Friday, December 19, 2008

Survey Mania!

My friend Tom has been sending me answers to various Getting To Know You surveys from my blog archives for a couple of weeks now and I have to tell you, it has been a lot of fun revisiting those old questions and seeing his answers! For me, reading your answers to my silly questions is probably the most fun part of having a blog. As long as you all keep answering (via my blog comments or via email), I'll keep asking the questions! Stay tuned! Happy Holidays! :-)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Getting to Know you

For Susan, who is bored...

1. Have you started Christmas/holiday shopping?

2. Have you finished Christmas/holiday shopping?

3. Are you going out of town for the holidays? Where? To see who?

4. Have you been listening to any holiday music?

5. Are you singing/playing in any holiday concerts?

6. Is it snowing where you live?

7. Is your town nicely decorated?

8. What's your favorite thing about this time of year?

9. What's your least favorite thing about this time of year?

[me: 1. yes; 2. no; 3. yes - to Bradenton, FL to see my aunt, uncle, cousins, baby cousins, niece, brother, sister-in-law, mom and dad - yay!; 4. yes - some choral CDs; 5. yes - a few; 6. nope; 7. yes - well, especially union square, where all the big stores are; 8. giving gifts - thinking about what i could give someone to make them a little happier, and church, the stories of the bible that relate to Christmas and all the beautiful music that has been written about it; 9. being so busy and stressed out that i'm not able to relax and enjoy the season and i end up being cranky and difficult instead of gracious and giving, as i would like to be.]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Firey Truth

For about six months in the year 1996, I worked as a waitress at the India House Restaurant on South Clinton Avenue in Rochester, NY. It was (and probably still is) a family owned business. Two brothers and their sister, all possessing MBAs, if I'm not mistaken, went into business with their spouses and owned two restaurants and a store, all on the same block. There was the main restaurant, the vegetarian cafe, and the store that sold Indian groceries, clothing, and gifts. One brother actually worked as an engineer at Bausch & Lomb, if I'm not mistaken, one managed the main restaurant, one was the main cook at that restaurant, and her husband managed the vegetarian cafe. About a year later, the engineer ended up being my landlord, and I discovered then that the family also owned a number of properties in the area. When I got the job, I was badly in need of employment and knew that several of my college classmates from Eastman worked at the vegetarian cafe. I was told it was a good part-time job and that the food there was delicious. What is hilarious to me now is that at the time, I had *never* eaten Indian food before. There were no job openings at the vegetarian cafe, which is where I would have preferred to work, but the manager of the "regular" restaurant was in need of staff and put me on the schedule. Even though the work pace alternated between incredibly slow and way too fast and I was only paid $3/hour, so in order to take home any money (in other words, tips) I needed to hope for a super hectic pace, I have many fond memories of my employment there. First of all, it was my introduction to Indian food, which launched a lifetime obsession with its deliciousness and finding the best places to eat it. I remember diligently studying the menu, learning what all the different words meant, trying to get to a level where I could fake that I actually knew what any of dishes tasted like. There were many interesting personalities, the family who owned the place, the main cook's baby who liked to ride the vacuum cleaner during the otherwise painful clean-up period at the end of the night (rice is SO hard to pick up off the carpet!), the other waiters (who came from all different ethnic backgrounds), the cooks who were always yelling at us to work faster, and the manager who was always yelling at us to work harder, but who also had a lighter side and enjoyed making conversation. While employed there, I learned how to open up wine bottles really quickly on some particularly busy Friday and Saturday nights (as there was no bartender). I also became addicted to Masala tea (better known as chai) and the smell of certain curries, which would make me crave the food so badly, I would swear there were drugs in it. (I never understood before that how a potent spice could be medicinal.)

So, you're still wondering about the fire incident, aren't you? As a server, the cooks preferred that you stay out of the kitchen as much as possible. You had to be very careful not to get in their way while they worked. However, on the back burner of one of the stoves, there was a big pot of masala tea -- of water, milk, tea leaves, spices, and sugar -- that simmered there all evening long. Whenever a customer ordered the tea, it was the server's job to carefully weave between the cooks in the narrow passageway between two cooking workspaces, reach to the back of the stove to the burner simmering the masala tea and strain the tea through a filter into a small metal pot, either designed to hold one cup of tea or four cups. Although one had to work gingerly in order to accomplish this task, it normally went off without too many hitches. That is, until one day, as I was leaning around to the left of one of the cooks (Saul - sp?) to that back burner of the stove, something caught me by surprise. We all wore traditional Indian costumes. That is, pants and a matching top that hung long, like a dress. I never noticed that there was another stove next to the one Saul was working at, because up until that point, no one had ever been using it while I was working. But, when my dress caught on fire, I surely noticed it then! The stove was a short stove, so that while I was reaching around to get the tea, my dress was hovering directly over an open flame. Yikes!! Well, I put the fire out. I was shocked and dismayed, but no one was hurt and eventually went back to what I was doing. And, that's the whole story. My dress caught on fire! .... not my hair...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Memey Times!

I Stole This Meme from Steph

Three Things You Want To Do Before You Die:
1.) Learn how to be more loving, happier, and more resilient to change/disruption
2.) Sing with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra
3.) Travel to lots more beautiful, interesting places

Three Names You Go By:
1.) Peej
2.) Pamb
3.) Funk Sis

Three Physical Things You Like About Yourself:
1.) My nostrils, which I can wiggle
2.) My Gumby toe, because it's cool
3.) My left eyebrow, which I can raise independently

Three Parts Of Your Heritage:
1.) English
2.) Norwegian
3.) Irish

Three Things That Scare You:
1.) People who run after me with knives
2.) Flying in airplanes
3.) Windy roads through the mountains with narrow shoulders and no guard rail

Three Of Your Everyday Essentials:
1.) Clean air
2.) Clean water
3.) Healthy ecosystems

Three Things You Are Wearing Right Now:
1.) Earrings Emily brought me from Scotland
2.) Red Mary Jane shoes
3.) Brown pants with off-white polka dots

Three Of Your Favorite Bands/Musical Artists:
1.) Leonard Bernstein
2.) Indigo Girls
3.) Bach

Three Of Your Favorite Songs (at the moment anyway):
1.) Something's Coming (from West Side Story)
2.) Coin-Operated Boy (Dresden Dolls)
3.) Watershed (Indigo Girls)

Three Things You Want In A Relationship:
1.) Humor
2.) Music - lots of silly singing and lots of serious appreciation
3.) Extreme nerdiness

Two Truths And A Lie (in no particular order):
1.) My hair caught on fire in church once
2.) My hair caught on fire while drinking at a bar once
3.) My hair caught on fire while working as a waitress at an Indian restaurant once

Three Things You Want To Do Really Badly Right Now:
1.) Recline
2.) Read my book
3.) Go outside

Three Careers You've Considered:
1.) Masseuse
2.) Social worker / therapist
3.) Non-profit director

Three Places You Want To Go On Vacation:
1.) Moss landing, CA (where the sea otters make rafts together holding paws!)
2.) Hawaii
3.) Italy

Three Pet Names You Like to use for your pets:
1.) Floofy
2.) Pooky
3.) Silly muffin

Three Ways That You Are Stereotypically A Girl:
1.) I like to dress up and wear make-up
2.) I like Jane Austen novels
3.) I like to take care of people

Three Ways That You Are Stereotypically A Boy:
1.) I like to figure out how things go together/work
2.) I drive a stick shift and am a good parallel parker
3.) I like peaty scotch whiskey

Friday, November 14, 2008

Procrastinator's Exercise Redux

I need to do this again, so I thought I'd re-print this Procrastinator's Exercise I posted back in July...

+++

First, write down four actions that you need to take that you've been putting off. (leave room to write under the items)

Second, under each of these actions, write down the answer to the following questions: Why haven't I taken action? In the past, what pain have I linked to taking this action?

Third, write down all the pleasure you've had in the past by indulging in this negative pattern. (For example, getting quick pleasure from eating sugar...)

Fourth, write down what it will cost you if you don't change now. How does that make you feel?

The final step is to write down all the pleasure you'll receive by taking each of these actions right now. (Make a huge list that will drive you emotionally, that will really get you excited: "I'll gain the feeling of really being in control of my life, of knowing that I'm in charge. I'll gain a new level of self confidence... etc."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Keep Going!

You can do it!!

Friday, November 07, 2008

What Exactly Is Happiness?

"The happiness that we all yearn for is a sentiment commonly associated with the lost paradise of our childhood - when we felt omnipotent, entitled, and immortal. Happiness in adulthood, however, requires realism, reciprocity, and coming to terms with one's mortality. It is cultivation of forgiveness, tolerance, patience, generosity, and compassion." - T. Byram Karasu

from What Exactly Is Happiness

What do you think?

**Update**

In this article from the IRS website, I learned:


"The IRS has published Revenue Ruling 2007-41, which outlines how churches, and all 501(c)(3) organizations, can stay within the law regarding the ban on political activity. Also, the ban by Congress is on political campaign activity regarding a candidate; churches and other 501(c)(3) organizations can engage in a limited amount of lobbying (including ballot measures) and advocate for or against issues that are in the political arena. The IRS also has provided guidance regarding the difference between advocating for a candidate and advocating for legislation. See political and lobbying activities."

+++

This article proposes that we try to revoke the LDS Church's 501c3 status! They have a good point. As a non-profit organization, you are not supposed to create propaganda to influence legislation. The Mormon Church spent $25 million dollars in support of California's Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage. How can they get away with that?

Here is a Petition to Change the Tax-code and Challenge The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Tax-exempt Status

Mormons For Proposition 8

Letter from the Mormon Church to its members

Another article here

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yay!!!

What a wonderful, happy, awesome, super day!! I am SO excited!!! We have a new President who is intelligent, kind, and thoughtful, who has integrity, who is awesome! WOW!

Nonviolence Is The Right Choice—It Works

"Nonviolent resistance is not only the morally superior choice. It is also twice as effective as the violent variety.

That's the startling and reassuring discovery by Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth, who analyzed an astonishing 323 resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006." Read more here...

from The Progressive

Hey you!

Did you vote yet???!!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Quote That Woke Me Up Today

“People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.” - Andrew Carnegie (1835-1918)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Getting to Know You

Enough seriousness! I don't know about you, but I could use a small break from it. Lately I have been getting really worked up about politics. Here's a diversion...

1. Describe to me a sandwich that sounds really delicious to you right now.
2. Do you like to drink beer? What sort of beer sounds good right now?
3. Do you wear perfume or cologne? or any sort of scent? If so, what?
4. Do you like to smell roses?
5. What sort of fabric feels best on your skin? Do you like to wear wool?
6. Do you ever wear turtlenecks?
7. Do you like to take baths? Have you ever been to a public bath or hot spring?
8. What would you like to listen to right now?
9. If you had to choose between listening to a Bach piano prelude, a Beethoven string quartet, a Brahms symphony, a Mozart opera, or the sounds of the forest, which would you choose?
10. If you had to choose between watching the sun set from the top of a hill overlooking a city or watching the sun set over the water (the ocean or a lake), which would you choose?
11. Which would you prefer to watch? A bunch of squirrels, chipmunks, birds, and bunnies eating nuts and seeds? Or, a wide variety of people walking by, having interesting conversations, in a park in the city?
12. What would you rather do right now? Sit in a comfy recliner with a kitty or other furry animal on your lap? Or, sit in a cafe and have a really interesting conversation with a friend?

(me: 1. avocado, tomato, sprouts, cheese, on a french roll [aka vietnamese sandwich]; 2. I think some Young's Double Chocolate Stout would taste pretty good right now -- or Left Hand Milk Stout -- on draft at the Sunset Grill & Tap in Allston, MA...; 3. I do wear perfume sometimes, but not always the same kind. I like pretty smells.; 4. YES! I love roses! Especially the pink and yellow wild kind. They smell amazing!; 5. I like satiny fabrics. Wool is itchy...; 6. I don't really like turtlenecks.;7. Yes! Yes, in Budapest!; 8. A really great choir singing beautifully in a beautiful place.; 9. Bach - C#, sounds of the forest a close second; 10. ocean!; 11. the animals; 12. Right now I'd rather sit in a recliner with a kitty on my lap, because I could really use a nap. I also love having interesting conversations with friends, so if I was more awake, I might choose that instead.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Choosing a President

Today I read an article that deeply disturbed me, because it suggests that people should choose our next President on the basis of one issue, even if the candidate who takes the "right" side on this one issue is overall a much worse candidate. The justification by this author is that we can't really know how much worse that person would be on any of the other issues, but since we know where he stands on the one "crucial" issue, we can't in good conscience vote for him.

I think this advice is naive and absurd. If you focus on one issue and not the sum of the candidate's character and everything he stands for, you are probably not going to do the right thing. There is no perfect candidate, but for once in the whole time I've had the right to vote, there is a candidate who is damn close and I'm voting for him.

This article is a great response to the article I took issue with.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Food for thought

"Creative people, to an extent, escape rigid gender role stereotyping. When tests of masculinity/femininity are given to young people, over and over one finds that creative and talented girls are more dominant and tough than other girls, and creative boys are more sensitive and less aggressive than their male peers.

This tendency toward androgyny is sometimes understood in purely sexual terms, and therefore it gets confused with homosexuality. But psychological androgyny is a much wider concept referring to a person's ability to be at the same time aggressive and nurturant, sensitive and rigid, dominant and submissive, regardless of gender. A psychologically androgynous person in effect doubles his or her repertoire of responses. Creative individuals are more likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other one, too."

- By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
(from this interesting article)

Jsh Jsh Jsh Jsh Jsh Jsh Jsh

Here's Part 2 of Josh's post about Freelancing in the "New" Economy!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Freelancing in the “New” Economy

Josh has written an interesting post about how to actively pursue more musical freelance work. I especially like his first tip, "Don't be lazy." :-)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Shout out!

Hello Cambridge, MA!
Hello North Hampton, NH!
Hello Manchester, NH!
Hello Fall River, MA!
Hello Braintree, MA!
Hello Poughkeepsie, NY!
Hello New York, NY!
Hello Brooklyn, NY!
Hello Rochester, NY!
Hello Syracuse, NY!
Hello Ithaca, NY!
Hello Getzville, NY!
Hello Princeton Junction, NJ!
Hello Mount Laurel, NJ!
Hello Dayton, OH!
Hello Ft. Mitchell, OH!
Hello Indianapolis, IN!
Hello Washington, DC!
Hello Virginia Beach, VA!
Hello Annandale, VA!
Hello Raleigh, NC!
Hello Carrboro, NC!
Hello Kannapolis, NC!
Hello Greenville, SC!
Hello Oak Ridge, TN!
Hello Suwanee, GA!
Hello Winter Park, FL!
Hello Gladewater, TX!
Hello Lawrence, KS!
Hello Bedford Park, IL!
Hello Addison, IL!
Hello Des Moines, IA!
Hello Southfield, MI!
Hello Lansing, MI!
Hello East Lansing, MI!
Hello Green Bay, WI!
Hello Elm Grove, WI!
Hello Madison, WI!
Hello Longmont, CO!
Hello Draper, UT!
Hello Glendale, AZ!
Hello Tucson, AZ!
Hello West Hollywood, CA!
Hello South Pasadena, CA!
Hello Soquel, CA!
Hello Santa Clara, CA!
Hello Union City, CA!
Hello Piedmont, CA!
Hello San Francisco, CA!
Hello Durham, CA!
Hello Portland, OR!
Hello Tacoma, WA!
Hello Seattle, WA!



Have an awesome day, y'all!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Quote to ponder...

"It's easier to act your way into right thinking than to think your way into right acting."

Yes!!

America Needs A New New Deal

Friday, September 26, 2008

Official 2008 Presidential Debate Drinking Game Rules

I found a cool link to help you get through the debate tonight. I don't know about you, but I am really looking forward to this. I have been wanting to write something, to make some comment about what's been going on this week, but I've been much too stunned to know what to say. I hope you've been reading the news and watching clips of Sarah Palin interviews. She's absolutely amazing, isn't she? I am speechless.

Monday, September 22, 2008

CA Prop 2

A Farm Boy Reflects

There's an important proposition on the ballot in California this Fall -- something I think is tremendously important -- something that when I think about the fact that this isn't law now makes me want to cry. Proposition 2 simply prohibits the confinement of certain farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to tum around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. How does anyone consider it humane to confine a sentient being in such a way that it can't turn around freely, lie down, stand up, or fully extend it's limbs? The thought of animals confined without these basic humane requirements makes me so angry I don't even know how to express it to you. I really hope this passes and then we have a lot more work to do beyond that.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What Our Country Desperately Needs is a Leader Who Loves Us

Americans have been treated with contempt for so long that we have become inured to our own society's suffering
by Alice Walker

Stumbling On Happiness

I finished reading the book Stumbling On Happiness by Daniel Gilbert last week. It was pretty good. I enjoyed the beginning especially, because he has a humorous way of telling stories and the subject matter is quite interesting. However, as I continued to read, I noticed that there were A LOT of similarities between this book and the last book I read, The Paradox of Choice. Well, it seemed that way anyway. I was going to go through both books and try to figure out just how many of the same studies were cited, but that turned out to be a really tedious task. Plus, both books are made up almost entirely of statistics and studies, so even if 5 or 6 of the studies cited were the same, that's not really a huge percentage of similarity. It was really noticeable to me, but I guess that's just because I read them in tandem, so it probably wouldn't be a big deal -- or any deal at all -- to most readers. What is a big deal, however, is that once I got to Gilbert's main conclusion, I found it amazingly disappointing and lame. The gist of the book is that our brains are not capable of predicting what will make us happy in the future because we have a tendency to remember selectively in a way that is not at all accurate and therefore doesn't aid us really in any way when we are trying to make decisions. And, our ability to imagine the future is equally flawed. Most of the book is made up of amusing and interesting examples to prove this. However, all goes sour when towards the end of the book he presents his solution to this problem. He oh-so-thoughtfully concludes that since we can't reliably use our imaginations to predict what would make us happy in the future, we should find someone else who is doing the thing we think we want to do and see how happy they are, which will help us to determine how happy we might be. When I got to this point, I was like, "What?! That's what all of this has been leading up to?!" He makes a concerted effort following this to explain that we humans are much more alike than we are different, so if you think you couldn't judge how happy you would be based on how happy someone else is, you are wrong. Honestly, I thought this was a really dumb conclusion to come to. To be fair, much of the book was quite thought-provoking. The ending was what I found rather unimpressive. Interestingly, the TED Talk by Daniel Gilbert about happiness is good and in it he manages to totally avoid the conclusions from the book I found so inane, so you might want to just skip the book and check that out instead.

***

As a side note, one of the findings discussed in both books that I found fascinating concludes that people are much happier with what they choose when they believe the decision is irreversible. So, the option to change your mind about something after you've made a decision (according to many studies) is a factor that will most likely cause you to be much less satisfied with what you have.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pirate Kitty says "mrrrrrarrrrrrrrw"



Vote to put my picture on the I Can Has Cheezburger website by clicking HERE on the fifth cheeseburger to the right above the picture!

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Happy Friday, ye fine scalliwags! It's Talk Like a Pirate Day! Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Gratitude

I just read a quote I thought was worth sharing:

"Individuals who regularly experience and express gratitude are physically healthier, more optimistic about the future, and feel better about their lives than those who do not. Individuals who experience gratitude are more alert, enthusiastic, and energetic than those who do not, and they are more likely to achieve personal goals."

-- Barry Schwartz, Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Question to Ponder...

If you could change one, and only one, thing about the current system of electing the U.S. president, what would it be?

(submitted by Suze)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Paradox of Choice

I read about 3/4 of a book called The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz and then discovered that the author did a very interesting TED talk about it and since I watched that, I haven't had the desire to finish the book. It's definitely worth watching, so check out the link.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bare of baggage

I have always enjoyed staying in hotels and in other people's homes partly because I like the fact that so little of my "stuff" is there. I just recently cleaned up my apartment in such a way that it is extremely bare. I am finding that I LOVE it. I like to be in a place that is so uncluttered -- where I don't have much "baggage". It's strange to say, but it makes me feel more free to be myself somehow. I think maybe there is something to living simple.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Amy Goodman's arrest at the RNC

On Labor Day, Amy Goodman and two of her colleagues from Democrazy Now! were arrested outside the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Here is Amy's account of this travesty of justice:

Why We Were Falsely Arrested by Amy Goodman

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sarah Palin

Both Steph and Celeste have written interesting blog posts about McCain's infamous running mate.

I think Steph summed it up best when she said,

"I think the right has proven itself to be thoroughly enamored of female politicians who make careers out of oppressing other women."

Question to Ponder...

"With the exponential explosion of online tools and services, at what point do we say that it's all worthless junk? At what point does it stop adding value to society and start detracting? For example - the proliferation of partisan, polarized blogs and even cable news channels is having a profound impact on our ability to function as a responsible democracy. What about Facebook, Twitter, you name it? Discuss."

(submitted by Jake C.)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Monday, September 01, 2008

Better Off

I've just finished reading a fascinating book called Better Off by Eric Brende. It's the story of a couple who live for a year and a half without electricity or any modern conveniences in an Amish-esque community as an experiment to see if modern technology has actually made their lives (or society's as a whole) any easier or better. [Brende, who did his Master's degree at MIT, wrote his thesis about the experience.] You can tell from the title that the author concludes that we are better off the grid. He makes a very convincing argument, but, of course, I wasn't too hard to convince. If I hadn't already been interested in the subject, I probably wouldn't have read the book. I've actually been meaning to read it for several years.

There is a lot to share from the book, but for now I'll stick with this one little story, which he calls "the tale of the southern fisherman". The story serves to illustrate the absurdity of modern living, in the way we use technology to avoid work in one area of life and then end up having to replace it in another way (like driving to the gym, for example). In his rural experience, he learns that working together with other members of a community can serve multiple functions -- it becomes a way to socialize, exercise, and earn a living. Most of all, he learns that a slower and simpler way of life allows for more enjoyment, more appreciation of nature, of other people, of life.

Anyway, here is the story:

"The rich man from the North came by one day and saw the southern fisherman sitting, just sitting by the water. This horrified him. 'What are you doing?' he asked. 'I'm sitting,' replied the fisherman. 'Why aren't you out there fishing?' 'I have caught enough fish for one day,' he said. 'Don't you know,' returned the rich man, 'that if you continued, you could earn more money, and with that, buy another boat? With two boats you could earn more money still and buy better nets. Then you could catch even more fish and pretty soon you'd have a whole fleet of boats. Then you'd be rich like me.' 'What would I do then?' asked the fisherman. 'Then you could really enjoy life.' Replied the fisherman, 'What do you think I'm doing right now?'"

A far cry from the message of The dip, eh?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

One Year Later

Just out of curiosity, I turned back the pages of time and looked to see what I wrote on my blog a year ago today. I was reminded that this was the weekend (Labor Day weekend) that I left Boston and started my journey across the country to California! In some ways, it's hard to believe it's only been one year!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Getting to Know You

1. When is the last time you were "off the grid", in a place with no cell phone reception and no internet access for more than 24 hours?

2. When's the last time (if ever) that you constructed something useful out of wood?

3. When's the last time (if ever) that you made a piece of clothing?

4. What's an example of something you prefer to do the "old fashioned way", if anything? (Do you bake your own bread? Do you still read the real newspaper?)

5. Where do you draw the line with technology? What technology do you refuse to buy into? (The year I lived in Madison, WI, I knew quite a few people who still didn't have cell phones. I wonder how many of them are still without?)

6. When you listen to music, what method of technology do you most often employ for it's transmission?

(me: 1. 2 weekends ago we went up to Redwood National Forest and used the phonebook for the first time in ages because there was no internet access. unfortunately, it turned out there was nothing to do, so we had no one to call, but if we had needed to, we would have had to use the landline telephone in our hotel room; 2. high school shop class, i think; 3. I'm not sure that I've ever made a piece of clothing; 4. I prefer using a piano to an electronic keyboard. I prefer using my legs to walk than pretty much any other form of transportation; 5. My dad once bought a motorized wine bottle opener. I would never buy one of those. I like opening bottles the old fashioned way.; 6. either over the internet on www.pandora.com or via CD player)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Open Focus Brain

Yesterday, I finished reading a book my dad sent me for my birthday called The Open Focus Brain by Les Fehmi. The author is the director of the Princeton Biofeedback Centre. Some of his ideas are pretty intriguing (and pretty "out there"), so I thought I'd write out this little excerpt to share it with you, since you seem to like food for thought:

""Nothing" is not merely nothing. Nothing, in fact, is a great and robust healer and is critical to the health and well-being of our nervous system. Space is unique among the contents of attention because space, silence, and timelessness cannot be concentrated on or grasped as a separate experience. It slips through, permeates your attention, through all your senses. Seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, smelling, and thinking of space, basking in it -- while simultaneously experiencing timelessness -- is a powerful way to let go, the most powerful way that I know."

Here are some examples of the exercises he gives in the book:

"Can you imagine the distance or space between your eyes?"

"Is it possible for you to imagine the space inside your nose as you inhale and exhale naturally?"

"Can you imagine the space inside your ears?"

"Gently do a mental inventory of the perceptions of all your senses. Attend, for example, to your sense of hearing. Be aware of sounds while equally and simultaneously attending to the silence between the sounds, out of which the sounds arise. Notice the direction that sounds travel toward you through three-dimensional space."

"Can you imagine the free flow of thought in the space in which it occurs, while feeling body presence and emotions and the space in which they occur as background for thinking?"

"Can you imagine where in silence do the internal voices arise from? Where the visual images are located? Is it possible for you to imagine centering your awareness on the free flow of your thoughts and at the same time experience the physical space from which your thoughts issue, attending equally and simultaneously to the thoughts and to the spatial location from which thoughts emerge?"

Dr. Fehmi's book is all about changing the way you pay attention in order to change your mindset, so that you're not continually in what he calls a "narrow objective" attention, a tense, constricted, survival mode of attention that holds us in a state of chronic stress and leads to anxiety, depression, and attentional disorders. His ideas and his exercises challenge the reader to be conscious of how you're paying attention so that you can catch yourself in this "narrow objective" attention and expand it to encompass more of the world. It's interesting food for thought.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Question to Ponder...

submitted by Celeste W.:

"Buddhism (in a nutshell) teaches us that we seek escape from suffering through the three "lords" of materialism. By seeking refuge in these lords, we deny ourselves the honest path through our suffering to truth and change. On a lighter note, we busy ourselves with this and that so that we don't really have to look hard at the things in our life that our uncomfortable- the things that might prompt us to make real changes for the better.

These three "lords" are
1. The Lord of Form (e.g. sex, food, shopping, TV, internet)
2. The Lord of Speech (e.g. -isms, political movements, feeling "right")
3. The Lord of Mind (e.g. falling in love, spiritual transcendence, getting high, etc)

Not all of these "lords" are "bad" or addictions. In fact, most are benign, or even good- they wouldn't be "lords" if we used them differently. They can be any strategy that we resort to to take our minds of what is really bothering us- to feel instantly comfortable and to avoid the larger questions.

Easy question: What are some of the "lords" in your life?
Medium question: How are they categorized, or are they pan-categorical?
Hard question: which of your lords seems "good" and "right"? What will it take for you to free yourself from the "lord" in this activity/mindset while still holding on to the positive aspects?

Overall guidance: when answering these questions, avoid the temptation to beat yourself up or to feel badly about your list."

(Reference: "The Places that Scare You" by Pema Chodron
http://www.shambhala.com/html/catalog/items/isbn/978-1-57062-921-1.cfm)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Dip

I just finished a book called, The dip: a little book that teaches you when to quit (and when to stick) by Seth Godin. His main point seems to be that you should pick one thing to focus all of your attention on -- something that you have a reasonably good chance of becoming exceptionally good at -- and you should quit everything else that is taking your attention and energy away from that main focus. This main thing you decide to focus on must be something you can stick with through "the dip", the difficult time you will face before you become successful, "the long slog between starting and mastery". You must decide you will persevere until you become the best in the world.

He says, "Quit the wrong stuff. Stick with the right stuff. Have the guts to do one or the other."

He says that we make a mistake in thinking "being well rounded is the secret to success." He says, "in a free market, we reward the exceptional", "...the real success goes to those who obsess." And, "the next time you catch yourself being average when you feel like quitting, realize that you have only two good choices: Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers."

The wrong time to quit something is when you are in "the dip", so it's best to figure out if you think you can survive "the dip" before you begin. Some reasons you might end up quitting (because you didn't think ahead) are because "you run out of time... you run out of money... you get scared... you're not serious about it... you lose interest or enthusiasm or settle for being mediocre... you focus on the short term instead of the long... you pick the wrong thing at which to be the best in the world (because you don't have the talent)."

"Is it possible that you're just not good enough? That you (or your team) just don't have enough talent to be the best in the world? Sure it's possible. In fact, if your chosen area is the cello, or speed skating, then I might even say it's probable. But in just about every relevant area I can think of, no, it's not likely. You are good enough."

So, I picked up this little 80 page book because a friend had recommended it and also because there was an article in the NY Times about it the other day. I was hoping it would help me to sort out some things about my life and career focus. I have to say I found that it was making a lot of sense to me until I got to the line, "if your chosen area is the cello"... There I was reading along, deciding to make some major changes in my life, when I realized suddenly that maybe he didn't intend his advice to apply to me after all...

I had a little trouble figuring out where to take him totally literally and where to assume he was exaggerating to make a point. I know I will never be the best soprano in the world, because my voice isn't big/loud enough or high enough to compete for that coveted spot (which is obviously totally subjective anyway). But, if I re-defined what "the world" and "soprano" mean and tried to be the best singer of Handel arias or something that fits me better, it seems more feasible.

What else would I have a reasonable chance of becoming the "best in the world" at if I quit everything else and focused only on it? I think it's an interesting question. But, I'm not sure I think someone who advocates obsessing is someone I want to take advice from. I think it's probably good to streamline your life's focus and not waste your time and energy on dead-end projects, but to what end? And, what happens when you finally become the best in the world? Will you be happy?

Friday, August 22, 2008

One Hundred Push Ups

What do you think? Are you up to THIS CHALLENGE?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Getting to Know You - JEOPARDY version

I'll supply the answers! You supply the questions!

1. Compassion.
2. A match.
3. "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
4. I fundamentally disagree.
5. I felt proud.
6. Honesty.
7. Eye contact.
8. The bathroom.
9. I would apologize.
10. A walk in the woods.

[Here are some sample answers that I am making up as I go along here... 1. What is a ten letter word that begins with a "C"? 2. What would you use to light a candle? 3. What is a good quote? 4. How do you feel about politicians taking bribes? 5. How did you feel when you graduated from college? 6. What is the most important quality quality in a witness? 7. What would you want to make in order to find out what color someone's irises were? 8. Where do you usually go in order to pass water? 9. What would you do if you stepped on my toes? 10. What sounds nice right about now?]

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hmm...

Well, either everyone is out to lunch or I asked a really sensitive question. So, here's another question which is not less sensitive at all, but I just thought I'd add it since no one has answered my first one.

If you were walking down the street and saw someone who was choking, would you consider it your responsibility to give that person the heimlich maneuver?

A co-worker told me one time she was in a sushi restaurant waiting for take out and started choking on something. NO ONE tried to help her, even though she had her hands around her neck and was clearly indicating that she was choking. She had to give herself the heimlich maneuver on a chair.

What do you consider to be your personal responsibility when it comes to strangers? If you were a doctor, it would be in your code of ethics to help anyone that was in need, but as an average civilian, what is your responsibility? Would you be more likely to help someone who looked/acted/seemed like you or someone who seemed more like they could really use help... like a homeless person...?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Question to Ponder...

What is our collective / your individual responsibility to homeless people?

"My life is part of the global life -
I found myself becoming more immobile
When I think a little girl in the world
can't do anything -
A distant nation, my community,
a street person, my responsibility -
If I have a care in the world,
I have a gift to bring -"

- Emily Saliers

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Getting to know you again (and again...)

1. Do you own a TV set?
2. Have you spent much time pondering the meaning of life? (figured it out yet?)
3. How do you feel about slapstick comedy / "stupid funny" humor?
4. Do you enjoy watching people?
5. Do you own a toaster?
6. Do you believe everything happens for a reason?
7. Are you funny? Do you ever try to be funny, but fail?
8. Have you ever seen a ghost? (Do you believe in ghosts?)

(me: 1. no.; 2. yes. (no.); 3. i love it most of the time.; 4. yes. people are fascinating.; 5. no.; 6. yes.; 7. every once in a while. all the time.; 8. i don't know. (i don't know.))

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New to my links

Choralista
Celeste's Scramblings

Question to Ponder...

How do you feel about the vastness of the universe? Does it terrify you with your own insignificance, or do you like being part of such a huge, mysterious whole?
(submitted by Steph)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Protein

So, this week, my challenge to myself is to try to eat enough protein. More specifically, I'm going to make sure I get at least 50g of protein every day, because I don't think I usually do.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Update on Exercise Challenge

Well, I failed to do what I originally set out to do, which was to exercise every day of this week, but I did manage to exercise three times -- Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. I ran for 20 minutes, did push ups, and stretched. I have to admit, given my state of health, that I am happy with myself even though I didn't accomplish as much as I had hoped I would.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Tourists!

On my way to work, I go through two distinctly different sections of town with two distinctly different sets of people. Both parts of town are also frequented by a third group of people who are ubiquitous throughout the city. The first set of people are tourists, the second set of people are business folks on their way to work, and the third set of people are homeless people. Here's how you can tell them apart:

Tourists - dressed comfortably in t-shirts and shorts, often wearing cameras around their necks, often with family, often pointing, often speaking a european language, confused at intersections, meander instead of walk in straight lines, sometimes dragging a suitcase on wheels, often carrying several different bags of shopping purchases, often clumped in groups of many people

Business folks on their way to work - dressed in business attire - formal or casual, carrying a briefcase or one over the shoulder bag or purse, usually alone, usually walking at a brisk pace in a straight line, often carrying a cup of coffee in a "to go" cup

Homeless people - usually dressed in soiled clothing, bodies/face/hair are usually visibly dirty and usually quite tanned by the sun, often carrying a sign with a plea for help and/or a cup to collect change, usually stationary - sometimes sitting, sometimes standing, sometimes selling a newspaper called "Street Sheet", sometimes smell of urine

Which group of people is most annoying? Tourists! If I'm in a hurry to get to work or get home and end up behind a group of tourists, I usually have to walk into the street to get around them. They clump together and meander and do whatever possible it seems to make sure it's impossible for me to walk in a brisk straight line and get to work on time. But I don't have all negative feelings for tourists. Every once in a while I like to play the tourist and get lost in a sea of people. I love the city I live in and it's nice to see that others love it, too. Just not on my way to work...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

One Year Ago Today

Just for fun I decided to see what I posted a year ago today. It was a Getting to Know You day. Jake, Suze, Steph, and Andre might be interested to see what they had to say then. Has anything changed for you? Gosh, for me just about everything has changed!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Veronika Decides to Die

I finished reading the book Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coehlo this afternoon over my lunch hour. I think this was supposed to be an uplifting book, but it sent me into a really deep depression that I think I am just starting to lift out of nearly 8 hours later. I thought it might help to write about it, but honestly I'm not really sure what to say. Without spoiling any important plot points, the main gist is that Veronika, the main character, tries to commit suicide, fails, and over time reconnects with her will to live. Along the way we learn why Veronika didn't want to live anymore and also the histories of several of her fellow mental institution inmates. The author takes us through one woman's experience of panic attacks in such detail that I almost had a panic attack reading about them. Anyway, I have read a few depressing books in my life. The Bell Jar, Go Ask Alice, and Anna Karenina are some that come to mind. I think what disturbs me most about Veronika Decides to Die is that I think it was supposed to put me in a good mood, not make me depressed. I think I was supposed to rediscover how valuable my life is and feel really happy to be alive through the process of reading it. I was actually looking forward to feeling inspired, to finding new purpose, but I'm afraid that didn't happen. What a bummer...

Monday, August 04, 2008

Question to Ponder...

Do you think that email and the internet in general have brought people closer together, or moved them further apart?
(submitted by Scott G.)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Challenge: Week Three

This week I've decided to make a challenge for myself to exercise every day, because I really need to do it and this "challenge" method seems to be working rather well for me. My goal is to do some sort of strength training, aerobic activity, and stretching every day this week. I'm planning to alternate between push ups and pilates core strength training for the strength training part, alternate between running and walking up steep hills for the aerobic activity part, and do an assortment of yoga and runner stretches for the stretching part. I have a pretty specific plan, but I won't bore you with all the details.

I started medication for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome a few months ago and have found that exercise definitely helps. Sitting, standing, or lying in one place for a long time definitely makes me feel crappy. I think there is some connection there to why I fall asleep so easily when I'm reading, but I don't really know. Anyway, I think that getting more exercise will be a good thing for me.

How are you doing?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

I just posted my last comment from My Second Challenge. I will report about my next challenge soon. It's going to involve exercising...

Friday, August 01, 2008

Mistakes are part of the process... (thanks, Emily!)

“We now know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb.” - Thomas Alva Edison

"What defines a master? Not making mistakes. How does one become a master? Make lots of mistakes." - Anonymousian

"You cannot become a master until you actually take the leap, do the work, make several thousand mistakes, and live to tell about it." - Suzanne Falter-Barns

"I don't measure a man's success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom." - General George S. Patton

"100% of the shots you don't take don't go in." - Wayne Gretzky

"It's important not only to figure out what works, but to figure out what doesn't work." - Anonymouspam

"I care not what others think of what I do, but I care very much about what I think of what I do!" - Theodore Roosevelt

"A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery." - James Joyce

"If you can't make a mistake, you can't make anything." - Marva Collins

"For me the spiritual path has always been learning how to die. That involves
not just death at the end of this particular life, but all the falling apart that happens continually. The fear of death - which is also the fear of groundlessness, of insecurity, of not having it all together-seems to be the most fundamental thing that we have to work with. Because these endings happen all the time! Things are always ending and arising and ending... We have so much fear of not being in control, of not being able to hold on to things. Yet the true nature of things is that you're never in control." - Pema Chödrön

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Morning Pages

So, I've been seriously considering doing morning pages again. If you're not familiar with them, they are one of the two essential tools to unlocking your creativity advocated by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist's Way. Cameron's theory is that if you write three pages of stream-of-consciousness longhand first thing in the morning, you will unload all of the crap that is covering up your best ideas. I have two main reservations about engaging in this process again. One is that after years of not writing (because I type everything now), my hand hurts when I write longhand. (Also, typed journals stored on my laptop take up so much less room!) The other reservation has to do with Tony Robbins's idea that you should wake up and consciously force yourself to think about everything that is positive in your life in order to get the ball rolling in the right direction. I did morning pages for long enough to know that a good deal of what I wrote about was negative. Now, maybe that was just who I was back then. Or, maybe without direction I have a tendency to think negatively and my thoughts have a tendency to spiral downwards. I like Tony's exercise because if I'm not in a good mood, it always changes my mood for the better. So, my fear of doing morning pages again, of tapping into my subconscious, is a fear that I'll dig and dig and negative, dark thoughts will be all I find. I have convinced myself that thinking positively is something I need to make myself do consciously, not a natural inclination I need to uncover.

But, my question is this, how can I be truly creative if I am actively directing my thoughts? In order to uncover my unique creative voice, I have to write and tap into my subconscious somehow. How could I do that without wading through some (or a lot of) darkness? And then, how would "thinking positively" fit into my lifestyle?

Julia Cameron says of creativity:

"Creativity is a spiritual force. The force that drives the green fuse through the flower, as Dylan Thomas defined his idea of the life force, is the same urge that drives us toward creation. There is a central will to create that is part of our human heritage and potential. Because creation is always an act of faith, and faith is a spiritual issue, so is creativity. As we strive for our highest selves, our spiritual selves, we cannot help but be more aware, more proactive, and more creative."

She says of morning pages:

"You should think of them not as "art" but as an active form of meditation for Westerners. In the morning pages we declare to the world—and ourselves—what we like, what we dislike, what we wish, what we hope, what we regret, and what we plan."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Question to Ponder...

How much should the arts be publicly supported? In times of economic difficulty (like now), should public money be used to fund public art displays (and by that I include dance, music, etc - all the arts), or should other societal problems (like funding health care for the poor, for example) come first? In other words, how much responsibility should the gov't take for funding the arts, as opposed to private support?
(submitted by Suze G.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Learning to Sleep

What gets in the way of good sleep?

light, noisy neighbors, back pain, fear of crushing cat, arm pain, residue caffeine in system, dreams about car accidents and getting fired and deceased loved ones, creaking bed, disappearing blankets, cold feet, toe-biting kitty, anxiety about work and/or getting up early or anything else, hunger, upbeat music

ZzzzZzzzZzZzZzzzZzzzZzZzZzzzZzzzZ

What supports good sleep?

hot bath, massage, feeling calm and peaceful

ZzzzZzzzZzZzZzzzZzzzZzZzZzzzZzzzZ

I'm having a lot of trouble sleeping lately. I mean, I fall asleep reading and watching movies during the day, but then I try to sleep in bed at night and I can't get to sleep and/or I wake up several times during the night. And then I'm tired the next day and fall asleep during the day again. I can't seem to end this cycle. It's so annoying.

ZzzzZzzzZzZzZzzzZzzzZzZzZzzzZzzzZ

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I just posted my last comment about this week's challenge. I guess it's officially over, but I have to tell you, I'm totally hooked on trying new things. It's so much fun!

Next Challenge - Read without falling asleep....

I have a heap of books I've been meaning to read, so for my next challenge I'm going to try to finish at least one of the following books in the next week. I realize this may sound like a small challenge, but for some reason I have the annoying tendency to fall asleep while reading, which makes it very difficult to get very far. Here are the books that are calling my name:

Middlesex - Eugenides
If on a winter's night a traveler - Calvino
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle - Murakami
A Fine Balance - Mistry
The Moor's Last Sigh - Rushdie
Doctor Zhivago - Pasternak

My hope is that focusing on this will help me find a solution to my falling asleep problem and help me get back into the habit of reading more. A few of these books are partly read and I've read at least one chapter of all of them at one time or another.

Have you read any of them? What books are sitting on your shelf waiting to be read?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Getting to Know You

1. What's the weather like where you are today?
2. How many cups of caffeine have you had so far today?
3. What are you wearing today?
4. What books are you reading?
5. What was the last good meal you ate?
6. Where did you go on your last walk?
7. Are you listening to music right now? If not, what would you like to be listening to?
8. What kind of computer are you using?
9. What kind of chair are you sitting in?
10. If you had no obligations right now, what would you choose to do with your day?

(me - 1.sunny, 67F, slight breeze; 2. one apricot ceylon tea latte; 3. black and white striped skirt, yellow tank top, black cardigan, black flip flops; 4. Giant book by Tony Robbins; 5. The moussaka I had at Persimmon last night was pretty good; 6. I walked with a co-worker up to the Embarcadero Center to get another tea latte; 7. No :-( Brahms 3rd Symphony, 3rd mvmt.; 8. Dell PC; 9. grey office chair on wheels; 10. something outside, somewhere pretty, in the sun.)

Challenge input

So the highlights of my week have been eating new foods, walking new routes, visiting new places, and learning new things -- all things I've done as part of my Challenge. I'm planning to continue the Challenge through Sunday, so I'm just curious to know if any of you have ideas for me. What do you think are some new things I could try? What else could I do that would be out of the ordinary? Any ideas? I'd love to hear them.

Happy Friday!

Quotes

"The most common misconception [about creativity] is that we would have to leave our current lives in order to pursue our dreams. It is easier for us to use our jobs, families, financial situations, time obligations, etc., as a way (or ways) to keep us "safe" from the anxiety caused by stepping out of our comfort zones into the creative process. When we allow ourselves to be thus thwarted, we deny ourselves tremendous joy. The most effective way to confront blocks is to form creative cluster groups in the lives we’re already leading." - Julia Cameron

"A rare experience of a moment at daybreak, when something in nature seems to reveal all consciousness, cannot be explained at noon. Yet it is part of the day's unity. - Charles Ives

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Options

Tonight after work, my friend Jennie was asking me the Questions just for fun and when she asked me what I'm excited about in my life right now, I realized that this experience of trying to collect new experiences has really changed how I feel about my life. I told her I was excited because I realized that every day I have so many options, so many different possibilities for what I can do with my life on so many different levels and in so many different areas, and that feels really exciting to me. I feel like I'm on an adventure and I wonder what's going to happen next, what options are going to present themselves to me. Whereas before I think I often tried to avoid new experiences, trying to choose the fastest, easiest route -- the one that required the least thinking, now since I've been purposely seeking out new options, I find that just in general, I feel more open to new experiences. I feel less bothered when someone interrupts my usual habits and more likely to say "yes" when someone suggests something that feels a bit outside of my comfort zone. So, I think that's a good thing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

In case you're interested in following my "Challenge" adventures, I'm writing notes in the comments of the Challenge post.

Question to Ponder

If you could use a machine to increase your creativity and your ability to learn, would you? And, would this be more like weight training or steroids?
(submitted by Ian F.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Questions

According to Tony Robbins, in his book Awaken the Giant Within*, it is really helpful to get up every morning and instead of wallow in self-pity that you have to get up for work and wish that you could go back to sleep, he suggests you ask yourself the following questions:

1. What am I happy about in my life right now?
2. What am I excited about in my life right now?
3. What am I proud about in my life right now?
4. What am I grateful about in my life right now?
5. What am I enjoying most in my life right now?
6. What am I committed to in my life right now?
7. Who do I love? Who loves me?

Doing this will help you put your focus in a good place -- and hopefully set you up to have a great day. :-)

(*which is proving to have a lot of really great stuff in it, despite that bit of extreme advice I told you about a few days ago)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Challenge

It seems to me that the best thing we can do to keep life exciting is change up our routines a bit. If we continue to do the same things over and over, how will we ever come up with new ideas? How will we keep our lives creative and interesting? How will we avoid feeling like life is boring or depressing? We take the same route to work, we eat the same foods, we talk to the same people, we go the same places, we have the same conversations, we use the same words to describe our lives ("I'm a secretary.") or to address our loved ones ("Hello, dear.") or when we get angry ("I'm so stupid!" or "S/he's so stupid!"), we sleep on the same side of the bed, we complain about the same problems, we use the same coping mechanisms to assuage our boredom, etc. We live our lives in a way that is not fully conscious, doing many things just out of habit, and part of that is defining ourselves in habitual ways that are not current with the moment. Does that make any sense? We come to expect that our life is only as wide as the box we've chosen to view it through. When we make little changes (and big changes), we allow ourselves to widen the box a bit (or a lot).

This week I'm setting up a challenge for myself and I'm inviting you all to join me. Every day this week I vow to do something I've never done before and/or learn something new. This could mean listening to a piece of music I've never heard before (live or on recording), going to a new place (a restaurant, an art museum, a part of town, someone's house, a park, etc.), learning a new word or learning about a new subject, learning something new about a person I know or talking to someone I've never talked to before, learning a new skill, etc. etc.

If you'd like to join in the fun, feel free to write about your adventures in the comments here. That could be very inspiring for those of us looking for ideas! Also, if you feel like it, I'd love to hear about ways in which you already try to keep your life fresh and exciting!

[Uh... and since this is the internet and all, I guess I should make it known that I only endorse legal activities, like the kind of stuff that doesn't hurt anybody, including yourself...]

Friday, July 18, 2008

Getting to Know You

1. Name a way in which you changed/improved your life this past week.
(Feel free to answer this alternative question for #1: Name something annoying you had to deal with this week.)

2. Name something you'd like to change/improve in your life this coming week.

3. What's the last delicious food you ate?

4. What's something delicious you'd like to eat soon?

5. Name something exciting you did recently.

6. What's something you're looking forward to in the near future?

7. If you could travel to anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?

8. What's the next best thing you could do to traveling to that place without leaving the city where you live?

(me: 1. I started a new way of making TO DO lists at work that are proving to be much more effective; (answer to alternative #1: I had to go to the DMV on Monday. That sucked. And, I have to go back tomorrow. Oh joy.); 2. I would like to get back into the habit of eating well and I'd like to stretch my body more; 3. I had 3 really ripe and flavorful plums last night; 4. I would like to eat more delicious fruit; 5. I started looking through some of the arias my new voice teacher recommended, sang through them, and started translating them... Also, I've been reading a book that's pretty exciting; 6. I rented some episodes of "The Family Guy" that I haven't seen and I'm really excited to watch them tonight; 7. I would like to lie on a warm, sandy beach on a tropical island; 8. Hmmm, I could buy the ingredients for pina coladas and buy tropical flowers and hang out in my apartment in my bathing suit, maybe take a dip in the bathtub... Or, I could go out to a Tiki bar and drink tropical drinks... Or, I could bundle up in really warm clothing and go to the beach! Or, I could find a book or movie about people lying on a beach on a tropical island and live vicariously through them.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Not Dead Yet

Please note that the discussion about the Question to Ponder is not dead yet. :-)

************************************************************************************************

Thank you to everyone for participating in a very interesting discussion!!

************************************************************************************************

Also, note that I updated my MySpace site with some "new" songs. Susan is playing on most of them.

Process vs. Product (revised)

It just occurred to me that one big difference between some of the "motivational/inspirational" authors I've read is related to process vs. product. Some of these "guys" are all about results, while others are more interested in what is happening along the way. That isn't to say that the author who says you should judge your success based on what kind of results you are getting isn't interested in your quality of life. Nor is it saying that the author who is more interested in the creative process or "living in the moment" doesn't hope you achieve some external measure of success. But there do seem to be a lot of books that mostly fall into just one category or the other.

What about you? I'd like to say I'm more of a process person than a product person, but honestly that's not really true. I like to have things I can point to and say, "I did that." At the same time, I do actually enjoy the process of working on my craft, of working on things generally. In the end, maybe it's about having a balance between the two -- creating a life that's enjoyable moment by moment and working towards a few things you can be proud of, point to, and say, "I did that." How about you? Do you enjoy the process of working on your craft? Or are you mostly interested in the end result? Or is it a bit of both?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Practicing Piano...

I love making music with other people. Singing in a choir, playing violin in orchestra, singing while someone else is playing piano or guitar, singing duets or trios or quartets, etc. are some of the greatest joys I've known in my life and how I've come to know most of my best friends. It's just so much darn fun! But... I have to tell you that one of the most exciting moments in my entire life was the moment I realized I could sing and accompany myself! Not that making music by myself replaces the joys of making music with other people -- not by any means -- but the idea that I could experience so much joy without having to wait for other people to become available was thrilling! It started with learning that I could "fake" my way through pop songs (read chord symbols and arpeggiate - or play by ear). Then, I learned it was pretty easy for me to write my own songs to play and sing. But, my piano skill is limited, so the joy of playing and singing often gives way to feelings of frustration for not being able to play more interesting, difficult lines -- and for sounding clunky and ungraceful. Some of my very favorite music in the world to sing and listen to is German and French art song. I have always loved the combination of beautiful melodies, rich harmonies, and exquisite poetry. I have always wished I could play and sing these wonderful pieces myself, but the piano parts are so intimidating, so difficult, that I have always been embarrassed by my feeble attempts. I can pretty confidently tell you I can play and sing "The World Feels Dusty" by Aaron Copland, from his Emily Dickinson songs, but not much else. I have worked on "Heart, We Will Forget Him" from the same set, "Nacht" (Strauss), "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" (Mahler), "Sure on this Shining Night" (Barber), and many others, but usually I only play them when I have a craving to hear them, I stumble through, get frustrated by my lack of skill, and then quit. However, just recently I started practicing "Die Mainacht" by Brahms. I decided I would thoroughly and methodically work on it for as long as it takes -- every day -- with the aim of playing and singing it well. (Incidentally, it has been in my head almost non-stop since then.) I can ALMOST play it. Oof! But, it's SO frustrating. Sometimes I just feel like I don't really know how to practice piano. I mean, I know how to dissect things and practice the trouble spots. I know I need repetition. But, I swear there are times when practicing too much makes it worse. It's like I become more awkward and uncoordinated the more I focus on trying to get things right. This is not something I have experienced playing violin or singing. I don't know what it is about piano, but I swear there have been many times when the first try playing through a piece was better than any of my subsequent attempts. I know there are several pianists who read my blog. Help!! :-)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Question to Ponder...

"Is a musician an artist?"
(submitted by Jake C.)

Let's Pretend...

Not too long ago I was talking to a friend who told me that she often imagines she is really fat when she sings. Doing this makes her feel more grounded, helps her breathe better, and leads her to find a bigger, more solid sound. She obviously isn't changing the size of her body with her imagination, but her imagination helps her to achieve what she believes would be easier if her body were different. This isn't the strangest visualization technique I've heard from a singer. As singers, since our vocal mechanism is internal and difficult to control in the same way as an external instrument, like a violin or piano, we are often searching for some sort of visualization that leads us to a better sound. In the midst of this conversation, I mentioned that sometimes in auditions, I have actually pretended I was someone else. I used this technique not for vocal reasons, but for help with my confidence. I figured that if I identified myself too heavily as someone who wasn't confident, I should try some method acting and just play the role of someone who was -- usually a specific person who epitomized energy, charisma, and confidence to me. It helped tremendously -- and it was fun! My imagination obviously didn't turn me into another person, but it helped me to find the parts of myself that were more capable of exhibiting confidence and charisma. Our minds can do so much to limit us when we have limited ideas of what we think is possible. On the flip side, we can use our imaginations to stretch our ideas of what is possible. Visualization can be useful as a way of expanding our realities or just as a way of rehearsing for future events. Pretending can be a fun way to try on modes of living life that we aren't normally comfortable with -- also stretching our imaginations as to what is possible.

Have you used visualization in your life? Have you ever chosen a theme song of the day to help direct your mood/confidence?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Burning in Hell

As I mentioned before, I've been reading the book, Awaken the Giant Within, by Tony Robbins. I've just come to a chapter in the book in which I feel wary of some of the author's advice, so I thought I'd voice my uncertainties here to see if you readers have opinions about the matter.

So, here's the deal... It's Chapter 6, which is titled, "How to Change Anything in Your Life: the Science of Neuro-Associative Conditioning". In this chapter he says, "If you and I want to change our behavior, there is only one effective way to do it: we must link unbearable and immediate sensations of pain to our old behavior, and incredible and immediate sensations of pleasure to a new one." Step One tells you to "decide what you really want and what's preventing you from having it now." Step Two tells you to "Get Leverage: Associate Massive Pain to Not Changing Now and Massive Pleasure to the Experience of Changing Now!"

A lot of the advice in this chapter is quite sound, makes sense to me, and seems quite useful. But, some of it is quite troubling to me. For example, the best way for me to stop drinking coffee, according to this chapter, is for me to associate drinking coffee with getting esophageal cancer -- to visualize myself getting such amazingly terrible acid in my stomach that my acid reflux problem comes back in an awful way and quickly progresses to full out throat cancer. [I know this is what he means, because he gives a similar example, using cancer, for someone with another problem.] Is this really a healthy way to think? Will I really be building a healthy, fulfilling life by conditioning myself to develop intense fears of all the behaviors I want to discontinue? Quite possibly... I have to admit, since I went through this step of the process, I have not drunk any coffee -- and frankly, the thought of it repulses me at the moment.

Another aspect of this advice I'm having trouble with is how to apply it to a wide variety of examples. How do I apply this if what I want is to make a career of singing? Or, what if I want to stop thinking negative thoughts? What's in the way of my making my career singing? I guess it's that I never audition for anything. So, I guess I need to associate massive pain with not auditioning? -- like, the longer I go without auditioning, the hotter the seat underneath me gets until it's a burning flame under my butt? And, what's in the way of stopping myself from thinking negative thoughts? I think it's those damn negative thoughts. Or, maybe it's not enough positive thinking... So, I guess I need to associate massive pain with not thinking positive thoughts? -- like, if I go five minutes without a positive thought, my head will explode? Oh no! I'm so happy!!

What do you think about all this, dear readers?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Getting to Know You

(for those of you who are new to my blog quizzes, write your answers in the "comments")

1. What is a song you've had stuck in your head this week?
2. What's a poem or quote that inspires you?
3. What is a piece of music you haven't listened to before, but would like to?
4. What is a painting/drawing you love to look at?
5. Name a pretty place you've been to.

(me: 1. Phydile (Duparc), 2. Poem - "The Journey" by Mary Oliver, Quote - "Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." ~Harold Whitman, 3. Wagner's string quartet, 4. almost anything by John Singer Sargent. The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit is a favorite. It's hanging in the MFA in Boston. It's huge. The girls look *so* real. It's amazing., 5. There are so many pretty places in San Francisco... Somewhere on a hill in San Francisco.)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Another re*mind*er

You may remember a post I wrote in December 2006 about mindfulness. In that post, I wrote:

"One great lesson I learned from *The Miracle of Mindfulness* was the idea that one doesn't need to separate oneself from others in order to have time to oneself. By thinking that all time is one's own time, one is free to experience fully every moment one spends alone or with others."

I was thinking about this today in the context of my day job. I have recently committed myself to spending a lot more time and energy on musical/creative work and so that is on my brain most of the time these days. Unfortunately, I have found that while I'm at my job during the day, I am totally unfocused and find myself daydreaming and thinking about how I wish I was doing other things, like practicing. Part of the problem is that, because of my awakened interest in my life's true calling (which is music - singing, of course), I have become much less able to focus on the work I do for the organization I work for (which, for the record, I still think is a really awesome organization doing really great and important work). But, another part of the problem is, I think, that I fear that if I put energy into doing a good job at work, I'll have less energy for the things I want to do before and after work. Deep down, I know that in the resisting of the work I need to do for my job, I am wasting my energy. By thinking I have to divide my time -- and divide myself, I am causing myself unnecessary mental hardship. In reflecting more about this, it seems to me that as long as I choose to work this job, I have to see it as an important part of the fabric of my life. I have to see where/how it fits in to my life plan -- to fulfilling my musical/creative goals.

Can you relate to this struggle?

Procrastinator's Exercise

I lifted this exercise right out of Awaken the Giant Within. I hope -- if you're in need of it -- that you find it useful. I don't intend for you to share your answers with me. This is for your private use.:

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First, write down four actions that you need to take that you've been putting off. (leave room to write under the items)

Second, under each of these actions, write down the answer to the following questions: Why haven't I taken action? In the past, what pain have I linked to taking this action?

Third, write down all the pleasure you've had in the past by indulging in this negative pattern. (For example, getting quick pleasure from eating sugar...)

Fourth, write down what it will cost you if you don't change now. How does that make you feel?

The final step is to write down all the pleasure you'll receive by taking each of these actions right now. (Make a huge list that will drive you emotionally, that will really get you excited: "I'll gain the feeling of really being in control of my life, of knowing that I'm in charge. I'll gain a new level of self confidence... etc."

+++

Do you procrastinate? What helps you get going again? Do you see procrastination as a major obstacle for you? -- in your creative life?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Kick in the Pants

Just a few days ago, I picked up a book by Anthony Robbins called, Awaken the Giant Within. I haven't progressed very far into it, but just thought I'd share a little of his wisdom with you. I first became familiar with Tony Robbins when I bought another book of his called Giant Steps at least a decade ago. One thing from that book has actually stuck with me for all this time, so I feel reasonably confident that at least something in this new book will be useful. In Giant Steps, he suggests that if you are stuck in a (mental) place where you have a lot of things you need to do, but you just can't get yourself to do any of them because you feel totally overwhelmed, the best thing to do is ANYTHING -- pick up a piece of paper off the floor, do a load of laundry, alphabetize your book collection... whatever! He says (from what I remember) that once you start doing things and accomplishing things, you will get yourself on a roll and in a positive frame of mind that will set you up for success and get you to the frame of mind you need to accomplish all of your other projects.

Here is one snippet from Awaken the Giant Within that I found interesting:

"Everything you and I do, we do either out of our need to avoid pain or our desire to gain pleasure... What is procrastination? It's when you know you should do something, but you still don't do it. Why not? The answer is simple: at some level you believe that taking action in this moment would be more painful than just putting it off."

There are a couple of things I have been procrastinating doing for a long time and it occurs to me at this moment that by putting them off, I have been wasting a ton of energy. I am actually a habitual procrastinator. This is what Wikipedia has to say about procrastination. It's pretty interesting. This is pretty interesting, too: Getting Things Done. As is this: Structured Procrastination.

Last night I had my first voice lesson in almost 3 years. She kicked my butt. I needed it. It was good.

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Little Motivation

"I have learned, as a rule of thumb, never to ask whether you can do something. Say, instead, that you are doing it. Then fasten your seat belt. The most remarkable things follow."

"The creative process is a process of surrender, not control."

"Each of us has an inner dream that we can unfold if we will just have the courage to admit what it is. And the faith to trust our own admission. The admitting is often very difficult."

- Julia Cameron

"Let me make this clear: there are no secrets. None. There is no new information. What it took to be successful a thousand years ago is exactly what it takes to be successful today... People change their lives when they want to, not because I want them to... Life is your own damn fault. Your thoughts, your words and your actions created your circumstances. Don't like them? Fix them."

- Larry Winget

"If you want more, you have to require more from yourself."
"You're only lonely if you're not there for you."

- Dr. Phil

Whack!

Here are some links to interesting articles about how to stimulate creative thinking:

How to Increase Your Creativity
Give Yourself a Whack on the Side of the Head
Top Ten Ways to Increase Your Creativity
Seven Steps to Increase Your Creativity

My favorite tips from these articles:

"Take a nap."

"Take a break and go for a walk."

"The more often you do something in the same way, the more difficult it is to think about doing it in any other way. Break out of this "prison of familiarity" by disrupting your [habits]."

"Encourage really, really bad ideas: If you are only coming up with good ideas you aren’t being creative... Bad ideas often lead to really great ideas."

What are YOUR favorite ways to get through creative blocks?

Focus

Hi readers!

I'm going to make an effort from this day forward to blog every day (!!) and to focus my blog on issues relating to music and creativity. I am hoping to start taking more action on projects I want to do and so I'm hoping to use this blog as one of many tools to help me make progress on my goals. I hope you find my posts interesting and useful and as always I invite you to comment! Thank you to Susan for suggesting I do this!

More soon!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Food For Your Soul

How to sing like a planet (Article from www.sfgate.com)

My Stroke of Insight (Video from TED.com)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Sopranos

Another idea that has been running around in my mind is that of putting on operas with casts of all women, in the sort of style as men sometimes do and certainly did for a great part of theatre history. There are SO many more female singers than male ones that the world is overrun with talented women singers who have no one to hire them. What about doing La Boheme with an all female cast? How crazy would that be? Not so crazy if you ask me.

Entrepreneurialism

Over the years I have had a number of entrepreneurial ideas running through my head. Susan probably remembers that period of time in which I was totally serious about starting an artist's co-op -- a Victorian house with a great living room space in which we could give recitals, with many rooms on upper floors which could be used to give music lessons and such. I was thinking about that again today. It seems like a great idea, but I think it would require some major investors. I have also thought lately that somebody should start a business of sleep pod cafes or just sell the sleep pods to businesses so their employees can take a nap in the middle of the day (and boost productivity). Obvious reasons led me to think of that idea... Zzzzz... One idea I would really like to work on seriously, though, is writing for and getting grants to put on vocal recitals (of new music and/or old music...). The latest incarnation of this idea involves getting the grant money to totally cover all artist expenses and then using all ticket sales at the event to benefit people in need -- one or more charities, including homeless shelters, women's shelters, orphanages, etc. I seem to have no shortage of ideas, but unfortunately I don't have a clue about how to put my ideas into action.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Monday, June 09, 2008

Nashira!



I can't believe I haven't posted a picture of Nashira yet. Isn't she sweet? :-)

Softies!




I made these silly things. Can you believe it? I had lots of help from Jennie on the "party cake" on the left.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I've Been Tagged!

Steph tagged me to describe 5 Weird Things About Me. So... here I go:

1. I'm tall. I've been this tall since high school, but I never realized how tall I am compared to other people. I always thought I was on the tall side of things for women, but never realized that I'm actually taller than most men, too. [I'm a bit shy of 5'9". I just looked at a chart of averages. It looks like only 5% of women are as tall or taller than me. 50% of men are shorter than me.] Now when I walk through the streets of San Francisco, I am hugely aware of my size. When I was younger, other women always told me I was lucky to be so tall. People told me I was lucky to have such nice, long legs. Now I just feel like a giant. (which is silly.)

Oh, another weird thing related to my tallness is that I'm tall, but I can fit into petite sized clothing. I have a petite torso on giant legs. I'm a freak.

2. One of my very favorite songs has a chorus that goes, "The humans are dead. The humans are dead. We used poisonous gases to poison their asses..."

3. I have a very unusual last name. It's Norwegian. No one can spell it.

4. I love people who know a lot of things because I love to ask questions.

5. I like grumpy people because I know they are just miserable and don't mean to be grumpy. It makes me happy if I can make a grumpy person feel better.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Anxiety

I have to go to the cardiologist tomorrow morning. I was referred by my doctor because I've been having some complications of low blood pressure (my average resting bp is about 92/59, which wouldn't really be worrisome at all if I weren't having any symptoms). The complications are symptoms including orthostatic tachycardia (my heart races when I stand up because my body doesn't adjust properly for the change in position) and also dizziness, blacking out (not fainting, but losing vision when I go from sitting to standing up, especially quickly), lightheadedness, brain fog, fatigue, feeling like I have the flu, but I don't, etc. It's not that big of a deal, I guess. I mean, it's not a life or death situation, but it's annoying. People who have low blood pressure do occasionally have all of these symptoms, especially the blacking out when you stand up too quickly, but you're not supposed to have it quite as often as I do. So, I'm finally going to the cardiologist and now I'm feeling super nervous. Part of the reason I'm nervous is because my blood pressure is always much higher when I'm nervous, which makes it look like my bp is normal. When my bp goes up, I usually don't have any symptoms, although, I admit, I am pretty dizzy right now. So, I'm nervous that the doctor is going to tell me there's nothing wrong with me and send me home and I'm never going to get any help with how to deal with this. On the flip side, I'm nervous that she's going to do some sort of test on my heart and determine that there's something *really* wrong with it that is worse that this minor annoying condition I think I have. You know, like she's going to tell me I could die suddenly at any moment. Ha. So, I'm just nervous. It's silly. I want to go to the cardiologist and have tests done so I have some peace of mind and know what the bigger picture is. But, it's like performance anxiety. I'm worried that I'm not going to get the most out of this short period of time with this expert -- that I'm going to forget to ask a question or tell her something and never have a chance to do it again. The funny thing is, one of the medications they give people with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia are beta blockers, which are also used for performance anxiety. Sounds like that might be a good idea.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Can you spare a dime?

This afternoon, as I was walking from my office to our local office supply store, I ran into an organizer for a grassroots environmental non-profit agency who tried to get me to donate money to his organization. He was armed with a 3-ring binder with pictures, facts, and a place to sign my name and address. At first, he looked hesitant to say anything to me at all, but I made eye contact with him and he said, "Do you have sixty seconds for the environment?" or something like that. I started off by telling him that I, too, work for an environmental non-profit, and I asked him if he'd ever heard of us. He said no, and asked me to tell him about what we do. I am still pretty bad at this, as I've had my job for less than 6 months, and unfortunately I think I did a mediocre job at best. Then I asked him to tell me what his group did and he began to explain it to me. I could see at least one point (a legislative matter) on which the two groups disagree in philosophy. But, putting that aside, it was clear that we both agree that the environment needs attention and money. And yet, I have had enough financial problems in my life from impulse spending, that I am just not able to spend money impulsively anymore. I just can't do it. The thing is, he wasn't just looking for me to sign up for his mailing list. He wasn't looking for moral support. He was definitely looking for a donation. It was clear that his paycheck was dependent on my contribution. It was obvious that he was frustrated. And, I felt bad for him. Living in San Francisco, I am asked for money by homeless people who are clearly in serious need multiple times every day. And, not as often, I am stopped on the street by representatives of various non-profit organizations doing important work looking for a donation. Each one of these encounters leaves me feeling terribly guilty, but I haven't found a way to overcome my aversion to spending money impulsively. I often end up feeling angry at the organization for asking me for money in such a way and for subsequently making me feel like a schmuck for not donating anything. The other day as I was walking, some guy asked me, "Would you like to volunteer to help with the AIDS walk?" Why do I find this so unnerving? I might want to help with the AIDS walk. I might want to give money to an environmental non-profit or to save an endangered species, but I'm not prepared to commit my time or money at a moment's notice while walking down the street. I admit, I need to spend more time thinking about where I want to give my money and/or services. Maybe my sense of guilt is related to the fact that I don't feel like I give enough money to organizations that need it. There are so many to choose from. But, it would be easier to respond to someone asking me for money if I could say, "I give money to XYZ shelter on ABC St. Why don't you go there for a meal?" or "I give $XXX dollars a year to the ASPCA and that's about all I can afford to donate." Or, something. Something would be good.