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Let's talk about Love: especially SELF-Love
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February 2021 (Volume 11 - Issue #2)

Hello and happy Saturday, <<Name>> !  And happiest of Valentine's weekend. It's cold and snow-covered here, so stay warm!  I am planning lots of time by the fire for sure.

I am so excited to be here  with you as we step further into  2021.  Whether you're a new friend or have been around since the beginning, I want you to know how grateful I am for this space in your in-box.
 

“Accept yourself. Love yourself as you are.
Your finest work, your best movements,
your joy, peace, and healing comes
when you love yourself.
You give a great gift to the world when you do that.
You give others permission to do the same:
to love themselves.
Revel in self-love. Roll in it.
Bask in it as you would sunshine.”

--Melodie Beattie

 

I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that the them I chose for February is love. What I know to be true - and no playing golf today!what I have been sharing for the last decade as a life coach – is that you have to find the nuggets of love in everyday life. We spend a heck of time managing our day to day lives. And so to live in drudgery with our sights only on an upcoming big event.

That’s been made especially clear this past year, hasn’t it? Because if we can’t find the joy, the beauty, and the love in the now, how can we connect to it at all?

Just like many of you, I still struggle with this these days. With so much same-ness it’s hard to love the day to day. On the flipside, though, I find that if I look for things to bring me a sense of peace or joy, I am sure to discover it.

Love, though, especially at Valentines, can be tricky.

So much of the hearts, flowers, roses, and confessions of besottedness skew us towards romantic love. The love between two people that far excels and exceeds any other kind of love.

And while I will be honest in the fact that unconditional love I receive from JB has made my life better. And me a better person. The truth of the matter is that this is all because I finally learned to love myself.

IN the early days of our romance, it was, frankly, all up  in the air. I’d spent decades trying to hustle for love roses for Valentinesand prove that I was worthy of being loved. And the truth was, I struggled with loving myself, warts and all, so to speak.

I was just fortunate that the beginning of our relationship coincided with me doing a lot of self-growth work. I had previously worked with a therapist and had hired my first life coach. And, I finally understood the concept that we need to fill our world with good inputs – aka news, social media, books, tv, etc.

What I discovered was that if I wanted to have a strong, healthy relationship, I needed to love myself.
Because if I didn’t love myself unconditionally – again warts and all – there was zero chance that I could love anyone else in a healthy, non-co-dependent way.

Let alone accept someone's unconditional love without trying to constantly prove myself worthy of it.

In doing this work, I found that not only did I need to love myself, I needed to make caring for myself a priority. That the sacrifice of self-care cannot be truly exchanged in the path of caring for others.

This was also not too far away from the moment that I realized that self-care was BORING.

Who wouldn’t rather watch a movie than brush their teeth or exfoliate? Was I the only thinking that the time it took to floss could be time spent refreshing my Instagram feed? And was the 8 minutes it took to shower really a good use of my time?

It was much more interesting to text JB, set the DVR for recording a favorite movie on TCM, or chat with my neighbor than it was to floss, let alone scrub, scour, shave, and moisturize.

Ah, there’s the rub in self-love. 

Loving ourselves is boring. Caring for ourselves can feel lack-luster in comparison to the work we did in snowy dayscaring for babies or our elderly parents. There's no fluttering heartbeat loving ourselves like there is when we fall in love with another.

Yet, my dear, that is what I’m calling you to do this month: love and tend the holy and beautiful being that is YOU.

And this, my darling, is what I am imploring you to focus on in the coming weeks: tending and loving yourself. Because what I found was this symbiotic cycle of love: I learned to love myself, JB loved me unconditionally, and I discovered it was safe to love him wholly as part of our life together.

This may look like a long, hot bath. A visit to the dentist. Or unfollowing toxic people on social media. It may also look like journaling with your first cup of coffee or making the choice to stop chatting with your friend that always complains on the phone.

For me, self-loved has looked like a cup of tea in the afternoons.

I grab a pretty mug and a tea bag. And then I literally watch as the water begins to boil. See, the best organic black teawater temperature for this particular tea is 200 degrees while a full boil is 212. So, I watch the water in the teakettle until it just begins to bubble up.

Maybe that 12 degrees doesn’t matter in the whole scheme of life, but I’ve chosen to make it matter lately. Not because I’m OCD about everything (I am some things). It’s because I’ve chosen to make this moment of the day one to simply BE and BREATHE. To give my mind a rest from all the craziness of the world as I watch and wait.

Most days, I put the tea in the fridge and wait until it’s cold before drinking it. Sure, I could add ice. Instead, though, it's another opportunity to step away from my desk in a mindful way.  And that is, again, another small way of loving myself.

As we celebrate the month of love, may you ensure that you love yourself first. So that you can truly love others. Think about all the small ways you can infuse your life with ensuring that you are a priority rather than an afterthought.



Sending you oodles of love, wishes for warmth and coziness, and the reminder to do something nice for yourself today.

Love, Debra




 

What's floating my boat?
To say that the start to 2021 is still feeling a bit challenging  on a mental and emotional level is an understatement. Yet, one thing I've learned is that the smallest of things can keep us afloat - or pull us up out of the deep end.

That's what I aim to share with you here each month. The stuff that's seems small but is making a powerful difference in the quality of my daily life. This month, here's some favorite ways I am practicing self-care.
 

How I Am Tending My Body


The weather has been more frightening this month than ever. And that means I need help - in the form of body care items. Even when I skip showers (which I can thanks to Lume that I mentioned last month in this Soap and Glorysection) my skin can be so dry it hurts.

I've tried all kinds of body washes - including a very pricy oil based wash from L'Occitane , and still struggled with keeping my skin from being way too dry.

Until, that is, I returned to an old favorite of mine: Soap & Glory. Which I originally began using because I fell in love with the scent of the original products (called "Pink").

Their "Clean on Me" shower gel followed by lots of "Righteous  Body Butter". Though this picture shows pump containers, they recently began selling the products in tubes which I find better for me. (Plus, you can get all the product out of the tube whereas you can't always get that last bit out of the container that has the pump).

And, once a week, a good exfoliation with their "Flake Away" which is a sugar scrub (which is more gentle than salt scrubs).  I recommended the scrub to my esthetician and she said it was the best body scrub she's ever used - even better than the Aveda one that's three times the price.

I've also added a tube of their "Scrub of Your Life" body buffer by the sink and have been using it to exfoliate my hands when they get dry and flaky.

These products WORK, are available at a variety of stores (Target, Walgreens, and Ulta), and are very budget friendly. Walgreens often includes them in their mix and match offers of  Buy 1, Get 1 50% or Buy 2, Get a 3rd Free.
 

How I'm Caring for My Mind (Which Also Helps my Body and Soul)


Though I have long been a fan of meditation, it's a habit I slipped out of this past year. But when a doctor visit showed my blood pressure a little on the high side, I knew it was time to take-up the practice again.

Then I noticed that American Express was offering a free one-year subscription to the Meditation App Daily Calm Quote for Feb 13CALM. While I am perfectly capable of meditating without an app, I decided to give it a try. And I am so glad I did.

Every day I sit for 10 minutes with Tamara Levitt and her "Daily Calm" meditation. And though I haven't been very active on social media lately, I do share the quote she has chosen each day over in my Instagram stories. (This is the quote for today, Feb. 13th - and the whole meditation focused on removing fear of intimacy)

I have loaded the CALM APP on both my phone and my iPod Touch. 

The other part of the app I am using regularly is "Sleep Stories". As many of us do as we hit middle age, there are nights I wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning and can't go back to sleep. So, I've begun choosing a "Sleep Story" when I go to bed just in case that happens. And, sure enough, 9 out of 10 times, the story does just that: it reads me back to sleep.

Will I continue my subscription when I have to pay for it? I don't have to make that decision until December. But I am leaning towards YES as it has become a valuable tool in my arsenal of self-care.
Here's what I'm cooking on repeat....

 

“One cannot think well,
--Virginia Woolf.

love well, sleep well,
if one has not dined well.”


One of the easiest ways to take good care of yourself while also taking care of those you love is about feeding yourself good food. Our bodies (and minds) need to be well-fueled in order to be at our best.

And yet, while it’s easy – especially in concept – it can big a big old pain in the rear, can’t it? I know that I’m not the only person that is burned out in the kitchen. Even though pre-pandemic we only went out to eat once or twice a month, pulling together fourteen to twenty-one meals today can exhaust even those of us who love the whole process of creating a meal.

So, I wanted to share with you some of the ways I am keeping us well-fed with a nod to ease. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned the last few months: we all need a way to make life feel easier.

One of the ways JB and I found to better cope with being home together ALL DAY was to not interact all day. Once we get up, he heads to his office and I head to mine. We're on our own for breakfast and lunch.  Then, we're actually happy to see each other at the end of the work day and chat over dinner.


For Easy Lunches


If given the choice of lunches, JB will go for a salad with some sort of protein tossed on top. I alternate between having a salad with making a "Charcuterie plate"  for lunch. The goal here is to have something salad timeeasy to grab in the middle of a busy work day.

I'm not a fan of bagged salads because once they are opened, they seem to degrade quickly. Instead, I purchase full heads of Boston (or Butter) Lettuce that either still have the roots attached or are in a clamshell type container.

I also buy: pre-shredded carrots, broccoli slaw, cucumbers, and tomatoes (preferably cherry).
About once a week, I make salads and put them in individual square containers in the fridge. I’ve found that one head of lettuce makes three to four salads. After hand tearing the lettuce, I add a handful or broccoli slaw, a splash of shredded carrots, some cucumber slices, and then tomatoes.

To make the salads last longer in the fridge, here’s my new trick: I keep the lettuce as moisture free as possible. By putting the broccoli slaw and shredded carrots on top of the greens, it creates the first barrier. I remove the seeds from the cucumber before slicing them (a spoon works well), and I’ve gone to cherry tomatoes. After slicing the tomatoes in half, I place them cut side up so that the juicy part of the tomatoes isn’t touching the lettuce or slaw.

In all honesty, we can get about 10 days out of salads that I’ve prepped this way, though they usually go much faster than that.

Oh, and while you’re making salads, prep some celery as well. I love celery with some pimento cheese or alongside a ham sandwich. To make celery last longer in your fridge, process it right after you buy it.

Wash it, slice the stalk into manageable sizes, and put them in a container full of water. This keeps the celery crisp and hydrated for about a week.

And since I don’t want a salad every day, many times I keep a separate container of sliced (and de-seeded) cucumbers as well. Then, when I go to the kitchen for a snack, it’s easy to grab something healthy on hand rather than a handful of chips.


Ease in Approach to Protein


While I am making salads, I also make a batch of boiled eggs in my Instant Pot. I am picky about eggs. If you can find them, buy local eggs from chickens that are foragers. This means they get access to the outdoors with lots of good bugs to eat.  This gives you an egg that has lots of omega 3s to go with that wonderful protein. (I am able to buy eggs from Copia Farms at my local grocery store).

Boiled eggs make for great grab and go breakfasts or added on top of salads.

I also buy what my mom would call “cold cuts”.  I prefer nitrate-free / additive-free / antibiotic-free and often sugar free prepared meats. Bacon, salami, pepperoni, turkey breast, and other lunch meats. Applegate results of a cooking dayFarms is widely available (Kroger, Whole Foods, Target, etc.) and I am a big fan of Neiman Ranch products as well.


We can toss some sliced turkey on top of the salad (or if you’re me, sliced of pepperoni!) On bread for sandwiches, or simply rolled up for a quick and easy lunch (aka my charcuterie plates)

I also utilize my grocery store deli and butcher department on the regular by buying rotisserie chicken breasts or thighs. Quick and easy protein. I sometimes buy their chicken salad, crab cakes, or salmon cakes as well. Especially on a week I'm feeling especially burned out.

I double up on chicken breast and ground beef/pork/chicken. I sear the chicken or brown the ground beef, then pull out half for a second meal. Think: tacos, spaghetti sauce, and chili for ground meats. Cooking two chicken breasts gives us enough chicken for two dinners plus two lunches.

I have a cooking day about once a month. My goal is to make enough protein servings for at least two weeks of dinners and lunches. (The photo above is from a cooking day last month - Lemon chicken, chicken and tomatoes, taco meat, and pork burgers ready to be cooked later that night for dinner) (Oh! And a batch of coleslaw)

I'm in the kitchen anyway, so I do cook ground beef or pork, several pounds of chicken breasts, and maybe a pork loin. Use the Crock Pot, the Instant Pot, and my stove top to multi task. THEN, package up most of the meat for freezing (after it's cooled) and pull out the night before.

When I have a cooking day,  I pack several single-serving containers of chicken breast and pork loin. And larger 3-cup containers for future dinners.

And, more than half the time I make dinner for that night, I double or triple the recipe. Especially if it's been awhile since a big cooking day. This means less cooking time overall. And because I freeze rather than just l put in the fridge for leftovers the next day, we have enough variety in our meals that we don't get too bored.
 

And now, for my latest trick


When the weather is cold like this, there’s nothing better than a nice bowl of soup. But soup can take a lot of work to make.  And while opening up a can or jar of store-bought soup is easy, it can also make for a kind of this soup is awesomeboring meal.

Last month, though, Whole Foods had a Green Chili and Corn Chowder soup on sale and I decided to try it. But rather than just heat it up, I put it in the crock pot and added some leftover pork roast that I shredded.

That’s when I realized how I could make a heartier meal out of any soup.

We’ve since had the same corn chowder, but with diced chicken instead. And rather than just Tomato Soup (this is my favorite), by cooking up some tortellini (the filled pasta you find in the refrigerated case at the grocery store) and adding it to the soup.

When I add meat to any prepared soup, I always add additional broth (which I keep on hand).
 

While all of these tricks may seem like a lot of work, it's a  way to work hard for an hour or two yet create enough meals for more than a week.


Meal prep really is your friend when it comes to eating healthy and well. It's a way to ease stress - whihch we all need less of, right?

Because as a part of loving yourself, what you eat matters. And, making things easier on yourself is another form of self-care, right?

Food can be a way to love  yourself and care for yourself  - not just physically but spiritually and emotionally, too. 
Have you chosen Your Word for 2021?  It's something I've been doing since 2005 and has been a great influence and support on my personal development over the years. Yes, even those years that I have tried to ignore my word, just the act of choosing a Word is like a prayer. 

One thing I wanted to do in the year ahead is to serve as a cheerleader, companion, and champion for you - and Your Word - for 2021. In my experience our words work their own special magic whether we check in with them or not, but keeping them in mind certainly helps boost their ability to serve us. 
 

Here's some ways to play and connect in this month:

  • Ask yourself: What ways is my WORD supporting me in loving myself? Grab a sheet of paper, your journal, or open a blank document on your computer to explore the answers to this question.
  • Choose a Day of Love with Your Word. What if your Word was the reminder and invitation to really take tender loving care of yourself? Because whatever you are looking for, you are sure to find it. So, on this day, begin with your Word firmly in your mind and act from  a place of love, caring, and tenderness. How is your Word encouraging you to do all the "boring" self-care stuff? How is your Word inviting you to love yourself by working on your goals? In what way is your Word supporting the creative side of your mind? 
  • Play with Your Word. One of the ways we care for ourselves is to have fun and play. Begin by finding a movie that connects with your Word in it's theme or characters. Settle back with your movie, a nice beverage, and something to do with your hands. Maybe you make a collage by finding pictures in magazines that represents your Word. Maybe you pick up a box of crayons and a piece of paper and write your word in big, puffy letters and color them in while your movie plays. If you aren't a movie fan, find a song that connect with your word in some ways and have a dance party of one. When we play, we invite our inner child to come out. And often, that small child within us knows the best ways to love herself.

PS - If you haven't yet chosen a word, there's still time.  I'll never forget what happened to me in 2010. That year, I didn't even commit to a Word - FAITH - until March. I took leap after leap after leap of Faith that year, and my life has never been the same. It gave me the courage to trust my intuition and step out of my comfort zone. If you haven't yet downloaded A Touchstone For Your 2021 Journey: The In-Depth Guide to Revealing Your Word of the Year you can get the details here.
Interested in Working with Me? Book a Discovery Session
Quotes on This Month's Theme to Save and Share
Elizabeth Gilbert on Liking Yourself
Mr Rogers on Love
The Fabulous Eartha Kitt on self-love
Self-Care is not Selfish
Debra Smouse

Welcome!

I'm grateful you're here.


I'm Debra Smouse - a writer, lover of books, drinker of coffee, ENTJ, and life coach on a mission to help you create a daily life that is loving and nourishing. 

This love note arrives in your in-box the 2nd Saturday of each month. And my deepest hope is that it gives you practical tips for ways to choose yourself. And helps you discover the magic in the most ordinary of moments. 

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