Monday, December 15, 2014

Kondo Crazy

I am amused to see that all the self-improvement type decluttering fans have gone Kondo crazy (see, the New York Times,Chris Guillebeau, etc.). Marie Kondo, that is, the author of the book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up". But why wouldn't we? It's life-changing!

Well, it has the potential to be, anyway. I have only been folding my clothes for 4 weeks. I suppose I could jump in a little deeper water, and I intend to soon.

Her basic premise is that you reduce clutter by category, all at once, by giving respect to your possessions, handling them all (!!!) and seeing if they spark joy in you, as a condition for staying in your life. Otherwise, you thank them for their service, and send them on their way (to another recipient, Goodwill, a landfill, whatever.)

I LOVE this idea. Because to be surrounded by only things that you love... where would the struggle be? And if you needed more things, you would only buy things that you loved, right? Because there's only so much room in your house.

And I do recommend you read the book, if you are inspired by my synopsis, because there's so much more subtlety and a shocking disregard for sentimentality. "But I could never get rid of all my paper!" you think. (She gives a pass to your old love letters, so relax.) Everyone has a weakness or lame collection somewhere (I suspect it could be craft items for me. Or old journals.)

And I also love that she asks you to visualize what you will experience when you have completed the project. How will it make you feel? What will it allow you to experience?

It still feels odd, wildly throwing away boxes from new appliances (what if I have to move? How will we pack the coffee maker? This seems like a semi-reasonable question until you consider that I have lived in this house for 17 years, am not looking for new housing, and coffee makers are not especially fragile and could probably be wrapped in larger moving box anyway.) Now, multiply this thought process times 5,000, which might not even been a good estimate of the number of items in my home. Does it make me happy? Yes, or no. The end. Oh.

Ah, but what to do about the husband's stuff? She has some adorable stories about her precocious teen years, raising the ire of family members by decluttering for them, but doesn't provide a clear solution for the reader. Perhaps he will be jealous of my joyful room. Perhaps he won't notice that 10 years of music magazines stacked in the bathroom (and soaked in microscopic urine and fecal spores, if there is such a thing, which there probably isn't) have ended up in the recycling bin.

But there's nothing as compelling as a before and after picture. Here is my "sweatpants" drawer before:
(There's some shorts in there, too.)

And here is the same drawer, all refolded, with the horrible hippy skirt, random white bustier, and other non-lovable items removed:

To be continued.....

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

An open letter to Renee...

Dear Renee,

I am writing to you about your face. Or rather, the media attention on your face. I know, it's old news at this point, but it really bothers me. You see, we're about the same age, and I think I know what you're going through.

Charming Diagram from New York Daily News here.

But you're right, in so many ways, I don't. I've never been famous. Hell, I've never even been thin. I don't make money with my face. If I got a peel, some fillers, and a nose job, absolutely no one but my husband would notice. And he'd be pissed that I'd spent so much money to look marginally better for a very short amount of time, and that he had to do all the chores and cooking during my recovery.

But here's the thing. When you're 45, stuff starts to happen. Cheeks deflate. Eyes sink. Puffy lips have creases around the borders. One day, you see a picture of your neck and it's shocking. Whose neck IS that?

But that's kind of what makes it beautiful, you know? Wabi sabi? Shabby chic? A beautiful face decays, and you can no longer deny that you've had experiences, and heartbreaks, and that you've cried, or stayed up too late or had too many fried pickles and gin and tonics. You don't have to walk around like perpetually ripe melon any more. You can wear a ton of eyeliner, or none.

And to worry about the size of your eye, the depth of the nasolabial folds, whether there's a dark spot on one cheek, is absolutely ridiculous at this point. It's not fair that women have to report to the rest of the world about what they've done with their bodies or faces. But when you do something, and don't report it, that's not fair either.

I think that I look younger than you, because I didn't do anything to my face. Is that the contest, who can look younger? And by anything, I mean with needles or scalpels because yes, I used sunscreen and moisturizer. Sometimes, they market me into trying a new cream (I'm scoping out an undereye one right now). But for you to pretend that you've just been resting and in love is absolutely insulting. Fuck you. Admit that you're scared. Point out that the system is unfair. But don't try to tell me it's because you're in a good (read, better than anyone's) place, and just looking well rested. If eyes are the windows to the soul, well, you've messed with them, and now we're worried about your soul.

Why not just deal with the fact that there will be comment, whether you do or do not "do" anything to your face? Would it have hurt more to have heard them say you looked 45? Because there are so, so so many of us who don't have any other option.

I'm not saying you're a bad person. I'm quite clear it's just a rigged system. I am glad you're happy and well-rested and in love. But you could have been happy, well-rested and in love without throwing your colleagues in their 40s into a tizzy of self-doubt, horror and shame. I am sure you have your reasons.



Thursday, November 6, 2014

Glass half full, half-way there, unapologetic Pollyanna

Why not be positive? Is there a cash prize for all the doubters when the worst-case scenario becomes possible? Does looking at the negative improve your daily existence? I just don't get it.

And I don't think I'm a happy shiny person. But of course, none of us do. I can't deny that knowing someone thought I was cynical would bother me a lot. I do still care about what people think of me, for some reason.

I see negativity as the ultimate logical fallacy. Nothing good is going to happen, so I expect nothing good, and then nothing good happens.

Yes, yes, there's some advantage to having a lowered set of expectations, but it seems like a slim one to me. If you can readjust your plans after somethings turns out not as great as you hoped, how is that different from re-adjusting your plans when something is not as bad as you feared? Either way, the essential skill is adjustment. So why not look on the upside?

Why not wander the world thinking the flowers are pretty, that everyone probably really likes you, that it's kind of frustrating right now, but it's going to turn out okay? Why not believe that you will be in the 60% that recover, instead of the 40% that do not? Why not believe in democracy?

(I could go on and on about voting right now, but will not. But it does seem that part of the generation gap in American election turn-out is because the Millennial generation thinks it doesn't matter, politics is just theater, my vote doesn't count because it didn't go my way last time, etc. It then becomes the self-fulfilling prophecy... and I'm going on and on when I said I would not.)

You can try to argue with me, but luckily, due to nifty things like confirmation bias, I will not be deterred. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Memory Lane

What a stupid address. Because everything and nothing always changes, and we know that "always" and "never" is usually a lie.

I walked to dinner tonight. The Fitbit demands these kinds of sacrifices, and it's no sacrifice when it's a temperate autumn evening and your destination is over the ridge, at a campus restaurant.

So when I wonder how I got so stuck, if you could gently remind me that I live not only in the town where I went to college, but the town where I was born? That would be appreciated.

In walk just short of 10,000 steps, I can walk by:
  • every ex-boyfriend's college housing
  • the woods where I suspect my stolen purse was tossed, but have never been able to find therein
  • a most magnificent view of Kalamazoo College's chapel, and if you turn 120 degrees to the right, the East Hall cupola at Western Michigan University
  • the track where a college student was killed by a mentally ill stranger in 1987, which changed this town the obvious and paranoid ways that these things do
  • a ginkgo sapling growing in an eaves-trough
  • Dairy Queen, and all the calories therein
  • the tracks where I flipped the bike I'd borrowed from my brother, and broke its frame
  • the apartment where I lived at first with my now-husband
  • the apartments of many more friends, past to present
  • rotten apples placed along the top of a stone wall
  • smells of wood burning, leaf mold, sour water and trash
  • and finally, the overgrown garden of home.
For all these connections, I don't have more plans for tonight than the dinner I already ate. It's the time when I would be getting ready for bed on a weeknight. I guess I am worrying, what if I was alone? Would I ever leave the house? Or would I just connect with these memories, again and again? Does this worry mean that it's already too late?

But it's not too late. I can go for a walk anywhere, but here I know these things, and can learn  even more. (In fact, I'm already plotting a trip to go back and see if that's really a gingko, and how to take a picture of it.) There's no need to hyperventilate. Just breathe. And besides, my Fitbit fell off my wrist somewhere, so none of these future steps "count" anyway.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Change your pillow, change your life!

I am pretty sure a new pillow would change my life right now.

Have I cheapened the concept of life change? What does it mean to "change your life"?

Right now, not having neck pain that may be traveling down my arms and making giants knots that are palpable on my scapula, according to my massage therapist friends, would be pretty fantastic. It would make every instant of my existence better. Is shopping for a new pillow less authentic than doing the work? What IS the work that would make my neck feel better?

If it makes the woo woo gurus feel better, I have consulted my inner child, and she would also like a new pillow. She wants one like the ones at the Hilton in Atlanta, when she got to go to the fancy IT conference. Those were the best pillows.

Ah, but why those pillows? Could it be that you just want to go back in time to when you made plenty of money, and got to go to fancy conferences? Although that was probably 10 years ago now, you weren't really a child then, you know. Not chronologically, anyway.

Besides, those were feather pillows, and that might not be firm enough for side-sleeper positioning. And you can't go back in time to that Hilton to steal them, or even look at the labels. You will have to hug a bunch of pillows at the store. It looks like Bed Bath and Beyond is your future, honey.

P.S. I went to BB&B and pushed my fist into every display pillow they had, because they were all vaguely grimy and I didn't want my head near them. I selected a mid-priced latex one, because I don't like the idea of memory foam very much. (I used to think it actually remembered what you were shaped like, but have since realized that's not literally so.) I have slept on my savior for two nights in a row, and my life is exactly the same, otherwise.

P.P.S. I would like to say that "I give up!" here, but you and I know that I will keep trying. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Update: List Edition

What I've been working on:

Not really. But that is quite a useful skill, don't you think?

1. Habit Building Galore - I am finding the Lift app to be so awesome and motivating. If a habit is made of the trigger, the habit itself and a reward, Lift provides the trigger and the reward. You bring the habit. Seriously, it's a routine-changer. It is available for iphone and android. I'm currently tracking sweets, intuitive eating, morning pages, biking / walking / belly dancing, and blogging. See more below. 

2. Sweets / Intuitive Eating - I don't want to mess with it anymore. I'm just going to do what the ol' gut says. Literally. They don't call me Literal Liz for nothing, you know. I do struggle with sweet, delicious baked goods. Well, they don't really struggle...and they're super easy to eat, so I'm not struggling either. I guess it's just plain over-indulgence. I'm following the "No Sweets" goal in Lift, and only set my goal to no sweets for 5 days a week, but still haven't made it past 3 days. I'm breaking all the intuitive eating rules for the this habit because it keeps me honest. It really feels like I never get any treats, and yet, the check marks don't lie. 

3. Morning Pages - I started reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. Yes, everyone else has already done this, but then you know it's pretty powerful. Yes, she does mention God a lot, but she also shoots down your "god" hang up pretty quick. The basic premise is to write 3 pages first thing in the morning, take your inner artist on a date, and get on with "it", whatever your it is. There are 12 weeks to mull it over. I've been quite good at getting in the morning pages, and it's really clarified my thinking on a lot of topics. Plus, with the freedom to write about conceptual blocks instead of blog-worthy news or personal exposition (which happens in my girly whiny personal journal), I'm using parts of my brain that haven't been to the beach in a long time. 

4. Biking / Walking / Dancing - It's the attempt-at-exercise trinity. I might run a little, starting next week, if my shoes are nice to me. Yeah, I should probably do some body-weight type exercise, but I've broken up with John Should, the jerky boyfriend from my 20s. I only do fun stuff now, guys. Maybe if push-ups become fun... I could assign them a goal on Lift, and allow myself to eat scones every day.

5. Blogging - Did you miss the big announcement? Because I kind of buried it, again? I'm going to publish every Wednesday, so I'd better have some kind of draft going to choose from. I'd like to write a little every day, or preferably, write a day, edit a day, etc. 

This does kind of beg the question, what IS this blog about? I like to think of it as the bird that gathers all the shiny bits to build a nest. And lays blog eggs. What would you like to see hatch? 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Waning, with no regrets

There are still 18 days of summer left. Yes, I am aware most of the children are back in school, but summer is not dependent on the school year, right? It ends September 21 in 2014.

I am trying to reassure myself that I didn't miss the whole thing, while running in circles inside my head. I did get the usual stuff done - a couple trips up north, some beach time, as many peaches as I could buy and eat. I did a lot of walking. I wore some cute summer clothes.

Hammock time.

All that's left to do is have some ice cream, try and wear those red sandals I really like that don't really go with anything, and maybe try to catch one more Lake Michigan sunset. By running around inside my head, I actually have less regrets than I do running around aimlessly. I think I used to know this, but I have re-learned it again.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The time that Sharon Kihara made me cry.

I may have recovered from Tribal Revolution by now (it was in June, if that puts it in scale). I'm not sure I want to "get back to normal", though, because some of these things are important lessons, that I don't want to waste.

As usual, I did not take enough pictures. Or, any pictures. I did get a souvenir mug, of which I am exceedingly fond. It was the 10th Tribal Rev, and you know what? I've only been going since 2012, and have found it to be a consistently well-planned, friendly, and awesome experience every time. So, kudos to you, Blue Lotus Tribe! I'll be back. And hopefully next year, there won't be a wedding in the middle of the weekend forcing me to depart.

I almost didn't go, because of this wedding. But Kat convinced me I should, and I certainly didn't regret it. I hopped in my car and motored down to Illinois (Wheeling is NOT Chicago, by the way) for a Thursday afternoon session with Rachel Brice.

It was called White Cat, Black Cat. By the end, I was a dead cat. She is so excellent at breaking down combinations that you can feel some mastery... until she puts the music back on the correct tempo. Suddenly, you remember, you are a baby dancer, and you have some work to do. I did thoroughly enjoy the Rob Halford warm-up squats, however.

We then hustled back to the room to see if we could be helpful in any way because Kat was performing in the Thursday night show! Thursday night is usually when the troupes and up and coming individual performers dance. It was in staged in the round, with the lights dimmed but the audience was pretty much IN YOUR FACE! I would have been super intimidated, but Kat performed beautifully. Seriously, someone yelled, "Beautiful!" at the end.

There was wine and Jimmy Johns. Since I was only there for 2 days, I signed up for 3 classes (7 hours of instruction) on Friday. Rest was required.

My Friday morning class was with Asharah. I signed up for these classes in March, and had kind of forgotten what I picked or what I was thinking at the time. We were stretching, chatting, checking phones before class, and I thought, this instructor looks familiar. Then we started a vigorous warm up and she started commanding, "Right! Left!" and it all came back to me. Shimmies, Asharah Style, 2012. I love her brainy, technical and precise way of looking at dance. But that was some hard work.

Next up was Tempest and Nathaniel Johnstone. This is actually my 3rd workshop from Tempest. She is a great teacher of creativity and interpreting music, and she had her new husband and collaborator with her to help. Nathaniel had brought his instruments and played each one to that we could do interpretation. So useful! And it really does make snake arms so much more graceful if you imagine you are petting the kitties on the wall.

I had an hour, so I actually went to the hotel restaurant to eat some real food, instead of the Luna bars and bananas I had been fueled with earlier. And it's a good thing I did, because I shudder to consider how hunger would have enhanced the next experience.

Sharon Kihara was the only instructor I had never taken before, as it turns out. And what a beautiful, calming force she is. I had taken dance workshops in emotional expression before, and was kind of puzzled at how certain emotions were unavailable to me, or perhaps just too scary. Sharon somehow made it safe to mess with these ideas. It was based on the Japanese dance forms of Ankoko Butoh, and I wouldn't say we did anything particularly Middle Eastern in those 3 hours. We strolled and ran and jumped up and down in unison with another dancer's limbic system on an imaginary balancing platform. We used a 7 minute song to grow from a seed into the strongest form we could represent. We pounded the excess energy back into the ground.

It got really intense when we split into 2 groups and performed for each other. My group was first assigned to imagine we were in a box, buried in the earth, for 6 minutes. I laid on my back, closed my eyes, and felt the dimensions of my box. I eventually came to terms with it. It was my cozy constriction. And the song ended, and I realized that we do this in real life, contain ourselves in boxes that are too small, and imaginary as well, and find ourselves comfortable and resigned.

My group's next exercise was to walk across the room with our heaviest emotional burden in a backpack, regard the audience directly, and lay the imaginary luggage at their feet. Sharon encouraged us to use a real, meaningful burden. I chose my mother's death when I was 21, dragged it across the floor like a stubborn toddler, put my hands on hips and cried. I was not the only one in tears at the end. We discussed it, hugged, wiped our tears, took a break. A woman in the audience group told me during the break she was intrigued by my "performance" because it looked so different than the others, because I had my hands clenched and on my hips and the anger. I think she wanted me to tell her what I was acting out, but I couldn't really talk about it then. I was later haunted on the drive home that I didn't put the burden down clearly. I had kept it, like a broken toy, but I eventually decided it was part of me, and it makes me stronger in the long run.

It was not quite all over. There was a Friday show, but it's like Sharon's last workshop wiped my brain clean. I barely remember any of the performances (well, except when Tempest busted into the knee spins. That was pretty awesome.) I think I was still busy processing.

This was back in June. Since then, I have stumbled through a few choreography classes, drove to Grand Rapids to take a couple classes with my first tribal teacher, Carrie Susemihl, and taken a workshop with Aida al-Adawi, But I still think the most powerful dance workshop I have ever experienced was that one.

And I apologize for the sporadic nature of this blog this summer. NEW POST EVERY WEDNESDAY. There. I did it. I promised it, I shall deliver. Take that, Panic Monster.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Life hacker has collected all the tools, done very little hacking

Have you tried tapping? Apple cider vinegar? The one perfect exercise, which according to some click-bait health site, is squats? The abs challenge? Oh, everyone else is doing green juice and planks, silly me.

Topiary cats are all the rage. 

I've just been realizing that in my zeal to collect all the tools, I'm not really using any of them. Or, maybe I'm just using them ineffectively, and maybe even for the wrong job. Squats will not reform my pathetic finances, even though I had a pretty fantastic ass for a month or so there. But
apple cider vinegar did kind of attract some clicks to this blog, for some (Dr. Oz tag!) reason. 

But it's so hard to focus on just one project! And so many of these "hacks" are about removing parts of your life (perhaps they're for literally hacking, like a machete!) that are maybe a little awkward, but not exactly unsightly. I think that I'm a little more motivated by adding things. (Today's cockamamie idea: sew my own wardrobe using Built By Wendy book. Still considering this one....)

I have been doing the Anna Kunnecke's Queen Sweep for a little more than 2 months though. And I'm really impressed by it. She offered it for free, and I am the lucky girl that won even more free Mastery session. I love her outlook and approach on these things (time, money, beauty, - the important stuff). Another sign that it was destiny - she loves peonies. I love peonies, which if you are typing really fast, comes out people! And that means something, right? Even though free things can be taken for granted, I am not wasting THIS opportunity.

So I was kind of shocked to realize that some of my tools are contradictory. You can't use a hammer and drill at the same time, you know? Anna was able to talk me down from the toolbox, and convinced me that I could pick which tool I liked, using my own criteria (most beautiful and badass? fun and useful?) AND IT WOULD BE FINE TO NOT USE ALL THE TOOLS AT ONCE.

Wow wow wow wow.

For example, of all the home de-cluttering programs that I am aware of, I get to pick the one I think is the most useful and badass? (That would be most of UFYH, by the way.) I can still check out new ideas, but I don't need to keep them?

The answer is yes. Always the best answer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

No worries, vs. NO, worries!

I was puzzled when I learned that the protagonist of the Fault in Our Stars (from here on, known as FIOS, just like all the cool blogs) has the cancer that I had. Except that it spread to her lungs. And she's a teenager. And she dies (I think. I haven't read the book or seen the movie, sorry). So, that's nothing like me, in every way. Right? Less than 2% of all thyroid cancers are in persons less than 18 years of age. And even then, Stages I and II of most types of thyroid cancer have a 100% 5 year survival rate (somewhat obvious, but this is the term for the rate of patients still alive 5 years later). Some literature even suggest that "cancer" is kind of an overstatement. It's usually a growth, which may or may not metastasize.

I'm only 4 years out, so maybe I shouldn't be so confident.

I have also been fascinated with the debate about mammography guidelines, for similar reasons. Here's another cancer that terrifies women, despite the fact there are much more likely ways to die. Annual screening keeps it on our radar, though, even when we have no risk factors.

So basically, we need to remain terrified because THEY (the medical industrial complex, where I have spent my entire career) only know how to diagnose cancer. They don't really know how to prevent it, and sometimes they don't even know how to look for it, nor do they know exactly how to stop it. But they know how to diagnose it. Because it's not cancer until someone codes it.

I like to be an obedient patient, and I've got insurance, so why not follow all the recommendations? I went for my annual physical, like a good girl. I confidently informed my physician that I didn't use the mammography order for last year because I don't have any risk factors. She did not agree or disagree, but gave me another order. My blood work came back right in the recommended ranges, woo hoo! So I thought I owed her the compliance.

I went to the appointment, put on the thin cloth robe, and followed the technologist's directions. She got it in two shots per breast (which might have been my first clue. Other times there have been multiple attempts.) I went in to work, barely 30 minutes past my usual start time.

The following day, I got THAT call. The woman on the phone emphasized that they do several call-backs every day, so it's not necessarily anything to be concerned about. Oh, and the radiologist recommended a tomosynthesis (new procedure, not necessarily reimbursed by insurance, 3-d images versus 2-d, from what I can google). That was a little disconcerting.

So I'm back in cancer terror. I've spent the last 24 hours wondering, would I be more concerned about an area of concern, or an all-clear? What if they want to biopsy? What if they find something, and remove parts of my body and try to poison the rest and it's all because they don't want to watch it forever? What if they don't see anything? What if I get hit by a Cadillac in the parking ramp? I was totally plotting on living until I was 90, or out of money, or both.

Because we are all going to die, eventually. When I listen to my gut, it says, no biggie sis, relax, which is what it said when I went through the thyroid terror, so I no longer trust it. Or I should have trusted it all along?

I am going to try to trust it. This is the time to think of Shantideva, and remember, "If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying?"

Sunday, June 15, 2014

10 Things I Learned from my Dad.

1. You can learn anything and everything from a book.
2. We are not lost. We are right here. 
3. Only boring people are bored. (This was especially infuriating to hear when I was a pre-teen, but it's true.)
4. There's no reason to commit to only one instrument (or in my case, hobby).
5. But there is true love. And you should hold out for it, but if it's not right there, it's okay.
6. If you say no to opportunities, they will go away. So always say yes. Just in case. (I didn't say all this advice as useful....)
7. Learn some good jokes, so you can tell them over and over to perfect them over time. If you forget the punch line, sometimes you can remember it if you just start telling the joke anyway. If not, time to make up a new punchline! Funny voices are always helpful. 
8. Take care of the wood, and it will last forever. 
9. If you're going to do it, you might as well do it right. 
10. Cooking is fun. But McDonald's is handy, too. 

These might not be what he intended for me to learn, but that's I heard / observed / absorbed. 

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Earliest memory of street harassment: I was probably 10. I had just bought from the neighbor's yard sale a sparkly glass heart necklace, and my mom needed me to run to the grocery store. Could this be the best day of my life? I had on kelly green scoop neck t-shirt and a floral print skirt (I wore skirts every day of childhood unless I had to go to Girl Scouts camp until the mean girls of 7th grade bullied it out of me.) I put on my sparkly necklace and walked down the driveway. The store was maybe 2 blocks away.

I much prefer wolf birthday horns to wolf whistles. 

I was cutting a diagonal across the huge parking lot of the grocery store. My necklace was dazzling in the sunlight, shooting prisms to the pavement. I heard a man yelling, and assumed it must be because of my amazing necklace. I entered the store, feeling responsible and helpful and like a good girl, the best daughter that I could be. I got the milk. I put the change inside the paper bag.

As I retraced my steps across the parking lot, the man was still yelling. I started to feel a little scared. I couldn't really hear what he was saying, because he was far away. But he was heading towards me, and I would have to drastically change my very short route to get away from him.

So I stayed on target. He walked right up to me, and told me horrible things about my chest. I didn't look at him, but I said no. He didn't have a car, didn't offer me candy, so my school training was useless. I kept walking. I crossed the street, and he followed me. I looked into the passing cars for help, started to run a little. He got tired of yelling, or something, and stood on the sidewalk while I ran towards home.

I was crying when I brought the milk into the kitchen. Should I remind you I was 10 years old? I was pretty sure I had done something wrong, perhaps by wearing such a pretty necklace. I didn't want to tell my mom what the man said. I should not have gone by myself, or should not have been so proud, or should have run the whole way. I was the worst daughter.

And this has continued through most of my life. It was worse when I was a young woman. I am going to hope it's because I look less harassable now, but realistically I probably no longer look as much like the fantasy (young, busty, easily intimidated). But highlights (or rather, low points) include being harassed while jogging (so much so that after one particularly harrowing incident I didn't run again for 10 years), and having a man in a car nearly run me over to cut off my path, so he could tell me how good looking I was. (I still see that man at the bar. I am hoping that I remember it wrong, that he's a separate creepy starer, but it's a pretty small town. I am pretty sure it's the same guy, and I continue keep my distance.)

Until mass murder, it somehow never occurred to me that this was wrong, nor did I realize that there were men that didn't believe these things happen. It's just the way things work. Right? Do I prefer it this way? Oh, fuck no. I would much rather be able to move around town as needed, without consideration for time of day or looking "too good". Wouldn't it be great to be able to banter with strangers?

But no. That is not the way it works right now. I will, and would recommend that you do too, continue to judge each situation as it occurs. I am told the gut always knows, but I haven't ever been successful in using it in a useful fashion. I always remember to notice after the fact, oh, that didn't seem right.

I think that maybe the real danger here is the broad paintbrush, and the misguided painters that use them. It's the stereotype hammer, squashing all nails indiscriminately. It's not all all men, or all gun owners or all the mentally ill, or just the kids with Asperger's, or the politicians, that are the problem or solution. It's realizing that you can't paint them with the same broad brush, and you have to pay attention and be lucky in knowing when to defend and when to withdraw.

I do know we have to adjust the systems that make undesirable behavior easy. I believe that's called, society? I think it's important that so many women have been able to tell their stories and illuminate the crazy framework. We can't just keep telling the victim story, though. So am I going to encourage younger women to stand up for themselves, and we will always decline the pick-up artist, and dance wherever and whenever we want.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Memorial Day memories

Because I am saving my Half Year Resolutions for the 4th of July, here's some Memorial Day musings. In list formation, because you know how I love a list.

Wild lupine and honeysuckle at the trail head.

1. I feel a little bad that I didn't thank the troops on facebook for making freedom possible (yes, I am a very bad American....), but I would like to point out that Memorial Day is for remembering those who were lost at war. Presumably, they do not have profiles or regularly read them. 

2. As was outlined nicely on Salon (albeit in a weird sports kind of way), the military doesn't have much to do with freedom. If you're a philosophical sort, you will probably know either that free will does not exist, or that freedom is intrinsic and cannot be granted, it just is. 

Richard photographing his grandfather's grave
3. That being said, I do have many fond memories of accompanying the marching band for the high school my dad worked at to various rural Memorial Day parades in the 1970s. At least, I think they were Memorial Day parades, since they often went by or stopped at the town cemetery, which you wouldn't ordinarily do for the Blossom Queen parade. 

4. We rode our bikes today down the rail trail that would have gone through a few of these small towns, had we the energy to keep going. 

5. This gave me plenty of time to think about the interconnected nature of things. For example, as well as thanking the troops, who may not have directly "given" me my "freedom", we should probably thank everyone for everything. I was particularly struck by one section of the bike trail, where wildflower restoration was going taking place. I happen to know the woman who the project for the last 5 years. I don't think your average bicyclist or jogger would know that it had taken numerous volunteers 5 years of removing invasive plants to make the display you see today. They just take it for granted. 

6. So even though I am a reservedly non-patriotic American, you can't have America without me. And I thank you for your service, whatever it is you do. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

But I haven't got a thing to wear...

It's a well known quirk of mine that I have a rotating uniform for the office. (Because I love clothes, I couldn't have just one uniform, you know.) Monday is a sweater, Tuesday a skirt, Wednesday a scarf, Thursday a jacket, and Friday is for dresses.

But I don't really have a uniform for weekends or fun time. And I suspect because I like to leave things unplanned to see what happens, thus unintentionally hindering my fun while I stress about what to wear. Seriously, this happens. Ask The Smiths!

So, today I made a list of things that happen on the weekend, and what I might want to wear. This may seem like a lot of rules, but I think of it more like parameters. Because unlimited choices means anything but freedom to me. It's more like overwhelm. Because if you can wear anything, then you'll need to try on everything, right?

Which somehow lead to the bigger breakthrough. I'm afraid it will slip away again, so I'm going to write it in all caps, despite the fact it's not very catchy. I MAKE SYSTEMS TO GET THE DUMB DETAILS DOWN SO THE JUICY OTHER STUFF CAN HAPPEN. It's as big or small as you let it be, I suppose. Yes, what I'm wearing is small. But it lets the other stuff happen, right?

What's the other stuff? Always in motion is the future. Yeah, I just quoted Yoda.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Laptop's Lament

If the warranty emails from my laptop brand are to be believed, this thing is 1 year old. This shiny, solid-state, over-stimulated mouse control hunk-o-junk was purchased specifically to write this blog. And yet, weeks of silence happen.

Is there more coffee?
It's not because I don't want to write. It's about making the time, making some dinner, getting there on time, scrolling through distraction. I wish it was more about gazing at the morning sun on my cat, or hiking trips, or a meditation retreat or something, but I guess it's just poor time management. The tools are ready.

So here's to trying harder. I've got some new tricks, new motivations (it's pathetic how much we love checklists), and new focus. Soon, I can tell you at length about all my new experiments, adventures, and searches. But not today.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

It's okay, Grandma.

Grandma likes to be comfortable, and gets cratchity if there's too much noise, or static over music, or especially two kinds of music. Sometimes, I need to withdraw from the fray for a while and knit.  Hi, my name is Liz, and I might be my own grandmother.

For example, here is my ideal bed. Sadly, currently only available in cat sizes. 

Or, I might be moderately highly sensitive (yes, both adjectives are required). HERE'S a quiz if you want to check yourself. As I was happily reading clickbait on the social network that impersonates the internet these days, an article about "highly sensitive people" floated by a couple weeks ago. I lunged for the worm, and the hook was set. Apparently, the primary book on the topic has been on my coffee table for years (but probably not since 1996, when it was published). I feel a little sheepish about not reading it sooner.

The book is The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine M. Aron, PhD. My husband picked it up a couple years(!) ago on a random book store trip. He says he read part of it, and it was "good". That's all the encouragement I need, as I will read anything in front of me. It was cereal boxes, back in the pre-internet days.

So, I read it, and it was very reassuring. I'm not prematurely elderly. There's a name for it. And it's okay to take the time and solitude I need to feel comfortable.

Dr. Aron has a very kind writing voice, and I liked that there was research and field experience to back her suggestions. The book is broken into sections, to assist with feeling comfortable in a general lifestyle, at work, in relationships, etc.

I will note some of the exercises in the book felt a little too woo woo for me. That's a lot of woo woo, if you've read me before. I'm quite willing to make a vision board or set an intention while de-cluttering a room. But I'm not very comfortable with visualizing myself as a fussy infant, and then having a conversation with myself (as myself now, with myself the infant) to find out what my needs are.  Yeah. That's not working for me, even though I tried.

I've always been puzzled about the introverted extrovert, or the extroverted shy person that I seem to be. This concept of a personality trait seems tie it together better. And not that it matters what you call it, but everyone wants to know that they belong, and this seems like a good solution for me and many of my friends. There's no longer a reason to refer to myself in the third person as "Grandma". I can just be my sensitive self.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

No, really, what's it all about?

I haven't been around lately. I would love to say I was traveling, or on a yoga retreat or something, but I was staring at my smart phone.

All my little experiments are about learning to wobble. Finding whiz, get it? That's what it's all about. There's no destination, just speed and sometimes grace. Sure, it's a little frustrating, because you never get there. You just keep turning over rocks. So, what am I working on now? Sleep. Steps. Meditation. All of which I can monitor from my smart phone.

So we wobble on. In fact, let's learn to wobble.

Sleep Cycle is my favorite app, perhaps of all time. You use your phone, placed under your pillow, to measure your sleep quality. When you set an alarm, the app uses your measurements to wake you up at the shallowest portion of your sleep cycle with a catchy, calming, echo-y song. You then can review all the oddly lovely graphs of your sleep. I've only got a week of measurements, but I'm seeing that I really do use weekends to "catch up" and stress makes my sleep poor, where exercise improves it. Duh. And Oh!

Steps are on my mind again. The snow is melting (very very very slowly, but that's probably good for the ground and my basement humidity). It's time to go for some walks. Now that I'm motivated to be well rested, I'm amazed to discover that the daylight savings time light seems to be a good fit for getting up early (I know, it makes no sense). So maybe I can get some walks in before work even! And my activity tracker is still motivating me.

And the holy goblet of meditation, you wily nebulous goal. One of my newer apps, called Happier has a meditation program. (I would love the app so much more if they didn't constantly direct you to purchase one of their programs, but I am loving the Meditation one....) Sure, I thought, nothing else has worked (like pure force of will). Why not? And it's really good. The facilitator has removed quite a few of my mental barriers to why I "can't" seem to meditate. Turns out, I was doing okay. I just needed a mantra to focus on. But it's only a 7 day program, and I'm on day 5. What to do next?

Wobble on, I guess. Because really, I'm not trying to "save" time, or increase my earnings, or lose 20 pounds fast (although all those things sound good sometimes). I'm trying to do better, so I can love better.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Slow Growth

Liz and a tree, originally uploaded by wizzybit.

(I am fully aware that is a Joshua tree and not a Saguaro cactus. The metaphors that follow should still apply, however.)

So why am I doing this blog anyway? It started as a record and an outlet for my self-improvement ramblings. So many of my experiments either do not produce reportable findings or don't take off at all. But I think checking for growth is important. You stop growing, well, you stop.

And if you're a plant, you start dying? Granted, I am not a plant. But I might be a super-slow plant, like a Saguaro cactus (the slowest growing plant in the world, says Google).

One of the gardener mantras from my summer of manual labor was, "If it's brown, cut it down." (Weeds were "pull it low and pull it slow". There were some other ones, but they might have been about coffee or mulch....). And it seems like a good time to start pruning in my life. Pruning to produce fruit? Root pruning, in order to stay healthy in a small container? I think we're just cutting out the dead and crossing branches. You have to be careful with the slow-growing plants, because it will take them a while to recover from a poorly-planned cut.

So what I am cutting? I've been working on my definite no list. It's the list of things I never have to consider, unless I want to. It includes weeknight bar nights, boats, horror movies, and white pants. When it gets warmer, we'll try to think bigger.

But for now, I'm dropping the dead buds and storing water. Hang on.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Snow Smarts

Snow is the boss right now. Snows tells us where to be, when we're going to get there, how much activity is possible or necessary. Snow, frankly, is kind of a jerk.

So I am trying to find ways to appreciate the, uh, crystal clarity of snow. Snow wisdom, if you like. Because the snow is teaching me what I really like, and it's surprising.

Maybe I was just mopey last weekend. I'd had a stressful week at work, and every day it seemed like there was more snow. We are running out of places to put it around our driveway, which affects our mobility, and then when you do get the car on the road, the streets are narrow and slippery. The below-zero temperatures make it less carefree for being outside, and it's rare to find a sidewalk that has been cleared, let alone a long stretch of them for walking. So, I am definitely feeling housebound, and motivated to get out.

Except for when I'm not. There were multiple occasions last weekend when the struggle to get through the snow to the event seemed more than a minor annoyance, but a true barrier. Some of these were social events, yes. And I've always thought of myself as a very social person, happiest in a crowd. How could I miss the party, and yet be okay with it? This had never happened before.

But if I really think about it, it happens all the time, and has for all time. It used to drive my younger brother to tears because sometimes I just had to play by myself, in my room, with the door closed. It's not that I didn't enjoy playing with him, but that sometimes I knew, even as a child, that I needed to be by myself. Somehow, I've forgotten that, and packed the calendar with lots of lovely activities, but more loveliness than I can handle.

And even though I used to know this, I am still surprised by what a homebody I've turned into over the years. If you had told me 20 years ago I would want to stay home sometimes (anytime!), I would have told you that was impossible.

It suddenly occurred to me, snow is the lens! When accepting invitations, I need to remember, what if I had to dig the car out of a snowbank? Would I still want to go to this?

So, yes, snow is the boss. Snow is kind of jerk. But it makes it all crystal clear. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Just in time for my "I should write more email letters, like I used to" thoughts, Google has made it SCIENTIFICALLY possible to send messages to anyone on the Google world. Crazy scary, or crazy cool?

I also have a real letter to write, in response to a real letter. Like, on paper. With a pen. And maybe some sparkly stickers.

And, I need to write some letters that won't get sent. You know, that old trick. Get it off your chest, then burn it and cry or something. I think I spent all my teen years doing this.

I also know there are crazy pen pal hook-ups out there, but I might be too old for that. I want real correspondence, with the people that I know and love and want to communicate with. It's about connection.

I used to have multiple pen pals as a child from Sweden, Australia, England, California (I know, California is not a country, but it was a foreign land to me at the time). We happily chattered about school and favorite meals and friends, and with the girl from California whom I wrote to for more than 10 years, boyfriends and marriages.

And I don't do that anymore. I do see the irony, coming from someone who returns text messages hours later, but that doesn't mean I don't have something to say.

So here's to communication, readers. Let's get it out there, whatever way we know how. I'm going to try paper for a while. I re-discovered my storage bin of stationery and I have more than enough paper (and most likely, random ramblings) to entertain us all for the rest of the millennium. Who wants a letter? Use the magical Google plusness to send me your address.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Free Milk!

I just finished reading the Bloggesseseses' book and realizing how stupid and amazing it is that we can write books from the internet. Or are we writing books ON the internet? For the internet?

I guess it doesn't matter, because one of the more respectable occupations I've pined for over the years was "writer", and now I could say I am doing it. Oh sure, a big bound wad of paper for the coffee table would be impressive to more, but you can not deny that I have written this, and you are reading it. (Unless, I never get this thing out of draft mode, which is entirely possible.)

And it also stuns me to realize how many of the books I've read recently are blog-based. I got the Foodist for my Kindle, which wasn't really bright because I'd like to loan it to some people or have it in the kitchen. Oh well. I bought TWO copies of Humans of New York for Christmas gifts. I am now less dumb! and have the book to prove it.

But I am also aware that I am not writing books. (To wit - I'm nibbling through the decadent granola chocolate bacon bar that is Infinite Jest again. This is not anywhere close to that.) I've apparently cast myself as the cow, the cow that gives away free milk and doesn't need to purchased unless you're a foolish, greedy man who is scared of generosity.

Really, when I think about that analogy, I'm most angry with the cow-boycotting man, who will not appreciate the gifts he is receiving, but will continue to accept them without gratitude. The cow is just giving away milk, BECAUSE SHE MUST. She will explode if the milk is not expressed, and it would be quite painful. If you've sampled the milk, and you find it delicious, then pay for your milk, JERKFACE.

(By the way, I do realize that paying FOR the cow does not actually compensate the cow, but rather the other man, who owns the cow. And also, this is why I never want to hear this applied to a relationship EVER AGAIN. Unless you come from a culture that actually uses a dowry, please, stop. Milk is free and fun. It doesn't really apply to a business situation either if you mean to imply that the independent contractor cow is at fault for not receiving fees for her services, because the COW WORKS FOR SOMEONE ELSE. If you find a cow with a checking account, please let me know.)

But I haven't really learned many lessons either. I have pondered the difference between a blog that I could read for free and the book I must purchase and read in its entirety, and I'm not sure what the magic factor is. I'd like to remain open to paying for books from blogs I enjoy, because I like to think of myself as a nice person who pays for her milk. But on the other hand, there's so much good stuff out there!

And know that I'm certainly not asking you to pay me for anything. Unless you're like Penguin or St. Martin's Press or something... in which case, drop me a line. I could come up with some special dairy, just for you.

But it's a wonderful thing, isn't it, that there's so much to choose from? What blogs do you enjoy that should be books? What books have you read recently? 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Word of the year: Enough

You know how there's those people who are like, "I love Christmas!" or "Halloween is my favorite holiday!" Well, I'm the one that ADORES New Year's. Lists! Parties! Optimistic statements and wishes for future happiness! This is what makes me tick. 

In the past, I've done the whole inventory-of-past-disappointments with a detailed plan-for-future-success baloney. I've made lists of resolutions. I've narrowed the resolutions down to only 3 (or maybe 5). I've stopped calling them resolutions, so people stop laughing at my idealistic intentions. And really, I think I've succeeded most of the time, in that I still believe in trying to make it better. 

So this year, I'm trying microhabits, not resolutions. Easy to keep. Almost stupidly so, in fact. But hopefully, these tiny steps will make big things happen. Vague enough to be applicable in a lot of situations, but specific enough to move the ball forward. The framework is "enough". These are the little triangles in the corner of said frame:

1. Say hi to the "boss" every day (the boss being whoever runs the particular endeavor I'm trying to participate with). 
2. Say hi to the "family" every day (the family being my friends, colleagues, co-pilots, passersby, etc.)
3. Find one truth every day (the truth being beauty, or quiet, or something I need to say).
4. Pick up one piece of trash every day (trash being anything from actual trash to a mess that I've made in a relationship or whatever).

And this is part of the picture with which I hope to fill the frame:
26 books read
52 blog posts!!!
104 dances
206 hugs
345 pleasant dreams
365 trash bags (hopefully not literally....)
730 hellos