Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday Links: Peace and Change Edition

Go ahead; get upside down this week. (image source)

The autumnal equinox is on the 23rd, and Peace Day is on the 21st, so this week is all about peace and change. These links are to prepare you not only for peace and change, but also the historical Papal visit that starts on 9/22.

Peace One Day: Jeremy Gilley started this push for an international day of peace back in 1999. he made a documentary called Peace One Day, pushing for all of those at war - nations, tribes, and citizens - to put down their arms for just 24 hours. Needless to say, he was unsuccessful, but in 2001 the United Nations declared September 21st and International Day of Peace. People all around the globe celebrate by attending concerts and volunteering. Oh, and also shooting each other and persecuting the innocent. But Rome was not built in a day. Maybe remember Sutra 1.33 today, and let that be your activity:

"By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard for the wicked, the [mind] retains its undisturbed calmness." (click to tweet!)

The Autumnal Equinox: It's important to know what these things are. It's also important because we all want to balance a raw egg on its end.

Because Yoga Balances Strength And Ease: Along those same lines, you should practice handstand on the autumnal equinox. Maybe it only works if you are shaped like a raw egg, but it couldn't hurt to try. Handstand is about strength, but it's also about alignment and bone stacking. Never say never.

The Pope's Visit: I am not normally a big fan of Catholicism (my fault! my fault! my fault!), but I am a fan of this Pope. He has brought compassion back to the Catholic Church, along with a little bit of common sense. This scares me for him, as many devout Catholics are fans of neither, and Pope Francis likes to mingle among the people. That his visit coincides with both the week of Peace Day and the change of seasons seems like no coincidence.

Now you're all set to handstand while being peaceful and celebrating the Pope's visit. What other wonderful things are on tap for your week ahead?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Yoga: The Next Step (Subtitled: The Art of Finding Your Worst Self)

Note: I have completed my 200-hour yoga teacher training and am starting the next level of training (500 hour) in November. I ran across this blog posted in December 2014, just one month after I started teacher training. Funny how some things have changed in a year, and how some things have absolutely stayed the same. I still need structure, I still argue with myself. This is why I am grateful that yoga is a practice, not a perfect.

Yoga: The Art Of Finding Your Worst Self


Just like that, I have run smack into myself.

It's in the way I argue with Pantanjali's Sutras, choose the hour class over the 90-minute one, and judge the shapes I make as I learn the asanas.

It's the bargaining about whether or not I will go to yoga today because, after all, the teacher training only requires two classes and  I already did those, so technically I don't have to go.

It's hard. I don't believe in God, really, so the bhakti (devotional) yoga is killing me, and it's just like Jack Nicholson's crazy face through the door in The Shining: it's opening the door just enough so I can focus on how hard everything is and highlight the things I don't agree with and the parts I am bad at (nearly every pose, these days, apparently). Only meeting once a month leaves lots of times for assumptions and interpretations.

And then I read this from sutra 30:

"Yoga practice is like an obstacle race; many obstructions re purposely put on the way for us to pass through. They are there to make us understand our own capacities. In fact, this is the natural law. If a river just flows easily, the water in the river does not express its power. But once you put an obstacle to the flow by constructing a dam, then you can see its strength..." (source)

And then I guess that it is human nature to want the river to just flow smoothly, but how many people really allow it to do that? How many people let their lives run in an unhurried pace with no drama? More often than not we stir the pot to create a little current in the river of our lives. I think we enjoy the rapids, even as we complain about them.

If I am being honest (which I always try to be), I am a little over all of this self-discovery, which is unfortunate because there is so much more in store. So I guess the plan is this:

  • Make a rule: don't skip more than one day between yoga classes.  This is how you build a habit, and I should know because I just wrote two blogs on the topic. It takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit, big or small, and falling off the wagon or slipping up doesn't seem to affect that time period. However, taking a big break can stop the habit formation in its tracks. I feel better when I go to yoga, and I am a better human, and I just need to keep that in mind. I'm doing it for humanity.

  • Make a plan: my procrastination is going to bite me in the hind parts sooner rather than later, especially with all of my technology issues of late. So it's back to the "to-do" list and making a budget to keep up with the house rehab, the reading requirements, writing my $#@! book, and working. Plus finances, because I am going to need a new computer soon, and cash is our currency of choice around here. Maybe I'll figure that out on Monday.

  • Make a deal: I am so judge-y. Even that statement was judge-y.  I need to stop being so critical of the classes that I choose to take. Getting on the mat is challenge enough sometimes, so that has to be enough.

  • Make the effort: I go to class because my home practice is non-existent, and I need a teacher to push me. So I need to push myself in class. Coming back from a wrist injury is very discouraging, especially when so much is done on the hands and wrists, but within minor restrictions I can go much harder than I am currently going.

  • Make some balance: yoga is not just the asanas (poses) but also the other eight limbs, one of which is prana (breath, energy). I have been avoiding the breath. Sounds weird, but stop this instant and tell me how you are breathing. I bet you are holding your breath or breathing very shallowly, and your shoulders are hunched forward and clenched up near your ears. BUSTED. So I need to breath, to meditate, to try to quiet my brain. When I push myself in asana, sometimes it's all I can do to breath and stay upright, so my brain is only focused on that. Valuable, but I need to learn how to do it when I am not moving. HARD.
Can you tell I need a little structure in my life? I guess I will consider this as fortifying the banks of my own personal river to contain the raging flood of self-discovery. See how I did that?

What's raging in your river this week?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday Links: Short Week Edition


With Labor Day comes the first short week of the school year, and that deserves a little celebration as the sun dips below the horizon on your four-day workweek. This week's links focus on the joy of the short week.

But First, Read A Little History: Do you even know what Labor Day is? Surely it's more than an opportunity to day drink on a school night. Educate yourself, people!!!

The 4-Hour Workweek Blog: I have mixed feelings about this guy, but in the spirit of working less than five days, how about working for less than five hours? A week? I feel like I may have fed his wallet more than my brain by the purchase of his book, so here are some online tools for you to work less. His goal is to set things up and walk away, letting whatever those things are run themselves to make money. Not a bad idea...

Sriracha-Lime Popcorn: Because every short week needs an awesome snack. Pair it with a peach and jalapeno margarita and take advantage of the last days of sweet juicy peaches before darkness descends.

Why You Will Fail To Have A Great Career: I have a friend who is trying to decide whether or not to pursue a career that would require going back to school for five years. In this TEDTalk, Larry Smith talks about all the reasons why we fail to have great careers. Here's a hint: you have to be more than interested and competent. To my friend: GO.

Why You Should Chuck It All And Travel More: Okay, maybe not, but time off and out in the world enriches you in ways that you cannot possibly imagine. If you used your day off to binge watch Orange Is The New Black, then you may have wasted your time.

Full disclosure: The Teenager and I are currently binge-watching Parks and Rec. So I am not holier than thou and may, at times, actually be quite hypocritical (currently saving episodes of The Great British Bake-Off for a rainy day. Srsly).

And because we should never, ever forget the people who lost their lives today, take a moment to hug the fuck out of your loved ones. 

I worked on my day off, so technically this whole post is hypocritical, but I worked today so I can build in more short weeks later. How was your short week?

Monday, September 7, 2015

What's New And What's Next: Editorial Calendars

So those of you who read this blog on occasion will know two things:

1. I have to spellcheck "occasion" because it is one of those words I just can't quite figure out
2. I am constantly talking about how to write and publish more consistently

The first one will probably never change, but I am working on the second one in a very concrete way by creating an editorial calendar. Editorial calendars organize writing topics and publishing schedules so that you always have something to write and always have a post in the pipeline. Right now, it looks like this:

That coffee cup in the lower left corner is empty. #NotGood
Yes, that is a planner, an old-fashioned tool if ever there was one. Guess what? I love a planner. I love it more than the fancy editorial calendar I signed up for online because it will allow me to work on the future without lugging my laptop around. I don't always want to be chained to electronics.

But I digress. For those of you who are writers, wondering how an editorial calendar might help you, here's what I have learned:

1. You need to use what works for you. CoSchedule is a great online editorial calendar that also helps organize and schedule social media, but I prefer the tactile sensation of writing it down. Once I get the act of planning and working ahead down, then maybe I will look at it again, but for now, my June-July planner works great. Plus, CoSchedule costs money, and I am a big fan of #free.

They do offer a 14-day free trial, so if you are a fan of online tools, give it a whirl. 

2. Everything is a blog idea, but creating overarching topics help. I currently have two blogs and a million ideas for both. Anything can spark an idea, but if you have main topics that you cover, you can easily tailor the ideas to your blog. For example, my food blog right now has four main topics: how-tos, recipes, ingredients and local food, and reviews. My next blog on the calendar is a recipe for gluten-free pizza, but I am also working on a blog about the Maryland blue crab (local ingredients and local food) and a book review of Ratio by Michael Ruhlman (life-changing book for a cook). I keep a running list of quotes, ideas, and websites, then look for an angle that fits my mission.

3. Speaking of a mission....Write a mission statement for your blog. I will be honest and tell you that I am still in the process of this. I will also be honest and say that until it is finished I will have an uneasy feeling. A mission guides everything that you do, as an entrepreneur or a writer, and without one you are simply flailing about wildly.

From here
Side note: A mission is not quite the same as a goal. My goal is to monetize my blogs usefully for my readers so that they make money for me and replace my mercenary writing income.  This goal will hopefully be realized as I focus on each blog's mission. 

4. Don't sweat it. I won't lie: I sweat it hard. Anxious is my operating system. I am a worrier. I get overwhelmed by everything I don't know about what I am doing. This is bad business and patently unhelpful. In these times, like today, where I have a million little notes scattered across three notebooks, I like to remind myself of this lovely little saying:

What's the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. (click to tweet!)

So today I am working on organizing blog ideas into topics and matching them with a theme or a structure for the end of September. I am writing this blog to help me track the process and to start to test some new technologies (like the "click to tweet" and the gif above).

5. Social media should be an integral part of your editorial calendar. I have used social media in a haphazard way, but an editorial calendar can help you plan and keep track of how well a blog post is doing. I use Hootsuite to schedule social media, but I don't follow up and re-visit posts that do well (or do poorly). This is part of the learning curve for me (tailoring the message to the media), and honestly one of the reasons I have avoided this whole process for so long. But as the seasons change, it's time to move forward and get serious.

I am still a bit overwhelmed by this beginning, and the realization that I am going to have to do this type of planning on a regular basis, but I am also hoping that I will be able to streamline what I do a little bit. Right now, I don't take any days off from working, and I sometimes have long gaps in publishing. This is not good for me as a writer or my blogs as a place to get any kind of legit info. I want to be able to take a week off and still have all of my blogs and social media go out. I want to be able to spend a day at a museum or on a road trip exploring without worrying about how far behind it will put me. I can build these things in. #EyesOnThePrize

Writers, what about you? How do you stay on track with blogs and social media? Do you use an editorial calendar? 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday Links: Express Edition

This feels like a cross between judgment and love, like he's telling me to get back to work...

It is the Friday of my last week of sort of vacation, but I am trying to be a little more disciplined all the way around, so sticking to a list of Friday links is imperative at this juncture.

Because in a direct contradiction to the above sentence I am behind and still have an article due today that is not yet even started, here is the express version of Friday Links:

3 Things They Don't Teach You At Yoga Teacher Training: Super relevant for me as A) I just ended my 200-hour training, and B) I have decided to embark upon the 500-hour training that starts in November.

New doughnut shop opens down the street from me: Oh, HELL YES. I will gluten the shit out of myself for a hot doughnut, and B Doughnuts is opening half a block from my house some time this month. It wasn't enough to have Center Cut doughnuts selling at the weekly farmer's market; now I can get them seven days a week. CRAP.

More reasons to get out of town: Because as much as I love to have a settled place, I still love to travel and see new stuff, here are 101 to travel. As if anyone really needs that many. It's a bit gluttonous to even list more than 10.

This Labor Day weekend is a French movie fest (with doughnuts and coffee), sweet corn risotto, sleeping in, and deck weatherproofing at our house. What are y'all planning?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

End Of Summer: Wiffle, Washington, And Cal Ripken, Jr.

It has been a crazy week at Kasa Kolbeck with family visiting from the Pacific Northwest for Dane's memorial Wiffleball tournament at Redwing Farm in West (By God) Virginia and the cramming of the very last of the summer fun . The picture above is our crazy, wonderful Wiffle family, some of whom were good friends of Dane's, many of whom I don't know very well but love them  because they gave Dane so much.

Other prominent features of the past seven days include:

Walking another 500 miles in DC: I always forget how incredible DC is until I go down there. We did a big loop that included the Washington monument, Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and the National Museum of Natural History. Heads-up: apparently, the Nation's Front Lawn is getting a major facelift, including installing irrigation systems, so it is torn up and fenced off. Still pretty cool. We need to figure out how to make it an easy day trip that is affordable so we can get down there more. #SpendingMoneyLikeWeGotIt

Finally catching our neighborhood ice cream truck: Although this may not seem like much, our neighborhood ice cream truck sells SOFT SERVE. Delicious soft serve for reasonable prices out of an old utility truck that would be scary if he were not selling the aforementioned delicious soft serve. I have made a batch of brownies nearly every night, and those crumbled on some soft serve is THE BUSINESS.


The 20th anniversary celebration of Cal's 2,131st game in a row, breaking Lou Gehrig's "unbreakable" record. The Orioles celebrated by losing to the Rays 11-2 in one of the worst games I have seen in a long time, but Cal was there to throw out the first pitch, and damnit if he didn't stay until the top of the 7th, even as the Orioles played a seriously crappy game.

And this:


I'll also be damned if I'm not the parent of a 10th grader now. There was cursing on the morning of this day, so there were no proper pictures, but I had to mark it somehow. This is The Teenager and her friend walking towards the Castle on the Hill on the first day. I have probably been more vocal than I should be with The Teenager about how much I hate public school and am going to try to tone it down this year (so far I am failing miserably because there is still so much fun stuff to do, and she is locked in school 8 hours a day and that #HazTheDumb. But I digress). Tenth grade. Jesus.

I do actually have all of these brilliant blog posts lined up but things are a bit chaotic right now. September is our lockdown mode for all things financial, scholarly, and work-related, so hopefully I can dig deep and get some real writing done. I swear to god there is a pizza crust recipe coming, too. It will happen.

How did you spend your last week of summer (according to back-to-school commercials)?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Links: School's Back IN Edition

My heart horse, Sadie.

I am always annoyed this time of year with all of the commercials and posts about how happy adults are that kids are going back to school. I don't actually want The Teenager to go back; I enjoy her company and want to drag her to all sorts of more interesting places than school. Plus, school gets in the way of pretty much everything. I can think of a million better ways to spend 36 hours a week.

Alas, she has chosen public high school and is enjoying it. So back to school it is.

That being said, here are a few links I have found solace in this week.

An explanation of barrel-strength whiskey: I periodically get junk mail from a place called Caskers that features a variety of cask-strength bourbon. For some reasons, the onslaught of these bourbons increased this week. Maybe school has something to do with it. #AllOfTheBourbon

A lunch-packing tutorial: The Teenager takes her lunch to school, and yes, I pack it every morning. She is a very picky eater in that she doesn't like soup, cold pasta salad, most sandwiches, and hummus. This makes packing lunch tricky, as I also refuse to load it down with prepackaged bullshit like Goldfish and "fruit" snacks. The best thing I have been able to come up with is lots of little snacks like snap peas, nuts, and berries, and bento boxes are perfect for that sort of thing. She still comes home starving (because she eats lunch at 10:20 and doesn't get home until four), but this gives me tons of little compartments to tuck stuff into.

A little eye candy: Let's objectify some dudes here, shall we? I don't know which rock I have been under, but apparently, #DILF is a thing, as is manbuns. This Instagram account focuses on the latter and has tons of the former. Yowza.

A little story about a picky show horse: Finally this week, the end of the summer, as with most transitions for these past two years, has been bittersweet. This story is about a high-level show horse who goes into the ring without a bridle (she is ridden in a halter), and it reminded me of my beloved former pony, Sadie, who I found out this past week is really not doing well. She has a "neurological condition" and had to have an eye removed. Now she spends most of her days stuck in a stall and gumming soaked alfalfa cubes to keep her weight up. I realize that she is old, but for a horse who loved to run and felt best and healthiest when she was out roaming the pasture with a good buddy, this ain't living. I wish I had not found this out, and I regret leaving her behind. She would not have gone out like that with me; better to have a shorter, fuller life than to decay slowly in a stall. And shorter is relative; she turns 31 this January.

And come to think of it, that's a damn fine first lesson of the school year. Get out there and live some life, people. Don't sit around and decay in a stall.

This weekend is the first annual (and probably last overall) Dane Kolbeck Memorial Wiffle Ball tournament at Redwing Farm in Sinks Grove, WV. Planning on sharing some drinks with old friends and making lots of noise late into the evening in honor of Dane.

How was your last week of summer?