Tag Archives: health

What Does Self-Care Really Mean?

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I’m glad that Self-Care is finally a “thing.”  I’m glad that when we hear that phrase now, it’s not considered selfish so much as it is believed to be self-preservational.  But I hail from the former way of thinking and it’s taken me a lot to arrive at the latter.  I think I’m officially…finally…sorta-kinda-maybe-please-God…there.

But first…let’s dip back into the 1960s.  And 70s.  And 80s.  People didn’t “work out” when I was growing up.  Handsome men had bodies like Rock Hudson and Cary Grant—with soft middles and borderline man-boobs, skinny legs and gentlemen bi-ceps.  Women had “love handle” hips, and god-forbid muscle mass.  Hell, Marilyn Monroe was a size 14.  Super models were a size 6.  I was a size 6 and people told me I was too skinny.  When I became a size 8, people told me I was “just right.”  No one belonged to a gym.  The only mainstream Yoga was with Lillian on PBS– strictly spiritual, not for sculpting an attract-a-Hedge-fund-manager ass.  Frozen yoghurt was a sexy craze, especially with carob chips on top.  Woo-woo!  Health food was for Hippies.  Milk came from cows, and you were supposed to drink a lot of it.  Plenty of the population smoked and boozed and not a lot of people felt guilty about it.  When Jane Fonda hit the scene in make-it-burn leg warmers and striped leotards, we all were a bit confused.  When Richard Simmons introduced this thing called jogging, my grandmother said, “how unattractive, jiggling yourself all over the road like that.”  She and her Marshall Fields girdle.  She was also known to say, “Why stand when you can sit, and why sit when you can lie down” and made a mean southern fried chicken.  She lived to be 98.

I’m not saying that these were better times.  I’m just saying…that people had a very different relationship with their bodies then…compared to now.  Some people joined the fitness craze.  I didn’t.  I was lucky.  My body was just naturally healthy and fit.  Fit enough, anyway, so that I didn’t think too much about it.  As I moved into the “real world” from college, I walked and rode my bike as much as I could, but more because I didn’t have a car.  I ate healthy food, because healthy food was everywhere.  I lived in Seattle, after all.  Organic food was the norm.  Farm to table was the standard.  Foraging was a good afternoon in the forest with friends.IMG_4873

My mid-western father would scoff:  “Why do you have to go and spend all that money on fancy food.”

“Because when you were young, all food was organic, Dad!  They weren’t poisoning it!”

He never bought it.  He ate the same old same old.  He walked the Chicago Loop every day to work.  Played a little tennis.  A little golf.  Raked a lot of leaves.  He lived to be 86.  Worked happily until he died.  Healthy to his final good-byes.

“You come from good farm stock,” he’d always say.  And I believed him.  All the way through my 30s.

But little by little, as I moved into my late 30s, I started to feel like I was missing out on this fitness craze.  My friends’ bodies were looking sculpted and better in bathing suits, (bikinis, mind you)…than we all did in our 20s!  They were, in their words, “Getting after it.”

I wasn’t sure what the “it” was, but I figured I’d better give it a whirl.  My body hadn’t really recovered from having two children, and I hadn’t worn a pair of jeans, never mind a bikini, in years.  And in my subconscious I knew…(I just didn’t want to admit)…that I had honored my mind all my life.  My writing was the outward sign of that.  In it all…there was always writing.  Writing doesn’t make your ass look great in jeans, but it feeds the soul.  Writing has always been the constant, all my life.  I still hold:  that writing should be up there with diet and exercise in the realm of preventative wellness.  Key word:  exercise.IMG_4873

Exercise meant moving my body.  I knew how to move my mind.  My body was secondary and always had been.  I knew that it was supposed to be my temple, but I didn’t need it to be a fancy one.  I’d watched plenty of women attempt that.  It had always seemed so frivolous.  Like such a vacuous pursuit.  The columns of my temple had seemed well-enough fortified to hold up more important affairs—that of the mind and soul and spirit.

But now it seemed like those columns were starting to become a little bit shaky.  (Side note:  No one was calling this “it” Self-Care.  Yet.)  And it occurred to me that without my body…my mind wasn’t worth much.

So I went after this version of “it.”  Hard.  I joined the gym, got a personal trainer, and worked out every day, rode horses three times a week, got a nutritionist, and heck, while I was at it…a therapist to see how to connect my mind to my body once and for all.

Those happened to be days when there was some money in the bank, but even still, I felt guilty and self-indulgent.  What was I trying to prove to myself, anyway?  That I was strong?  That I had willpower?  That I could be skinny and fit like the rest of the women out there who seemed to agelessly fit into designer jeans?  I was never that woman to begin with.  I had energy.  I felt healthy.  But this pursuit did not make me feel happy.  I started to dread the gym.  All those people going nowhere fast on all those machines.  And here we lived in Montana!  What was wrong with taking a good old-fashioned walk?

Then one day, I walked into the gym and this woman came out of the yoga room with a towel over her shoulder.  “You just missed yoga,” she said like the worst mean girl in high school.  Was this some sort of competition?  Were people trying to win some sort of medal?  It brought up all of my early childhood I’m bad at sports S***.  And I turned around and didn’t come back.  Aggressive gym people weren’t my peeps.  Especially aggressive yoga gym people.  I stuck to my horse.  And walks in the woods.IMG_4873

But I’m a writer.  I sit for a living.  My back was a mess.  My stomach was slack like it had never been before in my life.  And then I fell off my horse (but at least it’s a helluva good story—other day, other blog post) and spent three months in bed.  I felt weak.  And frustrated.  I was in my mid-40s then, and my body was changing.  Fast.

And then the damn steps thing had to come out.  And suddenly everyone was bragging about how many frigging steps they took.  At my kids’ soccer games.  At the grocery store.  So then it wasn’t enough to lift some weights in my living room and get my heart rate up on my treadmill or up the ridge for half an hour.  Now I had to have 10,000 steps a day if I wanted to live to see my grandchildren.  Oh, and p.s. suddenly milk came from nuts.  So coffee could never taste good again.  And you couldn’t eat a good loaf of bread.  And butter was absolutely positively out.  And so basically, I couldn’t eat anything except for avocados.  And almond butter.  And bananas.  But only before noon.  And freaking kale.  And brussel sprouts.  And BEETS.  Couldn’t a girl get a good steak in this world of “getting after it?”  I was depressed.  I’m sure of it.  My temple, including my mind, was crumbling.

So…I just gave up.  On the whole thing.  Ate as much butter and toast as I damn well pleased.  Felt guilty about each bite.  Turned my treadmill into a clothes rack.  Felt guilty about it.  Took walks when I wanted to.  And felt guilty when I didn’t.  Basically I guilted myself into a place of not eating.  And not moving.  Just sitting and writing.  And that doesn’t work either.  Menopause really doesn’t like not eating and not moving.  So suddenly…no clothes fit.  And I noticed one day that I was starting to get that thing under my chin that my grandmother had.  The one who said, “Why stand when you can sit and why sit when you can lie down.”  I’d blown my thyroid.  And my blood pressure, in my doctor’s words, “sucked.”  I was moving rapidly into my 50s.  My face, and a lot of my skin, had fallen.  And it couldn’t get up.

Things needed to change.  Really change.  I needed to rip up my relationship with my body and my mind…and start all over again.  I needed to ease out of all of this mania.  Find a new way.  A way that would work for me.  Because I realized that somehow, after everything I had tried…I was still separating my mind from my body.  I wasn’t caring for my whole self.IMG_4873

And then this thing called Self-Care came along.  People were talking about it and it didn’t have anything to do with a gym.  Or kale.  It had to do with something that met me in a place I had been longing for all my life.  A place that I only knew on the page with a pen in my hand, or tapping a keyboard.  I wanted to learn just what Self-Care really meant.  Not as an action verb.  But as a way of being.

So I hired a therapist.  Again.  Fifteen years later.  Maybe this one would help me in a new way.  In a way that would feed my soul.  A way that would be about my whole self.

One day, in her bright little office by the river, she gave me a little frame with the word:  gentleness in it.  “Keep it for as long as you need it,” she said.

“What am I supposed to do with it?  Anything specific?”

She smiled.  “Just…whatever you want.”

So I put it on my bedside table.  I’m in my bed a lot.  My office has become overrun with too many stacks of too much grown-up left brain stuff.  My bed is soft and safe and holds my muse well, especially in these weeks before my house empties, my son goes to college, and it’s just me.

At first I wasn’t so sure about it.  I have plenty on my bedside table already.  Stacks of books of poetry and spiritual texts, fiction, and non-fiction.  Essential oils and candles and journals and so many really good pens.IMG_4873

And now this little frame.  Gentleness.  In lower case loopy script.  I figured it would get lost in the shuffle.

Instead…my eyes caught on it over and over.  Probably five-ten times before I even finished my morning writing.  Probably another ten times during the second cup of tea.  Again later folding laundry.  Talking to my daughter, away in California on her first post-collegiate job.  I miss her like crazy.

Gentleness.

Talking to my son, as he comes in with baseball news and plans for the night and the ever-present-request of gas money.  He drives the old Suburban after all and there’s no way to work when you’re playing Legion ball.  Still.  I am not made of money.  But man, am I going to miss that kid.

Gentleness.

Each time my eyes meet this little word in this little frame, I realize that my shoulders are tight.  My jaw is clenched.  And it does something to me.  I take in a breath and sigh.  Loosen whatever is tight.  It feels so nice.  So…gentle.IMG_4873

Gentleness.

My mother is moving.  She wants to know if I want my father’s WWII Army blanket and duffle bag.  If I want her old record player.  If I’m going to show up at my son’s Parent’s Weekend in Minnesota, even though I lead a retreat a week prior, and a week after.  And if she can come.

Gentleness.

And I’ve realized…that I have lived so much of my life bracing against it all.  I don’t have to.  Anymore.  Gentleness can be the most powerful way I have ever lived.

In the last few weeks with this new little frame as my companion, I’ve learned to be gentle about the way I care for myself.  It doesn’t come easily to me.  At all.  Taking care of others comes easily to me.  Taking care of myself…that still feels like a tall order.  But being gentle with myself?  I can do that.  In little moments.  Baby steps.  And I know…babies fall hard.  But they get up.  I was that baby once.  We all were.

I’ve found that the first place to start is with this gentleness.  To give myself permission to find my way to Self-Care, and not judge myself if it looks very different from how others might approach theirs.  Like you’ll probably never find me in a gym.  Or in an ISO floating tank.  Or running a marathon.  Or counting my steps with a watch on my wrist.

On a good week it looks like this:  riding horses.  Doing daily yoga in my living room.  And writing.

On a normal week it looks more like this:  taking walks.  Doing a few yoga poses here and there.  And writing.IMG_4873

I try to be kind to myself.  To go slowly.  To realize that to sit and be and notice and stop the madness of this cyber “cult of the personality” * which has become our civilization…is a powerful way of caring for ourselves.  We don’t have to be in constant motion.

Maybe I’ll be soft around the belly.  Maybe my heart rate won’t be monitored by a machine.  I’ll know it’s working by the way it carries me up the ridge behind my house.  I’ll know I’ve honored my body when I wake up the next day and feel that I moved it well.  I’ll know by the look in my eyes:  that my grandmother was right that carrots make them bright.  I’ll eat my carrots.  But not because I’m supposed to.  But because I delight in how they give themselves to me so that I can keep on going.

Gentleness.

There is a prayer that I use, not just for food, but for all that I do for my body and soul.  May it help you feel gentleness and gratitude.

This food is a gift from the whole universe.

The earth, the sky, and much hard work.

May we be mindful of our deeds as we receive this food.

May it transfer hatred, anger, and greed.

May it prevent illness and keep us well.

In gratitude, we receive this nourishment, that we may seek the path of love, compassion, and wisdom.

(A variation on the prayer by Thich Nhat Hanh)

Gentleness then, to us all.

Love,

Laura

* Braided Creek

For information about the February Haven Wander:  Morocco, click here!

For more information about Haven Writing Retreats, Montana click here!  We have few spots available for the 2018 fall schedule! 

To arrange for a phone call with the Haven team, email:  Laura@lauramunson.com

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Tips on Creature Comforts from my Facebook Posse! (Beds, Bras, Skin-care, and much more…)

olive grove-001It seems I’ve tapped into some serious zeitgeist over on Facebook in the last months, as I’ve been exploring some of my creature comfort needs…and it’s turned into some mighty social media crowd sourcing!  Thank you to all of you who have given me your tips on things like, you know, bras.  And skin care products.  And beds.  And tea.  And happy songs.  And a lot of other things too.

It all started with these words:  ”Help!  My face has fallen and it can’t get up!”  That got 97 comments in about half an hour.  Then: (heck– why not)  ”Help!  My boobs have fallen and they can’t get up!”  64 comments, rapido rapido.  Beds:  75 great tips, and fast.  The ultimate Earl Grey?  Lots of Earl drinkers out there, turns out.  Even names for a strong female protagonist (213 comments).  In fact, my Facebook friends have helped me so much, that I thought it would be helpful to create a list of some of their best tips, with some of the comments, here on my blog.  So here you go.   I haven’t tried 99.9% of any of them yet.   Still sleeping in a 15 year old squeaky bed, using water on my face, period, and am helplessly devoted to a few old jog bras.  But looks like that all might change!

Creature comfort wisdom from my Facebook friends. 

SKIN LINES

Beauty Counter  (started by a friend of mine!)

From the Lab  (started by a friend of mine!)

La Mer – “pricey but worth it”

Coconut Oil – “eat it too!”

Indian Meadows Herbals – Love your Face Cream “Love Your Face Cream – Original Formula. It’s fabulous. I like all of their products. It’s made with 76% organic herbs, oils, and aloe. I use it every day, and I’m 57. If only they’d invent something that works for under-eye circles!”

Dermalogica – “ used Dermalogica for 25 years. Night repair creams, oils, and masks are important now, especially in MT. Above all drink an insane amount of water to keep your brain and skin hydrated.”

Rodan + Fields – “#1 anti aging skin line in America and I’ll give you the “author” discount”

Amlactin – “You can purchase it over the counter in any pharmacy. It’s an alpha hydroxy lotion. That combined with Retin A – which you need a prescription for. I use Retin A every night and Amlactin twice a day. But be careful using Amlactin till your skin adjusts to the Retin A because it can sting when your skin is fragile. Takes time to adjust to Retin A. Go super sparingly in the beginning! This is the regimen recommended by my deem. I think it has helped my skin!”

Tata Harper

Cetaphil – “Recommended by my dermatologist. Followed by some Paula’s Choice products.”

Paula’s Choice

Oil of Olay

Nerium AD

Kiels – “no more expensive products”

Roc Moisturizer

Arbonne – “Arbonne is by far the best. I am 64 and have been using it for 7 years. Seriously, Laura, it’s good stuff. I just got back from a Convention and they reformulated the RE9 line and it is super clean and nontoxic…..I can give you some samples when I get to town.”  “Loveeeee anti aging line, pure ingredients, safe, green, just as beneficial as the number one skincare line but has safe ingredients!!”

Mary Kay – “You wouldn’t believe how forward thinking the company is now and it exceeds European Union standards as far as cosmetic companies go.”

Dr. Hauschka

Boots UK

No. 7

Image Skin Care –  https://www.imageskincare.com/ “I am not fifty, but I do love the changes I’ve noticed in my skin since using their ageless and lightening lines (tighter, brighter, less fine lines) and am all about preventative care. Raw honey makes a fantastic face cleanser.”

Zillis Zen Renew – “It’s got Botox effects without the Botox. Ladies are going crazy over it”

Elta MD Sunscreen –  It’s medical grade , affordable, and has no nasty parabans, etc. Aside from that, I use botox and Instagram filters.” “I agree, I use their tinted sunscreen”

Shisedodo

Beauty Counter

Plexus

Synchronology Skincare – rocks and is reasonably priced

Clarins

Rosehip and Baobab oil – “as a moisturizer.  Also Emu oil if that’s up your alley.”

Ponds Night Cream – “ My grandmother swore by ponds night cream under the eyes every night. I am sticking to it! Plus, the smell is soooo nice.”

Cerave - “ especially if you have sensitive skin. Dermatologist recommended this years ago.”

Botox

Skin Medica TNS – from a derm nurse

My Prime Transformative Cream –  It is a little $$ but worth it. I also love

YBF Correct eye cream – “but this one’s too $$ for me, so I don’t use it any more.”

Kar Gran Cosmetics –  I wrote an essay for them because I love their clean, aromatic oils: https://blog.karigran.com/wearyourselfin/new-test-article/

RoC

Envrion – “it’s amazing”

Beyond good lotions & potions, get good consistent sleep, hydration (H20) and avoid salt and alcohol as much as you can stand and still ‘live a little.’ Plus Retin A. And exercise to get the blood flowing.

Neutrogena - “works well with all skin types”

Grace green Beauty –  https://gracegreenbeauty.com/

Loccitane Immortelle Divine Cream

Salt water rines (made with sea salt and bottled water. Use coconut oil as moisturizer

Chanel Sublimage – Cleanser, Serum, Eye Cream Moisturizer – “the best”

Willing Beauty –  “just launched this month its a sister company of origami owl, I have been using a week and it’s AMAZING “

Lancome Renergie – at Costco online

Differin – “which basically Retin A started out as — is a prescription strength form of retinol sold over the counter. My dermatologist made me start after I had some burn related discoloration on face. But it is a miracle worker on fine lines and such. I use one week on one week off.” “ Differin is $13 at Target recommended by my dermatologist instead of Retin A.”

Olay Regenerist

Orgins Drink up Intensive Overnight mask – “use it all winter”

Skinceuticals

Laurel Whole Plant Organics – “100% natural”

Murad – “scents aren’t overhwleming and they dont’ engage in animal testing”

And this one made me LOL.  I’ve never done Botox, or a Medical Peel, but this person has a lot to say about it, and she’s funny!

Medical Grade Chemical Peel - “ I don’t believe in spending $80 on a jar of cream when you can spend $80 once a month for a medical grade chemical peel at a medspa. In the city, you can get Botox for $4.50 a unit on Groupon and for 30 units, not have a wrinkle for the next 4 months. I tell my aesthetician that I want to look young but still be able to shoot a look across the room to my son that says, “Knock that shit off right now.” She somehow nails it every time. I have total movement. Yes, I think doing a peel four weeks apart makes so much difference! I do them for four months in a row and then bask in the glory of nothing for six months and then start them again. Also, my partner is an anesthesiologist and he just did one treatment with an in office thing called a skinpen and his colleagues all said he looked 15 years younger. I am going to try that next. It’s around $125 for one treatment and he had one six months ago but is about to have another one now before his daughters grad school graduation.

Here’s the thing about chemical peels – for the first one, if you had a loaded gun in your hand you’d shoot yourself because you just can’t believe it’s okay and that the pain will actually stop. It does stop. Five minutes in. The second time you have it is much better. The first one is just really nasty because you have so much old skin to burn off until you get to the dermis. The third time, I could be emailing colleagues it’s so easy. Like Botox, the more you do it, the more it starts PREVENTING damage. Mostly because you always have fresh, new, glowing skin. But if you have dark sun spots, like my partner, then you’d be amazed at the skin pen in between a chemical peel. For me, I had an issue with old red healed acne spots. They disappeared the very first peel. It’s really incredible witchcraft. Oh – also, if you are considering derma fillers, I can update you. The old issue of lip injections, etc. is that it used collagen. Now, it uses a type of ingredient that already is in our skin and our body removes naturally over the course of six months or so. But here’s the witchcraft – if you don’t like it, there is now an antidote! So they inject the counter to it and it dissolves right then! It’s pretty amazing how far we’ve come. Because of this, I’m considering fillers now. But they do fillers and chemical peels on hands now that swear makes an 80 year old look 20. You can google before and after images online of restalyne hands and be amazed. In the US, it is illegal for a pharmaceutical company to use before and after pictures without indicating how many treatments they have received. With restalyne, it never says because it’s only ONE TREATMENT! AMAZEBALLS!”

 OK…now on to my next one, “Help, my boobs have fallen and they can’t get up!”  Such great “support” from my friends!

BRAS:

Wacoal – “game changer, underwire or not” https://www.wacoal-america.com/all-bras_wacoal-bras-catalog/

Rosa Faia – “very pricey but a game changer. So comfortable” http://www.anita.com/shop/en_global/soft-bra-serie-twin-24ebd5.html

Chantelle - http://www.chantelle.com

Soma Intimates – “enhancing shape bras!” “love soma”

Madewell “comfy t-shirt material bras”

Coobies – “very comfortable and seamless. Sometimes i sleep with them on.” “Very comfortable but not a whole lot of support. But they don’t feel like you’re wearing a torture device”

Sage and Cedar, Whitefish, MT (store)

Target’s Champion line “great lift andshaping. And non underwire.”

Underarmour – “good underwire”

Adore Mr. – “well made and inexpensive”

Third Love

Olga and Warners

Knix Wear - https://www.knixwear.com/collections/evolution-bra

Soma

The Pact – “camisole with built-in bra.”

Tommy Hilfiger

Title Nine/Anita Sports Bra – “wear it all the time for everything. Soft and uplifting, but no under wire. If you are a booby girl, but narrow set in the chest (not too to broad in chest measure but larger in cup size) this may work very well.”

And here’s where people created our own personal consumer report!

14656327_10153757139241266_4563344988189324412_nMATTRESSES

Temper Cloud Supreme Mattresshttp://www.oprah.com/gift/Tempur-Cloud-Supreme-Mattress?editors_pick_id=27470   “I bought the one Oprah recommended a few years ago and it was terrible. I think it actually got pulled from the market it was so bad and we got our money back. It was the Dr. Breus mattress and it was THE WORST! it completely caved in in the middle.”

Tempurpedic Cloud with Supreme Breeze for cooling. “ Got the adjustable frame even though we didn’t think we were interested. Don’t regret a thing!” “Tempurpedic with all the cooling stuff you can get. It feels weird at first but once you get used to it every other bed feels like you’re laying on wadded socks.”

Temperpedic – “best ever $$$$ that’s what we use” “We have one too. Love it. We even got the adjustable frame” “best sleep ever” “We love our tempurpedic mattresses. Best nights sleep even with a back full of titanium!”

Sleep Number - “So worth the investment.” “The way to go. Love mine” “We JUST bought this during a Sleep Number half price sale. It’s too new for me to properly review — I haven’t finished setting up all the interactive functions. (It assesses the quality of your sleep each night via their app!). So far, so good…https://www.sleepnumber.com/…/Innovation-Series-Beds/p/iLE”  “it’s an air mattress with two sides (but you can’t tell it’s an air mattress–it seems totally like a normal mattress). But this way you can have a hard mattress and your partner can have it soft or whatever.” “Even my spinal doctor and the neurosurgeon who put my broken neck said the same.”

Coco-Mat USA -” check out this place for toppers and pillows! I know you asked about mattresses and they probably make them too, but my pillow from there is the best. It was an investment, but worth it.”

Double Seely from Sears – “Box spring, mattress, delivery, removal of ancient set cost less than 600 clams.

I’ve never slept better…not just the bed structure, but how nice not to go into debt for slumbering:

Duxiana

Wyndam – “wyndam that sells beds..hotels…always comfy. I would consider for my next purchase.”

Four Seasons Hotel – “sell complete sets: mattresses, sheets and duvets by Frette or Pratesi. Worth asking them.”

Keetsa

Memory Foam Mattress – Having worked years in natural medicine, with a focus on toxins, I have to say that an organic cotton (3 stack for comfort) futon mattress is the only way I go. My boys often try and steal into my bed, still, because of the comfort. Just beware…you will want to sleep all the time on such support. Our spines are best served when we mimic sleeping on the soft ground. Anything else I sleep on makes me ache, in one way or the other. When we spend a third of our lives sleeping, best to avoid such high toxins so close to our preciousness. Interested to see what you conclude. http://www.sleepjunkie.org/are-memory-foam-mattresses-safe/

Northwest Bedding Legacy 200 – “$1,000 recently on a new mattress….I see it as an investment in my health, and am very happy with my choice.” “ There’s an all natural one made from bamboo. Pricey but we never regretted it!”

Casper

Sterns and Fosterhttp://m.macys.com/shop/mattress/stearns-foster-mattress?id=25946  “I love mine” A firm Stearns and Foster with a 2″ memory foam topper to remove discomfort at pressure point

The Davenport – “delicious”

Wrights sells bed

Tuft & Cotton – $600. It was guaranteed. If after 90 days I think it was – if you don’t like it. Donate it – they will refund your money. Do your homework – there are a lot of brands out there that broke the code on overpriced mattresses. We simply Googled – what is the best mattress/why/traditional vs foam etc. there are lots of options & plans. Treat yourself to sheets too. I bought a 2000 count and felt like a queen.

Starwood properties – Don’t think twice call and get their heavenly bed same as in hotels is amaze

Saatva Mattress - They have a traditional mattress and a memory foam mattress. No showroom, you buy online. Delivery charge includes full installation. We love our memory foam mattress and wouldn’t sleep on anything else now. About 1200 for a king, 3 pieces. Very firm. The edges of the mattress are reinforced so there is no sagging if you frequently sit on the side of the bed. We’ve had ours for about a year and a half and it still feels great, no sagging, and no permanent indentations where we sleep. “I love my Satva mattress. Natural no outgassing and amazing comfort for less than mattress store prices”

Hunter and Co – organic – Savvy Brand can customize for your needs.

Vispring – Was expensive 20 years ago. All organic and natural fibers.. Mine is almost 20 years old and still wonderful. Have a list of hotels where you can test drive. FSelected this mattress because it was incredibly firm with a pillow top built in. Web site lists hotels to trial. Test drive to see if it works for you.

Tuft & Needle – Not quite memory foam – but firm and amazing. www.tuftandneedle.com

Ikea Beds – mostly organic, great varieties and super inexpensive!

Eclipse Mattress –  I love the Eclipse we bought for my mom. It’s a dream. Salesman said it’s organic or nontoxic or something too… which I never investigated just how “eco” it was… but is a nice added perk! We got a “natural seasons” http://www.eclipsemattress.com/…/perfe…/natural-seasons/

Cannot recommend it more. I can’t wait for mine to wear out so I can get one for me!

Wrights Mattress store – We just bought one from Wright’s. They use solely a bed manufacturer in Spokane. Our whole house sleeps on their beds. We just got one that they customized with an organic topper for a very reasonable cost. Message me if you want more info!

General advice on beds:

1.) Buy from a place that allows free returns, such as Mancini’s Sleep Works, because you can’t tell by lying on them in the store. 2) Get a FIRM classic innerspring bed if you have a bad back. 2) Sealy Posturepedic almost always has a model at the top of the Consumer Reports list. 3) Add a thin layer of memory foam if it’s too firm. 4) Yes, pure memory foam is too hot. We have a “hybrid” innerspring Sealy Posturepedic w some foam and I find it comfortable but sometimes too hot in the middle of the night. 5) There is no relationship between price and comfort. 6. Most mattress salesmen are full of it. 7. I really liked the salesman at Macy’s in Terra Linda/San Rafael, he was knowledgeable, informative and realistic. 8. Consumer Reports has excellent mattress ratings to help you reduce the dizzying world of choices. Pay $35 or so and use their online algorithm.

You first have to decide about broad categories: FOAM? INNERSPRING? HYBRID? BLOW UP “SLEEP NUMBER” BEDS

Hope you all enjoyed this list and got some good tips.  Now back to writing about writing, and writers, and Montana, and life…  And if you’d like to be part of my Facebook posse, follow me here!

Now Booking 2017 Haven Writing Retreats in gorgeous Whitefish, Montana!

June 7-11
June 21-25
September 6-10
September 20-24
October 4-8
October 18-22

The field of possibility...

The field of possibility…

 

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Fierce at 50

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Now booking 2017 Haven Writing Retreats!

February 22-26 (full with wait list)
June 7-11
June 21-25
September 6-10
September 20-24
 October 4-8
October 18-22

       To schedule a phone call to learn more about the retreat, go to the Contact Us button here.

I’m taking a break in the Haven Winter Blog series today to reflect on passion, power, age, and to shine a light on a new friend…

Today is the launch of #TheFierce50, a movement dedicated to women 50 and over who are thriving, creating and celebrating where they are in life.  I was selected along with a fierce group of women including Lee WoodruffKathy Kahler and Denise Austin to be among #TheFierce50. We each were paired with a fellow #Fierce50 blogger and given the honor to write about her. I was thrilled to be paired with Katheen Baty, one seriously fierce woman.  After we got off the phone (3 hours!), I wrote this piece.  Click here to read more about The Fierce50 Movement.

I turned fifty last year.  Some people say fifty is the new thirty.  What I know about being fifty, is that I have accumulated enough life experience to know some things, and to learn from them, and to find my true purpose because of them.  Unfortunately, most of the things that have brought me to this confluence of self, had to do with pain.  Is pain really gain?  Is it true that what doesn’t kill you actually makes you stronger?  I would like to think that we’d be stronger from a long walk in the woods, or lunch with a good friend, or floating on our back in the Caribbean.  But while those moments help me to be present, or to process the past and imagine the future…they’re not what has helped me find my way.  It’s the hard stuff that has.  It’s standing in the places where I feel recycled and spat out and spent, and sometimes bashed bloody from hitting walls I somehow haven’t learned don’t have doorways, that have shaken me awake to the basics of self-sustainability.

Is there a cure for this?  Maybe.  Maybe it’s passion.  Maybe it’s knowing what you love and what brings you into true delight and thirst for life…and mining that no matter what’s going on in your life.  For me, that passion has been writing.  It is what holds me together and always has.  I have said many times, “Don’t wait for the rug to get ripped out from underneath you to find your passions.  When I went through re-invention 101, I’m glad that my passions were in a row, even if my ducks weren’t.”  That’s when I wrote my way through a brutal time of my life and my career as a published author took flight, and that’s when I started my Haven Writing Retreats.  At Haven, I teach people to find their voice, their passion, their sustainability through writing, in whatever form they choose—journals, essays, books etc.  But there are other ways.

A woman who knows perhaps more about this than any of us want to, is the remarkable Kathleen Baty who for eight years underwent brutal stalking until she was finally kidnapped at gunpoint.  Did she let it take her down?  No way.  Instead she learned every possible aspect of personal safety to stay alive, worked with Law Enforcement because there were no laws at that time making stalking a crime, and eventually testified at the state and federal level to pass the Anti Stalking Laws.  Talk about turning pain into passion!

But she didn’t stop there.  She started her company, SafetyChick Enterprises, LLC in order to  change the way personal safety and crime prevention was embraced by women. Instead of marketing to fear, the SafetyChick Brand promotes strength, courage and common sense. She wants women to CARE about their safety, not run from it. She wrote two books, “A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do” (Rodale) and “College Safety 101″ (Chronicle Books)  and believes that  “Caring about your personal safety is the GREATEST Gift you can give yourself. IT is NOT about being paranoid.  It’s about being SMART and making SMART personal safety choices.  Personal Safety is Personal.  It’s what makes YOU feel comfortable at the time.  Making the decision to CARE about your personal safety translates into every aspect of your life. It makes you a better mother, friend, coworker, whatever, because you are living with purpose.”

What if, then, as young women and men, we fastened this lesson to our hearts:  Being passionate for our safety first is our bottom line non-negotiable.  Maybe then, pain wouldn’t have to be gain.  And walls would become doors, and pain would become passion and possibility.  And I’d like to think that a little writing along the way helps…

#thefierce50 

 

 

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The Merrier Me

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When laughing didn’t hurt…

Like a lot of people this weekend
who opted to tuck in front of the fire in lieu of holiday parties, I watched Rudolph, which always stresses me out and I’m not sure why I go, “awwwwwwwwww” when I see it’s going to be on television because that abominal snowmonster still freaks me out and all those sad toys with Rankin Bass puppet mouths, and then Frosty (ditto—he melts!  A little girl cries next to the puddle once known as his former self, and there’s a cloying bad guy that he can’t shake with a weird rabbit helper—I forget what happens in the end.  I think he moves to Brooklyn.)

download (1)And then the healing began.  Mary Poppins.  Two hours of Mary and Bert and tuppence and votes for women and evening govnah and magic umbrellas and bottomless carpet bags and sidewalk chalk painting portals into barber shop penguins and carousels with real horses and hilarious helium tea on the ceiling and and and.  Even though she leaves them in the end and they all have to find their inner Mary Poppins.download

The only thing of it is:  I laughed.  And that is a physical response to emotions I haven’t let myself feel for two months.  The who what when where why how of it has to do with a horse and my tendency to act over-confident when I’m scared.  And a loose cinch.  In short, he zigged, I zagged.  Bottom line:  if you’re going to ride horses, you’re going to end up on the ground sometimes.  You just hope you don’t hear actual bones cracking.  Three of them.  Ribs.

If you’ve broken a rib, you are now making the face I make when I see the abominal snowmonster.
download (2)It suuuuuuucks.  Breaths are reduced to small sips, coughing and sneezing are a delicacy you can only succumb to if you can’t not, sighing is not recommended, sleeping in any position at all is nearly unattainable (I seriously almost bought a recliner and put it in the living room), talking with any animation is ish-y, singing is better left to a dull hum, crying—meh…and laughter?  Laughter is verboten, like the Burgermeister Meisterburger has some sort of hold on you.

You know that kind of laughter that happens at weddings and funerals and graduation speeches that you can’t control?  It has total occupation of your diaphragm?  Well, that’s one of my central goals in life.  That kind of belly-womping primordial caccination.  With snorts in-between.  If you can’t breath deeply, you can’t pull it off, not by any stretch.  So you have a choice:  Laugh your way into scar tissue that will remind you of your stupid horse tricks for the rest of your life when you climb a ladder or reach for your shoes.  Or go deadpan.  Poker face.  In short, I’ve been officially depressed.  I lead retreats.  I needed to go on one.  Just not in my bed for two months, groaning.bdd9bf5f53c4df963b2e91e3a5b2e939

And now that it’s the holidaze, the Kay jewelers people don’t help.  Or those Folgers ads.  Or all the perfect Facebook Christmas trees.  Or the families in matching sweaters on my Christmas cards.  Or the fact that I haven’t gotten a Christmas card out this year and probably won’t.  In my mind, it’s still October.  Thanksgiving hasn’t even happened.  I’m finally going out for a ride on my horse after a grueling fall work schedule.  I’m tired.  I feel sorry for myself.  And I’m going to do something nice for myself, damnit.  He jigged.  I jagged.  And I watched fall become winter from my bed for the most part of two months.

But I’m not writing this to complain.  I’m writing all of this to say that I now know what gratitude really means.  Bless you, cup of tea that took me twenty minutes to make, including the hard launch from bed– the roll, the sidle, the squirm, the shuffle, the sit, and the big one:  the stand…the walk…and the stairs…the stairs, the pick up the tea pot, the fill it with water, the ow ow ow ow ow all the way back up the stairs, back to sit, to the slow timber back into the pillows.  Oh.  And then there’s the tea.  Waaaaaaay over there on the nightstand, a century of inches away.  “Forget it.  Let it get cold.  I’ve just done the Iditorod.”  And there she lay.  Watching the sun move around the house and the moon rise, and all of her responsibilities fall like the leaves she never got to on the lawn, and the snow that’s coming, that came, and all the people she’ll have to ask to help her do simple things and all the shame around one stupid moment on a horse that she was planning on riding every day for eight straight weeks of much-needed horse therapy.  Her new craving:  Epsom salts.  And oh, that cold cup of tea.  If only someone would come in with a fresh steaming cup and fold her laundry…  Still, I have never been more grateful for just being able to get up and make the tea, never mind drink it.

That said, all that woe-is-me managed to loop itself around to a world of hurt that I’ve never experienced before.  I’ve never taken anti-depressants, and for the first time, I seriously considered it.  And then, just as I was thinking this would be my permanent world…I caught myself laughing at something on Jimmy Fallon.  And it hurt…so good.  And I realized what was really wrong.  It wasn’t the horselessness or the shame or the frustration or even the pain.  It was the lack of laughter in my life.  Without laughter, I was living in a colorless world of fair-to-middling.  I had untrained myself out of delight.  Joy.  Unabashed explosions of glee.  And it had to stop.  I am a laugher.  No matter what.  I needed to get back on that horse.  (The other one can wait.)

So on Saturday night, in my eighth week of recovery, my ribs more mended than not, with permission from Mary Poppins and her tea-time wack-wonkery, I let myself laugh.  Ecstatic laughing.  In hee hee hees and hoh hoh hohs and hah hah hahs.  It made LOL look like mere titter.  And man…did it feel good.  My whole being felt light and alive in a way it hasn’t for far too long.  I am so grateful for this simple and essential human ability.  I love to laugh, indeed.  Laughter really is the best medicine.  LOLOLOLOLOLOL!

Now Booking Haven Writing Retreats 2017

February 22-26 (one spot left)
June 7-11
June 21-25
September 6-10
September 20-24
October 4-8
October 18-22

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***According to Mayo clinic laughter is just what the doctor ordered!

***PS.  In all that lying around, I did manage to write 150 pages of a book.  So there’s that.  #grateful

 

 

 

 

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Haven Health Series #6

These next two recipes were designed to refresh and root your creativity, leaving you invigorated and connected.

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We are fully booked  for our 2016 Haven Writing Retreat calendar and now booking for 2017!

Next Haven: February 22-26

To schedule a phone call to learn more, go to the Contact Us button here.

Self-care.  That word scares me.  Maybe it scares you too.  It sounds hard.  It doesn’t have to be.  I invite us to start with some simple things.  Like a walk in the woods.  Like homemade bone soup that’s been simmering on the stove for twelve hours.  Like Epsom salt baths with eucalyptus and a Mexican cocoa candle.  Like essential oils of clary sage, frankincense, and wild orange by your bed.  Like Arnica salve, infused from the forest floor.  Like early mornings in bed with your journal.  And some very excellent beverages along the way that are as healing as they are delicious:  like ginger tea, like guava kombucha, like rooibos muddled with mint over ice.

These custom drinks are designed by master mixologist, Meagan Schmoll of Whitefish, Montana, to help your state of being in the way that you so desire.  And they are alcohol free.  

Enjoy!  yrs.  Laura

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Recipe #1 - INVIGORATE

“Rooted Like Trees”

2 oz Green *Strong Tea*

1 oz Fresh Apple Juice

0.75 oz Fresh Pear Juice

0.50 oz Celery Stalk Juice

0.50 oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice

0.50 oz Maple Syrup Grade B

1/2 Capful of Apple Cider Vinegar

*Strong Tea*

3 tea bags or 9 grams of Green Tea 

8 oz Boiling water

Let steep for 20 Minutes

Remove Tea and let cool

RootedLikeTrees_001   Add ingredients into a pint glass.

   Add ice.

   Place shaker tin on top of pint glass giving it a firm tap.

   Turn it over so the tin is in your bottom hand and the pint glass is in      your top hand.

Shake it, shake it real good.

Strain from large tin into a tall ice filled some refer to this particular glass as a collins.

Garnish with an Apple Fan and Celery Stalk with leaves on it.

Enjoy and the invigorating feeling of Rooted Like Trees.

Recipe #2 - REFRESH

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Bhimbetka Jig 

2 oz Peppermint *Strong Tea*

1 oz Fresh Watermelon Juice

0.5 oz Raw Amber Agave

0.25 oz Balsamic – Genesis Traditional Balsamic highly recommended.

6 Blueberrys muddled

Top Ginger Beer – Glacier Ginger Brewing highly recommended

*Strong Tea*

3 tea bags or 9 grams of Peppermint Tea 

8 oz Boiling water

Let steep for 20 Minutes

Remove Tea and let cool.

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Place Blueberries and Agave in pint glass will do, Muddle a few times so the juice of the blue berries mixes with the agave. Add remaining ingredients.

Add ice.

Place shaker tin on top of pint glass giving it a firm tap.

Turn it over so the larger, shaker tin is in your bottom hand and the pint glass is in your top hand.

Shake what your mama gave you.

Strain from the pint glass into an ice filled Copper Mug & top with the Glacier Ginger Beer.

 

Pick a couple of Mint Sprigs, brush or slap them against your hand allowing the aroma to come out.

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Place in the copper mug so you when taking sips your nose gets to be buried in it.

Smell, drink and feel refreshed with the Bhimbetka Jig!

 

Photo credits: Katy Bell

Drink credits:  Meagan Schmoll

Instagram @katybellkaty @lmschmoll #RaskolDrink #embellishpictures

Facebook: Katy Bronwyn Bell, Raskol Drink, Meagan Schmoll

 

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Haven Health Series #5

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As a writer, I often forget to eat.  Having simple food around…brings everything into sync.  

Here is some love from Haven Writing Retreats.  Enjoy!

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We have just one more space left on our 2016 Haven Writing Retreat calendar!

October 5-9 (full)

October 19-23 (one space left!!!)

Our next Haven Writing Retreat is:

February 22-26 (now booking)

To schedule a phone call to learn more about the retreat,

go to the Contact Us button here.

One of the things I care about most is helping to change the tortured artist paradigm into the empowered artist reality.  So much of this has to do with self-awareness in the way we think, and that must be prominent in our relationship with food.  I like meat.  I like cheese.  I really really like wine.  When I lead my Haven Writing Retreats in Montana, the ranch which hosts us requires that we eat vegan.  (#ellendegeneres)  In general, I’m a healthy eater.  I like to be able to recognize whatever is in the ingredients of the food I buy and prepare.  Whole foods are my go to.  But before every retreat there’s a part of me that worries about going vegan for five days.  Writing can be hard work, and the idea of at least some toast with butter to comfort the muse is a thought pattern that I rely on probably more than I should, when there are good old fashioned vegetables in my refrigerator.  

At first, whether it’s psychological or physical, I feel a little like s**t.  Not gonna lie.  I seem to not know how to fully function without at least chicken, or salmon, or mayo.  My body doesn’t look at kale and salivate like it does for the steak I vow I’m going to eat the second I get home.  And then, every time, I find myself being grateful for every leafy green, every berry, every nut.  And I start to love the non-creature-given vegan diet.  Crave it, even.  And, well (you don’t want to know), my whole system starts to bow at the altar of it.  

As with cultivating every new habit, writing included, I believe it’s best to go slowly, carefully, naturally, kindly, and with ease.  A simple dressing is a good place to start.

 

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GREEN GODDESS DRESSING *by Emma Love* one of our Haven Writing Retreat chefs.  “Best with lots of parsley!”

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 Thanks to Emma Love at Love Uprising, her photos, and her recipes.  But mostly her love!  Her food literally vibrates with it!

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Emma in the garden, gathering our Haven dinner!

Emma in the garden, gathering our Haven dinner!

 

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