Thursday, July 30, 2020

Covid-19 Quarantine Day 139: Where Have All the Masks Gone?

Even the trees are shocked!
When the pandemic first started, right before we went into quarantine, Mike and I went to the supermarket and saw one or two people wearing masks. Everyone stared at them as they walked by. 

But 139 days later, Mike and I finally took a chance at going into a grocery store, and I was relieved to see that everyone wore masks. Then we saw ONE woman NOT wearing a mask. Everyone stared at HER. I honestly don't know how she was allowed in the store. 

During an 8-mile hike on Mount Greylock last weekend, Mike and I came across another couple on the trail. We pulled up our IllumiNITE MultiWraps to cover our nose and mouth and stepped off the path to let the other couple pass.

They said: "Thank you for wearing masks." 

The new IllumiNITE MultiWrap keeps us cool, dry, and safe
when we encounter other hikers!

We said: "Thank YOU for wearing masks."

The woman said: "We wear masks to keep US safe, and to keep YOU safe. I don't understand why some people don't!"

These two experiences made me think about my friends at IllumiNITE who have been making masks for essential workers since the pandemic shut everything down, and then found inventive ways to make new products versatile to double as mask-wearing. I'm impressed with how quickly they rallied despite the many obstacles the coronavirus has created. So I decided to sit down with them and talk about their mask-making ventures.

How many face masks has IllumiNITE made for hospitals and other essential workers? How many people are making masks? 

Model wearing IllumiNITE Neck Scruff in Black
Photo courtesy of IllumiNITE
We made about 30,000 masks. Our factory collaborated with several companies from Rhode Island and South Eastern Massachusetts to get the mask production up and running as quickly as possible. Most of the masks were sold to essential businesses and some were donated to certain non-profit organizations in and around Providence, RI. These were not FDA approved masks, so we didn’t feel comfortable selling to hospitals directly. 

As IllumiNITE, we developed face coverings that combine the best of IllumiNITE reflective technology with a functional product for our active customers. We know how hard it can be to wear a mask while exercising! We designed our MultiWrap with that in mind. We have about 40 people in the whole operation and about 16–20 stitchers. 

Who is the fastest mask maker? Do you have friendly competitions? 

All of our stitchers have their own area of expertise and we work collaboratively. Since many of our stitchers are already related (sisters, sister-in-laws, etc), we don’t need any more (friendly) competition. 

How have your business practices changed since the pandemic started? What new processes have you adapted? What positives have come out of changing the way you do business?

IllumiNITE designers making masks
Photo courtesy of IllumiNITE
It has certainly been challenging finding our best practices. We have, of course, taken up social distancing. Fortunately, due to the size of our factory, this was not a big challenge as all workstations were already 6 feet apart. Certain office people have been working from home and are slowly starting to come back to the office. We clean daily and have sanitizer all over the place. Masks need to be worn in all common areas. We currently don’t allow any visitors without an appointment. One big positive that came out of this is the manufacturing community in Fall River coming together to help each other and to pool our resources to make PPE of all kinds. It’s heartwarming to know that we have such a great community around us. 

What is something that’s surprised you during this pandemic?

How quickly we could turn things around to start manufacturing masks. From design to production—something that should have taken months!—we managed to do in weeks. It was challenging to shift focus so quickly, but we knew it needed to be done and done quickly. 

It was a big 180 for our IllumiNITE team to put on pause our new fall and winter development in order to devote all our energy into developing and producing PPE. 

What advice would you give independent, local businesses at this time? What advice would you give customers?

To other small businesses: Know that everyone is struggling right now to find their way safely through these crazy times. No one has the perfect answer, but we need to come together as a community and help each other out. 

To customers: Please support all your local businesses. IllumiNITE is fortunate to be based online. However, all the brick and mortar stores, bars, and restaurants out there are really struggling and need your support in any way you can, now more than ever. Thank you for your support through these times.

IllumiNITE Featherlite Packable Jacket

Have you been able to start designing a new fall/winter line? What is something that IllumiNITE customers can look forward to in the coming months? Any new product or design you’re hoping to implement soon or are working on?

We do have some new products coming out in the fall. We are doing a Packable collection as well as designing new colors with new and improved fabric in some of our best sellers for men and women.

In the next two weeks, we are going to release a new Day Bright Wicking Short Sleeve Shirt for Men and Women. We have a lot of ideas for this coming winter and spring, and we hope that we are able to get them all done! 

I LOVE my Featherlite Packable Jacket. I cannot wait to see new products in the Packable line! Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to inform readers about mask-making and business during this unprecedented time.

These are scary times we're living in, and I don't quite understand why some people are so against
wearing masks. We don't protest the rule "No shirt, no shoes, no service." We don't protest the speed limit while driving. And, we don't protest other societal rules, such as getting our bags searched before entering concerts, sporting events, and other large-crowd gatherings. We all want the economy to recover, and independent businesses are a big part of that. The best way to bounce back is to buy local and wear masks while out in public to keep us all safe. Please wear a mask so this pandemic can end and we all can move forward with our lives.

As an incentive, use my discount code Sera15 to receive 15% off your entire IllumiNITE order, including the MultiWrap,  which is so versatile it can be used as a hat, a headband, a face covering, or a scarf!

Watch the video to see how!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Covid-19 Quarantine Day 125: Where Has All the Accountability Gone?

I'm wearing IllumiNITE
Synergy Reflective Headband in black; and
 Women's Reflective Bling Singlet
Don't worry! We are running! Since my last blog post, Mike and I have put together a new running, hiking, and walking routine for every day of the week. AND...I'm proud to say that we've stuck with it these last 19 days! But, I'm still struggling with my daily posting on social media. What is it about this time of social isolation that I feel less inclined to be online? I truly think I'm mentally burned out.

I started a new job in January and was only six weeks into learning my role when we were all sent home to work remotely. What a huge adjustment! I'm used to working remotely, as I have for many jobs in the past, but not when I'm learning a new career. In addition, I had been going, going, going nonstop for quite a few years until I lost my previous job last August. I think I am still recovering from such a chaotic lifestyle. This year is all about finding balance, and the key word here is "finding."

I think it's time that we all give ourselves a little slack for not having it all together. We are living in uncertain times, and we forget that uncertainty takes a greater toll on our mental capacity than we realize.

Sleepyheads ready to run brightly early morn!
Mike: IllumiNITE Endeavor Tank in Graphite
Sera: IllumiNITE Featherlite Packable Jacket
The good news is, I am getting outside and exercising every day! Mike is a great accountability partner! And he's such a good sport for waking up at five every morning to run with me before work—especially because I am not my sparkly, talkative, funny self before my coffee. haha 

So, what are we doing every day to get back to healthy living? Here's our schedule:

Mondays: 2–3 mile walk
Tuesdays: 5k run
Wednesdays: 1–2 mile walk (rest day)
Thursdays: 5k run
Fridays: Long run (marathon training) or 5k
Saturdays: Hike/swim/walk (or long run if not done on Friday)
Sundays: hike/swim/walk

We're getting our exercise in early for two reasons: It's less humid in the early morning and it jumpstarts the rest of our day. Running this early also gives me a bit of time to write afterward before my work day, so I feel doubly accomplished.

Caves at Mt. Toby Wearing IllumiNITE
Singlet and Jammer Mid-length short
I've noticed that for my shorter walks and runs, I prefer my IllumiNITE shorties; whereas, I prefer my IllumiNITE mid-length shorts for longer runs and hikes! When the weather is super humid, I'll grab one of my IllumiNITE headbands to run (it also secures my AirPods in place), but I prefer my IllumiNITE Multiwrap when hiking or walking because it keeps the sweat off my face while also doubling as a face mask if we happen upon other hikers. Mike is enjoying his new IllumiNITE Long Running Shorts for all our running excursions. He pairs them with his IllumiNITE Sentinel Short Sleeve Shirt for most runs, or his IllumiNITE Endeavor Tank when it's super humid. I'm seriously loving how Mike looks in his new tank, but I digress (the things that keep me motivated haha) We still debate whether he needs water on our shorter runs/hikes, but fortunately, I always win this argument. A small 12 oz bottle fits nicely in his IllumiNITE Shorts' pocket.

But, my question is this: If I'm not posting our activities on social media every day, does it really count towards my accountability? What I'm really asking is:

What is the definition of accountable?

New clothes motivate us!
Sera: IllumiNITE Synergy Reflective Headband in black;
Short Sleeve Savannah Shirt in Red; and Shortie in Black;
Mike: IllumiNITE  Sentinel Short Sleeve in Black;
Multiwrap; and Endeavor Long Running Short
Like I said, in this uncertain time, it's been difficult to "do it all!" And I've discovered that maybe trying to "do it all" is what's killing my motivation. Mike is a lists guy, and I truly appreciate that. I've found that writing down a DOABLE schedule, having an accountability partner, and actually sticking to our written schedule by getting outside and "just doing it no matter what" is what's most important.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter. How can I  help you stay motivated? And please, share your tips and tricks that help keep you accountable and on track to a healthier you!

And don't forget to use my discount code Sera15 to get 15% off your order at IllumiNITE!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Covid-19 Quarantine Day 106: Where Has All the Time Gone?

It's been 64 days since my last post. Where have I been these last two months? I've been so caught up inside this little universe I've created since we've gone on lockdown that I can't comprehend that it's already the end of June. Time feels like a concept more than anything these days. And if I'm being honest, I'll admit, I started writing this blog post at 100 days....adding a day, then another, then... well, here we are!

One-Hundred! Six! Days! Of social isolation!

Where has all the time gone?

Back in March, it was easy to tell myself that it was okay to take a break from marathon training for a little bit. After all, we're living in a pandemic! Back then, I thought I'd be back at work within two weeks, four weeks tops. Now, I'm wondering if I'll go back into the office at all before 2021. Mike and I haven't been total sloths since our social quarantine. We've gone hiking on various mountains and we've run around our neighborhood, but we haven't been consistent. Some days, it feels too mentally exhausting to gear up to run after working a long day on the computer. Logically, I KNOW that's even more reason to get out there and run! Being stationary all day is not healthy! I'm more grateful than ever for buying my standing desk; sitting all day, every day was killing my lower back!

Finding zen in the middle of the mountain
Even though I haven't physically fallen off the face of the planet, I feel like I've disappeared virtually. I've been terrible at posting my activities on social media. I've found myself thinking, I'll post this later tonight. Then later tonight turns into a week, and we're already out on our next hiking adventure!

It's been difficult to find technological balance when we're on the computer all-day-every-day for work—emails, phone calls, Zoom meetings—all in addition to my actual work. Without my morning and evening commute, I don't get that downtime from my computer screen; that little break to reset. So I find myself ignoring phone calls and texts from friends, and sometimes I forget that I even have a social media community. Oh! There's all my friends! HiHiHiHiHi

I need to get out of this rut, and find a NEW routine that works during this social distancing lifestyle.

Where has all the time gone? I don't even know anymore.
My motto used to be: "Write a five a.m.; run at five p.m!" That motto motivated me finish a novel revision and train for my first marathon! What helped me stay accountable was an online group of writers who also wrote early mornings. Knowing I wasn't the only one cuckoo enough to wake up at the crack of dawn to write before work really kept me motivated. To keep me accountable for marathon training, I found a group of newbie runners also training for their first marathon. Again, knowing I wasn't the only one spending all my free time running, running, running when many of my friends were busy doing literally anything other than running for hours on end kept me going.

But it's been a long while since I maintained that level of productivity.

Since all of my races this year have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely, I've been finding it difficult to hold myself accountable to get into marathon shape. The less active I am, the worse I feel. And the worse I feel, the less motivated I am to get out there and move! But enough is enough, already. This pandemic may not be the new normal, but social distancing is not going away anytime soon. I need to stop making excuses and jump back into training. Races canceled or not, I feel my best self when I am marathon ready!

But how do I get out of this rut-ine?

I've started plotting out my novel's emotional arcs
to show character growth as the plot unfolds
A couple weekends ago, I participated in a virtual writing retreat. The "retreat" was two full days of writing. To hold us accountable and motivated, the organizers set up check-ins via Zoom in the morning, at lunch, and at the end of each day. I could only participate in one of the days, but it was the most productive writing day I've had in a long while! It was so great to connect with my writing friends who I've seen every year at in-person writing retreats for the last ten years, except this year due to COVID-19 shutdowns. It made me realize how motivated and supported my writing community makes me feel. My writing routine is back on track (though, admittedly, not at 5:00 a.m anymore, though in my defense, working remotely allows me to sleep in a tad bit more).

I knew if I could get myself out of my writing rut, I could get my physical self back on track too.

My friends at IllumiNITE have been so great at checking in on Mike and me to see how we're doing. Mike and I were supposed to go on a spring fashion photoshoot in May, but clearly, that had to be postponed until it's safe to gather. In the meantime, the IllumiNITE team has been busy making masks for essential workers the past few months. I'll be sharing more on that in a future post!

IllumiNITE is giving away beautiful wraps (like my
floral one) w every $50 purchase while supplies last)
IllumiNITE just started back up on clothing design and production, and we just had the most fabulous phone meeting! Chatting with the designers about upcoming styles truly inspired me to get out there and run again! We discussed some of the adventures Mike and I want to go on this summer and we brainstormed what would keep us dry, cool, and comfortable in this hot, summer heat—as well as what would keep us warm on New England mountain tops where the weather can be anything from windy to rainy to icy and bitter cold—yes, even in the summer.

Lucky for Mike, IllumiNITE just came out with new tank tops, among other clothing items and accessories for men! We just received our latest shipment from IllumiNITE, and I'm so excited to incorporate these new pieces into our running and hiking activities! I'll share our product reveal video soon! In the meantime, here's a sneak peek at what we got!

So now, Mike and I have the clothing and accessories and support from our IllumiNITE team to help us get out of this rut! But what will help us maintain accountability?

The "U" in Community

Our latest IllumiNITE shipment.
Could there be something inside for YOU?
I'm turning to YOU—my online community—to help us stay motivated, inspired, and accountable for getting back in shape! Hopefully, we can motivate and inspire you, too!

Stay tuned for a series of blog posts and social media posts on Instagram for our new workout schedule, running and hiking tips, and a few IllumiNITE GIVEAWAYS!

Let's wrangle time back into a tangible tool to get us all back on track to become our most healthy, most active, most illumiNITEd selves we can be. Until next time, run brightly, my friends!

What are you doing to keep yourself motivated? What would help you stay motivated? Are you interested in an accountability group? Post your comments below!

Friday, April 24, 2020

Story Slam: Five Minutes Or Less

Local Dirt Productions "The Unexplained"
Spooky Concert and Story Swap, Oct. 2019
 I fell into story slamming by accident when I was a creative writing instructor. I was about to start a new eight-week session, and I was searching the Internet for topic ideas. I came across a call for auditions for the Valley Voices Story Slam, hosted by New England Public Radio and Academy of Music

I clicked the link. A theme was presented, and to audition, you had to call into a phone line with the first line (only) of your true story. If you were chosen, you had to perform on stage with no script or prompts. And you only had five minutes maximum!

What a perfect premise for the next eight weeks of writing, I thought. I chose an upcoming theme for the Valley Voices audition line that coordinated with my writing session timeline and presented it to my students.

"Here's the catch," I said. "We're going to perfect those stories, and then perfect those first lines, and then you're going to actually audition." I explained we'd also hold our own story slam on our last writing night of that session with their finished stories.

My students are clever. They all agreed that if they had to audition, I had to audition. "Fine," I said. In my mind, I added, What are the odds I'd get chosen?

Who knew? One of my students got in as well. Proud teacher moment!

I didn't win that story slam, but it was the first time I ever performed on stage in my life. I had no idea how exhilarating it felt to perform! I fell in love with the rush of nerves, the energy of the crowd, the captured attention of an entire room—even if only for five minutes. I was hooked!

Valley Voices Best of the Best Story Slam
on the Academy of Music Stage, April 2015
Since that first show in 2014, I've performed in multiple Valley Voices Story Slams, twice making it to the Best of the Best competition on the Academy of Music stage. I've also had the honor of performing at other events, such as a Halloween storytelling event that Local Dirt Productions hosted at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center, The MOuTH storytelling event at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, and a few other local events. I even got into the filming of Stories From the Stage, and I felt like a celebrity for an evening. My story wasn't chosen for the aired show, and I'm okay with that. You can't win them all. For me, it's about the experience of performance more than the win. Though, I can't deny it feels incredible when my name gets announced as one of the winners!

The writer in me really enjoys the writing aspect of story slams. It's a lot harder than it might look to tell a complete story in just five minutes. A story must have a strong opening hook, a meaty middle that's compelling enough to keep the audience engaged, AND a complete story arc that ends with a punch—all that in about 700-ish words! Every single word counts. Text for speech is written differently than text for reading. It's quite a fun puzzle to put all the parts together and rearrange-rearrange-rearrange until the words magically snap together. I'm often editing in my head until the very last minute as I practice out loud without a paper in front of me—sometimes I'm even editing on stage as I'm telling the story live! Yes, I'm a word nerd, and proud of it!

Valley Voices "Sweet & Salty" Story Slam,
March 2020
Right before social distancing was placed in order, I won second place at the "Sweet & Salty" Valley Voices Story Slam competition at Hawks & Reed. I'll be heading back to the Academy of Music for my third shot at the Best of the Best title when it's safe to gather again. Here's hoping that's sooner than later.

I'll admit, I've been bummed that the next two Valley Voices Story Slam for this season were postponed due to COVID-19. I love attending shows as much as performing in them. I get sucked into someone else's world, five minutes at a time, and it mesmerizes me. But it's for the best that we all do our part to stay home to help save lives.

When the producers of Valley Voices asked me to participate in a virtual story slam, I jumped at the opportunity. What a great idea! It definitely made for an exciting week of putting a story together, figuring out the lighting and staging of the kitchen, and recording a story—over and over and over again—until it felt natural. Talking to a camera feels so bizarre. I can't gauge the energy like I can with a live audience, so I focused on my own excited energy, like when I tell a story to a friend. The nerves remained so hopefully my story feels alive and fun. Thank you to the Academy of Music and New England Public Radio for continuing to bring joy to our community during this unprecedented time.

The Game Plan virtual story slam, April 2020
I hope you take the time to watch the stories on Around the Dinner Table this week. Stop by a different storytellers home, virtually of course, to see what story they've cooked up for you. My story The Game Plan was aired on Monday night, but it's still up for you all to see. And you can VOTE for me starting Sunday, April 26th!

Welcome to my kitchen! I can't wait for you to hear my story The Game Plan. If you like it, please vote for me at SURVEY MONKEY! Voting is open through Tuesday, April 28th and it literally is just two clicks!

And hopefully someday soon, I'll be able to see you from the stage at a live event.

What new can't-live-without hobbies/projects have you accidentally discovered during this time of social distancing? 

Leave a comment below. I'd love to hear!

Friday, April 3, 2020

Overwhelmed: COVID-19 Is Not the New Normal

Grateful for the sun while I work remotely;
though it's mighty chilly in this room lol
It has been three weeks since I started working remotely, and two weeks since I've stepped foot in a store or have seen a friend or loved one outside of the house. I'm so grateful to have Mike, and we've done our best to keep to as normal a routine as we possibly can with us both working from home. We set boundaries on work time, we take daily walks, we make meals together, and we have alone time and virtual time with friends. But despite this new routine we've settled into, I am feeling vastly overwhelmed. And I know I'm not alone.

Friends and colleagues have shared how overwhelming this "new normal" is, and one person this week said something so profound; it hit me right in the gut. It was something like:

"We're going about business as if everything is normal except for the fact that we're working remotely. But everything is NOT normal. This new normal is NOT normal. People are really sick. People are dying."

"Kindness counts;" "Spread love;"
I know people whose loved ones have fallen ill with COVID-19, some have lost lives. I have friends who are essential staff, many in the medical field. I worry about them and their families every day. It is a thankless job, and I appreciate their dedication to caring for sick people on a regular basis.

This is a serious pandemic, and I'm shocked at how many people are still carrying on as if this isn't a big deal. I'll admit, way back in January (god, that feels so long ago), I was one of them. I thought COVID-19 was all media hype. These days, it's hard to believe what's real and what's fake news. But, by this point, we should all recognize that this is serious.

I am overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the amount of time I'm spending on my computer, not just to perform the everyday functions of my job, but also for Zoom meetings, messaging with friends, virtual visits with my son who is isolated (safely) in another state. Then there's texting and phone calls and personal emails and social media, and I feel like my eyes are glued to a screen every waking moment of every day.

I've become that friend who flakes on people because I'm in the middle of something when someone contacts me, or I'm mentally drained and just can't handle anything other than the task-at-hand, and then I forget to message back—for days, weeks (what is time right now, seriously?). Anyone who knows me knows this is not my norm.

But we are not living in normal times, right now. So, I am being extra kind to myself. I am not beating myself up for needing to sleep in, even though that may mean not writing in the morning. I'm forgiving myself for not texting someone back in a timely manner. And yes, I am eating more chocolate. It's the comfort I need right now.

Thursday night "Cocktail Hour" with running friends
I don't mean for this post to be all gloom and doom. I have seen many wonderful things in my brief moments away from this virtual world.

I have seen sidewalk chalk messages and "bear hunts" in the neighborhood that let me know we are all in this together.

I have had meaningful "visits" with my friends on Zoom

I have had silly moments with my son on FaceTime.

I am reading Stephen Chbosky's newest book Imaginary Friend (though, it's beginning to feel like a premonition to COVID-19).

I am enjoying quiet moments on the couch with Mike drinking coffee before the world wakes up in the morning.

And I'm enjoying family dinners together every night, sharing highlights of our day, to remember that we can still communicate in real life.

Our first picture together as an official couple!
But I realized I need a bit more. I need to reset. Mike and I are taking Monday off work to celebrate our one-year anniversary. HOORAY! This seems like an opportune time to break from the virtual world to just live in the real world, despite how small "my world" is right now. So, I am signing off social media, the internet, my computer—hell, even my phone—until Tuesday. I want to take the time to celebrate the love we share with no distractions. I want to live in the here and now—even if it's just for three days—to focus on what's most important in life.

Our last picture together: working remotely!
(yes, I might be wearing pajamas)

Are you feeling overwhelmed? How are you managing during this stressful time? 

What will you do this weekend to recharge? Please post a comment below.

And please, stay safe, be well, and practice social distancing. Let's help end this pandemic!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Going Stir-Crazy? Explore the World of Color

Time for a hike? Loving this pop of hot pink!
IllumiNITE Unisex Velocity Mitten
It's week two of isolation, and I must admit I'm going a bit stir-crazy. I've worked remotely for years, and I've gotten pretty good at it. I know to set specific hours to avoid working nonstop. I know to take little breaks throughout the day to stretch, get water, have a snack. I know to break down my work station at the end of every day, and yes, even shut off my computer and store it out of sight. This gives a sense of transition from work time to down time at the end of the "work day."

But I'm not JUST working remotely. I AM remote completely—away from friends and family and people in my community. I never fully appreciated how integrated my world was. Besides driving to work, there's going to the store or bank or gas station. There's stopping by the local library to pick up a new set of books. There's going for a run with my run club. There's the impromptu coffee or drink with a friend. All of this is gone. And it takes its toll, more than we realize.

Wearing IllumiNITE Pink Love Tee
to brighten my day
I read a great article by Harvard Business Review entitled That Discomfort You're Feeling Is Grief. And it makes sense. Even though I'm getting more sleep than ever and my daily routine is solid, I have to look at the calendar every day to see what day of the week it is and what date it is. Is it really only Tuesday? How is it Friday already? Wait, is today Saturday, or Sunday? Time has become a concept, one big, blurry mess.

I'm having a harder time waking up in the morning, my brain feels foggy and groggy, and I wrestle between experiencing bounds of energy to wanting to sleep until this COVID-19 pandemic is over.

In this new normal, I'm trying to find ways to add more joy into my life. For example, I'm definitely eating a lot more chocolate! haha But that alone, isn't cutting it. But I noticed that working near a window and looking out at the world around me has given me more joy. Spring is in the air, the buds are sprouting on the trees, and slowly the world is blossoming into color: bright blue skies, greener grass, red cardinals! Each pop of color creates this surge of joy inside me.

Can you find the garter snake?
As I stated in my last post, COVID-19: Stay Remote, Not Isolated, I'm getting out in nature to explore as much as I'm able! last weekend, I came across the cutest little garter snake while on a hike. I wouldn't have seen if it didn't rustle up the leaves as it slithered away—it was completely camouflaged.

Seeing this nearly invisible snake made me remember a conversation I had with a friend a while back. She had painted her fingernails bright colors, which surprised me because she doesn't normally paint her nails, let alone paint them all different colors. When asked about it, she mentioned that she had just read the book Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee. She said the book mentioned that adding color, shapes, and textures into your life bring you pops of joy. (mental note: I must buy this book!)

Thinking about this concept of color bringing joy while watching this adorable little snake trying to blend into its background made me realize: This COVID-19 pandemic is making me feel like I'm fading into the background! Every day, my work outfits have been a rotating array of black and blue hoodies and sweatpants. What else would I wear while being cooped up in my house?! But...I realized that "dressing up" to go for a hike or a run has been my happiest moments of the week. Yes, a large part of that is the fact that I'm doing something outside of the house. But the other part of that happiness is: I'm wearing bright colors!

Wearing these pops of color has become my social outlet; my pops of joy throughout the week; it's my way of being seen when we can't socialize, my way of announcing to the world: I'm here! I see you! Do you see me?

Maybe it's the stir-crazy, but the most exciting moment last week was when Mike noticed that my IllumiNITE Ambition Reflective Women's Hoodie has a ponytail pull-through! How have I never noticed this before? So what does one do when discovering this amazement?

 PHOTOSHOOT! No autographs, please! haha


I'm wearing Beetroot/Silver
Mike's wearing Hawaiian Blue
And, I just found out that the IllumiNITE Ambition Women's Hoodie AND the Early Riser Men's Pullover are on final sale! So get yours before it's gone! Don't worry! You can order online! And if you use discount code Sera15, you'll get 15% off the rest of your order (non-sale items).

Okay, so maybe this blog post is all over the place...this is the state of my scattered mind. But seriously, get some COLOR into your world! It will make you happy! will brighten the day of anyone you may pass (remember: 6 feet apart) on the road or hiking trails! It seems there are a lot more people exploring the outdoors now that businesses are closed. Are you one of them?!

What are you doing to bring pops of joy into your life during this time of social isolation? 

Leave a comment below!

Friday, March 13, 2020

COVID-19: Stay Remote, Not Isolated

Climbing mountains
keeps me centered
The world is in complete chaos right now, and my head is spinning from the constant COVID-19 updates in my news and social media feeds. With businesses and schools closing and store shelves clearing out, I know that we will be hunkering down at home, working remotely, in the very near future. 

It's hard to predict what the next few weeks will bring. While I'm taking necessary precautions, such as washing my hands more frequently, limiting social activities, and shopping online to support local and independent businesses, I'm also sticking to my daily routines as much as possible. This includes adhering to my hiking and running schedules. 

Finding balance and peace
on mountaintops
April begins our rigorous mountain running training—ski slopes and jagged, rocky inclines galore—so I've increased my hiking activities this month to prepare my body for the increased intensity that mountain running adds. Despite the lingering cold weather, my IllumiNITE Tahoe performance jacket, cold weather hood, and Satellite running tights (pictured) have kept me warm. The sun has been shining and the skies have been blue. Spring teases the air, and it's bringing me so much joy. 

Being amidst the trees and rocks helps me feel centered to clear my head and regroup. The breathtaking views at the tops of these mountains reminds me to stay positive, even when it feels society is falling apart, and to remember that beauty exists in this world.

IllumiNITE Tahoe Performance jacket and cold weather hood
Staying warm, despite
this cold New England weather 
I truly urge you: get outside and enjoy the walking trails, forests, and mountains near you. Escape the news feeds and anxiety-ridden posts. Take the time to center yourself and be present with the here and now. If you need activewear that keeps you warm and dry, I highly recommend supporting independent retailer IllumiNITE. Use my discount code Sera15 for 15% off your entire order. And remember, stay safe! 

What are YOU doing to find balance amidst the chaos? I'd love to hear your ideas. Leave a comment below.

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