Why You Need a Self-Care Survival Plan: Lessons from a Badass Chicken

Today I had to enlist my emergency self-care plan. After a black bear destroyed our chicken coop in the middle of the night, leaving just one lone-surviving hen — Willie, who I had to place with a new family today — I am now left with zero chickens. And let me just tell you that today has been one of the saddest (and in some ways one of the happiest) days of my life. I’m sure this story will be heavy for some of you to read, but I promise its gets lighter at the end. I’ve done my best to leave out the gruesome details, and to only keep in the parts that are essential to my message: Having a self-care practice helps us navigate life’s difficult moments more effectively. 

Now back to Willie…

Willie is a survivor.

She always has been.

Many of the chicks in her flock didn’t make it past the shipping container. When I asked the farm store clerk if they had any Wyandottes available, she said she’d have to check because not many had survived.

But Willie had survived.

A couple of days after I brought her home, though, three of the other chicks ganged up on her and pecked her left eye closed completely. It was swollen shut for days and we were fairly certain she’d be blind in that eye, which is why we named her one-eyed Willie (if you’ve seen The Goonies, then you’ll understand the reference), but she proved us wrong and the other eye eventually opened.

And there have been several other attacks.

So far, she’s survived a pine marten attack, two black bear attacks, and a miniature dachshund attack (the latter of which happened this morning, just a few short hours after the last bear attack, and it was probably the most terrifying of them all).

Willie has never been much of a leader, but she’s observant, cautious, and fast. She’s a badass.

The Awakening

Bears are starting to come out of hibernation…and they’re hungry. Really hungry. In fact, last year (on this exact day ironically) we snapped a photo of a black bear in our front yard rummaging through the trash. It was the first bear I’d ever seen since we moved here. That was before we realized the importance of storing food (garbage, bird feeders, chicken feed, etc.) inside. But bears are no strangers to this area. Last year there were 800 reports of bear incidents in our county alone. And let’s be honest, we’re the ones encroaching on their neighborhood.

 

 

Last night, the sound of scratching outside my window jolted me awake just before midnight. It sounded like someone was prying the chicken coop apart with a hacksaw. Shining a flashlight from my bedroom window, the only thing I could see was yellow eyes. (And it sure AF wasn’t Scut Farkus.)

The game cam showed exactly what it was: a black bear. A large black bear.

I didn’t know for sure what had happened until dawn, when it was safe enough to venture out and take a closer look.

Sadly, when I arrived there were no chickens left in the coop.

The Will to Survive

I didn’t know it at the time, but the bear had somehow missed one of the chickens. One had escaped.

Willie.

And I only discovered she was still alive after I heard my dachshund launch an attack. Feathers were flying and I was screaming as I ran full speed in my rubber boots, eventually face-planting in the mud and tackling her before she did any real damage to Willie.

It was a total effing sh*t show.

Covered in mud, my heart was racing, I was gasping for breath, and my lungs felt like someone had taken a bag of razor blades to them. But Willie was safe.

It became clear pretty quickly after assessing the damage that Willie would need to find a new home. Chickens are highly social creatures, so being alone wasn’t an option. But the even bigger issue was that there was no safe place for her to live here anymore. There was little doubt in my mind the bear would return. (This wasn’t his first visit here.) And there simply wasn’t enough time to make adequate enhancements to the coop.

 

Willie meeting her new friends at Fox Hollow Farm in Issaquah, WA.

A Parting Gift from Willie

One thing I love about living in this part of the country is that there are plenty of people who love chickens. It only took a handful of calls and texts to find my girl a new home.

After I made arrangements for her to move to Fox Hollow Farm, a local safe haven for animals, I was finally able to breathe for the first time.

I cancelled a few appointments, took a shower, and calmed myself down. But soon it was time to take Willie to her new home.

As I gathered my keys and reached for the crate she had been safely resting in, I noticed that she was standing over an egg. Despite everything that had unfolded over the past 12 hours, she still managed to lay an egg.

(I told you she was a badass.)

And it was her final gift to me.

New Beginnings

After thanking her for the gift, we headed to Fox Hollow Farm, where horses, pigs, chickens, and I’m sure many other animals that I didn’t see on my walk to the barn, hang out like they’re at some kind of animal day spa.

Willie wasn’t quite sure what to make of her new home at first. She had never seen a horse and the bantam chickens were new to her as well. But I think she’ll fit in just fine. She’s always been the odd hen out, the lowest in the pecking order. But now she’s the largest of the bunch, and while I can’t say for sure, it seems like that has to give her a boost of something positive.

 

Willie’s new friends at Fox Hollow Farm

After sitting with her for a while to make sure she was comfortable, I knew it was time for me to go. I lifted the crate from the barn floor and headed back to the car, but just before I opened the door to leave, Therese, the kind soul who helped me get Willie settled in, shouted “Come visit her any time you like.”

Her words felt like a warm hug.

Home

When I returned home Willie’s egg was still warm, and it was a pleasant reminder that almost every ending comes with a new beginning.

I started writing almost immediately, with puffy lips, a stuffed up nose, and tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t help but glance out the window toward the empty coop and the splintered wood scattered across the ground beneath the towering trees. And then I closed the curtains.

My dear friends used to live out there. 

Today, Willie taught me about survival, determination, and resiliency.

 

Learning From Nature

It might surprise you to know that I’m not angry about any of this. Am I sad that my feathered friends are gone? Hell yes. But I also understand the will to survive that Willie demonstrated is the very same will to survive that drove the bear to attack.

Nature has endless lessons to teach us. And even though it’s going to take some time to interpret the meaning behind this experience, I’ve learned that remaining open to learning is the key to healing.

I don’t understand why my friends were taken from me.

But, then again, I don’t understand why they were given to me in the first place.

They were gifts; that’s the only thing I know for sure.

Overcoming Life’s Difficult Moments with Self-Care

So here’s the reason I’m sharing this story with you: Self-care is vital. It’s not a luxury that only a few people get to experience; it’s for all of us. It’s a tool for healing. It’s how we pick ourselves up after we face-plant. And it’s what helps us say goodbye with a grateful heart. 

Here are a few examples of how I enlisted my self-care survival plan today:

  1. Solve the immediate problem. Just like any emergency situation, safety is the first order of business. Until I was certain that Willie, the dogs and I were all safe, my brain could not process anything else. That’s basic self-care.
  2. Solve the long-term problem. Once I rescued Willie and safely confined her to a crate in the house with food and water, I realized I needed to find her a new home by the end of the day. Caked in mud or not, the shower would wait. When you care about other living things, self-care and selflessness are so intertwined they simply can’t be separated.
  3. Rearrange the day. A couple quick calls and emails allowed me focus on a few important items, and clear some space for myself. The massage that I had scheduled for earlier that morning was promptly canceled — there was no way in hell it would have been enjoyable.
  4. Take a hot shower. Once I found Willie a new home, I was able to take a moment to breathe. My physical body needed to recover before I could do anything else.
  5. Cry. After I showered, the tears flowed freely. I felt my body coming down from the adrenaline rush and the pain started to creep in.
  6. Meditate. Once the tears slowed, I sat quietly and until I felt calm. As an introvert, spending time alone in self-reflection isn’t negotiable, it’s a requirement.
  7. Close the curtains. As beautiful as my backyard is in spring-time, it just wasn’t helpful for me to stare out the window at an empty coop. I’ve learned that controlling what my eyes focus on makes a big difference in how I process moments like this.
  8. Journal/Write. Writing in my journal (as well as writing this blog) was a critical therapeutic exercise. It helped me organize my thoughts and process the situation.
  9. Turn off the chicken alarm. The alarm on my phone (affectionately titled “Damn Chickens”), which I set to remind myself to lock the chickens in at night, is no longer needed. In fact, now it’s a negative trigger.
  10. Make tea. There’s just something soothing about a hot cup of tea. A glass of wine would have only heightened my sad emotional state, so that was a firm no.

Through all the sadness, I can’t help but smile thinking about Willie’s fun adventures to come at Fox Hollow Farm. She’ll have more sunshine, lots of animals to interact with, and a much lower chance of encountering a bear.

Sometimes we have to look for the sunshine.

There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen

If you don’t love chickens the way I do, this all might seem a bit over the top. I get it. But the truth is, a personalized self-care plan can be used for just about any difficult moment: the death or illness of a loved one, the end of a relationship, a natural disaster. The list is endless. Just think of any situation that makes you feel overwhelmed with emotion and self-care has value.

When life’s heavy moments arrive, just know that if Willie can make it through, so can you. (And if you need a reminder, you can go visit her any time you like.)

Mushrooms, Health and Self-Care

paul stamets with a giant mushroom

Before I dive too far into this post, I want to point out that plucking up random mushrooms from your backyard and eating them is a really dumb idea. There are a growing number of known health benefits associated with our fungal friends, but there are plenty of reasons to exercise caution, the most obvious of which being death.

This evening I attended a talk given by Paul Stamets, a world renowned mushroom expert (and famed astromycologist in the upcoming Star Trek movie), at the Moore Theater in Seattle. The program was entitled “Mushrooms and the Mycology of Consciousness,” and it did indeed blow my mind.

I’ve been fascinated recently by research pointing to mushrooms being a significant source of vitamin D. Like humans, mushrooms use sunlight to manufacture the fat-soluble vitamin, and since there are few natural food sources for this essential nutrient, it’s quite intriguing.

But while this particular talk didn’t cover that aspect of mushrooms, the fact that it didn’t simply points to the enormous impact fungi has on human health, and we’re only just beginning to understand its synergistic roles.

Before Paul took the stage wearing a hat made of Amadou mushroom fiber, it was hard not to notice the small table next to the podium, on top of which was a bulging mass hidden beneath a dark cloth.

We all knew what it was, though.

It was a giant Agarikon mushroom, a variety that has fascinated Stamets for decades, and one that he often poses with in photos.

“How can you not spend your entire life studying this?” he said of it as he held it high above his head.

But it isn’t the largest by a long shot.

To date, the biggest known mushroom spans roughly 2,200 acres atop the Blue Mountains in Oregon. The Honey mushroom’s expansive mycelial network lives mostly below ground (there’s approximately one mile of mycelium per cubic inch…say what?), and Paul hypothesizes that its role is one of a “meadow maker,” since the ground above the network contains almost no trees. To get an aerial photograph, Stamets chartered a plane, which had to climb to 14,000 feet (roughly the elevation of Mt. Rainier) in order to capture the entire site.

It’s jaw-dropping when you consider the fact that this is a single organism.

The amount of information that was covered in just a couple of hours could have easily consumed two full days, and I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of gratitude for Stamets, who has devoted his entire life to this subject so that we may have a deeper understanding of the world around us.

So, what does a mushroom expert’s personal collection look like? His culture library includes no less than 700 strains. (I had no idea until today so many even existed.)

From eyebrow-raising topics such as LSD microdosing to stimulate creativity, to mushrooms playing a role in treating cancer, it was hard not to look at fungi in a new way. (And I certainly had no idea that mycelium could break down rocks!)

The real focus of the evenings’s discussion, though, was around the relationship between fungi and bees. And if you’re not concerned about the disturbing reality that we’re losing significant populations of bees (and, incidentally, the cause is pointing directly to our irresponsible use of pesticides), then you should be:

No bees = no food.

As it turns out, the powerful immune boosting properties of mushrooms play a significant role in bee health, and it’s clear we’ll be hearing a lot more about this as time goes on.

But I left the talk feeling a mixture of hope and concern–not just for the plight of the bees, but also for what will likely follow these new research findings: an upturn in the manufacture of single-substance products.

This ongoing obsession with the distillation of nature into single ingredients and compounds is alarming to me. It’s clear that our relationship with the natural world isn’t linear. There aren’t single cause-and-effect outcomes that can be fully understood, yet we continue to extract and distill and reduce our food into substances that later get itemized in food journals. We dissect food and then reassemble it into a nutrient slurry that we deem more suitable.

And we’ve been seeing more and more of this kind of thinking within the supplement industry, which, in my opinion, has become as problematic as big pharma…but that’s a topic for another time.

Our interconnectedness with nature is complex, to say the least. But what if we were meant to nourish our bodies with foods as they exist in the natural world? In all of its complexity? With its thousands of phytochemicals and nutrients (some known, some still unknown)? And with all of its synergistic properties?

Nature is our greatest teacher when it comes to self-care.

But as the clock ticks toward midnight, I’ll have to contemplate all of this later. For now, I think it’s time for a slightly different state of consciousness…sleep.

Self-Care Activity List: 366 Ideas

8 Dimensions of Self-Care

Having trouble coming up with fun and interesting self-care ideas?

Last year, I took on a self-care challenge. For each of the 366 days in 2016, I experimented with a new self-care activity and then blogged about it.

What would you add to the list? Be creative and come up with your own bucket list of activities that reflect your personal style, needs and priorities.

  1. Enjoy a fermented food (or learn to ferment something yourself)
  2. Set intentions for the next day, week, month or year
  3. Express gratitude
  4. Take a walk in the woods
  5. Bake whole grain bread
  6. Include strength training exercises at least 2 days each week
  7. Get a haircut
  8. Get vaccinated
  9. Give blood
  10. Buy nothing (give something instead)
  11. Use a pressure cooker
  12. Get equipped for fitness
  13. Tidy up
  14. Drink enough water
  15. Get a pedicure
  16. Travel (without stress)
  17. Enjoy a sunset
  18. Listen to the ocean
  19. Go fishing
  20. Visit a fruit stand
  21. Meet new people
  22. Enjoy the sunshine (and then apply sunscreen)
  23. Overcome a fear
  24. Give yourself a break
  25. Sleep in
  26. Get a massage
  27. Cook with garlic
  28. Journal
  29. Walk and work
  30. Pay taxes
  31. Do “The Work”
  32. Relax by a fire
  33. Peruse the bookstore
  34. Fold laundry
  35. Drink tea
  36. Write a haiku
  37. Take a road trip
  38. Play in the snow
  39. Spend time with friends
  40. Floss
  41. Join (or start) a book club
  42. Eat local
  43. Meditate
  44. Continue education
  45. Use affirmations
  46. Receive gifts
  47. Relax with aromatherapy
  48. Eat colorfully
  49. Accept what is
  50. Volunteer at the food bank
  51. Snuggle with pets
  52. Taste
  53. Shop for groceries
  54. Zentangle
  55. Learn CPR
  56. Reminisce
  57. Garden
  58. Explore new possibilities
  59. Go out for breakfast
  60. Define your “enough”
  61. Change your mind
  62. Chase good weather
  63. Love the middle seat
  64. Cool off with shave ice
  65. Explore new places
  66. Smell the roses
  67. Go to the beach
  68. See the bigger picture
  69. Be a tourist
  70. Think in traffic
  71. Get a mammogram
  72. Read scripture
  73. Make a contribution
  74. Lounge
  75. Be part of a community
  76. Cry
  77. Practice good skin care
  78. Get certified
  79. Prune what’s no longer useful
  80. Press the pause button
  81. Listen
  82. Be quiet
  83. Eat green
  84. Celebrate
  85. Meander
  86. Notice nature
  87. Make the holidays healthier
  88. Plan
  89. Go cycling
  90. Reflect
  91. Recover
  92. Try fermented dairy
  93. Walk the dog
  94. Take a nap
  95. Build a support system
  96. Write a book
  97. Calm down
  98. Be vulnerable
  99. Set boundaries
  100. Laugh
  101. Play games
  102. Dine alone
  103. Walk (in the airport or elsewhere)
  104. Plan a menu
  105. Ask for help
  106. Cook for yourself
  107. Hug a pet
  108. Give gifts of gratitude
  109. Find inspiring spaces
  110. Talk yourself into fitness
  111. Listen to an audio book
  112. Be inspired
  113. Stay in
  114. Understand your impact
  115. Set weekly goals
  116. Use an iron skillet
  117. Stay in touch with friends
  118. Do the dishes
  119. Forgive yourself
  120. Let the oven do it
  121. Go to the doctor
  122. Work in the yard
  123. Savor something
  124. Make new friends
  125. Plant some herbs
  126. Build new skills
  127. Assemble (or reassemble) a first-aid kit
  128. Make a toast to a memory
  129. Shop the farmers’ market
  130. Say thank you
  131. Give feedback
  132. Hug a tree
  133. Take a hike
  134. Read the (entire) Affordable Care Act
  135. Make broth cubes
  136. Bake a cheesecake
  137. Make a breakfast bowl
  138. Use a foam roller
  139. Change your sheets
  140. Eat 5 (to 9) servings of fruits and vegetables each day
  141. Network
  142. Entertain
  143. Sit in stillness
  144. Think positively
  145. Make chicken noodle soup
  146. Do something you don’t want to do
  147. Don’t worry (be happy)
  148. Self-direct your care
  149. Admire art
  150. Eat some cherries (or another in season fruit)
  151. Watch a game
  152. Love lentils
  153. Cultivate awareness
  154. Review your finances
  155. Fuel up for a workout
  156. Celebrate success
  157. Work to physical exhaustion
  158. Take the day off
  159. Eat a big salad
  160. Apologize
  161. Spend time with family
  162. Go sightseeing
  163. Visit a museum
  164. Marvel
  165. Color
  166. Start a bullet journal
  167. Count your blessings
  168. Bake a spaghetti squash
  169. Work in bursts
  170. Drink coffee
  171. Go to the gym
  172. Pick berries
  173. Go to the dentist
  174. Take a yoga class
  175. Track your goals
  176. Lean into discomfort
  177. Stretch
  178. Give gifts
  179. Make yourself a bouquet
  180. Take shorter showers
  181. Test your day for flow
  182. Buy new exercise clothes
  183. Get an eye exam
  184. Set boundaries
  185. Clean your yoga mat
  186. Blend a smoothie bowl
  187. Ferment pickles
  188. Volunteer at a community garden
  189. Take a home-canning class
  190. Bake zucchini bread
  191. Get (and stay) connected
  192. Learn self-defense
  193. Attend a virtual retreat
  194. Envision
  195. Care for your feet
  196. Breathe deeply
  197. Make chicken salad
  198. Go camping
  199. Listen to music
  200. Use a sugar scrub
  201. Window shop
  202. Buy yourself a gift
  203. Make a Thai salad
  204. Organize your recipes
  205. Bake blueberry muffins
  206. Make a (healthy) Waldorf salad
  207. Study
  208. Try a new recipe
  209. Organize your mind
  210. Eat lunch at the park
  211. Do some gratitude journaling
  212. Be proactive
  213. Try again
  214. Brew beer
  215. Rest
  216. Learn from others
  217. Research
  218. Get a scalp massage
  219. Stop
  220. Stargaze
  221. Go floating
  222. Take a moment
  223. Get a manicure
  224. Weigh the pros and cons
  225. Share your story
  226. Travel back in time
  227. Snack
  228. Walk with a friend
  229. Savor salmon
  230. Admire apples
  231. Enjoy a mocktail
  232. Go meatless
  233. Ask for a Box
  234. Indulge in an Acai Bowl
  235. Understand the Science of Happiness
  236. Rediscover Old Recipes
  237. Experiment with Eggplant
  238. Eat (or at least try) Sushi
  239. Carry an EpiPen (if you have been advised to)
  240. Work Outside
  241. Crack Fresh Eggs
  242. Eat Tomatoes (off the vine)
  243. Say No
  244. Buy a New Pillow
  245. Talk About Ideas
  246. Monitor Your Performance
  247. Clean Your Refrigerator
  248. Treat a Minor Injury
  249. Change the Air Filter
  250. Make Moroccan Meatballs
  251. Choose My Circles Wisely
  252. Begin Again
  253. Get Acupuncture
  254. Plan a Vacation
  255. Remember
  256. Try Matcha Tea
  257. Get New Socks
  258. Commit
  259. Speak Up
  260. Prepare a Snack Board
  261. Update Your Wardrobe
  262. Sort & Purge
  263. Tour a Food Forest
  264. Be True To Yourself
  265. Donate to Charity
  266. Coordinate a Walking Meeting
  267. Ask Questions
  268. Get Your Hands Dirty
  269. Pack a Mobile Emergency Kit
  270. Plant a Tribute
  271. Enjoy a Sweet Treat
  272. Connect Dots
  273. Sip Bubbles
  274. Eat Fresh Figs
  275. Celebrate
  276. Melt
  277. Moisturize
  278. Catch Up
  279. Evaluate Your Social Media Activity
  280. Be Negative
  281. Understand Your Personality
  282. Hire a Coach
  283. Read a Book
  284. Spend Quality Time
  285. Create a Manifestation Space
  286. Reconnect with a Friend
  287. Stay Open
  288. Prepare for Emergencies
  289. Set a Deadline
  290. Do Something for Love
  291. Make Space
  292. Cook with rosemary (or other culinary herbs)
  293. Arrive (rather than impose)
  294. Buy coffee for a stranger
  295. Make a vegan dish
  296. Learn more about your body
  297. Just be
  298. Establish a morning ritual
  299. Give a random gift
  300. Try reflexology
  301. Try new exercises
  302. Vote
  303. Experiment with a sourdough starter (or other cultured food)
  304. Organize your personal space
  305. Collaborate
  306. Write down your soul
  307. Learn bonsai
  308. Create an afternoon of self-care
  309. Island (s)hop with a friend
  310. Crochet (or create something)
  311. Rake leaves
  312. Live vicariously
  313. Sit with ambivalence
  314. Gain an understanding of politics
  315. Evaluate what’s essential
  316. Clear your calendar
  317. Ask for what you need
  318. Practice something that’s difficult for you
  319. Maintain financial harmony
  320. Have a kind disagreement
  321. Support a friend
  322. Brainstorm
  323. Learn something new
  324. Rearrange furniture
  325. Decorate
  326. See your favorite band live
  327. Try reiki
  328. Bake a pie
  329. Prepare a special meal
  330. Watch a funny movie
  331. Look up
  332. Do chores early
  333. Make a list
  334. Email yourself ideas
  335. Arrive early
  336. Warm up
  337. Learn to knit (or some other form of art)
  338. Notice the little things
  339. Watch it snow
  340. Drive slowly
  341. Choose theme words
  342. Stay open
  343. Move forward
  344. Have faith
  345. Don’t make plans
  346. Stay in your jammies
  347. Stay in touch with mentors
  348. Relax at the spa
  349. Learn about gun safety
  350. Get a fluoride treatment
  351. Call in a professional
  352. Go to the symphony
  353. Challenge yourself
  354. Listen to an inspiring audio book
  355. Read old journals
  356. Be a caregiver
  357. Have coffee with a friend
  358. Find a “plan B”
  359. Enjoy a holiday tradition
  360. Feel grateful
  361. Binge watch a series
  362. Have breakfast in bed
  363. Discover your core desired feelings
  364. Go Snowshoeing
  365. Whiten your teeth
  366. Reflect on your year

Ready to start your own challenge? Download a free self-care planning worksheet here.

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Self-Care Challenge (Day 364): Snowshoeing

orange and black snow shoes

Snowshoes are just plain awkward. They’re big, bulky – Lord help you if you have to turn around or back up. Everything about them makes laughing inevitable. I’ve only been shoeing twice in my life, and both times I ended up giggling like a little kid while traipsing around in them. But, hey, at least they make walking possible when the snow is deep.

For Christmas this year, my husband bought each of us a pair of show shoes. (I’ve been resistive to the idea of learning to ski or snowboard because I prefer that my bones stay intact.)

Finding snow requires just a quick 30-minute drive, and yesterday seemed like a great day to try the new shoes out. Plus, a little bit of physical activity sounded like a nice self-care choice after a few days of gorging on holiday leftovers.

The week between Christmas and New Year is always busy in the greater Seattle area, no matter where you go. Hiking trails are full, restaurants and stores are full, ski slopes are full – so being an early bird is your only hope (though early is a relative term). Even at 9 a.m. the parking area was full, but fortunately we managed to find a spot.

As we walked up the trail, we passed hordes of families sledding and playing in the snow. Kids were still wearing their seasonal smiles, and a few parents were sipping on adult beverages (clearly unwinding from the festivities). It felt great to stretch my legs and admire the snow-covered trees. Once again, I was reminded that I’m just one of the many living things tromping around the woods.

What a great way to send a little gratitude into the universe.

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Self-Care Challenge (Day 349): Learning About Gun Safety

West Coast Armory Indoor Range brochure cover

Yesterday’s self-care activity involved taking a firearm safety course at the local armory. While I know this topic tends to stir some strong emotions in some, being prepared is important to me. It’s the same reason I renewed my CPR certification and took a self-defense class earlier this year.

I truly hope that I never find myself in a situation where I have to use this knowledge in a practical way, but I want to feel comfortable and competent if I do.

When I entered the classroom, I fully expected to be in the minority. But to my surprise, the class was a near 50-50 split of men and women – and one of the instructors was a woman too.

I learned that some rounds can travel up to 4 miles, reinforcing that anyone who handles a gun – even if it’s just once in a lifetime – needs to have proper training. I learned that firearm laws vary greatly across the US, and I also learned how to best respond to a home invasion.

In addition to the classroom training, we practiced skills around stance, grip, sight alignment, trigger control, and follow through.

While it certainly isn’t for everyone, I found the experience to be a valuable addition to my self-care practice.

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Self-Care Challenge (Day 348): Relaxing at the Spa

Christmas Tree at The Salish Lodge in 2016

Yesterday morning I spent a couple hours at the Salish Spa, which is just a short drive from my home. I’ve visited many spas over the years, some while vacationing and some in the various cities that I’ve lived, but only a few of them really stand out. This is one of them.

What makes them distinct is the overall feeling you get when you arrive: the decor, the location, the energy of the people who work there.

Let’s face it, the holidays can be stressful.

So after a much-needed moisturizing facial, I headed over to the saltwater hot bath to soak and relax for a bit. As I sat there surrounded by steam, I peered out the windows at the snow-covered trees blowing in the distance. And I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

I could feel my tension dissipate, floating away with the circulating water. With no distractions left to steal my attention, I had to face the truth that most of my worries are self-created.

Sometimes we find the most clarity and perspective in moments of stillness.

And surprisingly, my little excursion wasn’t as expensive as you might think. Early morning appointments during the week are much cheaper than evenings and weekends (which also means it isn’t as busy).

How do you make time for relaxation?

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Self-Care Challenge (Day 340): Driving Slowly

snow-covered Tiger Mountain

After admiring the snowflakes yesterday, I awoke to face snow-covered roads when I left the house for an early morning appointment. Our roads don’t get covered very often, so road crews aren’t prepared to handle large-scale weather situations – and that means when the roads do get covered, they stay covered for a while.

When we moved to the area, neighbors suggested that we “just stay home” if it snows. The roads turn into slip ‘n slides and drivers tend to panic. Being on the road isn’t worth the inconvenience (or cost) that comes with having an accident.

The first year we lived here, I slid all the way to the bottom of the driveway after a significant snowfall. Fortunately, I stopped short of sliding through the guard rail and into the house across the street, but it was still pretty scary.

Needless to say, I was not looking forward to my drive into town during the morning rush hour. But with self-care at the forefront of my mind, I stayed focused on minimizing risks.

I left early – a full 45 minutes early, in fact – and drove slowly. By planning ahead, I arrived at my appointment 30 minutes early, which gave me a few minutes to read.

It’s certainly not a glamorous act of self-care, but slowing down definitely has benefits.

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Self-Care Challenge (Day 339): Watching the Snow

trees with a dusting of snow

We don’t get a lot of snow in the greater Seattle area, but several times a year we do get a little dusting, especially at our place, where the elevation is slightly higher. Most of the time, it doesn’t stick. It just falls gently from the sky and melts before hitting the ground.

But yesterday, I looked up from my knitting needles and noticed the white flakes dancing just outside the window. I sat, completely mesmerized by the falling snow.

Having grown up around snow in the Midwest, you’d think it wouldn’t be a novelty. But, for whatever reason, it never gets old for me. Nature has a way of nudging us slightly (and sometimes not so slightly) with its beauty to get our attention.

It felt indulgent just to sit there and watch the snow while enjoying a cup of coffee under the warmth of my crocheted afghan.

An act of self-care for sure.

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Self-Care Challenge (Day 338): Noticing the Little Things

Inspirational messages

Just before heading back to the airport for our return flight home from Florida, we had breakfast at Red’s Restaurant, a local favorite. My pancake was two-heads-big, which seemed consistent with the standard portion sizes there. By the end of the meal I was certain the word hungry wouldn’t be uttered the rest of the day.

It was great to catch up with loved ones we don’t get to see very often, and I felt a tinge of sadness begin to creep in as the meal came to an end. It would likely be many months or years before we would visit again.

As we were leaving, an old antique cash register caught my attention. On the front of it there were two cards attached that displayed some words of wisdom. The first message:

Think Positive…

“Be Someone’s Miracle Today”

(It could be contagious)

I couldn’t help but smile as I read the words, and I was happy to know that I’m not the only one who believes this truth. In fact, those words represent some of Living Upp’s core values. Positivity is contagious. We are all givers at heart.

I wonder how many of these little messages I miss every day while rushing back and forth at my usual hurried pace. Being on vacation forces us to slow down and notice unfamiliar surroundings. These helpful reminders to stop and smell the roses, appreciate the little things, and enjoy the moment are often invisible to us.

But noticing the little things, like smiles from strangers, random exchanges of kindness, and the beauty that surrounds us every day, does take some effort on our part. It requires us to stop, or at least pause, to process what is happening. Being present enough to notice those little things is an act of self-care.

What have you noticed recently?

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Self-Care Challenge (Day 336): Warming Up

serene lake in Florida

As Seattle’s wintry weather slowly continues to creep in, a sunny getaway to visit with family between the holidays seemed like a really good idea.

The last time I visited in the early spring, Florida was smack in the middle of a cold snap, and it was colder there than it was at home. I had high hopes for this trip though.

Sunshine is minimal at best this time of year in the Pacific northwest, and while the darkness doesn’t usually bother me that much (I always seem to have indoor projects to keep me busy), it does take a toll after several months of it. By the time February rolls around I’m ready to see the sun, since it doesn’t usually appear again until around April.

For that reason, we’ve had to learn to be more strategic about our vacation plans. Taking periodic breaks, even if it’s just a day trip over the Cascade mountains, can make a world of difference.

Above the clouds on our plane, the sun was so bright it was blinding. Even with the shades drawn, the sun was doing its best to brighten the cabin through the cracks. The flight was filled with the chatter of children who were clearly excited about their trips to Disney World. I had to chuckle when I overheard one conversation from the seat behind me:

Grandmother: “You’d better take a nap or you’ll be asleep when it’s time to go to Disney World.”

Granddaughter: “No way…I’ll be up at like 3 a.m., lady!”

Needless to say, there was a lot of energy on that flight, and it reminded me that the sun has a way of transferring its energy to us all.

Thinking back to the many states, countries, and climates I’ve lived in or visited over the years reminded me that life is very different depending on where you are around the globe. Varying climates determine the kind of clothes we wear, how much time we spend outside, the type of foods we crave, and even the music we listen to. It’s so interesting how a slight change in temperature can alter our behaviors so much.

Indeed, warming up under the sun’s bright, therapeutic energy was exactly what I needed to head into the holiday season.

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