Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Rut of the Glut

Doing more with less is this month's NaBloPoMo theme on BlogHer.  And though I've barely had a chance to contribute to it, this theme couldn't be a more perfect way for me to end this year.

As of this December, it has been two years since I left a job that provided financial stability in order to pursue a bit of happiness.  It has also been two years of seriously lean-living.  I have made an effort to occasionally buy myself something nice, but most of the time I have just enough to make ends meet (and even then I make a lot of compromises).  I do not say this regretfully, though.  Hard as it has felt, I feel like I have improved myself quite a bit.  When our habits are so commonplace, it's hard to see gluttony for what it is.

There are things I have learned to live without, like cable TV.  I think it's a complete ripoff and there is a lot of free programming out there.

There are things I have realized I never needed, like a different skincare or makeup item every month when I hadn't used up the last of a similar item.  (Sephora must miss me.)  Not to mention this need we have for the newest, shiniest, prettiest thing is silly and detrimental in so many ways.

There are things I discovered I could do differently, like cooking more and really emptying all the cupboards before getting more groceries.

I guess I'm just one of those people who has to learn everything the hard way.  I've met a lot of people in the past two years who have never thought twice about simple living.  I have also realized how wasteful a lot of people are, including some I know well and have even lived with.  The amount of spoiled food at one house I lived in was soul-crushing.  But you can't force other people to understand something they don't find important.  What is amazing is that I finally realized it for myself.  And I've barely even scratched the surface.

It's funny because excess was something I always did well.  I never felt like I had enough money and I always wanted to buy everything.  I just couldn't see how spoiled I was.  Buying more really just meant throwing more away later.  Food that spoiled, clothes that never got worn, cosmetics that I eventually gave away (at least they didn't all go in the trash), and money down the drain on countless dining out experiences that went from being something fun and special to the expected norm.

I like going to the grocery store these days.  Every time I have this challenge to make complete meals by knowing what I have at home and figuring out what components might work with those things.  When I run out of free stuff to watch on my computer, I read a book.  Or I break out my latest craft project.  On the rare occasion I get to buy clothes, it's honestly not a lot of fun, but I come home with things that I know I'll wear and even wear often.  I don't have the buyer's remorse that so many people are probably suffering from right now.

In addition to not really being able to afford new clothes (I've actually started wearing through a few things, which I'm pretty sure never happened before), I have the advantage of some crafting skills.  I've learned to sew by hand well enough to fix the occasional tear in clothes that are otherwise still wearable.  And I've learned to crochet, which has not only covered my own accessory needs, but given me the ability to make gifts for other people.  Now, here you run into the problem of the cost of yarn, which I hear about all the time.  I just happen to be fortunate enough to have a mother who left a lot of yarn behind when she moved out of the country.  I haven't bought a skein of yarn the entire time I've been crocheting.  Of course, that will change and so may my thoughts on the matter.  We shall see.

My mom also bought me a knitting class on Craftsy and the tools I'll need to make that happen.  So maybe I'll be able to knit myself a sweater by next winter.  ...Maybe.  Either way, gone are the days of binge shopping at Old Navy, then realizing half the clothes I bought don't fit right, but still hanging them in my closet for months on end, avoiding them every time I look for something to wear.

There are lots of ways to lead a more simple life and, again, I've just started paring down my own.  But I think we all could do with a bit of simplifying.  Sometimes it's as simple as recognizing that turning the heat up to 74 degrees in your house so you can wear shorts and a tank top is a little excessive.  Then again, some of you will have already made a lot of changes.  And so, for you, I recommend checking out things like foraging and maintaining your own garden and/or animals - my friend Wendy is part of this amazing blog about homesteading.  Sometimes it's just about finding what will work in your life, starting small, then taking the next step when you can.

Happy New Year!  May your lives be simpler in many ways in 2014.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Little Weak in the Kindness Department

Working over forty hours a week in retail this time of year has done two things for me.  It has reminded me why I left many years ago for an office job.  And it has given me the strong impression that many people believe that kindness is a weakness.  Something they can't respect.  They seem to think that when they encounter a nice person, they need to exploit that supposed weakness for all it's worth.  Whether it's getting something for free by bullying someone at a small shop or thinking that your overly nice supervisor doesn't deserve any respect and their requests for you to do your job should be ignored at all costs.

I find this behavior reprehensible, but also baffling.  Even more so that some people seem to glory in the results of their negative actions.  Like they've just won some kind of game instead of made another person utterly miserable.

Look, exploiting people's weaknesses and/or abusing their kindness is no way to live.  Whether it's the Christmukkah season or any other time of year.  This is not "the order of things."  When you are unkind or act like a bully it does not make you the stronger person, it makes you the shittier one.  And I'm not saying that you can't stand up for yourself or that there aren't times when you need to be a little less nice to get through something.  But the strongest people I know are the ones who can keep a smile on their face no matter what people throw at them.  The ones who can make it through this season still feeling good about themselves and still treating everyone around them with a gentleness that seems forgotten in the pursuit of finishing a shopping list.

I have a hot Italian/Scottish temper, but even I have learned to blow off steam when and where it can effect no one else adversely.  Sure, I have my moments - we all do and that's okay, but overall I don't see the benefit in being an asshole.  So you got a 50% discount on that scarf you wanted because you were a total dick to that salesperson?  Was it really worth that money to ruin someone else's day?  Is that salesperson not a human being to you?  Do any of us truly believe that treating people poorly doesn't have an impact on the world we live in?

Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, this is outwardly a very happy time of year.  We get to gather with people we don't often get to see.  Be extra snuggly with the people we love because the cold warrants it.  There are twinkling lights everywhere, happy music, brightly colored decorations and we're all a little crazy.  But we can enjoy the crazy together.  It's a hell of a lot better to be kind and let things roll off your back and smile even in the face of the bitterest adversary than it is to engage in the same kind of behavior.

So if you are a truly strong, amazing person, you will smile even when you don't feel it, you will say nice things to people whether you know them or not, you will find a way to deal with anger and frustration that doesn't make everyone within a mile run for cover.  And when you most want to tell someone off, you might stop to consider that you don't know what they're going through.  You don't know their story.  Maybe all they need is to be shown a bit of kindness.  And even if your kindness doesn't seem to change them, at least their lack-of didn't change you.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Prompt for a Very Bad Day

I'm using a prompt from another day (courtesy of BlogHer) because it's the one I like and it's a bad day today.  On bad days, we must do what we can to make things better and that sometimes means bending or breaking the rules a bit.  Although I'd probably to that on a good day, too.

"Which sound is more satisfying for you: crunching leaves underfoot or bubble wrap popping?"

Crunching leaves underfoot wins hands down for me.  Bubble wrap popping is a satisfying activity/sound, but it does not remind me of my favorite season.  

The sound of fallen leaves under my booted feet reminds me that everything changes and everything withers and dies.  And that sounds awful, but I know that for new things to grow, something else has to give.  Autumn reminds me that nothing is set, so no matter how screwed up I might feel like my life is, things will change.  In other seasons I remind myself by just putting one foot ahead of the other.  During Fall, there's that extra crunch to reward me.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Season For Falling

Fall is my season.  Not just mine, but at least mine.  It's when having naturally curly, thick, crazy hair is suddenly beneficial to keep out the cold and doesn't have to be constantly tied up out of my face.  When I can pull out all of my favorite scarves and sweaters.  When I can pull my boots back on and not worry as much about where I'm walking.  I am at my best with a chill in the air, a mug of hot coffee and a little red in my cheeks.  I look forward to this time every year, when the leaves change colors and evil is just a character in tales we tell.

This month's theme for NaBloPoMo on BlogHer is Fall: "But fall is so much more than a season.  We're talking about falling in love, falling down, and falling apart."  It is indeed the perfect theme for me this time around.  My heart has been recently snagged just a bit by someone I've known a long time, but who lives in another state.  I've been questioning the financial implications of moving to Seattle, in light of a very saturated job market in this area.  And quite a bit of the time I seem to have a thousand worries zipping around my head that make me feel like any moment I'm going to fall to pieces.  As the October theme goes, I will be examining quite a few things that I'd honestly rather not.  But I do think it will be worth it in the end.  I have to restore some sort of balance to my life and I can't think of a better way to do that than to put the things that make me uncomfortable (but also make me who I am) under the microscope.  As it says for this month's theme, "By the end of the month, we hope this deep look into your own psyche will get you to fall in love with yourself all over again."

The colder seasons are a good time for catharsis.  A good time for having a whiskey while wearing a thick sweater and pondering things you couldn't stand to ponder when it's hot and sticky outside.  Wish me luck.

The Long and the Short Of It

Even though it's been a long time, this'll be a short one.

Fall hits the Pacific Northwest about a month before it starts cooling off in Northern California.  Having just been in the Bay Area to visit friends, I have to say that I am happy to be back in the Seattle area.  It is scarf and boot weather.  It is pumpkins and hot cider and foggy mornings and wearing my hair down because it doesn't get too hot for it time.  I love this time of year.  And after months of not writing (on here, and barely on any surface), my favorite season reminds me that I need to dig back in, no matter how busy I am.

More soon.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Meg, Don't Read This Post

Spiders.  When you choose to live in a ground-level dwelling, you understand that you may deal with a few.  When you find out that your new apartment is partially submerged in the earth and you are now a mole-person, you must accept that you will be battling at least one decent-sized spider a day and will probably encounter larger ones here and there.  Case in point:
Alive with dead body of other spider....dead thanks to Charles
Growing up in Northern California, I was already familiar with Black Widow and Brown Recluse Spiders.  We saw plenty of the lovely black ladies and knew to avoid them when possible and always kill or remove them if they were inside our house.  I never actually saw a Brown Recluse, but we knew to keep an eye out for them.  Of the three large spiders who are dangerous to humans on the West Coast, the only one I'd never heard of was the Hobo Spider.  I am very sorry to inform myself that they are extremely common in ground floor dwellings in the Pacific Northwest and that they are considered aggressive biters.  I've now met two possible hobos, if I've identified them correctly (which my neighbor, who was bitten by one in her bed, confirms), and it's not even mating season yet.

More bad news, the more I read about the Giant House Spider (ugh), the more I think the one from last night was not a Hobo Spider.  But don't worry, the one in my apartment was!  And then here I read that it's almost impossible to tell them apart unless you look very close.

I want to cry right now.  Or move out of my apartment.  Only one is a realistic option.

I spent most of my day, yesterday, reorganizing my apartment and figuring out what could go in my outside storage closet.  I had a plan, I knew what was going to go where, and then I opened the closet, turned on the light and found that huge, scary spider hanging out in the doorway.  Thankfully, he or she had not constructed a web in that area...yet.  I decided that I would have to overcome my total creeped-out-ed-ness and get my boxes into storage anyway.  And then, after the spider and I repeatedly freaked each other out, I went to my neighbor's and asked if they had anything that would kill a large spider.

Luckily for me, my neighbor Charles kills them with his bare hands.  I suppose this is what happens when you live with four females.  Thank god for Charles.

Unluckily for me, even dead this spider scares the crap out of me.  Something so large should not be able to move so quickly and how do I know spiders don't become zombies?

In any case, I have now ordered Hobo Spider traps, because I don't think it's okay to keep making Charles come over to take care of them for me.  I first considered the Bugzooka, which is a way of trapping and then releasing them again.  Then I realized that there was no way in hell that I was going to be able to deal with even a spider trapped in a plastic tube.

I also discovered this morning, with a much smaller spider, that you shouldn't swing your killing device from too far away, lest you make the body of the spider airborne.  In your bedroom.  And then are not able to find it.

I'm sleeping on the couch tonight.

And leaving the state for the month of September...which is mating season.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Take the Time

Today we are asking anyone who stops by LostGirls to go over to Andi's Once in a Lifetime Travel and read about the Arizona firefighters, the Granite Mountain Hotshots.  Nineteen of them were killed on June 30th of this year, fighting a wildfire.  Andi gives you the story and how you can help in the wake of this terrible tragedy.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

That First Post

The first post I wrote for LostGirls, The End in the Beginning, was meant to illustrate that to begin something long-lasting, we have to end the cycle of self-sabotage.  We are, too often, our own worst enemies when it comes to achieving our goals.  We create doubt that has no business being there.  And we keep ourselves from realizing our own dreams.  And yet, at the same time, we're encouraging everyone else to shoot for the moon.

Having just re-read that first post, I realize I should probably read it again once a month, to remind myself why I still haven't given up on LostGirls.  Things have certainly changed.  LostGirls is no longer comprised of five sites and the four sister site subjects don't get equal attention anymore.  Once I started a new job, I realized that five sites would be unmanageable for one administrator and I would lose some of the time I revel in to brainstorm with Meg, discuss writing with Mary and attempt to understand science with Seth.  I do believe this was the right decision.  It is a cleaner format and allows me to take a hiatus when I need to, say...move across the country, without feeling like I'm letting down not only my readers, but the group of 10-15 people who comprise a sort of casual committee for this site.

And that, I believe, is the thing that has most gone by the wayside.  So let me express, again, that LostGirls remains a project shared by many people.  And that anyone who visits is welcome to become a bigger part of it.  In the end, LostGirls is not just about feeling lost, it's about connecting and/or reconnecting.  And even when you don't see anyone's name but mine, this blog is nothing without the support that I get from the other contributors, that loose little committee and from reading the work of others.  It's one of the reasons I take part in BlogHer's NaBloPoMo.

This is our project.  For those who know what it is to feel a little lost.  In our travels, moving to a new place, learning a new skill.  Or just in life, in general.



Some inspiration we've benefited from:

Bleeding Espresso / Start Where You Finish

Once in a Lifetime Travel / Top Ten: Reasons Traveling with Kids is Cool

Life, the Universe and Lani / Who Do You Write For?

Porch Philosophy / When Your Child is an Atheist

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Thing About Spiders

The thing about spiders is that even those of us who are terrified of them forget they exist once in a while, except as some ghostly memory.  It's when you find one in your house that you are reminded that they could be ANYWHERE.  And it's so much worse when said visitor is the size of a freaking silver dollar.

So, should this happen to you and totally creep you out, do not (I repeat, DO NOT) go online to look it up.  It is only going to make things worse.  Especially if you type in "spider identification," because then you're shown a ton of creepy crawlies that are much too large to be hanging out in your house, dammit, especially the Hunstmen Spider which, on the site that I found, wiggles.  Why does it have to wiggle?  Just imagine...yeah, it scared the crap out of me.

So now my skin is crawling, I'm convinced there is a host of huge ass spiders somewhere in my cupboards and I almost threw up while doing research for this post.  Just a little.  And yet, I find it curious that, up until I noticed my creepy visitor on a bag in my kitchen, I had kind of forgotten about creepy crawlies.  I think some part of my mind decided that I just could not handle that knowledge and struck it from memory.  Which made it even more of a shock when I realized that they not only exist, they could be anywhere in my apartment.  I could come across one while unpacking a box.  I could be bitten by one in my sleep.  I could be accidentally letting one in every time I open my door.  

My eyes are getting huger with every sentence I write and I'm practically hyperventilating.

I have to go now.

I think I have some whiskey somewhere...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Huge Disconnect

The theme of this month's BlogHer NaBloPoMo is CONNECT.  I signed up for July, knowing this, but what it's made me realize is that I feel really disconnected right now.  I have no regrets about the move to Seattle.  I think I've just put too much on being ready to go straight away...after a long-ass, complicated, incredibly expensive, draining move.  That's rather silly, now, isn't it?

Truly satisfying connections are generally of the long-lasting variety.  I have met a lot of amazing people in the short time that I've been in the state of Washington.  I've laughed a lot, hugged a lot, made plans a lot, and found common ground with quite a few people.  I'd even say I've made some actual friends.  But all those connections are either obviously tenuous, or could still prove to be.

This is something we don't have to think much about until we get into, or past, a certain age range.  So, nearer to forty than ever, I've found that I kind of wish I could take the easy path of already having firm connections in my area.  Instead, I'm going to have to really work for it.

The good news is that sometimes an event happens that brings people together quite quickly and easily.  In my case, we had a power outage tonight and I just happened to already be sitting on my patio, reading a book.  Several of my neighbors came and went during the hour or so that the outage lasted and we all talked to each other as if we'd already met, or even known each other for a while.  We had a common problem, it was that simple.  And it was fun chatting with people from my patio and getting to meet their kids or pets while they were out in front of the building.

The opportunity here is that I can now figure out if any of my neighbors are people I want to have more of a connection to.  Even if I decide that I don't want to have weekly dinners with them, this is the first time in my life that I really recognize the value of actually getting to know the people you share an apartment complex with.  Whether it's in case of an emergency or the simple loveliness of being able to say hi and have small chat with nice people, it is worth some extra effort.

I have doubtlessly spent too much of my life relying on my close circle of friends (who now all live far away) and/or social connections at work.  I still have the latter (and I'm grateful for it), but if I'm not working, it's better that I'm not completely cut off from PEOPLE.  Lest I become a hermit (something I'm quite good at, but would prefer not to pursue).

True connection is not easy.  It may sometimes feel effortless, but be not mistaken - it does require getting off your ass and doing something if you want it to be lasting.  More so if you want connections with other people to add value to your life.  Because that means you have to find a way to add value to theirs.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Attempting Adulthood

I sometimes feel like I'm the ultimate late-bloomer.  I am often told that I don't look my age (thank you, oily skin).  More often, that I don't act it (thank you, equally immature group of friends).  And I clearly I have a penchant for books that were meant for much younger women.  Girls, really.  Girls just graduating from college, getting their first apartment, moving away from home for the first time, having to learn how to fix their toilet or navigate a new city.  I've been out of my parents' house since I was nineteen and have been working ever since.  I've lived in four different states and nine different cities.  I'm old enough that I should know better about a lot of these things that various women are writing about for younger generations.  So why do I keep reading these books about becoming an adult (and how to go about it the right way the first time)? 

It all started a few years ago, when I discovered The Girl's Guide to Absolutely Everything (which I house in the Reference section of my Kindle).  Melissa Kirsch's book is a fun read and you can skip around or read it cover to cover - it's all up to you.  I am only now examining why it appealed to me.  Today, of all days, because I am reading yet another one of these books (more on that later) and because I let someone make me feel like a complete and utter failure as an adult for doing one thing wrong.  Not a small thing, but still.  And no, I don't want to talk about it just now.

In any case, what really got me interested, once I'd delved into this book, was that it did not shy away from reality.  Like the fact that many women suffer from irregular bowel movements.  Something most women do not want to discuss with anyone.  Holding it in, pretending we don't have bodily functions so as not to offend guys - what the hell are we thinking?  Shouldn't we be allowed to be human?  Shouldn't remaining healthy be more important than fitting into someone else's version of what you're supposed to be?  Along those lines, Kirsch brings up the fact that women's magazines aren't going to represent any female body you have or will ever see in real life.  In other words, stop comparing yourself to photoshopped pictures that make even the women they're supposed to be of feel insecure.

Books like this discuss things that women grow up (in most cases) believing apply only to them.  I have written about this before, but every time I talk to a group of women (friends, coworkers, what have you) about the nitty gritty of life, we always end up agreeing that we don't talk about these things enough.  Whether it's something serious like how many women actually suffer miscarriages and don't talk to anyone about it because they're afraid of what people will say.  To the far less serious fact that men aren't the only ones who fart and if you have gas, it's gotta go somewhere.

And thus, we come to my newest modern day self-help book: Adulting.    Written by Kelly Williams Brown (based on her blog of the same name), Adulting is very clearly for people much younger than me.  Unlike with Kirsch's guide, I will most likely only read certain sections.  But what made me like it right away was the confirmation of "it isn't just you."  I may not generally care about being normal, but it's nice to know that I'm not the only adult who has felt like a failure for forgetting to pay a bill or buy toilet paper or becoming romantically entangled with a direct supervisor at work (which, really, we all know better than to do, right?).  All of that was a long time ago and I am proud to say that I now always have a good supply of paper goods, I paid all my bills early this month and I think the feeling is mutual that there will be no romance between me and anyone else at my current job (just lots of love, you guys).

Since I've had a bad day for adulting, I'm going to take a moment for some affirmations.  Won't you join me?  Here are the things I need to remember make me a responsible adult (if nothing else):

I own a toolbox with a complete set of tools, extra nails and screws, and enough duct tape and Gorilla Glue to fix anything that needs fixing.

My kitchen is packed with good, fresh food and enough dry ingredients to make a big Italian dinner for last minute guests.

And this one, from Brown's Adulting blog:  I fully recognize that admitting I've done something poorly does not excuse it or make everything just dandy.  It is simply the first step in fixing the problem.  I also recognize that most people don't understand this concept and will therefore apologize for their actions without actually changing.


Possible future reads: