I grew up with weekends at the lake, my fishing pole sitting idle while I scrambled through the tall grass looking for horned toads and fleeing from crickets. Summer vacations were on the road, in the RV, bunking with my sisters and playing cards until it was time for us to tumble out and play badminton and climb rocks new but strangely familiar to us in places like New Mexico, Arizona and South Dakota.
While RVing is out of vogue and every time I take a road trip with the kids I swear it will be the last, I miss the open road and adventure and mostly being in nature. I have some catching up to do. My children could care less about the Black Hills or Mount Rushmore and we’re giving them the vacation of their dreams next month with a trip to Hawaii, but in the meantime, I’m giving myself the gift of Nature as often as I can. This Get Out series is certainly about unplugging and reconnecting with nature and each other, but I don’t expect my family to be as enthusiastic as I am about the idea, which is why my little treks are with girlfriends, family and even all by my lonesome. I love new challenges and adventures so camping by myself has a new appeal that would’ve frightened me just months ago. I likely have Barbara Brown Taylor and her new book, “Learning to Walk in the Dark” to thank for that idea to exile myself to the night.
Since I’m supposed to be dedicating my summer to finishing the first draft of my love after war brotherhood novel, I’ll likely only post every other week and mostly include photos to save us both some time.
This week’s “Get Out” adventures began with a trip to Black Mesa to hike the highest elevation in Oklahoma (4.2 miles up) in the Oklahoma panhandle, a mid-week treat seeing Matt Stansberry and the Romance at the UCO Jazz Lab. (Please treat yourself to their album.) and concluding with a surprise trip to The Canebrake, a resort in eastern Oklahoma in Wagoner, OK where we hiked, dined, and even saw a family of armadillos on the way out of town this morning.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how adventurous is your life? How many new places and new experiences have you had recently? I’m shifting my Get Real series to Get Out for the summer, which goes with my own shift from more introspection to extroversion as spring turned to summer and I realized I felt a bit like Walter Mitty – only a mommyfied version of him.
Walter Mitty is played by Ben Stiller at LIFE magazine where he processes negatives that go into the magazine – which is turning digital. Though LIFE is all about adventure around the world, poor Walter hadn’t really gone anywhere. On the dating site, he really couldn’t list any interesting places he’d been or things he’d done. I’ve done a fair amount of traveling, but my feeling was more about wanting to embrace my adventurous spirit which was laying at the bottom of the heap of unfolded laundry.
A couple of those a-ha moments were a) I needed to get out more and b) I wanted NEW experiences, big and small. I already had the will – now I just needed to find (MAKE) the way.
The next bit of inspiration to live with intention and adventure this summer is thanks to Marina Keegan who died in a car crash shortly after her graduation at Yale. But she lived a big life in a short time – much more than Walter had lived into his mid-life. Marina loved to write and her family and editor at school compiled her works into THE OPPOSITE OF LONELINESS. I love that her words live on. Here’s an excerpt:
But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They’re part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn’t live in New York. I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clichéd “should haves…” “if I’d…” “wish I’d…” – Marina Keegan
So let’s not wait. Let’s have adventure NOW, not waiting for the perfect moment, the financial windfall, the age when you THINK your kids will be less cranky. Put fun shit on your list and go do them. They don’t have to be “bucket list” things, either. They can be pocket-sized, lunch-hour sized, Saturday-afternoon sized. They can be alone, with a friend, the other half, with or without the kids. They can be planned or spontaneous. It doesn’t matter. Just do them.
Each week through August I’ll share some of my new Get Out Adventures on this blog. Of course this keeps me accountable, but I already have a lot to share from the last week! I won’t write much so I can save my time for DOING the things plus working on my new novel.
I hope Walter, Marina and I can inspire you to Get Out, too. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter I’ll use the #GetOut hashtag for photos and posts and I’ll start a new Pinterest board called Get Out Adventures. You can find me @malenalott on each one.
First Top 6 Get Outs from May 20-June 1st.
1. HikingWichita Mountains with girlfriend Kelley McGuire. Yes, Oklahoma is beautiful. Just Get Out and see for yourself. (Cheap day trip!)
2.GIRLFRIEND ROAD TRIP: hip and contemporary ALOFT Hotel in Tulsa Memorial weekend (w/Wingfields): 2 girlfriends, 6 kids, #eatLocal @JoeMommas Pizza. We also saw the beautiful historic Mayo Hotel. Who do you need to reconnect with? What hotel have you been dying to see?
3. ART + OUTDOORS Photo Slam and Rooftop Happy Hour @OKCMOA = see the city from a higher point of view and EVERY OK sunset is gorgeous. You deserve a happy hour from on high, don’t you?
After two months of researching, talking to friends and family in person and online, and thinking about getting real about aging and beauty, I’ve come up with a bottom line.
You need to love yourself enough to be yourself and take care of your body (and mind.) If you’re living a life of purpose, you’ll be happy at any (every) age.
Aging doesn’t have to suck. And “fighting” aging is sucky vocabulary. It’s a marketing ploy. Instead, I say come at aging from a place of love and gratitude, not FEAR. And this is coming from a marketer, too. Instead of buying into the commercialization of “staying young” try instead FULLY EXPRESSING YOUR UNIQUE SELF.
I approach the way I look as IMAGE. It’s my personal brand. But I’m not following a trend, I’m taking care of my skin, hair and how I dress to present myself in the best manner that suits me. That’s what will make us each happy. Not dressing how our parents think we should, or your work or your partner. So with that in mind – coming from a place of love that we are given ONE MIND AND ONE BODY in this life, it’s our responsibility to take care of it as long as it’s our vessel.
I spoke with a doctor recently about aging and this is what she said and this is how I’d like to kick off our “hierarchy” of aging well and expressing our authentic image and how we can do that. These are all top tips I found from my research as well as my own life experience.
1. Aging/wellness/beauty begins within. What you eat impacts how you feel, how your hair, nails and skin looks, how our organs function, etc. SO EAT CLEAN, GREEN AND LEAN. I don’t get women who are morbidly obese yet have perfect nails. Let’s take responsibility for what we put in our mouths. That’s our number one defense to “fight” aging. LOVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TO MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES. The bad food we eat can give us cancer as much as smoking can. And if you even smoke “socially” cut that shit out. Don’t make me pull out my list of deceased loved ones who were killed from smoking.
2. If you are fit, you’ll feel younger (and look younger). Not only will you have WAY more energy, but you’ll be able to do all the things you want to do as you age including adventure and having the stamina to tackle your big dreams. Since I started working out every day I have about TWICE as much energy as before. The way you feel about yourself is huge. You’ll feel more confident and likely you’ll want to really take care of yourself in other areas like how you dress and want to show your best self. You’ll smile more which always makes us look more beautiful! WHY do we wait until we’ve become overweight or get a disease and a doctor “forces” us to work out? The other night at the Y I was thinking about this while doing hamstring curls and I look up and here comes an amputee on the track, walking slowly but he was doing it. He’s working out. That’s a perspective moment right there. We are able bodied and even if we aren’t we can make what works work harder and better for us if we do it. Start now. In college I worked out every day and even after kids I tried to stay in shape, but I’d gotten lazy about it. I was only working out once or twice a week and justifying not working out more as being “too busy” yet I spent way too much time on FaceTIMESUCKbook. PRIORITIZE YOUR SCHEDULE. You should love your body more than you love Facebook (or TV or whatever else you are replacing it with.)
3. Decorate your body to show your best self. Here’s the deal. We can’t see what someone eats, but our first impression comes from our image and humans (especially men) are very visual creatures. In your mind’s eye, put yourself in the middle of the room wearing a typical outfit. How do you look? Do you feel fabulous in it? Dress to feel amazing and GET RID OF ALL CLOTHES THAT ARE NOT BECOMING ON YOU. INVEST IN YOURSELF. Find out how to dress for your body type. This link will tell you what your body type it and how to dress for it. This is your chance to show off your PERSONAL STYLE so have fun with it. You can honor your body type and have fun with color, patterns, jewelry and so on. I’ve been purging my closet for about two months and it feels great to no longer see the things in the closet you know you’ll never wear again. It’s a relief and you’ll make room for things that make you feel awesome. How I dress is how I see myself: colorful, fun, sometimes sophisticated and glamorous. Brainstorm what those things are for you and then start shopping. How do you see yourself? Is there a celebrity or someone in real life that inspires a look for you?
4. Decorate your mind. Two things. If we think negatively about aging, we’re going to constantly feel bad about it. But if we think about it from a place of LOVE, then we can say “I love myself and I want my face to closer look like I feel inside” or “I want my body to be able to do all the things on my bucket list I haven’t accomplished yet” instead of bemoaning what we can’t do or how age is destroying our bodies. Because IT’S NOT. I got “decorate your mind” from a spiritual teacher, Osho, whose book I’m reading, “Mindfulness in the Modern World”. While his statement is about mindfulness, it totally applies to aging and beauty because this is your life. Fill your mind with things that bring you joy – great reading and conversation and hope and add in nature and art and surround yourself with beautiful things that inspire you. And if you hate your job or your life or your mental health needs some attention, then, no, you won’t enjoy aging or think you are beautiful from the inside out. Take care of you, please. We need to do what we want to do NOW because the future may not be there. Living a life of purpose and fulfillment is the key to happiness and then age really can feel like a number. I feel so much better than I did when I was in my 20s and 30s. I’m wiser and more confident and healthier and finally feel like I’ve found my personal style and am pursuing all the things I love. All. The. Things.
5. Select the tools for taking care of yourself. Look at the tools available, the time and energy (and money) you want to invest – prioritize what you want to transform the most and then DO IT NOW. I wouldn’t be in good shape without all my teachers – Zumba, body conditioning, hip hop, piloxing and even online with blogilates. They push me. They are my tool to reshaping my body and keep me motivated, too.
Why do celebs who are in their 40s and 50s still look like they are in their 30s? And most of them are WITHOUT PLASTIC SURGERY. They do these things to stay looking good probably years before we wake up and think about it. These tools are available to all of us (if we can afford it.) Again, found these from multiple articles online.
SPF all over our bodies, year around and especially our neck/face/chest. 80% of aging is from sun damage. Yikes. If you already have sun damage, you can reverse it with treatments and good skin care.
Good skincare that exfoliates, moistures, protects and restores. This likely means a good strength Retin A (from a doctor) that improves collagen and elastin, as well as using creams and serums with peptides and other vitamins that help exfoliate and can actually reverse wrinkles. Skin care gets expensive fast and don’t think you have to buy an entire line and every cream and serum out there.
Great hair – no matter the color. Having a great stylist who knows how to cut your hair for your face as well as the texture of your hair is huge. It’s really hard to pull off styling it everyday if you are starting with a bad cut. I asked friends if they would go gray or not and three decided to already (in their 30s and 40s) and they opted to go gray because of the time and expense of keeping it colored. Obviously we look younger without gray but, newsflash, not everyone cares about looking younger. Our hair is a big part of our image and identity so if the style you have now isn’t reflecting how you want to feel, change it.
The right makeup. My daughter believes no woman looks good without makeup. I wouldn’t go that far, but it does go far in bringing out our features and giving us the dewy complexion our “natural” face may have lost.
Fillers and Botox. We lose fat and collagen as we age AND we have bone loss (even in our face). I know. That stinks because it means the skin starts to sag which causes wrinkles, pockets, etc. SO when you see a celeb over 40 with a fresh looking face, she likely uses some Botox for wrinkles as well as fillers to add volume to the face. You don’t have to go nuts, either. If this is an area that bothers you, go see a doctor about what it would cost and come up with a plan. It’s worth it if you’ll feel better. Either decide to live with it (acceptance) or do something about it. No use whining over LIVING ANOTHER DAY/WEEK/YEAR. Really.
Photofacials and laser procedures. You basically are resurfacing your whole face. Look at realself.com and you’ll see the types of things you can do and the before and afters. Personally I hope to not have to go to this extreme for awhile, but it really does roll back the years. You look like a burn victim for up to two weeks on some of them but for those with a lot of sun damage, it’s really amazing how they can fix that.
Surgery. I didn’t research surgery much but if you do want some type of tuck or lift, just get referrals and maybe see more than one to see who you trust for what. Guys want women to look good, yes, but REAL. A great face lift that’s done well should be almost unnoticeable as well as the use of fillers and Botox. If not, yikes.
We can’t make a decision without knowing what the options are and how we feel about it, right?
I also think it’s important to find things you LOVE about your body and write those down. Too often we look in the mirror and only see the things we want to change so right now come up with FIVE THINGS you love about your body. Mine are: blue eyes, my long, curly brunette hair, my smile, my thin wrists and ankles and honestly I don’t know about the fifth but I’ll think on it. Maybe my body type (hour glass-y) and height (5’6″) though I used to HATE my shape because I was constantly comparing it to everyone else (and size 0 sorority sisters) and always wanted to cover myself up instead of dressing for my type. In college I dated a guy who looking back on it actually wanted me to have a completely different body type and I felt terrible about myself. He wanted me to have smaller boobs, tan skin and likely shorter. I realized (too late) he really wanted me to look like his ex-girlfriend who had more of a Paula Abdul look. (if you put Paula and I on a spectrum I’m pretty sure we would be at opposite ends!) Ugh. When I dated guys who loved my body type, I felt much better about myself. I mean, duh, right? One guy said, “you look like a woman should look” which was much nicer than someone giving me a mental boob reduction and spray tan. Geesh.
When I decided to get real about my life, I knew I’d make a transformation inside and out and it isn’t easy but it’s the most important thing we can do to fully live our purpose. Be your best YOU. Don’t listen to the naysayers who will try to get you to still eat junk food with them or tell you that you work out too much or don’t like the way you do your hair or dress. Forget them! You aren’t expressing yourself for THEM. If they don’t support you, kick them to the bottom of your priority list. Seriously.
We also have to be realistic about what we can achieve. We can transform our minds and bodies within limits but we can’t suddenly get Beyonce’s booty or a 20 year old’s youthful glow. (And besides that, we romanticize celebrities and the youth because if you hang out with college students, you’ll see they have other skin problems like acne that you may not have anymore.)
I’ll close with the same bottom line:
You need to love yourself enough to be yourself and take care of your body (and mind.)
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
If you’re new to my Get Real series, you can see the other topics I’ve wrote about in 2014 my scrolling back through my blog. Next week I’m talking about why we need to stop apologizing. I’m sick and tired of being sorry, aren’t you? What the hell?
I always get sentimental this time of year – not only because we’re packing up the suitcase on a calendar year, but because it’s a reminder how truly fast time flies. They weren’t joking about that. I thought it might slow down the older I get. Nope. If anything, it seems someone has their foot on the accelerator. Is it me? God, I hope it’s not me, though I don’t mind taking some credit for the fun and good stuff.
Thing about this year in review stuff (as much as I love to read them by others) is that I’ve worked hard not to judge my life. I can’t recall which guru said it, but once I heard you shouldn’t label a day as good or bad, so I tried to stop asking my husband, “did you have a good day?” nor answering it. Every day is a gift. Period. Some days suck big fat tush, sure, but back in the early ’00s I adopted another mantra, “never let circumstances dictate your joy.” That’s a tough one. So this isn’t about judging if it was good, bad or otherwise. Stuff does happen – delirious, delicious successes and soul-crushing blows. EACH are just momentary- notches on our tree of life. With that out of the way…
I’m more at ease with sharing what I learned, so here goes.
1. You cannot be in two places at once as a parent and must let go of the guilt of that fact. When I was at a dance conference with my daughter in January, my youngest son had a head on collision with another Cub Scout at an event. Head split open. Lots of blood. ER. Many stitches. I paced the mall like a zombie 2 hours away but was assured by my husband that son was happy, smiling, getting royal treatment (no concussion) and they got ice cream after. I hadn’t driven for one thing, but it was a good lesson that moms (nor dads) can always be there no matter if you have one kid or many. So I went on about my weekend relishing in being with my daughter, watching her dance, and spending time with my dance mom bff. Peace, mamas. Don’t let heartache ruin what’s right in front of you.
2. Sometimes success or failure is out of your control. WHAT?!I can’t to-do list the shit out of my life and make all my dreams come true? That’s tough for a type A strategist *AND* dreamer to boot to swallow, but remember – sometimes your hard work, passion and WILL to make the end game go in your favor simply does not. For whatever reason – the market, the fancies of the people, timing, and so on. Yes, I still think it’s good to analyze it, but don’t let it get you down. I worked so hard trying to control things that were uncontrollable that I got burned out and upset with myself, which – let’s face it – never turns things back around in your favor. So, here’s me releasing the big balloon of control over the uncontrollable to the Universe. Ahhhh.
3. Travel does a soul good. Yes, too much could backfire, but if you take the time to get away, it’s going to help you refocus and prioritize, miss those you aren’t around, relish in the company of those you are around and feel energizedfor those routines you were sick of previously. I got to go to Nashville with my MIL and daughter, dance nationals with my daughter, Colorado for a family vacation and then put myself on a five-city book tour to celebrate Twin Falls and Family Charms. I got to see friends I hadn’t seen in eons. I’m so glad I did it. All of it. Where to in ’14?
4. If things break down, consider something new. I had a solid year with clients on retainer, which is a tremendous relief for a self-employed business owner. So when my clients’ projects were through and the retainers dried up, I had a decision to make: replace them with similar projects or create something new to fill that void. After a lot of thought, I went for it and created Sooner Spaces, a media site devoted to compelling stories about spaces in my state of Oklahoma. (Called the Sooner State) It was hard, grueling, took many yes’ and dozens of hours of unpaid work to pull off and – I love it. Every bit. I love pitching it. I love the interviews. I love writing the stories and shooting and editing. I love working on DIY projects and sharing them. And I love, love, love working with my friends Ali and Jill. I don’t feel lonely and I’m getting out of the house and off the computer. If you’re in a similar situation, ask yourself if it’s an opportunity to do something you love (that can also make money if it’s work related.)
5. Be present IN THE WORLD. One of my favorite movies this year was HER starring Joaquin Phoenix as a guy who falls inlove with his iOS. I get it. A lot of my world is right here with you – in this screen (or the various versions of you on my big Mac, iPad, iPhone). But it’s TOO MUCH. Because one of my retainers involved social media, I was on it a LOT. And because I run a small press, I have to blog and do production online and more social media. And once you’re ON IT, it’s hard to get off of it. I’m too addicted to the white stuff – this white screen – and all the pixels here. I need on a device to write, yes. Hell, I can’t even read my own handwriting, but as for the rest and the rabbit hole it takes me on…No, I have to show more control and restraint which means I have to literally leave all devices downstairs and resist any urge to check in so I can concentrate on the real world – my family, my laundry, and all the projects I’ve committed to finishing out here that will eventually wind up in here as posts or videos or whatever. Point is, I lacked balance in 2013 and I’m going to fix it because it makes me feel crazy and I want to BE HERE NOW.
Loads of other lessons and great things happened in 2013 like I do feel more ME than ever before, I eat cleaner, I added yoga and meditation, I saw generous support by authors who helped me buy classroom items for the teachers in Moore, OK who lost everything in the May tornado. I also published new books and several books by others.
A few photos on my look back at 2013:
I like to create a theme for each year – for blogging and for a life practice. This year it was True Do and it helped me align to my purpose. In 2014, it’s GET REAL theme you’ll see here and on my Facebook author page. I invite you to blog along with me and put the REAL into your life this coming year. We’ll be getting real about food, bonds, success and more. NO, I’m not selling any supplement (nor taking them) but I hope my journey to cooking better for my family and making healthier choices might inspire someone else reading here and my goal to sustain REAL bonds with those I love AND showing loving kindness to strangers and those I disagree with and examining what real success looks like in our daily lives as workers and people on a journey to something more, deeper, richer, might prop us each up and keep us going to LIVE WITH INTENTION and see that EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED as we concentrate and grow what needs fertile ground and watering in our lives.
More soon. Happy new year, friends.
xoxo and namaste and pass the champagne (sugar detox starts Jan. 2nd.)
This weekend finds me in St. Louis wearing my dance mom hat, though not literally. (I do see an awful lotof dance mom and dad shirts, but I don’t own one.) It’s the end of dance competition season with various dance companies hosting their “nationals.” They judge the girls on technique, style and even their costumes, and award them with “levels” such as Diamond, Elite and Top first as well as “overalls.” The goal is to make it to top overalls in your category, a lot like writers making it to a best-seller list, any list, as slim as that category might be. What sets the Diamonds apart? I’m speaking as an observer, noting three things that seems to make a difference and parallels the creative’s journey.
Confidence. They kill it. When you see a great routine, they don’t hesitate, don’t look at the other girls. They know the moves and bring their passion. They don’t hold back. Great writing is the same way. The reader can’t wait to get to the next paragraph, page, chapter. A confident writer knows where the story will take them and sweeps the reader up in the story. Diamond dancers have stage presence, own the stage. We can’t take our eyes off of them. They leave us wanting More. Most of all, we’re entertained.
Practice. I often talk about Malcom Gladwell’s Outlier theory that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. Whatever your art, the more you do it, the better you should get at it. Because writing is a blend of fundamentals (like company girls being required to take ballet) and style, the more you write, the easier the writing will get. And by “easy”, I mean you will actually be able to plot a story in your head and understand how to master a character’s arc and theme without having to even reference a writer’s manual because you just know it. A great dancer can learn choreography fairly quickly because they know the moves and put the story together.
Perseverance. People who love what they do seem to work a little harder to get it just right. In dance that may be more practice, more rehearsals and working on the parts they are struggling with until they get it. For the writer, that’s the revision process and honing the story until it’s just right, passing it off for critique, sharing it with others, entering it into contests and getting feedback and revising some more. If a writer is struggling with pulling off believable dialogue, for example, the answer isn’t to not write as much dialogue but to write dialogue every day until it smooths out and becomes as effortless as the parts you have already mastered. Perseverance also means never giving up – not when you get rejections, don’t win the contest, don’t sell as many books as your publisher would like. Keep writing. Keep perfecting. Try something new.
It’s not impossible to achieve Diamond Elite status in our writing. Keep at it.
Last week I wrote about decoding the reasons why our manuscripts aren’t picked up by a publisher. Pop over to Girlfriends Book Club to check it out. If you enjoy trying new recipes, download the free Pool Boy companion featuring 10 recipes by Buzz Books authors and friends.
When your brain feels like a freeway during rush hour most of the time, it can feel impossible to make the exit to the Present Moment. But oddly enough, one of the biggest helpers in my journey has been Instagram, the photo app that was recently bought by Facebook. I’ve been on Instagram since it was an app baby, and I’ve loved how it helps me notice the little things around me and capture it to look back on later (mostly thanks to creating a photo book from the pics.)
Unlike Facebook photos, which seem to primarily be people taking pictures of themselves or loved ones (or most recently sharing photos with quotes inside them), IGers take photos of the little things, and lots of simple pleasures – which is likely why there are so many pics of food!
Whether or not you take a picture of it, recording Simple Pleasures in a journal or just during a beginning meditation can help us feel gratitude and bring us back to the power of now (versus agonizing over the past or fretting about the future.)
Here are a few of my favorite “simple pleasures” I snapped and shared on Instagram. A juicy peach from a farmers’ market, fun pillows that make me smile when I’m on the deck, a coffee date with my daughter, a Play Doh creation by my six-year old, and, duh, amazing mac and cheese!
Weekly Round Up
Air kisses to Eastern Sunset Reads and Chick Lit Goddess for their nice reviews of The Last Resort.
Toast to debut Oklahoma author Jammie Kern on her published Mythology High short story, “Ryann in the Sky” <—go grab it, y’all
New Hive podcast going up today – interviewed Jammie and children’s author Joshua Unruh – AND I talk about my steamy short story, “The Pool Boy”
Tickled by…new sales of Fixer Upper. For whatever reason, the sales had been lagging on my DIY tale of a politician’s wife who leaves the posh life for the pastures, but Macy is getting new readers thanks to her appearance in The Last Resort
Have a fantastic Independence Day holiday! To simple pleasures! And ones that go boom!