Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blowing Off Steam - Tea and Exercise

Exercise. It is what it is: exercise cuts away obstacles towards strengthening our overall health condition. Yes, exercise literally separates our skin from our bones. What is it about these three syllables that evoke guilt, shame, and procrastination within so many of us? Exercise reminds us that we are primary contributors to our overall health and wellness.

Maslow and Motivation
Observing my exercise habits, someone recently asked whether or not I was a fitness instructor. Judge for yourselves. Enter Exhibit A: Tea and Sympathy's delicious Orange Ginger Cake, complete with warm custard. This food represents one of my basic physiological needs and is the key motivator for my resolve to keep it moving. I eat, therefore, I exercise.

Walking Rewards
One of the things I most enjoy about New York City is that it is city designed for foot traffic. For those who come here unprepared to walk, well, there's a podiatrist near you.

One day I decided to walk in order to clear my mind and to make room for new thoughts. What's the best method for dispelling stale thinking? Just add oxygen. So I started at Strawberry Fields in Central Park (West 72nd Street) and walked to Greenwich Village. After such exercise, the afternoon tea paired with ginger black tea was a welcome break. Yes, I did more walking after tea carrying my slab, I mean, my slice of cake.

The moral of the story is that exercise, like tea, adds oxygen to our lives. Just in case our Federal Drug Administration ever reads this, tea equals camellia sinensis leaves and water. Water is two parts hydrogen bonded with one part oxygen. Daily recommended value? Yes. So, let's keep moving and keep drinking tea!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

For the Love of Gram - Tea and Hats

Grandparents are wonderful people and especially wonderful resources for their grandchildren. Children instinctively know that when their parents lay down the law, it is then possible to take that sentence and submit it to the higher parental authority for review and/or appeal. Once before the high court, grandchildren present their case, throw themselves on the court's mercy and, if necessary, beg for clemency. I freely admit to having invoked the grandchild appeal process described -- with some success -- and learned how to advocate towards hopefully saving the assets of my cousins, my siblings and myself.

Of all my grandparents, my maternal grandmother ("Gram") and I shared a special bond. There was not a time when Gram did not encourage me to go further, to dig deeper, to dream bigger, and to reach higher than she did. Gram made it her business to share my major accomplishments. For me, seeing her seated with my parents made the celebration complete. Above all else, Gram insisted that I be nothing less than a lady at all times and in all places. Thankfully, she was an excellent example to follow and generously shared her wisdom. To say that I miss our conversations is an understatement. However, sweet memories rekindle every time I don a marvelous millinery confection. Hats remind me of my Gram. As a result, hats will always be in style.

Heady Traditions

As a pastor's wife, Gram had plenty to do within her own sphere of influence. (Needless to say, she was "Gram" to me and "Mrs. Carter" to others.) Yet what impressed me about Gram/Mrs. Carter was her ability to galvanize women with different personalities and to empower them to be influential within their communities. How did they accomplish this? Coming together often over tea. When the call came, then it was time to get ready.

Imagine a multicolored, kaleidoscopic ballet of millinery in motion. See the wide and dramatic brims, pert cloches, jaunty feathered caps, and chic berets united. The ladies who wore the hats were just as diverse. They came together crossing geographic lines, denominational boundaries, socioeconomic levels, and marital status, e.g. widowed, to support and to encourage one another. Gram served officially as historian, the one who provided context and information to the issues being discussed. Unofficially, younger ladies would seek her out to learn more about to manage their lives more gracefully.

Lately, I've been missing my Gram and seeing ladies gather. Nevertheless, I am and always will be her granddaughter. That means it's time to put on a hat and come together over tea. Tea, anyone?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Balancing Acts - Tea and Relationships

Balancing fragile items, whether delicate tea cups and saucers or relationships, is no small task. There is an inborn social desire to be accepted, to be accommodating, and to be flexible. In their effort to teach us basic etiquette, adults taught us children that "nice is as nice does." In other words, there must be balance between what we say and what we do.

Just Add Fire

Looking above at the exquisite tea cup and saucer set which once belonged to my great-grandmother, I consider how wet clay becomes a vessel of honor. It takes intense heat, i.e. fire, to produce something that will last throughout generations. To last, every piece must go through the same firing process. Asking wet clay to transform itself into a cup without fire is like asking a Lapsang Souchong not to taste smoky, knowing full well that this tea is fired over wood.

Adversity is the litmus test of any relationship. We never know the strength of a bond until the intense heat is applied. Some bonds become flexible, bend and conform to whatever shape presented. Others reach their tolerance limit and break because they do not fit a mold for which, perhaps, they were never designed. Balance enters our relationships when we recognize that:

> Everyone has an individual response to adversity
> Bending and breaking are two appropriate yet different responses
> Prior to expecting another person to break, check your personal willingness to bend (or vice versa)
> Only what survives adversity is worth filling

Speaking of filling, all this discussion about intense heat has created a thirsty void. Let's drink tea... Cups up!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pause and Reset - Tea and Relaxation

Relaxation is a learned skill. Unfortunately, most people simply do not know to relax. We tend to rush to and fro, journeying from task to task, multitasking, and then brag to each other about how busy we manage to keep ourselves. For fear of appearing unimportant, lazy, or being labeled a "slacker", we will invent even more ways to overextend time designed for non-essential chores, e.g. sleep. We ignore the fact that 6-8 hours of sleep nightly is essential for healthy brain activity and immune systems.

Now take sleep deprivation and add these ingredients -- noise, distractions, communication -- and this becomes a personal recipe fraught with danger. The nonstop daily assault on all of our senses, if unaddressed, leads to frustration or an emotional roller coaster for which we just want to get off. Patience, a glorious virtue, goes out the door. In fact, most virtues go out the door. We have the audacity to wonder the reasons why we feel stressed, fatigued and overwhelmed. Do we have the confidence and courage to pause and reset?

Purposeful Pauses

In physics, relaxation is defined as returning a system to equilibrium after being scattered. When we pause, whether at a beach or over a pot of tea, we intentionally move ourselves towards a balanced state. We purposefully give our minds and our bodies the opportunity to release the tightness that we've accumulated during daily living. Additionally, relaxing pauses give us room to breathe so that we're better equipped to navigate the noise, distractions, etc. that we encounter daily. Some of my favorite ways to pause and reset include:

> Walking
> Getting a massage
> Completing a Pilates session
> Receiving a pedicure
> Listening to classical music
> Drinking tea

Relaxation, like tea, relies on an applied process to gain the desired result. For example, a massage therapist knows that one hour of massage equals four (4) hours of sleep. Yet a person has to make the appointment to receive the massage's benefits. Until we prioritize balanced living we will complain about how stressed our lives are. Instead of complaining, take a walk and get some fresh air. Feeling better? Now... let's drink tea.