Andi Winter

Writer, Reader, Tea Drinker, Chrononaut

Three for Thursday

Man, it’s been a hell of a week. A screwball schedule combined with some of the strangest summer weather we’ve seen in the Portland area in years*, has me feeling all discombobulated.

So here’s what is helping me get through this week:

1. What I’m reading: First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen. You know you’re reading a thorough biography when the author doesn’t get to the birth of the biographee until page 30. Seriously. Because we needed to go over the history of the Armstrong family name (it’s Scottish), and the history of Neil’s great-grandparents, and then his grandparents, and then his parents before they met each other. But I’m learning about Neil (can I call him that? I feel like I’m getting to know him pretty well), and I’m impressed. Getting your pilot’s license before your driving license? Getting into MIT, but choosing to go to Purdue? Playing in a ‘military’ band** to fulfill ‘military’ course credit for a Navy scholarship? Brilliant.

2. What I’m eating: Kettle Brand Kettle-style BBQ Potato Chips. I never liked BBQ chips before: they were too sweet and smoky and just plain funky.*** These are addictive. In fact, I just ate a whole bowl of them. I think. Or maybe the house elves were snacking on them as well when I wasn’t looking. Bad house elves.

3. What I’m drinking: Sunriver Brewing’s Fuzztail Hefeweizen. It reminds me of Rogue Ale’s Honey Orange Wheat, but with less orange (i.e. none)****. Honestly, it’s a perfect summer beer. And I must say, it goes very nicely with Kettle BBQ potato chips.

And now, back to enjoying a fine summer evening. At last.

###

*There was “Juneuary” a year or two back, which saw June all cool and rainy. Lately (by which I mean the past month and a half) it’s been again cool and rainy, to the point of seeming more like winter than proper summer. My basil plants are wilting in the overcast damp chill. Today was the first day in awhile that was actually sunny, and even somewhat warm. Huzzah!

**He played baritone horn—the same horn I played in college marching band. We’re kindred spirits!

***Funky in a bad way. Not funky in a good way, like Earth, Wind, and Fire.

****Sunriver describes it as having grapefruit and lemon notes, so there is a citrus commonality.

Today’s haiku

sleeping fox

one day I’m moving
building shelves, tearing down walls
the next — unconscious

—on monthly energy swings

Permission granted

The other day I stumbled across a relatively new book on meditation. With a title like Bliss More: How to Succeed in Meditation Without Really Trying, I figured I had to give it a try.

I mean, why wouldn’t you try it? With emotional well-being benefits* like:

  • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
  • Building skills to manage your stress
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Focusing on the present
  • Reducing negative emotions
  • Increasing imagination and creativity
  • Increasing patience and tolerance

And then add to that meditation’s ability to help manage:

  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sleep problems
  • Tension headaches

Oh, and it’s free. Why wouldn’t you want to meditate?

I wanted to—desperately wanted to—but I struggled with it. I’ve tried Zen meditation, mindfulness meditation, and some other flavors, but I never came out of it with a happy, blissful surfer-like experience. More often I was tired, my back ached from sitting up straight, and I spent my time so focused on not thinking** that all I could do was chastise myself for thinking, which was more thinking with an added dollop of a feeling of failure.

Awesome.

The practice advocated in this book turns all of that on its head.

What if you were comfortable when you meditated? What if you were encouraged to look at a clock whenever you started wondering about the time? What if you accepted your thoughts as completely natural***, and not Dastardly Enemies to avoid or destroy? What if meditating were actually easy?

Like I said. Radical ideas.

So here’s the meditation technique:

  1. Sit comfortably (with back support)****
  2. Use an easy-to-see timing device (not an alarm)
  3. Calculate your finish time (10-20 minutes)
  4. Close your eyes
  5. Passively think the sound “ahhhhh-hummmm”
  6. Let yourself simultaneously get lost in your thoughts
  7. When you remember that you’re meditating, passively begin thinking “ah-hum” again
  8. Peek freely and often at the time
  9. Once you’re done, wait a minute or two before opening your eyes
  10. Come out slowly

Thre prescription is to ideally, meditate 2x a day (upon awakening, and in afternoon/early evening), and no more than that.

Easy peasy.

I’ve tried it a couple times so far, and so far it feels odd to have permission to let my mind ramble with no curbing it. To sit back and relax, and not keep adjusting my posture and thinking about the position of my head or the ache in my knees.

Just the idea of not trying is a revelation. No effort.

Permission granted to just sit.

Amazing.

###

*Source: Mayo Clinic

**Yeah, try to have no thoughts. And no get caught up in, “Darn thoughts! Why won’t you go away? I’m meditating here!”

***Even the ones you are embarrassed to think.

****How would you sit if you were watching TV? Yeah, do that.

Today’s haiku

nutella toastsign on the highway:

“Spread love thick like Nutella”

—true words to live by

Calm is contagious

I recently started taking a yoga class* and I’m finding it fascinating. There is the immediate attention grabbers, like noticing one hip is significantly tighter than the other or that my flexibility isn’t quite what I thought. And then there are the deeper attention grabbers that work on a more profound level.

Slow down.

Breathe.

There is nothing/no one to compete with.

The instructor is different from the yoga video instructors I’m used to. While she has a similar mellow, relaxing tone of voice, and she is encouraging (“Beautiful!” as we assume a widely diverse execution of downward dog poses), she is not that flexible.

I’m used to Rodney Yee and Barbara Benagh who can tie themselves in knots, with the most serene expressions on their faces as they look off into the Grand Canyon or the beaches of Antigua.

My instructor does what she can in a conference room and says, “Well, it looks like my Tree pose will be down here today,” as she places the sole of her foot against her lower calf.**

The matter-of-fact way that she accepts where her body is in that moment is refreshing, and inspiring.

We move slowly through the few poses. There is no rush, no pressure to perform a perfect or idealized form. I only notice the other students when I check to make sure that my outstretched leg won’t hit theirs.

But the true gift of the class is coming out of it calm. I’m not a zombie or in any way unconscious. I’m just relaxed. My legs aren’t in a hurry to get me to the next place, my mind isn’t racing furiously about from topic to topic.

I’m just doing the next thing.

Calm.***

Which feels really good.

###

*As in going to a live class. This is different from videos and books, oddly enough.

**Yee and Benagh would have their heels up in their crotches for Tree pose.

***Today’s Daily Stoic reading is “Calm is contagious”, and is an excellent reminder.

Today’s haiku

falcon flyingsoaring overhead

the falcon rides the thermals

lazy summer day

-with the extreme heat we’re seeing, the thermals must have been amazing

Three for Thursday

Here are three things I’m loving right now*:

  1. What I’m reading: Kindle Paperwhite—The only reason I got a Kindle was to read War and Peace. Seriously. There was no way I was going to be able to read the paper version, by which I mean ‘hold up as I lay in bed without the tome smashing into my face’. The Kindle performed admirably**, and then proved itself again on trips where its built-in light was so very handy late at night when I couldn’t sleep and didn’t want to wake my husband by turning on a lamp. And now it’s been great for downloading library books.
  2. What I’m wearing: Fitbit Alta—I got it to help track my sleep, but its been far more useful as a pedometer. Took it on our recent trip to New York City/Washington, DC***, and I’m pretty sure it lied to me because I KNOW we walked way more than it was stating. Still, it’s been good to me. Besides, I like to swap out the wristband with the seasons.****
  3. What I’m drinking: Tension Tamer Tea—Did I mention some stress lately? As much as a strong drink would be awesome, I can’t exactly imbibe during the workday*****, so I turn to this Blessed Tea Relief from Celestial Seasonings. They must put some sort of mood-altering herbal in it because it definitely smooths the stress out. Lovely.

Now back to the writing…

###

*Because I’m in need to looking at the bright side, since the weight of looming deadlines has things looking just a wee bit dark lately.

**Especially with the built-in dictionary, so I could look up all sorts of ancient cannon terms with the touch of a finger.

***More to come about that trip.

****Currently rocking a fuchsia band. The black was too gloomy for summer.

*****Whatever happened to the corporate wet bar?

Today’s haiku

blackberries and vinesThought friend was joking:

“You gotta beat back nature”

-ah, the blackberries

 

 

Romance novels: sappy or empowering?

I grew up with historical romance novels*, and then read a ton of Harlequin Silhouette romance novels in college**. After graduating and becoming “an adult,” I started reading “real” books***, and saw no need to ever read a romance novel again. They were mindless brain candy, and I was more mature than that.

Apparently I’ve regressed.

I can’t remember why, or how, I started reading romances again—too many YA dystopian novels? too much violence against women in Game of Thrones****?—but I found an escape that felt good and hadn’t realized that I had missed.

Still, I felt embarrassed to be seen reading romance novels, regardless of how well-written they were (or even if their covers did NOT scream romance) because, well, they’re romances. Chick lit. Silly fantasies. Definitely not something that an educated, intelligent person should read*****.

Then I came across this post by fellow author Alex Kourvo, and I began to rethink some things:

The Novels We Need Right Now

Maybe it’s okay to read something that makes you hopeful, that makes the world seem a little brighter, and that brings a smile to your face. And what’s wrong with a happy ending? After all, Much Ado About Nothing is a classic, and as Nora Roberts points out, everybody ends up happy.

If you haven’t read a romance novel, give one a try. I recommend Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen for those who want a “real” book (it’s a classic for a reason), but who also want to dip their toes in the romance genre******.

Looking for more suggestions? I’ll give my romance recommendations in an upcoming post.

Are you a romance reader, or a romance avoider? Let me know in the comments.

###

*Like Kathleen Woodiwiss (A Rose in Winter was my favorite book in high school and Ashes in the Wind formed my understanding of the American Civil War.)

**Instead of the gigantic chocolate chip cookies they sold at the campus store, I would reward myself with “just a chapter” from a Harelequin Silhouette romance novel. Which usually turned into two chapters, then three (they were so short!), until I had finished the novel and found myself having to finish my term paper at 1 am.

***Like Sophie’s World (amazing) and Outlander (stayed up all night with that one).

****FWIW, I loved the first novel, and I enjoyed the first season of the TV series, but after awhile the violence against women just depressed me, as much as I adored Tyrion and Arya.

*****To be fair, I have read a considerable number of classics in recent years, including War and Peace and Moby Dick (both of which I enjoyed).

******For more of a paranormal mystery, give Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte a shot. But at all costs skip Wuthering Heights by a disturbed Emily Bronte (unless you’re into abusive relationships, and that’s not romance).

Today’s haiku

monster rhododendronkernels on the branch

monster rhododendron blooms

like fuchsia popcorn

Page 1 of 15

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén