Let’s Do Lunch: Tartines are one of my favorite foods to eat in Paris, yes, but also in my own home. And while I’ll never forsake grilled cheese, I do love both styles of sandwich; they make for such quick-and-easy, vegetarian-friendly fare! And they’re delicious! Here are some great recipes, perfect for a late Saturday lunch tomorrow afternoon: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/08/dining/grilled-cheese-try-a-tartine-recipe-instead.html
Social Psychology & The Dinner Plate: Interesting article from Psychology Today covering Paul Rozin’s research on the psychology of nutrition: http://www.psychologytoday.com/collections/201409/food-and-mood/the-psychology-nutrition?tr=HomeColItem
Happy to Hug: As a serial hugger, I was stunned to read about people who are so hug-averse that they will actually tell their students “don’t touch me.” But I agree that most people are, as the article notes, coming out of the “don’t hug” bubble – and are receiving affection with open arms. (Friday Fun: check out the funny Channing Tatum video that the article references) http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/28/fashion/the-bro-hug-embracing-a-change-in-custom.html?ref=fashion&smid=tw-nytstyles&_r=0
Trusting Your Movements: Do you engage in any of the four “subtle gestures” that, according to the MIT media lab, read as “untrustworthy?” If so, take note, and practice stopping these behaviors in order to avoid having others judge you based on unconscious movements. http://www.inc.com/sims-wyeth/4-gestures-that-turn-people-off-guess-what-they-are.html?cid=ps01902lead
If you’d like to watch a short video about this research, click here: http://hbr.org/video/3166586123001/trustworthy-signals
Walk with Me: Did you really need another reason to go outside and breathe in the gorgeous autumn air? You did? Okay! Here it is! According to the University of Michigan – and all parents who tell their kids to get outside and play with some friends – “group walks in nature are linked to with significantly lower depression, less perceived stress and enhanced mental health and well-being.” Now, off the couch and out you go! Have a great weekend!
The other day, my friend, Elaina, and I were coloring at the kitchen table with her two little girls. We had a stack of coloring books, but were also tearing through a pile of computer paper to draw designs. “Pretty colors,” her four-year-old said, as she looked at my drawing. I noticed that the colors that I gravitate to have been the same for many years, and I lamented that, while I can custom-order bags full of whatever color M&Ms I desire, I can’t custom order a box of new crayons with more than four colors*. (As you likely guessed, based on my new-school-supply-fueled love of fall, I adore a brand new box of Crayons.)
“What colors would you want?” asked Elaina. “These ones,” I said. “Black, silver, turquoise, purple, magenta, some kind of bright green, that robin’s egg color. Definitely a lot of black and silver crayons, not just one each. How about you?” “All pink,” she said. “Every color of pink that they have.”
Although it may be some time before we can realize our pipe dream of an entire 96-count box of couture crayons (Are you there, Crayola, it’s me, Jessica!?), we can reap the benefits of coloring more often – and we needn’t wait until a rainy day forces the munchkins indoors for a few hours. Coloring is an amazing way to relax and check in with our creative “side” (which, as we know, is always around, but often neglected).
I spent last year counseling patients in a hospital. Upon my arrival onsite, I was pleased to find that the majority of the patients were coloring every day. They did this for stress relief, for a distraction, sometimes, just for fun. These patients, who spent almost the entire day in group or individual counseling, who were struggling, fighting to find comfort in their lives and in themselves, found solace in coloring in the printed copies of mandalas that were neatly organized in folders at the nursing station. Some colored during sessions that upset them, using the tactile and visual sensations almost as a type of grounding. Others used coloring to block out the noise in the waiting area, while some used coloring in order to draw gifts for their peers. The coloring calmed them, helped them to relax, and it also provided a sense of satisfaction when they completed a beautiful picture.
Coloring is for everyone. Those feelings – of calm, of relaxation, of satisfaction – can be had by all of us. Recently, an article in Huffington Post Spain was translated to English for the US site, and began making the Facebook post rounds. I was hardly surprised to read the author’s assertion that coloring “generates wellness, quietness, and… stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses, and creativity.” And according to an Artnet article, the fact that coloring may remind us of our childhood may be comforting as well.
Recently, during dinner with my fiancé, I mused aloud that restaurants should provide crayons and paper for grownups, not just for patrons under 10. While I’ve never understood how people can sit through a meal silently, I am aware that the tables of those who dine around us are often quiet, and though I’m hard-pressed to find a situation in which I have nothing to say, I know that some meals would benefit from an icebreaker of sorts. Think about how much fun a first date would be if you could scribble on a piece of paper or show off your flower-drawing skills! How relaxing it would be to come home from work and decompress by filling in a beautiful design! (Glass of wine optional.)
Years ago, when I was having a tough week, my friend, Melissa, suggested that I buy a paint-by-numbers kit at Michael’s. “It will distract you,” she said, “but also help you to focus.” I thought it sounded like a silly plan, but I was intrigued. Off I went, through the fake flower aisles, and selected a “painting” of an underwater seascape. Once I finished my masterpiece, I promptly tossed it in the trash, but the important part had happened already: I had allowed myself a few hours each night to focus on color and light, to stay within the lines at a time when it felt like everything was out of control. Time passed quickly and my focus helped me to both zone out, and be present, at the same time.
Coloring does the same thing, minus the embarrassment of letting the woman at the Michael’s register know that, for the next few weeks, you’ll be using paints #9, #13, and #22 to try to recreate a Van Gogh. Give it a try sometime soon. You can pick up a respectable 96-color Crayola box at any CVS, and I dare you not to smile when you open it up. While you may not get to select only your very favorite colors, just having a rainbow of possibility at hand should be a good shot of beauty for the day.
*Please note that while I am grateful to be able to make a 64-count box filled with 16 each of my 4 favorite colors, I would prefer to be able to choose, say, 4 each of my favorite 16 colors. If I wanted to get Elaina a box of “every pink” from the 64 crayon color line, I would need to choose at least 14 pinks.
There is a quote that I have always loved. It was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, and I always think of it during mid-October, on the days when I try to rationalize not wearing a coat and then wish that I had decided to bring it along:
“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
I have always loved the fall season. This may have started with my passion for new school supplies – untouched notebooks, freshly sharpened pencils – and I would imagine that it developed further when I reached the age where fall also meant new riding boots, trips with friends to go apple picking, and long drives through the changing foliage. I’ve had the good fortune to live in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and now, North Carolina. Fall is deeply engrained in me; Northeastern seasons seem as much a part of life as bedtime or my birthday. Even here, “down South,” the leaves are beginning to change colors. The breeze is no longer warm and languid, but brisk and chilly. Walking our puppy requires a sweatshirt and closed-toed shoes. Yesterday, I dropped off three coats at the dry cleaner and was told that they’d be ready very soon because “it’s time for a warm coat.”
I’m thrilled that it’s time for a coat, that autumn is in full swing. There is something special about the fall. It is a chilly respite from the relentless heat of summer and it is undeniably the most gorgeous of seasons, with even a short drive to the store turning into a photo opportunity. Every tree displays itself like a peacock, preening and posing in an effort to outdo the rich displays of its neighbors. It is the botanical version of keeping up with the Jones’, though much more palatable to watch. But unlike spring, where the relief from the cold turns to lush, feral growth, fall gives way to a grueling cycle of snow and of cold. Were it not for the clever punctuation of holidays focused on the warmth of family and friends, the winter season might be wholly unbearable; fall is then, in some ways, a harbinger of gloom.
And so it is interesting that it should feel as though life has begun again in the fall. One might easily say that life is just about to wind down, to freeze over. That fall is sunset, then dusk; the difficult knowledge that what is so bright and beautiful will pass too soon. But instead, fall, with its melancholy beauty, its pre-frost swansong, snaps us out of the laze and lethargy of hot summer days. It sends us back into the classroom, necessitates socks, and shoes with laces, calls for warm drinks and, yes, new notebooks.
Fall requires an element of grit from each of us. It requires the pluck and wherewithal to shake off the sand and salt air of the previous season in order to prepare ourselves for the coming trip around the sun. Fall is both potential and preservation. It requires scarves and gloves, the padding of jackets, but more than that, it requires the padding of spirit. In exchange for this, it provides beauty and perfect Saturdays, pumpkin lattes and Thanksgiving.
The thing is, just like fall, every day – each morning – requires something of us. Each day requires grit and fortitude and the tenacity to begin again.
Life starts all over again in the fall, but it starts all over again every morning, too. Every day rewards us with beauty in return for our willingness to rise to the challenge. The trick is to see the beauty through the chaos or confusion of the day, to allow ourselves to be governed, not by the loss of what was or the fear of what is to come, but the perfect knowledge that we are, as we should be, in season.
*This essay was inspired by an open letter that I wrote to the students in my Fall 2012 Positive Psychology course at Johns Hopkins University. Thank you to them, and to all of my students, for being a year-round inspiration.
Amazing Graze: I’m a big fan of grazing, often because then I get to taste a little of everything. Yesterday’s grazing included kimchi, a piece of muenster cheese, leftover alphabet soup, and some Talenti pistachio gelato (of course, every day should include gelato). In this article from The Guardian, Amy Fleming explores why we love to graze. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2014/sep/30/grazing-underrated-way-to-eat
Off the Ranch: When I do sit down for a full meal (which is usually twice a day, though I’m slowing coming around to this “breakfast” thing), I often like to start with a big salad. But putting the wrong dressing on a salad can really ruin a good thing. To save your greens, here is a great article from Bon Appetit on how to build dressings for any salad. It does leave out my favorite for argula, however: an easy mix of olive oil, lemon juice, and freshly grated parmesan (like this): http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/cooking-tips/article/how-to-dress-any-salad-green
Grande Social Inspo: Every so often, I get a Facebook update from someone I do not know. Clearly, I did know them once or, perhaps more accurately, I met them at some point, but their name rings no bells. I’m happy to hear that they’ve just become an uncle/run a marathon/made spaghetti for dinner, but our relationship really begins and ends there. Not this guy! When he realized he didn’t really know most of his Friend list, he decided to have coffee dates with everyone on it. Wishing him the best of luck and hoping he works in a few herbal teas to avoid the caffeine rush I used to get after long days of coffee with students. And while we don’t all need to schedule 1,000 visits to Starbucks, let’s all use this as “Social-Inspo” to put down our iPhones more often in order to focus on the people (who are or could be) sitting across from us. http://elitedaily.com/news/world/guy-getting-coffee-facebook-friends/776773/?utm_source=huffingtonpost.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=pubexchange
The Danger of Un-rest: From The Atlantic, an important piece on the dangers of not being able to afford sleep: how our bodies are impacted by long-term sleep deprivation, and why those working grueling schedules are especially at risk. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/09/when-you-cant-afford-sleep/380128/
Rides for Recyclabes: Brilliant idea in Beijing subways: rides for recyclables. Given that Beijing citizens are apparently better at recycling than most other city’s residents, it would be terrific to see this implemented in other locations: http://www.notimpossiblenow.com/the-latest/beijing-recycling-incentives-subway
Oh – and also… We got a puppy! Introducing OLLIE!
It’s true, that Charles Schulz quote. Happiness IS a warm puppy.
A warm puppy is also exhaustion, chaos, and a lot of carpet cleaner.
But mostly, happiness.
If I’ve not posted recently, please be assured that it is not at all due to a lack of interest in this blog. The past few weeks have just been especially eventful, chaotic, and somewhat challenging, but overall, they’ve been good.
I had a shoulder biopsy (results: tests came back good; healing: slow); a massive allergic reaction to bug bites on my left foot which led to my foot swelling to twice its normal size (results: Halloween-esque, and I needed to use crutches for the first time as I could not stand on the foot; healing: today is my last day of antibiotics!); and being dive-bombed by hundreds of mosquitos a week later (results: more swelling, more Benedryl; healing: lengthy – I’m grateful that Fall has brought jeans and long sleeves).
But there was a lot of great stuff peppered in there, too! As always, it’s important to look through the challenges to find the positive. Even though I had to show up on crutches, wearing a high heel on my right foot and a man’s sock on my left (not the most lovely look), I had the pleasure of presenting at Prudential Finance’s Annual Finance Learning Exchange. This was my second year in a row presenting, and I was happy to have been asked back after last year’s lecture. Prudential asked me to create a new presentation on the topic of positive communication, and I had a terrific time during both days.
Due to my ER visit and medicine-overload, however, I was unable to stay at the conference hotel as planned, and instead stayed with my parents 90 minutes away in NY. Thanks to my incredibly kind and accommodating Mom, who changed all of her plans around, this meant a ladies’ road trip – 3 hours of driving each day, for 2 days – to and from New Jersey. Although I did not enjoy having to change icepacks every 30 minutes and I may have been a bit woozy due to meds, I had a rare and beautiful opportunity to spend two full days with my Mom, with no technological distractions or To Dos.
AND I was only attacked by giant swarms of mosquitos because I had the good fortune to be in Galveston, Texas for a weekend. While our post-rainstorm timing was good for sunny skies and warm weather, it did lead to swarms of determined mosquitos unlike any I’ve ever encountered! But it was great to see Galveston, and to also spend a few days in Houston.
So there you go. Every cloud, a lining; every bug bite, a chance to visit with my mom.
Now I’m armed with calamine lotion and my laptop, and am happy to be back home, back to work, and back at the blog. Hope your week is going well – and I look forward to posting again soon!