, but also just for life. I’m not really a schedule person. Too much pressure. Instead, my goal has just been variety. I don’t want to do the same thing for hours at a time. I try to make sure that I switch it up often enough.

That doesn’t mean I am filling my time with noble and productive pursuits. It just means I want variety in whatever it is I decide to do. Read a book to my daughter – switch to workout – scroll through facebook – draw – take a nap – go for a walk outside – eat a snack – watch an animal video from the zoo – read the news – watch a show – play a board game – and so on and so on.

I have not cleaned my entire house or done any elaborate art or implemented a strict homeschooling curriculum. But so far, we are surviving and trying to prevent too much boredom. How has your time on the inside been going?

Quarantine – How will I use my time?

Today is the first day of our coronavirus quarantine.  My husband told me this was going to happen back in January when news of the virus first came out.  I didn’t believe him and thought he was always assuming the worst will happen. I’ve had to admit that he was right (although I still think he is a negative Nelly).

I am an introvert.  I enjoy time to myself immensely.  But I also know from experience that I can get antsy after too much time at home.  As of right now, schools are closed for at least the next month. I am trying to be proactive and make sure my family doesn’t go crazy during this quarantine.  It actually has the potential to be a great time of togetherness and quality time.

Even on a regular day, I spend waaaaay too much time on my phone and Facebook.  My goal during this quarantine is to fill as much of my time with things of value and not waste it away.  Don’t get me wrong, I do find value in social media. On it, we share information, humor, our lives, ideas, and more.  I do value it as a way to remain connected to others. Collectively finding joy and humor in the coronavirus memes is great.  I just want to make sure that I don’t become consumed (like I have the tendency to do).

So my goal is going to be to look for things to do that bring value to my life during this time of uncertainty.  Yoga, art projects, reading, prayer, walks outside, organization and decluttering, etc. These are things that I always try to focus on, as I’m big on self-care.  With all of this extra time, what more will I be able to accomplish?

And it isn’t just about me.  Unlike me, my daughter is a very social creature.  She gets great joy out of attending school each day and seeing her friends.  My time will be filled with making sure that her learning and fun continue. That means I can’t be on my phone, but directly engaging with her for as much of the day as possible.  Just like I can get sucked into the social media hole, she can easily get sucked into the watching TV hole.

For some reason, I woke up at 4:30 this morning.  I never get up this early, and yet here I am, up early with nowhere to go and nothing to do.  I know it is anxiety keeping me up, but I’m sure I will fit in a nap later today in my busy quarantine schedule.  Look at me, already making good use of my time by writing a blog post for my sadly neglected blog!

My husband and I will still be working from home, but I know that our next month is going to look very different.  My goal is to use my time as wisely as possible. What are you doing to make the best of your quarantine time?