Thursday, July 30, 2009

No Rush

Nature doesn't hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
-Lao Tzu

101 Goals in 1001 Days

1) get teeth fixed
2) get weight back down to where it was in college -and yes, I know that number
3) keep wardrobe updated and professional (Victoria-approved, is what that means)
4) ride three centuries
5) get back to a daily yoga practice
6) find a yoga teacher; drive to a class if necessary
7) swim
8) walk and strength train at the gym
9) become a 5.10 climber -this is insanely ambitious
10) participate in the Run for Congo Women a year from now
11) really drink enough water
12) publish
13) present
14)attend 3 conferences
15) identify academic mentors
16) win the Nolan Prize
17) research what's already out there in terms of Social Justice Institutes; make a plan
18) think of yourself as an emerging scholar of global homelessness and refugees; step into that life
19) have 5 rooms in the house "done": new office, family room, dining room, living room, my bedroom
20) new garage -2010
21) central air and new furnace -2012
22) get a patio/deck organized -2011
23) upstairs bathroom repaired -2009
24) house painted -or at least be ready to tackle that as the next big project
25) maintain a clean house
26) maintain a tidy house
27) maintain an organized home
28) maintain a welcoming home
29) develop and maintain the gardens in a way that suits you
30) establish graceful rituals to your days and weeks
31) outdoor outlets installed
32) become a non-dogmatic foodie ;)
33) have a decent wine cellar and liquor cabinet
34) order house numbers
35) get new dishes
36) gradually install new windows for energy efficiency
37) see the ocean once a year
38) go camping once a year
39) stay at Starved Rock for a weekend in the lodge
40) go to Ireland
41) knit for presents
42) knit for me
43) knit for the house
44) write all the essays for the knitting book
45) develop all the patterns for the knitting book
46) publish the knitting book
47) join and participate in a writing group
48) develop your collection of pink impression glass -until you have enough to serve a whole dinner party
49) sewing for the house!
50) crafty-stuff? (Is this really a goal?)
51) See mom at least once a year
52) host Christmas at least once -I think I'm claiming 2011
53) cook for friends once a month
54) acknowledge birthdays
55) take care of (dear friend) as needed
56) make new friends
57) continue with the bonfire parties in the summer
58) host a Christmas Open House
59) spend meaningful time with the kids
60) hang out with out-of-town friends more regularly
61) participate in sib trips
62) visit one sib a year for a non-sib trip
63) figure out an investment plan -call smart sister and have her figure out an investment plan, is what that means
64) keep all consumer debt paid off
65) take a "reading week" once a year -to evaluate, to dream
66) get name change all the way completed
67) renew passport
68) get employment records updated
69) take care of physical health
70) make an appointment with a tax preparer
71) get a new car
72) start composting again
73) figure out a better way to deal with the recycling
74) use re-usable grocery bags
75) get fair trade coffee delivery
76) get a rain barrel
77) be sure all light bulbs are CFLs
78) on the first of every month, haul donation stuff to the Goodwill
79) calculate your carbon footprint; figure out how to reduce it
80) unplug the television
81) turn off the computer at night -get a power strip and a timer and you won't have to think about it
82) install a low-flow shower head
83) motion sensor outdoor security lighting on the side of the house
84) replace floor lamps with Energy Star models
85) get Real Time Pricing electricity
86) storm door on front porch
87) storm door on side porch
88) in good weather, ride your bike to work at least a few days a week
89) work towards a car free day once a week; start with once a month
90) have an Earth-Hour party
91) be sure you're using green household cleaners
92) if green electricity becomes available, sign up
93) make plans for a Social justice institute
94) serve on the Board of Directors of a non-profit
95) become a blood donor again
96) use expertise on global homelessness as a way to make things better
97) figure out how your on-line presence can help make things better
98) figure out how to have a national presence to make things better
99) have a party where we cook for Hope Haven
100) help to make this a more bike-friendly community
101) offset airmiles

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Remember What You Want

I'm reading a good book. It's called Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, and it's written by two University of Chicago economists (Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein). Economists who can write, wittily. The mind reels. I know. It sounds like it's going to be a tragic, self-help book that people buy in desperation, just to learn again that nobody's figured out what you need to know. This isn't that. It's really a book about public policy and the architecture of choices.

Take their first example: the food in a school cafeteria. We know that people will make different food choices based on where and how the food is presented. Moreover, some "paternalism", if you will, is inevitable. The food has to be put somewhere; abstaining from choice architecture is not an option. So, cafeteria designers can, without denying anyone anything, arrange things in such a way that it's easier to make good choices. Absolutely, choice architects can over-reach -denying us the freedom to make bad choices. The authors explore how nudges can make it easier to "be good" while expanding our freedoms.

So lately, every conversation I'm in is about this book. And I think about Peter Maurin and his "Easy Essays" where he hoped for "a world where it is easier to be good." The decisions where we mess up (based on our own value systems) are when the time lag between the decision point and the outcome is significant, or when the bad outcome is uncertain. If we got fat the instant we ate a jelly doughnut, or cancer from the first cigarette, or were guaranteed to die a gruesome death if we didn't wear a seat belt, then those choices would be clearer. But this is real life, and important decisions are sometimes hard.

The thing is, they don't always have to be hard; there's no particular virtue in making something artificially difficult. There's no less of a good outcome if we structure things so that the good choice is more likely. Sometimes the bad habit has become so concretized in our lives that we don't even think about what we might be doing instead. Maybe we just have to look at things differently.

How could I make it easier to workout more regularly?
How could I make it easier to do the studying and writing I want to do?
How could I make it easier and more graceful to care for the people I love?
How could I make it easier to..I don't know.... do any of the multitude of things I say I want to do but I'm not yet doing? Do I even remember what I want?

On a lark, I'm going to make a 101 Goals in 1001 Days list. Then I'm going to see if I can create little nudges, to make the right choice the easy and grace-ful (grace-filled?) one. If I get the nerve, I'll post my list. We'll see....

Monday, July 20, 2009

Kitteny Goodness

I won't do this very often.... but here he is in all his Claddagh-mischief:

He's a pain in the neck, but things are nicer with him around.

Brace Yourself

They lie. Dentists lie. Invisible braces are so very not invisible. I look ridiculous. But I'm committed now. For the next two years, I have a mouth full of metal and plastic -and if this weekend is any indication, discomfort. All in the service of a higher goal.

Which is what, again?

There's probably some metaphor here about gentle pressure across time to effect change, or bones and resistance to change, or the need for (or at least the inevitability of) discomfort when creating change.

Feh. Pass the ibuprofen.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

You Just Haven't Done It Yet...

Anything's possible. That's what good parents tell their children. Our mother -an excellent mother- had her own spin on this maxim. When we would sputter and fret about doing the next frightening thing.... dancing very close to the words "I can't", she would just respond in her no-tolerance-for-nonsense voice, "You just haven't done it yet.

I can not even tell you how very much that sentence annoyed me as a teenager. And yet, I remind myself of its truth at least once a day.

Lately, the task escaping me is home renovation. I've discovered that I find the idea of being a person who renovates her own home more appealing than the actuality of it. I want to have a lovely, cheerful, organized office/studio, for example. I imagine myself working there, struggling sometimes certainly - but with words and concepts and issues, not... THIS. I want to bathe in bubbles in a lovely candlelit bathroom. The reality is considerably less romantic. My kitchen ceiling still looks like it's going to fall on my head.

And yesterday, on a lark, I took a day off from the tasks that loom literally over my head. I went to see an outdoor production of Madama Butterfly and drove around the countryside. And had the what-for scared out of me. I saw a beautiful old absolutely falling-down house. Gorgeous. And it was having an open house. What is it about old houses that inspires the completely ludicrous "I could fix this" feeling in me? And if my house exceeds my abilities, this one would have exceeded my abilities, my mental health, and my bank account in short order.

And the house -with gaping person-size holes in the roof, inhabited by more animals than the zoo, and with standing water on the first floor- was still inhabited by a little old lady. What the HECK? Where is this person's family? Where are the social services? What's the story??? My fertile imagination and my social worker training provided a possible story. Through mental illness, dementia, or merely the force of her will, she no longer sees the house as it is. She sees it as it was. This house was built for leisure -or someone else's work, more accurately. There are servants' rooms, back stairs, buttons for summoning the servants.... Alas, they no longer answer and she's living in a world that used to be.

I am officially terrified. True enough, I "can't" fix my kitchen ceiling. But I hear my mother's voice. I just haven't done it yet. I will not become this sad, sad woman (whom I haven't met and whose story I have fabricated). I will get to work. Right after I go rock climbing with the men in my life ;)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Skater Aid

This is a project in Atlanta, started by one of my multi-talented and energetic sisters. It's brilliant in its focus on the perfection and power of being an adolescent, and using that energy for such a good cause -and in memory of their friend Ian. Please help as you are able. Here's a link to their website: SkaterAid.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Other Things That Matter

Many things are happening here in my world. We have a new kitten, Claddagh, who has come to live with us. I have taken many a picture. Alas, he never holds still, so all the pictures are a mess. Maybe he'll fall asleep soon, and I'll show you his cuteness. He's had a hard start, so he's a little sick and a little scrawny. We will fix this.

But that's not even what I wanted to talk about. It has come to my attention that my personal space and my professional space are blending (or colliding, I suppose) in peculiar ways, in part because of this blog. I've said this before and I'll probably say it again. Only a numbskull has a blog and yet expects it to be private, and I am surely no numbskull. Moreover, I see no need to pretend that I am completely defined by my professional self. A fully professional person can have -MUST have- a personal life. So.... again, and to a different group, welcome. I mean that. All gentle souls are welcome here.

With Socrates, I believe that the unexamined life is not worth living. Of course, the examined life may not be much better, and he forgot to talk about that, but I'll go with Socrates as far as he went on that point. I need to examine all the pieces of my life. The purely professional argument might be that one could examine a life and also refrain from splattering that process across the internet. OK, three points (point-like remarks, anyway.) If I need to write to authentically reflect, and if the comments and assistance of the like-minded gentlefolk who accompany me on this journey are helpful, then.... pish-posh. A blog is a useful tool. And secondly, my blog has 50 readers a day. If I had them, which of course I don't, I could probably post the nuclear launch codes, and it wouldn't matter. So, really, perspective if you please. And finally, we have to think about boundaries. Certainly, some are healthy. Yet, boundaries can be both too diffuse and too rigid. Too rigid boundaries regarding what one shares create an illusion of self-sufficiency that is not sustainable. The universe will provide the needed lesson, and it's a whopper. Of course, I'm in no danger of having too rigid boundaries. I get that ;) But the alternative elliptically being suggested -that one can publicly reveal only one's professional persona- seems truncating and entirely too rigid.

That said, though, it IS time to do something else with this space. I feel no song in my heart when I think about turning this into my strictly-professional persona. It's not that I'm not happy in that role. It's not that there's nothing to think about there. But... there it is... I hear no singing :) And since "all things considered" and even "the panopticon" are taken as titles for things, I have to call my reflections something else.

Other Things That Matter. Because darn it, there are other things that matter. All the things we talk about together... social justice, music, activism, relationships, knitting, yoga, houses, travel, ...and now, kittens, those are all pieces of life as well. Well, not just that. They are pieces of life that have something to teach us. We'll figure out what, exactly, as we go along.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Sentences Heard While Rock Climbing

"Just hook your toe on the roof." Does it bother no one else that that sounded like a reasonable suggestion??

"Don't let me die." Three guesses who said that, but you're only going to need one.

"You could climb around on Chuck Norris again." Somehow I think he might have something to say about that, as would I, come to think about it.

"This clip? Oh, it's for if you have to go to the bathroom while you're climbing." a) You do know there are no bathrooms up there, right? And b) I now know that harnesses were designed by men, because that is the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

And this sign pretty much tells the whole story:

Sunday, July 05, 2009

I'm Easy

Victoria tells me that I'm not supposed to say that.  Quoting the immortal Inigo Montoya, she tells me "I do not think it means what you think it means."  OK.  What I mean is, I'm comfortable with however things turn out.  "Should we see this movie or that one? I'm easy. "  That's what I mean.

Another version of "easy" is one I've noticed in the last two years. When the time is right, the next step is easy.  All the thrashing around and fretting that's come before was either unnecessary or resolves itself, and I step into the next thing.  I'm easy.  It's easy.  Whatever....

Traveling in Italy in high summer has made me think about another kind of easy -one about which I know nothing.  I was in a tiny village in wine country, in a hotel that was a medieval castle.  By hotel standards, it was small.  But the grounds are extensive.  And seriously, can you imagine the logistics behind turning a medieval stronghold into a hotel that meets modern standards for comfort and connection?  Oddly enough, the knights in their shining armour did not plan ahead for, say, Wifi connections and hot tubs.  Or indoor plumbing, for that matter.  So, the owners and the staff work really, really hard.  They must.

But I never saw them do it.  Not once.

If I wandered through the public rooms with that "must have coffee or I might die" look, someone was available to sit with me and have a cup and be companionable.  If they were working in the kitchen garden (roughly the size of my entire yard at home), they would work for a while, stop and rest, have a glass of fizzy water, and then work again for a little while. 

Even preparing the meals had a different sort of flow.  When I cook, I, by God, COOK.  I'm in the kitchen working hard, making lots of mess, and getting dinner on the table in record time.  I like that process well enough, actually.  But there's another way.  They start the bread rising, then go do something else -possibly even sit down for a minute.  Then they wander back into the kitchen (although I'm certain that the timing is probably quite clear to them, it looks like wandering or floating to me), and start the broth cooking that they will need for supper.  Then it's off to something else.

It turns out that I'm kind of a linear person.  I seriously never thought that.  I tend to bang away at one problem until it gives way, or I do.  And then I move on to the next one.  But maybe there's another way -and maybe it's about being easy.  In a good way.

I'm not sure how to do that, of course.  It's not multi-tasking, which is where I will take this if left unattended.  It's one-pointed attention, in the Quaker sense of paying full attention to whatever is in front of you because you know that the full picture is well-tended.   You can relax into this project because that one (whatever it is) isn't pounding at the door, needing attention because it's overdue and neglected and....  Well, you get the picture.

Once again, I need to think in circles and swirls.  I need to think like a dancer thinks -not just shapes in space, but the connections between them.  I need to think about flow.  And when the time is for relaxing, take that time with the certainty that I'll get up in a minute and work again.

This is a major mind-shift, but I think I might be on to something.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Mommy Blogging

I know. Mommy blogging is the subject of much scorn and derision. Tough beans. We mommies are a tough lot, and we can take your ridicule. Just LOOK at this handsome lad. Holy mackerel. The groom (seated) looked nice, too. But that best man... he is something!