My Mom, Superwoman

I always knew my Mom was Superwoman – Superwoman of the mind. When I get stuck with my thinking, she has answers. When I get stuck with my writing, she has solutions. When I get stuck with my emotions, she has advice.

I never knew until this week that she is, simply, Superwoman. Not “just” Superwoman of the mind. She had COVID-19, and she beat it. Alone. Without doctors (except for herself, she is an MD after all). Without hospitals. Without “bothering” anyone about her condition.

When I realized that the novel corona virus became a threat, I worried for many of my family and friends – but most of all for my Mom. She splits her time between Paris and Geneva and travels a lot. She is in the high risk COVID-19 group, due to her age and her delicate lungs and asthma. She is a free spirit and I doubted her willingness to abide by the confinement rules. I worried that she would contract this virus (and I was right) and that it would beat her (and oh was I wrong) and that I would not get back to Switzerland in time.

Over the last two and a half months, she experienced many symptoms of this virus, one after the other. Terrible cough. Exhaustion. “COVID toes.” She followed the confinement and mask-wearing rules to the letter. She told my three sisters and me that she was doing this for us, so that we did not have to worry about her getting sick on top of all of our other COVID-19-related worries.

On Monday this week, she received the results of her anti-body test. Very, very, very positive. Of course, Barbara Polla has never failed an exam or test in her life… why should I be so surprised that she would pass this one with an A+?!

Thank you Mom for being Superwoman. In all ways, and always.

On Willpower and Habits

I like to think I have pretty strong willpower and self-control (I am defining both as “the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals”, per the American Psychological Association). Yet I must admit that the past six weeks have challenged both. 

Case in point: I had decided after my January 21-day cleanse that I would not drink three days per week and “forever” give up carbs (in particular carbs with gluten). Instead, I have not been drinking two (not three) days per week, and two weekends ago, I “fell in a jar of carbs” and could not help but eat bread (albeit, home-made by my husband) all weekend long. 

So I have been thinking a lot about what is “wrong” with my willpower and self-control. 

Fact 1: My non-drinking days have been Mondays and Tuesdays.  

Fact 2: My carb black hole happened over a weekend. 

Conclusion 1: I have a limited supply of willpower. My willpower bucket is full on Monday, and little by little this “store” of willpower decreases as the week goes on. 

Fact 3: I have also come to realize that the current world situation is impacting my willpower and self-control. Indeed, my willpower “store” is being depleted more quickly than “during normal life” And I have been wondering why… 

Conclusion 2: Managing a brand during a global pandemic means that I have been doing extra (hard) thinking and having to make a million extra (hard) decisions. Apparently, hard thinking and decision-making depletes willpower. 

I know that willpower is like a muscle and can be developed. I also know that willpower is a renewable resource. But I have not been able to “get more” willpower. So instead, I have developed strategies to “help” my willpower and self-control. 

Strategy 1: Sleeping more. 

I pride myself on not needing much sleep and usually sleep five to six hours per night, but these days, I am utterly exhausted by 9 pm. I still wake up by 5 am, but I am needing seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Instead of fighting it, I have given in and have been sleeping more. 

Strategy 2: Transforming decisions into habits.  

Making a decision takes willpower. Living a habit does not (or takes less). So I have made a habit that Thursday is my third non-drinking day every week. Now I wake up on Thursdays and know this is a no-drinking day. I don’t have to make a decision about it. It just is. Which means it’s ok if by Thursdays my willpower is depleted. 

Strategy 3: Organizing my days accordingly.  

I have been leaving all “menial” tasks for Fridays. Things that need to get done but do not require a lot of creativity or thought. Things like paperwork and Quickbooks reconciliations. 

What do you do to help your willpower and self-control?

Some of My New Sanity Rituals

Business has slowed drastically. My inbox is full of COVID-19 update emails instead of “normal” emails, so even “office work” is different. 

My meetings have been postponed and my trips cancelled for the foreseeable future. No trainings, store visits, events, or conferences for days. 

I have been home for 9 days straight. 

This is not my “normal life,” and I must rethink my days and my rituals, to ensure that I don’t think of every day as “day” (instead of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc), which I must admit I am guilty of. 

I am not there yet, but I am trying. Here are some of the things I have implemented (some new, some similar to what I did “before”) to stay sane during these insane times. 

  • Waking up between 4:30 and 5 am on weekdays (my normal wakeup time). 
  • Making a weekly gameplan on Mondays as I usually would, focusing on prioritizing projects I have not had a chance to work on over the past six months. 
  • Listening to Yo Yo Ma daily in the evening (on Instagram). 
  • Skyping weekly with my sisters during the weekends (instead of monthly). 
  • Defining Wednesday as vacuuming day. Given that we brought our cat to Georgetown, my husband just gifted me a new Dyson mini vacuum which is perfect for cat hair. Did I mention how satisfying vacuuming is? 
  • Being super strict about my eating and drinking. I am still not drinking three days per week (although last week I slipped and only made it two days) and am very aware of the “COVID-19” and eating with awareness to avoid gaining weight.  
  • Notwithstanding the above, ordering takeout from my favorite restaurants to support them as best as I can. 
  • Doing 100 sit ups every day. 
  • Taking advantage of the many (free) webinars that many publications and associations are offering to discuss the current crisis and how to do business during such times. 
  • Ensuring that at least two evenings per week involve no “TV.” 
  • Listening to a Master Class per day (so far, I only did this once this week though). 
  • Doing virtual cocktail hours and lunches and dinners with friends (oh friends how I miss thee…).  
  • Reading. I am still finishing The Only Plane in the Sky, the timing of which I can’t decide is scary or fortuitous, following which I plan on reading mostly fiction until “life goes back to normal.” 
  • Reminding myself of all of the things I have to be grateful for, including my husband, my health, my home. 

What are you doing to stay sane? Please share! I need more ideas…

Celebrating International Women’s Month

There are many reasons to love March. The official arrival of Spring. Spring break. St. Patrick’s day. March Madness. And International Women’s Day.

I celebrate women every day (my sisters, my BFFs, my team members), but I celebrate them extra in March. A few years ago I wrote about a few of my amazing innovative girlfriends.  This year, I celebrate this week’s International Women’s Day by highlighting some of my favorite DC-area women-owned businesses.

Bellacara
This Old Town beauty boutique is owned by Angela Sitilides, a former attorney and mother of four boys who decided that entrepreneurship and beauty were a more fulfilling career path. Her store, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month, carries a curated assortment of skin (yes, including Alchimie!), bath & body, hair and makeup brands, along with amazingly delicious-smelling candles.

Betsy Fisher
My favorite clothing boutique in DC, the eponymous Betsy Fisher blends trendy and
conservative, as is necessary in the nation’s capital. Too busy to shop? Betsy will personally choose items she thinks will work for you and have them couriered to your home or place of business.

Hank’s Oyster Bar
An institution in DC, I must confess to having gone to Hank’s Oyster Bar for the first time just a couple of weeks ago, on a Saturday when I woke up craving a seafood tower… and realized that their first location (opened in 2005) is walking distance from my house. I don’t know owner Jamie Leeds, but I am grateful to her for helping with my random craving!

Ninotch, an Urban Retreat
Owner and therapist Tatiana Tchamouroff’s petite size belies her strength. She has been
offering therapeutic treatments and sports massage to the DC sports community for over 20 years, and I can personally attest that her hands are both powerful and magical. With locations in Bethesda and Tyson’s, her spas also offer facials, flotation therapy, and spray tanning. A must for the stressed out among us….

Salt & Sundry
Opened in 2012 in Union Market, this lifestyle boutique carries the most unique goods from independent designers both local and global. This is my go-to source for gifts (especially for that friend who has everything), and a favorite place to receive gifts from (most recently the most amazing gold-rimmed water glasses). Last night, at Moki Media’s Dainty Doesn’t Do It event, I had the privilege of hearing Amanda McClements, the founder of this boutique, moderate a panel – which made me love this boutique all the more!

What are your favorite women-owned brands and businesses?

Reminders

This week, I am in Tinos, Greece. Not my first visit, but my first visit during the low season. The magic of this island is as strong as ever…

Fewer people make for stronger connections – those of us here really want to be here. The cooler temperatures make for new experiences – walking through the villages and heading to the Chora (town) more frequently. And the lessons of the island are as insightful as ever.

  • Feeding the island cats feels like the day’s most important project. AKA taking care of others, with no expectation in return, makes me happy.
  • Leaving the book I just devoured (The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda) in the unofficial “sidewalk book exchange” of Isternia village, and seeing it gone the next morning makes my whole day. AKA an act of random kindness for an unknown stranger, makes me happy.
  • Going to the bank (inside the building, not the ATM) feels like an enlightening, welcoming, kind, human connection. AKA taking the time to enjoy every human interaction, even in the form of an “errand,” makes me happy.
  • Slowing down and watching the sunset, grateful for nature and her rhythms, no matter the season, is good for the soul.
  • Finally, as the Greeks say, “eteron ekateron.” AKA “it is neither here nor there.” And/or “it is said of two things that can both apply simultaneously, different from one another, without affecting one another.”

Taking my own advice

On Saturday, I turn 42. And today, I received perhaps the best birthday gift ever: Sarah Akram herself told me I looked 30. “Good genes and good skin care,” I responded. When I then confessed that I didn’t remember when my last facial was, however, she did remind me that these facial treatments are a necessity to stay youthful-looking and that Botox does not replace the need for facials (Amen, sister. I preach this every day…).

Much like the cobbler’s daughter, while I work in the world of facials and skin care products, I do not take my own advice frequently enough. While the last time I had Botox was in June and the last time I used our Advanced retinol serum was this past Monday evening, I truly cannot recall when the last time I had a facial was.

With my birthday looming, I decided it was time to complement great home care with a really good facial. On the recommendation of a friend of mine who has particularly glowing skin (and I realize now somewhat naively) I called Sarah Akram Skincare to schedule a facial with the eponymous founder for mid-November. While I I thought this was lots of advance notice, I was gently told the next availability was January 30, 2020. “Not meant to be,” I thought, while putting my name on the wait list. Yesterday, the lovely Nyles called me back to let me know of a last-minute cancellation for this morning – so I rearranged my meetings, all the while thinking “totally meant to be, this is my early birthday gift to myself.”

Extravagant, yes. Worth every penny, absolutely. Akram is everything I love in a facial therapist: gorgeous with flawless skin, super knowledgeable about her craft, serious, friendly but not too talkative – and has magical hands. This treatment was 90 minutes of a beautifully balanced combination of technology (LED, microdermabrasion, cryo, something warm I forgot to ask about) and touch (the facial begins and ends with amazing massage). Akram uses products from Environ and Biologique Recherche, two brands I admire yet had never experienced firsthand (I did of course bring her some Alchimie to try).

I left with glowing, bright, plumped, rejuvenated skin (this photo is immediately post treatment, zero makeup) – ready to enjoy my last three days as a 41-year old and looking forward to 42 – and to my next facial at Sarah Akram Skincare, scheduled for February 2020.