First Quarter: Affirmative, Roger that.

28/03/2012 § 6 Comments

Image via George Eastman House

Ladies and germs, March has been a terrifically busy, yet rather challenging month, I kid you not.  As we close out this first quarter of 2012 — poof! gone! — I wanted to briefly discuss the topic of resolutions, both of the New Year’s and Lenten variety.  Ohhhh yes, remember those?  As we inch closer to 2013, how have you fared?  For me, I’m rating my success a solid C+

As for resolutions: I’ve started three books but I haven’t been able to fight my way to the end of any of them.  I have done some running, but nothing near the distances I need to be ready for a half marathon.  I haven’t actually cooked anything, but I have started to buy groceries.  I haven’t been anywhere near a horse.  I have been actively working at identifying what I want, clearly asking for it, and working to make it happen.

As for Lent: I have successfully banished the snooze button and breakfast sandwiches, but dairy, on the other hand, has been harder to shake.  (We’ll talk about passive negativity in a moment…)

When I take a step back and see all the goals I made for myself and my uneven progress toward achieving them, I have a natural inclination to focus on what hasn’t been done and freak myself out about that.  I’m obviously a failure.  Not only will I completely ignore the big wins (my love of the snooze bar is well documented — an epic snoozer, I would sometimes hit it for over an hour before rising), I will cast aside the smaller victories I’ve made in the process of achieving the greater goals (e.g., groceries first, then cooking) as not good enough.  And then the fatalism comes shuffling in: Since I’ve already messed it all up, why even keep trying?  For me, it can be difficult sometimes to give myself a break and let success come a little slower than my irrational brain — and pride — would like.  So here’s where my attempted ban on passive negativity steps in.  By honoring what I have already accomplished and by recognizing that achieving these goals will not be a quick as flipping on a light switch, I feel more relaxed and much more open to the change and commitment these resolutions require.

But how to do this?  As crazy as it might sound, I simply try to take a moment to reflect on my progress, call out my victories and give myself a mental pat on the back.  You could do this in a moment of meditation on the train or in your car, write about it in your journal, or if you’re not shy about expressing it you could give the words even more strength by saying them out loud.  By choosing to spend my time thinking, writing or even speaking positively, I give power to these thoughts and my spirits are immediately lifted.  It becomes easier to accept the little stumbles on the way to achieving my goals.  I am reminded that as long as I pick myself up, dust myself off and start again, everything is fine.

And for a little inspiration, two child affirmation prodigies you may have already met, but should definitely visit with again:

So let’s agree to take a moment and have a bit of celebration for the awesomeness that you are, and commit to making the second quarter even better.

And I would love to hear about your goals and your progress as well!

For Serious, Matilda.

22/02/2012 § 8 Comments

Taken by Nina Leen, 1947.

There is no real reason I selected this picture, other than for its awesomeness.  I like to call it: “This hat and I are about to kick your ass in bridge.  For serious, Matilda.”

Today, I am getting serious about Lent, though.  I’m not especially religious, nor am I a Catholic (I’m actually a lapsed Episcopalian), but every Lenten season, I like to challenge myself to give up something.  For those unaware, Lent runs from Ash Wednesday (today) through Easter Sunday; 40 days in total.  For Christians it is a period of penitence, of giving up certain luxuries and of fasting.

Am I turning into a Sunday School blog? Hardly.

But I do think the concept of penitence is applicable universally, no matter what altar you choose to worship at.  A 40 day period is a great amount of time to reflect upon yourself, your personal habits and things you might want to change.  To abstain from some of your bad habits for 40 days will take some willpower.  I once managed to convince a very unhappy Mister to give up booze with me, rough going indeed, but we survived.  They say it takes only 30 days to cement a new habit, so why not seize upon the season to make some purposeful changes?

What I will attempt to give up for the next 40 days:

  • The snooze button.  You will be profoundly missed!
  • Those delightful bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwiches I’m very fond of
  • …and dairy in general, for that matter.
  • Passive negativity

What about you?

Sidenote: Would you believe this is my **600th** post?  In the spirit of gratitude, I wanted to send a big thank you to all of my followers, old and new.  I hope you understand how much I really appreciate your reading and comments and emails and sharing of this silly little blog.

You guys are the absolute tops.
xoxo. M.

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Quite Continental Charm School: Day 1 – An Attitude of Gratitude

01/02/2012 § 23 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Actress Grace Kelly studying script for her role of Georgie in “The Country Girl” on the movie set during break in filming.  Photo taken by Ed Clark for Life Magazine, 1954.

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies,
those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how
we experience life and the world.

-John Milton

Day 1: An Attitude of Gratitude
I took me awhile, but I eventually decided to start off this month-long project with a very small recommendation.  This tip won’t cost you any money, it can be gotten anywhere, and I have found it brings an immediate feeling of fabulosity to my own life, once added.  Yet, as easy as it is to achieve, it is something that has to be rigorously tended, or else it will wither and die.  What I am speaking of is an attitude of gratitude.

From the beginning, most of us are on a path paved with competition: siblings, classmates, teammates, tournaments, grades, entrance exams, university acceptances, job applications, finding a partner, popularity contests, and the like.  The list of things you can use to compare yourself to others grows by the second.  You know what it sounds like…  That girl on the train is thinner than you are.  That well-dressed gentleman is sporting a wedding band, a full head of hair and the most amazing watch you’ve ever seen.  Congrats on getting that job, but you haven’t yet managed to find Mr. Right?  Mazel on your marriage, but did I hear you’re still renting that “cozy” apartment in Queens?  You’re looking amazing — it’s probably a good thing you don’t have any kids to mess up that diet!

When it feels like the world is hyper-focused on what you haven’t got, it’s easy to lose sight of the blessings you do have.  Our “thank yous” become perfunctory at best.  But I have found that when I take a moment to truly concentrate on all the things I am grateful for, large or small, I experience an immediate lift in my spirits.  I immediately feel better about myself and my day because I have so much to be thankful for, and a charmed life is a positive life, indeed.

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude can take many forms.  Perhaps you take a moment when you wake up to think about one thing or one person from the previous day that you are thankful for.  Perhaps you make a more concerted effort to earnestly thank people when they help you.  Perhaps you write thank you notes for good deeds done to you in the past, letting the do-gooder know how their kindness has stayed with you all this time.  Perhaps you challenge yourself to write a list of ten things you are grateful for every single evening before you go to bed.

However you choose to manifest it, I believe an attitude of gratitude is the best first step towards creating a charmed life — because you must remember that this project is not about filling in the places where you are lacking, it’s about shining a light on the fabulousness you already are — and while this is a small shift in perspective, do remember this is something you have to work at to reap the benefits.

To get you started, a few things I am grateful for — and if you’d like to leave yours in the comments below, I’d be honored!

  • My good health and strength
  • Dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt
  • The abundance of PBS documentaries
  • My ability to fall asleep moments after my head hits the pillow
  • The little handmade cards that my mother sends me in the mail, which usually only have “Mom” as the return address
  • Good kisses
  • Sam Cooke’s voice

But most of all, I’m thankful to spend this month with you!

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Au revoir, 2011!

31/12/2011 § Leave a comment

2011 has certainly been a wild and wonderful year.  I’ve traveled to new places, met amazing people, deepened existing relationships, and learned a lot about myself and the world around me.  Most of all, I want to thank those of you who inspired me, who made me think, who supported me, who called my bluff, who made me laugh, and even those of you who made me cry.  A million thanks.  I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

Tonight, I’ll be with my nearest and dearest, and I hope you will be too.

Let’s ring it in like Paul and Joanne, shall we?

Happy New Year, my darlings.

Happy Veterans Day

11/11/2011 § 1 Comment

Armistice Day, New York, 1919.
Victory Arch.

Veterans Day was originally celebrated as Armistice Day, commemorating the day that the Great War ended, which at the time was thought to be the “War to End all Wars.”  By 1939 it became apparent that this ideal would unfortunately not bear out and the holiday was expanded in 1953 to honor all veterans, living or dead.  Veterans Day has my father, grandfather, great uncle and many other friends and family members who have proudly served our country front of mind today — not least of all because the parade will be passing my office on Fifth Avenue.  To each and every one of them, I owe a deep debt of gratitude and I admire their commitment and bravery.  Thank you.

Happy Veterans Day.

Armistice Day, New York , 1919.
Colonel Donovan and staff of 165th Infantry, passing under the Victory Arch.

Armistice Day, London, 1918.

Armistice Day, Virginia, 1943.
Arlington National Cemetery, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Images via US National Archives and LIFE Archives.

Attitude of Gratitude

25/11/2010 § Leave a comment

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, some things I am grateful for:

  1. festive phone calls and text messages from friends and family
  2. downtime
  3. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons
  4. going to bed early and waking up early…
  5. …but also staying up really, really late
  6. fingerless gloves
  7. finding my limits and working to surpass them
  8. crow pose

Happy Thanksgiving!

0 Weeks to the NYC Marathon: Nov 7, 2010 Here I Come…

05/11/2010 § Leave a comment

Goal over the last year: To somehow morph from total non-exerciser to actual runner and run the New York City Marathon

Actual progress: Hundreds of miles, multiple races, new friends, increased strength, two pairs of running shoes

Goal this week: 26.2 miles through the 5 boroughs of NYC!

So here we are.  Just hours away from my first step on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge as I prove to myself that I can run the NYC Marathon.  I have a myriad of feelings this close to the race.  I am proud of how far I have come over the past year.  I’m excited to run with thousands of people through the streets of New York.  I’m nervous about the weather since it’s been raining a bit.  I’m anxious to see if I can actually run 26.2 miles. I am a little stressed out about all the things I have to remember for Sunday.  And, a small part of me is looking forward to a change of pace and not being in training…

It’s been a fun year.  I’ve seen how easy it is to become a runner and then become a runner that can run upwards of twenty miles.  When I say “easy,” I am of course laying aside the amount of commitment this much training requires.  Lacing up your shoes and jogging around the block once is easy.  Whats difficult is getting up and doing it over and over again.   It can be addicting, but don’t get me wrong – I remember how much I disliked the early runs.  Getting through just 30 minutes took serious effort and I attribute most of my success to having great Team in Training teammates.  Training for this marathon has been a little different.  I have not had the same support network this time around and in the beginning I privately doubted that I would be able to log the long runs all by myself.  Surprisingly, with a strong foundation I was able to summon the strength to go it alone and actually grow to like it.  While nothing beats a Central Park loop with your girlfriends while catching up on the latest dating disasters, I came to find running alone an important time for me to reflect.  As my time alone on the road stretched upwards of three hours, my mind had more and more uninterrupted space to fill with ideas and schemes and plans.  While I never once have felt a “runners high” – I have to think that this is the next best thing.

Running is a solitary sport, but when you become a runner you kind of join a huge team.  Whether you are just starting out, or training for your 30th marathon, so many people will share common ground with you and will love to talk about everything from clothes to food to strategy.  When you are out on the road, if you run somewhere a lot of people run (for me Central Park or the Hudson in NYC or along the bike path in Santa Monica), you feel a solidarity with your “teammates” even if you don’t really acknowledge each other — and when you do talk to someone at a water fountain or tell a beginner “great job!” that connection feels even stronger.  I can’t urge you enough to start running.  Or jogging.  Or walking.  Just get out there.

Back to the marathon.  So yes, I am a little jittery.  I am supposed to already be asleep, actually.  But I decided to polish my nails first — OPI’s “Big Apple Red” seemed like the perfect shade.  I’ve already started laying out my clothes and all the necessary bits and pieces for race day:

  • Bib (that’s my number), d-tag (the little electronic chip I attach to my shoe), safety pins
  • Running clothes:  It’s been a little chilly the last few days and they are forecasting that it will be in the 30s in the morning on raceday, and possibly warm up to 50.  As of right now I am planning to wear a short sleeved shirt with a long sleeved shirt underneath and full length tights.  I’m also planning on gloves because my hands get ridiculously cold and then turn numb — always fun.
  • Throw away clothes:  The time between arrival and start is more than two hours.  It’s best to wear clothes that you can throw away along the race (don’t worry, they are collected and donated!)
  • Rain poncho or (even more alluring) garbage bag to wear/sit on if it is rainy or wet (and it always is)
  • Tissues
  • Race food
  • Some kind of plan or strategy

Crap.  A plan.  My plan?  I really don’t have one, aside from wanting to finish.  I don’t want to fixate on beating some specific time because I really need to focus on harnessing my energy and running efficiently, but when I hear that Oprah did the Marine Corp Marathon in 4.29, I get a little itchy to beat her.  My PR on a half marathon is just around 2 hours and you are supposed to multiply your PR for a half by two and then add 10 minutes for your marathon time.  So maybe…  Anyway, Katie Holmes did the NYC in 5.29.  I’m definitely sure I can do better.  Maybe.  Don’t hold me to that.

I am enjoying my farewell to carbs tour and will top it off with the traditional pre-marathon Italian dinner tomorrow night.  Pasta, adios.  You were always good to me.  Brown rice and sweet potatoes, I’ll see you around.  Potato samosas and naan, I am going to miss you most of all.

When I am out there I will be thinking about how far I have come and everyone and everything that has helped me achieve this goal.  I am deeply indebted to my family and friends who have tolerated non-stop racing talk and my crazy strict dieting and imbibing rules.  I owe eons of gratitude to a very special person who helped secure my entry into the race, even if I wasn’t sure at all times I could do it, or wanted to do it.  Millions of mercis to Patricia Moreno for creating IntenSati (and Erin Stutland and Natalia Petrzela for spreading the gospel), Michelle Taylor at Pilates on Fifth, Keren at Alycea Ungaro’s Real Pilates, Equinox, coconut water, Clif Bar & Co, Pump Energy Food, Smartwater, and lululemon athletica.  Last, but not least, muchas gracias to my mom who is here to see the race, to my special team of pacers who will be jumping in with me for a few miles and to those of you who will be cheering me on (wherever you might be).

Alright, here goes nothing.

Happy running!

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