Happy New Year! I hope you got to relax and take time off from work over these past few weeks. Dave and I had a glorious week+ off. We enjoyed time with family and friends and caught up on sleep and even took a few walks in the bitter, bitter cold land in which we live.
Are you the kind of person who sets goals at the beginning of every year? I tend to set (and unset) goals at random throughout the year. Like in July, after I was sick as a dog for a week, I set a goal to meditate every day. Today is the one-hundred and fifty-second day in a row that I have sat in silence at least once a day. I’ve learned that it’s pretty simple to incorporate something into the day when it only takes 10-20 minutes of your time. Especially when you tack it onto a pre-existing routine, like getting ready for bed.
Some of my vague goals for 2018 are:
start writing my autobiography
find & enter at least two short story contests
improve diet to include more fruits & veg and less processed food
sleep at least 7 hrs every night, not just on the weekends
exercise, ya lazy bum!
there are more goals, but I’ll reveal those as I attain them…
Start writing my autobiography
I’ve already got half my autobiography written on this blog, so it’s just a matter of compiling and editing and I’m off to a great start.
Find & enter at least two short story contests
This should push me outside my comfort zone a bit, and give me a new challenge.
Improve diet to include more fruits & veg and less processed food
I’m already a pretty healthy eater, though my weakness is snack foods. (As I typed that I realized I forgot to have my after dinner cookie, but it’s too late now. So… guess I’m off to a good start there.)
I am currently focusing on going totally vegan, which means I just have to cut out the entire block of Cabot cheese I was consuming weekly. Cut the cheese, Heather!
Also, we’re getting a Ninja so we can make better smoothies, so watch out for us!
Sleep at least 7 hrs every night, not just on the weekends
Going to bed is very hard for me… even though I love sleeping, I always think of one (or five) more things to do before I go to bed. It results in my staying up later than I should, and feeling like death warmed over in the morning. So it’s really time I got this under control.
Exercise, ya lazy bum!
Confession: I have gained 20 pounds over the last several years. Probably 10 in the last year alone. I don’t weigh myself at home, but the last time I had a physical and I got on the scale, I was like,
I have to admit, it made sense. I had noticed that some of my pants which had once been loose were now very snug. The harsh realities of weight gain were finally something I’d have to deal with. I guess having a desk job, loving snacks, and not getting enough sleep (or exercise) has really caught up to me.
It’s a total cliché statement, and I even have a sticker of it right here on my laptop – Be the change you wish to see in the world. (Sidenote: although this is attributed to Ghandi, it’s really a condensed version of what he said.)
But anyway, it’s still a decent concept to live by. Like the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Treat all living things the way you want to be treated. Live the way you wish everyone would live, the way you feel is best for the planet and our fellow earthlings. Be an example.
I don’t know how much difference it really makes to just BE your best self. Is it really that inspiring to those around you? Does anyone actually notice?
If it did, wouldn’t everyone I know have become a vegetarian by now, and have discarded all their excess stuff in a full embrace of minimalism? Also, could we have freaking shorter work days? I must be doing something wrong.
I guess the difference I really want to make in people’s lives is to bring more joy into them in some way or another. Either by sharing a story that touches them, or by sharing art that moves them, or by straight up reaching out and being a good friend to someone. I want to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. I want to teach people how to take better care of their health, and the health of the environment. Basically, I want to be your favorite elementary school teacher, Jane Goodall and Rachel Carson all rolled into one.
Doesn’t everyone love a good story? As a writer, an artist and a budding public speaker, I am constantly thinking of the next story to tell. I write from the heart and I find that personal stories resonate with others. I enjoy writing for others too, like today’s post on the NFED blog. My best speaking performances happen when I share a story that will touch your heart, make you laugh, and later, have you thinking back and wanting to find out more about the topic.
I have dreams of one day appearing on that round red carpet, doing my very own TED talk. I can see myself standing in front of an audience of school children, as part of an anti-bullying campaign, or as a motivational speaker. Of course this would also be supplemented by colorfully illustrated children’s books, and an autobiography for the older crowd.
While I’m certainly not the first person to share their own story in hopes of educating or motivating others, I know that since my own story has so many facets, I am adaptable to many different situations. I’d like to use my storytelling abilities to help others share their stories too. Not everyone feels confident writing or publicly speaking about their experiences, but with my skills, I could be their voice.
What stories do you enjoy hearing? How can I help you share your story?
Today’s prompt is: What do people thank you for? Or- What do you love helping people with?
What do people thank me for is kind of a tough one to answer without sounding like I’m tooting my own horn. So I’ll take the second question, Alex.
I love helping people by teaching them how to solve a problem. What I mean by that isn’t that I go around offering unsolicited advice, but more that, I like to show people how to do stuff. For example, in my current job, I often get emails from fellow employees looking for a particular digital file on our intranet. Since we are a global company, our intranet is absolutely insane. It can be really hard to find certain tools or documents on it.
So instead of just writing back and being like “Yeah, it’s in the blah-blah folder” or “Look for it in the such-and-such section”, I will send screenshots and step-by-step instructions for how to find the thing they need.
I guess what it boils down to is that I like to teach people things in a way that I know will be helpful for them. And people thank me for it.
Today’s prompt is: What makes me angry about the world?
Our culture of rampant, unchecked consumption is what makes me angry about this world!
It may be mostly an American problem – or a “first world problem”, though there’s certainly trickle-down effects on the rest of the world (anyone want our old electronics?).
If you close your eyes and listen, you’ll hear the buzz of millions of people working hard to earn more money so they can buy more things. It’s what we are taught from our youngest days by commercials on TV, billboards by the road, and our friends at school. You always need something new. A new toy, or a new dress. New is what you want. Not a hand-me-down, not homemade with love. New. From the store.
Before long that new thing loses it’s appeal. The colors fade. A piece breaks off. The whole thing stops working as it’s supposed to. That new dress is suddenly so last season. Thanks to planned obsolescence, that little gadget that broke 3 months after you bought it is worth nothing now. Throw it in the trash and buy yourself a new gadget. Shove your old clothes in a donation box and buy yourself something new. That’s how things work in this culture.
It’s not just stuff either. It’s everything. We want more food, more entertainment, more adventure, more more more! Instead of taking stock of what we have and enjoying it, society tells us we can never have enough and must constantly be wanting more.
Not only is the attitude of consumerism hurting us on a social and emotional level, but the environmental impact is devastating. I’m too lazy to get into the statistics now, but just think about it. Greenhouse gasses. Animal waste. Trash. Oh so much TRASH.
Here’s a couple of articles if you’re looking to learn more. Of course you could also just google things, like I do.
So yes, all that makes me angry, though my anger is often overcome by lethargy. I’m an ideas person, but when it comes to driving those ideas toward implementation – especially ideas that require buy-in by the majority of the world’s population, I don’t even know where to begin. Well, I begin with myself…
I’d say the biggest way to fight against our consumerist society is to not be a part of it as much as possible. I’ve written about my love affair with minimalism. I think the main thing that excites me about it is that there are so many other people out there who are doing the same thing! It’s always good to know you’re not the only person passionate about something.
The second big thing I’d advocate for is switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Meat production is one of the most detrimental industries to the environment. Not only do those animals product a crap-ton of waste, but consider how much land, water and energy is used to produce their food. Plus, call me woo-woo, but I strongly believe that one day our society will look back in horror at the idea that we once ate other living creatures.
With all that being said, don’t get me wrong. I am not living in a shanty in the woods, growing my own food and fashioning clothes from plant fibers. I have a full-time job, to which I am expected to dress professionally and not in hemp-fiber dresses. I have a car that I continue to make car payments on (and it runs on gasoline, yes). I have to control myself on Amazon. I occasionally indulge in a nice, thick, chocolate shake, even though in the back of my mind I’m like those cows are pooping us to extinction! and I’m sorry mommy cow that we are only using you for your milk.
So there you have it. I am passionate about the environment, and about people, and I loathe rampant, unchecked consumption of our world’s resources. We’ve got to find a better way!
I’ve found myself another blog challenge to follow! This one is from Live Your Legend.
When I began this blog back in 2013 (whuut), I simply wanted to share my experience as a person living with EEC. I hoped that by sharing my story, I could help others affected by this condition. Talking about what I’ve gone through is a way of saying “I know how you feel – this happened to me too”, or “Guys, it’s going to be okay, eventually!”
After a while, I exhausted my EEC stories. Or at least I told all I wanted to tell for the time being. So I moved on to talking about other things in life; of traveling and artistic pursuits and my work with Toastmasters. All the while, I really wanted to talk about my experience growing up in an obscure religion and how I got myself out of that.
Finally, in these past few months, I shared my losing my religion stories. Again, I share these stories in the hopes that someone out there who needs them will read them. I’m not the only person in the world who was in a religion I didn’t like! I want you, dear reader, to know that if you feel sick to your stomach every Sunday morning, you CAN choose to walk away from it, and it will be okay (eventually).
Perhaps the next topic I will really delve into is the constant struggle of worthiness. Of insecurity. I’m struggling with it right now, as I begin yet another blog challenge to try and make my blog into a masterpiece. I can feel the wiggliness in my tummy as I write, thinking about who might read this and judge me negatively.
No matter how many times people tell you your writing is good, or your artwork is good, or YOU yourself are good, there always seems to be that voice inside that pulls you back and says, they’re just being polite, and you’re really not that good.
Well, on that note… I’ll be back tomorrow for day #2 of the challenge!
My next toastmaster speech project is supposed to be a “touching speech,” It’s practicing how to convey emotion through storytelling. Instead of just saying “Billy felt sad because he wasn’t invited to Joey’s birthday party”, you’d tell the story of Billy watching his friends pass by on their way to Joey’s party and wondering why he wasn’t invited.
I’ve been trying to decide what to do for my touching speech. I thought about telling my Color Me story, about the time the girl at school rudely suggested I use markers to give my hair some color. But then I had a crazy idea. Something that would really push me beyond my comfort zone in a big way.
I could tell the story of that day at the water park when that boy made a scene over my alien feet. I could talk about how ever since then, I have gone to great lengths to hide my feet – not only from strangers, but even from most acquaintances.
The kicker (see what I did there?) of it all would be that I would either walk up to the lectern in my bare feet, or I would wear shoes I could easily slip off to reveal my feet as I told the story.
But I’m not sure…. is it cheating to use my body as a prop? Is it overly dramatic? Would I be able to do it without peeing my pants in front of everyone? I practically hyperventilate at the thought of it, yet that only makes me want to do it more.
This past weekend, Dave and I went up to Boston! I love going there. It’s an easy drive (as long as you don’t hit traffic…), and the city itself is just so… people-sized.
Months ago, I saw that The Minimalists were going to do a show at The Wilbur. In a moment of spontaneity, I bought us tickets. So that’s how we ended up on this trip.
I accidentally booked our Airbnb for the wrong night… luckily it was just the night before the show instead of the night of. So we just went up a day early.
We got to our Airbnb a little after 3, got settled, and then hit the streets. We walked up to Boston Public Gardens and strolled around and people-watched. Boston Common was already set up with all kinds of tents and stuff in preparation for the Marathon.
We walked along Newbury Street and made our way to the Prudential Center. My mom had mentioned that there was an observatory there that you could get great views of the city. As I am a fan of looking at life from above, we made this a priority to check out.
The view from the Pru was nice, and it was a gorgeous sunny day. We watched planes coming in and out of Logan, saw lots of sailboats on the Charles, found the finish line for the Boston Marathon, and finally, watched the sun set over Fenway Park. Pretty cool! We did sit and watch some of the documentaries they had about immigrants to Boston and how the culture has changed over time. It was well done, and very relevant to our current political climate.
There was a lady playing her violin during the sunset. She played Can’t Help Falling In Love, which is one of the many UB40 songs that Dave seduced me with back in the day. (I know it was originally done by Elvis – whatevs…) Here’s part of it…. I didn’t think to start recording until midway through, and then I move the camera too fast… ugh. I am not a videographer.
After that, we were super hungry, so once at ground level, we found a place called 5 Napkin Burger. There was a veggie burger on the menu, so I was game. It wasn’t as amazing as I had hoped, but it was good. I was more enamored with the mint and lemon iced tea, of which I drank two.
We walked back to our Airbnb, which was in the Theater District. By the time we went to bed, around midnight, we had already been hearing lots of ruckus from the comedy club next door, and the people leaving the various theaters around us. Not a big deal – that’s life in the city, right?
After snuggling into the comfortable bed, we fell asleep quickly and peacefully. Several hours later, I began dreaming that a band of jolly Irish men was bustling down the street, singing heartily. But no, it was no dream. As consciousness returned to me, I realized there were actual men singing heartily down in the streets below. I don’t know if they were Irish, but they were loud. Then there was lots of yelling and honking and general mayhem. I regretted not bringing my earplugs along… fail!
Fortunately the commotion only lasted about a half an hour and then we slept soundly for the rest of the night.
The next day we met up with Nick and Matt for lunch at Temezcal, and the weather was so nice that we sat outside. It was a leisurely lunch and a great time of catching up with each other and discussing life. Actually, I had just seen them both the week before in Northampton, but that’s a story for another time. (Not really, but it made you think my life was interesting for a second there, right?)
After parting ways with Nick and Matt, Dave and I cruised up to the North End. I mean why not hit all the sections of Boston while we were there? We hung out on the pier by the aquarium for a while and then got a delicious pineapple smoothie in Quincy Market, before wandering around for the rest of the afternoon.
Eventually the time came for us to get over to The Wilbur theater to see the Minimalists. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve been reading their blog and listening to their podcasts for a while now – if you’ve been paying attention to my blog, I have mentioned them before and my own quest to live a more minimalist lifestyle.
We were a bit early – we arrived at 6:45 or so, which seemed like a reasonable time for a 7pm show. There was no line, and most of the seats were still empty. The stage was plain, and they just had some mellow background music playing.
The place filled up, a little after 7pm. They came out and the crowd went wild. They started out by telling their story, which if you search for their TED talk, you can hear for yourself. The second part of the show was a Q&A.
The majority of the questions were what you would expect – people asking for advice about a particular aspect of minimalism, or how to make certain lifestyle changes.
Some of the questioners were – dare I say it – devotees of minimalism. One women proclaimed that she had a “one in, one out” policy, so before she would buy something new, or, presumably, receive a gift, she had to get rid of something she already had. She asked them how they dealt with the emotional struggle of deciding whether to keep something or get rid of it.
After some prodding, she revealed that the item in question was her mothers vintage Levi’s jacket that she actually still wears. For some reason she felt it was frivolous and she should get rid of it, even though she obviously didn’t want to. At that point a bunch of people in the audience shouted out that she should just keep it. Seriously.
Another woman was kind of a sad case. She spoke of how she had successfully followed all the steps to becoming a minimalist and now she didn’t know what to do next. She seemed to be hoping that they would just tell her what to do with her life. At this point, they had reached the “lightening round”, where they were only supposed to give tweetable-sized answers, so they gave her some statements about how life without passion isn’t living, and that sort of thing. It was disturbing to me that she apparently didn’t have passion for anything. Or maybe she felt she needed some kind of permission to pursue it. Or maybe she was just trolling all of us…
The show was interesting and light – there were lots of funny comments and good points made. I can’t say that I went away having learned anything new, but Dave said he enjoyed it and that he thought it was interesting.
They had a meet and greet afterward, which we decided to skip since we hadn’t had dinner yet and also because I feel super awkward meeting “celebrities” and I wouldn’t have known what to say.
We grabbed dinner at Panera and then headed out. It was actually pretty nice driving home after the show – there was virtually no traffic and we made it home in just under two hours.
All in all, it was a great trip. If you’ve never been to Boston, make sure to check it out someday!
If I’ve ever loved anything in my life it has been the Little House books. Last year, my mom gave me a new book, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, and I was once again able to connect with a kindred spirit from so long ago.
The book contains some early drafts of Little House in the Big Woods, and reading them just melts my heart. I intensely relate to the feeling of being a tiny girl in a big, vast world and being so eager to learn about it all. I just want to transport myself to that little cabin, even though in real life it probably smelled weird, had fleas and was dead boring during those long winter days.
I don’t even know how many times I read Little House on the Prairie. I remember my mom giving it to me one evening and telling me that it was a story she thought I would like about a little girl during the pioneer days. Right away, I fell in love with Laura and Pa’s adventurous spirits, and the thought of being able to explore the wild, undeveloped woods and prairies of early America.
As I grew up, we would often look back and laugh at some of the situations described which would now be considered highly inappropriate for a children’s book – Ma describing Indians as savages, Laura demanding that she wanted to have the Indian baby with the beady black eyes, the scene with Pa in blackface… (I had NO idea what that was about and didn’t even comprehend that it was a racial thing until like, 20 years later.) Not to mention the fact that they built their “little house” in Indian Territory. Of course, I wouldn’t understand any of these things until much later.
Those things never took away from my love of the stories or of the people in them. Times change, and people learn from past mistakes. I will always hold Laura Ingalls Wilder as one of my favorite storytellers and hope to follow in her footsteps with some books of my own someday.
What do you think? Average-Sized Ranch in the Suburbs doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out.
Hey there! It’s been a while since I wrote a current-events post. As usual, I am busy thinking up so many things I want to do and trying to do everything at once and then feeling overwhelmed and rushed and anxious about life.
How do you find balance? I constantly feel the need to create things; to produce. Whether it be writing or drawing or painting, it’s like an itch inside me that I am forever trying to scratch. That’s why I like Zentangle so much – it is easy to bang out a quick drawing in a short amount of time, and most often it looks pretty cool.
A few weeks ago I was out in sunny Southern California at a work-related conference, and they had a motivational speaker give the keynote. He was billed as a magician and a corporate speaker, and my first thought was that his performance was probably going to be the cheesiest thing I’d seen in a while. Fortunately, I was very wrong. He was amazing, and quite inspirational. His name is Vinh Giang – here’s his promo video.
Once I got home, I looked up Vinh on YouTube and I watched a bunch of his stuff so I could keep the inspiration going. I also happened upon a TED talk by David Litchfield, where he talked about how he challenged himself to draw something every day for a year.
So of course I got excited and inspired and decided to give myself a daily art challenge. Notice I said art and not just drawing, because why would I limit myself? (Insert eye-rolling emoji here… )
You may have already found it, or seen my oversharing of my daily pieces on FB, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+ and wherever else I could find… but if somehow you missed all of these, my daily art challenge site can be found here:
I am already kind of regretting that I made it a daily challenge instead of weekly or something, but so far I have managed to do it every day.
Vinh says in his talks: the biggest illusion you will ever experience in your life is when you tell yourself that something cannot be done. I’ve certainly fallen victim to this mentality many times. It’s something I want to change – I want to believe in myself, that one day I will be a professional writer and a professional illustrator. I don’t want to spend my whole life just thinking of what might have been if only I’d tried a little harder.
So, I will keep blogging and keep arting, and one day I will figure out how to make it all work!