Where I’ve Been

I missed blogging last week—and I almost missed it again this week. I’m so sorry, to those who were waiting for my weekly post.

As you may recall from previous blog posts, I’ve discovered a new hobby, and it’s quickly turned into a major stress reliever. (That’s what hobbies are for, right?) After taking a free art class on Craftsy.com, I discovered the niche world of art journaling—the craft of elaborately decorating journals, planners and notebooks through mixed media. And I’ve been hooked ever since. So much that it has become my go-to after a long, demanding, exhausting day at work. Continue reading

Ode to the “Staycation”

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The happiness and relaxation that I felt immediately upon rising today has translated into so many other things, creativity being one of them.

When you take time off from work and the heat index is well over 100 degrees, as it has been here in northern Virginia these days, some people leave town. They go to the beach, retreat into the mountains, or migrate up north to drier, cooler air. I’m not “some people.” I decided to stay home and have a “staycation.” (It also doesn’t hurt that I love where I live and don’t consider being at home a bad thing.) Continue reading

3 Apps to Help You Meditate, Unwind, and Fall Asleep

We’ve all been there. It’s midnight, and you can’t fall asleep, but you know you have to soon because you have an important day at work tomorrow. Or worse yet, it’s 3 a.m. and you’re wide awake, anxious about the impending alarm that will sound off in just a matter of hours. Before you know it, you’re stressing out about falling asleep, and any effort to catch some Zzz’s becomes counterproductive. What on earth can you do to still your mind and ultimately your body?

There are three apps I alternate among during such moments of panic. Here’s what I like about each of them: Continue reading

Four Lessons I’ve Learned from a Week with the Flu

It really did take me by surprise. I knew I was going at an accelerated pace since the start of the new year, but it wasn’t non-stop like it was before. There was that nice long break between Christmas Eve and the first working day of the new year; there was the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and the day off for the presidential inauguration. So when I came down with a horrendous cough, sore throat, laryngitis and complete exhaustion, frustration was the first thing I felt.

I was frustrated that my ridiculous pace of life had been interrupted. I was frustrated by the fact that I didn’t recover after one day of working from home and even more frustrated when there was little improvement after a day working from home and a day at home not working and resting. Why wasn’t I getting better?

The fact of the matter was, one does not get better by simply working from home versus working in the office (because at the end of the day, work is work and your body is pretty much put through the same washer cycle no matter where your office is), nor is one day of complete rest enough to recover from the flu, even if you did get your flu shot. It finally hit me today, on Day 3 of Being Sick, that recovery requires complete dedication of the mind and body, in order to occur.

So as I have been confined to the bed with little energy to do more than watch BBC nature documentaries and nap, I have also learned four valuable lessons that I should transfer to my daily life, even during my healthy days: Continue reading

Simply Being (Self Care and a Sunday Evening Reset)

If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. 

— Inflight passenger announcement

This weekend I have done absolutely nothing noteworthy. I didn’t go out, I didn’t meet friends, I saw no interesting movies, read no fascinating books, and engaged in no intriguing discussions. With the exception of about one hour of telework that I needed to complete on Saturday, I indulged in guilty pleasures both on Netflix and through my reading material choices; I tried to eat healthy (didn’t always succeed); and made it to the gym each day (a small victory that I’ll take). But other than that, this weekend has been a total reset for me, both physically and mentally, and it continues to this very moment, right now on a Sunday night.

Continue reading

Minimalism and the Day after Christmas

I think I’m starting to understand the meaning of minimalism. Yes, it’s about being able to live with less, but no, it doesn’t necessarily mean having to live with the bare minimum. Yes, it means choosing to own only the things you need or the items that bring you happiness, but no, it doesn’t mean feeling guilty about keeping things that serve purpose or give meaning to your life, even if they are new, beautiful, or expensive.

I started to get the hang of what it means to live a minimalist life when I moved into my new condo earlier this year. Yes, it was bigger than the apartment I was renting, but yes, that extra space was necessary and has drastically contributed to my comfort and happiness. No, my new home is not huge by any means, but yes, the entire experience of moving opened an opportunity for me to purge my belongings. I threw out and gave away so much. Yes, in some cases, I did replace what I purged with newer and nicer things but on the same token, I also chose to rid my life of other items that I never intend to replace. While I still have a storage closet half full of things that I most likely do not need, my current living footprint is much more meaningful. Is my living footprint a bit bigger? I can’t say, but it is much more purposeful now. Just about everything I have in my home (not in storage) is something I use, need, or brings happiness into my life. It definitely was not like that before the move. Yes, I can still identify items that could go, and they will go. I know it won’t be hard to remove them from my home and life.

So with that in mind, I must admit that I was treated very well this holiday. People in my life blessed me with books, candies, gift cards, clothes, and decorative items. But I must admit, sometimes, as I opened up gift after gift, I felt a little stressed. How am I going to transport all this back home in my tiny carry-on luggage? Where am I going to put this in my condo? I truly am not going to ever use this, but I feel bad contemplating how to rid my life of this item. Little surges of anxiety overtook me, and I swear to you, this was the first time in my life I ever felt this way while opening up gifts. I truly can say that overall, I would have been happy to have received nothing, or at the minimum, something of little monetary value but huge sentimental value such as photos of family members that I can frame and display in my home or hand-drawn art from my niece and nephew that I can put up at work. It’s true, the older you get, the more you want things that money cannot buy.

Yes, there were many things I received that did bring me joy and that will be put to good use. (The gift cards, for example, will go toward improving my home.) But there were also trinkets I received that I see no use for in my life (such as the turquoise heart paperweight or the two candy tins I was gifted). I truly believe this sense of anxiety that I experienced when opening up gifts originated from the massive purge I experienced during my move this summer—a purge that has continued to this day in my new home and that will continue when I return from the holidays.

While it is easy to fill up space in a new, bigger home, I have avoided doing so unnecessarily. I have a very stressful job, so I see my home as my refuge. I have specifically designed it to be a place that brings me calm, creates warmth, and coziness and that offers simple, quiet comforts with a tinge of luxury where I can afford to add it. This means no clutter.

So what am I going to do when I get home later this week? For now, I will remain grateful for the presents I have received, but upon my return home, I will have to overcome the guilt I will feel as I find a way to rid myself of the gifts I do not need. Inner peace and health are more important. Creating and maintaining a space that promotes both is necessary. I choose happiness over stress, and pray to God others will understand.

Reads to Get You Through the Week

Even if it is a short holiday week for most of us in the United States, it is still a “week to get through” in more than ways than one. Here are a few good reads to get you to the finish line (aka The Weekend) in a balanced state of mind. Read them all in one sitting with a cup of your favorite warm beverage, read one a day for a dose of daily mindfulness or pick and choose which articles speak to you. I found value in all of these, and I hope you do too:

And in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday this weekend, I am grateful for all the readers who take the time to visit this blog. Although in its infancy, this blog has become a refuge for me from the daily grind of life that tries its best to wear me down. Knowing others find some value in my thoughts makes the journey much less lonely. Thank you.