Saturday, October 31, 2009

To NaBloPoMo or Not To? Oh, Yes.

Tomorrow starts another month and another year of posting very day for NaBloPoMo.

Yes, you read that right. That's 30 posts in 30 days. Am I participating? Having done it the past two years, this is not really a question. Of course, I will write and post every day! Well, every day that I have access to internet. Sometime in late November, I will enter that blackhole of internet service and my posts will languish unsent. But not for long!

This year will be more challenging because even when I have things to write, I may not have *time* to write. See: baby. I realize, however, that NaBloPoMo actually gives me an excuse to write, yes, to throw myself over to that which may be impossible at times.

I'd better get brainstorming. See you on the other side of the time change.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

8*Things: 8 People I'd Like to Meet IRL

Ah, all the lovely people I meet around here, here being the wide world internet. Magpie Girl once again has a Thursday meme to work with, although in my case, it often turns into a Friday-Saturday-Sunday, oh heck-Monday-Tuesday meme.

Here are 8 People I'd Like to Meet In Real Life:

1. Schmutzie
The one and only, incomparable, most awesome Schmutzie. Bizarre knitted characters, cat photos, black & white images, beautiful writing, and the most wickedly warped and achingly real&present stories. What is there not to like? For a while, I was totally addicted to her 365 project describing people from her life. A solid crush. I follow her all over the internet. *waves*

2. Cecily of uppercase woman
Cecily tells it like it is and like it was. A woman of strong opinions and passionate writing. Never boring, no! She always writes me back every single time I comment. I heart Cecily.

3. Ingrid aka bean*mama
A writer, a photographer, intense and creative, a warm, lovely woman with a smile-inducing family (tho ya gotta be a friend to see them). Words fail me to describe her, but I know she makes the most fabulous smiles and faces. She is also THE kid-project expert, an accomplished poet, and the Orton Effect Queen. She is, of course, the Bean Mama.

4. Tracy aka Ms.Tea
A nurse by night, an artist by day, a Northerner all the time. I started following Ms.Tea on Flickr when she was in the thick of her 365 project - taking one self portrait every day for a year. I was doing the weekly version, 52 Weeks. Quite the interesting endeavor. Gives you opportunity to see yourself in new ways and stare at one's beauties and flaws increasingly unflinchingly. Ever since, I've been enjoying the glimpses she shares of her life, of the art, both printing and photography, that she explores. When Flickr started allowing short videos, she threw herself into the new medium.
My favorite of her vids so far is a stop-motion clip featuring a pop-up camper, her husband, son, dogs and cats.

5. Shalet of Peculiar Momma
Another fine writer/photographer I met though Flickr and bean*mama. Lush images and heavy stories with a light touch. She inspires me with her creative frugal philosophy. I wallow, I mean bask, in her photographs.

6. "Johnny" of So It Comes Down To This
Tagline: "What is this "parenting" they speak of? Is it painful?"
Sometimes I think we were mentally separated at birth, except he's a meat-enthusiast Asian man with (China-adopted) two kids and two dogs who analyzes his work, friend, and family relationships and blogs about his steak fests and other cooking projects, and I'm a mostly-vegetarian Caucasian woman with one baby and two cats who reflects on relationships and other stuff and blogs about my peonies and other garden and hiking projects. I'm just *assuming* he'd agree to have me over for dinner. Judging from past events, no doubt he'd cook up something like rolled pork with apricot remolade and *frisk* me first before he'd let me in the house near his kids. And then take pictures and blog about it. This is standard operating procedure, apparently. *Imagine pictures of Johnny patting down an internet friend whose come for dinner*

7. Karen Marlene Larsen
Another fine photographer with a way with words and stories. Has a theater-puppetry-costuming background, a love for diners, cemeteries, walks, cooking, sewing and, oh my, enthusiasm! Oh, and apparently she talks a mile a minute. We would have a riot of a time, I know it!

8. Too many others to choose between. I can't decide. There are several people more who belong in this spot, but I am too shy to ever meet them for real. I guess I can continue to admire them from afar. Apparently 8 is too short a list.

Monday, October 19, 2009

No-Edit Feel-Good Living

Another no-edit post except to fix my inevitable spelling and typing errors.

Among all the projects and strategies I use in my life, I'm finding some especially satisfying ones recently. Or rather, I've been more conscious of them recently. I know they are significant when they find their way onto my daily lists. In amongst the "make doctor's appointment" and "change kitty litter" I include such mundane items as "eat good food," "go for a walk," "prep veggies for dinner." I also include some tasks that are more acknowledgement than prompt: "breast feed" and "drink water." If I only do those things, I have nevertheless had a successful day.

I don't know why it's so powerful, though, to list some of those basics. Maybe because I get so caught up in the baby-feeding cycle that I *forget* to eat good food. I eat snacks all day and forget that what I *really* want to do is eat good food.

Over the past couple months, I've been re-nurturing some of these good habits I took for granted when I had more free time than I really knew what to do with productively. Now, it feels incredibly refreshing to not just worry about things I am doing badly (ie eating too much sugar or letting my muscles get too tight from lack of stretching), but to name the things I want to do well. Thus, a list:

1. Eat good food. This can be anything from a full cooked meal to healthy snacks.

2. Cut up or pre-prepare food for snacking. Instead of grabbing the chocolate or junk because it's close, I keep really yummy food near by and ready to eat. Some recent eats: Carrots and celery cut into sticks for dipping into hummus. Green seedless grapes washed and snipped into small servings in a box in the fridge. Dried apricots or raisins with raw almonds or walnuts.

3. Keeping my portion sizes modest. Instead of eating a huge sandwich, I'll eat a modest one. Or instead of two huge pieces of cheese for my breakfast sandwich, I'll stick with one. Or when making a huge stir fry, I'll portion out the remains for another lunch or dinner instead of eating until I'm stuffed.

4. Eat regularly. On the other side of the coin, sometimes I forget to eat at all. Eat! Eat! Just eat well.

5. Balance the carbohydrates with protein and fats. This seems to help me keep my blood sugar, not to mention my mood, on a more even keel. So even when having a bit of chocolate or sweets, I make sure I start with a bit of protein to even it out. Nuts in moderation are a good stand by.

6. Avoid sugar and chocolate when I am feeling stressed or more hyper than usual. I've been especially conscious of this one recently. I hear from some of my friends with more serious health issues that it's very hard on the body when the adrenal system is induced to stay in a fight-or-flight holding pattern. Adrenaline is great for keeping us going for the short term or longer term as needed, but it can lead to chronic illness.

In my own mind, I have connected the dots between high levels of cortisol from living with high levels of stress (from being "Type A" personality or living with harassment, racism, any kind of physical-mental-sexual-emotional abuse), and high levels of heart disease and other illnesses impacted by a stressed adrenal system. Sleep disorders, metabolism issues, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue syndrome anyone? I don't have ALL the science or ALL the answers, but I can certainly draw some conclusions and speculate. The upshot of all this is that I try to AVOID sugar and chocolate when I am stressed or fighting off something. Simply reminding myself to be gentle with my adrenal system helps me treat myself better.

7. Avoid stress and stewing. Well, I try! Certain people and situations can be very stressful for me. Sometimes I need to vacate myself or to practice healthy distraction to avoid *stewing* in the stress or letting things run endlessly through my mind. Sometimes I deliberately find a new target for my attention just to help me jump out of the mental-emotional rut. Sometimes I have to declare my intent out loud, as in: I am not going to let that person ruin my body through stress. Sometimes I practice some deep breathing to help lower my blood pressure. Sometimes I walk away and decline to engage. Sometimes I have to choose between "politeness" and my health (but not often).

8. Eat less salt. This is right up there with sugar and caffeine. I don't eat much additional salt to begin with, but again, being more conscious of it helps me make better choices than high-sodium ones.

9. Stretch. Move. I used to do yoga with my husband. We hardly have time for that at home, much less taking a class. But incorporating some stretches in my day helps. Every little bit helps, dontcha know?! :) I get up, I stretch my arms over my head and turn my head from side to side. I tilt my head, sit up straight, then run through a few pelvic tilts to wake up my spine. When I take a bath, I do a few sets of long leg stretches and lifts in the water. I wash my hair while letting my legs float up and down and engaging the abdominals. I do wrist and ankle rotations while I'm sitting nursing. I dance around to music to wake up my aerobic system and entertain the baby at the same time. I lift her over my head. If I go out to get the paper, I try to make a longer loop through the yard. I park farther away from the door of the grocery store so I get a longer walk. I prefer to go for longer walks, but again, every little bit helps.

I know all this stuff, but I get distracted by other things going on. I'm going to keep on adding these, in different incarnations, to my everyday lists.

I'm pleased with the huge difference a small amount of attention (and reminders to pay attention) can make. The big payoff is not just that I can check something off my list but by how good I feel. I can feel the results.

And one more.

10. Actually go to bed at a reasonable hour so I can get more sleep! Oh, I guess I need to add this to the list, eh? Okay, I can make that happen. Off I go. :)

Epilogue: I started this post thinking about being overdosed on adrenaline, and worked my way around to it from a direction I thought might get me there. I might be able to say all this more succinctly if I could edit it down, but no time to fuss with it! Such is the frustrations and beauty of the no-edit exercise.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Grace in Small Things 36:365

1. Tiny LED bedside lights that give just enough illumination at night.

2. The quiet in the house as people and things power down for a night of sleep.

3. The small sounds that newspaper makes when one is handling it.

4. The tiniest slivers of two more little baby teeth suddenly appear!

5. The giggly feeling of anticipation as well-written humor builds and of satisfaction as it peaks.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

No-Edit Practicing Practicing

A little experiment to hack out a post. NO editing except for spelling errors (if I can find them).

So I've been practicing practicing. Quite interesting.

Some of the things I've been practicing were not on my original list. That's okay. The important thing is that I am persevering at things I am not so great at.

Among other things, I've been practicing being more generous, getting back into my paper decluttering and learning to play a new instrument. A little bit of everything: psychological, physical/environmental and tautological. (Is that what i mean? Probably not! There's another word more accurate... pedagogical? Yes.)

Okay, so being "naturally" generous is hard for me. My cousin might call that a "scarcity" mentality. I am nervous about having enough for myself. Some of that is habit, part of that is not *taking care of* myself. Part of that is worrying that I will have enough money/energy/mental head space to feel good. So it's a defensive maneuver with some just cause. However, I am experimenting with doing things differently. I admire generous people. My husband, for instance, is a naturally generous person. He'll give time, money, attention to lots of people who need it and to some who don't. He's just wired to want to pitch in and contribute. So cool, eh? So myself is wanting to be more active in my own social relationships... and part of that, I feel, is giving of myself. Not so much as to give myself away but certainly MORE than I do now.

(pause to think of some examples)

Here's a list of things that might qualify:

I showed up at an art opening of a friend and former co-worker. I made that effort to show up despite other things on the schedule. Sometimes I just can't make the openings, but this time I could and I did. I can be supportive and appreciative and enthusiastic. And I enjoyed myself too!

I went to a memorial service. Okay, this was more for me, but I really wanted to be there and bear witness to the stories and the memory of this friend, even though I didn't know him well nor had reached a deeper friendship phase.

(I am having to brainstorm this list, so it's not perfect, okay?)

Ah yes. I bought some lovely earrings for my mother's birthday and contributed a huge platter of veggies and hummus. So often I cannot decide on the best gift for a person or event and I find myself paralyzed. This time I just went out and made it happen. The food was to help out my youngest sister who was coordinating. I already had this especially delicious hummus in mind, so when she responded enthusiastically to my idea, I went out and found an especially delectable selection of raw veggies.... sugar snap peas, for instance. It was goood!
I helped care stuff down stairs. And afterwards, while various clumps of people scattered to talk or play games or had to leave, I made trip after trip between the downstairs room and the kitchen to help clean up; I did not want my sister OR certainly not my mother! to have to do the larger share of the clean up.

(Okay, so this might sound trivial; I am celebrating what I CAN do.)

I've been trying to contact my friends more frequently for getting together for lunch. Rather than wait for them to call me, I'm trying ot be more proactive. It's been really nice in the last several months.

I took care of my friend's cats while she was on a 10-day trip to Europe. We do this regularly, trading cat care, etc, but here I practiced giving a generous amount of time and then MENTALLY not grousing about any of it. Not that I usually complain about helping out my friend at all! I am practicing not complaining.

Oh wait.... did you notice that? I AM PRACTICING NOT COMPLAINING! This is huge, ya'll. Not that I am good at abstaining, no. I am an accomplished complainer. But to give my attitude and karma a boost, I am *consciously* working on not grumbling so much in my everyday life. My reasoning is that I can do something happily or I can do something grudgingly, and it's usually more pleasant for EVERYONE if I don't verbally blow off steam about whatever trivial inconvenience I must endure. I tell you, I am mostly quite proud of myself and the progress I am making. I'll say that the people most positively affected by this change is my husband and myself. ATTITUDINAL ADJUSTMENT - woot!

Back to my list...

Okay, so I am working o the huge amount of paper clutter in the office. I am "sorting with extreme prejudice*. I am taking out all sorts of gar-bage. I am getting back on the FlyLady bandwagon. SO nice.

Aaaaand, yes! I am learning to play a new instrument! I had another instrument in mind as well, but my local string shop did not have one free to rent while I determine whether I am into it enough to buy one. But they did have lots of great ukuleles! And they are a modest investment, so I bought one. Not the most cheap model, but a step up, a nice little instrument. And I have myself a book, and I found a uke tuner online, so I am set.

I've had this a few weeks now, and I am really liking it. I've learned a basic set of C chords and nearly every day, I get it out and play a little. Play and sing, rather, since I am singing to the baby a lot. Being about to play chords to my singing is a lot of fun.

Once I even figured out how to apply a chord to a singing note that was not the note but a complimentary one. I was tickled with my discovery.

My strategy here is slow but steady. I am finding all kinds of songs in this self-instructional book to practice different strumming rhythms and chords. I am practicing holding my fingers and thumbs correctly. I'm not convinced I have the strum position down well (correctly), but I'm experimenting.

Today I started learning a couple of new chords. Oy. My brain is slightly confused. But I have confidence that my brain and my fingers will figure it out with enough exposure and practice.

And now I must close down for the night and see if everyone else in the house is actually going to bed for the night or are going to get up for one last round.

Thanks for listening. I'm hopeful that my practicing practicing will improve. Go me. :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Grace in Small Things 35:365

1. The mournful yet alert sound of trains at night, rumbling and wailing in the near distance.

2. Childhood birthday cake: vanilla cake with tart lemon filling and sweet-soft-meringue frosting scattered with coconut.

3. Large lively family birthday parties.

4. Tiny lentils in a spicy stew.

5. Babies laughing over the simplest things: balloons, cats chasing a laser dot, flashlights, silly sound effects.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Grace in Small Things 34:365

1. Free time to hack back the household weeds.

2. Sunny and pleasant Saturdays.

3. Adorable kitten videos.

4. Letting go of that dress I haven't worn, will not wear and have never worn.

5. Reminders to drink my water and stay hydrated.