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.