Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Be Your Body's Friend

School and work are back in session now after the holiday break, and awards season is here, too. That's less relevant to day-to-day life, but I admit that, as a filmophile, I really do enjoy hearing about seeing what shows/movies/screenplays/etc. are recognized every year, and my mum and I share the guilty pleasure of talking about red carpet fashions and hairstyles.  We also always appreciate that there's been a recent movement towards more diversity in body image, with people being more honest about photo editing and makeup trips. Media representations of what is "normal" still have a long way to go, but at least there is more awareness nowadays that most of the images that we see aren't realistic. 


On a related note . . . I posted a few days ago about New Year's resolutions and the value of flexibility, nourishment, and self-respect over restriction and limitation and self-hate, and I want to touch on this again as it relates to facing our fears and moving forward with our lives so that we can be happy, productive, meaningful members of life. I know from experience that it can be easy to become very obsessive about things/rules/etc. that we see presented to us in the media. Dieting and fitness-ing are super "in" right now. If you're in Lycra and have a SoulCycle habit, you're cool.  Beautiful.  Successful.  And while I'm all for people doing things that make them happy and healthy, there are times when the pressure to be the Lycra-SoulCycle-chick is actually super detrimental to us.  When we congratulate ourselves for making our lives small and for hyper-focusing on things like what we're eating and how much we're exercising, we limit our potential to do meaningful things and we put our health at risk at the same time. It's a double-whammy! 
Here's the truth: all our bodies are DIFFERENT. While running long distances may be fun and healthy for one girl, gentler forms of movement may be better for another, and the sort of lifestyle choices we make are subject to change over time based on what our situations are. 

Don't compare yourself to other people.  
There are much better things you could be doing with your time!

I know, I know--this is much easier said than done.  One of the reasons I'm writing this is that a few days ago I a had a revelatory moment while standing in the middle of Goodwill with my mum. We were dropping off a donation and popped into the store to quickly take a peek at the racks of old sweaters, flannels, and dresses, and I realized just how much I needed to fix my perception of wellness.  In the past, I too fell victim to so much of what the world tells us about what is "healthy," and I've been working on getting over many of the "rules" that I've set for myself over the years.  With the new year here, I'm committing to a lot of things (the environment, writing, reading . . . .), and one of them is to finally break away from the limiting beliefs propagated by our image-focused culture. 

We're surrounded by so many edited, filtered images and presentations of "health" that our expectations for ourselves are totally distorted.  We look in the mirror and expect to see features that are for many of us physically impossible, and, if we do achieve the renowned "thigh gap" or "six pack," it's often at the expense of our health in other areas. I saw a fitness ad recently that said "Once you see results, you're addicted."  This message made me sad because changing our bodies can become addictive, and if taken too far, it can mess up our lives in really big ways.  The things that we obsess over controlling eventually control us. Don't sacrifice your mental and physical health and your ability to live a meaningful life just because our culture glamorizes hardcore fitness and dieting.  

Much love today!
<3 Frances

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Girls of Art Nouveau

I'm sad to admit that I never knew who Frances and Margaret MacDonald were until just recently.  Their art is the intersection of fantastical and Victorian, and in many ways their paintings seem to have emerged from a book of Celtic fairy tales or an Isadora Duncan dance.

All images from JSTOR.

Frances and Margaret were one half of the "Glasgow Four," a group of artists who came together in the 1890s at the Glasgow School of Art.  The other two members of the Four were Margaret's husband Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Frances' husband Herbert MacNair. Together, the sisters and their spouses took an innovative approach to artwork that incorporated watercolors, mysticism, and nature, and Frances and Margaret were particularly innovative in their depiction of women.  They captured the feminine in a way that appealed to Victorian grace but contradicted Victorian rigidity, and the girls they painted took on the qualities of faeries.  

They drew from Victorian Puritanism and Celtic Spiritualism and created ground-breaking pieces. Elongated bodies and a characteristic dreamy palette are ever-present. Colors are light, neutral, metallic, natural and mythical at the same time. And yet, there are touches of modernity, like geometric symmetry and the use of squares. (Green)

Sadly, Frances died in 1921, at the age of 48.  It is suspected that her death was a suicide. Margaret made no known artwork after 1921, and she died in 1933. I can't help but to imagine that Margaret's reduction in productivity was at least in part related to the loss of her sister, and I'm grateful to have learned about the two of them and their beautiful work. Their paintings are like looking into a dream world--something fit for the Fairy Pools of Scotland's Isle of Skye!

<3 Frances

Further reading:

"Glasgow and After"

"Margaret MacDonald"

"The Scottish Sisters Who Pioneered Art Nouveau"

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Nourishment, Flexibility, and Self-Respect

I almost forgot it was January when I woke up on Monday. In my mental calendar, we were still in the month of candy canes and hymns, and it's only now that the "spring" semester has started up again that it's hit me that it's 2018.  Another year!
Of course, the whole "new year" transition means that everyone is coming up with resolutions. The "new year, new me" mindset is pervasive--rarely do we see so many ads about diet and fitness routines!  Please remember, though, to filter the "diet talk." There's a good and a bad to everything, and while diet/fitness reminders can be motivating for some people, they can be harmful to others. Life is about balance, not extremes, and if you tend to be a bit of an extremist (I speak from experience!), please make all your health choices consciously, focusing not on limitation, control, and self-punishment but rather on nourishment, flexibility, and self-respect.

That said, I know that "nourishment, flexibility, and self-respect" may sound a little bit self-indulgent. But taking care of yourself enables you to give out to others. There's a beautiful affirmation by Louise Hay that I want to share here:
This affirmation captures the whole idea of "pouring from an empty cup." Simply put, you can't give what you don't have--eventually, you'll burn the candle at both ends and run out.  I've seen so many of the beautiful, strong women in my family do this.  Fueled on nothing but coffee and cortisol, they push themselves as hard as they can, but then one day they hit a wall. Adrenal fatigue, autoimmune disease, stroke . . . chronic cortisol isn't the healthiest energizer! It will only enable you to go so far, but then it'll backfire on you.


Even though I, too, have been known to feed off of cortisol, I really am writing this post for people like my grandmum who for years have been giving giving giving without ever stopping to take care of themselves.  It's the NEW YEAR, so while everyone is using this as an opportunity to make a diet/fitness resolution, maybe take a deep breath and resolve to find some peace for yourself. Inhale, exhale. The work will always be there, but if you allow yourself to heal a bit instead of just working yourself to exhaustion all the time, you won't burn that candle out.  Here are some quick fixes for cortisol spikes:
Yoga for Stress Relief -- 7 Minute Practice
Meditation for Stress
Phnom Penh Lullaby
Much love!
<3 Frances

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Library Talks

Hi, loves! Happy Wednesday. It's so cold here today--tights, arm warmers, and scarf weather--and I'm busy in the school library where all the books are. "Library-ing," I think, is my new favorite hobby.
library-ing [verb]: to journey through the aisles of a library on a quest for interesting book titles, tragic romances, beautiful anthologies, and anything else that might suit your fancy
I know I've written about this before, but since coming to college, the library universe that is available to me has grown significantly.  The high school library was wonderful, but it didn't have the same old-book feeling that the college one does.  The sheer number of books is  somewhat overwhelming at first, but it's motivated me to learn the library's catalog system (still working on it!), and I highly recommend library-ing to anyone who's in the need of a cheer-up or a mental health break. Recent library-ing finds include The Awful Rowing Toward God by Anne Sexton, which includes some of the most magical and tortured poems I've ever read, and Women Saints of East and West by Swami Ghanananda and John Steward-Wallace, which covers saints like Brigid of Kildare.

Head and shoulders monochrome portrait photo of Anne Sexton, seated with books in the background
Anne Sexton (image: Wikipedia)
\From The Awful Rowing Toward God:
“Maybe I am becoming a hermit,opening the door for onlya few special animals?Maybe my skull is too crowdedand it has no opening through whichto feed it soup?” 
St. Brigid of Kildare (image: Wikipedia)
One of the best things about library-ing is that it helps encourage writing.  When we read books and stories, we strengthen our ability to empathize with others and put ourselves in different mindsets, and this in turn helps us to write.  A creativity-boosting writing activity to try is free writing.  Just open a notebook and write whatever comes to mind--fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose--and try not to "edit" yourself as you go.  See where the words take you! 
What books have you discovered recently?  Stay warm today! 

<3 Frances

P.S. On a non-bibliophile note, I want to offer my sincerest prayers for anyone who is suffering today.  There was a mass shooting in California, and there was a major earthquake in Iran, and I'm thinking of everyone who is experiencing loss or tragedy. Know that my heart is with you. <3 <3 <3 <3

Saturday, November 11, 2017

November Lately

A birthday, a change in seasons, an extra hour, a few midterms, unbelievable tragedies, and a few signs of hope . . . all these things have happened since I last posted anything, and now, a little over a week into being 19, I'm hoping to get out of my "write everything in my head and never on paper" phase.  Writing in your head is great, but it's even better sometimes to actually translate those thoughts into real words.  (That said, I'm studying for a history test right now, too, so many of my thoughts are currently ancient civilizations-related. Stay tuned for a post on Gilgamesh.)
Anyway, I suppose it goes without saying that it's November. (Yay, the month that connects Christmas to Halloween!)  Here are a few of the things we've been extra excited about this month:

  • Stranger Things
    • I've never binged a show before, but over the summer, after coming home from my nana's funeral, I may have binged this with my mum and brother.  Maybe.  (Okay, yes, definitely!) But how couldn't I have?  Winona Ryder's Joyce Byers is one of the best television mothers ever, and Steve and Dustin are #friendshipgoals.

  • The Book Thief
    • I'm kind of "behind" with this one, seeing as the book came out in 2005, but if you haven't read it, please do! It's narrated by Death, it's set in World War II, and it's interspersed with Wes Anderson-esque asides revealing things about characters that only Death would be able to tell you.
  • Yoga and Pilates
    • Once upon a [very recent] time, I was a cardio junkie. Intense HIIT-type exercises an lots of running can release edorphins and make you feel like you've "hit the wall," but that isn't always the best thing when you're long-term goal is to reduce anxiety and be a more relaxed person! For now, I'm moving on from these sorts of hardcore activities and embracing yoga and Pilates. I love dancing, and I'll admit to having played around during a dance video the other day, but, when I do feel like "movement," I think that yoga/Pilates movements are the most beneficial choices. Everyone is different.  Magazines and websites will always make it look like you need to "go hard or go home," with thinspo and fitspo preaching extreme fitness, but that's really not the case.  Just find a sustainable way to relax and feel happy!  If you're into yoga or Pilates, know that I'm excited about 1) being able to get my palms to the mat when reaching for my toes and 2) looking like a graceful ballerina while attempting plies.
  • Patrick Watson
    • This is my brother's new favorite musician, and he's brilliant.  His song "Big Bird in a Small Cage" is tragic and beautiful and perfect. 
Sending love and the Force for everyone!  Happy Veterans Day, too. Many of my family members have served, and we're all thinking of those who have made sacrifices. 
<3 Frances

Thursday, August 24, 2017

To Risk for a Butterfly

"Yellow decided to risk for a butterfly."
-Trina Paulus, Hope for the Flowers


It's been almost four months since I've posted anything here or even opened a draft, but sometimes silence is needed for words to come, and I'm excited to be writing again.  Combined with the eclipse and a new school and a new job, it's almost like a new chapter is opening up, and I hope that, as the moon passes over the sun tomorrow, there will be a shift that allows the universe to open up to better, happier, more peaceful things for everybody.
When I was little, my great-grandmother shared a story with me about one of her dear friends, Janet.  Janet had a deep appreciation for all of the beauty of the natural world--especially rainbows. When she was in her fifties, she spent a day with her mother and my great-grandmother.  It was a perfect day, but during dinner that evening, Janet began choking and couldn't breathe.  "She died," my great-grandmother told me. "But the next morning, there was a rainbow."
I've held that story in my heart with me for so long that I can find its essence in all of my writing, and I kept thinking of it when we were in Santa Fe this July to honor my great-grandmother. On the day of her ceremony, we were all outside, and it began raining.  Not enough to force us indoors, but enough for a rainbow, and I took it as a sign of my great-grandmother being there, with us, watching over us. (I know that not everyone is drawn to spirituality/religion/etc., but for me personally, I've found great comfort in a belief in spirits and ghosts and saints.)

"The Lotus and the Rose" by Dixie Gladstone
As for how butterflies figure into this . . . recently, I've struggled with a lot of anxiety.  My mum has been trying to help me with it, and I've been coming to the realization that it's okay to "let go." "Letting go" doesn't mean not working hard or giving up ambitions and commitment.  Rather, it's a way of opening up to trust and acceptance.  By relaxing ourselves and opening ourselves up instead of shutting down/closing off/becoming rigid, we're actually much more effective than we are when we live in fear and angst and stiffness.  My grandmother and my great-grandmother both believed in this, and on a difficult Wednesday a few weeks ago, I was at work and found a pile of "giveaway books" sitting on a dusty stairwell.  Stuffed beneath several math textbooks was a copy of Hope for the Flowers, Tina Paulus' beautiful, poignant allegorical picture book that's "partly about life . . . partly about revolution . . . and lots about hope . . . for adults and others (including caterpillars who can read)".  My mum used to have a copy of Hope for the Flowers herself, but she gave it away to a friend at a time when they really needed its love and optimism, and finding it felt like a meant-to-be miracle because it's not the easiest little book to come across. To avoid giving away too much of the plot, Hope for the Flowers is about caterpillars and their lives as they journey to become butterflies, and it makes a brilliant point about the courage it takes to become a butterfly.  I mean, think about it: you spend x amount of time as a caterpillar, and you get pretty comfortable, and then all of a sudden you're supposed to wrap yourself in a cocoon and put all your faith in the universe that you'll come out alright on the other end of the process. Anyone who has ever seen a dried up chrysalis with a dead caterpillar inside knows that getting into a chrysalis and hoping for the best doesn't always work out for our poor caterpillar friends; they really have to be brave.  But becoming a butterfly is worth the risks involved, isn't it?  If you want to make changes--real, remarkable, lasting changes that will make your life better--a  little risk is involved.  I'm not saying step into a place that is dangerous or that will hurt you just to "change" (there's a difference between "uncomfortable" and "harmful"), but try stepping out of your comfort zone sometimes.  I need to hear this just as much as/sometimes even more than anyone else does, and, as the school year picks up, I'm doing my best to embrace the opportunity to let go and open up. Take a deep breath.  You can do this.  You, too, can "risk for a butterfly."

<3 Frances

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Writer Confessions and #Goals

I have to admit that I haven't been the most committed writer lately.  With school and work and etc. etc. etc., it's been challenging to find the time, energy, and inspiration to actually sit down and write anything worthwhile that isn't actually due for a class. I can't help but to feel bad about this.  I mean, if I'm not actually committed to writing, then I should probably stop identifying as a "writer." But I'm not ready to do that, so I'm going to try to recommit to writing.  No more slacking.  Obviously, studying and end-of-year projects will probably consume the next few weeks of my life (and graduation is coming up!), but I'm promising to myself that I'll do a better job of avoiding the distractions that normally steal my few moments of free time that should be spent doing something more productive than Pinterest-ing.  (Not that Pinterest is bad, of course--it's actually a wonderful tool for finding inspiration.)  

Image result for writer meme

Anyway . . . I suppose that I'm writing about this here to make my commitment to writing feel more "official" than it would if it were just something I mulled over privately in my mind.  And I also wanted to take the opportunity to encourage everyone out there (you, yeah, you, lol!) to set some fun goals for yourself for the spring and summer!  Make them positive goals that will help you expand your life and make the most of each day.  Write more.  Read more.  Learn dance choreography.  Learn a language.  I know this stuff all sounds sort of cliche and is mentioned all the time, but it can be meaningful in the long-term to commit yourself to making a positive life change.

Hugs for Wednesday!

<3 Frances