Monday, February 15, 2016

Entering Year Four: The Worm Has Most Definitely Turned

I was not going to write anything about Dane tomorrow. I was trying to write something because I felt I should, but nothing came. 

Me. At a loss for words. #StopTheFuckingPresses. 

But it turns out I do have words. Maybe no one wants to hear them, or they will be offensive, or maybe we are not supposed to speak ill of the dead.

If you fall into any of those categories, look away now. If you harbor sweet and tender feelings for Dane, keep them to yourself.

This is not about that.

Year One was its own special kind of hell, Year Two was a whirlwind of movement, and Year Three seemed to feature us working on settling in to a new life in Charm City. As we enter Year Four, it seems to be the Year Of The Anger.

So on this anniversary, tomorrow, fuck you, Dane Kolbeck. Fuck you for leaving your child behind. Fuck you for being so selfish and self-involved. And fuck you for once again making me clean up your fucking mess. 

I haven't written anything to, for, or about you in almost a year. It's because I have been so focused on ignoring everything about the narcissistic manner in which you chose to leave this earth. And busy mopping your child off the floor of her room when she is overwhelmed with grief because you cared more for yourself than for her.

I can only heal her so much. You will be a permanent scar that I will never be able to heal for her and that will re-open with every milestone in her life. 

And for that, FUCK YOU.

I am not celebrating your life tomorrow. I doubt I will even attempt to speak fondly of you. I will nod and smile and listen to the child, but I am done glossing over what you have wrought in our lives. 

If we have picked up the pieces it is only with the love and support of every other person you left behind. If we have thrived it is because I have clawed and scratched my way back to life after your colossal act of betrayal. I have recreated myself in three years, but now there is always going to be a piece of me that will never trust anyone to come home.  There will always be that tree. There will always be that car.

As with your child, you have managed to break a fundamental piece of me that will always be broken. Damaged. 

And for that, FUCK YOU.

For all of the damage and destruction you have left in your careless, awful wake, FUCK YOU.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year: The Annual Post

As with most of my writing, this post is unplanned.

I have tried in 2015 to become more of a planner in this regard. I bought an actual planner. I bought sticky notes.

I set up a system.

Turns out, I am not a planner when it comes to the written word. I often quote Chuck Close when I think about creative work because it is work and you need to attend to it like a job in the sense that every day you show up and do it.

While I have a fierce work ethic, I don't tend to show up and do it in my own work.

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, a shitty way to treat what matters most to me (other than The Teenager, of course).

Why on earth would I not fling myself wildly, daily, into the abyss of words that is this run-on sentence filled blog?

I think about it daily.

I write something every day.

Just not this.

Now it's the end of the year and I always reflect (among other New Year's eve rituals) on what has come before. My anxiety usually pushes me into the future, but this time every year I consistently think of what has happened over the year.

It's not an uncommon practice. In fact, nearly 50% of goals set on New Year's Eve are still in place six months later, as compared to a mere 17% of goals set other times. So others know what I know: today is a good day to plan to do better.

But I digress, as is my habit. You know, when I have no plan.

So here it is. The annual New Year's Eve post. Last year it was resolutions. In 2013 it was a haiku.

In 2015?

I am at the end and still have no plan. And maybe that's the plan: no plan for 2015. I have goals I want to reach, things I want to do, but I don't want to lose the things I have learned. The tagline of this blog is "seeking joy," and maybe it's time to come back to that.

Say yes.


Open my eyes.

Maybe no plan is exactly the plan.

People who know me might be shocked by that, but things are different. I am different. Life is different.

Whatever your plan/no plan is for 2016, if you are reading this, I wish you joy, abundance, happiness. Knowing you will never step in the same river twice, may you enjoy the feeling of the water on your toes and the gravel beneath your feet. May those you love love you back as wildly and fiercely as their heart allows. And may you continue walking in the direction of your dreams.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Giving Tuesday: Five Donations That Don't Involve Money

Even your salad loves it when you give.

Today is Giving Tuesday, the annual push to encourage people to give generously to causes they believe in at least one day of the year.

But what does "generous" mean?

There used to be a commercial that feature round-bellied kids or sad-eyed animals in cages that had the slogan "give until it hurts." I don't believe in that at all. Giving should be joyful and feel really good, warm and fuzzy and bubbly. Yes, I know what the slogan means, but sometimes it's important to reaffirm that giving feels good and should be done as frequently as possible. So we all can see how giving doesn't always mean money, here are five ways to give that are no monetary on Giving Tuesday:

1. Give time: This one is a common suggestion, but what does it mean to give time? Do you have to volunteer for it to count? Nope. Giving time can mean paying full and whole-hearted attention to your kid or your partner as they talk about their day. It can mean taking five or ten minutes and really being with your dog or cat (in the way that they love, even if it means putting up with them licking you, which I hate but which my dogs love.). By giving undivided attention you are sending the message that this person in front of you matters. Maybe this will be the stone in the pond that ripples outward.

2. Give extras: Give away books, clothing, household goods, electronics. Give away furniture and old appliances that work but you don't need. But don't just give them to a thrift store. Find people and organizations in need and give directly to them. Women's shelters for domestic abuse victims always need baby and children's clothes and diapers, and many of the women need professional clothes to interview for work. Contact the shelter and donate directly. Animal shelters always need old blankets and towels, and they can also always use toys, food, and newspapers. Clear out your attic, stop holding onto stuff you don't need, and give it to people who can use it.

Side note: giving away stained and ripped clothing is ungenerous and stingy. Throw those out and do better.

3. Give food: You know those ubiquitous "buy one, get one free" specials at the store? Starting today, bag the free one separately and donate it directly to a food bank. Or go through a community organization and adopt a family through the holidays. This can be especially important for families with children who may get most of their food through school. Once the holidays hit and school goes on break, they may struggle.

Side note: Really focus on nutritious food. My school ran a food bank for two years, and it was astonishing the crap that people donated. The "it's better than nothing" rationale is bullshit. Look for tuna, canned veggies, canned beans, rice, and pasta. Only give what you yourself would eat or feed your family. Stay away from cookies and other processed crap. If you must do that, try to find healthier versions. Low-income folks suffer disproportionately from Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Don't make it worse.

4. Give shelter where there is none: This year, The Teenager and I have made up large Ziploc bags filled with comfort items for homeless people we see. They have hand warmers, socks, a couple bars, travel-sized baby wipes, and a few odds and ends in each. We keep these in the car and hand them out when we get accosted. We carry one around with us. If I am being honest (which I always try to be), I don't 100% trust that a person on the street is going to use my money for food or shelter. I don't believe they are stranded and just trying to get back home. And I have had food thrown back in my face when I have given it to them. But they are people, and I can't do nothing. So we came up with the idea of comfort items and portable foodstuffs. The bags probably cost more to put together than the dollar or two I would give, but that's okay.

5. Give skill: Do you have a vital skill that you can give to the world, free of charge? Can you write a resume, build a bench, teach a class, tutor a child, or train someone to cook? Do that. Is there something you are passionate about that you can offer into the world? Do that. I am a yoga teacher, and my goal is to teach at least one class free a month. In this, I give not only physical fitness but also mindfulness, good karma, and skills to apply in the world; it's a type of giving that goes beyond the class. I am a writer, and I currently mentor two other writers who are just starting out, previewing pitches and pieces and offering suggestions and guidance when needed. This follows the apprenticeship model and also helps me continue to do what I love (teach) while connecting with other humans (which, let's be honest, I don't always love. The other humans. So it helps me get out into the world, which I need. But I digress.). Donating knowledge is the gift that truly keeps on giving.

So don't give until it hurts; give until you are bathed in the soft glow of self-congratulatory generosity. Give until you feel so good about yourself that you glow like a lightning bug. It's okay to feel good about yourself when you give. Give with no expectation of thanks, recognition, or reciprocation. Do it for the sake of the action.

Can you make a pledge to participate in giving, today and in the future? What will you give?  

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?