Monday, August 30, 2010

no impact experiment: days 1 & 2

day 1: consumption
things i "need" to buy this week:
- groceries (girl's gotta eat, farmer's market thursday)
- shower soap (try dr. bronner's)
- hankies (mom donating bandannas)
- clothes for vacation (wait, see what i already have)
- notebooks for vacation (found a bunch of unused ones in my closet)
- mini alarm clock for trip (may be able to borrow one)
- trash can with lid (non-essential)
- new toiletry bag (see if old one still works)
- new tennies (they can hold on a little longer)
- train pass (girl's gotta get to work)
- parts for car (the check engine light won't turn itself off, oh wait, it did)
- gas for car (car's gotta get to mechanic)
- sand for toilet tank weight (can probably scare some up somewhere)

so not too bad. looks like i'm down to food, transport and important maintenance.

day 2: trash
i was please to see that most of my trash falls into the following categories:
- empty food cans
- q-tips
- kleenex (this will be resolved today thanks to mom-delivered hankies)
- floss
not one of them did i use for more than 10 minutes, though the food cans were on my shelves for months, which is why i buy them. i already compost food scraps and recycle paper (once it's used on both sides), so that was a big help.

i would like to find some way to seriously decrease my food-related packaging trash but have found it challenging for several reasons a) i cook only on weekends so need stuff i can store, b) i have pretty intense food allergies so bulk foods are out due to cross-contamination.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

readying for no impact

yesterday i read through the no impact week how-to manual and realized there's probably a little pre-work i could get done ahead of time to make things go a little more smoothly.

sunday: consumption
- make sign for computer that says "amazon" with a big red strike through it

monday: trash
- get reusable produce bags (done)
- make hankies from old dish towels

tuesday: transportation
- research train and shuttle schedules and prices

wednesday: food
- find local farmer's markets (done)
- research CSAs

thursday: energy
- plug computer power strip into light switch outlet for easy on/off

friday: water
- buy, borrow or otherwise acquire a five-gallon bucket to put under the tub spigot
- get my hands on an empty plastic water bottle to fill and put in toilet tank

saturday: giving back
- look into local volunteer opportunities

sunday: eco-sabbath
- share my plans to unplug with interested parties
- make sure i have matches (or lighters that work)

Monday, August 23, 2010

walking the walk

i keep writing and thinking about the life i want to live and the things i need to do before i can start living that life. the events of the last month or two have forced me to face an important truth: if you wait for your life to be just right before beginning, you very well may wind up waiting forever. i'll be writing more soon about just what that might entail, but in the interim, i have signed up for two events that should help get me re-inspired:

1. no impact experiment: i talk a lot about wanting to make a difference for the planet. what better place to start than in my own life and home. and having the support of like-minded people who are doing the same thing at the same time doesn't hurt either.

2. writing and mindfulness retreat: it's always surprising how the first habits many people lose in a crisis are those that can best help them get through. writing and mindfulness are two of the top three on my peak emotional health list.

and let me add one more quick note: there was an inspiring article in the paper last about the radical homemaking trend that's sweeping the land. especially cool: one of the featured homemakers is someone i know (okay, the wife of someone i know, but close enough).

Monday, August 16, 2010

asking for help

last week i attended a very interesting training through work called situational self leadership. it was actually a really great course with some great information about development stages and what kind of support you need from your manager during each stage. the most important thing i learned in the class was this: no matter how long you've done a job, or been in an industry, there is always going to be some new task at which you are a beginner. and as a beginner, you will need help. for me, that means two things:

- learn to recognize when you need help
- when you need help ask for it

you can't assume anyone is going to know what you need and automatically give it to you, especially if you don't know yourself. and even if they do, you may not realize you need it and may turn them away.

there is at least one new task in my job that i have been struggling to get a handle on without the information or experience i need. this has caused me a ton of undo stress and more than my share of mistakes. the good news is, i now know to ask for the help i need (even if i don't know what it is because i've never done this job before).

the question now is: where else in my life am i trying to make a change or take on something new where i could use a little help? it may be time to call in the cavalry.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

creative inspiration

i love this idea. it seems the perfect way to get the creative juices flowing. not sure i'll be able to do them every day (or post them daily if i do), but i'm going to give it a shot. its been a long time since i've done any drawing at all, so it's going to be interesting.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

further adrift

first school, now houses and jobs. the balls that i got rolling over the last few months have come to a screeching halt. this morning i woke up and wrote a long list of all of the actions i can take to try and force this forward but later, after 30 minutes on the acupuncture table i decided to scrap that list of external action items and instead focus on internal refocusing. to that end, rather than pushing forward on projects, i resolve to do the following over the next seven days:

- read (one book at a time) instead of watching streamed TV
- shop at at least one farmers market per week
- plant something (or better yet, transplant something
- go outside
- reinvigorate my daily meditation and stretching practices

sometimes when you chase something it runs, but if you sit quietly it may come lay its head on your lap or let you feed it an apple from your lunch box.

Friday, July 30, 2010


So for the last month or so I have been diligently (voraciously?) preparing for my impending return to school. I bought the books, reorganized my apartment in a more study-friendly way, even canceled my cable and donated my TV to remove my single largest distraction and help offset the costs of registration fees. So while the rest of my life continued to flounder along in uncertainty (should I buy a house, change the job, reconsider the relationship?), the promise of school gave me purpose and direction... gave, you ask? You caught that, huh?

Yes, gave. You see, after all that, the program didn't meet its minimum enrollment and was cut last week. So no school for me, after all. At least not this year. Talk about having the rug pulled out from under you. And I still don't feel like I have my footing back yet.

The good news is that my enrollment has been guaranteed for next fall (should they get enough people then), so at least I won't have to re-apply. As for the rest, I'm trying to remain philosophical. Now I have the chance to address some of those other issues which could very well have turned an exciting learning adventure into a high-stress nightmare.

So yes, universe, I get it. And I have already begun actively working on clearing stress from my life. But I will also be continuing to pursue whatever opportunities I can find that may help prepare me for my academic project once next fall rolls around.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

loose ends

it's 54 degrees outside and i have cleaning on my mind. over the last week or so i have been purging my office at work. my file drawer was so stuffed with papers that i could barely open the drawer. sure i could have gotten another cabinet, but the truth is, there are only a few folders that i ever look at, so why keep all that paper? especially when most of the documents are on my computer anyway. so out they go. i've finished all but two: HR paperwork and the dreaded miscellaneous folder. including those two as-yet-unweeded files, everything i have left takes up less than half the drawer. love that.

the unclutter your life in one week book was a huge help in terms of helping me decide what to keep and what to toss (hint: if it's info that will advance your learning or cover your butt keep it, if not, let it go). unfortunately, the author's idea of what can be done in a week is a little unrealistic. take all your clothes out of closets and drawers, try them all on and divide them into keep, donate, sell or toss before work on a monday morning? not likely. i doubt i could do that in a day (though i intend to try as soon as i get a day). but as long as you aren't trying to accomplish it according to the tight schedule (or can take a week off, or at the very least send the kids away) it's full of great information and tips. then again, so is, and her plan is much more manageable, though with admittedly much slower results.

also accomplished: signing up for auto-pay on my cell phone bill (will sign up for e-bill as soon as i get the email address updated). best way to tame the paper monster: don't get the paper in the first place.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

the bigger picture

i was going to write that i've gotten derailed from this project, but that's actually not quite right. i have still been reading and thinking about style and personal brand, but i've also found myself drawn out into the bigger picture.

the purpose of the last 12 weeks has been to focus on specific, detailed aspects of my life to try and get myself back on track. and it's been working. i'm taking better care of myself. i've identified my core values and what i need in terms of my physical environment. i've reorganized my living space and my priorities. i've even taken some first steps toward changes i've wanted to make for a long time with regards to work and "good works." now it's time for (to quote elvis) "a little less conversation, a lot more action."

to that end i applied to and was accepted into a graduate program focused on just that.

We do not believe that being educated consists of "knowing things." Rather, we believe that it consists of being able to think about the "things" that you know. And involves being challenged, being confronted with other viewpoints, and being able to articulate your own changing understandings.

As people become aware of the magnitude of dilemmas and issues in the world they inhabit, they often express the desire and need to go beyond studying these problems; they want to know what they can do about them. This program is a response to that question. We emphasize the interrelationship between three themes: economic/social justice issues, ecological issues, and the personal and political dimensions of change.

i cannot wait to get started.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

style notes from the ether

the internet is a veritable smorgasbord of style and brand insights today.

mother earth news has a fun discussion of whether letting hair grow naturally long is a viable answer to the age old question "cut it myself or spend bank on a salon?" (i, for one, have adopted a middle ground, choosing to keep my high-priced salon but only getting it done two or three times a year; i also stick with my natural color which saves money, time and exposure to seriously toxic chemicals.)

and then there was this interesting piece in the daily flylady newsletter about style from regular contributor missus smarty pants talking about wardrobe choices and style. i especially love her intro where she compared dressing well to eating a well-balanced diet: if you don't have the right basics in your pantry, you can't cook a healthy meal. read about it or listen onine.

while i was surfing her site, i also found a nice little article on the whys and hows of closet purging. definitely a good place to start. i'm hoping to do some of that soon myself. my closet is so packed with clothes ranging in size from zero to nine that i can hardly get dressed in the morning.

and while we're on the subject, i want to get back to flylady for just a moment. personal style is about more than just how you look. your style gets reflected in your choice of car, your interior decor, and so much more. and while i absolutely love the way my apartment is decorated, i don't so much love what the piles of papers and laundry say about me. if you're the same way, give flylady a fly-by. i have to say, it really works.

Monday, June 14, 2010

link love: 8 steps to creating a brand persona

this morning facebook served up this lovely, topic-related link from new media guru brian solis. it's simple, clear, timely and definitely worth a read.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

week eleven: personal style

okay, i've been wallowing around in weighty topics for a while now. i think it's time to lighten things up. but maybe just a little. because let's face it, as fun as personal style can be, how you look, dress, act and communicate has a huge impact on how other people see you. and sure, it's easy enough to say "i don't care what other people think," but when it comes right down to it, these other people can make your life either a lot easier or a lot harder. but beyond that, i have always believed that it's really important to somehow express what's on the inside on the outside. it's one thing to be judged for who you are, and another thing entirely to be judged for who they mistakenly believe you to be. sure, you can't control other people's perceptions, but you can take a firmer hand in what you're projecting. and what's the first step to that? to find out what it is.

so, for the next two weeks i plan to...
- assess the current state of my style: wardrobe, appearance, written communication, verbal communication, non-verbal communication, actions, work styles
- figure out what impressions these styles give others (when in doubt, ask)
- fix it

but first, (or at least in tandem) it's important to decide how you want to be perceived. that way you have something to measure against.

as robin fisher roffer put it in her book make a name for yourself, "if you don't brand yourself, someone else will." which is fine if you like what they see. if not, it's time to make some changes. and while you're at it, it doesn't hurt to simplify your life a little...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

one more quick note on homes

this morning i found out that the second offer on the house was for more than i can afford, so this is not my house after all. i'm a little disappointed but not as much as i expected. i believe there are two reasons for this:

1. reorganizing my current living space has made it much more livable
2. as i wrote about yesterday, home is not a building, it's a feeling, and i am learning to disassociate that feeling from "place" and instead carry it inside of me

this does not mean i will stop looking. i do believe my house is still out there and we will find each other. i am in no real hurry, and i need to trust the universe.

so there we are -- closure for the two weeks focused on home as sanctuary. time to move on to the next topic and let the universe work its magic in the background.

Monday, June 7, 2010

the meaning of home

my apartment is clean, well, mostly, and completely rearranged. the dining alcove now holds my red chenille couch, my grandparents' coffee table and a shiny new imac. and in the living room, my books, my sewing machine, my desk and if it works, soon, my small dining room table and chairs. the tv is still here, but not for long. yes, i am getting in my dying media hours while i can. i will be donating the tv and dvd player to goodwill as soon as i can find someone to help me move them. the whole place feels more open and more suited to the life i want to be living. but that's not what i wanted to write about.

over the weekend i went back to look at the house. it's not a perfect house but it feels like the right house. it feels like my house.

i talked to the realtor for a long time. he told me about the house. he told me about the neighborhood. he told me about the history of the town. he told me about the fog festival and that the nearby cafe barbecues every summer weekend. and then he told me that the real yard for the house was two houses down and across the street -- the beach.

after i left i walked those two houses down to the ocean, out onto the pier between fisherman, then down the beach. people were flying kites, and having picnics. they said hello and met my eye as i walked by. it was like living in a small town. the kind where everybody knows your name. it felt like home.

a house is just a building. it's what you find inside -- the house, the neighborhood, the town -- that matters.

send me good thoughts. they decide on my offer tomorrow night.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

floods wash the world clean

as i probably mentioned i had hoped to spend the long memorial day weekend getting my literal house in order -- cleaning, sorting, reorganizing, etc. unfortunately, due to the great water-heater flood, not only did i not get anything done (i spent the entire weekend staying with my parents), i actually lost major ground. items from the flood zone now rest willy-nilly throughout the drier areas of my apartment. and while furniture is mostly back in the right rooms, it still stands well clear of walls that need restorative patching and painting.

this has left me feeling extremely demoralized. as in week one where i got sick as soon as i turned my attention to health, having my home dismantled felt like a huge blow to my desired progress. but for some reason, today that feeling changed. i suddenly saw it as an opportunity, not just to make the current layout work, but to completely rethink how i use my space. should the dining room remain an office? maybe. or maybe it should become a craft room. or maybe even a dining room. the possibilities are endless. okay, maybe not endless, but you see where i'm going here.

meanwhile the house hunt continues. i've found a place i really like but am waffling. partly because it stretches my price (a lot) and partly because i fear commitment to another home -- the work, the cost, the permanence. which is silly, because the permanence is actually what i am longing for. at any rate, the plan is to see it one more time and make a decision. i don't want to lose another house because i waited too long.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

setbacks, signs and tests

my plan for this long memorial day weekend was to make some serious progress on the current topic at hand. i had seen one house on wednesday and had another scheduled for viewing this morning, with a third to see on sunday. i also planned to get my current apartment cleaned, sorted and generally made more conducive to creativity and health. i woke up early this morning raring to go, jumped out of bed and into the swampiest carpet i'd ever laid foot on.

after some sleuthing, i figured out that my water heater had burst sometime during the night, flooding the storage closet that houses it, the entire patio and the interior of the apartment including the bedroom, laundry room, bathroom and part of the office.

the good news is this:
- caught it fast
- only the bedroom is carpeted
- my apartment maintenance people responded with amazing speed
- after weeks of rain, it is actually 80 degrees and sunny outside

the bad news is this:
- the bedroom had to be emptied of everything except the pictures on the walls
- it will take at least 24 hours for the carpets to be dried
- it may be a while before i can sleep in my own bed again
- i spent the morning moving furniture instead of visiting house number two

not only did i not get to do the things i wanted and needed to do, i lost serious ground. my living room and kitchen are so stuffed with the bedroom furniture, you can't even walk into them. in fact, my bedframe had to be put outside because there wasn't enough room.

i have been trying to be philosophical about it. after all, there's not much i can do. but two conflicting thoughts keep rearing their ugly little heads:
- clearly i need to move the hell out of this place
- if i owned the home i would have had to fix it myself

but it also made me think about some of the important things i'm looking for in my next place:
- a feeling of safety
- a measure of control over my environment, and by extension, my health
- space for creative expression
- manageable size but with plenty of room to move
- garden space (roots in dirt)
- light
- airflow
- warmth
- clear of mold and other allergens
- quiet
- amenities within walking distance (ideally groceries, library, yoga)
- clean air
- soothing

but speaking tactically, no carpets is key. and i will seriously consider an on-demand water heater wherever i wind up.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

week nine: home as sanctuary

you know that old saying a man's home is his castle? well, for this woman, home is her sanctuary. or it should be anyway. but right now, it's definitely not. it's small, it's dark, it's crowded and thanks to my upstairs neighbor, it is often loud and smells like cigarettes. (you know you're getting old when the first thing you think about your bass-playing upstairs neighbor is "time to move" and not "wonder when his band's playing.")

at any rate, after years of living in over-priced, over-populated apartment complexes, i've decided it's time to give home ownership another shot.

i've actually been hunting for a while now. i started out looking in sonoma county, hoping to take advantage of the rock-bottom prices now and move there later, but realized i didn't want to have to pay rent and mortgage or become a landlord, so now i am looking closer to home. it will cost me probably double, but given how much i'm paying in rent right now, i may even come out ahead.

so this week (and probably next) i will:
- define and document what i want from a house (the "qualities" not the specifics)
- check out the local house and townhouse inventory
- find ways to make my current living situation more sanctuary-like (not sure how yet, but something will come to me)

double lucky for me, i have a long weekend coming up in which to get it rolling.

Monday, May 24, 2010

week eight recap

wow. the last two weeks focused on natural beauty have been great. after years of talking about it, i have in that short time been able to swap out nearly all of my toxic beauty products. even better, i learned that the folks who make my favorite lotion have changed the formula so that it is now toxin-free.

i am still working on three items: facial cleanser, facial moisturizer and sensitive toothpaste (actually, make that four, i just realized this morning that my lip balm includes an ingredient that i am allergic to), but i have faith that with kelly's help i will soon find solutions that are even better than the toxic ones i use now.

one thing i want to point out (mostly to remind myself): the three best things you can do for beautiful, skin, hair and mind are drink water, get enough sleep, and eat right. now that my products are all in order, i need to make sure i pay as much daily attention to what goes into my body as to what goes on it.

next up: home as sanctuary

Friday, May 21, 2010

product review: desert essence organics fragrance-free hand and body lotion

okay, i'll admit it: it may be a bit premature to review a product i have only had in my hands for... oh, about 47 minutes, but after one use, i already love it. it's rich but not too thick, creamy, not greasy; and although it's fragrance-free it does have a very subtle scent from the all-natural ingredients that's reminiscent of butterscotch.

- 100% vegan, wheat and gluten-free and also free of parabens, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates, pthalates, artificial fragrances or colors, silicones, EDTA, glycol and petroleum-based ingredients
- feels great going (and staying) on
- pleasant, very mild scent
- great price

cons: nothing yet... will keep you posted

verdict: only time will tell, but at this moment, i'm feeling like i found my new lotion.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

extending natural beauty week

things have been picking up at work. this has made it much harder for me to tackle a topic in only one week. so now that the week is half over, welcome to week two of natural beauty.

yesterday i continued my work by ordering a number of products from a fantastic online supplement and natural product shop called here's what's winging its way to me as i type:

- crystal body deodorant stick to replace my usual deodorant and the natural one i bought to replace it which contains aloe and therefore makes me break out in a rash after a day or two
- tom's of maine natural sensitive toothpaste to replace the oh-so unnatural sensodyne
- desert essence organics fragrance free shampoo and conditioner to use when the avalon organics gets too "clarifying"
- desert essence organics unscented hand and body lotion to use in the morning when coconut-oily hands just won't do

can hardly wait for them to arrive so i can give them a try. and if i don't like them, i won't worry too much before passing them on because the prices were really good.

and of course, i'm still looking forward to kelly's recommendations because i know she won't steer me wrong.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

product review: spectrum organic coconut oil body care

okay, so next up on my quest to rid my life of toxic beauty products: replacing my beloved v'tae vanilla lotion, which sadly contains parabens, with all natural coconut oil.

- smells yummy
- makes skin amazingly soft, especially over time
- works great as an overnight hair moisturizer

- super oily and stays that way (it is an oil, after all)
- sometimes the smell is too much

verdict: i love this product, but it's best used at night when it doesn't matter if you accidentally touch your face or hair with oily hands. it also seems to be the perfect solution for the over-drying shampoo issue from the last post. just run oiled fingers through hair, sleep, wash. it works like a dream. (so well in fact that over the weekend i purged my stash of toxic shampoos -- don't worry, i donated.)

of course i will need to find a new day-use product, but luckily kelly tirman is on the job. will keep you posted.

Friday, May 14, 2010

product review: avalon organics lemon clarifying shampoo & conditioner

for my first forray into natural products i decided to give avalon organics a shot. i chose the lemon clarifying shampoo and conditioner because the only other one they had was lavender which sends me into sneezing fits. so...

- all natural
- great lather
- hair is shiny, bouncy and clean
- conditioner does not leave slimy film on skin

- clarifying formula is a bit too drying for every day
- smells a little like lemon-scented cleaning products during application (luckily this goes away once it's dry)

the verdict: i actually love this product, but will need to find either a different everyday shampoo or a way to get more moisture into my hair so the ends don't get too dried out.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

week seven: beauty

okay, i'm going to swerve slightly in another direction while i let my other work percolate. inspired by fellow blogger kelly tirman, i would like to focus what's left of this week on beauty.

recently she posted a challenge on her blog. she asked her readers to present her with their worst offending toxic skincare and beauty products. she would then hunt down natural, non- or low-tox alternatives.

i decided to take her up on her challenge and have a closer look at the products i use every day, and while some of them are above reproach, others contain ingredients that should never touch human skin. or soil that you ever want to grow food in.

here's where i've got it figured out:
- body soap: sappo hill unscented organic oatmeal (all natural, all organic, all good)
- hand soap: dr. bronner's almond liquid soap (all natural, all good)
- cuticle cream: burt's bees lemon butter cuticle cream
- lip balm: burt's bees beeswax lip balm
- lip color: burt's bees raisin lip shimmer

and after that is where it starts to get ugly...
- body lotion: v'tae vanilla super hydrating lotion (the best lotion with the best smell, but alas, not paraben-free)
- facial cleanser: mary kay timewise 3-in-1 cleanser (combination/oily)
- facial moisturizer: mary kay timewise age-fighting moisturizer (combination/oily)

and then there is the shampoo issue. i just can't seem to sort that out. right now in my shower i have:
- paul mitchell shampoo one and the rinse conditioner
- suave tropical coconut shampoo and conditioner
- aussie moist shampoo and conditioner plus three minute miracle
- suave for kids 2-in-1 cowabunga coconut shampoo
- TIGI catwalk oatmeal & honey shampoo and conditioner

i just can't seem to find something that works for me (love the aussie, but can't take the smell; love the smell of the oatmeal & almond, but it makes my hair too heavy; like the paul mitchell shampoo but not the conditioner... you get the picture).

so while kelly is tackling my facial cleansing program, i've taken a stab at my shampoo and lotion by trying the following new products:
- spectrum coconut oil body care in place of my current lotion
- avalon organics lemon clarifying shampoo and conditioner

i'll let you know how how it goes. and maybe once i've taken care of these, i can move on to toothpaste and antiperspirant... now that's going to be ugly.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

week six recap

some weeks there is just so much going on it's tough to keep up. sometimes it lasts more than a week. that's how it's been for me lately. the good news is, a lot of what's going on is good. or offers the possibility for good. i just haven't had time to report it.

what i do want to post today though is something that has become apparent over the last few weeks focused on meaningful work, and it's this: meaningful work is not a stand-alone thing. it's one component of an integrated life, and that's what i realize i've been struggling to find.

i have been living my life out of buckets: the health bucket, the creativity bucket, the writing bucket, the gardening bucket, the job bucket, the spirituality bucket, the daughter bucket, the girlfriend bucket... and never the twain shall meet.

in trying to identify what my "heart's desires" are, i realized i couldn't break them down into home, creativity, health, relationships, etc. because they are all intertwined.

trying to focus on creativity made me realize my home is not a place that allows space for that. trying to focus on my health made me realize without spirituality and creativity in my life, my health will continue to be missing important components.

so what is my heart's desire? a creative, healthy, productive, integrated life and a physical space and interpersonal connections to support it. and now i have a pretty good picture in my head of what that means. and i believe that it is possible to attain.

i also wanted to share this video from a great chiropractor/nutritionish and all-around health-improver about how to maintain a healthy weight.

Friday, May 7, 2010

bringing dreams to life

according to sonia choquette's book your heart's desire there are two key components to bringing your dreams to life: attention and intention. according to
  • attention is directing your mind to a specific object or goal (focusing your thoughts on your dream)
  • intention is the act of determining mentally upon some action or result (basically deciding what the outcome will be and accepting it on faith that it will come to pass)
of course before you can do that you need to figure out what that dream is. here are a few basics, extrapolated from the book, to start you in the right direction:
  • pick something that really matters to you: throw out the shoulds and the can'ts. look deep and really feel what would bring joy and satisfaction into your life. sure, i'd feel really good about myself if i could save the world but if i'm honest, maybe what i really want is to run a small bookstore or write poetry. that's okay. in fact, it's better than okay. and you never can tell what far-reaching impact these "small" dreams can have.
  • start simple: it's easy to future-trip and spin elaborate fantasies, but you'll never get even close if you don't start with the here and now. dream of becoming a famous artist? start by finding more time in your life to practice your art. want to have more quality time with your family but are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed with chores? maybe a cleaning service is just what you need. both may seem mundane, but they are achievable first steps that will help put you on your path.
  • be specific, but not too specific: specific would be "i want to get married to a loving man and start a family." too specific would be "i want my current boyfriend to propose on valentines day, marry me on new year's eve and to have three kids named jonah, kaitlin and frankie, each two years apart." don't limit the gifts the universe can give you or you'll miss out on getting more than you ever dreamed of (often in exchange for something that turns out to be something you didn't really want).
  • use your powers for good: whatever your path, this whole thing works best when you focus on spiritual and emotional not material gains and definitely steer clear of wishing for bad things to happen to other people. 
yes, it's easier said than done. way easier. then again, there are lots of tools to help you figure these things out. like this book, which has already helped a lot and i'm only at chapter one.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

looking back to look forward

i have read more than one book that pegs the ages of 9-11 as those years when you are most fully yourself -- old enough to have formed your personality but young enough that you haven't been beaten down by  and cultural and familial expectations. many of these books say that when looking to create a more fulfilling future, the best place to search for ideas is in your past. start with some of these questions:

- what was your favorite subject in school? (english and history, though i pretty much loved all school)
- what were your interests / what did you do in your free time? (gymnastics, climbing trees, catching pollywogs, read books, sewing, drawing -- especially designs of houses, creating terrariums, decorating my dollhouse, making furniture for my dollhouse out of tin cans and sponges, indoor gardening)
- what were your favorite games? (made-up imagination games like trapped on a dessert island)
- what did you collect? (books, especially fantasy, plants, tropical fish, teddy bears, especially smokey)
- what were your favorite tv shows, movies or books? (chronicles of prydain, the hobbit, chronicles of narnialittle house, and of course my favorite book, the little prince)
- what did you want to be when you grew up? (teacher, writer, artist, mom)
- why?

for me, remembering wasn't that hard. i have a record of many other of these things and remember a lot. each of us kids had one of those school record books where we kept our report cards, class photos and filled in our best friends, favorite teachers and yes, what we wanted to be when we grew up. and i still see and speak to my family and friends from back then which makes it easy to supplement my memories.

but looking at my answers, i  feel like what they say is true. the things i long to bring back into my life are those things that i loved most then: nature, creativity, imagination, words, books, and learning. and i can't help but think that bringing some of those things back into my life might help me feel more grounded and in touch with my true self.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

possible paths (aka options)

clearly i have a wide range of interests and skills and thus a wide range of career options. sure, i'll probably never be a hardware engineer or a perfume designer, but hey, i wouldn't like those jobs anyway. so what could i be when i grow up?

  • writer (novels, non-fiction, screenplays, articles)
  • copywriter (web, real estate, brochures, branding materials)
  • editor (you name it)
  • resume editor/consultant 
  • creativity coach
  • artist (crafts, photography, art)
  • landscape designer
  • landscape architect
  • gardener
  • nurserywoman
  • horticulturist
  • gardening activist
  • garden educator
  • teacher (school, park and rec, other)
  • school administrator (all grade levels)
  • website consultant (IA, copy, SEO, SEM, SMM, content strategist, content management, etc.)
  • blogger
  • librarian
  • bookseller
  • book/product buyer
  • bookstore owner
  • retail shop owner
i'm actually thinking that my optimal career path is not a path at all. i believe the popular term these days is "portfolio career" where you do a lot of different things you love and together they add up to a whole job. it seems to be easiest when the jobs are related, for example if you love gardening, you can design gardens, write articles about gardening, do garden photography and teach gardening through park & rec, local colleges or to local kids.

pay special attention to skills that can be used in a variety of ways, like writing. you can leverage it across multiple venues -- web, magazine, newspaper, novels, books, newsletters, editing, teaching and a host of other activities. same goes for teaching, coaching, and a bunch of others. for me, my top skills are writing, gardening, teaching, listening, coaching, critical thinking, planning, organizing, and designing. my top interests are books, art/crafts, plants, social/environmental stewardship, preparedness, and transforming houses into homes. somewhere in there lies the sweet spot (or combination of sweet spots) i've been looking for. i bet my parents still have that old dollhouse in the garage somewhere...

Sunday, May 2, 2010


most of the items listed under interests are things that i have done, enjoy and am good at, but there are a bunch of other things related to my career history that aren't on that list. some of them i enjoy, others, not so much for a variety of reason. here they are in roughly chronological order:
  • bookselling
  • bookbuying
  • product merchandising
  • helping customers find the right books
  • copywriting
  • information architecture
  • advertising writing
  • creative brainstorming
  • technical writing
  • managing people
  • doing budgets
  • performance reviews
  • staff discipline
  • content strategy
  • content planning
  • editorial calendaring
  • concepting website ideas
  • social media marketing (still learning but enjoy what i know)
  • search engine marketing and optimization (same as above)
  • contract negotiations
  • vendor relations
  • agency management
  • buisness planning
  • networking (okay i lied, i'm not good at this)
  • event planning
  • event organizing
  • event hosting
the items highlighted in dark grey are the ones i really, really don't like. the ones in lighter grey i don't totally enjoy, but don't hate. i guess some of it breaks down to this: i prefer to lead by example than through authority, i would rather dream up party ideas than have to make them happen (or even attend) and most things that have to do with budget or actions that i am responsible for but have no authority over make me want to run (which makes me better as my own boss than working as a cog). and as for what i enjoy with regards to work: creativity, autonomy, and peer-based connection.

before i go i also wanted to delve a little deeper into the arts and crafts sections of my interest list. i have been really interested in arts and crafts created by recycling old materials lately. take gnomeo for example, a twist on the whole sock monkey  thing. and the bird, below, made completely from the pages of a j. crew catalog and a little bit of scotch tape (if only i could figure out how to make him more durable). but there are a ton of other potential projects like these:

  • sock creatures
  • paper sculptures
  • collage
  • mosaic
  • decoupage
  • mixed media
  • window farms
  • remade clothes
  • photo cards
  • shadow boxes
  • handmade paper
  • lumieres
  • quilts and pillows
  • collaged notebooks
  • found object jewelry
  • metal garden decorations
and the list goes on...

the question then becomes, how do i make time for all of this inspiring activities and is there some way to create a career by combining the things i love in a way that can support me creatively, spiritually and financially?

i'm going to need more than a week to sort all this out, so it looks like "personal style" is going to get pushed out a bit. because let's face it, what i want to do with my life is way more important than how i look doing it no matter what billy crystal says. and yes, i think the whole spirituality think that i so coyly slid in there hoping you wouldn't notice is going to need a week of its own as well.

Friday, April 30, 2010


okay, so we now know what i value, so that brings us to my second question: what do i like to do?

- read
- write
- garden
- photograph
- create art
- craft
- organize information
- teach
- learn
- study
- inspire creativity in others
- help others identify and pursue their dreams
- prepare for emergencies
- design gardens
- decorate interiors
- plan
- belly dance, learn hula
- do yoga
- dream

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

defining values

i have to admit, i've had some trouble writing this post. i've started it over and over and keep coming up confused. but i think i've been making it harder than it needs to be. it's probably the word "values" that's throwing me, so i'm just going to go ahead and make a list of what's important to me instead:
  • education
  • creative expression (including photography, poetry, painting, novel writing, drawing, textile crafts, performance art, dance, landscape design and just about anything with a tangible or recordable outcome that engages the creativity centers of the brain)
  • growing things (this relates to both the point above and the one below)
  • equal access to high-quality, organic, whole, natural foods (i started to say healthy, but given what advertisers tout as healthy these days, that word has pretty much become meaningless)
  • sustainability and environmental health (preservation of natural resources, alternatives to toxic chemicals that make us sick)
  • interpersonal connection
  • making a positive difference in the lives of others
i always come back to julia cameron's the artists way. what i extrapolated from that book is this: creation, in the form of art, writing or any other creative expression (including, for me, the creation of food from plant from seed) is the most powerful antidote to the pain and destruction in our would today. a life for a life just robs us twice. the only lessons taught are negative ones. but a poem for a life, a memorial quilt for a life, a song for a life, that helps preserve and remember what was lost. it gives back something new and meaningful in the void that was left. it can even transform loss into a learning experience. into a community building experience. into rebirth. art is creation. growing food is creation. building community is creation. harvesting power from the air is creation.

the job i do now actually does align with many of the values i have listed above. the problem is the distance. i can reach a million faceless people and hope what we have done helps them in some way, but i cannot look them in the eye or hold their child's hand, helping to guide the shovel as he plants his first seed. there is no connection. and without that, i can only guess at whether i really made a difference or not.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

week five: meaningful work

for the past several years i have noticed an increasing disconnect between my work (job) and my values. not that the companies i have worked for are lacking in any way, just that what i want to do with my life and the way i want to live it are no longer aligned with the reality of an 8:30-5:30 job in technology or ecommerce. that gives me two choices: a) find a way to make it work, or b) find something else. which brings us to week five: meaningful work.

values: define "meaningful"
interests: document the things i am passionate about (both activities and causes)
experience: assess what i already know how to do, what i'm good at and whether it interests me and aligns with my values
options: take a close look at everything listed above and come up with a list of options (keeping in mind that not every goal has to be fulfilled by my job)
plan: outline my goals and the steps i need to take to reach them 

food challenge: cauliflower
declutter challenge: office

related reading:
your heart's desire
the creative entrepreneur
the business startup checklist and planning guide

the power of forgiveness

okay, i know i'm behind on posting this week's plan, but before i do that i really want to give you a quick update on the forgiveness front. you may remember my uncle who i basically haven't spoken to in like 10 years and who during the week of stronger relationships i resolved to find a way to forgive. well, last night he did come to my grandmother's birthday party.

i have to admit, i was pretty stressed out about it. i mean you don't just go from "i never want to see you again" back to buddies in the blink of a 100 year party candle. but i know that carrying around these ill feelings hurts me more than him (and causes stress for the rest of my family), so i was willing to give it a try. maybe i wouldn't forgive him, but at least i could be civil and give him the benefit of the doubt. and you know what? it really helped. i was able to realize that while he may have his issues, he is not intentionally malicious. the things that happened between us were not him trying to hurt me, it was him not having the slightest ability to understand how what he did would make me feel. and realizing that, i was able to completely enjoy myself at the party without  having to avoid him or brace myself against him. it was a huge relief.

and who knows, maybe someday i will forgive him, but for now i'm happy just to not have to worry about it anymore.

Monday, April 26, 2010

week four recap

okay, i'll admit it: i let this week totally get away from me. work was crazy and stressful, life was crazy and stressful and i found it almost impossible to keep fun in mind at all, much less actually focus on it. i didn't complete a single challenge (food or declutter) nor did i do anything even remotely creative. i did however have a few small wins:
  • drove up to petaluma with a friend to see avatar in 3-D and generally get out of town and get a new perspective. it was great (the movie, the change of scenery and spending time with my best friend)
  • worked the hula hoop many mornings. i'm starting to get good. :)
  • put together a camera that my brother sent me as an early birthday gift. it's all fancy and lets you do things manually instead of just point-and-shoot. it will definitely enable a higher level of creativity in at least that one area of my life. plus it works with my existing film camera lenses which is very cool.
  • made lists of possible creative projects and places/activities that inspire (both generic and specific).
  • agreed to set up an art day with my friend to help us both find more creative fulfillment.
these are all great things. and i need to remember that the goal is not to see how much fun i can have in a week, it's to see how much fun i can regularly infuse into my daily life. so in that context, i think i did just fine.

oh, and two big wins left over from the week of stronger relationships: spending time with my best friend and having one of the short-list friends i hadn't reconnected with yet contact me. :)  plus i was so heartened by those, i contacted another one on my list. sometimes these things just take a little time. and speaking of relationships, tonight is my grandmother's 100th birthday party. not only will it be great to celebrate our good fortune at having her with us for so long and still going strong, my uncle will be there giving me the opportunity to practice forgiveness. we'll see how it goes...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


last night i went to my first mindfulness-based stress reduction class (scheduled during week one). during the class we did a breathing exercise which the instructor ended by asking us to "invite in a gentle half-smile." now i did not feel like inviting in a gentle half-smile or a smile of any kind. i was grumpy, hungry, tired and uncomfortable from sitting in a cold room on an uncomfortable chair for too long. but i did it anyway. and you know what? it worked. just the simple act of smiling actually made me feel happier. who knew?

so this morning when i woke up on the wrong side of the bed, instead of putting on the all-brown outfit i'd laid out the night before, i decided to embrace the smile lesson and picked out a turquoise plaid tank top, my bright green tennies and my sunflower necklace. i immediately felt better.

and yes, i did hula hoop this morning and man, is that a workout. but fun! made me feel like a kid again.