Tinos Countdown

In June, I count the days. The days until I am eating a Greek salad and drinking a glass of rosé at my favorite café at the Port of Rafina, in Athens, awaiting the ferry that will take me to my happy place, the island of Tinos. There, for two weeks, I will enjoy the sand, the sun, the sea, I will swim and read and eat and think and write and sleep.

In addition to counting the days, I relish the weeks leading up to that day and the anticipation by preparing for my trip in very specific ways. Here is my vacation preparation routine.

  1. I like to have 5-10 books to read during this two-week period – both fiction and non-fiction, both what one might consider “trash” and business books. On my list so far are The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Who is Rich, In the Name of Gucci, Off the Clock, The Verdun Affair, Principles, and more.
  2. Bathing suits. New year, new bikini. My collection is slowly but surely growing. I love Volcom, VIX, and Roxy.
  3. Even if I have any left from last summer, I purchase new sunscreen every year (it expires and all that). Of course, daily, the Alchimie Forever Daily Defense SPF23. And in addition to that, LaRoche Posay’s Anthelios Nourishing Oil SPF 50+ and Coola Sport Face SPF50 White Tea Organic Sunscreen Lotion.
  4. Beach body. I strive to eat healthy year-round, but in June I pay particular attention. More water, more vegetables, no carbs or sugars (I make an exception for champagne and wine), less cheese. And hopefully a three-day JRINK juice cleanse…
  5. Beauty appointments. The week before I leave, I make sure to get my eyebrows waxed (thank you Erwin and Karma!), have a pedicure (choosing a particularly exotic nail polish shade), and do a full body polish (this, at home, with Aveda Beautifying Radiance Polish).
  6. Every summer has its own playlist, songs to listen to on the road, at the beach, on the balcony. I have not yet started this summer’s playlist… any recommendations?
  7. Goal list. I head to Tinos with a list of goals, usually involving thinking projects, content creation, strategic planning. It’s amazing what happens to my brain when I let go of the daily tasks and activities and make room for the bigger picture.
  8. Don’t bring to Tinos list. I usually get a couple projects done in June that have been on my gameplan for months – because I refuse to “take them” with me to Tinos. Whether it be a project I have been procrastinating on or a random administrative task I have not yet figured out how to delegate and must take care of, it is getting done before I get on that ferry.

Is it June 29 yet?

It Takes 4 of Us to Make Me Feel Whole

When I turned 40 last October, I asked my sisters for a gift – that they all come to visit me in Louisiana for Memorial Day weekend. And Memorial Day weekend is upon us. I can’t quite describe the feeling of having them all here with me, and I know the weekend is just beginning, but last night’s dinner was perfection. I tried to say thank you… with the following words.

First, thank you to you, Edwin. This weekend would not have been possible without you. You know what I want and don’t want. You knew having my sisters in Louisiana was the best gift ever, and you made it happen. You even bought a new boat and renovated your Hammond kitchen to prepare for “their”’arrival. Thank you. Thank you for loving me so well.

Second, to Bernard. You are the one “plus one” here this weekend, and for this I am forever grateful. Thank you for coming to be moral support for Edwin during the Polla sisters weekend takeover. I am so grateful for you and for how you love Rachel.

Thank you, Stern for being with us, for representing the extended Neill family tonight. Thank you for making the special trip from California just to meet my sisters (J).

To Roxane. You were the first of my sisters to fall in love with Louisiana, a number of years ago. You fell in love with New Orleans. With the boat and the river and the alligators. With Debra’s house which you still think is the most beautiful house you have seen in the world. Thank you for understanding why I love it here. Thank you for coming back. Please tell Guillaume he is missed, but here in spirit.

To Rachel. You host me, us, in Geneva every single time we come. You never say no when I send you my travel dates. You make sure there is champagne and gruyere in the fridge. You always make me feel like I am home. Your hospitality is the kindest and most generous there is. This weekend is a small attempt to say thank you.

To Cyrille. You came back to the US of A. I must admit I stopped believing it would happen. Last time you came to this country it was for also for me. It was to help the Alchimie booth at ISPA 2005 at the Dallas Gaylord (our first ever booth). You hated it. Hated the AC (oops sorry), hated not being able to smoke anywhere, hated working the booth and speaking to people, you hated everything. That was the trade show Edwin and I met at. Thank you for coming for me then. Thank you for agreeing to come back for me now.

Thank you for coming here together so we can show The Polla Sisters to The Neill Brothers. They have no idea what is coming…

Je vous aime. Mes sœurs. Merci.

Never Ending Wisdom From Mom

In 2010 for Mother’s Day, I shared my mother’s life tips – which are still incredibly relevant today, and which I still prescribe to 100%.

Yesterday, on the Polla Sisters blog, I shared her beauty tips – which I utilize every day.

Yesterday, upon reading that latest post, she called to say how lovely it was, and also that she had a lot more tips now that she is reaching her late 60s. Tips about beauty as you age. So today, I share these – with gratitude that I have a mother that makes me look forward to aging, makes me look forward to everything that lies ahead, and never makes me feel like the best is behind me – in beauty or in life.

In Mom’s words:  (and here are more of Mom’s words)

“My daughter Ada just published on her blogs my beauty tips — and they were and are my beauty tips indeed, for everyday! When I turned sixty, I felt that I should add at least one each year.

60 : Think about your weight and check it everyday. A few kilos more make for a rounder face, fills in the fine lines: this is nice. A lot of kilos more make too round of a belly. Find the right balance.

61 : Beautiful hair is essential. I add one more Aveda product every six months to my collection of hair products, and now have almost as many hair products as I do skin and body care products.

62 : Lower the height of your heels just a little bit. Keep the highest just for home parties and sex of course. Otherwise, I prefer ankle boots and booties rather than low heeled shoes. 

63 : Cherish the scent of your skin. Use products that always make you smell delicious – whether lotions or perfume. I love blueberry, rose, … 

64 : Be smart with alcohol: champagne, but with ice (and even some sparkling water mixed in).

65 :  Double the frequency of medi-spa consultations. Never look “done” but take care of those brown spots as they appear. Mix a drop of the Alchimie Forever Kantic brightening moisture mask every day with your day cream and night cream.

66 : Dare to add some glittery powder on your arms whenever you do not wear long sleeves. And wear a lot of long sleeves.

67 : Tell young women how beautiful they are. They will look at you and see you how beautiful you are, and say the same back to you. Forever.

68 : Never say, nor even think, you are « old » . Just say your age as a number, not as a judgment: I am 68. 68 is what I am, I can feel it as I wish, and others will feel it as I make it feel.”

And as we get off the phone, she reminds me to smile. Smile at the sun, smile at the clouds, smile at life. That will make you “une beauté qui traverse le temps” – hard to translate as such poetic French words are, but something like “beautiful through the ages.”

Thank you, Mom!

Keep Showing Up

My last blog post was March 8th – more than 6 weeks ago. Ironically, it was about a fabulous talk I heard about beating burnout.  If you know me, you know that to write, I need to be in the right mind set. I need space in my head, in my heart. And well, March and April have provided a dearth of said space.

I love what I do, all of it, and I am grateful for every single day I get to do what I do. And still, sometimes, I get overwhelmed.

Perhaps it’s because the weather feels like it’s stuck in February.

Perhaps it’s because I have worked most recent weekends.

Perhaps it’s because someone close to me experienced a life or death situation (she thankfully lived).

After all, the why does not really matter. So I spent some time this weekend reminding myself to take my own advice. When my girlfriends call me and share that they are overwhelmed, these are my recommendations – which I am now acting on!

  • Focus on choice. I am choosing everything I am doing. No one is forcing me to travel as much, to work as much, to do what I do. I make these choices every day. And, well, while I don’t have the power to choose the weather or prevent accidents that happen, I choose how I react to things out of my control.
  • Look extra hot. One of my mottos is to always be overdressed, and there is no time that is more important than when things feel off. For me, that means kick ass heels and an extra bright red lip. It’s hard to have a horrible day when everyone keeps complimenting my shoes.
  • Make room for alone time. Which in crazy times means canceling two commitments per week.
  • Be kind. First to myself, which means exercising more, drinking less, eating healthier, sleeping more. And to others, because more likely than not, they are feeling the same way I do. A smile goes such a long way.
  • Be inspired by others. This morning’s encouragement from the Universe came in the form of an email from my friend Marc Ross on Boston marathon winner Desiree Linden. His concluding words were:

“Linden’s ability to persevere and succeed in exceptionally miserable physical circumstances is remarkable.

Linden’s ability to persevere and succeed in exceptionally challenging mental circumstances is remarkable.

To succeed in 2018, Linden had to find a deeper gear to compete.

Her pinned Tweet displays where she finds this deeper gear:

“Some days it just flows and I feel like I’m born to do this, other days it feels like I’m trudging through hell. Every day I make the choice to show up and see what I’ve got, and to try and be better.”

My advice: keep showing up.

#MondayMotivaton #TogetherForward”

I don’t think any advice can be more profound.

Make a choice to show up and keep showing up.

You might just achieve your goal.

So keep showing up. Today and every day.

Beating Burnout

Burnout. This could be a four-letter word. While I have never spent time thinking about what this word really means, I think I have come close to burnout twice in the last 5 years. Is that good or bad? I am not sure.

What I am sure of is that for me, Dana Campbell’s (CEO of Optimize Corps) talk on burnout earlier this week at the Women in Wellness Leadership conference was the highlight of the day.

She defined the symptoms: to be burnt out, you need to have 2 of the following 3:

  • Exhaustion
  • Cynicism
  • Inefficacy

She reminded us that we contribute to our own burnout, with the following:

  • Incorrectly defining success (we should all have our own, genuine definition of what success means, beyond “keeping up with the Joneses”)
  • Celebrating busyness (I gave up the word “busy” for Lent one year, I think I should give it up altogether).
  • Striving for perfection
  • Allowing ourselves to be distracted from our goals and purpose
  • Multi-tasking

She made us rank ourselves from 1-5 (1 being great, 5 being abysmal) about how we feel on the following parameters:

  • Workload (how overworked are we really?)
  • Control (burnout feelings increase when we feel out of control)
  • Values (are our businesses’ values in line with our own?)
  • Fairness (how fair is our work or family environment)
  • Reward and recognition (are we being recognized for our efforts, at work and at home?)
  • Community (apparently the #1 thing people need at work is a best friend – how do we feel about our work community?)

(If you are all 4s or 5s, you are in or close to burnout).

So how do we beat burnout? By being resilient: by having the skill and capacity to be robust under conditions of enormous stress and change. She reminded us of a truth we probably all know – that avoiding stress or change is not a strategy. She also reminded us that resilience is like a muscle – it can be trained, it can become stronger.

How do you train for resilience?

  • You create white space. Give yourself time. Silence. Unscheduled moments. Alone time.
  • You objectively face reality. Objectively and calmly. Not with the anxiety blinders on.
  • You find meaning in suffering.
  • You fill your tanks. Whether that is through sleep, exercise, time alone.
  • You claim your truth. You identify what is most important to you, what you are great at, what you need.
  • You see possibilities where others don’t. Instead of focusing on the problem, open your mind to solutions.

Thank you, Dana, and thank you Julie Keller of American Spa for putting on this conference, and for finding such amazing speakers.

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Getting stuck in an elevator…

The highlight of my 2018 Mardi Gras weekend was not the parades, not the costumes, not the beads. Rather, it was getting stuck in the elevator at Palace Café after the annual “Friday before Mardi Gras” luncheon I am fortunate enough to be invited to.

We (our host, my BFF Angie, and a dozen others) had an amazing time in the Wine Room, eating, drinking, laughing, chatting. We were only on the third floor, but somehow taking the elevator seemed to be the right way to leave. So, a number of us did just that – with our lovely waiter. (The rest of us, the smart ones, walked down the two flights of stairs). The elevator begins to descend, and then suddenly stops.

At first, we all giggle. Then we try to pry the doors open (amid much debate as to if this was a good idea or not). Then a few of us just sit down and more or less calmly drink our drinks (feeling very grateful for open container laws). Finally, about 26 minutes later (which seemed like a few hours), we are rescued by firemen who look every bit like what I always thought firemen looked like.

We collectively decide to name our group The Krewe of Otis.

In all seriousness, these 26 minutes helped me remember a few key truths.

  1. In praise of patience. I am not patient. But getting frustrated and angry about a situation completely out of my control would not have made the firemen come to the rescue any faster.
  2. Kindness always. We each took turns calming each other down, calmly and gently, when one was about to lose it (I am not the only one quite uncomfortable in small spaces apparently).
  3. Trust the process. Someone will realize the elevator is stuck. Someone will try to help. If that fails, someone will call the proper authorities. They will then come fix this. Everything will be just fine.
  4. Laughter is the best medicine. At some point after realization and worry, we just started laughing again. After all, nothing diffuses tension and stress like a good giggle.
  5. Good friends make everything better. How glad am I that I got stuck there with good friends…

Happy Ash Wednesday!

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At the start of our Lunch