Nurturing Winter Skin + Reforming the Beauty Industry

winter_skin-1 winter_skin_beautycounter

In the winter, my skin tends to feel like the branches outside my door: pale, dry, and brittle. It is more sensitive in the drier, cold air, more prone to patches of flaky skin on my cheeks and pronounced fine lines around my eyes and mouth. I crave moisture, inside and out. After writing about the importance of taking care of our skin and my personal journey with Beautycounter in this post last fall, I thought it might be helpful to share how I am nurturing my skin this season with warm liquids and safer skin care.

HYDRATE FROM THE INSIDE

Two brief notes about me: I am cold-natured and I love coffee. This means when the temperature drops and our home becomes drafty, I really struggle to remain hydrated, often mindlessly swapping drinking water for coffee in effort to keep warm. For obvious reasons, juices and smoothies tend to loose their allure in the cold months, too. I know dehydration is an enemy to our wellness in general, especially our skin wellness, so entering this winter, I needed to find other ways to nourish and hydrate my self and my skin. With the encouragement of a dear friend, I began making a small pot of loose-leaf herbal tea each morning and sipping on it throughout the day. I still have a cup of coffee in the morning, but most mornings not until after I’ve had a full cup of warm herbal tea and a large glass of water, both typically during my morning alone time. Homemade broth, bone broth, and tasty soups are other ways I nourish my skin and keep warm in the winter.

winter_skin_beautycounter_2 Nurturing Winter Skin with BeautycounterHELPING REFORM THE COSMETICS INDUSTRY

As I mentioned last fall, after reading Beautycounter’s Never List, I realized how many “all-natural” and “organic” products were in our home loaded with toxins linked to things like hormonal imbalances and even cancer. Although I had already been using essential oils in our home, even with a few skin care recipes, I felt like my skin needed a little more attention. I tried Beautycounter and immediately loved how simple and light their products are and of course how my skin felt. While I am not typically an MLM fan, I have loved partnering with Beautycounter’s initiative to educate the public about what we’re putting on our skin and their political activism to see change in legislature holding the beauty industry more accountable. Whether you use Beautycounter or not, you can find out more on how to write your senator for cosmetic reform here .

Nurturing Winter Skin with BeautycountDAILY WINTER SKIN CARE ROUTINE

morning / Each morning, I rub a fingertip of the Cleansing Balm into my skin and let it soak in a bit while I brush my teeth. Using warm water, I gently massage a few handfuls of water over my face, removing some of the balm with my fingertips (instead of the cloth). I pat dry with a towel and pump one bit of Nourishing Day Cream onto my fingertip, adding a drop or two of Hydrating Face Oil, and gently massage it into my skin. And that’s it! If I’m planning to wear makeup that day, I wait a bit before applying it and give some space for the moisturizers to soak in a bit more. This is a good time to dress and make my bed. Wink.

evening / When it’s time to get ready for bed, I rub a generous fingertip-sized amount of Cleansing Balm over my skin and eyelids (especially if I’ve worm mascara). I often run the cleansing cloth (included with the Cleansing Balm) under hot water, squeeze it out and rest it over my face. This only lasts about 30 seconds, but it always feels therapeutic, a gift at the end of the day. I pat my skin dry and immediately spray my face with one broad pump of Rosewater Mist. The cool contrast to the hot cloth feels wonderful. I finish with one pump of Nourishing Night Cream on my fingertip, adding two drops of Hydrating Face Oil and a dab of Rejuvenating Eye Cream around my eyes (a little creamier in texture to the Nourishing Eye Cream).

THE ALL-PURPOSE CLEANSING BALM

You might notice the emptiness of the jar, but I have loved the Cleansing Balm this winter. Although it is one of the more expensive products, it is still my favorite, with an plethora of uses. I have used it for washing my face, and also as a mask 1-2 times/week for extra hydration. I often use it as a moisturizer on my children’s faces when they become chapped, too. I use it to remove makeup. I have clients who have used it to help with eczema and dry heals, and I recently encouraged one client, who is an avid runner, to try wearing her balm before a run as a mask to preserve the moisture in her skin.
Nurturing Winter Skin BeautycounterCAUSE FOR CONCERN

Did you know many makeup lines (even expensive ones) contain toxins and heavy metals in their products that can affect our endocrine, reproductive, and nervous systems? I encourage you to begin research of your own to make your own decisions, but here’s a helpful start as to which chemicals to be concerned about and why. Although I don’t wear much makeup, I’m grateful for Beautycounter’s initiative to provide makeup that is free of these harmful things. I realize there are many women who choose not to wear makeup, and I say high-fives and way to go. When I go places without a splash of color on my cheeks or a dab of concealer under my eyes, people tend to ask if I’m feeling okay or tell me how tired I look. All to say, I’m not yet to the place where I’m swearing off makeup. Beside the point, I feel better about myself with a little color. Wink.

WINTER MAKEUP ROUTINE

For daily wear in the winter, I prefer makeup that adds moisture and a little natural flush. First, I gently apply Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer (No. 2) with my fingertips. It has a bit of a sticky texture at first, but quickly adds a dewy look that feels really good in the winter. On a day I need extra moisture, I may skip the Dew Skin altogether and just add a bit of the Cleansing Balm to my skin, letting it soak in like a mask. Either way, I then dab on a little eye concealer (fair, pictured below) to brighten my inherited dark under-eye circles, followed by a few light strokes of mascara. Depending on the day, I use either the cream blusher (Hibiscus, in the picture below) or the blush duo (Tawny/Whisper), with a quick swipe of the lip sheer (Twig, pictured below) to moisturize my lips. I just purchased the Coralbell lip gloss to dab on top for a bit more color this spring. 🙂

Nurturing Winter Skin with Beautycounterwinter_skin-1-5

A GIFT FOR YOU

As a way to say thank you to my readers and to help encourage the use of safer products in your home, I am reimbursing shipping on all orders of $100 or more placed through my personal site until 11:59pm on January 31, 2017. No commitment or membership sign-up necessary. Wink.

JOIN THE BUSINESS

For those of you interested in joining the Beautycounter movement, there are two separate ways to do so:

become a member / The membership does not require you to sell anything; it allows you to receive free shipping on purchases over $100, receive special promotions, and earn 15% credit on each purchase toward future purchases. You also receive a free gift from Beautycounter if you purchase $50 or more when you sign up, currently the Rose Neroli Hand Soap. Right now, for any reader who signs up through my personal site to become a Band of Beauty member and also places a product order $100 or more, I will reimburse 10% of the order in addition to the automatic free shipping and the Rose Neroli hand lotion. Offer ends 11:59pm on January 31, 2017. 

become a consultant / As a consultant, you would officially join my Beautycounter team and have access to several other people on this same journey. Consultants receive a discount on all product immediately upon signing up and generally take a more active roll with the Beautycounter movement. Whether you are drawn to the activism, wellness, or educational aspect of the business, consultants earn income doing something they care about that benefits themselves and their homes. Through my team, you will have access to an assortment of training and business helps and are free to move toward goals however gently or assertively you desire. Plus you will have access to other training and equipping events and socials hosted by the company around the nation. If you are interested to learn more or have any specific questions about becoming a consultant, please email me: bethany <at> cloisteredaway.com I would love to talk!

Nurturing the Whole Self | Retreating

Nurturing the Whole Self | The Practice of Retreating

“a series dedicated to nurturing and nourishing the self from the inside out”

I have always appreciated winter’s wisdom, its encouragement to retreat and to listen. It merely requires a window or a walk outdoors to understand there is purpose for this season of brief light and bare limbs, of quiet fields and still, cold air. Winter gently reminds us of our need to pause and turn inward for a time, our need to listen.

It sounds simple enough, and yet, the truth is retreating from people or activities we love can be difficult in practice. Life doesn’t pause on its own. Children still need to be clothed and fed and nurtured. Bills still need to be paid. Work needs to be finished. Modern culture esteems Spring and Summer type energy, the more productive, vibrant work. We read courage-imparting imperatives at every turn, online and on walls and billboards, inspiring us into action, and yet in some seasons or parts of our day even, the most courageous thing we can do is rest, to linger in solitude and quiet. It appears to be nothing, and yet I have been learning in the past 18 months that the rest discovered in retreating can be the most productive and beneficial of all. Winter is the season that gently leads the way.


THE PRACTICE OF RETREATING

I use the term retreat in its simplest form: pulling back or away. This reclusive act can sometimes be viewed as selfish or antisocial, and I’d submit it is. I’d also suggest that in a world of constant connection, in a home with unending needs and conversation, in a marriage that requires two whole people in loving connection with one another, there is great value in prioritizing the care of self, in carving space to connect with your thoughts and emotion apart from it all.

As an introvert, I think I have always sought after this sort of personal space at home, in marriage and motherhood. For me, retreating is not something to wait for on a weekend away once or twice a year, it is a necessity to make space for daily, even if the time is smaller in nature. The quality accumulates. In the winter, it tends to involve candles and cozy corners and a warm drink. In the spring or fall it more often involves the being outdoors, possibly on a blanket in the warm midday sun, or maybe on a walk in the woods. In the summer more often I am outdoors in the early morning when the sun rises or as the sun sets. Nearly always it includes a bit of meditation and prayer, a book, a little music, and when possible the outdoors. It may look different for you, but I implore you, find a place to quiet yourself.


MY CURRENT PRACTICE

For me, retreating is simply a practice of stillness, silence, and listening. Since the majority of my days are spent with people or communicating in some form, this quietness provides balance. Currently, I begin my morning ritual, with silent meditation, a renewed priority in 2017. This fraction of the day is not a time to accomplish and produce but to hear, to pray, to allow whatever is unsettled in my thoughts and body to rise to the surface. For me, it is a time to let go of anxiety and fear, to connect with God and to meditate on gentle truths from the Bible, currently Proverbs 3.

During this period, I light a candle nearby and then begin by lying on my back, flat on the floor, face to the ceiling, palms up, arms at my side, feet relaxed. I close my eyes and lay still and listen. Sometimes I begin to feel anxious about the day or something else in life. Sometimes everything is simply empty. Sometimes I find fearful thoughts or anticipation and excitement about something that day. I listen and let go. I do this for 10-20 minutes, depending. Then I transition more toward mediation. I generally have the Bible nearby and I read and meditate on these words while I slowly stretch and release, physically and mentally. This part might be another 15-20 minutes, and then I continue on with the rest of my morning ritual, reading and journal if there is time before the day begins. For now, I have let go of early morning work, instead choosing to begin the day from a place of connection and rest.


WAYS TO RETREAT

There are many ways this practice can take form. I know for extremely extroverted people, the idea of sitting quiet and alone for a long period of time sounds boring and tiresome. Try something small, like 10 minutes of stillness. Here’s a few ways the practice of retreating looks in my life. It will look different in yours, and it should. Find your own style and rhythm.

daily / Although it will vary person to person, establishing a daily period of retreat is a wonderful place to start. Consider your day. What period of the day would work for your own time the most consistently? The morning? Evening? Nap time? Think through what is restful practice for you. If there is an activity that is restful for you (running, baking, painting, etc.), take a few moments to begin with stillness and quiet reflection. Listen to your thoughts. Are the erratic or sad? Are they running through your head without breath? Are they exhausted? Listen to yourself, to what you are needing: Is it peace? Joy? Patience? Hope? Release and receive through prayer. Read or recite things that are true about yourself, your circumstances, about others.

impromptu / For those in a season of life that feels absolutely void of personal space and time, pay attention for the moments as they present themselves. Sometimes these impromptu retreats can be the most meaningful because I need them right them. I notice cues, like losing patience, anxiety, frustration, etc., and so I stop whatever I am doing. I find something for the kids to do, or I clear whatever I was planning to do–even sometimes meeting with friends or going to run an errand. I find a small quiet spot in or outside of the house for meditation and prayer. If I have a bit more space in time, I might relax into reading or journaling. More often, I need to jump back into our daily routine, but I do so feeling a bit more grounded.

weekends / Weekends are a natural place for many people to find a little reprieve. If you have children, consider a swap of time with your spouse. In the last 18 months, our family has developed a Sabbath practice, a ritual borrowed from Jewish culture. We are still learning so much about this gift in our life. We begin with a Shabbat meal on Friday evening, and Saturday, we each find space for silence and solitude, for letting go and receiving. Sometimes this will be taking a long walk on my own or laying down on a blanket in the sun. We take the posture of rest, of turning our thoughts from house projects or school work or creative ideas to rest, to enjoyment of one another and also of silence. To read more about our developing Shabbat meal and Sabbath practices: here and here.

bi-annually/ These are the retreats we more often associate with the word, and they’re beautiful for having consecutive hours away from usual responsibilities to dream, to play, to learn. I have yet to take a retreat on my own. I have been to conference weekends on my own, but I have yet to go to a place alone for a weekend with no purpose. I would love this for a time in the future. For now, Mark and I try to take time of this sort together once or twice a year, and they are pivotal for both our marriage connection and well-being and for family vision. But even in our togetherness, we allow space to one another to be alone, to connect from the inside out. The same is true for weekends away with friends. They are beautiful for deepening friendships, of encouragement, but I always appreciate finding time apart from the group.

day of silence / This is new for us, an idea I picked up in this book last year, but Mark and I are sampling a day of silence for each of us, once a season. This will be a day to disconnect from our phones and computers, from work and home, for a full day of quiet, to listen and read and receive. It is a simple way for two introverts who spend a lot of time with people (including our children) to protect our spirits and souls. My first day begins next week.

More thoughts on SELF CARE.

Light the Path | Reflections to Welcome the New Year

Reflections for the New Year

Each new year is a baptism of sorts, a release of one thing, a grasp for another. Whether one toasts champagne or simply turns the paper page on the calendar, we cross over, like mystics. Each of us. All of us. A new year.

I realize for most of us, life carries on today as usual, cup of coffee in hand, laundry, email, work. The ordinariness of time can sometimes mask its importance. I have been cleaning out closets and re-ordering spaces around the house this last week, recalibrating our home after the holiday whirl. These sort of inventories offer the best sort of reflection, a practical accounting of days and time and space. Let it go or put it in place, practically and metaphorically. The process has been that simple.

Yet through it, I have noticed more gentleness toward myself, an ease in letting go without excuse, something atypical to me. I have packed a large box of books we have outgrown, supplies we do not use, work we have completed. I threw away old planners and tangential ideas scratched on paper, opting instead to begin with a clear mind and working space. It is difficult to toss ideas aways, but they can become cumbersome and distracting to new ones. I am trusting that the ideas that matter will circle back on their own again, in their own time.

2016 taught me more about this, about letting go of failure and disappointment and unfinished dead ends, about working with steadfastness and patience. 2016 taught me more about creating in the face of fear, dreaming in spite of failure, putting down the litmus of comparison. It taught me about the power of voice and the value of silence. It’s funny how such powerful lessons can be woven amid difficult circumstances.

Like many people, I typically journal on the cusp of each year. This year, I will be journaling daily in this archival journal my friends Ronnie and Trish just released, filled with daily prompts for cataloguing the days. For me, this annual period of reflection is less about marking tasks to accomplish in the new year and is more about noticing the hidden narrative of my days, the magic lying within the ordinariness and even the hardship. I generally reflect on our year as a family relationally and spiritually. I reflect on our community relationships. I reflect on our homeschool year. Since I am goal-oriented by nature, I prefer to jot down goals for the year ahead. Sometimes I flounder; sometimes I rise. Either way, I am learning how to hold these plans a bit more loosely, to allow them room to take organic course. They are more or less a flickering light for the path ahead. They often keep my feet moving when I feel a bit lost, even if only toward the next step.

For those who are interested, here are a few of the thoughts below I use to process each new year. May they be a flickering light for your path, too.

soult-journals

REFLECT

What was the biggest success of the last year (expected and unexpected)? 

What was the biggest disappointment or obstacle? Were these temporary circumstances or something ongoing/long-term? 

Were your expectations/goals at the beginning of the year reasonable?  Were you trying to do too much at once? Did others involved respond how you anticipated? Finances? Time?

How did you use your free time (unplanned time)? Did you even have free time? Did you rest well?  List some factors or circumstances that prohibit rest/oration.

How did you take care of yourself? Write one thing you did for yourself that you’d like to continue.

How well did you connect with or take care of others? Name a meaningful point of connection last year. Is there a way to re-create it in the new year?

How do you feel entering the new year? (excited, anxious, fearful, expectant, overwhelmed, etc.) Are any specific life circumstances contributing to this feeling? How does this emotion fuel you? Your family’s relationships/learning? Your work? How does it deplete them?

LET GO

Take a moment to let go of accomplishment and disappointment. Acknowledge your emotions and release them. Imagine yourself being emptied and cleared. Pray and ask for wisdom.

PLAN AHEAD

What is one specific way you want to take care of yourself this year? Is this daily, weekly, monthly? Write it down. If possible, share it with someone you trust, someone who will help you prioritize it.

What is one specific, concrete way to connect with those in your home in a more meaningful way this year? Just one. Is this a daily, weekly, or monthly practice?

What is one specific, concrete way to connect with someone(s) outside of your home in a more meaningful way? Begin with one. Is this a daily, weekly, monthly practice? Write it on the calendar.

What is one area of your family daily routine you’d like to shift? (I ask myself this specifically for the homeschool, too.) What do you need to eliminate? Simplify? Add? Have more consistency in? Write it down.

What part of the follow-thought do you need the most help? Physically? Logistically? Emotionally? Spiritually?

What encourages you the most in your daily living? Write down one habit change to cultivate encouragement.

On Acts of Kindness and Thanksgiving

cheddar_apple_galetteThere’s something about baked foods straight from the oven that warms both the soul and the belly. However divided a room or community or nation may be, there is solace in shared food, and most especially in pie or tarts. Perhaps it is the concrete-ness of metaphor, the whole parsed out and shared between many–or more simply, the one thing a table of empty bellies can agree on. With Thanksgiving arriving next week, I realize not all table gatherings will be peaceful in light of the election. Sometimes families and even friendships rift because of politics. The table can be a place to set aside disagreement and division. It can be a place for finding a shared sense of gratitude. This month can also be a time to attend to the thousands who will not have a table on which to eat at all–children, teens, and adults alike. There can be a shared gratitude in the community when serving others, too.

In honor of Thanksgiving this month and the oodles of discussion around food, our family has been looking for ways to cultivate gratitude in others through a few acts of kindness. As W.J. Cameron noted, “Thanksgiving, after all, is a call to action.” Serving others this season can be the exact pause they need to find gratitude, even if it’s simply putting something warm in their belly. There are many ways to nourish one another and also to stir up gratitude, but as we turn our thoughts to our own tables next week, here are a few ways to think of other’s bellies, too.

ACTS OF KINDNESS AROUND FOOD

/ bake something delicious for a neighbor, like this apple cheddar galette

volunteer with a local food bank

/ bring a pre-chopped meal to another family

/ invite someone to your table

/ pay for a stranger’s coffee or meal

/ offer babysitting for a single parent or couple

/ drop off groceries to someone

volunteer with a local non-profit to feed the homeless, teen mothers, disaster relief victims, nursing home members, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

nurturing the whole self | skin care

nurturing_self_skin_care_beautycounternururing_self_skincare_beautycounter-2

“a series dedicated to nurturing and nourishing the self from the inside out”

Perhaps I am noticing my own skin more as my children grow older and I help them cultivate their own self-care practices. As in every other area of life, it is easier to lead them if I honor the practice well myself. It’s the hidden gift in parenting: we can’t give what we don’t have. Yet having a conversation about skin care is as much a conversation about genetics, food, sleep, and stress as it is about skincare product; it’s also a conversation about self-image and social norms. Each impacts the other whether we intend them to or not.

I have always been a simplest in terms of skin care, using minimal product and make-up, and for the most part, it has worked for my skin. But in the last year or so, like many other things, my skin has changed. Parts of it have become drier while other parts have become more prone to break-outs. (What the heck?!) Fine lines are forming, revealing where I smile or how I focus with a furled brow. And with my thirty-eighth birthday arriving next week, I am honestly asking myself this: how will my attitude be toward myself as I grow older?

While in a waiting room with my children the other day, my girls noticed a magazine with a Botox ad in it: a beautiful woman, peacefully closing her eyes while a needle pushed into the skin at the corner of her brow. Their expressions told me all. They didn’t remark at her loveliness or her content mannerisms, they only noted the injection with horrified expressions, looking to me to explain whether this would be their fate as women. In a very simplified way, I explained the cultural pressure to look young and wrinkle-less, to which they both looked pained and shocked. Blythe responded, “Why? Wrinkles are the fun part of getting older!” I immediately jotted those words down so I can remember them now and forever. As I head into all the middle years of life, I want to be gentle with myself and my skin. I want to look forward and not backward, to view my forming wrinkles and lines not as an indicator of waning beauty, but an invitation into a deeper one.

This year, I read (and loved) the book Skin Cleanse and initially followed her journal and elimination idea with my food and lifestyle for 7-10 days to begin making note of what might be causing negative reactions in my skin. Taking some time to learn about this part of my body has been teaching me another way to appreciate, nurture, and take care of myself. So it seemed natural to share these thoughts and practices here, too. nurturing_self_skin_care_beautycounter-2nururing_self_skincare_beautycounter-9SKIN WELLNESS

It’s possible to choose the highest quality skincare and yet still negatively impact our skin by living with high amounts of stress, malnutrition, or sleep deprivation. Over-straining the nervous or digestive systems can naturally result in skin flare-ups, rashes, itchiness, flakiness, and so on. Conversely, it’s just as possible to eat and rest well and yet rub harmful products onto our face and bodies. These sort of products––with hidden harsh chemicals or metals––disrupt our endocrine system, negatively affecting our hormone levels leading to changes in mood, sexual development, metabolism, and our skin’s appearance. That’s right, ladies. Here’s an informative article from the Journal of Applied Toxicology.

Although I’ve always known our skin is important, I have never really thought of it as an organ. In fact, it is our largest organ, and according to this article, it makes up 8 pounds or 22 square feet of the human body. With three separate layers, it is both a protectant and sealant, waterproofing and guarding our internal organs against bacteria. It is connected to our nervous system sending and receiving signals to the brain, helping to regulate our body temperature. And the briefest truth is how we take of the inside of our skin is just as important as what we apply to the top of it.beautycounter_nurturing_self_skincare-3beautycounter_nurturing_self_skincare-5 BEAUTYCOUNTER

I have always been particular about the products I use on myself or my children, even making several on my own with essential oils. But with the skin changes I’ve experienced the last month, I wanted something more consistent in quality to help narrow factors in why my skin was breaking out in certain spots or dry in others. I first heard about Beautycounter at the beginning of the year through a friend and was shocked by what I learned about the beauty industry after watching this brief video. I valued the company’s clear ingredient list and their commitment to the never list. As someone who has always purchased natural, plant-based products, I could not believe how many I had around the house with the toxic chemicals listed on the never list. Yikes! It’s been helpful for more than just skincare.

After trying Beautycounter, I decided to sign up as a consultant this last summer––a way to share things I’m learning, products I’m absolutely loving, and a way to help support our family. I especially love the business––their emphasis to educate the public about what we use on our bodies and to also transform the legislation around the skin care industry. Naturally, I have slowly been transitioning all of my skincare to Beautycounter and am now shifting my cosmetics as well. I know they are not the only quality skincare around, but I wanted to be clear about what I’m using and why.

SKINCARE / For the most part, I use the Face Collection, with the Cleansing Balm and Hydrating Face Oil at night. I am slightly obsessed with the Cleansing Balm, so much so that if I could have only one Beautycounter product to use day and night, that would be it. I only use about the amount in my hand shown above, unless I’ve worn more eye make-up, and it removes all of my makeup really well (even mascara) and comes with a washable muslin cloth which helps gently exfoliate my skin each night. It’s a wonderful hydrant, so I can use leave it on my clean skin in lieu of a moisturizer. I’ve occasionally used it for my elbows or heels, something I’ll be grateful for in the winter. It’s perfect for eczema and psoriasis, too. I also keep the Peppermint Lip Conditioner on our bathroom counter, which I swipe on several times during the day (as do my girls).

MAKEUP/ In terms of daily wear at this point. Most days I use Dew Skin, especially if we’ll be outside for a while since it has an SPF. Like it’s name, it leaves my skin with a dewy look that I’ll appreciate more in the winter when I’m sweating less. Wink. I use the Skin Concealer Pen and the Lengthening Mascara daily. The concealer pen has a brush on the tip instead of a wand, which I love. It makes the application so much smoother. And the mascara is the best mascara ever compared to other non-toxic brands I’ve tried. It has beeswax in it, which helps it build really well. Most days I swipe one little stroke for a little definition. And for the evenings I’m going out, it will build really well. The Cream Blusher is next on my list.

I’ll also briefly note here that they’ve just released their holiday collections which can be a great way to try or gift a few products at once. I’m hoping to get this one this year to sample several colors at once. Feel free to email me if you have any questions.  nurturing_self_skincare_beautycounter-8nururing_self_skincare_beautycounter-3

LIFESTYLE FACTORS

But as I noted above, what I’m putting on my skin is only part of the equation. In the last year, I’ve also re-evaluated my entire lifestyle (hence this series), noting how each can positively and negatively impact my skin, too.

sleep / I know there are often other people and circumstances that affect our sleep (I hear you, parents!), but sleep is SO important for all manner of wellness, including our skin wellness. According to this article, beauty sleep is in fact a real thing, as blood flow better circulates to our skin while we sleep, affecting our skin’s dryness, puffiness, and color. If it helps, I shared some tips and thoughts about developing healthy sleep habits here.

hydrate / Our cells are mostly water, and when we become dehydrated it affects everything, including our skin. I have to really watch this in cold months, when I tend to want hot coffee and tea to help stay warm. But I can tell when I’m dehydrated. My tongue feels dry; my brain feels cloudy; my body feels tired. Drink water! To help, I try to start my day with a large glass of water.

protect alone time / Stress affects our skin! And in a very small way, carving out space for yourself in the day can help decrease stress. At the very least, it can give you time to rest or sleep. I often find my own time alone in my morning routine.

exercise / I am learning that exercise doesn’t have to be rigorous, but it can be. A daily walk can be as effective for relieving stress and promoting blood circulation as a run. Try yoga or Crossfit or running or swimming. Do what works for your lifestyle right now, but do something a few minutes each day.

eat or drink your veggies / All of our bodies are unique and uniquely process foods differently. But we all need fruit and veggies. I love all foods and try to eat whole foods with plenty of fruit/veggies as much as possible. Don’t get me wrong. I love a strong cup of coffee in the morning and a glass of wine in the evening. I sometimes eat leftover cake for breakfast on the weekend. Balance is always key. But I’ve found something that always help calm my skin is making a glass of fresh juice a few times a week. Here are two of my favorites:

A Hydrating Glow : 1 beet, 3 carrots, 3 celery ribs, 1 large cucumber, 1 lemon (or orange if I want a bit of sweetness)

The Immunity Boost : 1 apple, 1 orange, 4 carrots, 1 cucumber, 2″ piece of ginger

Like so many other areas of living, the goal is not mastery. It’s not achieving a perfect ideal. The goal is again to pay attention and to quiet the noise of our lives and listen to our bodies. When my eyes begin to puff or carry dark circles, I may apply concealer, but I also want to learn to pause, to ask myself about my sleep and hydration. When break-outs or new lines appear, I may be frustrated and try to fix them, but I also want to consider my stress levels and the foods I’m eating. All of these things are connected, all of these things matter to my well-being.

memory keeping | printing photo books

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Books have a unique way of stopping time in a particular moment and saying: Let’s not forget this. ― Dave Eggers

Let me first begin by noting, that for all of the images I share (a lot!), I’m terrible about printing. I have crested 3000 images shared on IG just this last week, and easily have a thousand more here. Readers have on occasion asked how I print or keep the images (aside from my back-up hard drive), and the quick answer is I don’t. I have a few individually printed, but having 3000 individual prints around the house can feel equally as cumbersome. Still, I’ve realized in recent years as my children scroll through our computer’s photo library or my camera roll or IG feed, I need to print more. In our digital age, there’s something remarkable, almost sacred, about holding something concrete. In teaching my children to handwrite letters, I’ve learned that a different function occurs in the brain when you write a word in pencil on paper than when you type that same word on a screen. It wedges itself just a little deeper into your memory faculty. I’d like to think a printed image, or even a book of them can do the same.

It is common for young parents to hear how quickly the years go by and how we’ll miss them when they do. “Soak up the days,” older parents admonish. Although I have done my best to do exactly that, it wasn’t until the end of 2013 that I actually felt the slipperiness of time. Our youngest, Olive, would turn five a few months into 2014, and suddenly I felt the weight of a changing season for our home. No more nursing or potty-training. No more nap-time or strollers. No more jibber-ish talk or sink baths. 2014 would be an official sign-off to the baby/toddler/early-preschool years, and I wanted to document it, to store up what little bits I could. A form of closure? Possibly. Inspired by my online friend Jodi, I began a personal 52 Project in our home in 2014 and 2015. It was far more challenging than I expected, but it caused me to see our days in a new way, to see my children in a new way. I’m so grateful for these small recorded bits of their childhood. And although there are umpteen other images and stories to print, I wanted to make sure these were hardbound in a book.

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PRINTING THE 52 PROJECT BOOKS

There are of course a variety of ways to design and print this sort of project. Price and time is always a factor, and perhaps the trickiest part of this one is incorporating text with the images. Earlier this year, Ronnie of life: captured and I worked together to create a template for my 52 project book, and I’m so excited to share the template will be available for you through their site in early October! You can follow them here to find out when it releases. I printed the book through Artifact Uprising, which I highly recommend for high-quality printing. I simply waited for one of their sales (typically around a seasonal holiday) for a discount. They also have page templates that are easy to click-and-drag, but the text may take a bit to type out and organize if you go that route.

PRINTING INSTAGRAM BOOKS

If you have not signed up with Chatbooks, do it now. While the printing is not the best on the market, it is wonderful for the $8 price-point. I subscribed early last year, which simply means every time I post an image to IG, it automatically fills another page in my Chatbooks. When I have reached 60 pages, it gives me three days to preview and make any changes and then auto-ships directly to my house. Eight dollars. It’s a way to simplify one part of my life, and the kids adore them. I’m considering ordering a back up of each one to keep away in a safe place. If you’re interested in trying one for free, use the code CLOIS678. But I promise, if you consistently share images on either Instagram or Facebook, you’ll love them.

CLASSES FOR PHOTO ORGANIZATION AND DESIGN

I’m quite interested in transforming the archives of this space into book/booklets for our home (and possibly others someday). Over the last two years, I’ve taken two courses with life:captured and I cannot recommend either enough. The Photo Organization class was life-changing for my work flow and photo storage, and the InDesign for Beginners class gave me so much vision and help to design my own storybooks and other personal project books (you can read more of my thoughts on the class here). Although I am still quite slow with the layout, I appreciate the skills I’m learning and now sharing with my children, too. I’m mentioning both classes today––even though they’re indirectly related to printing––because the fall sessions for these courses are beginning again next week, and registration ends on Monday (Sept. 26). To all of you who have oodles of images clouding your virtual space, or who are interested and yet unfamiliar with layout design, or who want to learn more about how to capture a story with your camera (phone or otherwise), give yourself an early Christmas gift. Wink. Wink.

And if you’re interested (and still reading) in reading more of how I keep memories, you can also find my “Storytellers” interview from the summer here. Happy new week to you all. Keep a bit of time to hold your story, whether by your heart or a book.

 

 

real talk real moms | on comparison in motherhood

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I imagine much of the comparison that happens between mothers begins simply and honestly, a way to observe and emulate other women we admire for one reason or another. We actually need one another in this way. We need other mothers in our lives to share experience or to bounce ideas and inspire us when we find ourselves overwhelmed or in a rut. We need to know that other women have endured sleepless nights or cleared poop from the floor or learned how to love their postpartum bodies. We need to hear various ways other mothers have taught their children kindness and how to share, or how they learn to clean up after themselves or where they go to school. These are the easy comparisons, the ones that remind us we’re not alone in the difficult choices and sometimes crappy parts of motherhood. Literally.

Perhaps comparison between us takes a downturn when in our estimation of others, we begin criticizing ourselves, nitpicking our own choices, style, and circumstances to fit in with another’s. We visit a friend’s house or scroll through our social feeds and feel it: we are not measuring up. We’re not organized enough, thoughtful enough, traveling enough, creating enough, thin enough, experienced enough, successful enough, strong enough. Our children aren’t dressed well enough or experiencing enough or playing enough or reading enough. Our homes are not clean enough or decorated enough or organized enough or environmentally-friendly enough. The list goes on and these thoughts, muddling our perspectives and vision, can be a slippery slope into doubt, shame, and even depression.

As mothers we need honest community, even if at times it is only one other person. We need someone with whom we can openly share our not enoughs, and one whom we trust will speak truth and courage to our darkest thoughts. Although I always write honestly here and do sometimes share bits of these personal hardships, these spaces are not the primary places I share the underbelly of our life. That said, know there is an underbelly. I wrestle with doubt and anxious thoughts. I regularly question my ability to actually do all I want to do. I sometimes find myself wishing for those illusive descriptors more and better. You are not alone. I encourage you, the next time you’re feeling ill-fitted for the task at hand or less than pleased with how your body fits in clothes, pause and begin listing gratitudes aloud, even if it begins with the simplest gift of being able to take a breath.

For those of you who need ideas or courage in finding community in motherhood, I wrote about that here.  For those of you who tend to guard your underbelly and struggle with perfectionism in motherhood, I wrote about that here.


This post is a part of the collaborative “Real Talks” series. To read more thoughts on comparison in motherhood:

Alexandra from Ave Styles | Rebecca from A Daily Something | Erin from Design for Mankind | Amy from Parker Etc. | Catherine from The Life Styled | Kat + Em from The Refined Woman | Hillary from Our Style Stories

 

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On Screentime + Managing the Internet at Home

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The use of technology in childhood is one of the hottest topics for modern parents, and it seems where ever you land on the issue, it can be a potential point of shame and judgement, one where each family must establish strong justification for their home choices in the sea of varied opinion. Before I share my own, I think it’s fair to preface with this: let’s be gentle with one another on this parenting journey. Ask questions. Test ideas. But let’s always be gentle and give space for the various family contexts.

As with most things our family treats screentime and the internet with moderation and respect. Briefly put: we enjoy both with boundaries. Screens have never been a central part of our family narrative, and we prefer to keep it that way. But we do use them often during the school year for research, writing, audiobooks, music, and educational play. Still, to keep these helpful uses in check, we try to keep this educational screen time to a minimum and periodically discuss: How does this benefit us? What does this cost us? These have been helpful questions as our children grow older and more of their friends have personal devices––something we haven’t opted for them yet. How do screens change your time together? How do they affect your attitudes or relationships? How do they benefit you? What might they cost you? This ongoing conversation is also an education.

The truth is, as an adult, I’m still learning how to navigate and set boundaries for myself in the abstract Internet space. And although I want my children to enjoy and learn to create with modern tools, part of my goal as a parent is also to help them understand boundaries, why they exist and how they are ultimately for our good even as we grow older. Healthy boundaries in childhood can be stepping stones to healthy habits as adults.

During the school year, we allow our children 30 minutes of daily free time on a screen (watching a show, playing a video game, playing with a new app)––after school work, home responsibilities, and outdoor play have happened. And since it’s generally not practical for me to sit and count minutes with each of my children while they enjoy this screen time (that’s usually when I begin checking emails, finish a bit of work, or prep dinner), I’m grateful to have recently found Circle, a device that pairs with our Wi-Fi to help me manage ALL the internet usage in our home during the day, including my own. I’ve only been using it the last month, and already I am loving it. Parents with children and teens who have personal devices, listen up!
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TIPS FOR MANAGING SCREENTIME AND THE INTERNET IN YOUR HOME

As a parent, it’s one part to create the rule and another part to hold to it. I do want my children to learn how to manage and use screen technology, to view it as an asset to imagination, education, creativity, and outdoor play––not a replacement. As we slip into our new school year this week and our routine fills up a bit more, here’s a few ways Circle has been a gift to me as a parent, a help in setting and holding the boundaries we value, even boundaries for myself.

Pause the Internet // One of the largest distractors from my time with the kids is the internet on my phone. Whether I’m editing and sharing an image or trying to quickly check my email, it can quickly become a bunny trail, especially in our homeschool morning. With Circle, I can actually pause the internet on my phone (or any other device), helping me to keep focus. This fall, I plan to use this feature often during our school hours, keeping me free of notifications and even quick email checks at the wrong time. It will also keep them from sneaking off with the iPad or from browsing the computer without permission. If they need the computer or an app during our time, I can simply click a button and allow them to do so, pausing again when their allotted time is up.

I also plan to use this feature for myself during our weekly family movie nights and family meetings, too. This will even be handy when Mark and I enjoy date nights at home, since it can be difficult for both of us to shut off our screen work. With Circle, I can pause the internet for an individual device or for our entire home by clicking a pause button. Win win, as they say.

Create Filters and Establish Time Limits // First, I should note our children do not ever have free reign to browse the internet or certain apps (YouTube) on their own for all the reasons one might imagine. Even knowing how to search the internet is a learned skill, one we’re practicing together. There are of course a variety of softwares and ways to set filters for computers and phones, but I appreciate how easy it is in Circle. I created an account for each child using the app on my iPhone, where I could hand-select the apps they’re allowed to use and even change how long they can use each app. For instance, I de-select YouTube and Amazon since I don’t want them on those apps without my knowing. You can also set a general home filter for all the shared screens, which are most of ours.

I like that I can have an itemize list of all the sites and apps that have been used on each device. If I’ve given them the iPad during school hours to review math facts or play a specific game, Circle let’s me know if they’re actually doing it. I can also choose the general level of content they can access by person or device, i.e. kid or teen? This feature also filters sites that might contain content more mature than you’ve selected for the person or device (pornographic or violent).  

If your children have personal devices, this would be particularly helpful, as you can see and regulate the sites they visit and how long they spend on the internet or on a specific app each day. You can also help your children regulate their time by adjusting how long they use a specific app or the Internet in a day, an especially helpful feature as the school year approaches and the day demands more of them. On a side note, this has been so good for me, too, as it allows me to view and occasionally set limits on the amount of time I spend in my social apps. Wink.

Set a Regular Internet Bedtime // Since our children don’t take any devices to bed with them, this isn’t really applicable for them yet. But after writing about the value of unplugging a few weeks ago, I’ve recognized how often I still pick up my phone before bed, even when I have intended to do something different. Habits are so difficult to break. To shift and create a healthier evening habit for myself, I’ve set my own internet bedtime using the Circle app, leaving myself the time to read and unwind without distraction.

While Circle is valuable to me as a parent, especially heading into teen years, it’s also valuable for myself and my own time management, to help me remain focused on what I really value for daily family living. I’m grateful to have a system to help re-direct my attention when I lose focus and also impose set boundaries for my children when I forget or lose track of time.

I’m curious, how do you handle the internet in your home? Do you have a set age in mind or another litmus for when your children are ready for personal devices? Id’ love to hear. 


This post is sponsored by Circle with Disney, a new way for parents to manage devices and time. For those of you interested in trying Circle, you can purchase it on discount for $89 at Amazon, Best Buy, Target, or meetcircle.com until August 31, 2016. As always all thoughts and images are my own. Thank you for supporting the businesses that keep this space afloat.

one equal temper of heroic hearts

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I gave Mark a wallet for father’s day in June with the last line from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses, “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” I might have inscribed the last seven lines, if it would have fit, and so I inscribed the words on my memory instead, and of course here with you.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

I do not know what it is to set sail onto the sea without knowing where I am going, as Ulysses and so many great explorers and adventurers across time have. And yet––metaphorically, I do. I know what it is to face a new homeschool year and wonder where our family might land, or what it is like to bring a new baby into the earth and wonder who they might become and whether I can stay the course. I know what it is to stare at a young business or a forgotten house and feel compelled to go and do something with it, even when I’m unsure where it might take me, or how it might remake or destroy me. Perhaps the point of living isn’t so much about where we are going, but the fact that we are going at all. To live purposefully in any manner requires courage.

Wherever you find yourself on this Monday morning, cheers to you, to your heroic heart. May you find strength of will to accomplish the things in your hands today and the courage to seek, to find, and not to yield.