Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happiness, Gremlins, and Clarity

image from

I've been in a interesting space in my head over the last few weeks. It's questioning, fearful, uncomfortable, exciting, creative, and has the potential to move me to the next phase of my life. I am 100% certain that a new, and pretty awesome change is about to take place for me. I don't exactly know what it is, or how soon it will happen... but I know it is coming. I'm not sure how I know...I just do.

I've always had a pretty good instinct so I will trust my instinct right now, knowing change is in my future... and it will be pretty awesome.

Because I am someone who knows when it is time to make a change, I also know that the changes I make will generally cause some upheaval in my life.  I also know that there are parts of the changes that aren't enjoyable. The good thing is that these parts are manageable if I make sure to take the time to manage them. The areas that generally cause me discomfort or even pain when I am moving into something new, usually revolve around non-tangible things. The discomfort is almost always related to fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of what others will think, fear of causing others discomfort because my pursuit doesn't fit into the mold of what they think I should do.  It is fear that really isn't necessary but is always present in some form. I think that it is natural to have some fear when making a big change. The fear is there to help protect on some levels, but it is usually quite irrational and it generally fed by my "ego"...that annoying negative thought pattern that always has an opinion about my choices.

As I work on being open to whatever is next in my life, I've also been working on managing my fears and negative thoughts. There are two things I have been doing that seem to be working well for me. The first thing I've been doing is writing what are called "morning pages". The idea came from a book I have,  The Artist's Way. It's about unblocking creativity. I've owned the book and supplemental journal for many years, but had never read it (that is a habit I have....buying books that go unread). As I was working on de-cluttering parts of my house I ran across them. I read the beginning of the book and decided to start on the Morning Pages. In the book there are many other things I could be doing to help open up my creativity...but for now I just need a method and space to clear my head of the things that keep me from being open to what's next.

As soon as I get up in the morning, I head downstairs and sit down at my desk. I pick up my pen and start writing anything that comes to mind. Anything. I have to write 3 whole pages. The actual journal pages are pretty big, so it can be difficult to fill them up. I don't censor myself or worry about my handwriting, grammar or spelling.  I just write. I write without stopping, without thinking, without judgement. I am barely awake when I start writing. You see, my "ego" hasn't had time to wake-up to begin editing my writing. I write freely and purely from my heart.

It's amazing how much better I feel after I "dump" all of my thoughts out in the morning. It really does clear my brain for the day. It clears my head of my irrational thoughts as well as gives me focus on the ones that need attention. It's the closest thing to meditation that I have been able to do. It's also pretty awesome.

The other thing I've been doing is a little harder to explain without sounding a little nuts! I'll try to explain it though. :-)  Once I am more awake, the negative thoughts start coming out of the dark recesses of my brain. Some call it the ego, my friend Jamie calls it her Chicken Coop (check out her blog!), and I call these negative thoughts my Gremlins. All I do is notice my thoughts. When a negative thought enters my mind, I acknowledge it and then move on. It's simple but powerful. Once I see that I'm being irrational or negative with my thoughts I can move past them. In some of the books I've read, it's also called "mindfulness" or being mindful...whatever it's name is..... it is called "sanity" for me.

As I use these two techniques I find more clarity. Sometimes to get to clarity there is a lot of "stuff" you have to get through. I'm realizing more and more that my "stuff" is irrational stuff. It's all fear based. It's all based on my ego.  I'm working on quieting my negative thoughts and trusting my own instincts. My instincts have served me well, when I have listened.

A big change is on the way. I can feel it deep down in my bones. I can't wait to see what it is. It will be good. It will be awesome...and it will happen soon....I can feel it. :-)

I'll be sure to keep you posted!


Saturday, October 8, 2011

A lack of a 5 year plan makes some nervous. This post will not help with that nervous feeling.

Somewhere in our lives we are taught that we need to grow up, be responsible, have a savings account, be insured, buy a house, get married, have a 401K, earn, save, plan and all of the things that supposedly make us "grown". As I was thinking about this idea, I am not that person. I never have been (as you will read...I've tried to be)...but I am here to tell you that it doesn't work for me. 

 In a post a few weeks ago I wrote about my lack of a 5-year plan. That thought has been on my mind a lot lately. I changed careers from one in a more creative field to one that is more stable. Before that I had many various jobs that make my resume look like a patch-work quilt of randomness... I am thankful for all of those amazing adventures. The places I've been, the lessons I've learned, and the amazing people I've met have made my life fun, interesting and pretty fantastic!

My current "career" path is one that has stability and longevity. It's a "respectable" job that has all of the normal bells and whistles that make one "secure". I have moved up quickly in my profession and now that I have reached the level of being a "leader" (I use this term loosely)... I've realized that I moved to my current position for the wrong reasons. When I began in this career it was truly a calling. A moment when I had a realization that I was supposed to become a teacher. It was random, sudden and urgent. It was clear I was meant to follow this path. I went back to school, got my degree and started to teach. it was awesome and I was pretty good at it! I taught for a while and began looking at options. The options were to move into a leadership role. 

My current leadership role came out of necessity (necessity because the position I was in was being cut) as well as a desire to make more money... eventually.  This isn't how I've done things in the past. My choices are based on passion....this was based on money. 

I've ventured away from my "climb the ladder". I don't regret taking this detour in my life,  because it has allowed me to see that it isn't the path for me. I won't have to wonder if it was meant for me.  I know for sure. It isn't.  I've learned that I like to work where there isn't much that is black and white...where the possibilities outweigh the restrictions and creativity is looked at as a contribution to the greater cause.  Where rules are flexible or created as you go, where taking risk is celebrated and failure is a tool to learn and do something even better.  I'm never going to work for the money again. I'd rather live in a rented studio apartment and have my soul sing on a regular basis because I love what I do, than have lots of stuff that I don't really need. 

As my realization grew that my current job isn't "my calling",  I've discovered that I've missed teaching. Teaching brings me great joy. I love sharing ideas, collaborating with colleagues and helping people discover new things. Teaching is as much about sharing as it is about learning. I miss that. A lot.Where I am now isn't the right "venue" (for lack of a better word). It is too restrictive. I've had to box away parts of myself to fit into my current role. I was very idealistic when I took this job and the reality is clear...I need to be in a place where I can be creative, take risks and ask questions that may seem silly to others but that allow me to grow, flourish, and create. 

I miss parts of me that I feel like I gave-up to "grow up". The risk taker, the parts of me that followed my heart (even when it makes others nervous or uncomfortable). 

In chaos comes clarity. I am working on finding that clarity. It isn't easy, but the rewards are great. 

 Maybe that is why I am going through a phase where I really want to get rid of a lot of the stuff I have acquired over the years. It's just stuff. And I think the more I am attached to my stuff, the more I feel I have to be what is considered 'grown up' so I can afford all of my stuff.

Sure, I know I need some things.... Money for food, bills, and shelter... clothes and books. Insurance is important. I get it. But I think I got lost in my desire to secure a job that made those around me feel secure about my future... and in doing so I was willing to conform to a point that doesn't work for me. Now I'm realizing I need something different.  I am  thankful for the career path I've been on. It's brought me so much joy through the amazing friends I have made as well as the millions of things I have learned about myself through the process...but I think I have come full-circle in realizing that somewhere on this journey I neatly put aside some parts of myself that I really miss.  I'm looking forward to "unpacking" and rediscovering the creative risk-taker that has been on hiatus for a while. 

 watch out world...I'm making a comeback!


Friday, September 23, 2011

Oh Crap. I feel another phase coming on...

I'm feeling a phase I've had in the past trying to make a comeback. This is both fantastic and frightening all at the same time.  It is the "de-cluttering my life" phase. It's a dangerous place.

My de-cluttering phases of years past have usually grown out of necessity. When I moved from a 2 bedroom apartment to a 400 square foot studio, so I could return to school at the age of 30...I sold or donated tons of my stuff. It felt really good. I enjoyed knowing what all of my possessions were and I only kept things I needed.

After finishing school, securing a job and not being a starving college student anymore I began purchasing/obtaining/finding stuff I liked. Over the last few years the amount of crap stuff I have has grown exponentially. I moved into my current dwelling almost 2 years ago. I have a huge indoor storage/attic area that is full. I've only been in there once to look for something. Once. So that tells me that all of the stuff in there is really not important to me. At all. So unimportant that I don't even know what is in there!

I also have a glorified storage closet guest room. It too has become a haven for misfit items. From the guest closet (which, by the way, is bigger than the closet in my room) to under the guest bed. All areas that could hold stuff... have stuff. do I know this phase is trying to make a comeback? The proof is in the 9 garbage bags full of clothes I am going to donate and the 6 reusable grocery bags full of books that will be sold at my local Half-Priced Books. I have also filled my recycle bin with stuff...and have only filled one trash bag with actual trash (trying to be eco-friendly in my de-cluttering). Luckily most of the stuff I have can be given away or sold.  This part is the FANTASTIC part.

The frightening part, you ask?

All of this crap is from the guest bedroom/closet and the bookshelf downstairs. I haven't even opened the storage closet upstairs. And it is bigger than my whole guest room and guest closet combined.  I think I'm going to need to tackle that space with a plan (and a bulldozer).  No. You don't need to call A&E to let them know they have a new episode of Hoarders ready to go in ATX. Yes. I do have a lot of stuff, but luckily I also have a home that has lots of closet space. Space to keep crap I don't need.

To be honest, I kind of know what has spurred this little de-cluttering adventure. I am thinking about returning to school next year. If I do that, I know I will downsize and actually have a need to get rid of some of my stuff. I guess I am really just being proactive!

Thinking about going back to school reminded me of the last time I downsized... and I lived a pretty de-cluttered life then. Not just de-cluttered of stuff, but everything else seemed a little more organized. It was nice. It was simple. It worked for me... better than having all of this stuff.

I will be making a trip to Goodwill and Half-Priced books in the morning. My goal is to have the whole downstairs of my house clutter-free before I go to bed tonight. It might be a late night...I wonder if a glass of wine will help?


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A girl without a 5 year plan

I saw the video below on one of my favorite blogs [the blog is at best, Pg-13...if you are offended by profanity, I'd tread carefully]

Jenny [The Bloggess] wrote about the fact that she is someone who doesn't have a 5 year plan. I love her even more for posting about it!

 Last weekend when I was deciding if I needed to purchase another journal, I ran across a journal to help someone develop a 5 year plan.

[It was serendipitous that The Bloggess wrote about this topic]

I started thinking about the fact that I don't have a 5 year plan. I really don't even have a 1 year plan. OK. I don't have any plans. I have dreams, aspirations, wants, desires, and goals...but not much of a plan.

I am realizing each day that I don't need some big elaborate plan...because what seems to happen to the elaborate plans that most people make is that life gets in the way of their plan; or they are working SO hard to stick to their plan that life passes them by...and they miss out on so many lovely opportunities to live their life.'s good to know how you are going to meet your basic needs..but I keep thinking about how we have gotten so far away from our basic needs that we really don't even know what our basic needs are. That is something I am working on doing. Getting back to the basics. Figuring out what things bring me joy, and finding a way to make the joyful a part of my everyday.  I've been there before. It was when I let things be simple. When I made sure I was doing work that brought me joy, used my strengths and made me excited to get out of bed each morning. I'm not there right now. I like what I do...but I don't love it...and the gap between like and love is a pretty big one. Big enough for joy to fall into the abyss and get lost.

So what is my plan? The only plan I have now is to figure out what's next. Not 5 years from now "next"...but tomorrow or next week...or possibly next month. Sure...I may know what I think I want to do a few months from now....but I don't set the plan in stone because then I am not open to what other possibilities might be out there for me.

If you are a 5 year planner, that's fantastic. It just doesn't work for me. Anyone who has been through as many phases as I have, can't really be a planner. It just isn't in my DNA. (OK..that's a lie. My Dad is a super-planner. He wishes I had received that DNA strand..but I didn't. Sorry Dad....but he can't say that I haven't made life stressful interesting for him with my lack of a plan. LOVE YOU DAD!)

So...I will remain a girl without a 5 year plan. And that's OK.

 I think this video says it perfectly:


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Large metal letters and other important obsessions

I have a few obsessions. They are somewhat random but they all make sense to me.

Saturday morning I went to my local Farmer's Market. I haven't been in a while, but I was craving some of their offerings...and the dairy products you get at the F.M. can't be beat. On my way home I decided to get off the highway and take the neighborhood streets home. In a random parking lot I could see that some kind of art show was being set up. As I glanced over, I saw them... I couldn't breathe... I had to have them.

Leaning against the wall were these huge letters. The letters M and K were both metal and the A and E were made of wood. (spelling MAKE).  Each letter was approximately 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. They were magnificent!

The logical part of my brain told me that I had dairy products from the Farmer's Market that needed to get to the I couldn't stop. It just wasn't practical to allow Farmer's Market priced milk to go bad while perusing the art show.
What I love is that the logical part of my brain said NOTHING about the fact that I have NO reason and/or space in my home for these beautiful useless letters... Nope...only the groceries kept me from pulling into the parking lot.

After arriving home and unloading my Farmer's Market goods, I decided I "needed" to go to the bookstore. I really never need to go to the bookstore. I generally go because, for some reason, walking around the bookstore for a good chunk of time makes me feel good.  As I was on my way to the bookstore I noticed that I was traveling in the opposite direction of said store... I was heading toward that parking lot that held the letters that were meant to be mine. I guess I was subconsciously obsessing about the letters. obsessing.

I pulled into the lot.
I walked around looking at the other art, as not to show my excitement for the letters.... You never want to look too eager to purchase art.
I stealthily walked towards them trying to act disinterested.

They were stunning. They were awesome. They cost TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS. yes. $2000 for 2 metal and 2 wooden letters. Seriously??

I can be disgusted by the high price tag... since I don't have a cool $2000 burning a hole in my pocket.
Because I know think if I did, I would have been loading up my 2002 Ford Explorer with these fantastic letters without batting an eye. yes. seriously.

Instead I had to settle for a photograph of the M. The letters were too far apart to get them all in one photo...and since I wasn't going to buy anything and the guy working there was looking at me suspiciously (possibly because I gasped loudly at the price and the began quietly weeping when I realized the letters weren't coming home with me) I quickly snapped a photo and left.

Here she all of her glory, the letter M:

I guess I will just have to continue to dream. Maybe one day I will have extra-large useless letters in my home. (I currently own a small metal E and a small letter Q...they are only about a foot-and-a half tall. Small beans compared to these monsters.)

I left the parking lot, blotting my tears as I drove away and onto the bookstore where my next 3 obsessions can be found. These next three items can also be what spurs a new phase, or can be part of a phase.

They are Journals, Calendars & Books.

 It is rare that I ever leave a bookstore in less than an hour. Today's adventure was about an hour and-a-half long. Not a record...but I have some other things to accomplish I was on a time crunch.

Since it is September they have all of the calendars out on display. I walk by the display.

I think to myself: "I have an IPhone that has a great calendar that can hold all of my work obligations as well as my personal plans. I don't need a paper calendar." I high-five myself (in my head...because high-fiving yourself in public leads to sideways glances and whispering by others.)

Since I knew I had tons of willpower today I head over to journal section. Whoever said I wasn't a glutton for punishment doesn't know me very well.

I think to myself "You have approximately 10 journals at home. You don't EVER write in them."

At this point I am telling myself to quit rationalizing all of my desired purchases...but I know I am right to stop myself. If not, I would end up with another journal I don't use and a calendar that ends up being twice the work since I would have to write in all of the stuff from my IPhone calendar so I don't forget anything. It makes logical sense...but for some reason I always find myself wanting these things.

I know that part of it is that the paper calendar doesn't really work for me right now. My job is one that all of my appointments are done via email/outlook and I have to be able to access my calendar quickly. Lugging around a paper calendar isn't practical.

As for the journaling... I've wanted to be someone who journals, but my handwriting can get sloppy and journaling isn't really meant to be edited. I like to edit. I think that is also why journaling

I walk away from the calendar and journals empty-handed. It was a small personal victory.  Yay Me!

As I finish up my bookstore adventure, I run across three books that "need" to come home with me. They are:

My purchases actually made me laugh a little. Finish This Book in some ways is forced journaling. It is in workbook style and it also includes whimsical tasks to complete. Since my track record in following through with journaling is an epic fail, maybe this format will help move me along.

thx thx thx is also somewhat aligned with my journaling obsession. This book is filled with little thank-you notes the author wrote to everyday things in her life. It is brilliant! It also falls into my current phase of trying to have more gratitude (which is aligned with  my desire to be more "mindful"). The book itself takes 30 minutes to read, but it will be one of those treasures that stays out on the coffee table to remind me that there is a lot to be thankful for. Which is A WHOLE lot! I also might try her method in being thankful. It's quick, simple and pretty awesome.

Lastly, (insert justification here) I just really like Malcolm Gladwell's books. This purchase made some sense. I like the author and it seems like it will be an easy read.

Honestly, it really doesn't make much sense. I don't need another book. I probably have 40 books here at home that I have yet to read....


Maybe I'll make a list, I LOVE a list... a list of the unread books in my house. Then I NEED to buy the paper calendar so that I can organize my time to get all of the unread books read. And THEN I need to purchase that journal so I can write about all of the books I read in the next year, as well as ideas I get from the books. Plus, I didn't spend $2000 on the metal and wooden a little calendar and journal are such minor purchases.

Yep...that is how my brain works. I have a pretty amazing justification process. The likelihood of a future calendar purchase is pretty-much guaranteed.  As for the journal, I am getting my "journal fix" through blogging. Luckily blogging doesn't cost anything....and it allows me to edit. :-)

Happy Sunday!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Planning is key....if you don't want to be left to die on the Mexico/ Guatemalan border)

When I travel there are some basic things that have to be planned before I head for my destination...transportation and lodging. Since the Mexico trip involved being transported to many different locations it was important to me to know where we would be laying our heads each night.

Talking with the girls about the trip they were more "free" with the thoughts of planning. They were good with just seeing how things worked out. That doesn't quite work for me. So... I volunteered to act as the planner for the trip. Think "Julie" from The Love Boat...but without the Dorothy Hamill haircut or the boat. (I have added a link for those of you too young to get this reference).

The farming part of the trip was the focus because it would be fun, would keep our costs down and would allow us to be in Mexico for a longer period of time.  We went through the WWOOFing organization. For a small fee you get a listing of farms located in the country or region that you are planning on traveling. You are then responsible for contacting the farms yourself and making arrangements. The list for Mexico was quite long.

I began going through the list, reading the descriptions and deciding which farms to contact. Some of the farms had very specific needs and time requirements, some had age/sex requirements, some sounded a bit frightening and then there were a few in the mix that sounded like they could work for us.  I began sending emails, and had Carolyn send emails in Spanish... as most of the farms provided email addresses and I didn't want my total lack Spanish to keep us from finding the perfect farm. The emails went out...then the wait began.

It took a few weeks to hear back from anyone. Out of the 15 or so emails we sent, we had only one reply. It sounded great! It was a small farm where we would stay in little tree houses where the windows were made out of the front of old soda machines. We would get to help the families in the villages near the farm and there was also the opportunity for us me to learn Spanish. The head "farmer" was American and he stated that he had moved to this area of Mexico (near the Guatemalan border) to help out the indigenous people.

Awesome! I email the girls to let them know we had found the perfect farm!

 Now...I've been told I am a pretty good judge of people and that I have a pretty good instinct.....

As I was emailing back and forth with Farmer guy to solidify our plans, there were some interesting weird things in the emails. First, he seemed a little too excited to have us there. Second, part of the WWOOFing program is that you work to pay for your room and board. Farmer guy started asking us if we could pay him a little bit of help out the people in the village. I found this quite strange. I tried to not let it bother me, since this was the only farm that we had heard back from...and we really wanted to farm.

An email from another farm had arrived in my inbox, but I put it aside. I emailed Farmer guy #1 to go over the plans for our arrival in a couple of months. I sent an email with more questions about the farm and a couple of questions about finding out about getting to the farm, the exact location of the farm and a few other traveling questions.  He replied to the farm questions. It sounded OK, but I was still getting a weird feeling. I couldn't quite figure it out...but I didn't like it. I emailed him back to get the answers to the questions about getting to the farm and travel know, the ones he didn't answer in the first email.

Oh...this is where the weird feelings came from.

 He stated that we needed to have cash in hand at the airport... and that he would pick us up. He also had raised the price since "he would provide us transportation" since buses couldn't get us there.   He also let me know there were ATM machines at the airport to get said cash, again stressing that we needed cash in hand...and that since he was driving us to the farm, which was about 3-4 hours from the airport. we didn't need the exact location. Umm....can you say I DON'T THINK SO?? (to me, it meant transportation of our dead bodies, after he had cleaned out bank accounts and murdered us...I know it sounds a bit dramatic, but it could have happened ya know!)

At that point I had a feeling that we were planning a trip... to be the next headline that later would be made into a Lifetime Television movie, starring Tori Spelling. (Tori would have to play Melissa, since she is the only blonde).

Hell NO! I waited a couple of days to email psycho Farmer back. I politely lied let him know that we were not going to be traveling to Mexico due to [insert lie here] and that I appreciated all of his help. It's important to be nice to people that you fear might want to kill you...even if they live in a different country. Just an FYI.

He emailed me back a rant that was SO incredibly disturbing that I had to delete it from my inbox. He was livid. He blamed us "spoiled American women" for the downfall of our country as well as the plight of the women in Mexico.
Uh, excuse me? Weren't we the people who were trying to come there to help?!?
 He spewed some other hateful and frightening things that let me know that my instinct was dead on. This guy was off-the-chain nuts.

I wasn't going to let psycho Farmer ruin our trip. I called the girls to let them know that I had just saved us from horrific death and our deaths being made into a Lifetime Television movie...and that I would keep up my search for a farm. They were thankful that I saved their lives [it was more like  "Ok Ellen, we trust you, if you don't like that farm, we're cool" ]  and I continued my search.

I emailed Farmer #2. He sent some information, but never confirmed that we could come to his farm. We went ahead with our planning knowing that it might have to wait until we get to Mexico to figure out where to farm. I did some research on hostels...and we began building our itinerary, at least for the first week of our trip. We decided to start in San Cristobal.

Now we had a place to start. We booked our flights....and in July, we headed to Mexico.

Next post....Introducing Melissa, Carolina, Natalia and Eyen 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What exactly did I agree to? aka I'm going to Mexico

I am going to apologize in advance for the quality of the photos of my Mexico adventure. My hard drive crashed and all of my Mexico pictures were on it. It's just too expensive for me to try to recover the photos right now...but luckily I had created a photo book of the I just took pictures of the photos in the book so I would have some visuals to share.

Also, this adventure will be shared over several posts...there is a lot to share and I don't want it to become a novel.

Viva Mexico!!

In the Fall of 2007 I took a job that I had no idea would change my life in the way it did. It wasn't the actual job that caused the change but the friend I would make because of this job. I became fast friends with one of my new co-workers, Carolyn. This friendship would be what it took to get my butt to travel across Mexico for a month and work on an organic farm. For some, that isn't a shocking thing to do...but for me, it was a big deal.
 Now, I've traveled quite a bit...and I've lived in New York and London; but the only time I'd ever carried a backpack was at school,...and when I think of an "organic farm" it generally involves the nice people I get to interact with at my local farmer's market. I'm just not the "outdoorsy" type.

How it all began... 
 Carolyn invited me out to meet up with some friends to hear a local band play. We were all outside talking between sets. All of us were teachers. Carolyn, Natalie and Melissa had been friends for about a year and they all had similar interests (camping, hiking, biking etc...) The girls started talking about the possibility of a trip to Mexico for the following summer. It was obviously an idea they had been throwing around. I was standing around listening to them talk about their plans to go to Mexico for a month... backpacking through southern Mexico and working on an organic farm.  Since they were all bilingual teachers, they all had experiences in places like Mexico and had "backpacked" across various lands. The young ladies (all at least 10 years younger than me) were getting excited about the idea of their trip. I was really excited for them!

 Carolyn looked over at me...
c:  You should totally go with us! That would be so much fun!"
 I looked over my shoulder to see who she was talking to. Maybe another one of their young, "outdoorsy" friends had arrived.  No one was standing there.

 Oh..she was talking to me!

In our short friendship, Carolyn knew that my idea of camping was a night at a hotel and my trips to Mexico always involved an all-inclusive wristband and free airport transfers. I wasn't even a kid who "camped" in my backyard.
me: Uh....really?? I'm not sure...camping, farming and carrying my belongings on my back  across a foreign land where I don't know the not really my thing.
At this point the other girls were encouraging me to come with them.
 It was weird. It only took about a minute for me to decide that this is something I needed to do, even if it was something I wasn't sure I really wanted to do.
me: I'll go! It sounds really scary exciting! Now, what do I need to do to get ready?
The girls started laughing. It was October. We weren't going until July of the following year. To me, it was time to get planning.

I got home that evening and began to freak out a little. Was I REALLY going to backpack across Mexico? The thought of it was really scary to me. Would I be able to keep up? Is it safe? How much Imodium can one take without dying?

 I got a text from the girls telling me how excited they were that I was going to go.

There was my answer. Yep...I was going to Mexico..... What in the world had I agreed to do?

next post........planning is key (if you don't want to be left to die on the Mexico/ Guatemalan border)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

40..... is the magic number

I recently celebrated my 40th birthday. My friends threw me the most FANTASTIC party! I knew it was going to be awesome, but I had no idea how awesome. I mean...what kind of friends make jello shots that looked like little orange slices?  AWESOME friends! That's who!

This post isn't going to be about the fabulous party they threw for me or that the party also included a unicorn piƱata (what did I tell you....awesome!!!) I can write more on that later; 

You see.... When you turn 40, you become least for a few minutes. I think it is because it really could be the middle of your life.   For me it was a time to take stock in the things I have accomplished and my future endeavors phases. My reflective moment had me creating a list of things that I felt were a part of what makes my life awesome. Some things on the list you might have heard before...but I thought I would share anyway.  I will keep the list to 20 nuggets of "advice" ( I use that term very loosely).  Please feel free to comment with your own little nuggets (that sounds weird...but funny weird, so I'm not editing it out) you go:

  1. Don't "collect" friends. It's better to have a close group of friends who will really show-up for you, instead of a contact list full of friends who will show up for your Superbowl party... but won't be there for you when you decide to adopt 2 puppies at the same time and are totally regretting your decision. (that's a true story... for a later post)
  2. There is nothing wrong with turning down an invitation to do something. If you don't want to go out, just say so. Don't  make up an excuse.
  3. Your relationships with your family members can change over time. A lot of it has to do with how you deal with things. are now an adult, act like one even if the other adults aren't.
  4. Don't be so serious. Make sure you have as much fun as you can... at most everything you do. 
  5. The "fun" (see #4) should include lots of laughter (which might require Depends if you have a weak bladder).
  6. If you've picked your friends according to #1... then #2 shouldn't be a problem. Real friends learn who you are...but you need to do the same for them. They also need to call you out on your shit. That's what friend do. 
  7. Forgive yourself for stupid things you did as a kid, teenager and young adult. Once you're're old enough to know better and will have to live with that guilt until you die, sorry.
  8. Sometimes it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission
  9. Fart jokes are still funny at 40. If you don't think so...I'm sorry that you are missing out
  10. Not every friend has to be a best friend. Friends play various roles in your life, and sometimes the roles change as time goes on. It's OK. Sometimes a friendship might have run its course. It takes courage to walk away from a friendship that isn't working out anymore, but it is worth freeing up yourself and that person to have the right people in your lives. 
  11. You can have views that are different than your family members and still be able to get along really well...but you have to be brave enough to set ground rules when it comes to touchy subject (ie: politics, religion, paper or plastic) Sometimes the rule is that no one can talk about the touchy subjects.
  12. I would rather live paycheck to paycheck doing something I love than have lots of money that I earned doing something that doesn't bring me joy. (but that doesn't mean I wouldn't enjoy winning the lottery....even just the $100,000 jackpot....I'm not greedy)
  13. Be sure to have at least one friend who will honestly tell you if your ass looks like a billboard in those pants...and be sure she goes shopping with you every time. 
  14. Don't do something you know you won't enjoy doing just to go along with the crowd; but also be willing to try something new, if you have some interest in it...even if it scares you. (example: I won't go skydiving...ever. I have NO interest in trying it. I don't understand the concept of voluntarily throwing yourself out of a plane..... I did, however, have a group of friends convince me to backpack across Mexico and work on an organic farm with them for a month, a few summers ago....I had NEVER been camping before this trip. Yes, it was outside my comfort zone...but traveling is something I was a life changing experience...totally worth it!  I'll blog about the Mexico trip at some point too!)
  15. Everyone should live in a big city for at least 6 months in their life. It's good for your soul...and it also makes you appreciate the small town you grew up in (hopefully...unless you grew up in a small town that totally sucks...if you did, just skip #15)
  16. The level of happiness in your life solely depends on you. No one else.
  17. If you are still blaming you parents, siblings, exes, 8th grade Volleyball coach, etc...for your problems/ are wasting a lot of time and missing out on life
  18. Your presence in this world changes people's lives. Think about that. 
  19. Know that everything you post on Facebook or on your blog goes into your permanent record
  20. Just because your opinion is different than someone else's doesn't mean either of you are wrong it just means that you have a differing opinion...unless it involves the following..then you are TOTALLY wrong:
        • If you like Rick Perry (he is an asshat...I don't care what you say)
        • If you like Mariah Carey's music (although I can forgive you for this one... I may hold it against you, but I can forgive you..but you're still wrong)
        • If you think it is OK to bash someone because of race, sexual orientation or special needs. (policial affiliations are fair game...just sayin')
I could have gone on and on with my list of nuggets....but I'll stop (because I'm really tired and want to go to bed)...but I will leave you with one of my all-time favorite quotes....

"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”
~Dr. Seuss


Monday, September 5, 2011

The importance of being liked...and followed

No, this isn't a co-dependent stalker's manifesto.  It is a request to my readers.

If you like my blog, please become a "follower". I promise to only use my powers for good and not evil. (most days)

Commenting on my posts is absolutely free! No strings attached. 

Lastly, as your mom taught's important to share! If you really do enjoy my blog, share it! There are links at the bottom of each post so you can share it on your various social networking sites.

Thank you for being a part of my latest phase! 


200 Mile Radius

Last winter I decided my new phase was going to be all about eating locally grown/raised groceries.  Anyone who knows me knows that dream big and deliver small when it comes to my phases. No, that isn't a typo.  I generally want to make HUGE changes.....I talk about them and the things I am going to do....and then the reality and size of the undertaking rears it's lovely head and I am knocked down a couple of notches.

I really don't mind this process though... because as I am falling down... onto the hard ground of reality, I generally tear away a few nuggets of knowledge that make their way into my daily life, making it better...or at least more interesting.

How was I going to do this? It started with a blog.

200 Mile Radius

Here is the outcome:

The blog lasted about two weeks. The plan was to only purchase foods that were grown/raised within a 200 mile radius of Austin. That meant that my food sources would have to be farmer's markets or from a delivery service that provided farmer's market products. It would also mean that I would only be eating produce that was in-season.

 I used Farmhouse Delivery and they were pure AWESOMENESS! I started this venture in the winter. That made it hard for me because I don't really care too much for many of the winter veggies. Honestly, there were several times when I didn't even know what some of the produce in my bushel actually was! One of the many genius things Farmhouse does is they send you a picture of the produce in the bushel that has the name of each item. They also provide some killer recipes!

Here is a picture from one of the bushels I received:

 I had them deliver for a few months, but it wasn't working out for me as I was working an insane number of hours at work and didn't even have the energy to make myself a PB&J...and the thought of actually cooking wasn't going to happen. I started giving the produce to a friend of mine so it wouldn't go to waste. It was too much for me to take on. So I cancelled my deliveries. That was the day the blog died too.

One day I hope to return to Farmhouse Delivery. They are that good!

Since I was working 10,000 hours a week, going to the farmer's market wasn't happening either. So I went back to my old ways....Starbucks for breakfast, maybe grabbing some almonds or string cheese for lunch, and dinner was something ordered through a microphone and given to me in a paper bag through a window... or delivered directly to my house by some teenage boy trying to buy new rims for his Kia.

I've learned that I am either "all in" or "all out" when it comes to most things. Especially healthy eating and exercise.

I'm either going to see my FANTASTIC acupuncturist/nutritionist  on a regular basis and following all of her advice. (btw....Marlene is the best! Even when I come back after a long time away she is kind, helpful and totally awesome. She is also very real. She "gets" it. She rocks!).....or the baristas at my Starbucks are creating my beverage of choice before my car even pulls up to the drive-thru speaker-box. (they are nice too...but they aren't really into helping me get on a road to health...they sell coffee that tastes like ice cream...touche´)

I'm the same with exercise. I'm either working out with a trainer 3 times a week, or you can see the imprint of my butt on my couch and I'm considering the walk up the stairs to bed my "exercise" routine.

My newest phase is to find my place "in the middle".

It's harder than you think.

I was raised on casseroles, juice from concentrate... and corn was the top vegetable in our house. The only thing that was green in our kitchen was the apple-green linoleum on the floors and the Formica counter tops. During my childhood I ran around with a permanent purple grape-juice mustache.

I have come a long way from the days of "cream of mushroom soup" being the staple ingredient in my meals but it isn't hard for me to return to those roots. My generation was the first to have Frakenberries and Fruity Pebbles....many of these sugar-laden cereals came out the year I was born.  Yeah for me! The processing of food hit an all-time high for my generation...and I have the big butt to prove it. I'm not blaming anyone for my challenges with food. The facts are that I love some "foods" that aren't good for me and it has taken me many years to change some of my bad habits, and some of my bad habits still have a vice-like grip on me.

One of the biggest "nuggets" of information I have learned in the past few years is how delicious real food can be! I know it sounds weird...but until you have eaten the goat-cheese salad from Blue Dahlia, you haven't lived.

I am going to work on balance in my eating. Farmer's market foods whenever possible, talking a walk around the block instead of having to have a $60 a month gym membership. I'm going to try to start small. This isn't usually how I roll....but I think it is what I need to do right now. No crazy stuff. Just getting back to the basics.

The 200 Mile Radius idea didn't happen as I wanted, but here are some of the "nuggets" I learned:

  1. The seed to healthful eating has been planted in me and will hopefully grow slowly into good choices I will make for myself every day
  2.  I know that it's worth taking the time to make it happen
  3.  I am much happier when I am eating foods that are good for me
  4. My brain works better when I'm eating healthful foods
  5. Almond butter is awesome
  6. Farm-fresh milk is sent directly from God
  7. I don't like Cilantro or Anise...even if it comes from the farmer's market...ick!
  8. Buddha's Brew is the best Kombucha ever!
  9. There is something called pecan butter by Local Baby out there. Once you try it you will be willing to hurt people to get more of it. (please don't hurt people...just order it online... it's easier that way)
  10. The best jams and jellies come from Confituras. There is no reason to argue this point. You won't win.

So I guess this is the reincarnation of a past phase in smaller more realistic "bites". We shall see....

Happy eating!


Sunday, September 4, 2011

No front tooth required

I'd forgotten about another blog-worthy date I have been on, until talking with my sister last night. I do have to say that I actually have some positive online-dating experiences. They just aren't as amusing!

(I also promise to find another topic to blog about...but these little nuggets are really fun to share!)

We decided to meet at a coffee shop. Again, he didn't fit the mold of the type of guy I am usually attracted to, but I figured I'd take a chance. He emailed me the day we were scheduled to meet to tell me he might be a bit late because he had to go to the dentist to get a temporary tooth put in since the cap on one of his teeth had come off. I suggested we postpone the date but he insisted that it wouldn't be a problem.

He (AKA Toothy) showed up to the coffee shop and looked like he might be in some pain or still feeling the effects of the Nitrous. His mouth was a little swollen.

me: are you sure you are feeling OK? We can reschedule... 
Toothy: no, no...I'm fine (drool leaking out of the side of his mouth)
me: Ok...if you're sure...
We walk over to the counter to order our coffee. He states to the Barista loudly, "I'm here with the prettiest girl in the room!". The Barista looks at him strangely. I am the ONLY female in the coffee shop. We are actually the only people in the whole place, besides our male Barista.  The shop is deserted. The Barista gives me a concerned look. I try to signal through eye-contact to keep a close watch on us. He seems to pick up on my telepathic vibe that this isn't someone I know and that I am not sure if I will make it home alive.

We order our coffee and sit down.
Toothy smiles at me.
He needs to call his dentist and ask for a refund.

 He hadn't told me that the tooth that had to be repaired was one of his front teeth. The tooth was still bleeding a bit, and the "temporary" tooth looked like the dentist had glued a Lee Press-on Nail in his mouth. Seriously. Now... my two front teeth have bonding on them from a tragic playground accident when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade that resulted in a triangle shaped gap between my front teeth.  I know what it can be like to deal with dental work. I just think I would have waited to meet someone for the 1st time...that's all.

As he tries to drink his coffee, he has two challenges. The heat of the coffee was painful to the temporary tooth, and the residual numbing of his mouth was causing him to drool the little bit of coffee he is able to actually get into his mouth.

He started telling me about his job, he was a camera operator. He told me about all of the things he had filmed. It was kind of interesting. He told me about his family and some of his hobbies. He talked for about 45 minutes about various things. I was only able to get a head-nod and the occasional "um hum" in. He really thought he was quite interesting.

He did ask me about my work, and as soon as I start talking I am interrupted by another story about him.  I have to say, I knew this wasn't a "match" when we first met. I do feel like I'm generally a pretty good judge of people....but for some reason I throw that out of the window when agreeing to meet people I've met online....oh well.

I tried to politely end the conversation. I was worried the Lee Press-On tooth was going to fall out. It seemed to be precariously holding on.

Before he began his next story, I looked at my phone, pretended to check a text message from a friend in need and told him I needed to go.  He seemed a little shocked by my need to leave, but luckily a friend sent a real text to check in, so I had another "out" if needed. It was needed!

 He wanted to walk me to my car. I didn't really want him to know what my vehicle looked like. I don't know why I had this feeling, but I did...he just kind of creeped me out. I told him I had to go to the restroom and that I appreciated him buying me a cup of coffee...and that he shouldn't wait on me.  He seemed a little upset that I wouldn't let him walk me out, but I thought all was good.

I hid out in the restroom for about 5 minutes. When I was walking out of the restroom, the Barista saw me and signaled for me to go back in, quick! Toothy was still there. I waited in the restroom for a few more minutes when a woman walked in. She had just arrived for her shift and the male Barista had told her to come get me and let me know that the coast was clear.

It's good to have people who have your back!

I shared the story with the two Baristas. They thought he was creepy and didn't want something to happen to me, especially something that started at their little coffee shop. Sure, they needed the press...but not the kind of press associated with an online date gone terribly, terribly wrong.

I thanked my fairy godbaristas for their help. I walked to my car with them watching me from the window, just in-case.

When I arrived home I had an email from Toothy. He LOVED spending time with me, thought I was BEAUTIFUL and interesting (although he knew nothing about me, since he talked about himself the whole time)  and he couldn't wait to see me again.

 Oh crap!

I emailed him back. I thanked him for the coffee and told him it was nice to meet him but that I didn't see that it was a "match" for me. I wished him luck in his search. I was nice, polite and brief.

He email me back.

It was a long rant about all that was wrong with me and why I didn't deserve him. I was no longer beautiful or someone he wanted to spend time with. ever.  It was an email that, had I printed it out, would have been two pages long. Two pages that would have been good evidence as to why I was murdered that night.

 Two pages of all of the things that I am not, and why HE is the one who is breaking this off. Um....we just had coffee Toothy....there was nothing to "break off"....but if it makes you feel better, and keeps you from hunting me down to kill me....then broke up with me. I'm OK with that.

So...another one bites the dust. I guess that dust would be the only thing Toothy could bite.... with his Lee Press-on tooth. :-)


p.s. Thanks to the fairy godbaristas for having my back! I'm happy to report I am still alive!

Phasetastic....Welcome to your new home

Hello Phastastic friends!

As you can see, we have moved. I moved my older posts to this site, but they got a little out-of-order. Sorry for that! I was in a hurry to get up and running over here at blogspot. If you were a subscriber at the old address, you will need to resubscribe.

Sorry for the trouble!


If you have a zero in your phone number, we can't be friends

 was checking out some other blogs today and ran across this YouTube video that I found amusing.


Laser-Cat Guy (or, I just went on a date with John Lennon)

Fun for Parsnip!
Image by Mr. Ducke via Flickr
This post is quite long, but it really is all in the details....Thank you online dating.

We had met once before for dinner and he didn't seem like a serial killer so I agreed to a second date. Sure, he was cut from the cloth of a 1988  Poison/Warrant concert promotion poster and his hair was as important to him as Brett Michaels' hair was... before he lost it and began wearing one of those bandanas with the hair sewn into it...but he seemed like a decent guy, so why not? (you will see as you read this story, why not. I'm sure of it).

I don't know if it was bravery or insanity, but I decided to meet him at his house.

I arrived at his place. The plan was to go to dinner and then to see a movie, so I figured our time at his house would be brief. He invited me in and his house was decorated "wannabe artist/bachelor chic". In other words, futons abound , a large Dreamcatcher  was the main focal-point of the room and tie-dyed curtains were used to round out the whole look. He also had about 100 pieces of art work that he had created on his computer stacked around the room. Little canvases, big canvases..... He showed me all of them. ALL OF THEM. He also acted like a museum docent, filling me in on all the "details" about each piece.  The interesting, or not so interesting thing was that they all looked the same. seriously.  They were kind of like an Etch-a-Sketch meets Play-doh and then those two spent some time in the Easy-Bake Oven and the product of that was put on a canvas.

After the WAY too long "art show", It was time to go to dinner. On the way to his truck he began to tell me how much he LOVED The Beatles, how their new box-set had come out, and how he thinks he is John Lennon reincarnated. Yep. really. I guess obsessed with the Beatles would be a better description. He said the John Lennon comment with a straight face. I chose not to question or doubt the powers of the Beatles. There are some things one just doesn't mess with. He also told me he was now in a band, and that he had "one of the best singing voices he has ever heard". Being John Lennon and all, this would make sense. But  Yes. He really said those words, out loud. (hence the quotes)
I guess he thought I would be impressed by his singing skills so he sang Beatles songs all the way to the restaurant. The WHOLE way. At the top of his lungs. The only time he wasn't singing was when he was filling my head with Beatles trivia. I know the ride to dinner was only about 10 minutes, but it felt like 3 1/2 days.

I decided to cut him some slack and figured he was just nervous, or insane...I'm still not sure which one it was. My bet is on the latter.

Dinner was an hour-long informative lecture about all that was wrong with his family,  how he enjoys being the black sheep and that his perfect brother was Satan's spawn. Oh...and how he was such a great catch and that he can't figure out why he hasn't met someone.

I had two glasses of wine.

The first one I drank down like a tequila shot.

The second one I nursed for a while, as not to be in a state of mind that I wouldn't be able to run for my life in the event that  became necessary. It seemed good to have options.

I wanted a third glass but he looked at me strangely when I ordered the second one.  I wasn't sure if his look was one of concern that I drink too much... or if he was sizing me up to drug me, put a long black wig on my head, rename me Yoko, blame me for the breakup of the Beatles, to then dismember me and put my body parts in his freezer, all while singing "Love Me Do". The jury is still out on that one.

He was nice enough to pay for our dinner; although he asked me to leave the tip since I had two glasses of wine and he "only had four Dr. Peppers". Since he drank a gallon of liquid at dinner, he wasn't able to finish his meal so he took home some leftovers.  He didn't want them to go bad in the car while we were at the movies and we had time to stop by his house and put them in the fridge since the movie started later than we thought. So a few Beatles songs later we were back at his place.

He put the leftovers away and then he started talking about his cat. I hadn't seen his cat the 1st time I was in his house. I figured he had a cat since the sheets covering the futons were covered in cat hair (as were my black pants), there was the not-so-faint smell of a litter-box that needed cleaning  and he had a 5 foot tall "cat tree" that blended in flawlessly with his decor.

He started to tell me the origin of the cat's name. I don't remember much of the story, but it involved something from Dungeons and Dragons, a lost high school love and something about his Mom.  I think I saw tears welling up in his eyes when he was talking about it.

To distract me from his emotional "moment" he pulled out his laser pointer to get the cat's attention. He really wanted me to meet Gollum (or whatever the cat's name was). From out of nowhere this huge feline leapt for the red laser light. It was first.  I kid you not, he had that poor cat follow the laser pointer around his living room for 15 minutes. He cooed and talked to the cat in a baby voice while the cat was tortured with his inability to catch the stupid red light.

I suggested that we go ahead and leave for the movie...before the cat decided to turn his frustration into blood-thirsty anger.  I didn't want to be late, or receive inoperable facial lacerations from this poor cat. Plus,  it was opening night for the movie and I wanted to get a good seat.

He said he needed to take care of something before we left. I figured that he had to go to the bathroom since he drank so much soda at dinner. Nope. I was wrong on that one. I started hearing gurgling noises coming from the back room; and then there was a strong odor and smoke billowing out of the room...followed by really bad coughing. guessed it. (and if you didn't guess it...then I'm not going to explain it to you...sorry). He "politely" peeked around the corner to see if I wanted any.
me: ", thanks....and do you REALLY need to do that right now?"

Between hits, he went on for a while about how disappointed his Dad was that his oldest son (Laser-Cat Guy...or LCG for short)  was almost 40, still single and smokes all day long. LCG has a brother, you know Satan's spawn...who is a pediatric oncologist.... I think  I'm with Dad on this one.

I was surprised that at that time, I didn't bail. I guess I really wanted to see the movie. (btw...I can't remember what movie it was).

"Laser-Cat-Guy" and I got into my car.  I wasn't going to let him drive. We headed to the movies. Oh, he had a Beatles CD in his jacket pocket to play in my car, just my luck! I got to hear him sing all the way to the theater. Bailing might have been a good idea.

During the movie I could tell he thought I was really into him... by the way he was trying to put his arm around me and/or hold my hand.  I'm not sure where he got the idea since I dramatically put down the armrest between us, crossed my arms (feigning that it was really cold in the theater)... and was basically sitting in the lap of the lovely gentleman sitting on the other side of me...his date didn't seem to mind.
I made it through the movie unscathed, although I felt like I had to be at DEFCON 5 to  deflect any attempts at any type of contact with"Laser-Cat-Guy". The nice gentleman sitting on the other side of me totally had my back...I could tell.

Driving home was one of those fantastically uncomfortable moments. I realized I had left my scarf and gloves in his place. Damn. That means I have to go into his house again. Damn.

Once we got in the driveway, I told him that I needed my things.

LCG: That's cool. I was hoping you would want to come in. (crazy glint in his eyes)
me: I just need to get my things. I'm tired (fake yawn and stretch...(for better believability))
LCG: (small chuckle) just want to "get you things" (yes, he used air quotes)
me: I am not sure what you are implying with the use of air quotes, but if you were implying that I want to get my scarf and gloves then it was the appropriate, yet unnecessary use of air my opinion.
LCG: Cool. Come on in. ( eye glint has become creepy and crazy)
me: (standing at the door, on the porch, outside in the cold) Um...can you just grab them for me, I left the car running...
LCG: Cool. (goes in and returns with my stuff) It was nice to meet you.
me: Uh huh... Thanks....I gotta go...
Out of the blue, he leans in and tries to kiss me. Seriously. He was about 6'2, and I was standing one step below him.(i'm about 5'7)...As he "came in for the kill" I turned my head quickly to avoid any contact and accidentally (or not so accidentally) forehead butted him in the nose.
me: oops. sorry...I gotta go
LCG: (holding his nose with his hands and quietly cursing under his breath) Cool. Can I call you sometime?
me: Sure! (it was a safe answer...he didn't have my number)

When I returned home there was an email from him through the online dating website. LCG recounted our date and stated that he really wanted to see me again. He also hoped that it didn't scare me away that he was the reincarnation of John Lennon. (again there was no indication that this was a joke).

I replied that the John Lennon thing was cool, but it wasn't going to work out since I am allergic to cats...and laser pointers.

Shockingly, he never emailed again.