The Simple Sophisticate - Intelligent Living Paired with Signature Style
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #154
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

"May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears." —Nelson Mandela

Amelia Earhart, at the age of 23, had a dream awoken within her that she could not explain. Filled with both fear and pleasure, she "knew she had to fly". Julia Child was determined to change the dining, cooking and eating experience of Americans, also known as the "servantless cook". At the time, no one had written, nor demonstrated how to successfully engage with real food, delicious, satiating cuisine as she had (and as I know, many of you are quite aware being Francophiles ;)). And so it was hope, not fear that she, as well as Amelia Earhart pursued their vision with dogged perseverance. It was the nebulous vision held within, unknowingly willing their dreams to materialize, how and when they could not know. I am reminded of Nelson Mandela's quote often with the many different new experiences and people I have had the opportunity to encounter in my now nearly two years living in Bend. A multitude of unknowns dance about untamed in my life that have tested my confidence, faith and desire. From the desire to become once again a home-owner, to producing a second book of quality and inspiration for devoted long-time and newly introduced readers of living simply luxuriously to finding and cultivating real love and friendships based on trust, curiosity and similar passions shared authentically, just to name a few. And it is at times of doubt and unknown situations, that self-preservation can be the default my mind wants to revert to. After all, it is a rare individual to travel unscathed by pain, loss, hurt and disappointment through life; and therefore, it is only natural to allow the mind, when it recognizes seemingly similar behavior equivalent to a pain-inflicting person from our past to put up its defenses, assume the worst and no longer step forward. But such behavior is to ignore Mandela's directive, such behavior is to make a choice that reflects our fears. And when we continue to make decisions that reflect our fears, we are no longer building a life in which we can thrive striving toward our fullest potential; no, instead, we are merely surviving and watching pass by beautiful opportunity after beautiful opportunity, of the life we have not yet experienced, but could if only we would make choices that reflect our hopes. Last week, I began to make firm plans for a summer holiday in 2018. Money has been invested, dates have been confirmed, rentals have been secured. While I am not sure how all of the details will come together or even exactly how long I will be away, I at least know a dream I set in 2011 will be taking place. I chose to build a life based on hope. I chose to believe that the pieces would gradually fall together if I set out the invitation enabling them to materialize. I chose what I am excited about, rather than what I am fearful of. To have hope may not seem to be enough, and I would argue, while it isn't enough, it is a significant part of the foundation of the beautiful life we wish to build for ourselves and those we love. Think of it as building a sanctuary in the country, complete with koi ponds, long, tree-lined lanes and thoughtfully planted perennials that awake in their designated seasons in order for a full year of natural beauty. Such a creation, while yes, taking time, also requires of the dreamer to plan, design and educate themselves, but then act in a manner that involves decisions that open the door to the possibility of ample and abundant beauty. Conversely, a life built on our fears resembles a fortress of stone, iron walls, gates, anything to protect the individual(s) inside from being penetrated by the unknown. No engagement with the outside world unless deemed fit and suitable. No plan except to build higher walls that are no more natural and healthy, let alone beautiful, when it comes to a well-lived life than forced solitary confinement.

"Worry retards reaction and makes clear-cut decisions impossible." —Amelia Earhart

Yes, the former example leaves us open, leaves us more vulnerable, but it also invites the natural world to thrive. The seasons to work their magic, relationships to grow and mature, life to move through its cycle and for the residents to appreciate each step. Whereas the fortress controls everything, or creates a way of living that presents a façade of having everything under control.  When in actuality, the beauty that could flourish is killed due to lack of sunlight. In other words, hope is driven asunder. No, we will never know how everything will work out. We will never know precisely when the economy will ebb and rise or why prior to the event that sparks the change. We will never know when we might run into that person that captivates our attention more than anyone we have ever met before. We will never know when we will hear yes, or when we will hear no. We will never know when our time will be up or for those around us. We will never know anything except how we choose to respond to any situation. Having hope doesn't mean we are being fool-hearty. Having hope doesn't mean we cannot do our homework. But when we are left with unknowns, choose the hopeful outcome rather than the fearful one, and your behavior and words as you interact and engage with the world will reflect this choice and thus the energy that is reflected back to you. A funny, and aha moment awareness I had recently is that not all of my negative defaults have been a result of personal experience. Some of my negative, self-protecting defaults have come from the media, from plots and tales that are told as entertainment and some as cautionary tales. Now most, I have recognized were experienced unconsciously as a younger child and adult, and so the lesson for myself is to feed my life experience well. Not only with the entertainment, literary journeys and news I consume, but also with the people I spend time with. What conversations, what lives, what tales are shared? No, we must not sanitize our lives; we must know what is going on in the world; we must be aware of suffering to an extent so that if nothing more we can be a part of the effort to alleviate it; we must be conscious citizens. But then we need to get in our lane. A lane that is based on self-awareness, clarity of direction and a mind that is constantly being fed and nourished and live our lives well. But how do we that, especially when at times it will feel as though living in fear is far smarter? First, vent or express your frustration in a healthy manner: understand that you are not seeking a solution, but rather a means to express and release the frustration. And then do not dwell. Move forward. You are human to feel frustration, maybe even anger, but in recognizing that we cannot control everything, we recognize what we can control how we respond in such moments. Second, and most powerful, let go of the outcome. We can only control our behavior, our thoughts, and our preparation. Focus on these three things and let the others go so that you can enjoy the life you have cultivated for yourself, no matter what life may bring, toss or surprise you with. And as we go about our lives, having invested in hope rather than fear, we are more likely to awake unexpectedly to a ladybug on our shoulder.

"When I was a little girl, I used to run around in the fields all day, trying unsuccessfully to catch ladybugs.  Finally I would get tired and lay down for a nap. When I awoke, I’d find ladybugs walking all over me.” —Under the Tuscan Sun

https://youtu.be/G7t_gCfTPlM

"...decide...whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying...." —Amelia Earhart

~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Make Your Own Life Rules: How & Why, podcast

~Decide to Act

~Remember to Embrace Your Unique Journey

Petit Plaisir:

Sweet Palmiers, click here for the recipe (savory is an option as well)

 

Direct download: 154ladybugs_.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 1:00am PST

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #153
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

". . . for those of you who are tired of trying to squeeze into constrained categories, who long for integration and wholeness in everything you do, without limits on who you are or who you will become . . . it's time to move beyond labels." —Maureen Chiquet, author of Beyond the Label

Labels by definition provide a boundary, an end, a predetermined area of where something does and does not exist. And while a label on our wine bottle that we have chosen to serve with dinner may reveal the year in which the grapes were harvested or where a particular item of clothing or an accessory was made ensuring us of what we choose to support regarding labor, these aforementioned labels are helpful, reassuring and welcoming, but contrarily, labels placed on people, individuals, women, men, different ethnicities, generations, are limiting. In many cases, labels for people have and do lead into stereotypes, all of which are reductive, oversimplified and purposely (by the one placing the stereotype on another) limiting on the group of focus. In all cases, as Maureen Chiquet, the former CEO of Chanel shares in her new book Beyond the Label, "The labels themselves make life more difficult." As a child when grand family-gathering food holidays would arrive on the calendar, it was always the women who were in the kitchen cooking the extravagant meal and after dinner, it was always the women who were in the kitchen cleaning up. I hated the assumption of these roles which nobody conferred with me about. Granted I was a young girl, and I did what I was told, and as a young girl, I didn't know why I felt this way, but as I grew up and still saw this pattern in some instances, I then knew why I had just grave reservations: I didn't want to be in either group, especially not the clean-up group as so much work and effort had gone into the meal. Was it the women's job to cater to the men who sat in the living room, laughing, chatting and sipping their coffee or evening drinks? There was no part of this assumption or label that appeared fair. Now some of the women may have sincerely wanted to be doing the cooking as well as the cleaning, but I know I was not the anomaly. Who wouldn't want to be fed and relax after the meal? I share this experience with you not to complain, I am adamant that while I love cooking, the clean-up task should at least be shared, especially if it is a dinner for two as a way of thanking the cook or providing more time to chat and unwind together, but to offer up the conversation about the roles we inhabit and why we do so. Often we step into roles not because we have an earnest desire to clean the kitchen, per say, but because we've seen others do it before us and that is "just the way it is done". If we constantly adhered to this way of living life, women would still be domestic property of their husbands with no means to be independent. Needless to say, roles should be questioned to determine who is benefiting and why such a role is being perpetuated. The labels and roles we embody throughout our lives should be in accordance with the individual, regardless of sex, regardless of social standing, regardless of . . . well, pretty much anything. It may seem safe to do what has been done before, but it is limiting, it is squashing of the incredible gifts each of us has to offer not only to the world and those we choose to share our lives with, but to our spirit and true contentment as we experience the life we have been given. Whether it's the assumption that the teaching profession is best suited for women because they are born nurturers (a false assumption, and a limiting label by the way for all the men who are innately nurturing as well) or the assumption that tall men with deep voices are better leaders (why? Because . . . they can sing bass and have to duck to get through the door? The last I checked, neither abilities were needed to lead successfully.), we reduce the potential to flourish and find the best fit for every individual when we place labels based on exterior appearances. As Maureen Chiquet points out immediately in her new memoir and life guide, she "hates labels and boxes".  And it was her fondness for the French culture that drew me further into her book as she shares in her introduction, "It wasn't just beauty that the French seemed to live for and breathe in, but a kind of freedom that emboldened me to radically extend the border of my more conservative Midwest childhood in the 1970s." Her curiosity is what opened the door to recognizing that the labels that were being placed on her, or she felt being placed on those around her were inaccurate and soul-depleting. And it was her curiosity that led her to achieve the life and professional success which she leads us through as readers. She listened to the voice within, she was fortunate to have parents who encouraged her curiosity and didn't limit her dreams, and she was courageous enough to do even when she didn't know what the outcome would be. https://youtu.be/gNp6ohq-9Sk Today I'd like to share with you 24 sage words of advice from Maureen Chiquet's new book, released last month as a means of encouraging us all to examine the labels we accept to be placed upon us and come to understand why so that we might let go of those that are limiting and remove all together labels or at least help to redefine or change the world's understanding of the possibilities of said labels that we may fall under at different periods of our lives. 1. Listen to your curiosities and follow where they lead you

"It's often a matter of following the whispering intuitions and inkling that defy standard categories such as college major or job title . . . I do know the kinds of attitudes and sensibilities, the questions and the curiosities, that will lead you on paths to self-discovery, beyond recognized borders and conventions, and well beyond the labels that others want to use to define you."

2. Reclaim femininity on your own terms

"Being a woman [is] not a handicap but an advantage, a source of strength."

Simply by reading the word "femininity" we may have an idea of what the word entails, but we immediately limit in our minds what a woman is capable of being if we provide a definition beyond the actual definition "the quality of being female; womanliness", we limit what is acceptable for someone who is a female to do. In other words, there is no one way to be a woman. With every woman in the world, there is a different way to be, just as there are more than seven billion people in the world, there are seven billion different ways to be.

Take a moment today, tomorrow or sometime soon to examine how you live your life that assumes behaviors and roles you partake in merely because you are female. Who set those rules? Why do you follow? Does it sit well with your being? Some women, no matter society's expectations will revel in wearing make-up and pearls, while others will be out on the lacrosse field at six in the morning training with their teammates forgetting entirely about wearing any sort of make-up. A woman is simply a woman for the sake of biology, that is all. Beyond that, reclaim your own definition.

3. Redefine how a leader leads

"I started to understand that if women weren't rising to the top more often, it wasn't only because they weren't 'leaning in' or weren't just as ambitious as their male counterparts. It wasn't just because corporate policies didn't allow enough time for maternity leave or the flextime needed to raise families. These things were, and still are, crucial and must be addressed. But the underlying issue, the nut no one had cracked, was what kind of leadership we value and how we teach, assess, and promote 'good' leaders in all organizations —whether women or men."

4. If you feel something is missing, trust the observation of the void and look beyond "the world's obstacles, rigid structure and set definitions." To be able to look beyond, we must first look within. We must become so well in tune with ourselves that we know when something is not present and needs to be, even if we cannot put our finger on it at the moment. From my own experience, even at an early age, there were many instances, people, situations and ways of living that just didn't make sense, and so as I began to build my own life, I explored, I asked, I became more informed and I stepped out of what I had been introduced to by others and began introducing myself to ideas that were new to me until eventually I found what made far more sense disregarding whether others approved or not. 5. Follow Coco Chanel's approach to life: learn the rules, then step outside of them

"Chanel seemed to break every rule by combining seemingly opposite elements and by elegantly subverting convention to create something breathtakingly timeless and fresh . . . a woman who refused to blindly accept the aesthetics of her time in order to invent her own."

In the rhetorical writing class I teach, one of the first lessons I share is while there are many rhetorical tools an artist/writer/speaker/architect/musician can use, in order to use any one of them, they must first know the standard rules of grammar they are breaking. Therefore, when they choose to use the rhetorical tool, they know why they are breaking it and what effect they hope to provoke.

6. Savor life's beauty When we follow our curiosity, it is a striving toward creating a life that we want to dance with each and every day. And if we are lucky enough, when we are lucky enough, to cultivate this life, we don't want to rush, we don't want tomorrow to come today. We want to savor each and every day. In other words, "slow it down, relish it, take it in fully". 7. Become comfortable with a little discomfort Uncertainty or unhappiness. The two concepts were juxtaposed recently in an article I read, and the point was quickly absorbed. Are we willing to give up a little discomfort in not knowing how or when something we hope for, but deeply want, will occur in order that we may no longer be unhappy? Often we stay in circumstances, or remain under labels that do not fit us because it is what we know. And knowing is, for more than a few, far more comfortable than uncertainty. In the long run however, we only do ourselves a disservice and miss out on the beautiful life we could have led. 8. Let go of external definitions and lenses through which you have been defined and start from scratch. Ask why?

"The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself." —E.E. Cummings

9. Search until you are broken open similar to the relinquishing of a protective shell In coordination with #7 and #4, many times we do not know what we are missing or what we will find when we step into the unknown.  However, the protective shell we are under, that we think is offering us the best possible life, is actually the limitation, the barrier we need to step out from underneath if we are going to realize our own unique potential. It is easy to know and accept this life concept, but I sincerely recognize far harder to put into practice. But, if you are feeling squashed, and keep bumping into a wall that time and time again has demonstrated it is not going to move, try a different path, even if you don't know where it will lead. So long as you head out into the direction that speaks to your curiosities, trust that you are doing yourself a grand favor. 10. Refrain from following prescribed expectations and instead simply "be" and express yourself authentically (and allow others to do the same). Find your tribe. Search out people who sing the same song or at least applaud you for staying true to yourself. Along the way, you may have to let go of those who want you to stay in the lane they became accustomed to you traveling, but model by example and support everyone's mode of travel and path chosen to travel down. When we all become more accepting of different ways of living life, we free each other to step into a lane (or off into the open field) to be what comes most naturally and applaud the unique contributions we all can give. 11. Knowledge allows the magic to happen

"Every discipline in the humanities —literature, history, art history, philosophy, or religious studies —teaches us how to question how we see and interpret the world and who we are as human beings."

As someone with a bachelor of arts degree, I took classes in art history, communications, history, literature, dance, sociology and a few other arenas in the humanities family that each contributed in their own way to the journey I am on now. I may not have pursued a specific career in most of these fields, but as I examine the careers I am pursuing, all of these classes have offered skills, knowledge and aha moments that helped me connect the dots and have given me a deeper understanding of the world, and thus my journey within it.

"[S]he who has the most information wins." —John D. Rockefeller

Ultimately, knowledge can only open doors and the beauty is, it can never be taken away from you. Knowledge of the "why"s in the world, how certain religions came to be, why this war was fought and this right denied, etc. are all bits and pieces of a grand puzzle that will help you understand why the labels that may be given to you don't actually fit at all. Allow all that you know and wish to know, as you pursue it fervently to be the key to opening up doors that curiosity leads you to.

12. Focus more on how it will work out and what could go right, rather than getting caught up in the reasons why it cannot be fulfilled (life has a funny way of adhering to what we consume our minds with - self-fulfilling prophecies)

"It a little bit like when you are skiing. If you begin to stare at all of the rocks, crevices, and obstacles, you're sure to hit one."

13. Take the first step even if the plan isn't complete

"Sometimes, you have to take that first step without a fully formulated plan, follow your intuition, and be ready to go with the flow, just like plunging into oncoming traffic at L'Etoile."

14. Improvise regularly

"Indeed, if you only memorize the score, you can be sure to hit the right notes, but will anyone remember your bland tune? The creative spark depends on patience, persistence, and practice, but you have to be willing to take risks, too. To improve requires having a sense of where you want to go, then letting that resonance emanate from deep within yourself, the place where love for your sole expression resides. "

15. Let go of fixed expectations 

"Letting go of fixed expectations, or at least being willing to upend them for a time, allows the possibility for an act of creation to surprise us, to leave us dizzy with the excitement of discovering something new that, somehow, feels just right, as if we were waiting for it all along."

16. Seek out respect coupled with love

"I had never felt love like that from any guy I had dated. It went beyond love; it was the purest form of respect."

17. Find a path that allows your "beauty", your real assets to be be utilized

". . . 'beauty' — my real assets (intelligence, character, judgment, and taste)"

18. Embrace challenging circumstances as they unearth the pearl of a life you truly wish to cultivate

"Challenging circumstances and discomfort are often excellent teachers inasmuch as they require us to get closest to what we fundamentally care about."

19. Raw learning experiences exist everywhere in every stage of your journey

"No opportunity is ever too small to show you what you can accomplish, and no boss is ever so mean that you can't learn something, even if it's only to show you how not to lead."

20. Empower people and you empower progress

"People work harder and ultimately deliver better results when they feel empowered."

21. Be calm, confident, self-aware and clear about where you want to go in order to have success

"Horses react to humans in a pure, intuitive way. 'They mirror how we show up. More than eighty percent of our communication is nonverbal, so these nonverbal creatures can reflect back exactly what's going on with us and whether they trust our presence and will follow our lead.' Once you found yourself interacting with, leading, or heading a horse, you learned 'in your body' how to show up differently, how to be attuned to others without losing touch with yourself or your goals."

22. Be the leader of your individual life, manage yourself well to be able to lead others well.

"In order to lead — and to get anyone else to follow you — yes, you do need to listen to others . . . a lot. But you also need to be attuned to yourself —your hungers, your drives, and your trigger points. In other words, you have to manage yourself in order to lead others."

23. Understand how to regain your footing and balance

"I have found that taking a moment to move away from circumstances where you might feel pressure or triggered —to ask yourself what's most important to you underneath the surface —helps restore your equilibrium."

24. Examine and then release assumptions of how life should be that do not align with your newly defined self

"There is no one right way. There is not one label you can slap over your family and call it perfect . . . It is the labels themselves that can make these choices even more difficult. If we don't unpack these assumptions [women should bear more of the parenting responsibility than men even when we wholeheartedly pursue our careers], if we don't stop and ask why it is so, we just end up exhausted and discouraged . . . by letting go of definitions others might set for us as well as the idealized images we have created ourselves . . . we get what we most want . . . the trick is knowing what it is you do actually want and being clear with yourself and your partner on how you both want to lead and prioritize your lives."

One of the most perplexing answers I struggle to give is when somebody asks me what I do for a living. I fluctuate between "Which should I say first: a teacher or a writer, or better, a blogger?". It will depend upon the person I am speaking with, but most often, when I state that I am a teacher, there is a handful of assumptions that come along with it, most of which are untrue in my case, but you don't want to dive into a deep philosophical discussion necessarily. As well when I open with "I am a blogger", some become even more curious and others dismiss the title entirely. But the truth is, I feel limited by each, and perhaps you do as well, which is why Beyond the Label resonated with me. People ask such questions: what do you do for a living? are you married? where did you grow up? as a means to better get to know the person they are speaking with. The motivation is largely friendly and benign, but as most of us know, the answers, especially upon a first meeting, immediately build assumptions in the listeners mind - for better or worse. And so perhaps the fault is on us all, but that means all of us can play a role in moving beyond the label. "By moving beyond the label, we can all make our workplaces and our lives more effective and more equitable."

"By releasing ourselves from these restrictions, we have a shot at creating success on our own terms."

~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

Petit Plaisir

~Diana Krall's new album Turn Up The Quiet (to be released May 5, 2017), her 13th album, 5-time Grammy winner

~view her tour schedule here ~The list of 11 songs on the album: 1. Like Someone In Love 2. Isn't It Romantic 3. LOVE 4. Night and Day 5. I'm Confessin' 6. Moonglow 7. Blue Skies 8. Sway 9. No Moon At All 10. Dream 11. I'll See You In My Dreams  

Direct download: 153BeyondLabels_.mp3
Category:self-improvement -- posted at: 1:00am PST

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #152

~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." —Henry David Thoreau

To dream big. To dream beyond others' imagination is a risk. However, to dream so vastly is to reveal one's capacity for hope of what could possibly become reality. Do you remember what you dreamt about as a child, in particular your daydreams when the sky truly was the limit? Do you remember why you dreamt what you did? More often than not what we dreamt about had more to do with what we thought we would feel, how we presumed our way of life would be and thus the contentment or fulfillment we would reach. And the exciting news I want to share with you today is that the sky still is the limit. Even as we step into adulthood, our dreams are a roadmap of where we want to go, of what we are passionate about.  The important part that we must consciously engage ourselves in is the dissecting of the dreams that refuse to be forgotten. In other words, look closely at your dreams from childhood. In some form, which ones are you still dreaming about? Maybe as a child you dreamed of traveling the world, partaking in safaris and scaling Mt. Rushmore. Examine now what is dancing through your daydreams. Is it the same thing or is it adventures, perhaps more tame? Look less at the specific destination itself and instead at how you conjectured it would make you feel when you had the opportunity to travel to parts unknown. Perhaps it was the freedom you wanted to always have in your life. Or maybe it was the comfort of nature surrounding you. If you have the courage to investigate why you dream about what you dream, what you dare to dream in other words, you will find a roadmap to your truest contentment. Along the way as you unearth the truth, you may discover a need to become better skilled in certain arenas, and so you do just that. As you continue to proceed, you are aware of what, while being low on your priority list, is impeding your progress, so you understand why you must let some things go that no longer align with your truest path. The gift of dreaming big and having the courage to pursue what you've imagined is that what we focus on, in which pursuits we deposit our energy, we help to manifest and eventually nurture into reality.

“The future you see is the future you get.” – Robert G Allen

While it may seem impossible as you gaze at your dream from afar having only just begun or having so much further to travel, the good news is so long as you stay focused, journal regularly, check your subgoals weekly or monthly, you will gradually come closer to what you wish for. Why? Because you are no longer wishing, you are doing. And with each step, with each task completed and each exercise of willpower to say no to what might jeopardize or get in the way, you are inching closer toward making it your reality.

“At first, dreams seem impossible, then improbable, and eventually inevitable.” – Christopher Reeve

Upon moving to Bend, an amazing dream became a reality, calling Bend my hometown. Something I honestly had doubts along the way would ever come true, living, calling home this beautiful mountain, nature-loving, small-town feel with a big city undercurrent. But I never gave up doing what I could to put myself in the best position to give it the potential it needed to materialize.

Now that I have lived here almost two years, a few of my other dreams have seemingly been stalled while others have blossomed beyond my expectation. And as I consider the latter of those two realities, I am reminded that never giving up completely is always the best idea. Sometimes we have to put dreams on the back burner or at least keep working towards them habitually, but what is needed is letting go of the expectation of when they may come to be what we hope they might be. As we do this, we're still making progress, but we're letting go of the pressure, we're recognizing that maybe we really don't have all of the control, but so long as we control what we are able, when the right opportunity presents itself, we will be able to seize the moment.

In moments of doubt, when I am not sure if my dream is even a possibility anymore, I find myself shaking my head. When a step back or a regression of progress appears to be taking place, I want to kick myself and then more doubt is piled on. But then I wonder, what would life be if we didn't have dreams to pursue? Dreams are a form of curiosity, of wondering, can I do this? Am I up to the task? Am I capable? The reassuring answer is, you are absolutely capable, and along the way some pretty amazing moments could happen as well that might open even more unexpectedly splendid doors. And those temporary setbacks, they are going to happen. First, look at why they occurred, and often what you will find is that you were living life, and balancing as you moved forward to navigate what you had to navigate. Simply because you had to take a step back, doesn't mean your progress toward your dream is dashed. It simply means, you may have to reroute, or refuel earlier than expected. But you can do that, no? Because if it is a dream you are ardently passionate about, you will refuel, you will reboot and you will figure out a way to reach your goal.

“Capture your dreams and your life becomes full.” – Nikita Koloff

Imagine the story your life is writing right now. Imagine the anecdotes you are collecting along the way to be appreciated once again upon reflection. View your life as a story, make the choices that will make the reader smile, and since it is a story, accept that there will be moments you do not want or expect, but if you are the savvy writer that I know you are capable of being, you will figure out a way to write a happy ending.

Dream big and let your dreams guide you along your magnificent journey of life.

~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Dare to Turn Your Dreams Into Reality

~11 Things You Must Do to Create the Life of Your Dreams

~Why Not . . . Achieve Your Dreams? (3 part series)

~Petit Plaisir

~My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme

~Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Direct download: 152dreamfirstPlanlater_.mp3
Category:inspiration -- posted at: 1:00am PST

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #151

~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

"There is something about the French woman, a sense of freedom that must read and show in the way we dress." —Marion Cotillard

No one has yet pinpointed when the allure of French style came to epitomize the pinnacle of effortless, chic style, but nonetheless, the flattering stereotype continues to be perpetuated and this post will do the same.

Why? In all honesty, if you have been to France, you have seen it. You have crossed paths with the style seen in Paris that embodies classic staples worn with such ease and confidence that the woman appears to be on her own catwalk wherever she goes. Now not every French woman embodies the qualities oft associated with simple, chic, effortlessness just as not every American woman is intrigued by fast fashion and putting more in her closet (if you are a reader of TSLL, I am pretty confident you do not fall into that traditional American stereotype).

But since the French woman has lessons to share when it comes to the style of quality over quantity, and demonstrates how magnificent it can look, people from around the globe have taken note, which may be why so many non-French women have impeccable, signature style as well.

"What defines French Style? An effortless chic attitude - the Parisienne always wears great basics. It's about clever mix and match." -Evelyne Chétrite

Wherever we find the inspiration that moves us to shift and change our wardrobe, it is worth investigating exactly what the fundamentals are of that particular approach to style.

To begin, I must make a confession, I am not someone who enjoys shopping for clothes, but I do thoroughly appreciate and feel most confident when I know the clothes I am wearing work well on my body for whatever occasion I may be involved in. Thus, I have always wanted to drill down to how to cultivate a dependable, chic wardrobe that is versatile and lasts. So it was not a surprise when the French woman's approach to style caught my attention.

Let's take a look at how to incorporate the 10 fundamentals of French style into our lives so that we too can look our best, spend our money wisely and limit the time we spend in shops and online boutiques so that we can go about enjoying the simply luxurious lives we have created.

1. Staples over trends

"In an era of excess, Frenchness speaks to a certain kind of abstinence - but also of a noble refusal to compromise on quality, as well as the confidence to resist tacky gimmicks." —Lisa Armstrong, The Daily Telegraph

Watching the seasonal runway shows are great fun and full of inspiration and ideas what new way to wear a button up blouse or what to pair with a knee-length skirts, but don't hop on the bandwagon if it's a one-season phenomenon. How do you know if it's a one season phenomenon? Ask yourself, would you wear it if you hadn't seen it on the runway or if wasn't cheered by Vogue and the fashion elites? If the answer is no, then just appreciate it and move on.

Staples may seem safe or boring, but as we will discuss in #2, when you purchase well, know your body and tailor to your needs, you will shine. And the key word is you. You, rather than your clothes will be what everyone will notice and that is the intent to dressing well each time we step into our closets. Instead of considering what will draw attention, what will shock, what will woo onlookers, ask yourself "what will look best on me and help me elevate to feel and do my best?" Return to those clothes again and again and again, and you will never be disappointed.

2. Invest, don't skimp

A French woman will have Chanel ballet flats and maybe even a Mulberry tote, but she won't have oodles of ballet flats in her closet or more than a few handbags unlike an average American's closet that is overflowing with bargain finds that may have looked wonderful on the rack at Ross but no longer shine two or even five years later.

Hone in on what you need, save up and purchase what you love and will continue to use for years to come. My Lanvin ballet flats were an investment (always order one to a half-size larger than your regular size), but they were exactly what I had always wanted for years. When I finally purchased my first (I have two now - beige and black) pair, the price was expected, and I continue wear them at least 2-4 times a week (they continue to look wonderful and work with a long list of outfits).

3. Subtle over shocking

Choose neutral hues that work with your skin tone in order to infuse a multitude of options. The white jersey tee works beautifully under your blazer, but it can also be tucked into a pencil skirt worn with heels to offer a high/low look to the office. Don't forget to wear it under your leather jacket as well paired with your favorite jeans. Shocking, while fun, has a shelf-life. Subtle again allows the woman to shine rather than the clothing.

4. Fewer but better

You will have fewer items in your closet and what a beautiful sight that will be when you walk in. Clutter is stressful, too many choices can numb us and make it difficult to choose. Fewer, but better options simplifies the process but amplifies the outcome.

5. A skill rather than a sport

As I mentioned at the top of the post, I honestly do not like to shop for clothing. Beginning when I was a young girl, I became quickly frustrated looking for clothing that fit my tall frame and thus began to see wardrobe building as the goal, not a sport that would waste hours of my day. A significant part of why I share what I learn and discover about style on TSLL is because I want to alleviate the frustration that I had so that you too, whether you love shopping or not, will be able to shop well each and every time, utilizing your time wisely so that you can enjoy the life you have built. Do I love beautiful attire and the craftsmanship, absolutely. If I could snap my fingers and have the wardrobe of 10-15 staple items for each season hanging in my closet that look brilliant on my body, I would snap away and spend the time I would have been shopping walking my dogs, working on a creative project, traveling or any one of the hobbies I enjoy. And so TSLL exists to reveal the tools we all can possess so that we each can build our signature wardrobe without feeling we have to do so each season, because we truly do not if we shop well.

6. Keep it simple

A beautiful silk blouse paired with designer jeans that fall just to the ankle worn with a stunning pair of Roger Vivier flats. Nothing else. Classic pieces, quality pieces. Trust your purchases so that when you do pull them on and pair with them with the other items, you will know they work. Another reason to have fewer, but better items in your closet is that you become more familiar with them as you will have had them in your closet for many seasons. You will begin then to trust what you have, what looks flattering on your body and what other items might pair well with it. The simplifying of the process is a significant factor to loving and trusting your style.

7. Subtle, but sincere statement pieces 

Begin to let go of the costume jewelry. I used to regularly have my large tear-drop earrings that were not that expensive but fun conversational pieces, and then I began to realize I didn't want my clothing to be the conversational piece, I wanted to be talking about topics of more substance. So I purchased these earrings and wear them with nearly every outfit. They are simple, basic, but just the right femininity for work and play. A simple pair of diamond studs would also work beautifully. The key is to not be afraid to invest in a few investment statement pieces, but make sure they are subtle so that you can wear them for years and perhaps a lifetime.

8. Find what works and wear it regularly

If blazers are your flattering cut similar to Emmanuel Alt, then include a couple of quality blazers in a variety of hues in your closet. If you know crew necks are better than v-necks, stay loyal and do not deviate. Such a discovery of our style takes time, but so long as we pay attention, are willing to explore and try something new if other approaches aren't working, we will eventually find what works for our bodies, lives and comfort. Over the past few years, one of the trends that has become my signature is the jumpsuit. Not everyone loves the jumpsuit, but it has been a staple in my wardrobe - layering with blazers, wearing long-sleeve monochromatic versions in the winter and splurging on a versatile silk jumper by Vanessa Seward when it went on sale that takes me to work and is ideal of cool summer afternoons with sandals.

9. Mix the high and low

As much as your investment items are the foundation of the French woman's wardrobe, not every item you wear has to be über sophisticated. Wear a pair of boyfriend jeans with heels (low/casual - boyfriend jeans; high/dressed-up - heels) or a bomber jacket over a camisole worn with an over-the-knee pencil skirt and sandals. The balance of seriousness with playful displays prowess of how to build and wear a wardrobe exuding confidence and personality.

10. Elevate yourself, don't hide

The clothing you wear is meant to spotlight the talented, intelligent, fun and curious woman who you are. While clothing can offer some armor in a world that can be difficult at times, don't hide completely behind your sartorial choices. Let your signature shine. Choose clothing that regardless of the designer label is made well and elevates your confidence. Stick to what works, let go of what doesn't and dress for you, not to mimic what you should do.

Part of embracing the French woman's approach to style is reconciling with the clothes you must get rid of, but on the flip side when you don't have to go shopping as often to fill the gaps or find that one item that you just don't seem to have, you will discover an ease with knowing what to wear when that will be priceless.

As much as I love the power of the sartorial choices we make, I have always wanted the clothing to be the background (an impressive background, but still in the background). While being known for what one wears is initially flattering and a temporary confidence boost, it is knowing that the woman each one of us offers to the world is more than what she wears is valued far more than the clothing and image she projects that motivates me to fine tune and all but perfect my approach to style. And each time I gain more clarity, I look forward to sharing what I learn with you.

May we all fine-tune our wardrobe so that we may make a worthwhile first-impression but follow through with a breath-taking performance offered by our intelligence, charm and wit.

~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~The Francophile's Style Guide: The 14 Essentials (podcast episode)

~Why Not . . . Master the Art of Dressing?

~Why Not . . . Organize Your Closet?

~20 Ways to Live Like a Parisienne (podcast episode

~How to Cultivate Your True Style All Year Long - inspired by Ines de la Fressange's new Parisian Lookbook (podcast episode)

~Shop TSLL Capsule Wardrobe boutique here

~As my way of saying thank you to listeners of the podcast, I have produced two new episodes for this week due to my loss of voice last week and inability to have a new episode as each Monday for over two years (except in one other instance) there has always been one. I appreciate your understanding, your well wishes and your interest in living simply luxuriously. Here is the link to episode #150. Have a lovely week.

~21 Life Lessons Learned in South Korea

Petit Plaisir:

~The Curse of La Fontaine: A Verlaque and Bonnet mystery by M.L. Longworth

~begin with the first novel in the cozy, set in Aix-en-Provence mystery series, Death at the Chateau Bremont   

~Image: French model Ophelie Guillermand captured by Tatel Velasquez

 

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Direct download: 151frenchstyle.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am PST

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #150

~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

"Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience." —Ralph Waldo Emerson

The blossoms of spring have begun to bloom; the scents, vibrant green grass and and brilliant pastel hues offer their natural talents of awing us mere humans. And after a winter that didn't seem it would in, the blossoms all along knew they would bloom; they just needed time.

As many around the globe yesterday celebrated Easter which manifest from the pagan holiday coinciding with the spring equinox and the earth's reawakening, I found myself reflecting on all around us that requires time in order to flourish. From the dogwood and magnolia blooms to the delicate baking of a soufflé, extraordinary seemingly unimaginable occurrences and revelations require time to incubate, to evolve and realize the possibilities which are harbored within.

Below is a list of simple as well as significant life events that require the exercise of patience and trust that in time, beautiful outcomes will materialize.

1. A transcontinental flight to a destination on your bucket list

2. Learning how to truly listen

3. Accrued compound interest on savings

4. The zit-from-hell that sprang up out of nowhere

5. Attainment of an academic diploma or skill certificate

6. Learning a new language

7. The pesky debt you are working to pay off

8. Becoming a better communicator

9. Loving well

~responsive vs. reactionary - episode #145

10. Mastering cooking techniques that appear impossible: slicing an onion, flipping an omelette, building a sauce without it separating

11. Mastering your mind

12. Discovering what ignites your soul, stirs your curiosities and what, if pursued, will lead to your fullest potential and true contentment

13. Respect from others

14. Trust from others

15. Personal growth: developing these 22 skills

"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time." Leo Tolstoy

Part of the reason I savor the arrival of the spring season, as I mentioned earlier this year, is because the world around us reminds us that evolving into our better selves is possible. And the most important lesson that the arrival of spring teaches us to wait. We must not rush what needs time to develop, to breathe, to heal, to gain its footing and establish its strong foundation so that when it does arrive, it will last as long as it is most capable of doing.

Often I reflect on this life lesson of giving what we seek, what we desire, what we are hopeful for, as a litmus test for what Charles Stanley reminds,"Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on the object we're waiting for." So the next time you find yourself frustrated that something isn't arriving quickly enough, ask yourself "How deeply do you truly want it?" And perhaps if you still choose to be impatient and rush it, you were simply looking for a placeholder because you hadn't found what you truly desired. And on the other hand, if you reflect, step back and recognize the need and willingness to be patient, you have discovered what for you is worth seeking. Perhaps for you, you have found your path, the journey you truly wish to be on.

~As my way of saying thank you to listeners of the podcast, I have produced two new episodes for this week due to my loss of voice last week and inability to have a new episode as each Monday for over two years (except in one other instance) there has always been one. I appreciate your understanding, your well wishes and your interest in living simply luxuriously. Here is the link to episode #151. Have a lovely week.

~Petit Plaisir:

~Soft Boiled Œufs et Mouillettes Pour Deux (eggs and soldiers for two)

~View and print the recipe here  

~All images captured by TSLL Instagram.

Direct download: p150wait.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 11:59pm PST

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #149

~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

"What's true style? Knowing how to mix the right combinations of ingredients." —Ines de la Fressange, author of Parisian Chic Look Book: What Should I Wear Today?

Most of us have heard of and are incorporating into our lives a capsule wardrobe, but as much as we'd love to hire a stylist to tell us what to wear every day and how to style the clothes we've invested in, we either absolutely cannot afford such an extravagance or well, let's get serious. But the truth is, we can do it ourselves. Understanding how to cultivate true style into our lives throughout the entire year is completely possible so long as we learn the necessary tools and fail-safe combinations. Former Chanel model and the epitome of Parisian chic Ines de la Fressange has just released her new book to follow up her wildly successful first Parisian Chicand in it she does the work of the stylist. Parisian Chic Look Book: What Should I Wear Today? does everything for you except the shopping. With nearly every page in the 130 page book filled with styled outfits and noted for which occasion they would be perfect for, this look book is your guide when you step into your closet. This look book is the finishing touch to building your confidence that you do know how to dress well without having too many clothes to choose from and feeling you have nothing to wear. What I would like to do today is share a glimpse of Ines' suggestions and my favorite outfits, and then I highly recommend you pick up or check out this book. If you are someone who appreciates the classic Parisian chic approach to style, if you adhere to a capsule wardrobe approach and if you want to keep it simple but mix high and low items ensuring you look effortlessly style, take a look inside the book and discover how to become the stylist you've always wanted to hire. 1. Stock your closet with the essentials

  • capsule wardrobe essentials
  • handbags
  • shoes
  • jewelry
  • lingerie
  • outerwear
  • scarves
  • belts

Often we have almost everything we need but a few finishing touches are missing. Take a look at her detailed list (above are just the categories) and find what you may need or what to look for the next time you are shopping or a wonderful sale on your favorite designer clothing or accessories offers a beautiful price. 2. Stick to a dress code unique to each general occasion

  • business
    • beyond the uniform that works for you, how to choose an outfit that transitions from one work place to another business appointment (applying for a loan, a business dinner, etc.)
      • "I Have a Tricky Day Ahead"
        • silk print pants
        • v-neck sweater
        • black velvet flats
        • classic watch
        • bangles

  • family gatherings
    • lunch with a family member, a great aunt perhaps?
      • high waisted pants
      • ruffled or signature blouse
      • pendant necklace
      • high heels or platforms
      • a scarf as a belt

  • personal get-togethers
    • a dinner with an old flame
      • over-the-knee pencil skirt
      • velvet jacket
      • camisole
      • heels
      • classic watch

  • evening attire
    • Dinner at Home with Friends
      • blue jeans
      • white blouse
      • black belt
      • gold bangles
      • black velvet flats

  • vacation
    • airport attire
      • stylish sweatpants
      • t-shirt
      • v-neck sweater (oversized)
      • flat slide sandals
      • navy men's overcoat

  • special, unique occasions
    • museum buff
      • black midi, (perhaps body-con) dress
        • denim jacket
        • lace up sneakers
        • saddle bag
        • bracelets

3. Stick to neutrals One common thread I noticed through all of the items Ines suggests is a neutral color palette. Black, navy, white, khaki/biege, gray, light blue, stripes. While there were a few signature pieces, a sequin gold camisole, printed silk pants, a hot pink sweater and a red saddle purse, these boisterous colors were few, but powerful. The mixing and matching becomes easier when you adhere to a neutral palette that complements your skin tone. Don't deviate from this. For example, the pop of color I often choose is blush pink: my skin instantly looks more bronzed and healthy and it pairs well with everything else in my closet depending upon the season and occasion. Other than that its navy, gray, black, white, stripes and light blue. 4. Finish with few accessories, but don't forget them Each of her looks as you pour through the book reveal typically one piece of jewelry being worn if any and an expected, but signature tote, coat or pair of shoes. 5. Purchase well and don't fuss The key with Parisian chic style is mixing the high and low: a beautiful white silk blouse from Saint Laurent paired with classic denim jeans and costume jewelry bangles. Knowing what you are wearing looks well on your physique will enabled you to say no to extra details and finish with just the right amount of detail. Then once it all comes together, you can relax and enjoy wherever you are headed. 6. Learn the fashion style tricks 

  • wear a khaki military jacket over a little black dress
  • wear a rock t-shirt with a pencil skirt
  • buy clothes in the men's department

A sampling of items that what works for me:

  • jumpsuit
  • denim jacket
  • pencil skirts
  • simple black dress
  • long shirt dress
  • black/navy v-neck sweater
  • black/white t-shirt
  • navy blazer
  • trench coat
  • blue jeans
  • slip-on sneakers
  • wellies (farm/ranch boots)
  • black tote
  • classic watch
  • brown/black belt
  • camisoles
  • black panties
  • black bra
  • men's camel coat (I actually wear a woman's but it is one size too large)

Ultimately, seeing how to pull something together, seeing it on a model is a useful visual we often do not see when it comes to basics and not all in one place. Covered in gold that shimmers, the book will be easy to spot on the shelf as you look to use it again and again and again until these classic ensembles become engrained in your memory. THe most significant take-away for me was a sigh of relief when I saw the outfits. The number of items involved were minimal, the key was quality items paired with finishing touches that worked with the woman's body and the other neutral pieces. So start with #1, begin to build the foundation which is the necessary clothing and then have fun and look forward to stepping into your closet again.

Petit Plaisir:

Tartine All Day: Modern Recipes for the Home Cook by Elisabeth Prueitt  

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Direct download: 149InesTartine_-_32217_6.34_PM.mp3
Category:style -- posted at: 1:00am PST

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #148

~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

"Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die; and then dies having never really lived." —Dalai Lama

Most Sunday mornings at around nine or 10 o'clock you will find me in my living room having just returned from walking my boys, Norman and Oscar, settling in with a pot of black tea, a warm croissant from a local bakery and the Sunday newspapers. Such simple pleasures bring me a priceless amount of happiness, and I look forward to this weekly ritual as I tuck into bed each Saturday night.

The recent trending term hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) in the lifestyle publishing industry springs from the happiest country in the world as found by extensive research compiled by the United Nations World Happiness Report. Simply defined, incorporating hygge into your way of living is a choice to encourage the enjoyment of life's simple pleasures.

There are a multitude of books focused exactly on how to welcome a hygge lifestyle into your life out on the market at the moment (and these are just a sampling released in the past 12 months). Just take a look below:

~The Little Book of Hygge

~The Cozy Life

~The Year of Living Danishly

~How to Hygge

~Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well

~The Nordic Theory of Everything

~Hygge: 25 Secrets from the Danish Art of Happiness, Getting Cozy and Living Well

Needless to say, the attention to a way of life that welcomes in the simplicity and everyday savoring of pleasures and reminds of the gifts a welcoming sanctuary can bring into our everyday lives is something that tickles me immensely. Many TSLL readers have pointed out the similarities between hygge and living simply luxuriously, and after reading two books on the subject, I certainly have to agree.

So how exactly do they overlap? How are they similar? Let's take a look:

1. Savoring quality in each arena of life:

  • food (a decadent hot chocolate with homemade whipped cream)
  • relationships, the people you spend time with
  • everyday experiences
  • a small but welcoming home

2. Cultivating a sanctuary to relax, unwind and rejuvenate 3. Light a candle or two or three 4. Cultivating trust in those you love, in the communities you live and work in 5. Building a life that enables you to feel free, thus realizing you have more control over your level of happiness than you may have once assumed. In other words, you truly can become the CEO of your own life while building and being a partner in your community, home and work place. 6. A strong, respectful support system "meaningful, positive social relationships" 7. Practice gratitude, let go of want 8. Build and cultivate strong, healthy, loving relationships The quality of one's happiness increases with improved relationships, not surprisingly when we make more money.

"America has gotten richer, a lot richer, over the past fifty years, but we've not gotten happier." —Jeffrey Saks author of the United Nations World Happiness Report

9. Become a lover of books 

Discover the pleasure reading can bring when a wide open afternoon, evening or 30 minutes anywhere in your day arises. Pick up a book, snuggle up and dive in to discover something new. Keep the television off, put your cell phone away and get lost, letting go of time.

10. Become a regular visitor of nature

"Whether you are sitting by a river in Sweden or in a vineyard in France, or just in your garden or nearby park, being surrounded by nature enables you to bring your guard down and adds a certain simplicity." Meik Wiking

11. Choose to be fully present

Put away the technology, allow your mind to be in the here and now and look around you. Savor the sun, savor the company, savor the flavor of the food. Savor the amazing life you have the fortune to be living.

12. Cultivate calm 

13. Savor simple rituals

14. Let go of competiveness

The mindset of a market economy versus a social-democratic economy is at once significant and worth contemplating. Often, based on where we live and the culture we are raised in when we see our success based on how others fare as well: in a market economy, it is more likely to be an independent mindset, and in a social-democratic economy, it is more of a collective success one seeks. Ultimately, we only have control over ourselves, but to ignore how our behavior and decisions effect others is to ignore the power of emotional intelligence in our lives. When we consider others in our decision making, it is a means of paying it forward, of cultivating more wellness, kindness and positive behavior that builds each other up rather than tears one another down.

15. Seek internal approval rather than external

Refrain from needing to wear labels or purchase more or larger homes, cars, shoes, clothing, etc. A mindset set on fine-tuning one's outer appearance is a person who has not found peace within. When you do have peace within, the external becomes far less important and the once temporary highs are substituted with permanent peace.

The primary, underlying similarity that is at the core of living well, living simply luxuriously and thereby incorporating a hygge approach to life is to truly appreciate and savor the life we've each been given now. To drink the marrow from life so to speak every single day. It need not be excessive, expensive or grand. The true pleasures are actually quite simple.

It is the moments of sitting next to those you love, letting go of time and letting go of worry knowing you are living well, you're living wisely and you haven't been pulled off track by the marketing masses that merely want your money when superficially they promise you more happiness. They are wrong, you are right when you choose to live in such a way that focuses on your well-being. And well-being cannot be purchased, it must be consciously cultivated, tended to and patiently fine-tuned.

~What Does a Simply Luxurious Life Look & Feel Like?

Petit Plaisir:

~My Master Recipes; 165 Recipes to Inspire Confidence int eh Kitchen by Patricia Wells

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Direct download: 148Hygge_-_31917_3.24_PM.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 1:00am PST

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #147

~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

"And you, you scare people because you are whole all by yourself." —Lauren Alex Hooper

The twenty-first century woman, she has been called on this blog the modern woman, is an independent woman. And while there are many different shades, rhythms and ways of living independently, there are also many similarities. And some of these similarities are misunderstood by outsiders as they expect the traditional response when it comes to the arena of love or they have a misconception that because she is independent she must not want love in the traditional sense. Today I'd like to share 10 truths about independent women and dispel any innocent assumptions that simply aren't true. Love, whether it be romantic, platonic, a love for a passion that we pursue doggedly and without apology is an electric force that provides infinite fuel for life. Love is a necessity when it comes to living a life of fulfillment, contentment and reaching our full potential. And it is the goal of reaching our full potential that is solely at the core and what drives women who are independent. Because reaching our full potential is a unique and original pursuit, what we are looking for when it comes to love, romantic love especially will also be unique, but generally, these truths need to be understood by anyone wanting to be involved, currently beginning to date or having been intimately partnered for quite some time with an independent woman. 1. The enjoyment of her own company is real, but that doesn't mean she doesn't enjoy the company of others Alone time, great amounts or small is a absolute feast for her being. She revels in it, finds immense pleasure in it and doesn't need someone else to entertain her or keep her company. When she shares she will be spending the evening by herself, she will be spending the evening by herself because she wants to and her very busy schedule has bestowed upon her an opportunity that she is ready to savor. Introvert, extrovert, it doesn't matter. 2. When she gives or expresses love or affection, it is real Why? She won't waste time with games or ego-lifting flirtations. She is secure in who she is and doesn't need to drum up interest from others to reminder her of her worth. She knows she is worthy, and more importantly, she respects the feelings of others and doesn't want to lead them on. Because an independent woman relies on herself for her income and fulfillment, she is busy, she is driven and when she welcomes the possibility of a relationship into her life, she has done so thoughtfully. 3. Asking for help is difficult, but when she says she doesn't want it, listen to her An independent woman is willing to figure out her path and then get busy completing the tasks on her own that need to be done. She doesn't reach out and wait around for help. She may pay a contractor, a plumber, an expert in the field she needs assistance from, but rarely does she ask for help from others as she assumes and respects they have busy lives of their own as she does. However, don't be afraid to offer help. The primary reason, as mentioned above, she doesn't ask is because she respects your life and your schedule. She doesn't want to add one more task to your list, just as she doesn't need one more task on hers. Lastly, if you do ask, and she says no, she means it. She's okay with honesty, in fact she demands it and therefore, she practices it as well. 4. She is self-aware and therefore, will not hold on to a relationship if she doesn't see a future or it is a fit that simply won't work Speaking of honesty, she knows what she wants to accomplish. For the most part, she knows what it will take and what she can do. She also knows at this point in her life what works and very clearly what doesn't. And if the fit isn't right, she won't beat around the bush, hanging on to see and hoping that it will iron itself out. In other words, if you are in her life, she appreciates the connection and the partnership that is unfolding and sees potential for both parties involved. 5. Reaching her full potential is always at the core of her being As mentioned above, every woman's full potential will be different. The key is to not to assume anything. Have a conversation, have many conversations. Ask the questions, don't place the stereotype crowns on her head that Hollywood perpetuates. Ask her, does she want to become President, does she want to be a mother, does she want to travel the world helping those in need, does she want to become the next Oprah, does she simply want to write books, walk her dogs and revel in the love she has with her partner? Ask her what reaching her full potential looks like. 6. Friends may be few, but they are mighty The planner is full, goals are clear and days are often long, but she sleeps well and she is excited when she wakes up in the morning, thankful for the opportunities she has in front of her. Because of her full life, the friendships she builds are strong and provide support in one way or another. Quality over quantity as the need for strength is important, the need for trust is vital and with time on short supply, she wants to give fully to those she cares about. 7. Looking for an equal partnership Any relationship will ebb and flow based on the needs of the individuals, but the partnership an independent woman is looking for is not about fulfilling traditional roles. No. It is about setting each other in the relationship free to be themselves. A knowing by one another that there is a level of respect and appreciation for whom each is as an individual and a desire to help each other attain their fullest potential, knowing that the support the relationship provides is part of the equation. Thus, investing in the relationship is crucial. 8. Drama is for television shows and the theater The independent woman, if and when she has time, may watch House of Cards, but she doesn't engage in drama. She may enjoy the reprieve and escape momentarily, but she recognizes the unnecessary burden one puts on their shoulders when they involve themselves in drama with friends, family members and at work. An independent woman seeks to be productive, honest and clear. While she knows how to negotiate, she also understands that people have feelings and keeps this in mind when working with them professionally and personally. 9. Living together isn't off the table, it simply must be with the right person As someone who has never lived with a partner, my reasons were never due to statistics (read this article from The Atlantic), but rather because I simply didn't want to live with them which is probably why the relationships didn't last. Living together is an opportunity to connect more intimately, but only when the independent woman can trust her partner will be her partner, not her roommate, not someone who will add more tasks and chores to her list. In fact, living together, just as finding a partner that meshes well with you, should be an enhancement, not a burden to the life you already enjoy living. 10. We are looking for real love Living alone is a wonderful experience, and once this truth is realized, it makes it easier to determine if you truly are interested in someone. Why? To change or tweak the life that works exceptionally well for you is a significant decision. Needless to say, the person who provoked such contemplation must be someone unlike most others you have ever met. The key to living well no matter where you find yourself in your life is to enjoy your own company, and that is something independent women do exceptionally well. And when you enjoy your own company, you are demonstrating you are secure in who you are, your strengths and while you may not applaud your weaknesses, you are aware of them and don't let them hinder your progression (in fact, you may take time to address and improve them). And because you are secure and therefore self-confident, you are better able to recognize the same characteristics in others and quickly dismiss of those who are not, and therefore would not be compatible or able to be the partner you are seeking, if your are seeking one. The funny truth is, get on with your life. Get on with pursuing your goals and reaching your full potential. Get on with living and living well. Whether you intrigue someone or not shouldn't be the goal. The goal should be internal. Julianna Margules famously shared on CBS Sunday Morning that at the age of 35 she told her mother she didn't want to get married or have kids because she loved her freedom. Epitomizing the independent woman, she lived her life and in so doing she met her husband at age 39 as she was going about living the life she loved, never with the goal in mind to meet him. Real love enters our lives in a variety of ways: through our careers, children, pets, hobbies, service, families, our partner, etc. But it should always begin with having sincere love and appreciation for ourselves. And independent woman understands this. She may struggle with who she is becoming as it is new and seems to regularly be changing as she grows and strives, but once she figures out who she is at her core, that truth doesn't change. And knowing that truth brings a comfort and a sanctuary that nobody can take away.   ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~How to Become a Woman Comfortable in Her Own Skin

~Why Not . . . Live Alone for a While?

~Why Not . . . Revel in Being a Woman?

~View all FEMININITY Posts in TSLL Archives here.

Petit Plaisir:

~Radishes with Baguette, Butter and Salt - click here for the recipe

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Direct download: 147IndependentWomanLove_-_31917_1.41_PM.mp3
Category:relationships -- posted at: 1:00am PST

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ― Confucius

Having never experienced a particular event, feeling or sensation, it can be hard to trust that attaining what we have marked as our goal as something other than difficult to achieve. After all, if it were easy, we would have experienced it by now. But what has lacked in the past is the proper recipe. What I mean by the proper recipe is if we are trying to make mayonnaise (which requires few, but specific simple ingredients: 1 large egg yolk, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon cold water, and ¾ cup neutral oil such as safflower or canola), but if we pulled out a recipe for a vinaigrette (extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar and black pepper), no matter how hard or long we whisked the ingredients, we will never make mayonnaise.  This seems obvious, but often in life we are using ingredients (whether it be particular people, misunderstood facts regarding science, neuroscience and biology or confusion when it comes to math) that cannot add up to what we desire no matter how hopeful we are. But when we do finally have the proper ingredients, in other words quality ingredients and stop trying to force an apple to become an orange, the results we desire materialize without involving much effort. And in that moment it seems almost miraculous as we've been thwarted for so long so often in our previous attempts. Today I've made a list of eleven life skills I have found to be far easier than I had once thought. Perhaps you have a few others you would like to add. And if so, please do share in the comments. 1. Boiling the perfect egg  On Sunday I made my first Niçoise salad, and of course, boiled eggs are a quintessential ingredient. Wanting a boiled egg in which the white was solid, but moist and the yolk was runny, I looked to Julia Child. On page 118 in her iconic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the recipe for an alternative to poached eggs (as I wanter to cook the eggs with the shell on) can be found. Put simply: bring water to boil, place eggs in the boiling water for six minutes, pour out the hot water and run cold water over the eggs for one minute. The perfect boiled egg for salads, breakfast or a mid-day snack. View my recipe for soft boiled eggs and soldiers here. 2. Meditating For years I thought something was wrong with me for not being able to mediate. I assumed, errantly, I had to be able to sit without thinking for endless amounts of minutes (20-30). I was wrong on two points: It's not about stopping your thoughts, but recognizing when they wander and bringing your mind back to the present and longer doesn't mean better. Five minutes is fine, simply observing and knowing your mind is wandering is a significant and successful mediation experience. Learn more about who to incorporate mediation into your daily routine (even if daily is a hope and the reality is a few days a week - the difference is quite positive on your overall quality of life.) 3. Asking clarifying questions Just ask why. Most likely you are not the only person in the room who did not understand the allusion the speaker or teacher made. Ask for clarification. Don't apologize for not knowing, simply ask what they were referring to. Confidence of a student and their sincerity to learn is revealed in asking for further understanding. Be a student of life and regularly ask questions, especially of people who are experts in their fields. Even if they do not know the answer, they would be the best persons to point you in the right direction. Often an expert takes for granted what the listener knows. It's not a negative thing, it's a reality when someone has been working with a particular idea or content for some time. Their perspective has shifted. So simply ask, and no doubt others in the room will appreciate your courage. 4. Letting go of what no longer supports the life you are building Looking at the possibility of letting go of a way of life, a person, a job or anything that you have become accustomed to is a thorny prospect. But the actual letting go and moving forward is easy. It's the decision of what to let go that takes time and careful examination. For when you finally let go, it cannot weigh you down and you begin to feel a lightness that you could never have known prior to letting go. 5. Welcoming love into your life When we have been mistreated, taken advantage of or been around insecure individuals and errant assumptions about what love is (co-dependent, needy, clingy, formulaic, etc.), we can understandably be cautious about believing genuine love exists. Genuine or real love is something we discussed here and here in-depth, but the good news is that it does indeed exist, and when you're ready and able to recognize it, even if you don't believe it when you see it or experience it,  welcoming it into your life is easy. Put down the armor, put down the cynical protections you've been using, stop the mishegas thinking and let yourself be loved. Just be you. Stop assuming the worst, stop thinking about anything that may thwart love's growth, and when you do that, love walks in. 6. Broadening your vocabulary Read. Read often. Read a little every day from any source that piques your interest. Look up one word a week that you run across and do not know. Listen to the diction being used in academic, political, historical films, newscasts and productions. Be curious and read and watch and look up what you do not understand. The more precise your vocabulary, the better able you are to effectively communicate and the more heightened your ability for emotional intelligence. 7. Backgammon My favorite board game to play is backgammon. While I have always wanted to learn chess, I have yet to do so (of this feat I will accomplish at some point in my life, I am nothing but determined). But since I was a young girl, backgammon was the game my father and I would play, and we still do when I return home for holidays. It's simple: move all of your checkers to your home base and remove them before the other player. Yes, there are other strategies and details to consider, but for a board game that looks fancy when it is displayed, it truly is quite simple. Discover the rules here. 8. Saving money for retirement Set it and forget it. Set up an automatic pay reduction each month to be withdrawn from your paycheck. The sooner you do this is your career, the less you will pay no mind to the money that is not going into your checking account for the present moment. 9. Practicing self-compassion The patient is you. And the attending is you as well. Treat yourself the way you already treat those you care about. The love you are able to give outwardly becomes strengthened when you have been giving the same compassion to yourself regularly. Learn more about self-compassion here in episode #122 of the podcast. 10. Improving your health and your skin Yes, using particular moisturizers, sunscreen and oils do indeed make a difference, but the cheapest and simplest way to improve your health (ridding your body of toxins) and enable your skin to look radiant is to drink a glass of water before you go to bed and when you wake up. In between, make water your drink of choice. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. 11. Staying healthy and trim It's less about your activity and more about the fuel you feed your body. However, physical exercise reduces stress and keeps the mind balanced. Back to the eating component: Eat a well balanced diet (knowledge of what you eat and what it does for your body is key), don't deprive yourself, moderation. And as far as exercise,  simply walk 5 times a week 20-40 minutes, add some weight bearing exercises two times a week (strength, pilates or yoga). The take away I have discovered is often it is our approach that is thwarting the success, happiness and contentment we seek from materializing. And the problem is that we are not better informed on how to actually attain what we seek. Make sure that anything that is not working at the moment doesn't actually have an easier solution. Are you using the proper ingredients? Do you have the right recipe or did the pages stick together and you, like Rachel in FRIENDS accidentally make a dessert truffle with ground beef? The right recipe can make all of the difference. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Easy Is Never Appreciated

~Simple Rules for a Good Life

~Small & Simple = A Grand & Full Life

Petit Plaisir

~Victoria on PBS, Season 1

~Queen Victoria's diaries made available to the public   https://youtu.be/rKONm_Cy39s  

Image: source

 

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Direct download: 146simple_-_31217_3.06_PM.mp3
Category:inspiration -- posted at: 1:00am PST

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #145

~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

"The act of responding requires one to look at the circumstance, identify the problem or situation, hear what is happening and reflect . . . What matters is that you stopped and put an effort to think and suspended judgment. It is a conscious act and shows that you are willing to listen or observe. This ‘gap’ between the circumstance and your behavior is what contributes to gaining a sense of control in your life." —author Debbie Hampton 

Responding thoughtfully to an interviewer's questions versus reacting spontaneously to an inflicted, unexpected pain whether a paper cut or something more severe. The physical examples shared reveal the human responses: the former - responsive, and the latter - reactive.

Responding is a conscious decision whereas reacting is instinctive and done without forethought. And while reacting in emergency situations involving life and death, to scream, run and protect one's self is primarily and understandably about survival, it is when we react rather than respond in everyday situations that we inhibit the potential outcome.

Let's look at it more closely. When we choose to simply react to what occurs in our lives, we behave defensively. Sometimes defensive behaviors take the form of blame, scapegoating or taking revenge. Stephen Covey describes the difference between reactive and responsive individuals quite well.

“Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and performance. Proactive people carry their own weather with them.”

In essence, choosing to be responsive versus reactive is to take charge of your life, to be the hero/heroine, to be the person who recognizes everything will never be in our control, but our response to circumstances is. Choosing to be responsive is taking responsibility of our lives. Recognizing the power of our words, our behavior, our tone, our delivery, our volume, our timing, make a difference to those in our presence. On the other head, when we react we actually aren't choosing. Rather we are allowing our reptilian brain, the oldest part of our brain, to take control. The reptilian brain is all about the individual and survival: movement, breathing, circulation, hunger and reproduction, territory, and social dominance. But the gift that humans have as well as other highly evolved mammals, is we have two additional brains: the mammalian brain or limbic system, which is highly reactive as it is subconsciously responding to temperatures and hormones thus involves our emotions and feelings, and the neocortex, the thinking part of the brain, in other words where our capability to respond rather than react derives itself. The third brain, as was just mentioned, the neocortex, is the key to gathering information from what we are seeing and feeling, and putting it into context. The neocortex digests the necessary information, understands the world and the fact that there is a future beyond this moment and is capable of making sound decisions. Humans's neocortex is the most highly developed of all primates, and therefore, when we recognize what we have the potential to do, we must utilize this amazing strength of mind. Let's take a look at what responsive vs. reactive looks like in our everyday lives: ~Event: you sleep through your alarm - responsive: edit out timely morning rituals, access what the necessities are to be your best at work (eat well, dress appropriately, look presentable); reactive: scurry furiously around the house setting a mood for anyone in the household to become more frazzled and storm out the door with nothing complete or having prepared you efficiently for the day. ~Event: a colleague or boss states something unexpected that takes you aback or hurts your feelings - responsive: choosing to pause and take a breath you think about the best response, if one is needed at all, and do so calmly; reactive - fall back on your default response to critical, hurtful comments and either don't stand up for yourself and continue to agree or become snarky and sharp in your retort. ~Event: your significant other forgets an important date or occasion - responsive: collect your thoughts, come to understand why or if you feel hurt and determine how to calmly express how you feel during a time when both can talk; reactive - as soon as you see or hear from them you either give them the cold shoulder or speak with a hurtful tone and words. ~Event: a friend texts or emails to invite you do something - responsive: read the text, assess your interest and then consult your calendar or other people's calendar if it involves or effects them, then return the text/email either way; reactive: either respond immediately or not at all ~Event: the line at the grocery market is long and the person at the counter doesn't appear to know how to work the machine - responsive: assess your situation - do you have a time constraint? If so, can you move to another line. If time isn't an issue, observe the wait in line as an opportunity to take a few deep breaths, relax or check your email recognizing that either eventually the line will move or the management will open another line. The paradox of choosing to be responsive is that it requires of us to be both present and aware of the future. We need to both be cognizant of the effect of our actions, whichever we choose to take and we need to know what actions are best in the situation. Fittingly, when we react, we are reacting out of fear based on what we have been genetically disposed to do to protect ourselves. But as we know, we live in a civilized world. It is a civilized, thoughtful approach that will yield us the best results. It is not easy to know how to respond best in every situation. However, being self-aware and emotionally intelligent help tremendously. As these two traits are skills, so too is knowing how to respond well. It will take practice, it will require of us to be able to pause in nearly any situation before speaking or acting, and in its own small way, meditation plays a helpful role as well. When we respond to life:

  • we become the directors, rather than the followers
  • we will establish stronger relationships with anyone we come into contact with
  • we will reduce unnecessary interactions and confrontations
  • we will find more peace
  • we will reduce regret
  • we will build a confidence that we can handle any situation we come up against
  • we will thrive

No doubt all of us, and I know I can include myself in this category, have reacted at times in our lives when we should have responded. And upon reflection, we can probably pinpoint those events quite well usually based primarily on how we felt after we reacted rather than responded. We may have wished we wouldn't have said something, chosen a different tone, or taken a deep breath and simply removed ourselves from the situation until we knew how to respond well. It is just these moments of experience that will actually make it that much easier to respond rather than react as you move forward. Because when we know first-hand the negative experience that can result from reacting, we are far more motivated to make sure we respond in the next similar situation. Our lives provide guidance even through the moments we wished we didn't have to endure. As a student, all we have to do is vow to learn the lessons we are given. We cannot know how to do something until we are shown how. Now we know how to respond rather than react. Now we know the difference and the benefit of embracing responsiveness versus defensiveness.

Petit Plaisir:

~The Magnolia Journal: Inspiration for life and home

  • $20/yr subscription (four issues each year)
  • Each issue has a theme (Note: Issue 2 | Simplicity) - on stands now

~Joanna & Chip Gaines of HGTV's Fixer Upper ~The bed & breakfast in Walla Walla, Washington, mentioned in today's episode: Green Gables Inn  

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Direct download: 145ReactionResponse_.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 12:00am PST