30 January 2013

Planning a Childbirth: Is There a Comfort Zone and Should You Get Out of It?

This post is written by contributing author Cory Trusty.

For most mothers childbirth is one of the most painful things they will ever experience. Staying relaxed and comfortable is sometimes the best hope for making the experience as quick and as tolerable as possible. Of course other factors come into play as well. Proper nourishment throughout pregnancy is essential. 

But when it comes to a comfort zone in planning a birth, is there such a thing at all? If there is a comfort zone, should you stay in it? Is your mental comfort zone the same as your physical comfort zone, does it make a difference for the birthing process? 

newborn, natural childbirth, giving birth at home
Moira less than 24 hours old.
I remember 2 childbirth stories from my mom when I was growing up.  

The first was that when my mother was in the hospital in labor with my older sister, my mother's 3 child, the doctor was nowhere to be found.  My mother was in the hospital bed, and the nurse's solution to the missing doctor was to tell my mother not to push and try to prevent the baby from coming out before the doctor came in. Did my mom really need that doctor or the nurse? 

The second story I remember her telling me was that she was in labor with me at home, but her labor stopped when she checked into the hospital. I think that is a common place for labor to stop or slow down upon arrival to the hospital. I have to wonder if this is the body's natural response to being in an unfamiliar place surrounded by strangers. 

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I wanted an OB/GYN doctor. I hadn't done any research. It was what I felt comfortable with based on what I had learned from society. My only experience with childbirth was limited to witnessing a very traumatic hospital forceps birth. My husband wanted a home birth.  I tried to keep an open mind. I purchased a few books, the best of which was The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by medical writer Henci Goer. After reading this book I learned that intervention can more often than not harm rather than help during the child birth process. I decided to hire a midwife.  I got comfortable with that. 

Source: hencigoer.com via Aquarian on Pinterest

I think that there is no such thing as a mental comfort zone for a woman in her first pregnancy. Nothing can prepare you for the experience. You really don't know what to expect. I took support in online forums for pregnant women. I even learned that (wow) there were women giving birth at home without the help of a midwife. I tried to get comfortable with the midwife, but as time progressed it just wasn't going to work out with her. Both my husband and I had a bad feeling about her and her behavior. Just like doctors, not all midwifes are created equal. I recall later thinking how brilliant one of my friends was to find out transfer statistics from home to hospital for the midwife she hired for her 2nd birth.  

With 3 weeks left before my due date and low funds I collected the birth kit from the midwife and found myself truly out of my comfort zone and planning for an unassisted childbirth. My husband had complete confidence in our ability to have the baby at home. Luckily I had a friend with experience in unassisted childbirth who also was confident and encouraging. I was young, I was healthy. I had eaten well. I was athletic. I had herbal remedies up my sleeve from Susun Weed's book The Child Bearing Year and a back ground in Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture. The day before I went into labor, I watched my pregnant cat hide herself in my dark quiet closet. She gave birth at home in private. Could birth be that simple?

Source: ashtreepublishing.com via Aquarian on Pinterest

When my labor started I thought I was in terrible pain, but in retrospect I think that my mental distress contributed to the pain or at least the length of time I had to endure the pain. I had the comforts of my home: my own bed, a giant clawfoot bathtub with hot water, windows open or closed as I wished, privacy, teas, juices. I relished the soup I had made before hard labor began. It gave me physical strength to continue on.

But these comforts didn't help me with my mental distress.  My mind was occupied with questions "Is this normal," "Is it supposed to be this painful?" "Do I need to call the fire department?" "Is it too late for an epidural or c-section?"  My husband assured me it was supposed to be painful and all was well, but what did he know?, I thought. Later my friend Cricket (an experienced mom), who was camping out on my porch, told me she could tell everything was okay, by the sound of things. After 8 hours of labor, I broke down and did what I didn't realized I had been avoiding. I squatted. It felt like something tore in my pelvis when I did it. But that was the movement I needed to make.  And so quickly there was progress. With very little effort my 7 pound daughter's head was out, so soon that my husband was still in the kitchen making me lemonade.

A few years later I watched the film, The Business of Being Born. I laughed and was so happy to see that I was not the only one crying for a c-section during home birth. The midwife having her first birth at home in that film was in much worse shape than I was. The experience of birth doesn't end with the birth itself. How wonderful to be finished with the birth, put the baby down in her own bed, take a bath and go to sleep in my own bed. I was grateful for simple comforts of home after such an ordeal.

Six years after my first unassisted home birth I found myself planning a second. With a 'been there done that' attitude, I didn't see much point in hiring a doctor or midwife. Having had the experience of a successful unassisted homebirth, I couldn't imagine having anyone else involved in the process or leaving the comfort of my home.

My comfort zone was now 100% at home both mentally and physically. However having lost my athletic physique, the pregnancy was not quite so easy.  I didn't give up.  I took a lot bed rest as was necessary for issues that came up. I watched Oceans 11, 12, and 13 a bunch of times while on bed rest, and read a lot of good literature.  When I went into labor I put on the movie Oceans 13.  By the time I got to Al Pacino's line "I don't want the labor pain, I just want the baby!" I rolled my eyes.  I had That was my cue to get in the hot bath. How grateful I was that it wasn't my cue to get in a car and go to a hospital.

Tessa less than 24 hours old.
 Labor was much more painful with my second birth, but I did not have the mental anxiety that I had with the first. I knew it was going to be painful. I knew I just had to get though the pain. After only 5 hours of labor I gave birth to an 8.5 pound baby. Unlike with my first daughter, it was a real struggle to find a position in which I could push her out. I had to stand. My husband was there and (wow) just like in the movies this time he (had to?) tell me to push. She did not come out easily. He told me that her head was turned slightly to the side. She also came out with a broken umbilical cord.  Thankfully the placenta came out soon after. It is very uncommon for a cord to break during birth from what I understand. It makes me wonder if she was tangled in it and I would not have been allowed to give birth to her naturally in a hospital.

Do you have experience with birth in a hospital, with a midwife, unassisted? Do you have a mental comfort zone when it comes to birth?  Is it different than your physical comfort zone?  Do you think getting out of your comfort zone applies when it comes to planning a birth?

Copyright 2013 Cory Trusty  All rights reserved.

Cory Trusty is a soap maker, community herbalist, organic gardener, and homeschooling mom to two girls. Cory and her family live in Daytona Beach, Florida. Cory's background is in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Biology.  She is sharing tried and true natural home remedies and mini lessons from herbal classes that she teaches. Cory works full time making soaps, shampoo bars, herbal salves, flaxseed heat packs and more for her website AquarianBath. Read more from Cory at the Aquarian Bath blog. Cory is also a Food and Gardening writer for EcoEtsy and has published in The Essential Herbal Magazine and on the Herb Companion Blog. Connect with Cory on TwitterFacebookGoogle Plus and Pinterest.

29 January 2013

A Journey Out of My Comfort Zone - Day 5

Welcome to the big public step out of my comfort zone. I am taking it on the 5th day of my journey in learning to play the piano. I must be crazy,  I don't even know the notes. But thanks to technology, my piano is teaching me and I am able to take these first basic lessons in my own pace. This means that in the past 5 days I played for hours on end or until my fingers hurt.

5 days into this self-imposed challenge (I think) I can play a beautiful melody called Annie (but only the right hand part). For those of you literate in music this might look and sound pathetic but for me, a complete novice to music this is a success.

I went from utter joy, to bitter disappointment, then to fear and today to stage fright.

On the first day of my piano practice I couldn't keep up looking at the program, showing me the keys I had to press  but today I know the sequence by heart. It was a long journey into starting to feel the rhythm and hearing the results of my playing. I hit the keys too hard or too light, too long or too short... 5 days can be a very long period when you are a complete beginner at something which is far off your comfort zone.

But let's stop theorizing. It is time to see the video I shot for you. So here I am, or rather, my only skilled hand, playing for you!


Let me know what you think, don't spare me any criticism! 

But most of all, think about how you can challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone. If I could do this, you can too!

Follow the rest of my journey:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

28 January 2013

A Journey Out of My Comfort Zone - Day 4

I sit in front of a white page trying to start this post. Writing for the whole world is an exercise in getting out of your comfort zone in itself. Let alone writing ABOUT getting out of your comfort zone. Does this make it twice as uncomfortable? Ah, it is twice as exciting.

By consciously trying to get out of my comfort zone I water and feed my creativity - a simple challenge which first step can only be planned and the outcome is bound to be a surprise.
comfort zone, friendship, support, happiness
Photo: lusi
Playing the piano, the layman that I am, I have found a way to not only step out of my comfort zone and to accept being imperfect but also to connect with you on a deeper level and hopefully make your eyes shine, just like mine.

Rachel spoke of the beauty of stepping out of your comfort zone and how it can help other people as well. At the same time, Anabel wrote about her decision to expand her comfort zone and learn Web Design. By herself, of course. And I thought, aren't we kindred spirits! See how excitement, motivation and creativity are genuinely contagious? We are scattered around the world live in different time zones but the flame in our words bonds us and pushes us forward, up, and out!

I have to admit that I took your suggestions seriously and I am preparing to play for you all. Whatever happens, I will be playing for you tomorrow, Tuesday, January 29th. You have to be here, mark it in your calendars! I will be only playing the right hand, of course (it is so challenging that at the time being I cannot imagine how I will include the left one... ), and even so it won't be perfect but I will record it and play it as it comes, no stitching and remakes. It has to be real.

As real as it is now when I look at the piano, having played for more than an hour. After the initial excitement I am bewildered by the darts of frustration and impatience that went through my heart today. How could I allow negativity on this beautiful journey out of my comfort zone? The question still stings. Why would I not enjoy the outcome of my efforts but chose to be critical and unsatisfied?

Have you been in a similar situation? What are your thoughts?

On another note, if you have written a blog post about leaving your comfort zone and want to share it with us, please link to it and I will pin it to my Comfort Zone board on Pinterest!

Follow the rest of my journey:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 5 

26 January 2013

A Journey Out of My Comfort Zone - Day 3

I didn't think that trying to get out of my comfort zone will provoke emotions covering the whole spectrum. I was prepared to feel challenged. I knew I would face difficulties but that utter joy, the one that makes my eyes shine and my heart flutter and throb as fast as it can... that was a surprise.

When the time comes for piano playing I feel like a shy little girl, my hands start to shake and I can hear the pounding of my heart. And then the piano starts. It is a patient teacher and never gets angry but I am not sure how positive that is to me, because then I take the responsibility and start scolding myself for every mistake.

A passer-by would never think I am on a journey out of my comfort zone. What they would see is the smile on my face. I haven't looked at myself in the mirror but I know my cheeks get bright pink with excitement. And my eyes are shining. I feel so refreshed. My mind is busy with something completely unusual, an act of connecting to myself through music. My fingers, just like with knitting, are the connection between my soul and reality, between the inner and the outer.

The chords are coming out from beneath my fingers, one by one, different each time, insecure, too loud, too long, just like the stitches of wool in the beginning of my knitting journey. In fact I sometimes forget the original melody, this is how much I butcher it while trying to keep with it.

It is a rare occurrence in my life but for once I love the imperfection, it makes me feel more alive and forgiving. It is a sign that I am growing. Because as long as you have something to learn you are on the right track. 
I am trying to learn the basics. In fact, I think I am before the basics. And I am thankful to all of you who told me that an instructor is vital. I know you are right. But I also feel so challenged to fight this on my own. For as long as I can. Then I can move on to an instructor. Maybe one like Benjamin Zander.

Today, my husband sent this video to me. I love the gentle way in which he manages to feed my experimenting spirit and to expand my point of view.
"Arguably the most accessible communicator about classical music since Leonard Bernstein, Zander moves audiences with his unbridled passion and enthusiasm." Sue Fox, London Sunday Times
On this deliberate journey out of my comfort zone my eyes are shining. Get to the end of the video and you will know exactly what I mean.

Now tell me, what makes your eyes shine?

Follow the rest of my journey:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 4
Day 5 

25 January 2013

Beyond Your Comfort Zone

This post is written by contributing author Anabel Bouza.

Have you noticed how something as insignificant as taking a different route home can feel like an adventure? Embracing small changes can fortify your fearless side, and prime you for taking bigger steps beyond your comfort zone.
Illustration: Anabel Bouza

Think of it as tricking yourself into becoming a little more adventurous!

Even the sense of anxiety that comes with novelty can lose its edge when you start linking it to reward. It becomes part of the thrill.

Worried that you're not ready?
Daring to set foot on feared territory will empower you, I promise. You'll notice that as soon as your heartbeat goes back to normal! Once you create a habit of making qualitative jumps, waiting around for a better version of you to take over will make much less sense.

Above all, going beyond your comfort zone is a form of investment.

Envision 'future you', walking around with knowledge 'present you' is afraid to pursuit. Right now, you have the capacity to answer your own questions, conquer a new domain, and —my favorite— nip future regret in the bud. 

Make yourself proud, take the leap!

Anabel Bouza insists there's powerful magic in the action of creating something out of a vague vision, a chill of inspiration. She is an illustrator with a passion for nature, paper manipulation, and pointing her camera at things.

Her appreciation for simplicity dates back to a former life in Cuba - her strange homeland - where she refined the ability to see the alternative uses of common objects, and the enchanting side of things. She's often found blogging as
Weird Amiga, hard at work in her sunny studio, or staring at things as if looking at them for the first time. Her tiny family is comprised of her husband & a turtle; they're new to the city of Chicago, and they love it. Connect to Anabel via facebook and twitter.

24 January 2013

A Journey Out of My Comfort Zone - Day 2

I don't even know what kind of journey this will turn out to be or where it will take me. What I am sure though that trying to play the piano without any previous experience is taking me out of my comfort zone. How do I know? Because I'm scared.

But I embrace the fear and try to feel it to the fullest. I know that it is a sign of something good. It means that I am investing myself in this journey out of my comfort zone.

On Day 1 of my going out of my comfort zone Lisa suggested that I would perhaps get an instructor to help me with some basic steps about playing the piano. No. I am stepping out of my comfort zone on my own. Of course, my husband is always here to guide me and support me.

The piano I am using, a Yamaha YPT-310 has about 100 built-in songs and fantastic interactive features which allow even a beginner like me to learn by herself.

Here is how it goes. I choose a song and turn on the learning setting. The piano then shows me on its little screen which keys to press with the right hand while it is playing the left hand. Once I master the right one, I will switch to learning the left one.

Easy, right? No. Not for me.

I love the melody I chose. In the little booklet that comes with the piano it says it is a traditional song. Nothing more. But that is enough for a first step out of my comfort zone. At least I know the name.

I sit in front of the piano, shivering with excitement and fear. I have nothing to lose and my fingers are eager to follow along with the melody I've been playing for 20 minutes already. I picture myself skillful enough to press the right keys at the right moment.

It doesn't happen though. I stumble, I cannot even follow what the screen shows me.

I try again.

And again.

Step by step, chord by chord.

I cannot keep the rhythm, I keep on forgetting which key follows which.

An hour passes and my heart is beating fast. I know that to a musician this might sound like a disaster but I am so proud of myself. I can manage hitting the first five notes of the song.

I understand now why musicians need hours a day to practice. I am so engulfed by the process that I don't care about the time. I want to learn fast, I want to conquer this!

Easier said than done.

Let's see how Day 3 will go.

How about you? Do you recognize the feelings I describe? Have you felt the urge to jump-learn something that you have previously feared?

Follow the rest of my journey:
Day 1
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5 

23 January 2013

A Journey Out of My Comfort Zone - Day 1

Talking about how to get out of your comfort zone is fine as long as you give theoretical examples with other people, right? But on Kanelstrand I aim to be as real as the Internet allows and that is why I took a wild step out, attempting to achieve simplicity. I am still unsure about the outcome but you will be here to witness the progress and encourage me on the way.

So many of you were brave enough to share your own journeys in the lands out of your comfort zones in Part 1 and Part 2 and I know they inspired the rest, who didn't comment. They also gave me food for thought - sharing is one of the best favors we can do to each other on our simplifying journey.  
Sharing experiences, emotions and life lessons is not about judging. It is a pure and simple connection between souls, innately liberated of judgment exactly because of its fragile nature.

Today I invite you on a journey out of my comfort zone.

I am scared and excited at the same time, and I count on your advice.

Ever since I was 5 I wanted to play the piano. One of my grandmother's brothers was a famous composer and I still remember his vintage folding piano with its unstable squeaking legs. He used to bring it with him when he came to visit, I guess he wasn't able to separate himself of the music in his head for a long time. He was a fascinating person, coming out of the land of radio and TV shows.

The day I had to audition for the piano course was one of the scariest moments in my life. I had no idea what the teacher expected of me. I practically knew nothing. So I entered the quiet room, was told to sit at the piano and play a cord or two. After a couple of unremembered moments and almost fainting I heard that I was accepted to the music school.
music sheet, headphones
Photo: stockmedia
Big journey ahead, leading to visiting the piano course just once because there was nobody who could take me there at the right time.

And so, the piano dream faded pathetically.

Then life continued in its own pace, revealing many more dreams and possibilities to achieve them. I shut the piano dream off and never even learned the notes. I know them by heart but I don't recognize them positioned on the staff. One more thing I know is where they are on the white piano keys. I don't even know what the black keys are for.

Today I enter the realm of music by teaching myself how to play a fascinatingly gentle song. This is absurd, right? We've had a piano at home for more than 2 years now, a birthday present for our daughter and of course I've tried playing something on it but knowing that I am a complete disaster in the field of music I've never been able to achieve anything.

The walls I have been building between the piano and me:

  • I don't know the notes.
  • I have never practiced.
  • I don't have any theoretical knowledge.
  • I don't know how to hold my hands.
  • I don't know how to play.
  • I don't know what follows.

For 2 years, with a piano under my nose I kept guiltily swiping corners and turning my back to it hoping that at least she, our daughter will learn to play. Yes, guiltily, because I knew it was a waste of time to have it and not try. And yet, I was too scared. It looked like there was too much work involved. Even though my husband is very literate in the field and can play by ear and is always here to help me.

In fact the reason I learned to knit was that he learned to play the harmonica. I was so excited with the spirit that entered our house that I felt my hands ready for something new. Learning to knit was another one of the steps out of my comfort zone.

So, today I thought, if I managed to teach myself to knit only with the help of the Internet, why not conquer the piano too?

What do you think? Will I be able to do this?

Follow the rest of my journey:
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5

21 January 2013

Ways to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone (Part 2)

On Friday we looked at several real life examples of stepping out of your comfort zone and today we continue with even more ideas and inspiration that have led to  voluntary simplification of life. I hope they will inspire you to look closely and define the past steps out of your own comfort zone. Once you do that, you will feel more encouraged to go ahead and step out of your comfort zone, this time deliberately.

Be bold in exploring new pathways
Lisa admits that she relied on her comfort zone for many years even when it wasn't exactly comfortable, remaining with a well paying job because it seemed like the responsible thing to do. She was growing increasingly stressed and exhausted,trying to meet intensifying demands which pulled her away from loved ones and home.

Then she got a powerful push out of her comfort zone when her job position was moved across the country, and her family wouldn't consider moving. After more than 20 years in the corporate world, she made a bold move to strike out on her own, to finally listen to her heart and pursue her passion, to express the creative ideas that have been simmering inside of her for years.

A second push that placed her even farther away from her comfort zone when she was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma. She admits that this experience has propelled her to become more courageous about exploring new pathways including mindful and simple ones.

Many of Lisa's interests and aspirations outside of her comfort zone were languishing in what she calls her "someday file," and some of those items are finally shifting from "someday" to "today!" After her layoff, she started fulfilling goal after goal in her "someday file".

As a cancer survivor "newbie," She has been learning how the healing art process can be a powerful, valuable form of therapy by participating in a monthly class at the local hospital where she receive treatment. She admits feeling way out of her comfort zone, walking into class the first time and baring part of her soul to people she was just meeting, but surprising as it was, she felt instantly comfortable and supported.

Kristin has devoted 2013 to refusing plastic. In order to achieve this she has started preparing her 11 year-old and 9 year-old children for the fact that they will no longer buy a lot of stuff like straws and party balloons. She has also stopped buying portion yogurt. Although she realizes the uncomfortable part of her decision, namely to deny her children stuff their friends have, she is determined to stand up for their future.

Try something new every day
Valerie admits that she is a big fan of trying something new everyday, and that is why she varies her schedule to allow a little time each day to do what she want.

Porsha has chosen to challenge herself playfully and she found out that on she is expanding what it is that she is comfortable leading to more opportunities for trying something new.

Cory has stretched her comfort zone by offering neck pillows as "made to order" in her online shop.  By doing this she will be able to offer her  customers more scent varieties and combinations. And yet she still has anxiety over whether or not her sewing machine and she will be having an argument when the pillow orders come in.

Push yourself
Valerie and Porsha both made the same step out of their comfort zones - they started going to the gym.

Valerie shares that when she started going to the gym she really did not want to go, she wasn't comfortable going and she did not want people to see her limitations. She pushed herself to go a few times a week until one day she realized she did not mind getting up to go, and when she got there everyone was very motivating. Today she realizes that stepping out of her comfort zone and going to the gym has been the best thing for her, and everyday she is thankful for being able to get up and do it again.

Embrace the challenge
Jennifer is happy to step out of her comfort zone. The first step is to think like a cat, curious and unsure if the candle will be nice or light up your tail and sizzle. Her main motivator is knowing that there is one life and she wants to share all that she is capable of in the experience of projects with other humans.

She admits that even though she is open to challenges, she sometimes needs perseverance, and decision-making.  The Little Train That Could, The Snowdrop, and The Maid Of The North are all fables which remind her that it is alright to go forward.

When the end results are less than expected or when Jennifer realizes she jumped in too quickly she reminds herself that even the embarrassing moments have a vulnerability which she is glad that she had shared with others.

In her own words:
"In the end, we are learning and others are learning too. As long as there is authentic love involved, the experience can not be sold at the market.  All experiences have wisdom looped throughout the bare bones."

Just do it
I love Brittany's relaxed attitude, which we all need from time to time. She says that although she doesn't know how exactly she goes out of her comfort zone, she just sticks to the "Just Do It" motto. While it is not always easy to do things and she knows it will always be better to do something than to NOT do something, just to try. And if it didn't work out then that's okay, too. Not everything does.

You can see that all items in the list are pretty simple and uncomplicated. But undoubtedly they are challenging. Accomplishing each of them took:
  • a strong wish,
  • the recognition of that wish,
  • the will to try,
  • taking the first step.

Yes, all you need to do is focus on the first step of each challenge in your life. Sometimes it is something you wanted to do but didn't have the courage to, other times it is something you were afraid to do.

Whichever it is, make a step ahead. And focus on the next step.

Simple as that.

And you're out of your comfort zone, in search of your higher self.

18 January 2013

Ways to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone (Part 1)

To step outside your comfort zone you must be willing to experiment with new and different behaviors, and then be ready to experience the new and different responses that occur as a result.

It is easier said than done and for those of you who are still unconvinced about the benefits of stepping out of your comfort zones I conducted a small study among my readers and friends here on the blog,  on Facebook and on Google Plus. I asked people to share the steps out of their comfort zones and the way they have changed their lives.

Today I am sharing with you the first part of what became an inspiring list of ideas that will surely inspire you and prove to you that while it is comfy in your comfort zone, the real life starts outside of it. As I said on Tuesday with that major step you get the bonus of:

  • the increased heartbeat of excitement, 
  • the discovery of unsuspected (positive or negative) feelings and abilities, 
  • and most importantly, the growing out of your old shoes, getting better, out-jumping yourself, developing!
Keep on learning
Lynette shares a truth which we find hard to admit: As we get older we become less inclined to learn new skills and experiment. Knowing this she tried to keep on learning. One year she took a class in pottery, another year screenplay writing, then crochet. Learning new things keeps us sharp and creative.

For me, learning happens naturally. I often find myself in the middle of a new learning period without realizing but that doesn't take the comfort zone moment away. I think the secret to not being scared to step out if it is to keep your interest in life. For example, at the age of 33 I learned knitting with the help of the Internet. Long live all the people who share their knowledge on the Internet for free! I must admit this was one of my greatest leaps in the direction of slow living.

Today I can do perfectly well what seemed impossible to accomplish. And I love it! I admired people who could knit but I never had the courage to try having been afraid to fail.

Do things that scare you
Christina admits that a few months ago she and her partner realized need a change in their life. The bought 2 pistols and started going to the range every other weekend. She met her fear, but along met interesting people as well.

Stepping out of her comfort zone is the approach that Porsha is taking with her weight loss journey. She is juicing fruits and veggies every morning, and to her surprise, she actually likes it! She admits that she doesn't like going to the gym but she purchased some workout equipment to workout at home and to keep herself accountable she blogs and tweets about her weight loss journey - a very scary thought to a private person like her. But I figured that this will help me stay on it and I could possibly help at least one other person at the same time.

Fight for a cause
Danielle made a decision to help get smoking banned on her local beach. She started doing beach clean ups and documenting the amount of cigarette litter she found. Her original plan was to hand over what she was doing to someone else, let someone else push to make it happen because she feels uncomfortable with public speaking.

What happened instead was that she won the Brita FilterForGood Film Project which in turn, put her in the front and center. She became the "face" for the movement. Speaking at town meetings, doing interviews, public hearings was her life for 2 years. She completely stepped out of her comfort zone and as she admits it was completely uncomfortable until one day it wasn't. Because Danielle didn't fight the path that she was (so apparently) supposed to take. She was part of something big. Her local beach is now the first smoke-free beach in NC.

Free yourself from the expectations of society
After following all of the "expected" steps that a "successful" person should take with her life: pursuing a practical university degree versus a career in performing arts, getting a Master's degree in teaching, creating a solid career, buying a home, marrying, having a child, trying to be a working mom, and ending up as a stay at home mother, Gretchen was truly unhappy with life. (Ditto goes for her husband, who had done all the successful "man" things, like continuing his education, climbing in his career, planning appropriately for retirement, being fiscally responsible, providing for his family, etc.) When an opportunity arose to completely change their situation, they took it. They moved from the East Coast to the Southwest, an area they had never visited, in just over a month after deciding to make the change.

The family left with no jobs lined up, only a vacation rental property to stay in for 3 weeks, and spent a lot of that money they had been saving by being "responsible" to get out of the situation. Gretchen admits being an introvert, and moving to a new city literally forced her OUT which resulted in making a lot of new friends, in fact way more than in her previous life. They no longer have the safety net of family nearby, so they are forced to make decisions based on their gut and a splash of luck. I wholeheartedly recommend you to read Who Am I to be Brilliant by Gretchen for an additional source of motivation today.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Ways to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone to get even more motivational ideas on getting out of your comfort zone.

17 January 2013

Maintaining Good Habits

This post is written by contributing author Shelly Kerry. 

We all know what happens this time of year. We make resolutions to be healthier, get fit and to spend more time on the things we love and less time on work. For a few months, there are more people at the gym and in the produce section of the grocery store. Then sadly these good habits start to wane and we find ourselves head to head with the old not so healthy ones.

This sounds a little sad but this can be the year we stop this pattern. There are great ways to help us stay true to our new hopes.  We need to make a promise to approach each day consciously. When you go to the gym or for a run three or more times a week how wonderful do you feel at the end of the day/week? Do you find yourself with more energy and a more restful sleep?

When you keep yourself well hydrated and avoid super fatty foods does your head feel clearer and your skin glow? Instead of focusing on the long term results such as a super awesome fit figure think about the small things you notice every day.

The end results will come before you know it. Are you happier and can you feel the confidence that matures from keeping promises to yourself? Let the excitement and curiosity that comes from positive change fuel and motivate you. Keep a journal and document your habits and how you feel. Become aware.

This year write down your goals and put them in a place where you will often see them. What positive feelings will you gain from working towards these? Again, think about immediate gratifications too not just the big end results. Working on your craft on your days off from work might result in you being able to leave your job in the future. This is awesome and a wonderful goal to work towards. However, don’t forget about how great you feel while creating your art. Does your spirit swell and do you feel more alive at the end of the day? Focusing on how you feel at the moment helps extend the life of your new habits.

If you would like a little more guidance please check out my 2013 Make It Happen worksheet. There are some great questions to help you really think about what you want from this year. It can also be super helpful to select one evening a week to do a short check-in. I check in on Sunday nights and plan out my next week. This can be a great time to see if you are still aligned with your new goals and to make any changes needed. My doing this you are creating a wonderful habit of self-care and giving yourself the respect and love you deserve.

Shelly is the founder of the program Creating Space, Mindful Living – motivating and inspiring people to run their businesses more efficiently. She helps others look at their personal and professional lives and explore what is and isn’t working. As a jewelry designer she has spent many years testing and honing the skills and discipline needed to run your own creative business while still having time for friends, family and fun. She puts her wealth of experience to use in the Creating Space service – healthy living advice to help keep you motivated and make the most out of your already busy schedule. She will help you find both the physical and emotional space so you can pursue your dreams and she’ll always insist there’s time for yourself. You can also find Creating Space on Facebook or contact shelly@creatingspacemindfulliving.com

15 January 2013

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Into Simplifying

While preparing for this post, the more I evaluated my life in the past 7 years, the more I saw myself out of my comfort zone and into simplifying. Of course, through the years I didn't stop to define the areas in and out of my comfort zone. Neither did I deliberately start simplifying my life. But looking back I coudl see a chain of situations closely connected to one another that led to the formation of my simple living philosophy.
So I thought, if I could simplify by not interfering into the natural flow of life, how much more effectively could you simplify by deliberately putting my advice to action?
And so we begin.

You may wonder what simple living has to do with getting out of your comfort zone. After all it takes a lot of complex actions to step beyond the safe circle of comfort. But once you let yourself out of your comfort zone you will come to realize the extent to which your view on life has changed. And you will get closer to what truly matters.

What is the comfort zone?
Your comfort zone is that state of mind in which you act and feel at your best, without a sense of risk.

But the boundaries you have defined as comfortable can (and are) limiting your performance despite the sense of security they create for you.

That sense of security is false. It is there to lure you to stay within your boundaries and live your life in the comfortable prison of inertia.

Why you should try to step out of your comfort zone
If your fear of the unknown is stronger you may spend a whole lifetime perfectly well in your prison of comfort but there will be something missing - the excitement of exploration, the increased heartbeat of excitement, the discovery of unsuspected (positive or negative) feelings and abilities, but most importantly, the growing out of your old shoes, getting better, outjumping yourself, developing!

How to step out of your comfort zone
According to a research led by WhatisMyComfortZone the challenges that fall outside of your comfort zone can be divided into three categories:
  • professional, 
  • adrenaline, 
  • lifestyle.
Knowing this can help you a lot in identifying the fields of life you need to work on.

Here are a few ideas on how to get out of your comfort zone and awaken parts of your consciousness that you have long forgotten existed:

Learn a new skill
With so much information given away for free on the Internet  you simply have to do a mindful search in your conscience and find out the thing that you always wanted to learn but didn't have the courage/time/persistence to actually do.

Nowadays most major universities offer online courses for free. There are  a number of websites like Coursera with specialized free courses. Or there are the ones like CreativeLIVE on which you can watch free live online workshops. And let's not forget YouTube where you can find practically anything. Of course, critical thinking is vital for distinguishing the truly valuable information.
Face your fears
You might have a fear of heights, or a fear of talking in front of a crowd, or anything else that stops you from functioning to the best of your abilities.

Identifying it is the first step you should take and once you do,  make a plan on how to overcome your fear. Break it down to small steps and concentrate on the first one you need to take. Then, after you go through it, think of the second one, and so on, until you reach the end.

It's easier said than done, but once you overcome your fear you will feel liberated and ready to conquer the world.

Change your daily routine
Subconsciously we tend to strive towards a routine in our life which creates a feeling of security. But while being comfortable in our everyday, this unfounded sense of security plays a vital role in our chaining inside our comfort zone.

It is very beneficial if you try, once in a while to diversify your days. Walk, instead of drive to work. Eat breakfast for dinner. Do things that you don't normally do, switch the places of your furniture, all these will help awaken your brain and will let you see life in a different perspective.

But whatever method you choose to help you step out of your comfort zone remember to take it one step at a time, so you don't get overwhelmed.

Now it's your turn. How do you step out of your comfort zone and what are the effects?
Let me know in the comments.

14 January 2013

A Portrait of the Artist: Kathryn Vercillo

Today in A Portrait of the Artist, I would like you to meet Kathryn Vercyllo of the popular crochet blog Crochet Concupiscence.

It is no wonder that she makes an appearance in the Get Out of Your Comfort Zone month. Her book, Crochet Saved My Life, shows how crochet has helped people heal through a diverse array of conditions including depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, chronic pain conditions and more. Focused on, but not limited to, the craft of crochet this book really demonstrates how handmade heals.

Before getting to know Kathryn better by reading her extremely articulate interview, make sure you download her book right now! It is free on Amazon until the end of the day (January 14th, 2013).

Kathryn Vercillo

What is your background and how did you embark on the crochet journey?
I was born in Arizona and moved to San Francisco about seven years ago because it is a place where I feel immensely creative. I have always been an artistic person who works mostly in writing but also dabbles in various craft-based arts.

In 2009 I succumbed to a lifelong battle with depression and really experienced a difficult time. It was during this period that I began to crochet. It wasn’t something that I knew would help me in the deep ways that it did; it was just one of the few things that helped to soothe me, calm me down and bring some element of joy back into my life so I did it. That was the start of my crochet journey, a journey I’ve been actively traveling ever since!

In 2011 I launched my crochet blog, Crochet Concupiscence. That was when I started to delve deeply into researching all aspects of crochet and really came to be a part of the amazing online crochet community. My book, Crochet Saved My Life, came out in 2012 and has taken me to even new levels of appreciating this craft.

I often remind my readers how important creating with your hands is for your overall psychological health. How long did it take you to feel the positive influence of crocheting on you?

It honestly happened almost immediately. One of my biggest problems when dealing with depression was that I had this very active inner monologue going, this anxiety-ridden voice in my head that was constantly going on and on about how bad life was, how much I didn’t want to keep enduring it, how terrible I was at living it… Learning to crochet required a mental focus that shushed that voice for at least a little while. The craft was easy enough to pick up that it didn’t tax me mentally but instead helped me. What has been interesting is that crochet has continued to have a positive influence on me in different ways over time, so even though there was an immediate effect, there have also been ongoing benefits each and every time I pick up the hook.

To some people crochet might look like a granny's recreation, or in other words, a reason not to move around too much. What are the physical benefits of crochet?
Yes, it can appear to be a very sedentary craft. However, it does offer some physical benefits and it also offers mental health benefits that can encourage the crafter to engage in other physical activities.

First, there are the physical benefits involved with moving the hands to manipulate the yarn and hook. This helps develop the fine motor skills and can offer therapeutic physical improvement in cases such as someone recovering from a stroke. Secondly, even this moderate physical activity is better than no activity so it is an option for people who truly can’t move much due to chronic fatigue, physical disability, chronic illness, etc. Finally, there are the physical benefits that go on inside the body when you engage in the repetitive task of crochet. These include release of serotonin, a natural painkiller that can help in coping with many conditions, and also the reduction of stress, which can in turn reduce risk factors for heart disease and other conditions.

Then there is the physical health benefit of having a clearer mind thanks to the mental health benefits of crochet. In other words, when you are dealing with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues it can feel too overwhelming to engage in proper self-care including exercise. When you improve your state of mind through meditative and relaxing activities like crochet then you create a better mental space for yourself where you can once again have both energy and focus for more activity.

Is there anything about crochet you dislike, however small it might be?
Oh there are plenty of parts of crochet that I don’t personally enjoy. What I love about the craft is that we can each do it in our own way that works for us and can appreciate that others do it differently. For example, I absolutely love how projects look when the crafter has used many different colors to create the item but I personally don’t enjoy the process of changing colors and weaving in ends so I don’t take on those projects myself even though I like seeing what others do with them.

How much time a day do you spend crocheting and what do you do with the finished items?
I crochet a little bit every day. On days when I really need a mental health break I can sit and crochet for hours at a time, just letting my brain get calm, but usually it’s less than an hour per day. I sometimes crochet for others, including charity, but mostly I make items for myself and my home. I often keep something for awhile, then frog it and make something new with that recycled yarn. I like the process of crafting more than the end product in many cases. It’s the process that is healing for me.

I think by now everyone is impatient to learn the answer to the question: How did crochet save your life?
Crochet saved my life by saving my mind from itself in the worst periods of depression. At my worst I was desperate and suicidal and my mind was constantly eating at itself. For me, crochet was a place where I could go to just get my brain to mindfully focus on the craft at hand and to calm down the negative ruminating thoughts in my brain. Now, crochet alone did not save my life; but it was a key part of the puzzle (combined with therapy, medication and a solid support system) and very important part.

I have seen crochet save the lives of others in this way but also in different ways. I’ve seen people whose major struggle was with self-esteem and they found that productively creating something out of yarn and hook helped improve their self-esteem and reduce life-threatening depression. I’ve seen people with devastating anxiety who used crochet to remain calm and become functional in the world again. So although for me crochet was a lifesaver in calming my negative thoughts, it can save lives in multiple ways.

Tell us about your book, Crochet Saved My Life. When was the idea born, why did you think it was important to write it and how long did it take to finish it?
I knew that the next book I wanted to write had to be something deeply personal to me so when I was finally out of my fog of depression and ready to write again it was natural to turn towards my own experience for inspiration. I was also blogging on Crochet Concupiscence at the time and seeing that other women had similar experiences based on the comments they would leave on my posts so I knew this was a subject that was important to a lot of people. In researching the health benefits of crafting I found that it wasn’t something that a lot had been written on and that made me feel like it was really important to write it.

It took me about a year to write it from start to finish. That includes the interview and research process. Although in some ways I feel like it’s not done; I’d really love to come out with a new edition in five or ten years that includes any updated information that becomes available about the benefits of handcrafting as well as updates from the women who shared their personal stories.

In your book you share yours and other women's stories about healing through crochet. How easy is it to share private and possibly sensitive information in a book for all the world to see?
I really believe that each individual person has their own unique story to share and that sharing it is valuable for both that person and those who read the story. I further believe that it is my role as a writer to honestly share my own individual story as well as to make it possible for others to share their stories. So in a sense it was easy for me to share because the value of it is something that I genuinely believe in.

On the other hand, it is tough to share your whole truth with people and I definitely had my struggles about what to share and how to share it in the right way. You know that this book will be read by your family, your friends, strangers … and somehow you have to put that out of your mind and still tell your truth.

What was a little tougher for me was finding the best way to honor the stories that the other women shared with me. I felt a great sense of responsibility to these women who had told me intimate details of their health and lives and wanted to really share in a compassionate, intelligent way. I used personal interviews to get information from them. I left questions very open so that they could share only as much or little as they wanted (and offered the chance to be anonymous). In writing their stories, I tried to use their own words a lot of the time so as not to lose the essence of their truths.

I hope it all came through honestly.

How has the writing process (both on your blog and the book) transformed you?
I have been writing for as long as I can remember and it really is the key way in which I relate to the world around me. What has transformed me in the case of this blog and book is the way that I’ve been able to use my writing to truly connect with others. The readers who comment on my blog, the people who participate in my Crochet Saved My Life Ravelry group, the folks who comment with me on Facebook and of course the women I interviewed for the book all form this amazing community around me. This community inspires me in my writing, my crafting and my life … and without writing I would not have found them.

If you could make any project without limits to cost, materials or skill, what would it be?
Crocheted haute couture gowns for the runway!

Make sure you follow Kathryn:
Blog: http://www.crochetconcupiscence.com/
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/CrochetConcupiscence
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CrochetBlogger
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/kathrynvercillo/
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/114949421438407893391/posts
Ravelry Group: http://www.ravelry.com/groups/crochet-saved-my-life

12 January 2013

Weekend DIY: How to Upcycle a Book Into a Clock

This post is written by contributing authors Vivid Please.

Ok ok, I didn't kill a book. I simply gave it a new purpose in life!
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I adore books, big ones, small ones, ones with amazing covers... but sometimes you run out of space and can't keep them, especially if you don't plan on reading them again. But what happens when you find a book you can't bear to part with because of its cover? Well, I'm glad you asked...

Upcycle it into a clock!
DIY1 up cyled book project recycle cp-cycle book clock diy tutorial handmade ideas home
Sometimes the simplest things in life bring the greatest pleasure. Time flies when reading a good book, so why not turn that enjoyable time into a fabulous clock? All you need to make your own is an old and enjoyed book, a brush and glue, a drill, scalpel and a clock mechanism. You can get these off ebay really easily for only couple of quid too. 
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To start, we'll need to glue the book closed so it doesn't flap about. We did the same thing when we showed you how to make the Hollow Stash Book and it works a treat. Begin by cling filming the front and back cover of the book so it doesn't get glued.
DIY3 mod podge pva glue project tutorial ideas easy fun kids books clock home idea tutorial cheap
Then use your mod podge or pva glue to stick all the pages together. Once you've given it all a good coating, place it under some heavy books so it dries flat. The glue will go clear when it's dry, so don't worry if it's a little messy.
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When it's ready you'll need to check the depth of your book with the clock part. This little novel is perfect as I don't need to cut a well into the back so it fits. Should you find your book is too thick, measure the size of the backing and cut into the back of the book the same way we did for the stash book. This will make the backing sit more flush and let the front fit through properly.
DIY cute fun ideas for home reader writer diy up cycle recycle vintage books old book drill clock glue
To put the main clock post through the book you'll need to drill it. Start by clearly marking the middle of the book (where you want the center of the clock hands to sit) on the first page. We'll be drilling the pages first and finish the cover later, so just ignore it for now.
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The best way to drill a hole is to start with a small drill part and work your way up. As you'll be pressing down through the book to make a hole, you'll need to do it on something you don't mind getting a hole in it in case you go too far! Some old magazines will do the trick should you not have a proper workspace. Make sure to stop frequently to check how deep you've gone.

Work your way up the drill parts till you've made a hole with a big enough diameter to fit the clock post through. This part takes the longest, but it's worth taking your time over - you don't want to make it too large or the clock mechanism wont fit.
DIY 7 how to up cycle recycle books make a clock build a clock

Next we need to put a hole in the front and back cover. Using the hole we just drilled in the book, use a pencil to trace onto the cover where your hole needs to be. Then use your scalpel to mark an X into the front and back cover.

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Now you can push the clock part through and all the mess is hidden! Brilliant, right?!

Finally, all that you need to do is screw on the washer and clock hands, slap in a battery and bob's your uncle. Coolest clock in town :D

What do you think? The greatest thing about this book clock is the cover - there in all it's glory and finally getting the attention it deserves! 

Hooray for being book-smart ;)


Vivid Please are known as Vicky and David when they are not together, but to be fair, that is rarely the case. Forever collecting odd trinkets and pointing at cute dogs, they believe that happiness is found in the little things. Their etsy shop stocks everything from prints and stationery to bags and accessories, everyday life has never seemed so fun! You can keep up with them by following their blog Vivid Please where they share their awesome DIYs, cool design and fashion posts and, of course, lots of snapshots from their world of wonder. Connect with Vivid Please on Twitter and Pinterest